📞 Secret World No.7: Lost notes
I haven’t listened a ton of music this year. But What I have been listening to are podcasts about music. I’ve really been enjoying the third season of KCRW’s Lost Notes, which focuses solely on the year in music in 1980. Episodes include The Sugarhill Gang, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, Ian Curtis, and Grace Jones, and give serious, much-deserved consideration to the kinds of stories that often shrink to the point of nothingness when you zoom out on the timeline of an artists’ life. I’m already hardwired to love niche, narrow narrative framing like this, but a big part of why it succeeds for me is host Hanif Abdurraqib. He’s a poet and a music writer, and listening to Hanif is exactly what it’s like to read him — lyrical, frank, and forceful (you should read his book on A Tribe Called Quest, Go Ahead in the Rain). I’m in awe of his ability to evoke a feeling, a mood. You can feel the shift from heaviness to tenderness in the tenor of his voice. When Abdurraqib describes the Sharpeville Massacre that drove Hugh Masakela from South African apartheid, I hung on his every word. He’s that good! Some podcasts merely give you information, but Abdurraqib tells a story.
I’ve also been enjoying the Prince podcast about the making of Sign O’ The Times. It’s full of memories and recollections from the people who were closest to Prince while he made one of his best albums. It can be tricky to do these kinds of podcasts without artist and label participation, so it helps that Prince’s estate is involved. The appeal for me is the process — how they created certain sounds, achieved certain effects, the evolution of a song from demo to album cut. And as someone who doesn’t always listen to music with an ear for lyrics — it’s the melody, the rhythm, the way a sound sounds that always grabs me first — I appreciated hearing the stories behind the songs, from the jealousy and possessiveness that drives “If I Was Your Girlfriend” to the newspaper headlines behind “Sign O’ The Times.”
As for new music, I’ll be spending some time during the back half of the month poring over the years’ best-ofs to catch up on what I missed (I love that Bandcamp is doing away with ranked lists). But here are some albums that I did get to, which you might also enjoy, too:
Andy Shauf’s The Neon Skyline
Destroyer’s Have We Met
Soccer Mommy’s color theory
Jerry Paper’s Abracadabra
Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud
Lianne La Havas’ self-titled
The Killers’ Imploding the Mirage
Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters
U.S. Girls’ Heavy Light
And in case you haven’t heard, How to With John Wilson has been renewed for a second season. And Nathan Fielder is making The Curse, a new Showtime series with the Sadfie Brothers and A24 starring Emma Stone: “a genre-bending scripted comedy that explores how an alleged curse disturbs the relationship of a newly married couple as they try to conceive a child while co-starring on their problematic new HGTV show.”
Secret World is a newsletter from writer Matthew Braga. If you’re not familiar with me or my work, be sure to check out my website, and consider following me on Twitter.