At any given moment in my day, there’s a very high chance that I’m listening to music: on my phone, in my car or via my record player. (Shocker: I’m listening to music as I’m writing this post.) Music — and talking about music — has been a very big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I figured that if I spend so much of my time listening to tunes that I should document it and talk about it here. While I’m interested in sharing my favorite artists with you, I’m also interested in talking about what makes their work important. Here are a few songs and albums that I’ve been listening to lately.
Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda.”
I found out about Alice Coltrane’s work through an episode of the Dinner Party Download, where Father John Misty picked one of her songs for his hypothetical dinner party playlist. First of all, Alice Coltrane was a complete badass: besides her marriage to the great John Coltrane, she had her own impressive musical career and a deep interest in Eastern spirituality that makes for beautiful music. The six-track album fuses avant-garde jazz with Eastern traditional music. If you are interested at all in jazz, regardless of whether or not you know famous names or compositions, you will probably like this.
What I love the most about this album is that Coltrane translates feelings through the rhythm and music, not through lyrics. When you listen to an artist like Coltrane, you’re able to appreciate the artistry of music making that in some ways the lyric component can obscure. I’m not listening to the track right now as I type this, but the bass line of “Something About John Coltrane” immediately jumps into my head. I am instantly transported to the hippest jazz lounge on some dreamy planet, and Life is Good. “Something About John Coltrane” has to be my favorite track, and I’m making a note to explore more of Coltrane, her husband’s, and Thelonius Monk’s work.
Iggy Pop’s “Post-Pop Depression.”
The only exposure I’ve really had to Iggy Pop is “Raw Power” (which is a great album you should listen to), so when I found out he and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age were collaborating on an album, I thought it was pretty cool. But when I watched their performance of “Gardenia” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and found out the drummer for the Arctic Monkeys was also on board, I immediately wanted to hear the rest of the album. I listened to it on NPR’s First Listen before its official release last Friday, and I think it’s a very, very good record. It’s heavy, and loud, and sassy. If you told me he actually recorded it in the 1970s, I would probably believe you. I like “Gardenia” and “American Valhalla” the most.
I know Iggy Pop has been saying that this is going to be his last record, partially because he wants the room to experience music. I was listening to an episode of Sound Exploder where Homme mentioned that there aren’t many people in rock who have the same perspective as the 69-year-old punk legend. And in that light, I think this album is a meditation on the rock scene that grapples with both physical and cultural death. Rap and pop are the music du jour, and Iggy Pop and his contemporaries — if they’re even still alive — don’t have the same cultural clout as they once did. While this album is great, it’s not going to shoot to the top of the Billboard 100. But that’s what makes it a real gem — the mastery makes the case for why this kind of music is still relevant and why we need to keep talking about it. If this is how Iggy Pop chooses to retire from making music, this is a good way to go out.
Mac DeMarco’s “Some Other Ones.”
While I might not seem like the kind of girl who would like the grungy Mac DeMarco, I really like Mac DeMarco — not so much for his lyrics, but for his instrumentals. Again, instrumental albums like “Some Other Ones” are reminders that the beats and melodies are speaking their own languages that we can derive personal meaning or feeling from. When I listen to his music, I feel like I’m living in an endless summer of good vibes — and as someone who spent my adolescence in California, it brings me back to those memories in the best of ways. This record is great background or driving music, and my favorite tracks are “Onion Man,” “Young Coconut” and “Hachiko.” “Some Other Ones” is available to download for free on DeMarco’s Bandcamp.
Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled 06.”
The whole of Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled unmastered.” is the work of a genius, but the track I really, really, really love and need to talk about is “untitled 06.” On the sonic level the bossa nova / funk influence is groovy, and I wish that this song was at least 10 minutes long. I want to zoom in on a few of the lyrics in “untitled 06”:
Look how unique that my mystique is a round of applause
And yours equally valued
You stick out like an alien compared to those around you
And that’s alright because I like it
You and me are the same
I know for sure who you are
You’re the goddess of the odd
I am yours
This is a song about loving another person’s imperfections while also embracing your own flaws, and how that confidence makes you human and real. This is a song about being open and honest about your feelings, and giving people the room to explain theirs. This is a song about how someone you love can know you better than you know yourself. And most importantly, this is a song about how self-love can bring you to a deeper love with someone else. I think this is a beautiful sentiment, and I love that Lamar continuously explores the concept in many ways throughout his work.
What have you been listening to lately? Recommend something to me in the comments.