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Janet Jackson performs live to a packed Sony Centre in Toronto on March 12, 2011. (Tim Fraser For The Globe and Mail)
Janet Jackson performs live to a packed Sony Centre in Toronto on March 12, 2011. (Tim Fraser For The Globe and Mail)

Two songs you need to hear: Sean Michaels’s playlist of the week Add to ...

Shotgun Jimmie – Walkman Battery Bleed (2016)

I’ve always wanted Shotgun Jimmie to be mayor. Mayor, premier, cabinet minister, maybe even the Senate’s Usher of the Black Rod. (Before you ask, no, not prime minister. Peaches for prime minister.) Jimmie is an advocate. He is a community organizer. He is a lover, a fighter, a hoper, a gentleman committed to everybody’s best intentions. When I was sent his new record, Field of Trampolines, it came with a badge. The badge said JOIN THE BAND. I do not know anyone else singing small stories with this much spirit, humility and wit. The humility’s important: With his straining voice, his ramshackle-brilliant electric guitar-playing, Jim Kilpatrick has a little of the manner of the sideman. And yet he is not. It is as if the sideman found out that he has inherited a throne. “They say that you are what you eat,” he once sang. “And I feel like I musta ate a king.”

On this new album, the should-be mayor of Brandon, Man., sings love letters to friends in bands like Eric’s Trip and Constantines; he makes infectious, Pavement-y pop with producer Joel Plaskett and members of the band Human Music. But my favourite track on the LP is the one that lunges beyond its tidy, lo-fi hooks and out toward something unresolved. Walkman Battery Bleed starts with two medium-clean guitars and ends in glittering, cloudy noise. For me, it’s a song about the not-quite-nearness of adolescent nostalgia: the way those teenage feelings stay close, blurry and earnest, yet still just out of reach. Jimmie’s warm chords mingle with new riffs, fizzing melancholy, and even a bit of Hoagy Carmichael’s Heart and Soul. The kids these days may never see their Walkman’s AA batteries bleed out in their cases, but everything else they’re gonna learn, or are already feeling.

Janet Jackson – Alrite (Kaytraflip) (2016)

Montreal’s mighty Kaytranada goes kaleidoscopic on Janet’s Alright, from 1989. He did what DJs sometimes do: He found a magnificent old record and cut the thing to ribbons, knit it into something else. In this case, Janet’s original is the “something else.” Alrite ’s true substance consists of a long-lost Brazilian groove – Mirandolina, by mid-70s act Burnier and Cartier – which Kaytranada found somehow, somewhere, and transformed into newness. The finished edit is beautiful and fresh, hot and vivid. It’s like a golden wheel of fortune, a Price is Right samba with Janet Jackson as its guest. There’s nothing I’d rather hear on a dance floor, or in my kitchen, or running through melted snow. The next time you need an argument for getting up in the morning, going out or getting on with love – get this. And repeat.

Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.

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