“Oh! You Should Check This Out…”
Album Review: “aloha” — Son Little
“Being open to the beauty of accidents is my golden rule.” — Aaron Livingston (Son Little)
“aloha” opens with a simple bass line, a verse, and a chorus. It gets to the point, says it, and moves on. “hey rose” introduces the album, demonstrating elements that are infused into the tracks later on. A salacious bass line opens and folds under a picnic-basket vocal and its guitar, which walk down as the drums enter and guide the song into a chorus. The flow and elegance of the arrangement makes room for Livingston’s vocal fry to crackle lightly like Rice Krispies, and for the guitar to speak its truth in moments of silence. Then the stage is set.
The songs flow into each other like streams into a river. “about her. again.,” begins also with a steamy bass line, and breaks off into an almost whispering acoustic guitar inside a thick silence. The effect of that dynamic choice is wonderful, and creates space for the song to grow out of it, and it blossoms into an introspective led by another poignant vocal melody.
This pattern continues through the album, with songs taking lives of their own, but staying true to the family.
The family is known as Son Little, an alias for Aaron Livingston, who in addition to his own career has produced for Mavis Staples and The Roots, having won a Grammy with Mavis Staples for best soul performance. Having self-produced his first two records as well, he opted to employ the production prowess of French visionary Renaud Letang (Manu Chao, Feist). Their work in Paris culminated in a complete rework of the album, forced by a hard drive failure, and the results were, in a nutshell, successful.
Listen a little closer now, and look for the tambourine. It’s in every song, and plays a huge part in crystallizing the percussion, giving the spaces between drums meaning, and adding sparkle and spice to the cymbals when they appear. In an album driven by clever melody and instrumental pairings chosen like chocolate and wine, the little touches of tambourine and phaser effects are enough to elevate it all into a cohesive and understandable truth. But sometimes the romantic fog of perfect bass and poppy tambourines dissipates and gives too much clarity. In the wrong context, the album feels like a bad date. The more you hear it, the more attention it demands from you. Listen to it by yourself or with your friends the first time around, and don’t expect to party. It’s a wallowing celebration of deep feelings in shallow waters, but it’s not a mess to clean up; it’s a respite on a hot day.
Released on Jan. 31, 2020, “aloha” is a musical journey born from the pre-COVID times. Remember those days? Listen and you just might.
New: “Let The Festivities Begin” — Los Bitchos (2022)
Los Bitchos are a London-based band with a love for cumbia fusion. Hailing from four distinct corners of the world — London, Sweden, Uruguay, and Australia — these four women have lightning-in-a-bottle energy on stage, and their infectious beats and surfy mesmerizations have infected quite a few dancing bodies. This album is great for dinner, lunch, walking your dog, driving to Woodman’s, driving back from Woodman’s, and even putting away your groceries. Sometimes the album may seem like one 37-minute song, which is why it’s great for a commute or a walk in the park. Pick one song for a playlist to give yourself a taste, and work up an appetite for the next time they’re in town and buy the damn tickets. In short, Los Bitchos will keep your spirits up.
Like new: “Mambo Sinuendo” — Ry Cooder (2003)
Los Bitchos’s surf-garage-latin grooves can be somewhat indistinct at times, but where they lack in entertainment, they pick up the slack by reminding you of Ry Cooder’s “Mambo Sinuendo,” a legendary pop-jazz collab with members of Buena Vista Social Club. The record ebbs and flows, centered around the catchy and bodacious guitar melody of track five, “Caballo Viejo.” The whole album speaks from the past through Los Bitchos in a refreshing way, straying from nostalgia while retaining its integrity.
What to listen to right now
Turn Off: The Eagles, The Beatles, “Creep” by Radiohead
- Just give it a break, there’s a lot of new music that’s better, just sitting in the underbelly of the Spotify algorithm.
Turn On: “candy grapes” — Fousheè, Steve Lacy
Turn Up: “Small Poppies” — Courtney Barnett
On Campus: Tae Laurent (Dionta Charles “22) debut EP: “XTASY”
Laurent’s debut EP is full of life and plug in magic. There’s a hint of mainstream energy and a lot of patience, beginning with “GENIE,” it sets a mellow background mood at half volume, and at full volume it will blow your friend’s car windows off … with great power … “GEEKED UP” is begging for a mosh pit — literally and figuratively — and will be sure to flow well in any playlist reserved for a fun time. The EP follows a predictable 4/4 high-hat driven vibe, but if it’s your size, it’s going to fit just right. Go ahead, try it on. Available on all streaming platforms now.