Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty
Ishmael Butler—whose notoriety peaked in the mid '90s when he became known as Butterfly, one-third of experimental trio Digable Planets—is a music veteran with impeccable taste and tenacity. His consistently fresh take on hip-hop is evident in Shabazz Palaces' upcoming release Lese Majesty. The 45-minute sonic journey channels multiple eras and genres, the album flows from ambient hip-hop track to space jazz without missing a beat. Multiple listens are necessary to catch all of the quick-witted lyrical references to everything from history to literature. If you're in Seattle, check out an art exhibit from Black Constellation (Butler's common collaborators) at the Frye Art Museum, open through 5 September. Don't forget your headphones.
HTRK: Chinatown Style
London-via-Melbourne band HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock) has been creating music since 2003; recovering from bassist Sean Stewart's suicide in 2010, HTRK released Psychic 9-5 Club earlier this year, their first recorded project as a duo. The LP is a further stripping down of their musical style, exploring themes of love and loss using the bare minimum of Standish's sultry, delicate vocals and Yang's new age, experimental sounds. The 11-minute video short for their soft, spellbinding track "Chinatown Style" is an intimate look at the Manhattan neighborhood, wordlessly moving from restaurant kitchen to dance studio to underground rave.
The Rolling Stones: Tumbling Dice
This week's #PrivateJam comes from pioneering DJ and record label founder DB Burkeman. A player in early rave culture and known for his key role in bringing drum and bass to the US, the New York-via-London crate-digging music maven turns to good ol' rock when he needs it. "Tumbling Dice," the groovy Stones track from the early '70s, comes from what many call their best period. "It's a track that has the power to snap me out of whatever kind of funk, or self-pitying mood I’m in," DB says. "If I’m feeling good, it produces a natural high unlike anything else." Musically, the song comes full circle with Burkeman's tastes. "I feel like it's one of the first and still best examples of a rock'n'roll band making wicked dance music. The groove they hit after the three minute mark still gives me goosebumps."
Júníus Meyvant: Color Decay
Already in heavy rotation in his native Iceland, Júníus Meyvant (né Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson) caught the attention of listeners on both sides of the Atlantic with his crisply produced folk-pop debut single "Color Decay." Meyvant's stoic rasp calls to mind Father John Misty while the calculated horn placement suggests a distant relation to Beirut at his loudest. In true Icelandic form, the song is cheerful without being cheesy, and folksy without sounding provincial. The song appears on This Is Icelandic Indie Music Vol. 2 with a host of promising artists from the cultural hotbed island nation of the north.
Woolfy vs Projections: Ask (The Smiths Cover)
While California’s Woolfy vs Projections (aka Simon James and Dan Hastie) have been working in tandem and as solo artists for well over a decade, their 2012 album—The Return Of Love, on label Permanent Vacation—put them on the (ever-so-slightly) mainstream map. Fans of their work will immediately recognize their take on The Smiths’ song "Ask," which uplifts Morrissey’s more somber tone and elucidates the vocals with a bouncy effect, while leaving in the original singer’s classic ruminating style. The upshot is a unique take on a widespread favorite that will have you tapping your toes and seeing the much-loved song through fresh eyes.
ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that takes a deeper look at the music we tweeted throughout the week. Often we'll include a musician or notable fan's personal favorite in a song or album dubbed #PrivateJam.