We're doing our first open thread—and you are invited to share your recommendations of new music, movies, TV shows, and writing
I have been a big fan of Rick Beato for years now. I wish I had had a teacher like that back when I was active in the world o' music. So it goes.
But it was through his channel that I became aware of the most interesting writer I have encountered in years (and mind you, I have met and spoken with the late, great Tom Wolfe) and that is Ted Gioia. Sounds like sucking up, I get that, but it's true. No other writer has kept my interest on so many subjects as our host.
Keep up the good work!
A blues guitar fanatic, I have recently been deeply struck by a (self taught) Tuareg musician from Agadez, Niger, named Bombino.
Some have called him the greatest living guitar player, and I often struggle to disagree—he plays in a style unlike anything I’ve ever heard, though legend has it he found some unmarked, bootleg tapes in his village when he was young and he had just gotten his first guitar…they were mixtapes full of Dire Straights and Jimi Hendrix.
He developed a sound all his own, and even has experimented with more western arrangements, culminating in a collaboration with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys on an album called Nomad.
I saw him live this summer in DC, and he blew me away, so much so that I flew to Portland to catch the tail end of his US tour. I can’t wait for his next album—and hope he joins the ‘world’ blues-tinged musicians breaking through in Western Markets (Khruangbin, Hermanos Guittierez, etc).
Here is one clip, but I highly recommend seeing Ron Wyman’s entire Documentary, which places the music socially and politically for his country, region and people.
The Honest Broker is my favorite blog, and I am so glad you are embracing and pushing the boundaries of Substack.
Cheers, and happy listening,
The documentary "The Sound of 007" is fantastic. The Bond franchise song get is on the bucket list for most singers and this documentary is immaculately produced. This high caliber (excuse the pun) doc chronicles the history of these songs in a fascinating and entertaining way. Well done… You can catch it on Amazon prime.
Urban futurist Mike Davis died this Tues. from throat cancer at age 76. His prescient books in the 1990s foretold social unrest and environmental disasters that have come to pass in Los Angeles and other American cities. As a former urban planner in NYC, I would recommend the following Mike Davis reading list:
1. "City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles" (1990)
2. "The Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster" (1998)
3. "Dead Cities, and Other Tales" (2003)
4. "Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Working Class" (2006)
5. "Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties" (co-authored with Jon Wiener, 2020)
Davis is a great writer, whether you agree with his politics or not.
Recently I saw The Joy Formidable live at a small venue in Pittsburgh. This was a band I knew exactly one song from. It was a hit in the indie rock (a la Sirius XMU) world a decade or so ago. My friends were going so I tagged along for a night out at a local club I love.
The band was impressive to say the least. I heard multiple around me say both of the following:
"how do they make so much sound with three people" and
"Her voice is so calming but powerful"
I had listened to couple tracks of their new stuff before going, and thought it was decent, but it did not represent the expressiveness and emotion felt at the show. They even had some killer tracks in native welsh language which everyone was into (foreign language shows in the USA rust belt are not common to say the least). One of the great things about the current state of live music is that I keep going to shows in this vain ("hey I remember a song from those folks!") and get a wider appreciation for a song in my brain catalogue and understand the context with which this fits in the bands catalogue.
This also relates to a phenomenon I have experienced many times over the years that goes one of two ways.
1. Go to a show and the band is amazing, buy the album at the merch table, but later realize the "magic" was not captured on the recording.
2. Hear an album I love, go to the show and the band for one reason or another doesn't deliver the "magic" live.
There are obviously a lot of variables here. The largest of which are production skills and "off nights". Overall both instances above make me want to experience as much music both live and at home. Yes, this is a form of musical FOMO.
Here is another example: What if we only judged The Grateful Dead by their studio albums?
I can already see that this is going to be a very expensive thread to read!
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizards - Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms, and Lava. (Slightly weird prog-rock)
Kikagaku Moyo - Kumoyo Island (Really weird prog-rock)
I've been loving 'LongGone,' the second album reuniting Joshua Redman with his mates: Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, in a short-lived quartet in the early 90s. A jazz supergroup that reminds me of Miles' sextet with Cannonball, Coltrane and Bill Evans. Speaking of Miles, I have also been enjoying the new volume of his Bootleg Series: 'This Really Happened (1982-1985).' I have long written off his eighties recordings, this set is making it clear my assumption has been wrong.
For anyone who likes Norah Jones, I enthusiastically recommend the music of Melody Gardot and Eilen Jewell.
In my opinion, they are two of the finest lyricists and genre-defying singer-songwriters to emerge in the last three decades.
Gardot is more jazzy, and Jewell is more country, but neither one of them fits neatly into a radio-station pigeonhole. Each has a unique voice and sound, and both are fantastic and highly underrated artists.
I've been really digging the latest album by bassist Alune Wade, "Sultan." Now THIS is the way to make an album. Go straight down your list of the way you like music to be: funky, lyrical, soulful, exotic, grooving, multicultural, honest, political, emotional, intimate, well-produced but not slick, varied, jazzy, rocking, historically aware, experimental, tight, cliché-free, effectively arranged, diversely instrumentalized, thick with percussion and bass, thematic, cinematic, and ambitious without being pretentious.
Wade also produces, does some of the vocals, and writes the arrangements on "Sultan." The latter are complex, creative, and deeply informed about different world music approaches. They’re also tight, funky, and fun. These are not shapeless jam sessions: each song has a direction, a thematic purpose, and a melodic focus. Each element of the arrangements earns its keep and is there for a reason, often explained in the informative and ear-opening liner notes.
For just one example, “L’Obre de L’âme” is a ballad that mourns Wade’s parents. The modal melody is expressive, somber, and difficult to pin down on a map. (Music theorist Anna Brock described the mode as “two Phrygian superimposed tetrachords,” but that only approximates the Middle- and Near-Eastern sound, something like an Islamic call to prayer with memories of Pakistan.) Ismaïl Lumanovski is a revelation on clarinet: when he plays in harmony with Wade’s arco bass you’ll check the liner notes twice to confirm that what you are hearing isn’t some kind of electronically altered sitar. It’s a beautiful and (to my ear) completely original sound that only a master arranger could invent.
Here's my full review on the Arts Fuse website:
Does anyone here remember WinAmp (circa 2000)? WinAmp was the first popular digital MP3 player application for Windows which helped herald a new epoch in digital media consumption. I was standing RIGHT THERE, next to the whole thing, while it happened, and I was one of the network engineers that made it all go until AOL/Time-Warner bought it for $100M back in the summer of 2000. (Sadly I didn't make a million dollars on it, but many of my friends did. I got a hot tub as a consolation prize, and I still dearly love using it to this day.) One of my MANY take-aways from this period in my life is this; I think we owe the artists (I hate to say, "in the industry", because the industry really doesn't care that much so long as they're making money, not music) an apology in a way. Did WinAmp help kill Album Oriented Rock (AOR) or was it already dying on it's own by that point? Does it even matter if today's younger generation doesn't remember what an album is? Is Styx's Paradise Theater still relevant? Or pick from a multitude of titles by Pink Floyd, or a trio of albums by Marillion back in the 80s. Does "the album" still matter as a body of work, or did the rise of digital music help kill "the album"? Or was that just our species' ever-dwindling attention span? Your comments and thoughts on the revival of OAR (as an Internet Radio station or a SIPCast or Podcast) are most welcomed and encouraged.
New last year I guess, but if you are willing to spend 3 solid hours staring at a screen, try Ryusuke Hamaguchi's "Drive My Car". Hyped lots in the last year. Underhyped, if you ask me – one of the best film experiences I've had. Our film club took it on a few months back and we never got to the bottom of our comments lists. So much going on, so quietly and so calmly...
THEATRE - America's greatest play, The Death Of A Salesman, is back on Broadway. It stars Wendell Pierce, an excellent stage actor (not just a TV actor who missed pilot season or a movie star between comic book movies - an actual Capital A Actor). If there ever were a time to see it, it's now.
NOVEL - Seconds Out by Martin Kohan. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of an Argentine newspaper, a reporter makes connections between the famous Firpo vs Dempsey boxing match and Strauss' first performance of Mahler's first symphony - both of which happened on the same day. A gem of a novel.
BOOK - A Little Devil In America by Hanif Abdurraqib. Several essays on African-American performers and performance. Insightful and poetic are two words that perfectly describe Abdurraqib's writing in general and this book in particular.
MUSIC - There's (thankfully) little discussion of hip hop here, but if you want to know what's the best rap album this year, it's definitely CHEAT CODES by Danger Mouse & Black Thought. Danger Mouse is a producer who did the famous Jay-Z & Beatles mashup album, along with the Gnarls Barkley albums. He's also produced albums for U2, Norah Jones, Michael Kiwanuka, The Black Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more. Black Thought is the rapper from the group The Roots, aka "the band on the Jimmy Fallon show." The Roots have a dozen plus albums over 30 years. Black Thought is universally regarded as one of the best rappers of all-time, certainly one of the top two or three working today.
Check out singer songwriter guitarist Madison Cunningham. Her Grammy nominated debut Who Are You Now and just released 2nd album Revealer. She is something else !
I have a post about this, but I'll refrain from promoting it here since Ted's asked.
Instead, a couple movies that you've almost certainly not seen:
*** After Life: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0165078/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_6. ***
There are other movies with similar titles, plus a Ricky Gervais series with the identical title. It's two words, not one, note carefully.
This is a Japanese movie about the afterlife, except in this film, you're not rewarded OR punished, or sent back. Instead, you have to choose one scene from your life that you want to take with you into eternity. Then they recreate it for you.
*** Exporting Raymond: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1356763/?ref_=fn_al_tt_0 ***
A comedy documentary (how many of those are there?) where Phil Rosenthal, the creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and current star of "Somebody Feed Phil" takes his scripts to Russia, so they can remake the series with Russian actors. A hilarious exploration of what's funny in different cultures.
For anyone who leans into the hard sciences even a little, I’ve been absolutely enthralled with Stephen Wolfram’s recent Physics Project. He’s essentially merging the worlds of math and physics (and chemistry and biology), and though it’s early yet, is surfacing fascinating theories on the nature of space/time, what consciousness is, how to consider “alien” intelligence alongside traditional epistemology, and so very much more.
It’s sometimes very heady stuff, but so worth the effort. And if anyone can bring supremely technical concepts down to layperson levels it’s Wolfram.
I would start with his website: https://www.wolframphysics.org/
And listen to his 3 interviews on the Lex Fridman podcast, the first of which is here (also on Spotify, etc):
Edit: just now realizing that this is neither a movie, book, writing, or music per se. Oh well! Still highly recommend!