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Instant Replay: 059

A collage of 10 albums featured in this article.
This series highlights our favorite music of the moment – discoveries we’ve made when we’re at home cooking or cleaning, at the office, or out and about. Classical or otherwise, old, new, or just really cool, these are the tracks we’ve had on repeat this month. Find a cumulative playlist at the end of this post. Happy listening!
This series highlights our favorite music of the moment – discoveries we’ve made when we’re at home cooking or cleaning, at the office, or out and about. Classical or otherwise, old, new, or just really cool, these are the tracks we’ve had on repeat this month. Find a cumulative playlist at the end of this post. Happy listening!

Ariana Grande — bye
Julia Marcus

Ariana Grande's seventh studio album Eternal Sunshine is a juicy blend of fact and fiction, but it primarily centers around Grande's marriage coming to an end. You could hear similar sentiments of heartbreak/betrayal/love in the dramatic arias of Madame Butterfly or Don Giovanni, but what if that sentiment was tossed in a blender with glittery strings, fizzy synths, and sweet R&B vocals? Here's the delicious result:

Sade — Smooth Operator
Laura Carlo

How is it possible that Sade's "Smooth Operator" is 40 years old this year? It was her first hit from her debut album, Diamond Life.

You want to know if something was ever really good? Play it 40 years later and see if it still holds up.

It does. Happy Anniversary, Sade.

Beeef, Sidney Gish — I’m So Sorry
Kendall Todd

My colleague Nick Benevenia turned me onto Beeef, the Allston-local band known for tracks like “Dogs*** Paradise” (about Allston) and “Time For Beeef” (about Beeef). Another artist from Boston, Sidney Gish, guests on this track, which has lyrics like “When I was in high school / My mom drove me back from the North Shore / And I fell asleep. / I remember when I woke up / I felt bad that she had no one to talk to.” I’m not a Boston native, but I’ve lived here long enough that Beeef’s hyper-local lyrics speak to me, too – and their ‘90s college-rock sound is fun and nostalgic in the best way.

Thomas Campion, Barbara Bonney — Never Weather Beaten Sail
Tony Rudel

I was writing in my office when Barbara Bonney’s rendition of Thomas Campion’s Never Weather Beaten Sail came on my playlist. I stopped what I was doing and listened to it 38 times in a row. It is a stunning portrayal of a willingness to let fate be fate.

The Foundations — Build Me Up Buttercup
Katie Ladrigan

There's something about this time of year... the winter months are finally over, the daffodils start to emerge, the sun glinting off the water... that bitterly cold wind, and those gray clouds that just WILL NOT leave. Until spring finally moves in, I find myself going back to this classic on all the overcast days, both as a complaint about the teasing nature of spring, and as an instant pick-me-up — who can resist belting along (badly) to "WHY DO YOU build me up..."

Ricky Kej, Pekka Kuusisto, Joonas Ahonen — Arambhah
Brian McCreath

I’ve rarely heard a Boston Symphony guest artist so completely hold the Symphony Hall audience in the palm of his/her hand, but that’s what Pekka Kuusisto pulled off at the beginning of March when he played Nielsen’s Violin Concerto and, for an encore, a Finnish folk tune. He turned out to be just as engaging one-on-one in my interview with him. In the process of preparing our broadcast of that concert, I ran across his recording of this really delightful, short piece by Ricky Kej.

Judy Henske — High Flying Bird
Edyn-Mae Stevenson

My first introduction to Judy Henske's music happened years ago when I picked up this album in a used record store. What really grabbed my attention was a letter from poet Shel Silverstein on the back. The story goes that Henske asked Silverstein to write the liner notes for her new album and instead he wrote a (tongue-in-cheek) treatise on why she would make a terrible wife, which she then published in place of the liner notes. I thought she sounded like my kind of girl, took the record home, and the rest is history. In the title track, Henske watches a bird and imagines flying away from her problems.

Meklit — Float and Fall
Jamie Kmak

I came across Meklit in early 2020 and had tickets to see her perform as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston back in March 2020, but, well. You know.

The jazz, folk, and East African influences in her music are intoxicating, and I immediately appreciate anyone who can casually work more bass clarinet into my playlists.

I still haven’t gotten to see her perform live, but thankfully this song is still associated with March and the burgeoning spring weather from back when I first heard it. And just as spring brings new life, this song brought some of my favorite drumming exercises.

Mdou Moctar — Chismiten
Sai Patel

It's finally springtime, and with that comes a certain energy that I think is wonderfully captured and complimented by the work of Nigerien songwriter Mdou Moctar. I discovered this album not too long ago, coming across a YouTube video of Moctar and his group recording a handful of performances of songs off of his then-upcoming album Afrique Victime, in the outskirts of Niamey, Niger's capital. What they thought would be a quick live recording session spontaneously and beautifully became a performance to a crowd that was singing and dancing through the night. I've had this whole album on repeat, captivated by the blend of ethereal electric blues guitar, booming synthesizers, and the deeply-rooted influence of Saharan nomadic tribal rhythms that you can find throughout. "Chismiten," the first track off of Afrique Victime, serves as a wonderful first impression to the rest of this incredible work.

Kali Malone, Etienne Ferchaud — Passage Through the Spheres
William Peacock

I have only just been able to listen to Kali Malone’s latest album All Life Long, but it was easily love at first listen. To my ear, Malone’s unique post-minimalist aesthetic echoes that of composers like Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, and Alfred Schnittke, while entirely retaining her own compositional voice. Much like Schnittke and Pärt, Malone frequently evokes the medieval, with instrumental forces including organ (specifically tuned to yield unconventional harmonies), brass ensemble, and choir drifting in parallel motion at a glacial pace. Like much of Reich and Pärt’s music, Malone’s is contemplative, inward, and slowly evolving, yet retains a sense of propulsion in its subtle changes. If you are looking for an hour and twenty-minute sound bath, this album is it. But if you’re looking for the diet version, the opening track “Passage Through the Spheres” is an excellent substitute.

Enjoy the full Instant Replay playlist here, or listen to the March playlist below.