Welcome to The Best Music You Sent Us, a new semi-monthly series to help you beat the algorithm. Each edition, we’ll be spotlighting listener submissions and under-the-radar artists that caught our ears, and that you need to know about.
Here at KCRW, we get sent a lot of digital music. But over time, we’ve also built a pretty tall tower of CDs, vinyl records, and handwritten letters from artists. In this installment of The Best Music You Sent Us, we’re featuring some of our favorite picks from the analog world, from 45-inch reggae-inspired covers of classic soul jams, to jazz-infused indie tunes from two Seattle sisters, to a tribute to the life of a KCRW fan and MBE favorite.
“Wanting More” - La Fonda
Valerie and Veronica Topacio sparked the idea for La Fonda one day at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Over a few years, La Fonda grew from that seed to a six-piece indie-rock outfit whose newest album, “New Self Old Ways,” is what they call their “entire heart”. In a heartfelt, handwritten note to KCRW, the Topacio sisters explain that this album captures every up-and-down, “from falling in love, break-ups, late nights, addictions, pain, healing, struggling, navigating the concrete masses we call our home.”
One of the album’s singles, “Wanting More,” captures the essence of being caught in a grey area, feeling both “stronger, but tired ...somber, but satisfied,” and wanting more from life or relationships while still feeling appreciative of what you have. These introspective lyrics dance over a soulful rhythm and warm guitar riffs, as the Topacio sisters trade off verses and sing the high energy hook together.
“New Self Old Ways” is available on streaming services now. In addition to “Wanting More,” La Fonda writes to us that the boys – Jesse Cole on guitar, Jacob Whinihan on drums, Bryan Dever on bass, and Patrick Hodge on keys – recommend “Most Days” and “Surf Pop Love Song,” while Valerie and Veronica suggest “New Self” and “Midnight Muse.” We recommend it all.
Anna Ash describes her 2016 album “Floodlights” as a “test of tension” – tension between past and present, loneliness and crowded streets, where we’re from and where we are. While it’s been a few years since her sophomore release, sifting through our CD towers reminds us that tracks like “Player” are always worth coming back to. Ash expresses this tension through smooth vocals and thoughtful lyrics, drawing from a variety of influences, from her folk roots to the jazz-soul of collaborators such as Joe Dart and Theo Katzman of Vulfpeck. Ash’s music is inspired as much by the sun and bustle of L.A. as it is by the snowy memories of her home in Michigan.
This range of influence is clear on “Player,” which offers indie rock with soul and warm production. Drums thump beneath Ash’s lyrics about the scars left behind by past heartbreak, and the healing process of moving forward without looking back. “Floodlights” is available wherever you listen to music, and be sure to check out Ash’s newest EP “Fire Season” while you’re at it.
Night Owls are a production team out of Southern California putting a Jamaican twist on their covers of classic soul tunes, and whose 45-inch vinyl pressings put a cherry on top of their old school inspiration. The group features members of local outfits, The Lions and The Aggrolites, with Blake Colia on drums, Dave Wilder on bass, Roger Rivas on piano and organ, and Dan Ubick on guitars, percussion, and the soundboards.
Their cover of The Dramatics’ classic “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” is the essence of SoCal. It’s music for cruising, dancing, soaking up the sun, and reminiscing. The creative ensemble is always working with new vocalists and finding inspiration from the music we know and love, so keep you’re ears out. Listen to Night Owls on any streaming service, and be sure to pick up their 45 on Bandcamp when it’s back in stock.
Emmy and Clio Award winner Greg Hale Jones’ music was a Morning Becomes Eclectic favorite nearly two decades ago. Though Jones died in 2004, his story and creativity live on through his music. His CDs were recently resubmitted to us by someone close to Jones with the goal of keeping his legacy alive on KCRW. It’s only right, as a big part of Jones’ work centered on keeping the songs and traditions of folk artists alive through electronic arrangements he called “Folktronica.” His work sampled archival folk recordings from all over, including the Library of Congress. Like any great interpreter, Jones created new songs from old ones, giving forgotten or undercredited folk artists behind the shape of American music a light of their own.
Jones regarded music history as a living and breathing collaborator in his projects, and made a point of ensuring that the descendants of the artists he sampled were paid for their ancestors’ contributions, in some cases having a collaborator personally hand over royalty checks to children and grandchildren. “I’m deeply interested in the lives of the people who are singing, and what they are singing about,” Jones once said. So are we, and we’re grateful to him for bringing his passion and touch of humanity in music to KCRW listeners.
“Mezcal Mule” - Freddy!
@freddydeboe on Instagram. Freddy De Boe is one of New York’s busiest saxophone players, creating a timeless, high energy sound.View this post on Instagram
Freddy! makes energetic soul jazz out of New York City, with an organ sound reminiscent of jazz legend Jimmy Smith. Bandleader and sax player Freddy De Boe performs prolifically throughout the city, and has worked with living soul icons like Lee Fields. I had the pleasure of catching Freddy! perform in the basement space of the Canary Club, a New Orleans-inspired soul food and jazz joint in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and it felt like being transported back in time. “Mezcal Mule,” a track released by vinyl-soul operation Mango Hill Records, comes close to capturing that same energy of freedom and timelessness. And the man’s got good taste: Freddy himself is a fan of KCRW, turning in all the way from New York City. “Mezcal Mule” is out now on Bandcamp via Mango Hill Records.