Though it’s been over a week since her passing, I’m still finding it a bit difficult to listen to any music other than that of Aretha Franklin. The more remembrances I encounter, the more I’m drawn down avenues of her career I either never knew, or had forgotten existed. If you somehow missed it, our tribute to the Queen of Soul – written by KCRW DJ Eric J. Lawrence with his trademark blend of warmth and encyclopedic knowledge – is a must read. Several other DJs (including yours truly) weigh in as well.
It is difficult to move onto other music given the circumstances, but in no way is it impossible! Especially when there is and always will be so much out there to explore. This might be the most eclectic weekend music round up I’ve gathered thus far with choices that range from a young female producer expanding her sound, to loud British indie rock, to a stone cold classic for reasons you’ll understand when you get to it. If you’ve been stuck in celebrating Aretha mode like so many of us have, allow me to offer you the chance to take this brief detour…
Empress Of – “When I’m With Him”
To be perfectly honest, I expected that producer/songwriter Lorely Rodriguez would be a bigger deal at this point. Since she released her excellent debut album Me in 2015, she’s popped up on a few collaborations here and there – most notably with Blood Orange and Spanish producer Pional – but overall she appears to have been laying low. Turns out she was taking a new, more isolationist approach to recording her forthcoming album Us. Though she did record most of this album completely alone in studios all over Southern California, from Ojai to Highland Park, she considers it a collaboration with her audience. “An equal exchange of energy.” This is meant to contrast what she did with Me, which left her feeling like she had given all of herself to all those who were clamoring for everything from her.
Speaking of collaborating, Rodriguez did eventually invite some friends to help with the production of this record. Whether he actually produced it or not, you can hear the influence of Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) all over this track. I’m currently on my third listen since it came onto my radar, and I just know that I’m going to be humming the chorus to myself for the rest of the week if not longer. It has that perfect balance of catchy and cool that Hynes and all those in his orbit excel at. Plus the Fader-produced video is a casual celebration of both Latinx culture, and self expression in the form of spontaneous dance that I just can’t stop watching.
Our Girl – “In My Head”
I just discovered Brighton based Our Girl today via my bandcamp feed. A music journalist pal whose taste I highly regard had recently purchased their new album Stranger Today, so I knew that it was something I had to hear immediately. I was not disappointed. This is the kind of ’90s tinged English indie rock you’ve no doubt read about in my writing ad nauseam, but what can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants. The guitars here are just the right amount of loud, and the way that they twist out the minor chords that shape the song is chill inducing. The bass line is subtly seductive. The lead vocals are sharp, rich, and just flat out pretty. That all said, there’s also just enough unexpected phrasing, and lyrical depth going on here to set Our Girl apart from their myriad apparent influences.
Led Zeppelin – “What Is And What Never Should Be”
Much has been made about the pivotal role that music plays in the HBO limited series Sharp Objects which will air its final episode on Sunday night. I highly recommend this piece from Pitchfork columnist Judy Berman, and the Vulture article on why Led Zeppelin is such a perfect fit for the show, written by the ever wonderful Jen Chaney. Reading both of those this morning as I procrastinated writing this ultimately brought me to the conclusion that we should all stride valiantly into whatever weekend adventures await with this classic anthem ringing in our ears. Especially if you’re like me, caught up on Sharp Objects, and equal parts eager and terrified to find out what the finale has in store.
Led Zeppelin header image: Heinrich Klaffs, Empress Of carousel image: Fabian Guerrero