Music that mattered to me this month

What a month. And it’s not even over yet. At a time when we need something to depend on, here’s the music that’s helped me get through:

The xx, “I Dare You”
from I See You

It’s been a long time since I’ve anticipated a record as much as The xx’s January release of I See You. It’s very good, although it tempers their producer Jamie xx’s newly heralded club-music influence more than I had hoped. Not on “I Dare You,” though, a song so groovy and uplifting that it prompted the notorious black-clothes-wearing sad-sacks The xx to smile and dance—or at least shuffle back and forth—while premiering it on last November’s Saturday Night Live (video above). If The xx can get happy, then there’s a chance for us all.

The Black Madonna, “He Is The Voice I Hear”

It’s already a cliché that the art we’ll get in the Trump era stands to be fantastic. After all, the bleak period of the late 1970s & early ’80s only gave us punk, rap and disco. So expect all three genres to come roaring back. Thank you, The Black Madonna, the celebrated Chicago DJ who is neither black nor Madonna, for a true stomper. You can practically see the dance floor with all sexes, colours and creeds. This is soul music.

Run The Jewels, “Call Ticketron”
from Run The Jewels 3

Killer Mike is this generation’s Chuck D, hip-hop’s no-sell-out East Coast star. You won’t find him duetting with Maroon 5 or having a photo-op with Trump. He wanted Bernie Sanders to win, and damn if he wasn’t right about that. And then the music, dropping RTJ3 (with El-P, of course) on Christmas Day, a counter-culture ninja move. “Call Ticketron” is its love-it-or-hate-it track, very New York, built on two samples, one ubiquitous (“It Takes Two”’s Woo! Yeah!) and one pedestrian, a radio voice repeatedly announcing “Live From the Garden” (Madison Square, that is). Love it.

Lowland Hum, “Palm Lines”
from Thin

Keaton Henson, “No Witnesses”
from Kindly Now

Could folk music return, too? Dunno, but these two tracks, at least, are less for the protest march and more for moments when you want to shut out the world. Sparse, thick-sweater folk. The flip-side to F.D.T.

k.d. lang, “That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)”
from A Wonderful World

I listen to a lot of Tony Bennett, moreso lately. You might think Bennett and his style of jazz evokes mainstream conservatism. But Bennett has his bona fides, a life-long pacifist and Democrat, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and befriended everyone from Harry Belafonte to Duke Ellington. Also k.d. lang, who’s no slouch to important causes, either. They recorded a duets record in 2002, and lang’s languid “That Lucky Old Sun” has helped wash some troubles away.

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