COLUMNS

  • Sasha Geffen

    Sasha Geffen is the author of Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary (University of Texas Press, 2020). Their writing also appears in Rolling Stone, The Nation, Pitchfork, NPR, and Elsewhere. They live in Colorado.

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    BACKXWASH, GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS LEAVE HIM OUT OF IT
    (Grimalkin)

    Montreal-based rapper and producer Ashanti Mutinta distills power from horror. Her latest LP, with its raw final-girl vocals and buzz-saw instrumentals, pins a laser focus on the stressors of living vulnerably in a world that’s hostile to its margins, dredging up fear while offering catharsis.

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  • George Lewis

    Composer, musicologist, and computer-media artist George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. His book A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) won an American Book Award, and he is coeditor of the Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016).

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    CHAAKAPESH (Roger Frappier and Justin Kingsley)

    This documentary follows the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Kent Nagano on a visit to Indigenous communities in northern Quebec to perform Cree Canadian writer Tomson Highway

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  • Honey Dijon

    Honey Dijon is a DJ and producer based in New York and Berlin.

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    IAN ISIAH, AUNTIE (Juliet)

    One of my favorite albums of the year, by an amazing artist.

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    AUSTIN ATO, HEAT (Classic)

    One of the funkiest house records I’ve heard in a long time, from my mother label, Classic Music Company.

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    JIMI TENOR, THE DUEL (BubbleTease Communications)

    An incredible and original piece of dance music that blew me away with its blend of jazz and electronica.

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    JESSIE WARE, WHAT’S YOUR PLEASURE (PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope)

    A phenomenal album that has taken the sound of disco and reinterpreted it for today.

    5

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  • David Grubbs

    David Grubbs is a Brooklyn-based musician and writer. His most recent book is The Voice in the Headphones (Duke University Press, 2020). His album with The Underflow, Instant Opaque Evening (Blue Chopsticks), is forthcoming.

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    OKKYUNG LEE, YEO-NEUN (Shelter Press)

    I spent much of the year grateful for the steady stream of new music, but daily dread made it difficult to connect with much of it. Yeo-Neun is the rare album that drew me close in any setting, and in a season of indecision, Lee’s compositions for cello, piano, bass, and harp rewarded every listen.

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    SPEAKER MUSIC, BLACK NATIONALIST

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  • Perfume Genius

    Mike Hadreas, AKA Perfume Genius, is a musician from Seattle. His most recent album is Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (Matador, 2020).

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    WESTERMAN, YOUR HERO IS NOT DEAD (Partisan)

    Somehow strange, inventive, and forward-thinking—but still warm and familiar. My favorite cocktail.

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    JULIANNA BARWICK, HEALING IS A MIRACLE (Ninja Tune)

    Barwick’s musical salve truly slows down time, making you feel held. After a song is over, you feel like you’ve been recalibrated.

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    NINA SIMONE, “MY WAY” (RCA Victor)

    I want this cover to be played at my funeral. This is well known by those around me, so I might as

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  • Ever New

    FOR FIVE DECADES, Beverly Glenn-Copeland quietly transcribed the melodies that floated to him, as he tells it, as if from a distant radio tower. A classically trained singer born to two musicians in Philadelphia, he released his first pair of albums—Beverly Copeland (1970) and Beverly Glenn-Copeland (1971)—after moving to Montreal to study music at McGill University. Both records showcase his agile and adventurous songwriting in a jazz-inflected folk style; neither enabled him to gain a foothold in an industry that had little room for queer Black singer-songwriters. Glenn-Copeland wouldn’t

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  • Madame Butterfly

    FOR MANY WISHFUL LISTENERS, Arca sounded trans long before she publicly identified as such. Even if the Venezuelan-born producer and vocalist hadn’t named her debut album, Xen (2014), after a feminine alter-ego she’d cultivated since childhood, the music, which writhed and oozed like a pupating insect, would have invited such a reading: It stirred with unstable and viscous electronic tones, hinting at identity in flux. Mutant, in 2015, followed suit; both were tellingly illustrated by computer-generated images of ambiguous bodies spilling, tumorous, from their own skins. Before she changed her

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  • Special Delivery

    AN ETERNITY AGO, the death of Little Richard reignited some debate around the Black queer image in contemporary music. In terms of visibility, we’ve certainly come leaps and bounds since the early days of Queen Richard. Survival is another story. But at that cultural nexus emerging from the Homocore movement of the ’90s, punk rock, and queer Black radicalism, a certain confluence of musicians, filmmakers, writers, and authors continue to find loud, destructive ways to make a living. One of those people is Alli Logout. A Texas-born twenty-seven-year-old musician and filmmaker based in New Orleans,

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  • WHERE’S THE PARTY

    TECHNO WAS BORN BLACK in the American Midwest, although we have the twin engines of European connoisseurship and commercial interest to thank for the detailed hagiographies given to innovators like Carl Craig. Craig’s enormous influence is due as much to his label, Planet E Communications, as to his prolific output as a producer and DJ. In the early 1990s, his adventuresome yet accessible style formed an integral part of what fans call Detroit techno’s “second wave.” The most distinctive feature of Craig’s music may be its lack of distinctiveness. Always tasteful, his most idiosyncratic and

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  • Cannibal Club

    SHE’S MORE WILD . . . released last month by Black Truffle, was recorded in 1981 at the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM), the studio at Mills College in Oakland, California, then codirected by composers David Behrman and Robert Ashley. CCM was a hub for experimentation, outfitted with otherwise inaccessible amenities such as a multitrack recording setup and analog synthesizers. The studio was open not only to Mills students, but also to Bay Area composers, artists, and community members at reduced or no cost. This combination of communalism, cheap rents and tuition, and the nascent possibilities

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  • AND THE WORLD IS WIDE. AND THE WORLD IS SO SMALL.

    THE LATE COMPOSER-LYRICIST Michael Friedman entered my life in such a whirlwind that I can’t even remember exactly where we met. Perhaps our most significant encounter was at “A Safe and Special Place”, a fundraiser for the Trevor Project and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) organized in response to a line from one of then president-elect Donald Trump’s tweets: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.”* I contributed a song but wasn’t going to be available to attend, so Michael was slated to play and sing it for me—but then the evening wound up running long, and I made it there just

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  • Old Friends

    ANTHONY BRAXTON HAS TACKLED JAZZ STANDARDS throughout his career: from an unexpected mid-’70s appearance alongside his hero Lee Konitz on an obscure Dave Brubeck record, to outstanding recordings with Hank Jones and Mal Waldron, to a hefty eleven disc box set of sixty-eight Charlie Parker pieces. “I did the music because I love that music, I love that period, that is my lineage,” he told Graham Lock in 1985. Standards, for Braxton, are not some sort of side project or way of proving himself as a “legitimate” jazz musician. Instead, they are tools for responding to the history of the diverse

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