DAM Dabke on the Moon ($8.99) December 15, 2012 As we intimated earlier, middle eastern and north African hip-hop reigned supreme in our ears this year, including this album, technically released last year, but for all intents and purposes not readily available until 2013. It wasn’t the first album we’d heard by the pioneering Palestinian rappers, but it was easily the best of their work to date. The album blasts off with the unlikely-sounding rocker “Street Poetry” and doesn’t let up, kicking out jam after jam all the way through the anthemic “I Fell in Love with a Jew” and final deep groove of “Handcuff Them War Criminals.” If I was Christgau (“Christmas with Christgau” has a nice ring to it, eh?) I know three very talented young men who’d be getting a big ol’ A+ in their stocking.
The Girl UR Sensation($8.99) January 9, 2013 (planned December 19, 2012) I almost can’t breathe when I think about the awesomeness that is Aiha Higurashi. Her first band, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, was easily the best rock group of the Aughts, and with every subsequent project Aiha has shown us a new or at least slightly different side of herself. The Girl, who released their second album this year, brings it back home to the stripped-down, noirish rock Aiha first explored with SSKHKH—but the sound is grittier, more disconcerting. Our sole complaint? Try setting up a Google alert for “The Girl.”
Various Artists Spanish New Wave, The Golden Age (6 Vols.) (Free) January 20, 2013 See, I told you music bloggers were awesome this year. Compiled by Sebi and Jose Kortozirkuito for free download on Boozetunes, this six-volume set of post-punk music from Spain is everything the bodega dreams of: A vast, and vastly entertaining panorama of pop from a faraway time and place, lovingly introduced with a smart and relevant preface.
Various Artists Khat Thaleth (Free) January 22, 2013 Goodness gracious: The year really started out with a bang, didn’t it? This late-January Arabic hip-hop compilation, released two days after the awesome comp above, is pretty much the coolest international rap collection we can think of since 1988’s Brazilian overview Hip Hop Cultura de Rua. And the download is gratis on Bandcamp. Yep, you heard us: Free.
Satanicpornocultshop Picaresque ($10) February 2013 The Japanese sound-collage trio put out seven albums and EPs in 2013, which makes them among the most prolific groups of … dare-we-say all time? A perennial favorite here, the shop’s funked-up February release had the bodega rawkin out on the 7 train as we rode it in to work every morning.
Various Artists Harafin So - Bollywood Inspired Film Music from Hausa Nigeria ($5) April 23, 2013 Holy crap, but Christopher Kirkley’s label is amazing. 2013 was a stellar year for Sahelsounds, beginning with a January release of the second volume of Music from Saharan Cell Phones. This Bollywood-inspired, auto-tuned Nigerian pop was a real revelation to us, having had no prior idea that such a thing even existed.
Nisennenmondai N (iTunes store, $9.99) July 2, 2013 OMG I love these women, who put out what was easily my favorite music video of the year. (Don't stop watching before the 3:20 mark, seriously.) A must-have for all fans of the N-group and for any lover of the industrial / instrumental / experimental wing of J-rock.
MWR Because I’m an Arab (Free, if link works) August 14, 2013 A publicist for this Palestinian rap trio sent me word of this album—a retrospective of the band’s brief but thrilling career-to-date. Hailing from Gaza, these guys are as sonically rich as they are politics-forward. I’m not sure if the Dropbox link I’ve provided is going to work for you — but I have no earthly idea how else to get a hold of this album, let alone pay for it. (If you know, send the info/link our way.)
P.K.14 1984($8) September 13, 2013 The fifth album by one of Beijing’s oldest post-punk bands, formed all the way back in 2001. (It must be liberating having such a short music history.) Though they’ve mellowed slightly with age, they’re still awesome—in fact, even more so this decade than last. You can listen to the whole album on Bandcamp for free … so go listen to it, not to me.
Various Artists Sounds and Colors: Brazil ($11.43) November 25, 2013 I have heard the future, and it sounds an awful lot like the República Federativa do Brasil. Seriously, this record is fabuloso. Also, this label looks like it’s gearing up to give Sahelsounds a run for its money. Blaspheme? No, blashphe-you. Get over to their Bandcamp page and start digging around — and don’t miss out on their earlier “name your price” collections. You won’t be disappointed.
Reupped by popular demand, here. [Originally posted July 2, 2011.] Found on Arthur Avenue in an Albanian bodega run by what must be the single nicest bodega owner I've ever met. After letting me know in uncertain terms that "This is all Albanian music," my response, "I know; I like Albanian music, especially Fatmire Brecani," changed the game rules. After an hour talking and listening to numerous samples, I walked out of the store with five CDs--the owner charged me only for four. This one, by the Mustafa Sisters, is my favorite of the bunch, in great part for the harmonies. Listeners will note the abrupt endings of songs; this is because, on other Motrat Mustafa CDs I have, the songs are all run together. Every single CD in this store was pirated, and I'm guessing someone used the "2 second delay between songs" feature in iTunes when they burned their merch. Check out this rather old VHSed music video:
Reupped here. RIP [Originally posted on October 1, 2012.] Found a couple of weekends ago in Millennium Records (4045 White Plains Road). Actually, owing to the bizarre lettering on the cover of this one, whoever had added this CD to the shelves had placed it upside down pointing face outward, so my eye kept gravitating toward it, trying to figure out what it was. I finally asked the owner: "Hey what is that grayish-blue CD with the bizarre lettering?"
"Junior Murvin," he said, once he'd figured out what I was talking about, and brought the CD down for me to examine up close. "You know him; he did 'Police and Thieves.'"
The owner was right: Though I'm no fount of knowledge when it comes to reggae, I had certainly heard "Police and Thieves" before, and not just the Clash's version--although, admittedly, that's where I'd heard it first.
Junior Murvin, who's still alive, was not particularly prolific: Muggers in the Street was only one of seven total albums (not counting compilations) he released over the years since debuting with "Police" in 1977.
Oh, and before I forget ... as I said in previous posts, I'm considering changing the layout of this blog to something more like this. But in a sense, it's your blog, not mine, and I'd like you to decide what format you'd like to experience when you visit the Bodega. A couple of people have already chimed in, but I'd like to hear your thoughts as well ...