Open Mike Eagle, "Brick Body Kids Still Daydream" (Mello Music). The Culver City-based rapper, writer and verbal bon vivant is on a roll right now, what with the release of this epic rap concept album and work on the forthcoming Comedy Central series "The New Negroes."
The artist, born Michael Eagle in Chicago, sets his new album in that city's since-demolished Robert Taylor Homes public housing project. He casts the work's protagonist, "the legendary Iron Hood," as the neighborhood's skeptical protector "brought into this world with the instinct to back the hell away/ And the will to write a rap song as long as an Alaskan day."
On "TLDR (Smithing)," Eagle boasts of his creative endurance — as well he should — by rhyming that he's "been woke so long I might need to take a nap." The artist even calls out public radio variety show "A Prairie Home Companion": "Everybody mama know the song/ But they still won't let a brother dip a toe in Lake Wobegon."
Such sharp wit defines Eagle’s work across platforms. As co-host of the long-running “The New Negroes” event at the
"Brick Body Kids Still Daydream" is Eagle's seventh solo album, and builds on his hot 2014 work, "Dark Comedy." The difference? Scope. Like the composer Stew did in his 2006 rock musical "Passing Strange," Eagle makes grand narrative connections across "Brick Body Kids ..." and does so through his skills as a storyteller and rapper with a sublimely confident flow.
Linda Perhacs, "I'm a Harmony" (Omnivore Recordings). The Canyon-based singer and composer issued an oddly beautiful experimental folk album, "Parallelograms," in 1970. It wasn't a commercial success, so Perhacs went about a career path that led her to being a West Side dental hygienist, work she continues to this day.
In the decades since its release, though, "Paralellograms" has taken on new life as an unsung canyon classic, a record too out-there for the scruffy songwriter set but very much ahead of its time. In 2014, Perhacs returned to recorded music after a 44-year absence to release "The Soul of All Natural Things."
For her third album, Perhacs has gathered a new generation of avowed musician-followers including composer-singer Julia Holter, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone (Wilco, the Autumn Defense), guitarist Nels Cline (Wilco, Geraldine Fibbers) and singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart.
As with her earlier albums, Perhacs sings of universal truths and natural wonders, pondering sad winds and spiritual growth through lush, layered vocals and gusts of sound. "Eclipse of All Love" swirls with folk guitar and a sung duet between Perhacs and Sansone.
Best are the Holter collaborations. The two might be decades apart in age, but they seem to compose as a singular mind. "Beautiful Play" is an especially ethereal piece, with layers of acoustic guitar, strings, shaker and hints of hushed percussion.
Neil Young, "Hitchhiker" (Reprise). In August 1976, Young stepped into a Malibu studio with his longtime producer-muse David Briggs and laid down a set of bare acoustic songs.
Fueled by what Young described in his 2014 memoir, "Special Deluxe," as a combination of marijuana, alcohol and cocaine, they set to tape fresh work including "Pocahontas," "Powderfinger" and "Captain Kennedy" and turned the album in to his label for possible release. Reprise rejected it as being too glum.
Some songs from "Hitchhiker" found purchase on Young's 1979 electric record "Rust Never Sleeps," but gathered as they were originally intended, "Hitchhiker" is a profound addition to Young's canon of campfire classics.