It’s probably pointless to write about Cracker Island, the latest album from Gorillaz, almost a month after it was released. It’s already been heavily reviewed. It’s a Billboard chart hit. If you’re into the long-running collaboration between Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and a revolving cast of star musicians and producers, you probably already have Cracker Island.
Still, I’m going to write a couple paragraphs about Cracker Island here just in case you missed it. After all, it is very easy for the albums you want to hear to get lost in the algorithms.
Star Creature Universal Vibrations is a Chicago-based record label dedicated to “contemporary boogie” that’s been around since 2015. They first hit my radar a couple years after that, back when Salt Box Records had a brick-and-mortar in Chinatown and I picked up a new release from a Russian outfit called Venus Express II based almost solely on the cover art. As it turns out, the record was just as cool as the album sleeve, so now I consider Star Creature to be a mark of quality for funky, synth-heavy tunes.
Perhaps like a lot of other DJs, I’ve been playing Nuovo Testamento a lot in my sets since nightlife returned. The disco mix of “Vanity” was one of the most-played tracks in my sets last year, in fact, I think I only played “Machina” from Boy Harsher more often.
The summer before the pandemic, my husband and I went to go see The Space Lady at Zebulon. It was a strange night. An earthquake hit while we were eating dinner and watching Skyfall in Spanish at an Armenian restaurant not far from the venue. That might have also been the night at Zebulon that ended with a parking ticket as well, but my memory of pre-pandemic times fails me. Regardless, what I do remember is that we got to Zebulon early enough to catch opener Maraschino, who I had never heard before that night. Her sound, a synth pop-disco hybrid, caught my attention immediately and I’ve been following her work since then.
The moral of the story is always try to catch the opening act, even on those very strange nights.
Taleen Kali has a new album out today called Flower of Life and you need to hear it.
Last August, I got to DJ for Taleen Kali’s tour kickoff show at Rubycon Records in Los Angeles. One of the joys of that night was getting to hear Taleen and the band play music from Flower of Life, an album that was, at that point, still months away from release. I remember them ripping through “Trash Talk” most vividly. There’s an immediacy to the song. I had never heard it before that night— it wasn’t released as a single until that November— but, by the song’s end, I felt like I knew it. To me, that’s the sign of a killer pop song.