What I’m Hearing, Vol. 5

For July’s update, click here.

So, while this post comes early September, make no mistake, this is the breakdown of the August playlists. It was a fine update, featuring 13 artists (not including Indiefeed Hip-Hop artists, thanks to Dirty Dutch, good look on the playing) from several continents and a slightly ridiculous 249 songs. That being said, a lot of the music was looking backwards, a hip-hop retrospective spurred by the stellar line-up unleashed at Rock the Bells at Shoreline. So I’m not going to break down old favorites like De La Soul, Nas and Rakim other than to say if the names sound new to you or you haven’t heard the old albums, it’s time to do some crate digging. This update did some traveling in both time and distance, but also had some brand new things from right here at home. That being said, enjoy.

Amadou Balaké, Señor Ecléctico: This 2008 re-issue of this African born singer’s earlier work is a raw and beautiful collection of 70’s recordings displaying a wide range of musical styles and explorations. The album moves along at a very pleasant pace and features an undiluted exuberance and musical and vocal harmony fusing summery world music that can at times sound too pre-packaged in today’s world releases. Lilting guitars, solid horns, funky bass and solid drumming all share the stage. Some tribal, some soul, some funk and some reggae all permeate here in equal parts to make for a fantastic mixmatch of sounds that is often enhanced by the lo-fi quality. Don’t Sleep On: “Djeli Fama,” “Mousso Be Torola,” and “Kambele Ba.”

Black Kids, Partie Traumatic: If you haven’t heard of this group yet, you’ve missed this summer’s indie media darling. This Florida spun band featuring a brother and sister revels in the punk pop and retro synth movement with solid walls of guitar and a mixture of male and female leads. While they originated right here, they recorded and broke out across the pond and opened for another artist we dig over here, Cut Copy. While some of their pop tricks fit perfectly in songs that go great on repeat, others stretch to points of annoyance including a chant straight out of Wizard of Oz. All in all though, the album brings the mesh together and produces several dance and bursting with excitement tracks that have trouble staying contained in the speaker. Don’t Sleep On: “Hit the Heartbrakes,” “Hurricane Jane,” and the vibrant and danceable “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix).”

Buika, Niña de Fuego: The raspy voice of this Latin Jazz chantreuse takes on 13 tracks of various tempo and emotion, all to incredible results. Soft spoken bass parts, muted drums, delicate guitars and understated piano provide beautiful backdrops over which Buika’s voice soars, painting a variety of musically engaging pieces. Even though I can’t understand a word she’s saying, and therefore probably lose much of the poetry offered on this album, the range from smoky romantic tunes to unrestrained and energetic tracks aid a variety of places and moods. Don’t Sleep On: “Culpa Mia,” “Arboles de Agua,” and “Mentirosa.”

Cao Fang: While I only went for some singles from this Chinese pixie popster that made the leap into US consciousness on the back of a GE commercial, many people will go in for the full albums, of which she has two. Sharing our friend Scott’s enjoyment of the Melodica, Fang brings an airy and light voice to pleasant and soothing melodies. Don’t Sleep On: “Scarecrow in the City,” “Icy is a Gentlewoman,” and “Orange Juice.”

Hanggai, Introducing Hanggai: I first heard about this group reviving parts of Mongolian folk music and mixing it with rock and pop influences from Pitchfork. But while I got to read about them in July, for some reason iTunes didn’t have them for me until August….they were worth the wait. The use of throat singers, lute player and fiddle (horse-hair mind you!) creates an album that is at times a bit unaccessible for some, but at others an extremely enjoyable ride. Don’t Sleep On: “My Banjo and I,” “Flowers,” and the next big bar “Drinking Song.”

Murs and 9th Wonder, Sweet Lord: Little Brother alum and star in his own right 9th Wonder uses his signature soulful and retro hip-hop beats to collaborate once more with Murs of Living Legends. What’s more intriguing about this one is the tie to other Internet freebie releases from Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, what was termed a gift to their fans. The album rips, Murs spitting incessantly over beats that never fail to engage. But don’t take my word for it. Go download it for free!

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