Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell

For twenty-five years now, Red Hot Organization has been “Fighting AIDS Through Popular Culture.” The non-profit group has teamed up with artists, musicians, and record labels over the last two decades-plus to produce some of the most unique and successful charity albums of our generation. The American folk-inspired compilation Dark Was the Nightreleased in 2009, is one of the few CDs that survived my digitization-then-physical-media purge of 2012.

On October 21, Red Hot and Yep Records will release Master Mix, a tribute to the genius of Arthur Russell. Hot Chip covers “Go Bang,” one of Russell’s Dinosaur L tunes.

Nothing can touch the vocal power and instrumental dynamism of Russell, who died of AIDS-related causes in New York in ’92. But if this album of interpretations can bring more support for the cause and expose more people to the man’s music, then I’m doubly enthused.

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Spoon – They Want My Soul

Spoon’s upcoming album, They Want My Soul, is streaming in its entirety on iTunes First Play today. This is my first time hearing of First Play, despite having managed my music with Apple’s software almost exclusively for a decade now.

IMG_1755Maybe if I’d been a little more proactive I could have anticipated this entry into the advance screening market and installed some updated iTunes software on my work computer. But, hey, that’s what old iPhones are for.

Fitting, I suppose, as this device probably hasn’t been used since the last Spoon album came out. It’s 2010 all over again…

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Tomas Barfod – Love Me

The first single off Tomas Barfod’s new album, Love Me, was released back in February. I was unfamiliar with this Danish artist’s work prior to this year, but “Pulsing,” with vocals by Nina Kinert, was one of my first Soundcloud “likes” of 2014.

The full length came out last month, and in addition to the aforementioned single, there are three other tracks featuring the stunning Swedish songstress.

The entire record is fantastic, replete with sultry disco-inspired beats and haunting melodies. Way to step up, Scandinavia. The electronic artists of New Zealand and Australia aren’t the only ones channeling Portishead and Massive Attack. And up in northern Europe, the channels are icy and slick, sweating and moving with an inner heat.

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The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi

The Raveonettes just made your Tuesday, and your week, a whole lot better with Pe’ahi, the follow-up to 2012’s Observator.

I’m incapable of resisting hype, and I’ve even succumbed to the lure of the ridiculous album trailer. But this new full length from the Danish fuzzrockers slipped completely under my radar. Which is refreshing.

As is the first single, “Endless Sleeper.”


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2014: First Half Favorites

I haven’t relapsed into Top 5 lists or controversy-laden ranking debates. At least not yet. But I still can’t help compiling anything that falls under a Favorite Anything category. So whether or not our mixtape exchanges and Soundcloud recommendations steamroll into anything remotely similar to the old Idle Time year-end best-ofs, I wanted to gather up ten of my favorite albums from 2014’s first half. Listed alphabetically, for now.

ava-luna-electric-balloon-album-cover-press-300Ava Luna
Electric Balloon
Western Vinyl

A decade-plus since east coast bands like Radio 4 and Q And Not U punked up disco, Brooklyn’s Ava Luna are doing the same with jazz and soul. I heard three different tracks off this album via three separate outlets, and was later surprised that they were not only by the same band, but also on the same record. Just the right amount of multiple personality disorder to make up an individual party disc.

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Blue Ribbons & Reggae

The only other time I remember attending a county fair was also in Marin. I think I was probably ten years old, and my aunt and uncle dropped off me and my cousin with a wad of cash while they went to watch Linda Ronstadt perform. Which I thought was odd. I had no conception of the county fair concert circuit and, even in college, passing billboards on the way back from weekend visits home, I never fully understood how such once-prevalent musical acts could draw prominent crowds at something called the Dixon Fair Grounds.

During this recent Fourth of July weekend, I made my second trip to San Rafael for a county fair. Demystified. Pig races, turkey legs, face-paint bets, and firework lights sans Karl diffusion. I should be doing this every summer. And, on that bandstand island, in a remarkably civil and well ushered concert tent, The Wailers performing on their Legend thirtieth anniversary tour.

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