Jamie xx - Gosh (2015)
There's a wonderful confoundingness to this dance track, a preview from Jamie xx's forthcoming solo debut. Whereas the DJ's main band, the xx, built a career from what's fragile and intimate, music stripped to the skin, Gosh is a motley grab bag of sounds, so friendly it feels garrulous. At first it's a bit like a Jamaican 45 crossed with a washing machine, but soon the clatter gives way to a warm, lazy keyboard melody. The Knife might have once written a synth line like this, after a long dip in the bay. It's noodly and sunset-toned, drawn from a different landscape than the rest of Jamie's work. It's a balmy breeze; an unexpected guest; dumb contentment, floating in on a cloud.
A Tribe Called Red - Burn Your Village To The Ground (2014)
This week, CBC News released the first results of its probe into the more than 1,100 indigenous women and girls who went missing or were murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012. This report offered a tiny reason for optimism: after years of protest, many headlines, and despite a prime minister who says the issue "isn't really high on our radar," something new, at least, was happening. But I'll be honest: optimism was soon swept away again by fury. Indigenous women are almost five times as likely to be murdered as other Canadian women; in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the North, they represent more than 50 per cent of all murders. The numbers are staggering and heartbreaking. And yet the government refuses to launch a public investigation. According to the federal minister for aboriginal affairs, "the problem stems" from First Nations people themselves. Cue this track by A Tribe Called Red, simmering with impatience and rage. Cue the war drums, and the drum machines, and any thunder that can raise a march. The Ottawa trio slyly samples The Addams Family's Wednesday Addams, who herself appropriated an indigenous perspective; it's a move that makes clear waters muddy, or muddy waters clearer, letting certain listeners in on the song, reminding certain others how much fight is left to be fought.
Elis Regina – Aguas de Marco (1972)
I've been listening to this song a couple of weeks late. But the city had scarcely any March rains: Unlike Rio de Janeiro, Montreal spent most of the month snowed in. Now, at long last, we're getting that springtime drip. We're thawing beautifully into a land of cigarette butts and dog doo. Forgive as I tardily take solace in a decades-old bossa nova, a humble wonder of rhythm and harmony. At 27, Regina was already a genius of the syllable, each of her rhymes like a stone's next skip. And she sounds so hopeful! I think we need some hope. The song dances from puddle to puddle, it hops onto streetcars with a soaking umbrella, it spots a drenched poodle on the sidewalk. It has somewhere to be – and someone to be there with.
Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.