The Fulcrum’s weekly look at new releases and new-to-us faves
Single of the Week: “Dirtknock” by Madlib – 5/5
For the past few weeks now, celebrated producer Madlib has been releasing tracks for a new collaborative album entitled Sound Ancestors, with Four Tet. “Dirtknock” is the third single to be released thus far; the previous tracks, titled “Hopprock” and “Road of the Lonely Ones,” have made me thrilled to see what this new album has in store, and this new track is no different.
“Dirtknock” is a subtle track with a stilted drum beat, a soothing vocal sample, and a rugged, grimy, full-bodied bassline. It’s simple on the surface, but there are some real layers to peel here. Throughout the track, a so-subdued-you-can-barely-hear-it guitar riff drives the song forward, and at seemingly random points some idiosyncratic, para-extraterrestrial flourishes are sprinkled in.
Listen to “Dirtknock” and the rest of Madlib’s newest singles ASAP — these tracks are great. It proves that Madlib at 47 years of age, has not yet finished innovating. This new album, Sound Ancestors, released on Jan. 29, is shaping up to be one of the producers best yet, and with a resume like Madlib’s, this is not a small feat.
Highlighted Album: The Last Exit by Still Corners – 4/5
Still Corners, fronted by Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes, is new to me, but I’ve been a fan of dream pop, new wave, and indie music forever. Pretty much all of Still Corners’ influences are right up my alley, plus they fuse all of these genres and prepare it ‘à la cowboy on the open road style’, with plenty of steel guitars, lyrics about driving on a lonely highways, and a few instrumental tracks like the penultimate “Shifting Dunes.”
This new album, The Last Exit, seems to be the final part in a trilogy of albums by Still Corners which began in 2013 with Strange Pleasures, followed by Slow Air in 2018. I haven’t heard these prior releases yet, but a finality can be felt in The Last Exit from the get-go, with the title track’s final lines stating “Home, I’m almost home.” To kick off the album with such a statement is to invite the audience to join Murray and Hughes on this journey back home, wherever that may be.
Throughout the album a feeling of forlornness can be sensed in the lyrics and vocals, like after this three-album long journey the group only has aspirations of getting back home. This feeling culminates in the final track, “Old Arcade,” in which Murray recites “Walking past the old arcade / In the last summer days / Play the broken pinball machines / Time wasted is a waste of time.” These lyrics invoke a feeling of nostalgia in the listener, leading us on a tour of the old stomping grounds of the singer who has finally come home.
If you’re a fan of groups such as Beach House, Deerhunter, Sharon Van Etten, and Alvvays, I’m sure you’ll like Still Corners, too. Check out this new album; it’s a solid dream pop album with a slight country influence. Don’t worry if you don’t like country music: the influence isn’t so drastic that you’ll feel obligated to square dance. It’s more of a garnish than an actual ingredient.
Discovery of the Week: Jorge Ben Jor
I found Jorge Ben Jor on my Instagram ‘Explore’ page from a music meme, a meme of the ‘starter pack’ variety. ‘The Nature Lover: a Starter Pack,’ or, more specifically, albums that a Nature Lover would love — Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Vivaldi, et cetera — all positive, feel-good albums. I knew some of the albums pictured in the meme, but I felt incentivized to search for Jorge Ben Jor because the album art of his 1974 album, A Tabua De Esmeralda, intrigued me.
But, after searching up Jorge Ben Jor, I found that I have heard his music before! “Mas, Que Nada!” from Jor’s 1963 album Samba Esquema Novo is a massively popular song with multiple covers, such as one by Sérgio Mendes featuring the Black Eyed Peas. This song is an absolute classic, a monument to samba music, a spirit lifter. The song is in Portuguese, as are all of Jor’s songs, but the listener doesn’t need to understand the language to feel the song’s message. Through translating the lyrics I learned that Jor is not trying to deceive his listeners with deep or dark lyrics under the guise of a positive pop tune; the music is positive to its core.
The same may be said about the rest of Jorge Ben Jor’s discography. A Tábua De Esmeralda seems to be a dose of positivity through-and-through. But, looking at the lyrics, this album seems to cover a variety of topics and concepts, from alchemy to space to religion. There’s also one song, “O Homem Da Gravata Florida,” about a guy’s floral tie that would (paraphrased from translated lyrics, take this verbiage with a grain of salt) turn any ugly man into a prince.
Jorge Ben Jor might be a new favourite of mine. His samba music from earlier in his career is fantastic, so is the mid-career A Tábua De Esmeralda, and Jor has a massive discography of yet-to-be-listened-to music by me and, hopefully, whoever is reading this. Check out Jorge Ben Jor; you won’t regret it!