Esperanza Spalding ‚Emily’s D+Evolution‘: One hell of a fusion-queen

I am not that much into jazz. I like the great grand jazz ladies but modern jazz and free jazz is something that I can’t really get into. My boyfriend is into jazz. When we met and I told him that I was some sort of a music journalist he – like all, mainly male, people – listed all musicians I should know. To further prove his point he played me endless songs by female jazz musicians. Mostly white, mostly with voices as thin as silk and the excitement of a good, weekly three-hour meeting at work. I thought, ‚Yeah, I really don’t like Jazz, that must be it.‘

Now, I am in the middle of listening to Grammy-winning jazz singer Esperanza Spalding on her new album and it’s divine. DIVINE! And I am thinking that maybe I just don’t like the weirdly detached, flat and quite static jazz interpretation of mostly white women with thin voices. „Emily’s D+Evolution“ is fun because it uses all elements that jazz could offer and plays with them. Whether it’s the waterfall of a vocal line or the maddest bassline slowly growing through the song while an electric guitar makes every Frank Zappa-fan cry tears of joy, the whole album sounds fresh, exciting and adventurous. This is not someone who learned jazz and then decided to only play it as it was taught. This is someone who learned jazz, loved a lot of different other genres as well and combined them with gusto. And the gusto comes through Spalding’s simply incredible adeptness at pretty much every single instrument.

We got the piano, violin, bass guitar and the proper classic Bass (and probably some other instruments she just learned for fun). Aside from that, Esparanza sings like any of the greats. I mean, this is a multi-facetted musician who loves to experiment and has a great sense of melody, dramaturgy and humor in her music. She is basically the Peter Gabriel of jazz (only that she plays a lot more instrument than Peter does, ha!).

That video is a mess, though.

Oh Germany: why Erdogan wants a German comedian in jail

You might have read about it, right now, Jan Böhmermann, a German comedian might face trial over a satirical poem he recited about Erdogan. “Je suis Böhmermann”, some people already tweet (because that’s the term du jour for the littlest, most pathetic thing) and the German media are nauseatingly full of opinion pieces and the question, how far satire can and should go.

But here’s a little backstory. It all began not with Böhmermann but with the satirical comedy show “Extra3” who did a “comedic” song about Erdogan criticizing him for his treatment of critical members of the press and generally the political opposition in Turkey. Because, see, right now, Turkey is a key component to deal with the thousands and hundreds of thousands of refugees. To reduce the risk of those refugees going the dangerous route over the sea to Greece, they now will be sent back immediately to Turkey who will house them but also will send as many refugees over the legal (and more importantly, safe) way to Europe as have been sent back from Greece. It’s not a perfect plan but Europe doesn’t know anymore how to stop all those people from dying in little make-shift boats and Greece doesn’t know what to do with the survivors. It all could be a lot better but this is what we have right now.

The European countries had to compromise heavily to get this deal done with Turkey because Erdogan wants in on the EU. Furthermore, Turkey has been heavily criticized for incarcerating critical journalists and members of the political opposition. Especially the Kurds suffer heavily under the turkish government which is a constant sore in the eye of the Human Rights Watch (read more).

So, it’s a tricky situation. On the one hand, you need to get on Erdogan’s good side, so you can save the lives of refugees and gain more control over the situation. On the other hand, you can’t completely ignore that Turkey seems to be on the best way to become a dictatorship.

Extra3 wanted to show this discrepancy with their song which made fun of how much control Erdogan has on the whole situation right now. Erdogan returned the favour by inviting the German ambassador and being kind of thin-skinned about the whole thing.

Now, Extra3 did not break any German law. Our free speech covers satire and art – if you will – within the means. German politicians complained about Erdogan’s reaction and even the ambassador kind of laughed it off as ridiculous.

Enter Jan ****ing Böhmermann. You might not have heard of him before but he’s kind of like John Oliver…but without the empathy, the passion to educate on ambiguous topics and generally the goodwill to make things better. Jan Böhmermann is basically a dude who puts out ironic viral videos or pranks other stars or the media in an attempt to show that he is above everything and smarter than everyone and anyways, the coolest dude who ever lived. He also is bathed in irony which means that you can never attack anything he does because in the end you didn’t get it because you’re too stupid. He’s the kind of comedian who doesn’t want to change things but kind of loves to criticize them and feel better about himself. The kind who walks into an internet forum, mocks everyone and then leaves before he has to explain himself. He’s the kind of comedian who releases a parody of a rap video that miraculously mocks both gangster rappers and the police and therefore manages to have no opinion at all but just riled up everyone. He’s – for lack of a better word – a troll.

And he decided to one-up Extra3 with a poem about Erdogan that is – by law – illegal to say about any head of state according to §103 (that really should be done with but still exists). He knew that because he mentioned it before he recited it. He also had Turkish subtitles for the poem but not the contextual introduction of the poem, meaning that the “satire” did not translate to people who didn’t speak German.

It’s a poem that is full of clichés and stereotypes about muslim people and refers to Erdogan as some really bad things. It’s supposed to be educating about what should be reprimanded instead of the Extra3-song. At least, that’s what people interpret into this whole thing. It’s not like Böhmermann really clarified it, even after Merkel apologized to Erdogan about the poem, even after Erdogan said he wanted file a complaint and even after Böhmermann is – right now – under police protection because apparently some people don’t get a joke (seriously, though, the last part is the one thing I am actually really sorry for because no one deserves to be threatened for a stupid poem). So far, there has been no word from Böhmermann about this situation.

The legal situation is this (despite a lot of people claiming otherwise):

– Merkel can’t wave her hand to make it all go away

– The poem is actually illegal under §103

– The court can decide whether the context of the poem is enough to punish Böhmermann or not (most people think that it will not)

The situation is also this:

In an already very tricky and sensitive political situation, someone decides to completely derail everything by creating a pretty big clusterfuck for everyone involved. Do you think that Angela Merkel has better things to do than to apologize to Erdogan for fear that he will somehow use this against the deal the EU has with him? Of course, she does. Do you think the media should rather report on the hundreds of other critical situations in this world than spend about 500 articles each day on a stupid satire? Of course, they should. Do you think that Erdogan overreacted? Of course he did but we are not talking about cool-beans Obama here, so it is impossible to not have known that.

You want to know what I think? I think that freedom of speech is incredibly important. But this thing did not help the incarcerated journalists in Turkey and it did not educate people on the limits of freedom of speech because right now, everyone tweets “Satire can do anything” like they don’t even know what words are or that personal rights do exist. And I think that you are always allowed to criticize your politicians, your leaders or whomever you want to criticize – but you don’t have to be such an ass about it.

Black Mountain ‘IV’ is close to epic

I’ve read quite a few reviews on this album (one weirdly comparing the album title with Black Sabbath which should be reason to dismiss the whole review for such an obvious blatant mistake in the first sentence) and all of them remarked that it’s a shame that the music is so eclectic and not as deep, proggy and for stoners as, I guess, deep proggy stoners prefer them to be.

The thing is: I admit not to know all Black Mountain albums but I am quite sure that this artists’ collective was always eclectic in sound, genre and vocalists. Since I can remember I was fawning over the fact that you never know where a Black Mountain-album will lead you to. How is this core element of their music something that suddenly makes reviewers go „bah!“?

I guess, there’s a certain nostalgic aspect about „They used to be so much better before they experimented with their sound“ and one reviewer even criticized the unusually clean production which is maybe right for Black Mountain but is a given with most prog-bands. To be honest, I can’t find any flaw in songs like „Mothers of the Sun“ which is so incredibly satisfying as

– Canadian

– proggy

– experimental

– overly long

hymn. I don’t know why I am not outraged that these kinds of big bold monster-songs are so sparse but maybe because the ones that reach me are so fantastic.

And geez Louise, the video is every 70s psychedelic movies-fan’s dream.

(It’s also incredibly funny for me that it kinda starts like „Edge of Glory“ by Lady Gaga – probably not intended)

Pop goes: Sia ‘Cheap Thrills’

You guys know that I watch “American Idol”, right? Well, the current farewell season is the usual mix of bland dudes with guitars and some female but way too young belters. However, this season also has Trent (a dude that got Mono during group week – you can’t and won’t make that up) and the amazing La Porsha Renea who might not win this (but should) but most definitely is THE breakthrough star of this thing.

Anyway, American Idol recently had a Sia-theme with Sia herself throwing at least a hundred weeks at the contestants and also giving some of the usual advice (just be you, feel the lyrics, bla bla bla). Sia also offered a performance herself with the amazing Maddie Ziegler (star of “Chandelier” and some other Sia-music videos).

Now, Sia is not news to me. I mean, yeah, I sometimes leave out certain trends and then discover them years later but Sia is a pretty compelling constant in the world of indie and pop which makes it impossible to miss her.

I kinda like Sia’s current shtick with the wigs and the non-face. I’ve read comments that people sneer how of course we know her face from a few years ago and that now and then she even dares to show it in live shows but in combination with her live performances on TV, it makes a lot more sense than the usual “I want to keep my privacy” that she offers to anyone who asks (and basically everyone does).

Sia manages to be THE only popstar right now who is all voice and show without being the center of it. Her TV performances usually put her somewhere in the back, the voice dominating all of it and some more (Maddie) some less amazing performers (like the pantomime dude at SNL – pantomime will never not be bad and cheesy) being put in the center of your vision. Whether intended or not, the result is a weird spectacle because it shows that you don’t necessarily need the Persona front and center. Don’t get me wrong. That wiggy Sia is one hell of a persona but it still plays with the element of anonymity which is usually an alternative/indie thing (think the Residents or the Puppetmastaz) unless Damon Albarn goes Cartoon.

Now, her newest single is the bomb. It’s not as lyrically heavy as “Chandelier” for example, it also features the amazeballs Maddie in the video and there’s a Sean Paul-version going around that I won’t listen to because I was a teenager in the early 2000s and the nondescript Reggae-mush of Sean Paul was a never-ending nightmare during that time. I will not let him ruin the 2010s.

But back to the song. “Cheap Thrills” is about having a party without necessarily handing out too much cash (maybe on booze)? It rings very true to my party-past because I used to go dancing mostly sober because I couldn’t move freely with a glass or a bottle in my hands (I dance like nobody watches, to be honest). And it is perfect for dancing – it is not boring, it is upbeat, it lets you shake it if you want it and it has some amazing beat to go all “I wish I would have gone to dance school” on the dance floor. I love it.

Bleached ‘Ride your Heart’ is 80s garage punk as God intended it to be

Did I tell you that I love the 80s? I probably did, I tend to do that. It’s one of the first things I say always, everyday shortly before I start my rendition of „Total Eclipse of the Heart“ (Full Disclosure: it’s god-awful).

Now, Bleached’s „Welcome to the Worms“ – a sophomore of which I don’t know the debut – is the kind of fun garage-punk fun-ride through malls, ponytails on all sides of your head and insanely melody-driven songs that feel like neon-pink probably feels like. According to NPR, the band members have been through some shit (eviction-shit, that’s a lot worse than my usual „Oh God, my boyfriend’s friends might not like me“-shit) and decided to catharsis the living daylight out of their music by being violently, aggressively up-beat about it. For someone who loves sad and depressive music but never actually feels better after hearing it, this kind of music is perfect because it tackles crappy situations with a stubborn sense of pragmatic optimism (can this be a thing?) that I like to develop in my 30s (I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I make decennial-resolutions).

This was a lot more self-centered than I planned, so here’s a thing that’s solely about Bleached: Female punk-trios with bad-ass bass-lines are something that never ever will go out of style.

Buke and Gase: the alt-indie band you deserve

I should be worried that the last album (“General Dome”) by the Brooklyn duo Buke & Gase was released in 2013. Three years is way too long for any band. You’re not Gwen Stefani who can just release a new album after 10 years of absence and make us all feel super old because I know that I was clearly already an adult when “Hollaback Girl” was on the radio.

Musically, though, Buke & Gase (or Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez – who is Buke, who is Gase?), have nothing to do with Gwen. Their music is the sort of slightly off-kilter experimental alt-leaning indie music that has enough pop-vibes to be thoroughly enjoyable in a way that makes you actually happy and giddy but not enough to want to put on make-up and holla back, girl. “Houdini Crush” is the kind of song that is so f***ing surprising, lovely and charmingly meandering in an exciting way that I can not believe that I haven’t heard of the duo before. This is a band that sounds like they listen to a lot of alt rock from the 90s but wanted to be a little bit more weird about music. It works out, it is fantastic.

Their homepage is way too sparse to see whether it is still updated regularly and their last tweet is from December 2015. What the heck, dude/ettes? This is not cool.

Oh, and of course, there’s also live videos of them but I just love “Houdini” so much. One could say that I have a Houdini Crush Crush. By the way, the band is known for using weird self-made instruments…like their feet!

Fruit Juice – are you okay?

Remember when Sparks did an album with Franz Ferdinand and some people were super excited and loved it and others were kind of disappointed because Franz Ferdinand are kinda boring and the output was as well and even others were like ‚who is Sparks?‘

Well, the result didn’t have a great impact. I am bold enough to say that this album won’t be part of that many best-of-lists.

However – yes yes, there will be a point – if it had sounded like Fruit Juice’s EP „Are you okay“, I think we all would have been delighted. Because Fruit Juice bring the slightly sexy, slightly dangerous eccentricity of Sparks into the realms of lovely cheesy Glamrock, all with flutes and David Bowie & T-Rex—references and generally a mood as if you’re watching a mashup of The Addam’s family and the Brady Bunch.