Understatement of the day: live music matters, as does the freedom of speech necessary for its survival. Here’s a reminder why. Sermon over. Now get out there and fight the power, people.
There’s an inescapable beauty in the artificial, pre-programmed sound of Poliça, an electro outfit from Minneapolis currently taking American cities hostage. Case in point: “Amongster,” a perfect example of autotune and musical instincts conspiring to manipulate a mood in unexpected ways. Lead singer Channy Leaneagh makes her mark with lyrics that paint alternately somber and celebratory pictures, and Ryan Olson’s ups the production value with densely packed sonic permutations. Their live shows have been hailed as serving listeners a “jolt of beauty and power,” and it'll be worth the price of admission just to see how the inorganic nature of the proposition plays out in real time.
The main reason I mention Alex Clare has little to do with his music. I have a good friend with the same name, who much like Office Space’s Michael Bolton is less than thrilled he shares a name with a hugely successful, hugely cheesy singer-songwriter. The Facebook friend requests from teenage British girls are only starting to pour in, and I’m sure he’s stoked about the idea of a lifetime of conversations starting with “Hi I’m Alex. Alex Clare… yeah, like the singer.” It doesn’t appear there’s any end in sight either; Clare-the-pop-star’s song “Too Close” is audible in seemingly every corner of mainstream culture, including commercials, radio and your local elevator. Sorry, Alex-the-friend.
I can’t think of many bands that celebrate the miracles of existence better than The Very Best (“Yalira,” off the band’s breakthrough record The Warm Heart of Africa, somehow restores faith in mankind). The dopamine-spreading project combines the electro-dance hallmarks of Europe and the playful rhythmical experimentations of Africa. Esau Mwamwaya, a native of Malawi, brings the latter part of the equation to the table, and it’s a wonder to behold. See? Wonder.
Forgive me if these words swoon, but Esperanza Spalding dazzles me in myriad ways. The 27-year-old jazz bassist wins you over instrumentally, vocally and visually, and all with a carefree smile. Her big, bold ‘fro and lyrical bass lines stretch the senses in good ways and better ways. By this point, the Portland native is approaching a groove in her young, expanding career. She created a substantial stir last year when she came out of nowhere to win the Best New Artist Grammy, and now that the secret’s out, jazz’s femme fatale finally has the following she deserves.
We’ll let the names and punctuation marks do the talking here: Nas (!), Common (!), Method Man + Redman (!), Naughty By Nature (?!?), Salt-N-Pepa (?!?!?!?!?), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (?), DMX (?≥!), A$AP Rocky ($), Ice Cube (#!), Prodigy, Atmosphere, Dom Kennedy, et al. That’s a helluva hip-hop lineup, and a helluva who’s-who in the hip-world, circa 2003.