A Grammy Winner Picks 6 Things That Don’t Suck in 2020
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because your ears will thank you for doing so.
By Joseph Chiccarelli
I’ve been meaning to get to this, but I’ve been hunkered down trying to finish an album with this new band Liily on Priority Records. Their music is delightfully influenced by Talking Heads, Fugazi and Death Grips.
All is not lost in 2020. Societal collapse aside, one of the best parts of my job is hearing what’s cool way before the rest of you get around to knowing what I already know. It’s not that I’m so much better than the rest of you, just first. And I’ve got the Grammys. So there is that.
Here are six of my recent faves. Take notes. You won’t be sorry.
Lianne La Havas
Woman is a cut off of the eponymous third album by the 31-year-old London-born singer-songwriter. Chill but passionate, La Havas’ R&B stylings and stunning vocal deliveries make this special. It even features a cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes.”
Total disclosure: I produced Young Enough. So yes, I am biased, but I produce a lot of albums. That doesn’t invalidate my including this album, especially not when I find myself listening to Charly Bliss in the car for pleasure. They’re an all-out fun alternative pop rock band that reached a new level in experimenting with their sound on Young Enough, including synths and programmed textures in their already established guitar-based-band deal. But that’s not such a secret by this point: The album was selected by Spin, Stereogum and a handful of other music publications as a top 10 for 2019 year-end.
Schlagenheim is the latest release from this London-based band, and it hits that sweet spot only a few get to: defying classification. Their songs include jazz, funk, punk, hip-hop stylings and the brilliant musicianship of some of the best late-1970s punk and art rock. That’s hinted at by a song titled “Talking Heads.” If festivals return in 2021, Black Midi will be headliners.
Melbourne, Australia, is where this singer-songwriter hails from, and “The Critic” reveals him to be a stunning singer who recalls Jeff Buckley and even Rufus Wainwright. This EP was created before and during the pandemic, and producing vocal sessions over Zoom was quite the challenge. Something I know well because, oh yeah, I produced this one too. The name Didirri was very likely derived from Dadirri, the Aboriginal word for the concept of inner deep listening and a quiet still awareness.
An accomplished jazz bassist and singer, Katie Thrioux has waited a couple of years since her last release, Offbeat, but I still find myself listening to her. On repeat. None other than Quincy Jones said of Offbeat, “This girl is it.” And has Q ever been wrong?
I’m not sure if this even qualifies as Good Sh*t. Maybe it’s just Trendy Sh*t, but it sure is fun. Tracks like “Money Machine” and “Stupid Horse” feel like the product of an extremely talented record-maker locked in their bedroom studio during a quarantine. While it may be with spins in the range of 20 million, it’s something we can all enjoy. And if you haven’t been, well, now you very much can.
- Joseph Chiccarelli, OZY AuthorContact Joseph Chiccarelli