Bobby Womack, Chic, Smile, the return of the dB's and more.
This week's Spotify soundtrack features disco, retro soul, real soul, power pop and more.
1. "Twist and Crawl" - The English Beat - I've repeatedly taken the English Beat for granted, and each time they reminded me not to. I haven't thought about them in years, but The Complete Beat box set arrived this week and once again demonstrated what a good pop band they were. No Two-Tone band could pull off a groove as odd and compelling as this one.
2. "Lost in Music" - The Fall - Last week, I read Michaelangelo Matos' We Won't Settle for Less: Chic at the End of Disco, and it got me on a Chic kick. Here, The Fall cover the Chic-penned and produced Sister Sledge classic.
3. "Satellite Blues" - Smile - I haven't heard an act of musical kleptomania as radical as A Flash in the Night since the Pooh Sticks' Million Seller in 1993. Even the cover quotes Yes with the band's logo. It's the product of Bjorn Yttling (Peter Bjorn and John) and Joakim Ahlund (Teddybears), who tap into a dozen dance rock styles without sounding schizophrenic.
4. "Whatever Happened to the Times" - Bobby Womack - NPR critic Ann Powers raved about Bobby Womack's new album, The Bravest Man in the World, and when I heard it, I regretted that I hadn't got to it sooner. The XL Records' production aesthetic last employed on Gil-Scott Heron's last album - soul voice with an electronic background - works better here, partly because Womack had more left to give than Heron did. Here, the blues aren't a form or a pose; they're the consequences of choices made.
5. "Aquavitae" - Chef Menteur - Last week, I received New Orleans space rock band Chef Menteur's new album, East of the Sun & West of the Moon, which I'm knocked out by. The band's discipline is rock solid, so the drones don't overstay their welcome and the rockets aimed at the heart of the sun maintain musical focus. Since it's not on Spotify, here's a track from their label's post-Katrina compilation, Proud to Swim Home.
6. "Your Friendly Neighbhorhood Sugarman" - Sugarman 3 - Friends and I were recently dissecting the retro R&B phenomenon, something I have issues with in theory but frequently enjoy anyway. Daptone Neil Sugarman's funky organ trio doesn't try too hard, so I'm pretty open to its What the World Needs Now album and this Jr. Walker sound-alike.
7. "A Walk in the Night" - Jr. Walker and the All-Stars - After a Jr. Walker sound-alike ...
8. "Say I Wanna Know" - Nick Waterhouse - I like this Ray Charles-like track (with a heavy dose of Raelettes-alikes) and so did Acura, who used it for an ad. On the whole, Time's All Gone is a little theatrical for my tastes.
9. "What the World Needs Now" - Sugarman 3 - The title track from the Sugarman 3 album is a fun jazz-funk take on the Dionne Warwick classic.
10. "Lonely Financial Zone" - Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - Richman will be at One Eyed Jacks on Tuesday. I've been looking for his albums on Berserkley, but when I was scanning through Roadrunner: The Berserkley Years, I decided I may remember those albums more fondly than they deserve.
11. "Sunset People" - Donna Summer - After Donna Summer's death, a friend was trying to find Donna Summer songs he genuinely liked. After "I Feel Love," this was my contribution.
12. "My Feet Keep Dancing" - Chic - Back to Chic.
13. "Lost in Music" - Sister Sledge
14. "At Last I Am Free" - Robert Wyatt - Another Chic cover, with Wyatt highlighting the haunting chorus couplet: "At last, I am free / I can hardly see in front of me."
15. "Love Vibrator" - Johnnie Walker - Personal Space is a compilation of electronic soul and R&B from 1974-1984, so while not all of it's as funky as this track, the textures are remarkable.
16. "Don't Deny Your Heart" - Hot Chip - From the new In Our Heads. Hot Chip has mastered a notion of electropop that is as giddy and poppy as it is electronic.
17. "Fifth Dimension" - Arling & Cameron - More robotic electropop.
18. "Tomorrow Night" - Shoes - The albums by Shoes are power pop classics, and last week I learned that not only are they being reissued, but the band has cut a new album. "Tomorrow Night" is a power pop classic.
19. "Before We Were Born" - the dB's - The best-known dB's lineup has reunited to record the new Falling Off the Sky, and this Chris Stamey tune has the easy, melodic charm of his best songs.