He is a two-time Grammy award winner. He’s worked with legends like Smokey Robinson and has garnered praise from such musical luminaries as Public Enemy’s Chuck D. And still there are too many people who have yet to hear of him. Timothy Bloom has been diligently working the music circuit, writing and recording for the last six years or so. But he managed to turn some heads with his 2014 self-titled debut, an illustrious jewel of rousing blues and silky soul which featured his incredibly versatile singing.
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There are a few bars on “Kokopelli”, one of many tracks from Mild High Club’s Skiptracing that manages to occupy the middle ground between shadowy noir and neon psychedelic grooves (for a visual depiction of this look no further than the album cover), which perfectly sum up what motivates his craft. Artists may muse on a seemingly endless number of topics, but it isn’t that often that someone simply expresses a love for what they do so explicitly and broadly, free of genre signifiers, caveats, and the spoils that come with success.
“Music touches me / When you’re choosing / Keep shuffling / Because tuneage beats suffering,” Alex Brettin sings slyly, warbling ever so slightly on the vowels in “music” and “choosing.”
Skiptracing is a record that could only be made by someone with the kind of musical appreciation that Brettin demonstrates. The songs are lush and dreamy, with just a hint of the occult; the album could double as a fitting soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice. The songs are rich and diverse, a blend of Mac DeMarco style melodies and laggard hooks with the instrumental diversity of Andrew Bird. There’s an easygoing charm to much of the record, and a listener without a lot of formal knowledge might take Mild High Club’s latest project as a pleasant, vaguely surreal trip back in time. Those in the know, however, will find smart interpolations and riffs on jazz concepts that belie the pseudo-slacker reputation that comes with the DeMarco association and reveal Brettin’s extensive theory background and deep musical knowledge.
Anniversaries are tricky, and music-related anniversaries even more so. On those special days that mark a certain period since a particular work had been released, should you decide to write about the work or its performer, you are bound to critically evaluate a pre-defined “sentiment” that the work has evoked in the collective consciousness, as well as critically assess the “changes” the work has caused in its respective aural category.
The Norwegian duo Röyksopp, and especially their remarkable debut album, Melody A.M., elude a solid definition and they cunningly thwart the mold for the kind of music they make. Each song off their first release is as diverse as a child’s imagination, unmarred by the “sentiments” and “expectations” of the public. It’s because of this incredible diversification of tunes on Melody A.M. that they, one could say inadvertently, brought a wide scope of electronic music into the mainstream in late 2001.
It’s been a long four years for Rachel Yamagata.
For fans of the once theater-bound singer songwriter, the PledgeMusic campaign that helped create her 2011 effort Chesapeake was godsend, having survived two rounds of major label action. “PledgeMusic saved me,” she told PopMatters back in 2011. “It was something that allowed me to make instinctual decisions about how the funding would be used, and I didn’t have to get clearances from anyone. I’m sitting here now writing hand-written lyrics for people who supported the album. I love that fans can support something in advance they would’ve supported anyway. And I get to share behind-the-scenes stuff with them! It’s a great way to get more authentic music.”
Anyone who saw The Devil Makes Three live knew what all the fuss was about: here is a group that infused Americana traditions with an unabashedly modern energy that caused any ears within a mile radius to buzz with excitement. Anyone who heard the early Devil Makes Three records heard something more: a solid group that showed promise but didn’t necessarily light the world on fire. For so long, the trio of guitarist Pete Bernhard, bassist Lucia Turino, and banjo-player extraordinaire Cooper McBean hadn’t figured out how to translate their live shows into the studio, at least not until 2011’s Stomp and Smash and their 2013 followup I’m a Stranger Here.