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Music

Meklit - 'When the People Move, the Music Moves Too' (album stream) (premiere)

Ethio-jazz and star stuff make beautiful music together on Meklit's most innovative album to date.

Jazz singer and composer Meklit Hadero, known by the mononym Meklit, has long been bringing her Ethiopian heritage to the forefront of the jazz she sings. Now, on upcoming album When the People Move, the Music Moves Too, exclusively streaming on PopMatters one week before its June 23 release, the blend is more seamless than ever with deeply personal compositions and appearances by Andrew Bird, the Preservation Hall Horns, and a literal star.

That's right: amid the warmth of track "Supernova", Meklit translates data from binary star system KIC 12268220 into a hauntingly beautiful piece of sound, a reminder of the fact that we are all made of star stuff. Where she comes from is, after all, a major theme in the album. "The album feels like my whole life does," says Meklit, "bringing together my Ethiopian homeland, and my many years in Brooklyn and the San Francisco Bay Area."

Her story is deeply embedded in the Ethio-jazz horns of the brassy "You Are My Luck" and the airy flutes of "Yerakeh Yeresal". "I Want to Sing for Them All" lists the artists Meklit grew up listening to - Coltrane, Prince, Aster Aweke, Mulatu Astatke - in a jubilant celebration of those who have guided her on her way to becoming one of the jazz world's most innovative modern artists. Perhaps no track illustrates Meklit's influences as viscerally, though, as "You Got Me", a soulful cover of the Roots' classic hit that takes it to the golden age of Addis Ababa.

"In 2011," relates Meklit, "Dr. Mulatu Astatke, the Godfather of Ethio-jazz, sat me down and asked me -- 'What is your contribution to Ethio-jazz?' He said, 'You have to go experiment and explore and find out what your part in this music is.' With her latest masterpiece, Meklit has affirmed her place among her childhood heroes: at the shining crossroads of two cultures, making truly moving music.

Streaming now on PopMatters, When the People Move, the Music Moves Too is out June 23 on Six Degrees Records and is available for preorder now.

Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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