Music » In Rotation

Slo 'Mo DJ Tess Kisner on the antidote to terrible mainstream radio

Plus: MC Rita J on a new album for sophisticated hip-hop heads, the Reader's Tal Rosenberg on the best DJ-Kicks mix yet, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

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Tal Rosenberg, Reader digital content editor

DJ Koze, DJ-Kicks The 50th installment of the !K7 label's long-running mix-CD series, DJ-Kicks, is the best yet. Hamburg-based producer and remixer Koze craftily deploys edits, remixes, and mashups to create a mix that somehow sounds eclectic and yet unmistakably like his own recorded music. One sequence in the middle effortlessly flows from Freddie Gibbs & Madlib to Broadcast to Daniel Lanois to William Shatner before launching into 30 minutes of elegant, sumptuous tech house.

Jim O'Rourke, Simple Songs The former Chicagoan's latest for Drag City blends all the styles of his previous releases for the label: the instrumental folk of Bad Timing, the pomp and Van Dyke Parks gestures of Eureka, the rock of Insignificance, and the lush experimental Americana of The Visitor. But Simple Songs sounds more familiar than any of those albums, playing like a quirky, sarcastic, and slightly askew singer-­songwriter record from the 70s. Slot it next to Newman and Nilsson in your collection.

Greil Marcus, Mystery Train Speaking of Randy Newman, the chapter devoted to him in Marcus's 1975 book is my favorite. His reading of Newman's "Sail Away" is dead-on, especially his interpretation of the slaver and con man who serves as the song's protagonist: "He has looked without flinching into the bewildered eyes that are perhaps the most terrible of all. But for the moment, he believes himself." The "Notes and Discographies" section is arguably better than the book itself.

Tal is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Hiatus Kaiyote - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Hiatus Kaiyote

Tess Kisner, resident DJ at Slo 'Mo

Daley, "Look Up" This instant classic is the kind of song you fall in love with in three seconds. Listen to it loud! A track by British artist Daley from his 2014 debut album, Days + Nights, "Look Up" hits deep thanks to his powerful delivery, outstanding lyrics, enrapturing emotion, and flawless progressions—it's no surprise that this gem was produced by Pharrell. It's definitely a jam for the steppers—Daley killed it with this one!

Hiatus Kaiyote I didn't know about this Australian quartet until I experienced their collective aura at Double Door. Their power-­jazz neosoul (with a heavy dose of bohemia) sounds like classically trained players connecting to the cosmos. The time switches will have you mesmerized, and you'll practically melt when you hear lead singer Nai Palm pour out her heart. This year's Choose Your Weapon, their latest album, is everything you've ever wanted.

Vocalo Can I just say thank you? Some of us listen to the radio as a practice—we like to keep an ear on trends in music out of curiosity, no matter what we think of them. In Chicago, the radio can be a scary and devastating place—an awkward corner of the universe devoid of newness, true representation, and positive vibes. Vocalo fills those absences by offering conscious, diverse programming and conversation while showcasing underground and independent artists. It's refreshing and absolutely necessary. Kudos, Vocalo—we hear you!

Tess is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Makaya McCraven plays with the Greg Spero Quartet on a UK trip in 2014. - ALAN SAWYER VIA FLICKR
  • Alan Sawyer via Flickr
  • Makaya McCraven plays with the Greg Spero Quartet on a UK trip in 2014.

Rita J, MC

Oddisee, The Good Fight MC and producer Oddisee is that dude, raising the bar with every release and consistently satisfying the more sophisticated hip-hop heads. This veteran from Washington, D.C., draws inspiration from his travels, culture, and aesthetic to achieve what most musicians strive for: a sustainable living and a name for himself. His latest, this spring's The Good Fight, is yet another showcase for a determined MC willing to fight for "success" despite the odds stacked against him.

J*Davey, Pomp LA duo J*Davey—aka fierce front woman Jack Davey and beatsmith Brook D'Leau—blend electro-­funk, R&B, pop, and punk rock. Their introspective, avant-garde music will have you in a trance, ready to listen over and over! J*Davey continue to grow, exemplifying a nonconformist approach to a mainstream genre that often suffers from one-dimensional, inside-the-box music-­industry thinking. Their new EP, Pomp, is the perfect soundtrack to any dance party!

Makaya McCraven, In the Moment I was recently taken by surprise and smitten by a show from Chicago drummer and producer Makaya McCraven. His quartet on this particular night had my head boppin' from start to finish, and their jazz-heavy, experimental sound was in the pocket—as well as in the hearts of all in attendance. Their improvisational instrumentals were so transcendental that I was one step away from grabbing the mike! In the Moment is clearly what I need in my life right now.  v

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