5 Songs We Can’t Stop Listening to is a collection of our newest favorite songs. And Every week we ask an artist that we love to tell us about the music they love.
Listen to the whole thing in the player below.
1. Kamasi Washington picks “The Turn Down” by Thundercat
This is “5 Songs We Can’t Stop listening To” and we always start off by asking one artist that we love to tell us about a song that they love.
Kamasi Washington is a jazz saxophonist, composer, producer, and band leader. He’s been featured on many albums including records from Kendrick Lamar, Ryan Adams, and Run the Jewels just to name a few. His 2015 album “The Epic” inspired a whole new interest in jazz music. He’s playing in Milwaukee on November 7th at Turner Hall Ballroom.
It is my honor to have on the show, Kamasi Washington. Kamasi, what is one song right now that you can’t stop listening to.
Kamasi Washington: Actually right now I’m really into a song off Thundercat’s album “Drunk.” It’s called, “The Turn Down.”
Justin Barney: Yes. What’s your history with Thundercat?
Kamasi Washington: We grew up together. His dad, and my dad had a band together.
Justin Barney: His dad and your dad had a band together?
Kamasi Washington: Yeah I met Thundercat before he was born.
Justin Barney: Wow.
Kamasi Washington: Yeah when he was a baby in his mother’s stomach, me and his brothers were really close friends. Our first band that we both had was called, Young Jazz Giants. He was probably 12 when we started that band.
Justin Barney: Wow what do you like about Thundercat’s album, “Drunk?”
Kamasi Washington: Oh man I love it. There’s a good story to it, and the way he’s able to weave together all of these different thoughts that happen to a person over the course of life and today. It’s one of those records that doesn’t have a real time to it. It’s just like a series of events that happen over the course of a day but also the course of a life.
Justin Barney: Can we key in on one song?
Kamasi Washington: “The Turn Down” is one of my favorite tracks from it.
Justin Barney: And what is “The Turn Down” about?
Kamasi Washington: What I read into it is that sometimes when you’re intoxicated, you get a degree of clarity in the chaos and start to really reflect on what’s going on. You start to realize how things you thought were important aren’t, and things you didn’t think were important are. Just kind of a real interesting reflection on all that.
- “The Turn Down” was released this year on Thundercat’s album, “Drunk.”
- Listen if you like: Kamasi Washington, Young Jazz Giants, Flying Lotus
2. El Michaels Affair – “Tearz”
“Tearz” feels like a 45 bought on off the back wall of Musical Memories three steps down on the corner of Kenilworth Avenue. A dub guitar upstroke, a soft voice. It’s a prophecy, a warning of some great cosmic balance. “Be careful in love. Don’t fall too deep. After laughter comes tears.” Looming kettle drums pound brushed soft by the whisper of Shannon Wise. An expression from Lee Fields, he too, trying to hold back “tearz.” It’s El Michels Affair feat. The Shacks and Lee Fields with Tearz. -Justin Barney
- “Tearz” was released as a one-off single this year.
- Listen if you like: old 45’s, The Shacks, Lee Fields
3. Songhoy Blues picks “My Hero” by Foo Fighters
Justin Barney: From the music desk at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, I’m Justin Barney. This is “Five Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To.” Sometimes I pick the song, sometimes somebody on staff picks the song, and sometimes an artist that we love picks the song. This is one of those days.
The band, Songhoy Blues is literally from Timbuktu, Africa. They formed as a group of refuges in Mali, and they released their first album, “Music In Exile” when music was banned in the country. We have been playing their song, “Bamako” and I’m here with Aliou Touré, lead singer of Songhoy Blues.
Aliou, what is one song you can’t stop listening to?
Aliou Touré: I would say Foo Fighters, “My Hero.”
Justin Barney: A classic. What do you like about that song?
Aliou Touré: I love it because I just discovered these guys. I heard about Nirvana before, I used to listen to their music, but after we went to Glastonbury last time, after our gig I went to the main stage to see the Foo Fighters and I was like “Oh my God.” We had a chance to meet these guys a few months later in London on Jools Holland’s show. We were next to each other backstage and when we met Dave Grohl, he was awesome.
Justin Barney: Yeah he is notoriously one of the nicest guys in the world. What did you talk about? What did he say?
Aliou Touré: We talked about everything. He was like, “I love your music, man. What about you guys with us on tour?!” I was like, “Just ask!” and he said “I think you guys might be a little bit busy for that.” That was funny.
Justin Barney: That’s awesome. So did you see them preform the song?
Aliou Touré: Yeah.
Justin Barney: Was everybody in the crowd super into it?
Aliou Touré: Oh yeah. Everybody was up and listening to these guys, and they are a big machine.
- “My Hero” was released in 1997 on the album, “The Colour and the Shape.”
- Listen if you like: a classic, Nirvana, you know what this song sounds like
4. Tune-Yards – “Looks At Your Hands”
Justin Barney: From the music desk at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, I’m Justin Barney…
Dori Zori: And I’m Dori Zori.
Justin Barney: This is “Five Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To” and I’m here with your morning host, Dori Zori.
Dori Zori: Justin Barney, I have been waiting for a very long time for new Tune-yards’ music.
Justin Barney: So have I, and I was just thinking the other day as I heard her on something and I was like, “When is Tune-yards going to come out with new music?”
Dori Zori: Apparently in January of next year, but we got our hands on one of the singles from the upcoming album and I am in love with it.
Justin Barney: Tell me about it.
Dori Zori: It’s called, “Look At Your Hands” and it’s really cool because one thing Merrill Garbus is really good about is speaking about political and social issues that affect her, but she does it in such a fun way you kind of don’t even know what it’s all about until you’re singing and dancing and realizing this song actually has a deeper meaning. That’s what this song is about too.
Justin Barney: What is it about? I’ve only been dancing along with it so far. It’s one of those things where I’m sure I’ve said all the words and you sing along with all the words and then at some point you’re like oh this is what these words mean. So what do they mean?
Dori Zori: Well I was reading, and she says “yes the world is a mess” but she’s been attempting to look more inward for herself and how racism and feminism and sexism, and how all the good and bad ‘isms affect her daily life, activities, and interactions. You know thinking about how you’re actions affect other people is important too.
So she kind of talks about looking at her hands, but it’s metaphoric for kind of looking inside yourself and how you treat other people. That’s what I get out of it which makes me love it even more, and then sticking the 80’s beats in… It’s a winner.
- “Look At Your Hands” will be released on Tune-Yards’ new album, “I can feel you creep into my private life” set to be released on January 19th, 2018.
- Listen if you like: who else can you associate with Tune-Yards? Dirty Projectors? LCD Soundsystem? Bands that are loop pedal based
5. St. Vincent – “Happy Birthday Johnny”
I’m listening to the new St. Vincent album and I get to the song, “Happy Birhtday Johnny.” And I think, “Oh there was the song Prince Johnny on her last album.” So I listen to that. And then I go back further in the discography to album one, “Marry Me” where she sings, “Marry Me John” on the title track.
Which begs the question, “Who is John?”
Well, in a recent interview with Vogue she has joked, all of her songs are about John Mayer. In one interview with Buzzfeed she straight up refused to talk about “Johnny” when the subject came up, flatly saying,“Next question” when the subject came up. But she has also hinted at the idea of Johnny being a rhetorical device. Everyone knows a John. -Justin Barney
I think that that is most likely, and also the most interesting scenario. In an attempt to clear any individual identity in all of her songs, she has, in turn, created a character: Johnny.
- “Happy Birthday Johnny” is on St. Vincent’s new album, Masseduction.
- Listen if you like: piano ballads, sad songs, weird songwriting theories