As we segue into springtime, our TuneSmith’s taken to the decks with tracks ancient and modern. For February, he’s picked out Sam Genders’ superb, synthy sideline and dug out a cxhest of hidden treasures from the glory days of R’n’B…
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Black Light by Diagrams
If you’ve ever caught yourself smiling along to the pared-down folk of Kings Of Convenience, the quirky pop of Gruff Rhys, the jerky rhythms of Metronomy or the warming songs of Elbow, you should schedule a slot in your ears for Diagrams. Having founded experimental folk band Tuung, Sam Genders has taken time out to record a low-key but rather wonderful new album. Diagrams is an altogether more electronic pop affair than Genders’ other work. His new sound is packed with gently looping basslines, machine-driven hand-claps, and shuffling but syncopated beats, all wrapped up with his convivial, open-hearted voice. It’s not hard to hear echoes of the two producers who worked with Genders: Fever Ray’s Subliminal Kid and Moloko’s Mark Brydon. Nor is this far removed from the wonky pop of Hot Chip, as songs such as ‘Black Light’ attest. But, bizarrely enough, it is perhaps the 1980s pop of Peter Gabriel that gets nearest to Diagrams’ catchy and loveable eccentricity, and there’s nowt wrong with that.
THE SMITH CLASSIC
Jukebox Jam by Various Artists
When? It’s time to rock the dust off your fridge top
Why? Not dancing isn’t an option
If you buy only one compilation album this year – well, you can guess the rest. This is an expertly curated, truly deadly collection of obscure 1950s R&B and jump blues. It’s fascinating as a record of the blurred lines between jazz, blues and early rock ’n’ roll that was the foundation of R&B – you can almost hear these American music forms morphing into each other. But, far more importantly, this is an undeniably swinging set of some of the-best-music-you-never-heard from that era. Irresistibly groovy, powerfully raw, and by golly, fierce – there’s completely rockin’ blues from the likes of the late Etta James, Rose Mitchell, Big Maybelle and a host of others. Throw out your Technics 1210s, and eat your hot pants. This is all you need for any house party. Period.
TuneSmith Rob Wood is the creative director and founder of Music Concierge, an award-winning music consultancy service for boutique and luxury hotels.