Five Quality Tracks: June 2015

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This was a feature that I used to do for the Daily Californian’s Arts & Entertainment blog. I decided to give it life again here. At the end of each month, I’ll post a feature highlighting five quality tracks released during that month.

1. Beck: “Dreams”

Beck is back! And in a big way. If you remember, last year he released Morning Phase, a gorgeously melancholy collection of songs that won an Album of the Year grammy and the ire of Kanye West (Kanye apologized soon after and recently reiterated that he was wrong about him). I thought Morning Phase was beautiful to be sure, but I also thought it was probably Beck’s worst album. It was monochromatic and often flat-out boring. Well it looks like Beck is ready to turn up again.

Beck said that “Dreams,” his new single, is the “opposite” of Morning Phase. He couldn’t be more correct. It’s huge and hooky, perfect for dance floors and car stereos. It kind of sounds like MGMT’s “Electric Feel” — in fact, it sounds a lot like it. But we’ll give it a pass, because it’s just so awesome. Beck has been a 90’s alt-rock god, a sampling master, a funk hero, and an acoustic sad sack, but he’s at his best in psych-rock/dance mode. Hail “Dreams.”

 
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Leon Bridges, ‘Selma,’ and the Mini-Revival of 1960’s R&B

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One of the unsung strengths of the recent film Selma is its soundtrack. With the exception of the celebrated, Oscar-winning, gospel-rap of John Legend and Common’s “Glory”, Selma is full of of 1960’s rhythm & blues that succeeds at being both understated and evocative. No huge hits are used, but the music still expertly and thoroughly channels the spirit of the American South during the 1960’s.

Two of my favorites from the soundtrack are the slow-churning, sweaty R&B of “Ole Man Trouble” by Otis Redding, and the spare, acoustic blues of “Alabama Blues” by J.B. Lenoir, as he sings “I never will love Alabama / Alabama seem to never have loved poor me.” The songs’ lyrics give us a glimpse into the oppression felt by black Americans in the South, and you can almost feel the heat and humidity in the music.

 

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