What We’re Listening to This Week 04/05/17

Countdown by Joey Alexander:


This is a jazz-piano trio album lead by 13 year old prodigy from Indonesia, Joey Alexander. Nominated for best jazz album of the year, “Countdown” is Alexander’s second career album. Alexander not only will wow your ears with dexterity and technique, but will speak to your soul with the passion and viewpoints that only a young teen can. As Alexander breaks into the jazz world, he offers a thoughtful approach to what can seem to be such a confusing and overly articulate genre. For those of you who don’t listen to jazz much, this album is great for lounging on a relaxing afternoon with your friends or beginning your jazz-listening hobby. For jazz listeners, you NEED to check out Alexander now! To me, Alexander is best described as an incredibly thoughtful musician. -Bryan Eng


“Anita” by Smino:


“Anita,” a single off of Smino’s stellar debut blkswn, is an infectious, soulful ditty dedicated to the beauty of black women. At his most restrained, Smino has the lyrical ease of Chance; at his most frenetic, the yelps and vocal gymnastics of Young Thug. Smino has found a perfect partner in producer Monte Booker, who worked on all but two tracks on the album. Booker’s beats clank and slosh and rattle, but smoothly — like well-oiled machines. Overtop the bounce of “Anita,” Smino demonstrates his deftness with wordplay in the truest sense: he toys with syllables as they tumble out of his mouth as rhymes or clever quotables. Take the simple kernel the song is built around, “Anita/I need her,” or the way he manages to rhyme “volume” and “hallelujah” at the beginning of the first verse. My favorite one, though, is “You giving me Erykah vibes/Bah I do wanna tell you something.” Smino and Booker are two to look out for. They sound like no one else in the game. -Noah Franklin


“Real Death” by Mount Eerie:


“Real Death,” the first track off of Phil Elverum’s eighth album under the Mount Eerie moniker, opens with a fact we all know theoretically, but rarely feel viscerally: “Death is real.” It’s a fitting introduction to “A Crow Looked at Me,” a breathtakingly honest album that documents the death of Elverum’s wife and the painful months that followed. Indeed, what’s so striking about “Real Death,” and the the other tracks on the album, is just how real they feel. Elverum has a knack for identifying the most affecting details of any given situation and on “Real Death” this talent is employed to heartrending effect. Midway through the track, he finds a package on his doorstep, ordered by his wife just before she passed, that contains a backpack for the couple’s young daughter. He sings to his late wife, “you were thinking ahead to a future you must have known deep down would not include you.” The episode is presented in a matter-of-fact, deliberately unpoetic manner, as if it’s a diary entry as opposed to a song lyric. Together with the song’s bare musical landscape and unconventional song structure, Elverum’s straightforward lyrics serve to distance his music from traditional notions of art. Because death is not merely an artistic fascination. Death is real. And Elverum presents it in all of its agonizing reality. -Steven Norwalk