Instant Replay: 035
This month's Instant Replay is all about treats: little indulgences, musical smiles, and the kinds of tunes you want to hear again and again (and again).
Rafał Blechacz — Chopin: 24 Préludes: No. 23 in F
Let’s say you’re out to dinner with a friend. They decide to splurge for dessert, and you don’t, because taking out a small mortgage for a leviathan nine-tier piece of cake isn’t justified. But then it gets there, taunting its lustrous, chocolatey goodness, and now you’re mad at yourself for not ordering one. Naturally, you make a proposition: “Can I have a bite? I’ll give you a dollar.” Your friend of course obliges. The musical “just one bite of dessert” for me recently has been Chopin’s Preludes for solo piano. It’s a collection of twenty-four short – sometimes very, very short – pieces, so pick one, toss a buck in, and indulge.
Florence + The Machine — King
When your favorite artist drops a new track and it's all you want listen to, you know it's gonna be a good month. Florence Welch, as always, strikes a balance of writing a song about an intensely personal subject told through a grand, mythical metaphor, and it's good. Have a listen, and even better, watch the music video — it's a visual feast.
Aurora — The River
I’ve been enjoying a bit of an Aurora renaissance since she released her new album at the beginning of the year. I find myself returning to this track from one of her older projects the most. Funnily enough, it’s a song about the value in having a good cry, but it has an energetic tone that’s kind of addicting. And it helps that Aurora’s lyricism and vocals are stunning, as always. On the worst days it’s cathartic; on the best days it’s just a really fun bop.
Kazakh State String Quartet — Adai
Close your eyes and you can hear horses galloping across the steppe. Normally played on the dombyra, the national instrument of Kazakhstan, this string quartet arrangement keeps the insistent, driving rhythm of the original melody. The whole album of Kazakh music for string quartet is also well worth a listen.
Kings Return — Schubert: Ave Maria
I've been following the postings of an a capella singing group called Kings Return for about a year now, and they have never disappointed. Doesn't matter if they're singing Disney's "Cruella DeVille," the American classic "Shenandoah," or even "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," from their first ever Christmas album — their stairwell harmonies are rich and beautiful and spot on. They also do their own music and have just put out an EP. I like everything they've done across the board, but just listen to this rendition of Schubert's "Ave Maria."
Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield — Albert's Shuffle
This was one of my favorite records in the '70s — an LP that my brother and I played over and over and over, called “Supersession,” featuring some of the greatest artists in the worlds of blues and rock — including the legendary producer and keyboard player Al Kooper and blues guitarist extraordinaire, Mike Bloomfield. This track has a physical effect on me — it seems like the tightness in my arms and legs just loosens as soon as I hear that guitar wail!
Boston Modern Orchestra Project — Kubik: Symphony Concertante: I. Fast, vigorously
The fact that Boston Modern Orchestra Project exists at all is something of a miracle. That it's in Boston makes us beyond fortunate. That it records prolifically (on its own label, no less) is a service to the entire world, with a catalog of stellar recordings that, cumulatively, amount to an ever-growing encyclopedia of compositional voices of the last 70 or so years. This most recent addition absolutely crackles with the off-kilter fun, energy, geometry, and hijinks of mid-century modernism. The first movement of Gail Kubik's Symphony Concertante, featuring three gobsmacking soloists, is the bright, smiling jolt I've needed on more than a few late afternoons recently.
Woodz — Bump Bump
This song has been stuck in my head practically all month. If that doesn't fit the criteria of "Instant Replay," then what does? It's bright, it's fun, it's energetic, and it's very much my vibe as we make our first steps into spring.
Listen to the full playlist: