Slinky Tunes from Marian Hill, Adrian Marcel, Sevyn Streeter

Disco is everywhere. But a different kind of R&B is also becoming prominent, trading in disco’s lush bounce for a slinky, cavernous feel. I wrote about the trend here, using songs from Marian Hill, How To Dress Well, Sevyn Streeter, and Adrian Marcel as examples. Marian Hill’s “One Time” below.

Terje + Duck Sauce + Chromeo = Album Time

For Splice Today, I wrote about new albums from Todd Terje, Duck Sauce, and Chromeo, all of which obsessed with disco. Read the piece here. Check out Terje’s “Inspector Norse” below.


New Albums From Shakira and Kylie Minogue

The surprising conclusion of Shakira, the latest release from the Colombian superstar: it should have been a country album.  In fact, “Medicine,” a duet with Blake Shelton that appears the new Shakira album, is one of the strongest country songs of the year. You might doubt her ability to navigate in this genre, perhaps after watching her cover Mr. Shelton’s “Boys Round Here” on The Voice; you shouldn’t. Her work from the ‘00s—Oral Fixacion Volumes 1 and 2 or She Wolf—proved her to be vibrant and versatile, as she applied her unique, instantly identifiable voice to brash guitar rock, swoony bossa nova, disco, and a variety of danceable Latin-pop hybrid. There are few corners of the musical planet left for her to take over.

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Merle Haggard and “Okie From Muskogee”

I wrote about Merle Haggard and the 45th anniversary of “Okie From Muskogee,” his famous single (and the accompanying live album). This song threw Haggard into the ’60s culture wars and ultimately prevented him from crossing over in the manner of Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash. Here’s “I’ll Always Know,” from one of Haggard’s greatest albums, Mama Tried.

A First for the Staple Singers

I wrote about a new book on the Staple Singers for Paste. Surprisingly it’s the first book on a group that had two number one hits and earned admiration from Elvis, Dylan, and Prince. Below, a Staple family track that the Stones ripped wholesale.


And here’s their last number one hit, written and produced by Curtis Mayfield.

Classic Influences

I wrote about new albums from The War on Drugs, the Men, and the Drive-By Truckers, all of which wouldn’t sound out of place in the late ’70s or ’80s. It used to be that “indie” artists rebelled against these sounds; now they all embrace them. Check out the piece here.

An old Drive-By Truckers track:


If you’re more of a ballad person:


Soul Unsung: Reflections on the Band in Black Popular Music

If you look here, you can read my review of the book Soul Unsung, whichdiscusses the way black pop has changed over time by focusing on the men and women playing behind the singer. The author uses King Curtis’s “Memphis Soul Stew” to aid in the book’s organization. “Listen to the band move, watch the people groove.”

New Releases: YG & DJ Mustard take on Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

I wrote about two new rap albums, My Krazy Life and Pinata, both of which came out on March 18. In many ways, these albums represent opposites: YG’s a young rapper on the rise, while Gibbs has been around for a while; DJ Mustard is storming the radio with hit after hit, Madlib exists outside of the mainstream. See my piece here. Below, “High,” from Pinata. Like many of the songs on the album, it revolves around prominently placed ’70s soul samples.

The Wide Range of Moodymann

I wrote about Moodymann’s impressively wide-ranging new album (self-titled). See the piece here.  Check out “Lyk U Used 2,” which should be a radio hit, though it won’t be.


Questlove’s Family Affair

(I wrote this last summer, when the drummer Questlove’s autobiography came out, but my piece slipped through the cracks, so I’m posting it now.)

In Ahmir Thompson’s memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues, the drummer writes about his decision to go by his better-known moniker, Questlove. The name, he writes, combined “a mix of substance and style;” so does his book. Mo’ Meta Blues includes some normal career description, but several years are described largely through the records he remembers listening to at the time. He also throws in interviews with (and interjections from) the manager of his band, as well as emails from other people involved in the writing and editing process. Musicians take note: most of the time, Questlove manages to spice up a form that should be interesting — after all, few people have an artist’s breadth of experience — but too often ends up boring, repetitive, and predictable.

Not that Questlove throws the whole musician’s autobiography playbook out the window (for another interesting experiment in music memoir, read the book-length interview of the artist Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy). “[E]very music memoir has the same shape,” writes Questlove, “[i]t starts off with a simple statement about childhood: ‘I was born. . . My dad did this.’ But I don’t want to start that way. I can’t start that way. I won’t.” But of course, he does.

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