We had jazzy week here at Paste, with a great new album by saxophonist Kamasi Washington (above) on heavy rotation and a stunning performance in our Studio by the versatile drummer Mark Guiliana and his quartet. We also talked to Hype! filmmaker Doug Pray about the legacy of grunge 20 years later, and debated the 15 best Guns N’ Roses songs.
Eilen Jewell: Down Hearted Blues
After several graceful albums of original material blending country, folk and torch pop, not to mention digressions for gospel and a Loretta Lynn tribute, Eilen Jewell may well have said to herself, “Why not the blues next?” Why not, indeed? Featuring 12 covers, the engaging Down Hearted Blues barely qualifies as a departure for the Idaho-bred singer-songwriter, whose languid delivery, regardless of genre, has often suggested a descendant of Billie Holiday, or a down-home cousin of Madeleine Peyroux. —Jon Young
Hiss Golden Messenger: Hallelujah Anyhow
For years now, Hiss Golden Messenger’s principal creative force, M.C. Taylor, has written songs that aren’t just earthy, they’re intrinsically of the Earth. His music sounds harvested, not produced by man and man-made things. It feels deeply rooted. On Hallelujah Anyhow, he sounds more comfortable than ever, and that’s saying something. Taylor’s songs are warm and well-worn. His band moves as a single organism. His lyrics are a dense tangle of knowing encouragement and artful allusions, and his sandpaper drawl pours out effortlessly. —Ben Salmon
Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference
Note by note and phrase by phrase, Harmony of Difference, the new EP by saxophonist Kamasi Washington, builds a towering euphoria within the short span of six songs. The follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 debut, The Epic, the EP was premiered at the 2017 Whitney Biennial with an accompanying film and related paintings, but the music is rich and resonant on its own in this release. Harmony is the ideal outgrowth of The Epic, an extension and expansion of the sounds, themes and expressions of black identity in America that make Washington’s compositions relevant and riveting. —Sara Lawson
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: ‘Shake It’
On Monday, Yeah Yeah Yeahs released “Phone Jam” a previously unheard 2002 demo that had been part of the sessions from their 2003 album, Fever to Tell. Then on Tuesday came the crawling “Shake It,” another unreleased Fever that came with news that the album will be rereleased on vinyl for the first time in 10 years and as part of a limited-edition box set that includes “a time capsule of photos, demos (first ever recorded), a mini film documentary,” and other memorabilia. —Matthew Oshinsky
J Hacha de Zola: ‘Lightning Rod Salesman’
The artist known as J Hacha de Zola is a wild man in the vein of such fire-breathing artists like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Captain Beefheart. The singer/songwriter from New Jersey stirs up a dark and alluring musical potion that is mixed from equal parts blues, world beat, jazz, and gothic rock. All the better to accompany his powerful voice and mysterious lyrical notions. His latest magnum opus is Antipatico, out Oct. 6. Check out just one taste of the action with the track “Lightning Rod Salesman.” —Robert Ham
Soshi Hosoi: ‘Mister Diviner’
Alongside the revival of movie soundtracks on vinyl that we reported on recently, another nice market for record collectors and geeks has been the pressing of videogame music on wax. It’s about time. The great electronic label Hyperdub has been paying attention, and is set to release Diggin’ in the Carts: A Collection of Pioneering Japanese Video Game Music. “Mister Diviner” is from the game The Mahjong Touhaiden and has all the repetitive, minimalist drive and beauty of a great Philip Glass composition. —Robert Ham
Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet
We had a great week with drummers at the Paste Studio, capped by the versatile Mark Guiliana, who has played and recorded with everyone from Brad Mehldau to David Bowie. Guiliana is known to experiment with electronic-inspired beats and textures, but at Paste, his crack quartet showcased tight, propulsive acoustic bop from their innovative new album, Jersey.
You’ve never seen a drummer quite like Ian Chang before. Known for his work in Son Lux and Landlady, Chang uses his kit to control and manipulate samples, resulting in a synthesis of raw intensity and sophisticated sound design. On his new EP Spiritual Leader, he uses Sunhouse’s Sensory Percussion system to explore the relationship between human and machine, meshing off-kilter rhythmic ideas with hypnotic textures and exploring the edges of IDM, ambient, free jazz, and more.
The members of this Malian quartet assembled in the capital of Bamako after jihadists forced them from their homes in the northern city of Timbuktu in 2012. Blending West African chants and rhythms with western guitar riffs and blues chords, Songhoy Blues makes joyous music from the most difficult of circumstances on their second album, Resistance.
Moses Sumney: The Pop Prodigy You’ve Been Waiting For
Moses Sumney’s talent for vocal improvisation and layered, looped bedroom-folk has made him a sought-after collaborator for an esteemed cast of musical peers. His debut,
Aromanticism, is a candid expressions of vulnerability that point to Sumney’s unconventional journey as an artist. An aching, intrepid examination of love and loneliness, the album showcases the singer’s lissome falsetto gliding atop flourishes of gospel, jazz and R&B, as well as layers of atmospheric textures and looping. —Chris Tinkham
Hugh Hefner Was a Champion of Black Music When It Mattered
Hugh Hefner, who died Wednesday, will never transcend his role as the cover-boy for objectifying American women. But he was unquestionably a champion of civil rights and gay rights long before the progressive movement made it cool in the 1960s. Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were all interviewed at length in the pages of Playboy, and his TV variety shows introduced white audiences to Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Tina Turner, and many others. —Matthew Oshinsky
Seattle and Grunge 20 Years Later: A Conversation with Filmmaker Doug Pray
Back in August, Paste published a feature story that explored the death of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell through the lens of the tragedies that ultimately defined many of Seattle’s late-’80s/early-’90s “grunge” bands. One of the voices we consulted was that of filmmaker Doug Pray, whose 1996 Seattle music documentary Hype! explored the explosion of the scene that made cultural institutions out of the Sub Pop label and bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Twenty-one years later, Hype! is being re-released on Blu-Ray. Pray shared his insights on Seattle, grunge and the price of fame. The interview has been condensed and edited. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
The 15 Best Guns N’ Roses Songs
GN’R released only three-and-a-half studio albums of original material: 1987’s seminal debut Appetite for Destruction (which marks its 30th anniversary this year), follow-up EP GN’R Lies the next year and the sprawling Use Your Illusion double album in 1991. Cover album The Spaghetti Incident? followed in 1993, and Axl Rose released the long-awaited Chinese Democracy in 2008. Each has its splashes of brilliance, and each was taken into consideration when assembling this ranking of the group’s 15 greatest songs. To Axl, Slash and Duff, if you’re reading this, maybe consider incorporating more of these songs into the next leg of your Not in This Lifetime Tour. —Bryan Rolli