Listening recommendations from the past, the present, Portland and the periphery.
Sea shanties were all the rage on TikTok this last week, appropriate in a world where everyone's resolve is being constantly put to the test. But this isn't the first time this briniest and crustiest of folk-music traditions has crossed over. Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys (2006) finds everyone from Bryan Ferry to John C. Reilly singing the songs of the sea. Weirdly enough, this was intended as a tie-in to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, but its rousing, ribald songs are far from family-friendly.
Jazmine Sullivan is R&B's answer to Randy Newman, an alternately wry and sentimental songwriter who challenges you to make up your mind about how to feel about the people she writes about. Her new project, Heaux Tales, is her first release since 2015's Reality Show, one of the best-written pop albums of the last decade. Like its predecessor, the new record explores the intersection of sex, politics and power, translating spoken-word interludes into rich character pieces driven by a brassy, raspy voice that equals her songwriting.
"Dear Willamette Week" rapper Swiggle Mandela and his brother, Jasey, meet Westside Boogie and Kenai from L.A. for a collaboration that expands the definition of "West Coast" beyond the narrow strip it usually refers to in hip-hop regional politics. "Needed" leans south—it's one of those sun-baked anthems that seems to be melting into the pavement as it plays, and the interplay between the rappers and Kenai's undulating vocal take is sublime.
Nobukazu Takemura designed the sounds for the robot-dog AIBO in the early 2000s, and his music has plenty of bark and bite. 2001's Hoshi no Koe ("Voice of a Star") epitomizes the free-for-all spirit of the new millennium's dawn, when experimental producers were realizing the greatness of the Beach Boys at the same time as they were figuring out how to make the gnarliest noises with computers. This means you'll get pieces like the 13-minute bliss-out "Anemometer" and tracks that sound like a microwave on the fritz.