An Essence Music Festival preview and a look back at the Flaming Lips tour.
I'd planned to build this week's soundtrack around The Flaming Lips' covers from their 24-hour tour, but too many of the songs are not on Spotify (thanks Led Zep and King Crimson) and the Essence Music Festival starts this week anyway.
1. "Invisible Sun" - The Police: If it weren't for Stewart Copeland, I don't know that I'd ever listen to Police songs again. I thought the Lips exaggerated the song's dourness when they played in in Biloxi, but no - the only meaningful difference is the way Copeland swings the chorus.
2. "Helping the Retarded to Know God" - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends: The band is joined by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (who will play the Mahalia Jackson Theatre October 3 with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) for one of the warmer songs on the album.
3. "Human" - Diiv: This Brooklyn-based band's name and album title border on too cute ("Diiv" pronounced "dive" and :"Oshin" pronounced "ocean"), but I'm a sucker for a band that can lock in krautrock's motorik beat, in this case to make sweet, airy pop.
4. "From a Whisper to a Scream" - The Icicle Works: "Human" brought this to mind.
5. "Smells LIke Teen Spirit" - Robert Glasper Experiment: I'm interested in jazz artists trying to find genuinely contemporary iterations of modern jazz. The Bad Plus and Shamarr Allen have already visited the Nirvana catalogue for that purpose, but I can't deny the results. Glasper will perform at the Essence Music Festival Saturday night in a superlounge.
6. "Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Shine" - Black Moth Super Rainbow: Beautifully psychedelic rock from Pitsburgh. The collective's main man, Tobacco, has emphasized the abrasive and confrontational in his post-BMSR music, which I admire but don't enjoy as much.
7."Spy Boy/Flag Boy" - Christian Scott: Scott's new album Christian aTunde Adjuah is an ambitious two-disc that addresses the world that shaped him through jazz that draws its beats from hip-hop and rock as well as swing.
8. "Writing on the Wall" - Anthony Hamilton: Hamilton's a classic soul man, and he'll be at Essence on the Main Stage Sunday.
9. "Coffee" - Ledisi: Ledisi was born in New Orleans but grew up in Oakland, and she'll be on the Essence Main Stage Saturday. Every time I've seen her, she's been charismatic and charming with a powerhouse voice and the good sense to know how to use it.
10. "Love Is" - R. Kelly: When R. Kelly's in his breezy mode, I can listen to him endlessly. This is from his new album, Write Me Back.
11. "Melpomene Block Party" - Katey Red: Katey Red's playing a bounce night Tuesday at Siberia with Cheeky Blakk, 10th Ward Buck, Ha-Sizzle, Magnolia Rhome and DJ Lil' Man.
12. "Chicken Grease" - D'Angelo: D'Angelo plays Essence on Friday night, and reports from recent live shows have all been promising.
13. "Oh Me, Oh My" - Aretha Franklin: I don't expect Aretha will ever sound as good live again as she does on this track from 1972, but she headlines Essence on Sunday.
14. "Don't Owe You a Thang" - Gary Clark Jr.: Clark opened for The Flaming Lips in Clarksdale, but the Lips' entourage was generally timed to arrive after the opening act, so I didn't get a chance to see him. Fortunately, he's playing a superlounge at Essence on Friday.
15. "Vietnam Blues" - Champion Jack Dupree: One of the New Orleans piano greats, singing sympathetically about the people in Vietnam.
16. "These Days" - Nico: Jackson Browne was 16 when he wrote this song, which Nico recorded on Chelsea Girl. He sang it with The Flaming Lips Thursday morning in Hattiesburg.
17. "Sparks Fly Again" - Beachwood Sparks: From the new The Tarnished Circle, which evokes early '70s California country rock with better tunes.
18. "Cut Corners" - The Sadies: Toronto's version of country rock with more than a touch of garage.
19. "I Gotta Get Shorty Out of Jail" - Andre Williams and The Sadies: R&B cult icon Andre Williams has a host of bands around the country that he'll play with, but The Sadies are among his best collaborators. This is from their recent Night & Day.