“How the Race is Done” – Smile
This feels straight out of some 1986 College Rock compilation tape. Mostly because of that Peter Buck-like jangly guitar, which recalls early R.E.M. (with a lot more energy than R.E.M., though.) It has nothing to do with ’80s college rock, but the bass sound and style reminds me of Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament. The real kicker: these kids are from Turin, Italy. Does that blow your mind?!?!
“All About You” – The Knocks featuring Foster the Kids
I guess this song has been around since last October, but I just heard it for the first time this week. Twenty-some years ago I had a mix tape a buddy made for me that was filled with various electronic artists, ranging from Fluke to Moby to the Chemical Brothers. This song would have fit perfectly on that tape.
“Banquet” – Bloc Party
Sixteen years ago this month I launched my music podcast (RIP). This was one of the songs I played on that first episode. I heard it the other day. The Music Gods were looking out for me.
“Heaven” – Eliza Shaddad
Two Friday PL’s back I shared Shaddad’s wonderful “Blossom,” which she wrote to honor her Sudanese heritage. This week she released the first proper single from her upcoming album. I wonder if she’s ever listened to the Australian band The Superjesus, because this reminds me of their 2000 track “Gravity.” Doesn’t matter whether she was influenced by them or it’s a coincidence, this song makes me happy either way.
“Empire Builder” – Typhoon
I’ve gone through a stretch lately where I’m not digging much of what the SiriusXM alternative stations are throwing down when it comes to new music. This one made my ears perk up, though. I wouldn’t say it sounds like much else I normally listen to, which may be its biggest selling point. “Everybody’s angry, everybody’s lonely.” Damn, that kind of sums up the past year or so, doesn’t it?
“Stacking Chairs” – Middle Kids
Another terrific song from MK’s latest album, a disk that requires patience and a few listenings to fully connect with. This song has been giving me all the feels lately. Singer Hannah Joy wrote it about her relationship with husband and bandmate Tim Fitz. It is a perfect distillation of the group’s bright, wide-eyed optimism. Something about the repeated phrase of “I will be there” at the end of each chorus feels magical to me.
“Back Where I Belong” – Dumptruck
My brother-in-music E$ mentioned he had been listening to this band recently. I kind of remembered the name, but couldn’t recall if I ever listened to them. They were a college rock buzz band in the ’80s, which was before I was at all interested in college rock. I spent most of a day diving into their back catalog, and really enjoyed a lot of their work.
“Doowutchyalike” – Digital Underground
More on this below…
“The Humpty Dance” – Digital Underground
Well, shit. Last night we lost Gregory Jacobs, AKA Shock G, AKA Humpty Hump. To honor the legend I listened to the DU album Sex Packets from start to finish last night. Probably the first time I had done that since 1990, 1991, somewhere in there. It was even funnier, more charming, and original than I remembered. DU hung around for a few years, but never again had the success they had when they first burst upon the scene. They packed a lot into that album.
It was their originality that set DU apart, and made their songs timeless. You hear plenty of late ’80s production tricks on Sex Packets. But they aren’t overwhelming. Jacobs’ lyrics and delivery were so unique that they still stand out. I laughed a lot while listening last night!
Sometime in the early ’00s I was in California on business, making a long drive from the Central Valley to the LA area. While scanning through the FM dial I found a hip-hop station that Shock G had called into. He gave a long, rambling, likely weed-influenced interview talking about his success with Digital Underground, the rise of his protege Tupac, and the whole early ’90s hip hop scene. It was an amazing interview, and made that long drive much more tolerable. Rest in peace, brother.