Listening recommendations from the past, the present, Portland and the periphery.
Let "Milkshake" blast in every club when they open again, but Kelis's artistry goes so much deeper. Flesh Tone, from 2010, is one of the most rewarding full-lengths from American pop's early Obama Era Euro-club fixation (David Guetta, Boyz Noise, Benassi Bros, and Will.i.am produce). Less hedonistic than the genre's norm, these songs carry themselves with grace and dignity and tackle themes as personal as the birth of her first child over some of the steeliest robo-music money can buy.
Florian T M Zeisig makes ambient music with a humanistic quality. Last year's Coatcheck reflected his experiences working behind-the-scenes at a massive Berlin club, and his latest, Music for Parents, is made for mom and dad, with deep bass rumblings and endless chords apparently designed to resonate with certain frequencies in the body. This is ambient at its most physically pleasurable.
Classically trained pianist Daniel Lichtenberg, who also records as Saturn Finger, stakes out a place in Portland's rich tradition of hermetic synth wizardry on the lovely Bandcamp EP, Swan Island Tapes. The star of the show is "Terminal 6," which sounds a little like if the organ on "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was allowed to meander into post-acid life-thoughts. Lichtenberg isn't well-known, but he's prolific and has a pleasingly rugged style.
One of the most interesting puzzles in jazz is Ornette Coleman's The Empty Foxhole (1966), which features his then-10-year-old son, Denardo, on drums. The kid thrashes and bashes, but per his dad, he'd already been playing the drums for several years. Apparently some musicians Ornette played it for thought the drumming was brilliant, others thought it sounded like, well, a child. Listen to Foxhole and ponder whether a musician needs to know how to play "properly" before they can break loose.