Steven Bamidele — Things Could Be Better

Another brand, spankin’, new discovery for me this week. So new, in fact, that I had a hard time finding much information about Steven Bamidele — except that he is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter and producer from London.

What I do know about him from his music is that he has a lovely falsetto and a gift for layered-but-still-sparse production. This is a delicate song, but one with some steel mixed in. I have yet to listen to this without closing my eyes and experiencing that delightful feeling of my mind just….drifting

Khruangbin – Maria También

Alright, alright! First post of this still-sort-of-new-year (doesn’t feel new though, does it?) to feature a fresh 2018 release. And, a totally new-to-me band to boot!

I knew nothing of Khruangbin until I heard this track off their sophomore album Con Todo El Mundo, which is due out this week. I’ve been hooked ever since and am having a blast digging into their catalogue. Maria También is a funky, layered, infectious instrumental joint. And, here is a description of their sound:

Khruangbin (Thai for airplane, or literally “engine fly”) are a jet-setting trio from Texas whose smooth, mainly instrumental music is heavily inspired by Thai rock and funk from the ’60s and ’70s, as well as a multitude of other influences ranging from surf rock to dub to Iranian pop.

I mean….that’s a lot of awesomeness.

Morrissey – Spent the Day in Bed

As 2018 releases start to come out and pile up, I’m still catching up on some late 2017 music that I missed. Like this brilliant track from Morrissey. He’s new to me, but some may know Morrissey from his decades of solo work and/or as lead singer for the 1980s era Brit-rock/punk band The Smiths.

This song is a melodically playful but lyrically dark and politically charged earworm….and the title is my kind of call to action!

N.E.R.D – Don’t Don’t Do It! (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Picking up 2018 with a major theme of 2017….Black musicians and artists releasing songs about police harassment, persistent racism, and the frustration/outrage/pain of the inequity and inequality that still defines the Black experience in America. #Black Lives Matter.

This time, it’s Pharrell Williams and his side-project, N.E.R.D, who released a new album right at the end of 2017. Pharrell’s work (solo and otherwise) is consistently hit-or-miss for me. But, I love this track; it’s production and construction, the mash-up of genres, and it’s political lyrics and message. It starts out sounding like a Stevie Wonder track, adds in a few power chords, a bit of a ska beat, and then ends with a rapid-fire rhyme from the mighty Kendrick Lamar.

Earth, Wind & Fire — Getaway

For all of you following at home, I’m a day late with this post. I blame yesterday’s “bombogenesis,” “bomb cyclone,” “Winter Storm Grayson,” or whatever other term you’d apply to yesterday’s — let’s be honest — snow storm.  I also blame the cabin fever and stir craziness of my 5.5 and 3-year olds who, after a long holiday break spent together, now can’t be in the same room with each other without yelling and wrestling and breaking things.

I’m kicking off 2018 with a look back to a song — truly, the song — that kicked off my adult relationship with music. And I say “adult” because, as a child and teenager coming of age in the early 90s, I didn’t have strong ties to the seminal bands or the exploding musical genres of that era: grunge and popularized punk, the golden era of hip-hop and artists who I listen to constantly now, etc. I’ve thought a lot about why; I don’t have any real answers.

And, it doesn’t much matter now because once I heard EWF’s “Getaway” for the first time in college (!), everything clicked. Memories of listening to Thriller on vinyl as a kid…of nearly wearing out a tape of Whitney Houston’s self-titled 1985 album…of my default bent toward R&B/soul music…of always being drawn to songs with tightly crafted melodies, great vocals, strong rhythms, and diverse instrumentation…of how much I listened to and absorbed music, even if I didn’t “follow” it.

Immediately, on my first listen, this track lit me up. The aggressive, propulsive, just nastily funky bass line; those horns!; Maurice White’s musical chops and Philip Bailey’s soaring falsetto in the chorus; the lyrics — universal sentiments of escape and self-determination, but, I believe, also with deep meaning speaking directly to African-Americans and the Black experience in the 1970s. You can’t help but move all — or at least parts — of your body to this track. And, you are at high risk of a speeding ticket if you listen to this while driving. So inspired was I that I wrote a damn academic thesis on funk music/1970s history.

So, with one eye on the past and another eye looking forward, here we go into the year in music in 2018:

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (Album)

Hard not to end the 2017 year in music (and these first few months of the In My Ear blog) with any artist or album other than Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. It’s powerful, intricate, honest, and ‘catchy’ in that distinct way that only critically acclaimed AND broadly popular/financially successful albums can be.

The album is atop most critics’ “best of 2017” lists and it’s on track to (deservedly) dominate the Grammy’s, so there ain’t much more to say. Only to listen….

BIG THANKS to all of you who are tuning in to the blog–here and via Facebook. I’m having a blast keeping up the site and curating this space for music; let’s keep it rolling in 2018.

And, remember, check out the In My Ear 2017 Playlist as you wind down the year.

Here’s to wisdom, love, courage, and hope in 2018. Peace.

In My Ear – The 2017 Playlist

The ‘why‘ for this blog comes from a lifetime of loving music and an ever-evolving musical taste. But, the name and real inspiration come from annual versions of this playlist that I’ve kept for the last 7+ years. These are artists, tracks, and records that have been in my ear all year long.

Apple Music subscribers can listen here.

For the rest of y’all, I created a YouTube playlist with full versions of all of the tracks.

Who’s been in your ear? Let’s start some chatter! Leave a comment below or on Facebook.

  • Mavis Stapes — “Tomorrow”
  • Run the Jewels — “Talk to Me” / “Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)” [feat. Tunde Adebimpe]
  • Chris Thile & Brad Mehidau — “Scarlet Town”
  • Naji — “Fallen” [feat. Howle]
  • Miles Mosley — “Abraham”
  • Jesca Hoop — “The Lost Sky”
  • Sampha — “Blood on Me” / “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”
    • In My Ear Album — Process
  • Loyle Carner — The Isle of Arran / Ain’t Nothing Changed
    • In My Ear Album — Yesterday’s Gone
  • Missy Elliott — “I’m Better” (feat. Lamb)
  • Brother Ali — “Own Light (What Hearts Are For” / “Pen to Paper” (feat. Amir Sulaiman) / “Dear Black Son”
    • In My Ear Album — All the Beauty in This Whole Life
  • Jorja Smith — “Beautiful Little Fools”
  • Earl St. Clair — “Ain’t Got It Like That (feat. PJ)
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain — “Amputation”
  • Henry Green — “Real”
  • Oddisee — “Things”
  • John Mayer — “Helpless” / “Moving On and Getting Over”
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — “Fireproof”
  • Kendrick Lamar — “FEEL.” / “HUMBLE” / “DNA.”
    • In My Ear Album — DAMN
  • Hard Proof — “Stinger”
  • The New Pornographers — “High Ticket Attractions
  • Talib Kweli & Styles P — “Teleprompters” (feat. Common & Vic Orena)
  • Sammus — “100 Percent” (feat. Latasha Alcindor aka LA) / “1080p” (feat. Jean Grae)
  • Gorillaz — “Ascension” (feat. Vince Staples) / “Andromeda” (feat. DRAM)
  • Spoon — “Hot Thoughts” / “I Ain’t The One”
    • In My Ear Album — Hot Thoughts
  • Syd — “Body” / “Dollar Bills” (feat Steve Lacy)
  • Anik Khan — “Kites”
  • Junius Meyvant — “Mr. Minister Great”
  • Aimee Mann — “Goose Snow Cone” / “Patient Zero”
    • In My Ear Album — Mental Illness
  • Joey Bada$$ — “Good Morning AmeriKKKa” / “Land of the Free” / “Super Predator” (feat Styles P)
    • In My Ear Album — All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
  • Perfume Genius — “Slip Away”
  • Hippo Campus — “Way It Goes” / “Monsoon”
  • The Family Crest — “Mirror Love”
  • Beth Ditto — “Fire”
  • The Building — “Have to Forgive”
  • Alt-J — “In Cold Blood”
  • Phoenix — “Fleur de Lys” / “J-Boy” / “Ti Amo”
    • In My Ear Album — Ti Amo
  • Chastity Belt — “Different Now”
  • Somi — “Black Enough”
    • In My Ear Album — Petite Afrique
  • Slowdive — “Sugar for the Pill”
  • Goapele — “Stand”
  • Thievery Corporation — “Letter to the Editor” (feat. Racquel Jones)
  • Tank and the Bangas — “Quick”
  • Jay-Z — “The Story of O.J.”
  • Ibeyi — “Deathless” (feat. Kamasi Washington) / “Away Away”
    • In My Ear Album — Ash
  • Neil Young — “Powderfinger”
  • AHI — “Ol Sweet Day”
  • St. Vincent — “New York”
  • ODESZA — “Higher Ground” (feat. Naomi Wild) / “Across the Room” (feat. Leon Bridges)
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg — “Deadly Valentine”
  • The Roots — “It Ain’t Fair” (feat. Bilal)
  • Ledisi — “Here” / “Add to Me”
  • Jamila Woods — “Blk Girl Soldier” / “Holy”
    • In My Ear Album — HEAVN
  • Canyon City — “Our Way”
  • Middle Kids — “Edge of Town”
  • Beck — “Colors”
  • Earthgang — “Underwater” / “Meditate”
  • Rapsody — “Power” (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Lance Skiiiwalker) / “Black & Ugly” (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid)
    • In My Ear Album — Laila’s Wisdom
  • Valley Queen — “Stars Align”
  • The Wild Reeds — “Only Songs”
  • The Lone Bellow — “Deeper in the Water”
  • The Wailin’ Jennys — “Old Churchyard”
  • Agnes Obel — “Familiar”
  • Jay Som — “The Bus Song”
  • Gurr — “Moby Dick”
  • Cherry Glazerr — “Nurse Ratched” / “Told You I’d Be with the Guys”
    • In My Ear Album — Apocalipstick
  • Phoebe Bridgers — “Smoke Signals”
  • Moses Sumney — “Plastic”
  • Talib Kweli — “Traveling Light” (feat. Anderson .Paak) / “Write At Home” (feat. Datcha, Bilal & Robert Glasper
    • In My Ear Album — Radio Silence
  • Rhye — “Taste” / “Please”
  • Will Stratton — “Some Ride”
  • The Regrettes – “Seashore” / “Hot”
    • In My Ear Album — Feel Your Feelings Fool!

The Regrettes — Feel Your Feelings Fool! (Album)

Two posts this week! Album review today, followed tomorrow by the In My Ear 2017 playlist.

I don’t always like punk music, but, when I do, it often sounds like The Regrettes. Loud and brash and full of power chords, but driven by some great beats…and all without sacrificing melodic harmonies. There’s a lot of 50s-60s doo wop influence in the music, but, despite my relative aversion to that style, I came back to this record over and over during the year.

The title alone is phenomenal; it’s been a personal theme for me all of 2017. The songs are hooky and the lyrics are extremely relevant to this year’s social and cultural upheaval–especially issues of gender, women’s empowerment, and sexual harassment and assault. Want to stiffen your spine to speak out/stand up in what you believe? Want a big fuck you to hierarchy, chauvinism and the male establishment, and men/people who generally suck? Delightfully, that’s this entire album.

Rock out, people.

Sampha — Process (Album)

One of my favorite personal discoveries of 2017, Sampha’s debut album, Process, is just crazy good. I keep returning to it because, on each new listen, I discover something I missed before; a lyric, or layer, or sample, or some touch that he’s added in the production.

In a lot of ways, this record is a challenging listen. Electronic R&B is an apt description and not one that immediately draws me in, personally. It doesn’t groove from start-to-finish, it’s not riddled with melodic hooks, and there is a lot of raw emotion packed into each song. But, Sampha’s sheer talent,  musicianship, songwriting and production chops, and (above all, for me) his incredible voice pull everything together in a powerful and captivating way.

All of that said, the record includes two completely accessible, dynamite singles — “Blood on Me” and “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” I’m featuring “Blood on Me,” but it’s 100% worth the extra four-ish minutes to listen to “Like the Piano” — one of the most soulful and beautiful songs I listened to all year.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts (Album)

December Theme:  Perhaps the only other people making lists in December more feverishly than my 5.5 year old are music critics, pundits, and fans. Top Ten Albums! Best Album of the Year! Best New Artist! Broken out by genre and category! 

I suck at this sort of ranked list making, so I don’t do it. But, I do spend time each December thinking about what music has stayed with me most over the course of the year. During the next four weeks, I’ll highlight four of my favorite albums from 2017 (ones that hang together, top-to-bottom) and share the In My Ear-2017 playlist.

This week: Spoon, Hot Thoughts.

This band just keeps cranking out distinctive, rocking records! They’ve got that ability to evolve their sound, incorporate different influences, grow as musicians, and yet still produce music that is instantly recognizable as “Spoon.” I caught their live show in Portland this fall and they absolutely killed it. Easily, one of the best shows I’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Their 2017 record Hot Thoughts is just packed with great tracks. I couldn’t find a freely accessible version of my favorite one from the album, “Shotgun,” so this is a live performance of one of their singles “Do I Have to Talk You Into It?”