Bob Marley’s favorite singer Dennis Brown recorded 1971′s astonishing If I Follow My Heart as a young teenager; he’s an anomaly among singers of his age in that none of his songs exploit the fact that he’s a kid. Brown sings experientially if not always emotionally mature songs in a pubescent wail that had hardly dimmed by the time he entered his 20s as a long-haired mystic. The title track in particular is one of those love songs that feels like it’s always been around, delivered over the deep-burrowing bass so beloved in Jamaican popular music.
This has been a fine winter for solo piano music, with Brian Wilson reinterpreting old melodies on At My Piano and Nils Frahm compiling his five-finger exercises on Old Friends New Friends. But the year’s most delightful piano album might be Phil Cook’s All These Years, a warm and personable album not far from the ambient-folk forms of George Winston. The first half leans heavily into the blues and gospel that inspire his main band Megafaun, but the real treat is the meditative second half, where his keys seem to float away like individual butterflies.
Daniel Menche’s new album of metallic, long-tone sound sculpture, Rust to Rust, is listed on his Bandcamp page as having dropped on his date of birth: Dec. 4, 1969. (Happy belated birthday, Daniel!) If that’s a joke it’s a good one: Most people live “dust to dust,” but Menche as a super-prolific sonic metallurgist lives his life “rust to rust.” Certainly Rust to Rust’s churning blend of oscillators and heavy distortion is a fine example of his work, if more on the bass-heavy end of the spectrum; if you dig this, you’ve got a long Bandcamp trip ahead of you.
If you thought Grouper lost her way the moment she picked up an acoustic guitar and started strumming, Ekin Fil’s new Feelings is for you. This is dream pop at its most austere, and it’s a treat to hear the Turkish artist eschew the bass boost of much modern ambient in favor of spider web-thin wisps of sound. Its title even feels like a preemptive response to listeners who might find it too slow or simple: It’s about how it feels. To this critic, it feels like the kind of cold, wintry night we’re about to have a lot of for the next couple of months.