Music is why we do this. It is the core of our journey. We openly obsess over converting analog art into digital bliss. We stare at squiggly lines, hoping the slightest change will make our feet tap that much harder. We use every bit of knowledge from science to fantasy, even tolerating being lied to just to hear a little more truth.
“You only have two ears!” Yes, but these ears get to experience near infinite replays of songs as new experiences. From chill vibes to being truly transcendent. It is everything between those moments that keeps us doing what we do. Enjoying the music. Music is the audiophile. So what sounds are flowing through The Music Den?
This week I’ve been enjoying new Kendrick Lamar, new Raheem DeVaughn, some recent Jacob Collier, and new Black Keys. Kendrick knows just when to show up. We’ve had a difficult few years and the commentary of great story tellers helps us process and heal. Mr. Morale & the Big Stepper is a deeply personal story from someone with a largely different journey than my own, but it still feels like I was a part of it. I look forward to many listening sessions with this album.
Raheem DeVaugh is someone I used to see performing live when I frequented Sol Village @ SOBs in the city (NYC). He and Eric Roberson were among my favorite R&B acts. Their energy and fan interactions always made you feel a part of the music. This album is no different from that feeling. The standout track for me on From Lust Till Dawn is Retrograde. Though it is a cover of James Blake’s song, the absolute soul and smoothness it is delivered with makes it brand new. You know a cover is good when you feel no need to compare it to the original. They are both separate masterpieces here.
My post-Memorial Day listening sessions have weaved in and out of a few genres. I checked out Angel Olsen’s new album “Big Time”, Flume’s lastest LP “Palaces”, Orville Peck’s impressive full-length titled “Bronco”, and finally the newest release from Kelly Lee Owens “LP.8”.
Angel Olsen continues to provide pleasing backdrops for her vocal chops to swoon and shine on her latest effort. This time around, her album “Big Time” has a few tracks that trade the melancholic chamber atmospheres for a little extra country twang. However, pinning this release as a country record is a bit too broad strokes, as this album is a journey into Angel’s personal life while using her vocal acrobatics to highlight her emotional roller-coaster since “All Mirrors”.
I’ve kept in touch with Flume since his collaborative song with Chet Faker (a.k.a. Nick Murphy) called “Drop The Game”. On first listen, this album is a bit more like his last major release “Skin” in 2016 than his more experimental 2019 mixtape “Hi This is Flume”. The guests on this album provide some hooks for Flume’s brand of wonky production and sonic soundscapes. I used to get excited for Flume singles and releases in the past, but I’m feeling a bit apathetic on this new one. “Palaces” as an album is fine for me to engage with passively, but I’m not as excited about this one compared to when his last two releases dropped after the same number of listens.
One of the first records I heard on my newest speaker setup was Orville Peck’s “Bronco”. I was thoroughly impressed with his vocal ability this time around compared to 2019’s “Pony”. Songs like “Outta Time” and “C’mon Baby, Cry” are easy listening pop-country cuts that showcase how Orville is owning this lane of glam country. At almost an hour of material, Peck’s major label debut is a lovely entry point into a new era of country.
Kelly Lee Owens is an artist I was late to the party to. I didn’t get into her back catalog until 2021, at which point I realized I had missed out on some incredible downtempo electronic albums. Both her self-titled and “Inner Song” releases soundtracked a handful of trips I made in the latter half of 2021. “LP.8” is the meditative and ethereal challenge to the previously groovy era of KLO. Songs “Release” and “Sonic 8” really showcase this shift in what is usually a dreamy electro bliss.
Handling my enjoyment of these albums was my Lii F15 open-baffle speakers with Caintuck baffles powered by the Hegel H360 integrated amplifier and Bricasti M1-SE DAC. With the warmer weather, I’ve been enjoying using speakers for the breathing room around my ears and the ability to recline and get lost in melodies.
This week’s edition of The Music Den is a new fixture that all of us here at Den-Fi are eager to shout out what’s been in our weekly rotations, morning drives, or evening decompressions. Without music, the gear we love loses appreciation. We may only have a few hours of free time during a busy week as we juggle our lives. However, taking the time to engage in at least one album distraction-free can be the metaphorical liberation we need. Escapism where even the senses that aren’t active can play a role in our experience with an artist’s aural tale.