Writers, DJs, even NBA ballplayers can get real Tom Petty when fiddling around on social media. Sometimes though, when you listen through all that bruised egos and lack of retweets, some truth does in fact appear. A fellow music scribe made a very succinct point a couple of days ago; year-end list season does in fact start too early. (Here’s mine.) In most cases, they disregard brilliant records that get slotted for release during the holiday mish-mash. I started to think about how much music and other pop-cultural topics I missed last year. Trust, it was a lot. What can I say? A dude got caught up, my bad.
So people, here goes an “oops, I missed it” column.
THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ‘DO THE RIGHT THING’ ROLL CALL
Lemme tell ya America, Black people are amazing. That’s not an opinion, it’s factual.
We have to be amazing just to exist. Live. Breathe. That crinkle-crease of genius is a skillset.
There is a slept-on scene in the masterful Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee, which was shot entirely on Stuyvesant Avenue between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. With numerous ideas and philosophies kicking around in the film some can miss it, but this moment has always held power, and my attention. The omnidirectional Samuel L. Jackson (credited in the film as Sam Jackson) plays Mister Señor Love Daddy, a DJ for fictitious radio station We Love who soundtracks the film’s monumental day. Jackson’s character gives the audience subtle interior and exterior commentary. There is a scene in which he does a rollcall, name-checking artists that make his playlist. Enunciated in Jackson’s finest documentary timbre are Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck D, Janet Jackson, Dianne Reeves, Aretha Franklin, Prince, and Teddy Pendergrast—titans of Black culture who fly oh-so-regal from Mister Señor Love Daddy’s mouth, like autumn leaves getting sorted by the wind.
Wasting not one second of the script, it’s a major flex for Spike that gently infers the vast width and depths of Black artistry. Not this or that; we are all, at all times. Those multiple composites speak volumes to our past, present, and future selves. In our moment of crisis, they remind us of our resilient bold nature, the ability to overcome by recognizing the long, hard journey of the past. In a film loaded frame to frame, second to second with paramount social commentary exploding with big noise moments that are even more relevant in 2020, this one is a quiet. It gets loud years after you’ve finished the film, as those names become signposts of where the culture was at in 1989.
MARKE DE CLIVE-LOWE, ‘DREAMWEAVERS’
From 1998-2008, Marke de Clive-Lowe, the half-Japanese, half New Zealander, LA-based pianist, producer, live remixer, and composer was at ground zero of London’s broken beat movement. His most recent album Dreamweavers features collaborators Andrea Lombardini on bass and drummer Tommaso Cappellato, highlighting the artists’ trademark sound of combining soul, hip-hop, broken beat, and house into a live-wire arrangement. His electro-acoustic jazz, embodied here by the Ras G composition “Strolling Down Degnan,” with its pulsar twinkling sensation—whew! Modal’s experimental sound has never been so aligned, so right. Worth picking up at any time!
VICTORIA MONET, ‘JAGUAR’
This record is so chill that I even forgot Victoria Monet was behind the song “Ass Like That”—which is probably why I skipped the LP all-together the first time. Hailing from Sacramento, Monet is known for her songwriting. From Arianna Grande to Diddy, she crosses that pop-R&B threshold with much success. But Jaguar has retro-fantastic funk to it, the musty ’70s good version. Her ditty-not-Diddy about buttcheeks, squat routines, and burning calories like weed is actually alright once you move past the upfront banality of it all. Later on in the album, she’s quite proficient and convincing, speaking on topics besides her backside. (Yeah, I saw the photo. It’s song worthy. But dammit Janet, sometimes when you’re dealing with a pandemic, cheekiness is a bit much.) Victoria Monet has so much more going on. This is a great album.
DEHD, ‘FLOWER OF DEVOTION’
The lo-fi breakthrough that was 2019’s Water—all that budget indie-rock mood!—that was my jam-buddy. Twingy jingle-jangle dressed up in ugly sweaters … cot-damn, I miss my Mission bammer fashion show hipsters. But initially, I retreated from its follow-up. On first listen to Flower of Devotion, the album felt overproduced. Boxy, not foxy. So I left it alone. Then, fate intervened; I caught the tenderhearted flickI Used To Go Here with Gillian Jacobs, shot in Carbondale, Illinois, five hours south of Chicago, Dehd’s hometown city.
I immediately caught on that the film was used as an elongated visual for the follow-up album.
Maybe seeing other people trapped in their own personal ennui, measuring out their lives in comparison to others, that framing, made the songs fit. It gave the tunes solid footing, provided a purpose. It’s a pretty cool record. Supply your own ugly sweaters.
DAVE AJU, GREASY LIGHTNING #7 MIX
Bay Area-born Marc David Barrite a.k.a. Dave Aju is a reliable name for fresh and inimitable electronic music, a balancing act of deep knowledge and passion for dance music history of the past with a fearless, forward-thinking approach to production and performance. Aju the educator, musician, producer, engineer, and member of KAMM has always been a top-notch selector of vibes and cold-blooded executor of the groove. Yes, like the omnidirectional Samuel L. Jackson, Dave-Aju comes at you from the most unsuspecting places.
On one of many occasions, I was holding down a DJ nite with him, The Tourist, and DJ Jacob Pena, a.k.a. DJ Guillermo, at the Attic on 24th Street in the Mission, at least 10 years ago. Mr. Aju opened his set with “Who Knows” by Band of Gypsies, slid into some Digital Underground, and pretty soon after, the night had wings—and they were flapping. After an hour of connecting dots whose patterns only he knew, all the tables and chairs in that tiny, funky-ass bar (rest its soul) were pushed to the back and folks were grooving.
You can play big tunes to a big room and get away with it, but unlocking the itch in smaller venues and turning them into a sweaty house party, where everybody catches amnesia from the funk?
Only a few can pick that lock.
Here is the playlist:
01. Jose Padilla – Walking On Air
02. Stanley Cowell – Travelin Man
03. McCoy Tyner – For Tomorrow
04. Bohannon – Save Their Souls
05. Betty Wright – I Love The Way You Love
06. The Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can
07. Bill Withers – You Got the Stuff
08. Richenel – Autumn (Alt Version)
09. Vaughn Mason – Feel My Love
10. Candido – Thousand Finger Man
11. Manu Dibango – Sun Explosion
11. Throbbing Gristle – Hot On Heels Of Love
13. Gang Of Four – I Love A Man In Uniform (Dub)
14. Whodini – It’s All In Mr. Magic’s Wand
15. Kraftwerk – The Telephone Call
16. Two Lone Swordsmen – The Bunker (Original)
17. Mike Huckaby – Radiance
18. Tony Allen & Jeff Mills – Locked And Loaded
19. The Roots – Distortion To Static
20. Kool & The Gang – Summer Madness