Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (pt. 5)


Frank Ocean, nostalgia, ULTRA

Seek out the free download version before the official Def Jam release mucks everything up, because muck it up they will. Every track by this melodic, intelligent, funny r&b man is worth checking out, but it’s the copyright law-defying theft of “Hotel California” that highlights his audaciousness - Ocean doesn’t so much sample as just sing atop, cutting off and sitting back to let the guitar solos play out to completion. Ballsy, no?

Cults, Cults

Dismissing this charming pop outfit as derivative is just dumb – of course they’re derivative. But their affectionate pastiche of Brill Building/ Phil Spector archetypes isn’t the result of a lack of ideas. Maybe they just got tired of hearing other indie acts mining from the same shallow well of ideas and decided to take a chance.


Brand New Wayo: Funk, Fast Times and Nigerian Boogie Badness 1979-1983

These 15 examples of “Nigerian Boogie” go some way towards suggesting the limits of vault digging and also help showcase the degree to which American disco and r&b was copied by admiring African musicians  – not always compellingly copied. Still, beat fans will find much to enjoy, and the accompanying book-not-a-booklet is mighty impressive.

Chalk Circle, Reflection

Act of archaeology uncovers unjustly forgotten pioneering female D.C. act, circa 1983, with fairly typical jerky rhythms. Think Gang Of Four or Delta 5, only nowhere near as accomplished. Their amateurishness and muddied sound help further dilute the message, but this is far more compelling than anything offered by many of their D.C. hardcore contemporaries.


Joaquin “Joe” Claussel, Hammock House: Africa Caribe

Having always found Fania Records and their salsa lineup a bit slick for my grungy tastes, I held out hope this mix by DJ Claussel might mess things up a bit. Instead, it still comes off pretty slick. Also comes with a useless bonus disc, gummed up by several minutes of pompous piano flourishes that had even my classical-leaning wife begging me to shut it off. 

Mountains, Air Museum

Think Music For Aquariums– this ambient/post-rock duo doesn’t so much drone as shimmer, and if you’ve heard a single Klaus Schultz track, you’ve heard it done better forty years ago. Easy on the ears and zero ideas – how very mainstream.