Tal Rosenberg, Reader digital content editor, is obsessed with . . .
Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City It’s been ages since I’ve seen an album receive such unanimous approval from hip-hop fans, and with good reason: this is one of the smartest, most generous rap records to be released in a long time.
The Roches I’ve been listening to this trio of sisters quite a bit, particularly their first self-titled album and their third, Keep on Doing, both of which were produced by Robert Fripp. They were playing Greenwich Village-style folk during the punk era, which seems bold in hindsight, especially because of their almost Raffi-like melodies and bright acoustic guitars. The lyrics can get really bleak, though, whether the sisters are talking about sour relationships or the vice and violence of New York City in the late 70s and early 80s.
Amazing Blondel, “Celestial Light” Speaking of folk, this prog-folk track plays during a particularly moving and beautiful sequence in Olivier Assayas’s Something in the Air, which I caught at the Chicago International Film Festival. I just had to hunt it down after I heard it—lovely and glimmering, it’s one of those rare pieces of music that actually sounds like its title.
He asks . . .
Natalie Bergman, vocalist for Wild Belle, what she’s obsessed with. Her answers are . . .
Malick Sidibé Malick Sidibé was an extraordinary photographer throughout the 1960s and ’70s, and he made arresting portraits of Malian youth during a very powerful musical movement in that country (as well as nearby Nigeria and Ghana). “I have to tell you, music liberated African youth,” he writes. Sidibé exposed the youth to images of themselves dancing. Dancing with girls. This kind of documentation had never existed. His portraits contain the patterns, textures, and attitude of West African culture when funk reigned. Each face he photographs tells a unique and beautiful story.
Dr. John, Locked Down The record is brilliant. Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach, who produced it, and Brooklyn’s finest, bassist Nick Movshon (who has an unmistakable sound and plays grooves that melt your heart), brought psychedelic king Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, back to the stage with two hands full of heavy hits. The record is spooky and sexy and captures some of the sounds that Rebennack achieved on his ’68 record Gris-Gris. There are also pleasant hints of the Éthiopiques series in the music, but it stays true to Dr. John’s soulful roots. My favorites: “Getaway” and “My Children, My Angels.” Listen to that bass!
Melina Matsoukas I spent four days in Jamaica shooting a music video with director Melina Matsoukas, and we nearly killed ourselves three times. She is the most inspiring woman I’ve ever worked with, hands down. She has a remarkable sense of style and awareness and is present in every moment and every scene. This is her gift—she commands the attention of everybody in the room the moment she walks in. She is an artist and she’s dangerous! She takes major risks, and the outcome is better than the rest.
She asks . . .
Elise Bergman, clothing designer and arts educator, what she’s obsessed with. Her answers are . . .
Sharon Van Etten, “Magic Chords” video The mood is somber and vacant as Van Etten takes us on an eerie journey to a lake by the woods. Caution to the viewer: she is dressed like a Puritan and surrounded by apparently lifeless nudes. This video, directed by Rick Alverson, is weird. It’s also cool and beautiful, and a nice complement to Van Etten’s lovely, haunting vocals. Also worth checking out is New Jerusalem, Alverson’s 2011 film starring Will Oldham.
Workshops at the Old Town School of Folk Music It’s not news that the Old Town School is one of Chicago’s great resources. Over the years, I’ve had numerous guitar lessons and seen my fair share of recitals, African dance performances, and favorite bluegrass acts. But one of my most enjoyable experiences was a vocal-harmony workshop led by the Foghorn Stringband. I love that the school has options like this.
The classics None of them are especially new or unusual, but I have about a dozen records that I can’t seem to take out of constant rotation, each for a specific mood, task, or occasion. A few examples: Arcade Fire’s Funeral for cleaning the house, Karen Dalton’s It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best for mellow dinners, Soul Jazz Records’ Miami Sound for impromptu dance parties, Ray Charles’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music for Sunday brunch, and Gillian Welch’s Revival or Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports for afternoon sewing.