Welcome to the second volume of Salt Peanuts, a monthly newsletter showcasing the best jazz, funk, soul, afrobeat, and world music! This month we’re featuring Nick Hakim, new releases by Childish Gambino, Aaron Taylor, and Buttering Trio, as well as the usual miscellaneous joints. The full Volume 2 Spotify playlist can be found here!
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See you in 2017!
Artist of the Month
(Spotlight on a Salt Peanuts favorite)
Top EPs: Where Will We Go, Pt. 1 | Where Will We Go, Pt. 2
In reaching the end of 2016, a year in need of much reflection, I thought it best to share an artist whose music has always managed to hit me in a sentimental, introspective way. Born in D.C. and currently living in Brooklyn, Nick Hakim doesn’t yet have the track record of most accomplished soul artists, but has carved out a uniquely lo-fi and intimate sound – one that NPR Music called “both lovingly dreamy and hopelessly bleary at once”.
Released in 2014, both of Nick Hakim’s Where Will We Go EPs are soulful journeys that never push past an ambling pace as Hakim’s band lays as far back on the beat as possible. Hakim’s cited influences – Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, South American folk – shine through both EPs from behind a cloud of heavy EQ-ing and sparse, precise instrumentation. “Heaven” is a particularly beautiful track, with a few simple lyrics repeated at the start (“Everybody wants to go to heaven / No one wants to die”), the emergent sounds of church organs midway through, and ambient sounds to finish. “Cold”, “I Don’t Know”, and “Lift Me Up” are also all-time favorites.
Sometimes listening to Nick Hakim feels like moving through molasses, but in a world in which artists are constantly trying to add layers and play faster, Hakim’s music is a breath of fresh air. It takes its time, and is stripped down to its most essential parts. Hakim announced plans to release his first full-length album Green Twins in spring 2017. As much as I thought of waiting until then to feature him, there’s no better time than now for some cliché brooding during these winter months. I hope Nick Hakim’s music provides you the same relaxing, pensive mood that it has given me many times before, and helps you move into 2017 with a clear head and a clear heart.
(The freshest new singles, EPs, and albums on the scene)
Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
When I first thought up Salt Peanuts, I never imagined I would write about hip-hop artists in back-to-back posts – especially one whose work on TV had always impressed me more than his music. There’s no question Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, is abundantly talented: he wrote for 30 Rock when he was just 23, had a leading role in NBC’s Community, created and produced the latest hit show Atlanta, and earned two Grammy nominations in 2015. But I was still never a fan of his brand of nerd rap – I found it kind of amateur and even childish at times (pun thoroughly intended).
And then I first heard “Awaken, My Love!”. And I was speechless, much in the same way Questlove freaked out and had to call D’Angelo at 4am about it. Glover literally changed genres with this album – and in no small way – switching over to pure soul and funk, harkening back to the sounds of 70s legends The Commodores, Sly & The Family Stone, and Parliament-Funkadelic. There’s uplifting gospel choirs, heavy bass-slapping, driving electric guitar riffs, tender falsetto, and soaring church organs, resulting in a set of songs that are euphoric, haunting, and didactic all at once. For me, the true highlight of the album may be the only instrumental track – “The Night Me and Your Mama Met” – which showcases Glover’s evolution and newfound maturity through a slow-burn of guitar riffs by Gary Clark Jr.
Highlights: “Me and Your Mama”, “Have Some Love”, “Boogieman”, “Redbone”, “Baby Boy”, “The Night Me and Your Mama Met”
Aaron Taylor – Better Days (EP)
London-based Aaron Taylor has established himself as a soulful, self-harmonizing, tight-horn-section-employing singer and producer, resulting in a D’Angelo-esque style in many ways. His latest EP Better Days follows his Still Life EP from earlier this year as another sharply-produced record with a mix of funky licks, slow jams, and samples of Martin Luther King Jr. If you’re into Aaron Taylor’s brand of soul off this EP, check out “Easy”, “Lesson Learnt”, and “Blue” from Still Life.
Highlights: “Just Gon’ Wait”, “Be Alright”, “Breakfast”, “Lay My Troubles Down”
Buttering Trio – Threesome
I tried to come up with my own description of Buttering Trio’s unique sound, but stumbled across the “About” section of their website – it describes them perfectly. Hope you guys are as down for fat bass lines & Israeli funk as I am:
“Buttering Trio are three gentle souls from Tel Aviv trying to bring the funk to the desert. Using heavy beats, fat bass lines and sweet yet poignant lyrics, they try to bring some peace in a troubled region. What started out as studio jams in a smoky basement in Berlin evolved into a world-wide-touring music-making three headed love monster.”
Highlights: “Love In Music”, “Unexperienced”, “Dig Deep”, “Dreaming of India”, “The Runner”
(One-off miscellaneous favorites)
Seu Jorge – “Tive Razao (I Was Right)”
Brazilian songwriter, crooner, and actor Seu Jorge probably stole a lot of beautiful ladies’ hearts with this spicy tune.
Jamiroquai – “You Give Me Something”
Pronounced Jah-MEER-oh-kwai, their British acid jazz / disco funk is just about as funky as their band name. “You Give Me Something” has never failed to loosen the hips when they’re most in need.
Fat Freddy’s Drop – “Ernie”
Fat Freddy’s Drop brings a jazz-reggae-soul-funk-brass blend from the hinterlands of New Zealand. One of their top tracks, “Ernie”, is “choice as”, as the Kiwis like to say.
Robert Glasper – “Chant”
Having collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, and Stevie Wonder, absurdly talented pianist Robert Glasper is at the forefront of jazz-hip-hop fusion. “Chant” is an older track of his from 2005 stripped of hip-hop influence, but one that showcases his brilliance on the keys.
The Short List
(A space for sometimes relevant, sometimes collaborative, and sometimes unrelated content)