The story behind Songhoy Blues isn’t particularly heartwarming. They were formed because they are exiles from the north of Mali, where a jihadist group took over in 2012 and banned music.
The name is from “Songhoy” – their ethnic group, and “desert blues”, the type of music they play.
“Bamako” is a full on funk song. The band were inspired by 60s Western guitar music themselves, owing a large debt to psychedelic rock. Nonetheless, layered funky guitars and horns have a particularly African rhythm to them.
The track does feel very modern, it’s true. This isn’t 70s afrobeat; this is new funk from Mali. The drums have some pace to them, cementing the song’s energy at a high level, but it’s the guitars which really get things moving.
The track was released in 2017, and is from the album Resistance.
This could easily have been made in the 60s. It has that familiar air of hazy crustiness, with a drum break and fuzzy guitar.
The whole song does have a distorted air to it, which works great, adding warmth and a bit of edge.
The musicianship on display is of a great standard, from the guitar noodling to the flute solo. The strings are unexpected, but work well.
The vocals are also impressive, and are strongly reminiscent of early Sabbath. This is a psychedelic tune alright, but avoids feeling too bloated like many similar tracks.
The drummer is given some freedom too, which they use.
Instead of the 60s, this was released last year, in 2018. It does sound fresh though, and not like a rehashed period throwback. The band are willing to experiment, and due to their talent, it pays off!
The Descendents aren’t exactly pop punk as such. This is still too fast and too aggressive for that. The sound is closer to what has been described as “melodic hardcore”, or in other words, hardcore punk that isn’t just angry noise!
Nonetheless, their music was very influential in the california punk scene, which went on to spawn the pop punk genre. For better or worse.
The elements are all here – the song has a simple, catchy guitar riff, boundless energy, lyrics about a girl.
It’s true though, that the lyrics of this song are somewhat darker than you would expect from pop punk. The subject is about a guy who sees the object of his affection with another guy and is railing angrily against it.
Plus, the song is still furiously fast. But for teenage angst and fury, you can’t beat it!
The track was released on Milo Goes To College, an album written as a cheeky reaction to Milo Aukerman, the singer, leaving the band to go to college. The album was their first proper album, and came out in 1982.
Jah Shaka’s 3rd Commandments Of Dub album, Lion’s Share Of Dub (1984) is easily one of his best. The songs are all exquisite, melding catchy hooks to thunderous basslines while arranging a symphony of percussion and effects.
The album’s theme is a take on Selassie I’s title of “The Conquering Lion of Judah” within Rastafarianism.
“Hunter” is an echoey slice of vibes, with a twinkley, electronic piano sound providing the main riff. The bassline largely plays second fiddle to the hook, but naturally remains a central part of the song.
As with many dub songs, the percussion has a hefty part in the track, augmented with various reverb and delay effects.
The song has nailed the uncanny ability of certain dub and reggae tracks to create a bouncy, lively energy without losing the unflappable chilled out feeling.
As one critic noted, Mala’s contribution to this doesn’t go too far beyond adding some tasteful bass.
The original is by Danitse on her own, but that low end warmth makes Mala’s version my favourite.
The song is, perhaps because of this, reasonably different to the rest of the songs on the album, Mirrors, released in 2016.
The album is something of a follow up to 2012’s Mala In Cuba. You could probably dub this “Mala In Peru” if you weren’t being fussy.
Unlike the more vibrant and noisy tracks inspired by Peru’s heritage of indigenous music, psychedelic cumbia, and modern electronic music which draws from both, this song conjures images of still Andean scenes.
The song is really about Danitse’s voice, with her guitar playing flitting around her singing. The restrained percussion and minimalist bass help to perfect the track.
David Bowie’s last album is one of the greatest and most poignant explorations of mortality in music, on a par with Freddie Mercury’s last songs.
Bowie actually found out that his illness was terminal during filming of the video, which is a slightly terrifying vision of a man on his death bed. Bowie is still energetic and enigmatic, even though he was seriously ill at that point.
“Lazarus” is the name of the name who Jesus resurrected. From even the name, you can tell the song deals with death. Not all of the album does, but there’s no mistaking this. It’s also the name of a musical Bowie wrote in 2015,
The song is quietly majestic, using slow and regal horns to great effect. The singing is impassioned, and seems to indicate Bowie’s acceptance of death as a natural part of life.
The song came out on the 17th December 2015, and was released again on Blackstar, Bowie’s final album – released on the 8th January 2016.
Soft Cell might not be to everyone’s taste. It depends on what you think of Marc Almond and his often outrageous lyrics, for the most part.
I personally think his singing style suits Dave Ball’s magnificent production very well – and would probably struggle to imagine their songs any other way.
I only knew Soft Cell from their big hit, “Tainted Love”, which captures some of the duo’s spirit, but by no means truly represents them.
This song is most glorious in its extended form. The first three minutes consist of the instrumental with a clarinet over the top, which sets the majestic scene for the later parts of the song.
The synth strings in this song are some of the most moving sounds I’ve heard in a while, and are a key reason why this song is so brilliant. The choruses are so wistful, the verses wry and slightly dejected.
“Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” was released in 1981 on the debut album from Soft Cell, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. But this more resplendent version was released a year later in ’82.
Dopeskillz is an alias of DJ Zinc. So it is no surprise that this track is a banger, combining a heavy duty bassline with a rapid fire drum break.
The song, like many jungle songs, takes inspiration from hip hop. The vocals here are from a song by Method Man and Redman, called “How High”. The 6 million ways to die” line is originally from Cutty Ranks, on “A Who Seh Me Dun”, released in 1992.
The bassline is a heavy warp affair, and provides a lot of the melodic push. There’s also a more hip hop type bass, which plays in the slower breakdown parts of the song.
The effects are numerous. The high pitched squeal is very light in comparison to the rest of the song, but there’s also a classic paranoid jungle pad too.
The drums are brilliantly frenzied, switching up periodically and incorporating a range of time stretched rolls and offbeat hits.
The track was released in 1995, at the time where jungle was unmistakably turning into DnB. Make no mistake though, this is jungle!