Stevie Wonder's tribute to MLK, the return of Björk, a South African supergroup and more in our weekly music review
Stevie Wonder: Happy Birthday
Introduced by American Congressman John Conyers in 1968, it wasn't until 1986 that the third Monday of every January would come to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. The ridiculously long process for passing a bill which would honor the civil rights leader saw many people speak out on its importance, but Stevie Wonder's pronounced crusade and musical tribute, "Happy Birthday," played an integral part. In 2014, Wonder received a Congressional Medal of Freedom for his relentless effort, which is best summarized in a statement he included in his 1980 album, Hotter Than July: "We in the United States must not forget either his supreme sacrifice or that dream." Read the full story from Cuepoint.
José González: Leaf Off / The Cave
José González's heartfelt brand of indie acoustic music has captivated audiences the world over since his cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats" was released in 2003. The Gothenburg, Sweden-based artist is now on the cusp of releasing his first solo full-length album in over seven years, but that's not to say he hasn't been busy. Maybe it was his extensive work on the soundtrack for Ben Stiller's film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" but González opted for an ultra-simple approach. Working without a producer or studio (the album was recorded in González's kitchen on his laptop) the aim with Vestiges & Claws was simplicity. If lead single "Leaf Off / The Cave" is any indication, no mark of quality or intimacy was lost with this DIY-method. Gently uplifting and entirely genuine, González's latest work just may be his best.
Fans were surprised with a two-month early official release of Björk's new album Vulnicura (her first since 2011's Biophilia) after it was leaked online. The experimental Icelandic artist describes her ninth studio album as a "complete heartbreak album that documents the "emotional chronology" of her own personal breakup from beginning to end: "the wound and a healing of a wound." Björk has also announced a series of shows in NYC (including Carnegie Hall and Governor's Ball) to coincide with her MoMA retrospective exhibition, which opens in March 2015. Pick it up from iTunes.
Fantasma feat. Moonchild: Shangrila
It might be a frigid winter here in NYC, but the summer vibes are strong south of the equator. South African MC Spoek Mathambo recently dropped the first single from his new supergroup Fantasma that counts three instrumentalists, a dance producer and himself as members. "Shangrila" sees a sunny head-bopping guitar riff over an upbeat "Township Tech" beat, a style mixing local influences with global sounds Mathambo has become known for. Joburg-based artist Moonchild lends smooth vocals to the track's chorus, making for a breezy track that makes us forget the sub-freezing temperatures outside. Look out for Fantasma's new LP Free Love set to drop 10 March 2015.
Jeremih feat. J Cole: Planes
Though more recently best known for the super-popular "Don't Tell 'Em," Jeremih's knack for slower sex-laden tracks can't be doubted. With his recent release, "Planes" (possibly from his long-awaited album Late Nights), he sings to his listener about raunchy mile-high adventures—plenty of airplane-related metaphors included. J Cole's verse adds extra color with uber-NSFW imagery and a welcomed playful tinge. It's the perfectly pared back kind of sultry downtempo sex jam that Jeremih's famous for.