I must admit, I fell across JS Ondara by a mistake. Well the internet said I should give him a go. It’s worth looking into the story how JS Ondara got to where he is today. In short he’s a guy from Kenya that fell in love with American music and decided to move to America to make what he loved from the country that the music continues to use as a muse. He moved to Minneapolis because that’s where Bob Dylan came from. A bit unexpected but it seems to have done the trick.
This name of this album is very apt. Not because he lives in America and he’s telling stories (though that is exactly what it is), but because in my opinion he’s a perfect example of a singer songwriter from North America that depicts the continent and what it offers. One that has taken so many influences from across the genres and cultures, boiled them in a pot, added some of himself and (ping) he’s done….. JS Ondara presents his Tales of America.
This album started off as a Sunday afternoon album I played whilst making lunch and moved to a go to for me the more I listen to it. I encourage you to take some time to dig into the lyrics. He covers allot. Love, life, and even social media. Peoples day to day struggles and victories. I get the Dylan influence. He’s a story teller. I like how there are hints of his accent; though the only track it really stands out on is his letter to his current home on ‘God Bless America’.
I’ll tell you why I like him and this album. It’s wholesome. It gives me what early Neil Young and Ryan Adams albums have. He’s got soul, his lyrics are solid and the boy can sing.
I had the pleasure of seeing him in Manchester in the spring. I highly encourage you to see him if you get a chance. He’s the real deal. I see him as a guy that will build a following through his live show.
America is (mostly) a country of immigrants. A country of a million stories. A million songs. Everything needs fresh eyes, and in this case a folksinger from Kenya that has taken a screen shot of the America he lives in. Is this album a classic? Perhaps not now. It may be one day. I’d say it’s a first chapter in what could be an interesting story.
I offer a belated welcome to November my dear Brothers and a further welcome to ‘Songs You Make at Night’ by Tuung.
I know Brother David has a soft spot for a bit of Tuung, I don’t think Guy is familiar and I am not sure of Nolan’s history with the band but it was his post of ABOP on this blog that alerted me to the fact that this new album existed. I knew it was coming as they released Flatland earlier in the year and my wife and son loved it. I was looking forward to it as I do with all Tuung albums but I will be totally honest, they usually fit into the ‘nice to listen to’ rather than ‘have to / love to listen to’. They are ‘nice’ albums, they go well with a Sunday roast with company that you’re unsure of (musically speaking). Almost nobody would actively dislike it. However, I think this album takes them across that ‘nice to listen to’ threshold into something else. I think this is my favourite Tuung album (heart) and I think it may be their best (head) too.
So what do you get? Folktronica. A term that makes my skin crawl so best to get it out the way early. Over successive albums they have become slowly more ‘tronica’ but only in their instrumentation. The tunes are still folksy but in an unmistakably Tuung way. There aren’t many (any?) bands that sound like Tuung. I have found a couple but they turned out to be Tuung side projects.
I find this album enchanting. Its a slice of calm and prettiness that I always find welcoming. It’s got all the lyrical quirkiness that I love (‘Crow’ is a lovely example). It’s got the bleeps and squelches accompanying the acoustic guitars and occasional woodwind that still sit so comfortably together. It’s more upbeat moments like Dark Heart that manage to feel part of the whole and not jarring.
The thing that made me choose this is that it is 11 strong tracks. The stand out tracks change each time you listen to it. I would like to think that this make it accessible and enjoyable for all. It won’t end up on may best of lists as i don’t think its breaking new ground but for me, its one of the albums that will come with me into 2019 and beyond.
Little bonus album for the Brothers.
This has been bubbling under on my (metaphorical) turntable in the last couple of weeks, and it’s slowly dawning on me that’s it’s a work of complete genius. Nao’s one of the brighter lights of the British neo-soul/R&B scene, and she first came to my attention via the brilliant collaboration she did with Mura Masa a couple of years back:
I liked her debut, but I didn’t love it. This is her second album and it is a GIANT leap forward. It has such a beguiling mix of classic soul tropes, great 90s R&B arrangements (of the kind Brother Joey and I used to lap up back in the day), but it also strays deliciously into Frank Ocean territory, like this gem:
Best of all, it is just JAM PACKED full of great songs and top songwriting chops. It starts off pretty slowly, but really gets into its swing mid album, and the run of songs – Saturn, Gabriel, Orbit and Love Supreme – are as good as anything I’ve heard in a very long time.
What do you reckon, Brothers? Thought I’d throw a little extra listening into them mix.
DJ Koze has over recent memory won hearts of the vast majority of dance music fans through his releases on his own label Pampa Records as well as remixes such as Lapsley’s ‘Operator’ which was hands down last summers most played dance record. Intriguingly he’s done all this whilst keeping very much to himself and keeping up the reputation of dance music’s most recluse character. On a personal note I came across Pampa Records about 7 years ago and was instantly hooked, my love over DJ Koze naturally aligned with this. Pampa and more specific Koze has always had the ability to find something wonderful in the weird and make things work that shouldn’t. His approach is fresh yet familiar.
Keeping all of the above in mind I approached this album sceptically. Long players are tough in dance music and there have been few that have pulled it off. The lead single ‘Pick Up’ is a born winner, perhaps the anthem of the summer, but where do you go from there I kept in asking myself?
In short my approach was wrong. This isn’t a dance album. This is an album. This is a well thought out journey into the mind of Koze and friends. He has assembled a strong cast of guest vocalist that range from Jose Gonzales, Speech from Arrested Development and Roisin Murphy to name a few. Sure there is an over all 4/4 pace, and he delves into his techno and house background on tracks but seems to hold it to a level that there is a presence but it doesn’t take over.
Arguably there are more elements of Hip Hop, which makes sense as the few interviews that I have read about the recluse DJ Koze is that his roots firmly sit in this genre. I think this sits more on the side of heavy sampling and making something out of nothing.
1 month into this album I’m discovering new pieces to what is a complex collection of songs that each hold there own but majestically sit very well together.
I hope you all enjoy this as much as me. I find it has been a welcome friend with a gin and tonic in hand outside on an evening and also when I’m getting the kids ready for school in the morning.
Sneaking it out again. But jesus, it’s so much better than The King Of Limbs. It couldn’t be worse, but it’s way better than that.