Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Canopic Jar Official Album Artwork [left] (Flying Buddha, Sony Masterworks); Chet Baker at the piano [right] photograph by William Claxton

It’s been a long week.

Weeks like this are the ones I had in mind when I first started writing this. Lots going on, listening to new & old music in different contexts, different moods, and using all that to find angles to write about them with. And yet, both of the featured songs have a lot more to do with Melbourne than any pair of songs in the last 19(!) weeks. The honorable mentions for the new track of the week, as always, are just a chaotic melting pot of recommendations- much more fitting for London.

Several tracks from James Blake’s new album “Friends That Break Your Heart” were very nearly my favorite of the week. If you want to know which ones, go follow @Ninetyfifty5 on Instagram & Twitter– I’ve got a full album review coming out over there tomorrow!

BadBadNotGood’s “Talk Memory” came out in full this week. It’s certainly not my favorite project from them, but I enjoyed the freer form (in comparison to their hip-hop influenced past work) of fusion jazz they explored here. The closer “Talk Meaning” was probably the highlight for me, but the record definitely is best listened to all at once, and it might not land as well without that context.

I enjoyed “Deacon”, serpentwithfeet’s 2nd album released earlier this year, but I thought it stripped away a lot of the idiosyncrasies that made his debut stand out. “Down Nuh River” has a lot more personality than a lot of the cuts there, and the chorus is catchy as hell.

Naomi Osaka’s boyfriend (a.k.a. Cordae) released “Super”, which is hopefully the lead single to his long-awaited sophomore LP. It’s a trap banger, but Cordae continues to stand out from his peers with flows and bars straight out of the 90’s. This album has been maybe my most anticipated hip-hop release of the year, so fingers crossed there’s more songs like this coming soon.

Sydney DJ Anna Lunoe & Genesis Owusu collabed on “Back Seat” a sleek piece of dance music. There’s a killer bassline that pops up a couple times on the song that could’ve made this track amazing if given more time to shine. As it is it’s danceable enough, and I love to see Owusu getting more exposure.

The band with either the best or worst name ever, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets are back with “Lava Lamp Pisco”. It’s really not that accurate and I’m not sure why (or if this thought is helpful at all) but my mind immediately thought it sounded like what would come out if Minus the Bear covered “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana. Do with that what you will.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Canopic Jar” by Hiatus Kaiyote

You should stick it out through the first minute and a half or so of this song because it does get its shit together. I promise.

And then on 2nd listen the 1st minute and a half sounds a lot less like the songs that play at the end of B-rate horror movies, and more like an overindulgent intro to a great song. Hiatus Kaiyote have drawn from influences from all spheres of music in their work, but they tend to do that over the course of an album. On “Canopic Jar” they’re taking bits from blues, horrorcore, neo-soul and even classical music to make a Frankenstein of a song. It’s a combination of sonic palettes that shouldn’t work as well as it does.

There’s a slight fuzziness to every instrument and even Nai Palm’s vocal that not only adds to the creepy tone, but also provides some kind of cohesion to a track that needs it. The booming bass & kickdrum drive everything forward, a jittery organ stabs into the beat, and an eerie, offbeat cowbell builds tension at the bridge. Nai Palm’s vocals are effortlessly expressive as per usual, and creepy campfire storyteller is a good look on her.

I seriously doubt this is the direction the band’s going in with their next project (I’m thinking it’s a spooky season treat), but I would not be mad at all if it is. If horror soul is a thing, please send me recommendations because I love this.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)” by Chet Baker

I’ve (apparently) loved music since before my memory starts. I stumbled upon old print-outs of emails from my mother to my paternal grandparents documenting my toddlerdom once, and music capturing my attention or calming me down was a consistent theme.

My grandparents loved this, both being music lovers themselves. My grandfather had grown up singing in a choir, and was constantly singing along to melodies that he deemed worthwhile. He was the only human that didn’t get tired of “Happy” by Pharrell. My grandmother’s taste is decidedly more understated, with a deep love of crooners like Leonard Cohen, or Rufus Wainwright, and a deep distaste for musicals.

It became clear early in their marriage a middle ground would need to be found, and the compromise ended up being jazz. Over their 55+ year marriage they went to dozens of jazz festivals, including one in Noosa every year, and New Orleans was a regular vacation destination.

Their love of jazz didn’t get passed on to their kids, and at least while I was really young it didn’t seem like it got passed down to any of their grandkids either. That changed when I was 9, and I was spending the long American summer break from school in Australia with my dad’s family. I spent a couple weeks in Melbourne with the grandparentals, and then the three of us took a road trip from Melbourne to the Blue Mountains where my dad & little brothers lived, split over 2 days.

I’d heard plenty of jazz by then. I didn’t know it yet, but I’d heard plenty of better jazz by then- at the time my mother and I were living in Baton Rouge. But sitting in the backseat of Gramps’ station wagon, looking out at middle of nowhere Victoria & New South Wales, jazz finally clicked. And it clicked thanks to Chet Baker, one of my grandparents’ staples.

I started playing the trumpet after that summer, and my love of Miles Davis eventually usurped any logical reasoning to listening to Chet Baker. But to this day, I still love a lot of his stuff. I’d undoubtedly heard “I Get Along Without You Very Well” before 2020, and it just hadn’t registered in my brain, but I “discovered” this somber ballad while hotel quarantining upon my return to Australia. I spent a lot of time with Gran while I was in Melbourne, and Chet got a lot of play thanks to that.

His music is so intrinsically tied to Melbourne and Gramps & Gran for me that I tend to only think to play it when I’m thinking of my grandparents. But one night this week, I was given control of the music, and my gut choice was… St. Vincent.

But my second gut choice was Chet Baker, which if anything means more because I had time to think of how I wanted to soundtrack the night. Chet has officially overcome being a pure nostalgia act for me. I don’t feel great discussing this mediocre white man who very blatantly stole & watered down the work of black artists as the very 1st jazz act featured as my favorite old song of the week, but I guess I do recommend his music if you’re struggling to get into jazz.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s