Not moving all that far on the spectrum of tetchy and smart, St. Vincent. She also likes to explore psychopathic territories, sonically and intellectually. She may not be entirely a household name, but for an indie artist who mostly maps the eccentric inside of her own head, she’s as big as they get now. She’s technically savvy and her music ranges in style; she’s definitely not the kind of artist who gets pinned down by what their chosen instrument is. Her music is sometimes emotionally affecting, sometimes disaffected. Mostly her vibe is ‘that girl at the party who is obviously way smarter than you but still wants to talk about guacamole.’ You know, smart but accessible and fun, which is exactly the combination that pop music needs so much more of.

Pretty Face

Another song from Here Lies Love, featuring the French vocalist Camille. She is best known for recording with Nouvelle Vague, and is also a solo artist. Apparently she has recorded half a dozen albums, some of which were certified platinum in France. After years of knowing her only for her Here Lies Love contribution and as part of the Nouvelle Vague ensemble, I’m curious to discover Camille as an artist in her own right. More on that at a later date.

Positively 4th Street

My first thought was, wow, I haven’t listened to this gem in so long. Second thought; wow, nobody writes a put-down like Bob Dylan. I know Dylan has a reputation for being grumpy, or catty, or whatever you wanna call it, and his diss tracks are notorious, but what really makes it brilliant is that he never stoops to just putting someone down. He rolls out an entire thesis of what’s wrong with that person and why. And even on his most famous ‘insult songs’ he’s not without sympathy. Some of those songs are obviously romantic goodbyes, but I don’t think that’s what this one is. I think it’s just about one of those situations where you used to be friends with someone but you’re not friends anymore, for whatever reason. Obviously, we have no way of knowing that for sure, or who the target may actually be, if there even is one. That only makes it more interesting and more relevant, though.

Piny Runa Woko

Is there such a thing as intense relaxation? If that is not too much of an oxymoron, then this is the most intensely relaxing music. Too call Geoffrey Oryema’s music ‘exotic’ would be cliche (and racist) but I have to call it something, so I’ll go with otherworldly. Oryema’s Exile is a unique offering. Thanks to the production of the all-powerful Brian Eno, it avoids the tropes of the ‘world music’ market. No aggressive drumming, choral ululation or happy platitudes. Oryema has also made albums with Peter Gabriel, and the difference is striking. Gabriel, though honorable of intention, belongs to the school of production that sells African artists to Western audiences only in ‘African drag’, marketed by uplifting backstories of struggle, as if their artistic achievements can’t be taken seriously on their own terms. Oryema, of course, has his backstory; his family fled political persecution in Uganda. Exile is the name of the album, and it is a state of being. The album is an emotional meditation, a sustained atmosphere of bittersweet nostalgia. Almost none of it is in English, and it doesn’t need to be. It is rather experimental in that sense; it doesn’t sell its story, it implies it.

Party Next Door

It sounds like a reggae party next door is pretty cool happenings even if you’re not invited to it. I mean, if I had Rasta neighbors who threw parties all night, I’d be pretty okay with it. And if you’re throwing your own reggae party, this is your jam, because Black Uhuru is the best party music. When it comes to classic reggae, they are among the very greatest, and about due for a revival, I think.