Tal Rosenberg, Reader digital content editor
Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul Robert Christgau called this 1969 soul masterpiece “a baroque, luscious production job over the non-singing of one half of Sam & Dave’s production-songwriting team,” then gave it a “C” grade. The album has spent the past 44 years proving him unbelievably wrong.
Juicy J, “Geeked Up Off Them Bars“ I didn’t even know this song existed until I heard it on Rustie’s BBC Essential Mix. The video is lurid in a cheap and depressing way, and the song isn’t really about anything more than being insanely high on drugs (I’m pretty sure “bars” is a reference to Xanax bars). But the music is warped and haunting and massive—the beat is by Sonny Digital, somebody I’d never heard of, but he starts with a trap style similar to Lex Luger’s and somehow makes it sound more gothic and chaotic than I thought possible. Lots of songs go for a spacey vibe when describing drug use, but “Geeked Up Off Them Bars” sounds like the nightmare that most drug music doesn’t talk about.
Jonathan Richman, “It’s You“ Before this song, I really only knew Richman’s work on the first Modern Lovers album. But “It’s You” makes me curious to search out the rest of his music. I love the saxophone, and the doo-wop vibe is perfect—it gives Richman’s naive sincerity its ideal musical context without seeming overly nostalgic. It’s the lead track on the 1986 album It’s Time For . . . , which has a bunch of gems and a great photograph of Richman on the cover.
Tal is curious what’s in the rotation of …
Jonathan Bogart, free-floating pop critic
African pop music Africa is so huge that it’s impossible for me to really have a grasp on the breadth of its musical output. In practice, I’m mostly listening to Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Angolan pop songs as they crop up in my YouTube subscriptions and recommendations. Goldie Harvey, who died earlier this year at age 29, was in a position to become the Nigerian Nicki Minaj, but comparisons to U.S. pop stars never tell the whole story. See Angola’s Titica, a transgender woman who’s a genuine star in her home country, with banging kuduro and swaying kizomba songs alike.
Cole Porter I’m never very far away from revisiting the Great American Songbook, and a question on my blog the other night about my favorite Cole Porter songs sent me down a rabbit hole of unfamiliar renditions of familiar numbers, maybe my favorite of which is the first hit version of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” by the Benny Goodman Quintet with Peggy Mann.
The musical output of 1977 My birthday was in 1977, and when I was younger it was a point of pride to claim that I was born at the high-water mark of the first wave of British punk. Today, though, I’m more likely to be enthused by all the amazing disco, jazz fusion, salsa, dub reggae, yacht rock, Afrobeat, Bollywood, Japanese pop, and early electronic music that came out that year.
Jonathan is curious what’s in the rotation of …
Britt Julious, writer and lover of sequins
Gold Panda, Half of Where You Live I’ve always loved Gold Panda’s singles, but his first album left me underwhelmed—it didn’t live up to the impossibly high standard he’d set with “Quitters Raga.” His new album, however, is stunning. A lot is going on in each song, but as a whole it’s bright and restrained. The layered production creates a sound that’s seemingly effortless and limitless. Something about the light touch of this latest work has turned me into a major fan, excited at the prospect of future dreamy aural pleasures.
Anything and everything by LIZ I’ve listened to everything LIZ has released, and there are no bad songs. I never thought I’d feel nostalgic for my early teens, but LIZ’s music (especially “Horoscope“) brings back vivid memories of those years: school dances, glitter makeup, low-rise jeans, Mandy Moore listening sessions. Its perfect blend of pop and R&B evokes that early-aughts pop-star sound—these are the kind of songs you listen to with the windows open, trying to get in trouble with “cool” boys, without a real care in the world. It’s crazy to think that I’m old enough to recognize that we’re no longer in that “age” of music, that pop has progressed to something else.
Maya Jane Coles, Comfort Maya Jane Coles’s debut full-length is another stunner. An album title has never seemed so right. Comfort is dark and moody, perfect for the unseasonably cold and rainy days and nights we’ve had lately—it evokes romantic, sensual, and heartbreaking emotions. The guest singers (including Kim Ann Foxman!) don’t hurt either. I only wish it had come out in winter, to complement the angst of the season.