Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now
Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Aaron Byrd, KCRW DJ.
You can only imagine how often I'm asked, "So what are you listening to now?" It's always such a hard question to answer because the truth is everything. Between the high-speed carousel of music that's constantly playing in my head and the marathon of being a KCRW DJ, it's a daunting task to answer that question definitively. So when I'm able to single out a few records from the tornado of tunes surrounding me, it means I really like them. Here are some albums that are in heavy rotation.
1. James Blake, James Blake
In this contemporary landscape of Auto-Tune, MicroKORG, vocoder, and all the other ways to electronically manipulate vocal tracks, James Blake's debut full-length somehow still sounds fresh and innovative. This album is dark, deep, and melancholy, yet still seductive — just the way I like 'em. It's rare that an album that's received this much buzz actually lives up to the hype. Yet that's exactly what the twenty-two-year-old Blake's self-titled record has accomplished. You'll be hearing a lot about him in 2011.
Listen: The Wilhelm Scream
2. Austin Peralta, Endless Planets
Though he's a second generation Z-Boy — son of competitive skater Stacy Peralta — don't expect to hear a typical skating-down-Venice-Beach soundtrack. Austin's most recent effort is a classic throwback to jazz of yesteryear. This album sounds like something you'd hear in the '50s or '60s — that classic jazz sound — with sprinkles of the fusion-jazz era of the '70s. Peralta is a heavyweight pianist and an accomplished jazz musician by all accounts, especially considering he's only twenty-years old. By the age of sixteen, he already had two records under his belt.
Listen: Introduction: The Lotus Flower
3. Orakel, When Time Doesn't Know Itself
Though it's been discussed since April of 2010, When Time Doesn't Know Itself has yet to be officially released and, at least at the time that I write this, no official date has been announced. Nevertheless, I highly encourage you to check out a preview on Rush Hour. Sonically, this album is pretty incredible. It's one of those rare records that you can listen to start to finish with a smile on your face. This Austrian outfit has some unique twists on jazz elements we're all familiar with. A couple tracks feature the haunting vocals of Dwight Trible, some sound like early Azymuth, and others remind you of 4hero. But as a whole, the record is all Orakel.
Listen: Ignore C.H.A.N.G.E.
4. Al Quetz, Drums Come from Africa
Al Quetz, better known as Quetzal, cleverly combines African percussion with atmospheric sounds, creating a forty-minute sonic massage. This album has very specific political aims, which are evident in his choice of sociopolitical vocal samples and song titles. With tracks like "Turn Off the TV," "Yes He Can… Lie," and "Cops Oppression and Capitalist Propaganda," Quetz is not discreet about his views. Musically, Drums Come from Africa is a twenty-two-track gumbo of blues, spoken word, yoruba drums, afro-beat, and hip-hop. Just try to imagine if J Dilla made an Afrobeat record.
Listen: Yassa At the Fifth Floor
5. Flako, Mini Tollbooth EP
I have been obsessed with Flako's production ever since I came across one of his beats a couple of years ago. Though Flako has remixed and produced for many artists in recent years — including Busta Rhymes, Quadron, Dabyre, Robert Koch, Shaunise, Benny Tones — the Mini Tollbooth EP is in fact this German's first official solo release. And it does not disappoint. Flako definitely loves his heavy drums, but his main ingredient is melody. Don't let the brief runtime of this recording fool you — Mini Tollbooth is layered and complex, and illuminates Flako's full range and mastery of production. He seamlessly flows from pretty orchestration to dirty beats with the utmost precision. As we beat lovers like to say, he's a beast. I think you'll be hearing a lot from him for years to come.