Somehow 2021 is already over, and somehow this is the last Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week of the year.
I’ve had a lot of fun writing these this year, and I hope those of you who have been reading have enjoyed them, or at least been put on to some music you like. My end of year albums list will be out sometime soon, and FN&OTOW will be back in January. Here are the last couple honorable mentions for the year:
Skiifall collaborated with BadBadNotGood on “Break of Dawn”. The modern jazz outfit lays down an eclectic instrumental to open that transitions into a more typical free jazz sound to close out the track. You’d be forgiven for missing out on Skiifall’s bars about police brutality, because his performance is so bright and cheery. Keep an ear out.
I really don’t know how well known Yen Strange is; I saw the video for “Donnie Darko” on rage. back in Melbourne a few months ago, so they’re big enough to get there but that doesn’t tell you much. Anyway, their 2nd single “Go Away” bored me, so I was happy to hear that “Intro” was not more of the same. It’s a catchy piece of Alt-Pop, although I can’t say much more than that. If that’s your thing, check this out.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “Cut Me” by Moses Sumney
I don’t tend to listen to live albums, let alone enjoy them, but it was clear from the singles released leading up to “Live From Blackalachia” that this wasn’t a standard live record. Add in the tie-in movie, and it’s clear Moses Sumney was trying to do something different.
A few weeks ago I said Moses at his best sounds like he’s going to make a classic album. “Live From Blackalachia” is not that…I don’t think. It is a very dense, erratic live album particularly in the 1st half, and I haven’t been able to give it enough listening time yet to have my full judgment on it yet. I do know it’s good enough that I’m going to make a point of remedying that – it might end up pretty high in my end of year list.
One thing that’s already clear though is that the live version of “Cut Me” included on the album is far superior to the original album version. Across the album, Sumney has taken liberties with what’s previously been released and completely revamps the arrangements. The album was recorded out in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the space between all of the performers adds a serene quality to the record.
The addition of horns, strings, and live percussion to “Cut Me” along with a much brighter performance from Moses creates an almost completely different song. There’s an old soul element to it underneath the eclectic instrumentation, all building up to a kaleidoscopic closing minute brought in by a wonderful extended note from Sumney’s sultry falsetto.
Lots of people prefer live albums to the studio versions, and the more rabid Sumney fans will have already eaten this up. But even if you’re like me and couldn’t care less about live albums, if you liked either of Moses Sumney’s full length albums you need to give this a listen.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “That’s the Way of the World” by Earth, Wind & Fire
This might just be me, but I’ve always found Earth, Wind & Fire’s music to be incredibly festive.
And I don’t just mean the bangers. “September” is a party staple, tracks like “Boogie Wonderland” or “Let’s Groove” are dancefloor fillers (if you’re going to the right parties). Even the more lowkey hits somehow feel right to listen to this time of year, even more so than the rest of the year.
“That’s the Way of the World” is my favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song to fit this description. Maybe it’s the ‘we come together on this special day line’ maybe it’s that trumpet at the beginning that just bleeds nostalgia. Maybe it’s because they used in “Everybody Hates Chris”. I can’t put my finger on it.
I’m not plugged into the Earth, Wind & Fire discography as a whole really, but like most people I know the hits. Again, I might be totally wrong about this- but they seem to be one of the few bands whose fanbase is not only mostly people like me, but the people who do know every record, every song, every note don’t seem to mind that.
The undyingly positive messaging in the music landed, or at least it lands when you hear the band’s music. There are lots of instrumental layers to most of their music, but most of them are pretty simple. The lyrics are carefully penned, but just as simple. And if you buy into what the band believes in, the world can feel simple, at least for a bit.
I’m sure I’m not only whose Christmas plans have been, um, adjusted thanks to the latest variant with a Power Ranger villain name. And who knows how you’re handling that. I’ve spent the last few weeks still doing my best to lean into the Christmas spirit as much as I can.
I’m not self-absorbed or reductive enough to be one of those “I choose to be happy” people – that’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying a lot of things don’t feel like Christmas right now. A lot of things that maybe made you feel safe or comfortable don’t do that anymore. Handle that however you need to, but when something makes you feel good, take the win.