1. Iggy Pop, “Post Pop Depression” (Loma Vista)
Back in 1976, after the Stooges dissolved, David Bowie whisked Iggy Pop away to Berlin and produced his foremost pioneering solo recordings, “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life,” under a drug-addled haze. Now, some 40 years later, alternative rock kingpin Josh Homme lured the 68-year-old out to Joshua Tree via text and made an album that repeats musical history.
Rumored to be Pop’s final album, “Post Pop Depression” is ravishing as far as parting statements go. Pop, now a punk veteran, retains and renovates his unhinged, back-alley poet antics, crookedly crooning morbid prose with his worn baritone on tracks such as “Gardenia” and “In The Lobby.”
Although the album should warrant a victory lap, Pop quarrels with the idea of retrospection as his veins still run rampant with cynicism. From marring his job’s legacy as a “masquerade of recreation” on “Sunday” to stating, “I have nothing but my name” on “American Valhalla,” Pop ruminates on the troughs of his career to conserve his remaining sense of levelheadedness.
Overall, this album manifests the idea that Pop is at his most potent when under the influence of a collaborative environment. The musical backdrop gifted to Pop from the future generation of rock presents an ideal blend of nostalgia and innovation that echoes his golden years in Berlin. Age, however, plays no factor on the album, as Iggy Pop is still searching, and perhaps more importantly, still destroying.
2. Larry Young, “In Paris: The ORTF Recordings” (Resonance)
As far as musical discoveries go, these unearthed Larry Young recordings are the crème de la crème.
While legendary jazz organists such as Jimmy Smith or the Buffalo-born Lonnie Smith reverberated gospel outbursts in their playing, Larry Young was infatuated with the modality of John Coltrane’s style and ultimately rewrote the rules surrounding the Hammond B3.
These recordings, while musically superb, also offer important insight into Young’s formative years in Paris. Shortly after these 1964-65 recordings were made, Young traveled back to New York and recorded the seminal “Unity” for Blue Note – a record which sat on a thin line separating post-bop from the avant-garde.
The talents of the impeccable trumpeter Woody Shaw, drummer Billy Brooks, saxophonist Nathan Davis, and a cast of international players complement Young’s playing flawlessly, fossilizing this discovery as an essential stage in the evolution of the organ as a jazz instrument.
3. Charles Bradley, “Things We Do For Love” (Daptone)
The rise of singer Charles Bradley is an uplifting narrative seemingly straight out of a movie: After plodding through lifelong entanglements with homelessness, odd jobs and heartache, Bradley eclipsed street life and was discovered by Daptone Records, a redemptive beacon of hope that let the world hear his story. Later is better than never in this case, as the 67-year-old reproduces the golden era of soul’s raw emotion and delivers it during turbulent times when we desperately need it.
“Things We Do For Love,” a single taken off of Bradley’s upcoming third album, “Changes,” is a smoldering piece of Motown nostalgia. The classic doo-wop backing singers; the lush horn arrangements; Bradley’s weathered, evocative voice capable of bringing anyone to their knees – all elements aid in extending his goal of modernizing classic soul. If this were the ’70s, Charles Bradley would be, without a doubt, a household name; however, today he holds the unique opportunity to continue the legacy of soul music into future generations and finally receive the fame he deserves.
4. New Order, “Singularity,” live on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”
The pioneering post-punk/new wave group New Order celebrated the release of “Singularity,” the now-third single off last year’s “Music Complete” (Mute), with an energetic performance on “The Late Show.” “Music Complete” marked the band’s first album of new material in a decade, and arguably, their best effort since 1989’s “Technique.”
As a single, “Singularity” is a great representation of the signature New Order style formed in the early ’80s – Joy Division-rooted influence, driving bass lines, elaborate synth convolutions and discreetly complex lyrics by Bernard Sumner. Sure, bassist Peter Hook has left, but for a band having to move on from the resignation of a founding member, “Singularity” holds its own and then some.
5. Sarah Vaughan, “Live at Rosy’s” (Resonance)
The fabled legacy of “The Divine One” lives on with this newly discovered 1978 live recording, originally recorded for NPR’s “Jazz Alive” program. A late-career gem, Vaughan’s eloquent voice is free to soar past musical boundaries as her trio fosters a subtle atmosphere teeming with opportunity. This set, while stunning in every way, further solidifies the genius Vaughan held as a performer and an artist.
Matthew Aquiline is a senior at Lancaster High School.