Hands down, one of my favorite bands, The Lone Bellow performed a great — albeit undersold — show two nights ago in Portland. Holy crap, they are an amazing live act. They are one of the rare groups whom I would (and will!) see every time they play a show locally; no questions asked.
Their energy is infectious. Their musicianship and harmonies are off the charts. Their intensity boggles my mind.
At their shows, they just command the room with their songs. You’re dancing one minute, clapping and foot-stomping madly along the next, then swaying quietly to an unaccompanied, aching three-part harmony (seriously, I have cried at their shows. No tears this time, but the same chills up the spine), then you’re up dancing again, and then closing with a house-lights up sing-along. Fuck, they’re just so good.
They are touring their latest album, Walk into a Storm. Rather than embed an audio clip alone, I’m including a video clip “Deeper in the Water,” one of the stand-out tracks from the new album. It doesn’t do their live shows full justice, but it’s enough to give you a taste of what they bring to each and every performance.
Bonus: I really enjoyed the opener: The Wild Reeds, a new discovery for me. Check out the track “Only Songs” from their new album The World We Built.
I had a different song picked out to post today. A good one.
But, after a couple of “meh” days — days when I’ve been trapped in my head and my thoughts and my brooding — it didn’t feel right to put that song up. And, since this blog is an opportunity for me (and hopefully an invitation for you) to feel more through this music — really feel — I’m putting up this track by Odesza instead.
When I’m in the headspace I’ve been in much of this week, my mind feels heavy (literally weighted; anyone know what I mean here?) and my thoughts spiral around on an endless loop and my entire field of focus narrows. “Higher Ground,” on the other hand, makes me feel light, and soaring, and expansive. I need all of that right now. Maybe you do too.
I was first introduced to Rapsody a few years ago when she kept showing up on tracks by other favorite MCs of mine…and absolutely crushing her solos.
In my mind, she is one of the best MCs and artists out there. Period. Full stop. I’m not surprised that she often gets categorized and set up only against female contemporaries (even by people and on sites that are promoting her music — looking at you Apple), when she stands toe-to-toe with any male rapper. But, it still drives me crazy.
She has an ear for great beats and production, she can rhyme over any sample, and her lyrics are on par with any artist of any genre: authentic, smart, creative, often funny, highly autobiographical, and rich with meaning. She is the rare musician whose songs I listen to repeatedly and keep discovering new things about them.
This track off her new album, Lalia’s Wisdom, is catching lots of attention because 1) it’s awesome; and 2) it features Kendrick Lamar, who will make his debut on In My Ear in a few weeks time (an opportunity I’m sure he’s been coveting). But, if you dig this track and Rapsody, check out Black & Ugly from this album — where her full artistry and skill is really on display; four minutes of raps over a sparse beat with only two choruses — or her 2014 album, Beauty and the Beast, which I actually like even better than this one.
FYI – She cusses on this track, so be sure to earmuff it.
Hippo Campus was a new discovery for me when they released Landmark this past February, their first full length album.
The entire album is a good listen, but this track in particular has stuck with me all year. Unlike last week’s track, this is a quiet one. It’s a “stare blankly out the window” song. I am rarely able to quiet my mind; this record does that for me. The tone is hushed and the melody is both beautiful and haunting.
For those of you in Portland, they play Port City next February. Join me?
A new, recurring feature for the blog! Posts featuring artists I see live!
Last night, I saw Leslie Odom, Jr. perform. Those of you who are Hamilton fans will recognize him (or at least recognize his voice) as the actor who played Aaron Burr. With the huge commercial success of Hamilton, Leslie Odom, Jr. has the rare opportunity for a Broadway performer to do whatever the hell he wants.
He talked about this at the show last night. Paraphrasing his remarks: “When the guys in cigars asked, ‘What do you want to do kid. We’ll make you a star’ I said I wanted to sing — and perform like Nat King Cole would perform today.”
So, he’s a crooner. And, a damn good one. He’s also backed by a phe-nom-e-nal band: Michael O. Mitchell (piano), Orlando Le Fleming (stand-up bass), John Davis (drums), Steven Walker (guitar) and Senfu Stoney (percussion). The song on which they each did extended, individual solos was worth the ticket price alone.
He and his quintet released an album last year of jazz, blues, and Broadway standards and performed many of the songs last night. This is my favorite track…a quiet, delicate cover of a 1950s Broadway song.
Refresh your memory about what this blog is all about (here and here) and then come back to read the rest of this post. It’s about music I love — pretty much full stop.
And, I fucking* love this song. The pulsing beat. The melody. The drop at 1:23. So good. It’s been in my head (and on repeat to start many-a-workday) ever since Phoenix released their album in June, as have plenty of other tracks on the record.
If you don’t find yourself belting out (or desperately wanting to) the chorus on your 2nd listen, well then…..we can’t carpool.
*-Warning: Avert your eyes, sensitive readers, there will be cursing on this blog. It makes me feel better (borrowed from GFOB Bo Bigelow, with a shout out). You’ve been warned.
Thanks to everyone who has checked out the blog so far, shared it, and hit me up with words of support. I appreciate all of you for tuning in. Let’s keep it rolling.
Man, oh man, do I love Ibeyi. They are the definition of fusion; culturally, musically, sonically, etc. Their music is meditative and propulsive; percussive and melodic; dissonant and harmonic; rooted in tradition and bracingly modern (I even like how they use AutoTune, which I don’t generally go in for).
I’m posting the first two tracks from their latest album, Ash. Hang in there with them both because I love the songs as a pairing and think they showcase Ibeyi’s power, depth, and range.
Teaser: If you’re not driving or walking or otherwise need to see, close your eyes at the start of I Carried This For Years, breathe deep, and wait for 1:09 in the song….
No better way to kick this blog off.
Brother Ali is one of my favorite MCs — favorite musicians, period. This track is from his record All the Beauty in This Whole Life, released earlier this year. Always soulful, strong with a message, and ridiculously skilled on the mic (he’s got rhymes for days. Google his name + freestyle and watch the clips. Crazy), he goes spiritual on this latest record.
This song has been on regular repeat for me all year.
Simon (Sinek) says, “Start With Why.”
Good advice to give. Harder advice to live. But, always a good place to start. And, so, why this blog?
Why #1: A relatively sudden and increasingly strong urge to put something out to the universe. Something creative. Something nourishing. Something that’s me and mine.
Why #2: I love music. And, I want to share music that I love with those of you who care to read, and listen and, perhaps, share what’s in your own ear.
Why #3: Learning to actually play an instrument is proving too difficult. 🙂
I will post one track a week. Mostly current-year stuff; new releases, new-to-me discoveries, but with some throw backs occasionally added to the mix. And, maybe some photos I take. And, the occasional musing. But, primarily music.
All set? Let’s go.