Ghanaian highlife artist Ata Kak was brought to light through ethnomusicologist Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa blog when he posted the unstoppable “Daa Nyinaa.” Shimkovitz bought the Ata Kak tape more than a decade ago and finally found him living in Ghana. Only 50 copies of the original Obaa Sima tape were made, and though the original master DAT had disintegrated, Shimkovitz’s tape was used to reissue Obaa Sima. Details of Shimkovitz’s search for Ata Kak could likely fill a book (in fact, a documentary is being made), but it only serves to give the truly awesome Obaa Sima even more allure, as does the tape hiss from the transfer. Its seven tracks offer nothing but good times, a non-stop party that sounds removed from time, full of delightfully rinky-dink synths, instant-play beats and Ata Kak’s motormouth rap. The slightly off-time nature of the backups on “Agdaya,” the louder than necessary mix of the vocals—all things that could be construed as negative instead feel like happy accidents that make Obaa Sima sound so singular. One track flows into another across Obaa Sima, coming into centerpiece “Daa Nyinaa,” an Afro-house masterpiece of warehouse-party cool. But stick around for the slightly sinister “Yemmpa Aba” and head-bobbing vocal-less closer “Bome Nnwon,” which will have you replaying the entire album once its final handclap echoes into silence. When Ata Kak is on, you won’t want to listen to anything else. If you need me, I’ll be watching this video on repeat:
The former Walkmen frontman leaves us swooning on his solo debut. Backing away from the post-punk of his former band, Black Hours sees Leithauser focusing on digging his gravelly voice through chamber pop environs, singing heartily among stirring strings and vibes on “The Silent Orchestra.” Little the Walkmen did had the vibrant energy of a song like “Alexandra,” with Leithauser smiling his way through an irresistible jig. But Leithauser also throws a bone to those who miss the Walkmen’s nocturnal musings with songs like “11 O’Clock Friday Night,” a kind of New York at night drinking song with some clanging percussion amid the CBGBs guitars to keep it tied to the orchestrated feel of the rest of the album, and the lonely piano ballad “St. Mary’s County.” Throughout, Leithauser’s voice has never sounded better, growing further into a manly howl like a young Rod Stewart. He sounds as terrific crying into a pool of whiskey and reverb on the countrified “I Retired” as he does returning to his roots on the defiant “I Don’t Need Anyone.” While we’ll always miss the Walkmen, the thing we were gonna miss the most was that voice. Black Hours makes their departure sting less, as it’s opens a triumphant new avenue for Leithauser.
Record Store Day is this Saturday, April 19. You can see all of the records that will be available here, and be sure to check out my 10 to watch blog. To whet your appetite further, check out these songs that will be released on Record Store Day but that you can stream now. And be sure to come to Amoeba stores on April 19—read about what we’ll have going on in-store here.
Ex-Cult – “Ties You Up”
While this track will be on the upcoming Midnight Passenger album, this version (not found on the album) is produced by garage-rock wunderkind Ty Segall, giving it that extra oomph.
Lust for Youth – “Illume”
We’ve been fans of Sacred Bones signees Lust for Youth for some time now, but they seem to really be coming into their own with the cleaned-up and poppy “Illume.” It’ll appear on their new album International (out June 10), but before that, you can pick it up on Sacred Bones’ compilation Todo Muere Vol. 4, with other gothy goodies from Zola Jesus, Marissa Nadler, David Lynch and more.
We've been compiling our own Best of 2013 lists for a while now, so why don't we ask some of our favorite local artists what they were spinning this year?
Gabe Fulvimar of Gap Dream
“I really, really really did like [Daft Punk’s] Random Access Memories. I’ve seen it make it on the lists this year, but it seems like it’s not really getting too high up there. People are being kind of shitty to that record. It’s like a Rocky soundtrack or something. When that record came out this year, I was so stoked, I didn’t even know a new Daft Punk record was coming out. I know the one that came out before this last one didn’t do too well, and I knew they were kind of moving into soundtrack territory. That’s usually a clue that they’ve found their way into the golden land of making cinema scores. I was like, good for them, they’re geniuses. But I was blown away. It’s such a great blending of like modern pop music, which isn’t really that great, with classic pop music. Overall it’s just a really good pop record.”
Gap Dream's latest album is Shine Your Light.
Read my interview with Fulvimar here.
Parquet Courts had a very good 2013. Their debut album, Light Up Gold, was re-released on What’s Your Rupture? to rapturous acclaim, and their live shows have become somewhat legendary. Live and on record, the band flaunts a defiantly youthful energy that resuscitates classic indie rock tropes and perfectly captured mid-20s bohemia. Late in the year, they released the great Tally All the Things That You Broke EP (which I called one of the best EPs of 2013), finding the band honing its sound and growing wilder, even funkier as Andrew Savage’s vocals are more confident and strident, sing-talking and even sort of rapping, while the band tosses out knotty, catchy riffs with apparent ease. “The more you use it, the more it works!” Savage cries on one of Tally’s songs, as if echoing his own band’s tour-and-release-heavy year, which has clearly paid off.
The subject matter of the band’s songs is another matter. On its most famous song, Light Up Gold’s “Stoned and Starving,” the title says it all as Savage details a muchies-fueled trip through Ridgewood, Queens. But don’t call Parquet Courts “stoner rock” or “slacker rock” to Savage’s face.