MTV Unplugged No. 2 by Lauryn Hill (2002)
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released all the way back in 1998. That record was a bombshell. With its homage to an earlier book, The Mis-Education of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson, it kept no secrets about what she was trying to do. This was not going to be a fluff album about bodies and grinding and clubs; this was to be about a black woman living in a society that attempts to force identities onto her, and how she does her best to live through that and call out these issues as she sees them. That it won several grammys and sold so well is a testament to what popular music can do, if it so chooses. But that massive wave of attention brought her new problems, not least of which was how the music industry's main purpose is to turn people into sellable commodities. It wasn't, isn't, an easy challenge for a poet who knows that no matter how hyper-aware you are of social ills, they still can get internalized. Hill seemed to take a step away from the spotlight, acknowledging that she really couldn't be that product the execs wanted her to be. As she would say, "It's funny how money change a situation." But don't take my word for it. On this collection there is plenty of Hill talking about it herself between songs. Four years after Miseducation, she released this collection of stripped-down, casual, and very heartfelt tracks. And if her cover of Bob Marley's "So Much Things to Say" doesn't rip your heart out, nothing will. (PREVIEW)
Release The Sunshine by The Folklords (1968)
Is there any question where this one is going to take us given the cover? Some time in the late '60s The Folklords emerged out of obscurity, recorded one album, then went straight back into obscurity. That is, until some hardcore record collector/indie label types went to reissue this on CD. Then out from obscurity came bandmember Tom Martin, who provided some wonderful history and photos for the re-issue. A Canadian acid-folk group, they sound like the result of a hippy movement that took place on some distant and desertous planet; or if Popul Vuh covered a Pearls Before Swine song (anyone?). It's a droney, jangly, happy dream with tambourines; a love song from a mountain to the sky; an audible homage to the unstoppable march of time; a masterpiece. (PREVIEW)
Above The City by Club 8 (2013)
Sweden seems to have a real knack for creating pop music; it may in fact be one of their leading exports. Club 8 combines the pure and entirely unpretentious vocal stylings of Karolina Komstedt with the solid and infectious electronic work of Johan Angergard into a consistently listenable collection of tracks. One track happens to be the best work out song in history! Other tracks are equally great, sometimes more haunting. If you've ever liked electronic pop music, this is about as good as it gets. (PREVIEW)
About Farewell by Alela Diane (2013)
Looking through the branches of the leafless trees, covered in icicles, the gray sky seems so flawless. Even the sounds of the street are subdued; the sloshing of the passing trucks, peaceful. The snowfall has turned to ice; I think there's nothing but more on the way. Of course the weather affects my mood, but something so poetic about that tree, now dripping. And my pant legs are wet but I don't seem to care. This album has convinced me that it's all just too beautiful for words. (PREVIEW)
Dejenme Llorar by Carla Morrison (2012)
Another wonderful record for the cold and gray, in Spanish. Me encanta la nieve, claro que si.
Te fuiste sin despedir, pensando solamente en ti
Y ¿Qué le digo a mi corazón?
Si él no entiende de razón
Y pregunta por ti,
es difícil mentir. -Carla Morrison
Translation: Without Saying Goodbye
You left without saying goodbye,
Thinking only of yourself
And what do I say to my heart?
If it knows no reason
And it asks about you,
It's difficult to lie. (PREVIEW)
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