Essential tracks: Joey Badass' 'Teach Me' is catchy and simple

Randall Roberts
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
Joey Badass, Django Django and Lee Ann Womack offer essential tracks

Joey Badass, "Teach Me" (Cinematic Music Group/Red). A joyful, bawdy celebration of the body and the miraculous ways it can move, New York rapper Joey Badass' new "Teach Me" features a catchy, simple refrain that says a lot: "Teach me how to dance." Quick-tempoed and exuberant, the track is another tease from the artist's eagerly awaited debut album, "B4.DA.$$."

"Teach Me" is a bonus track, which bodes well for rest of the album (due Jan. 20). "Life's like, life's just like a tango, tango/ You gotta move that, move that don't break an ankle," he raps. As he does, a frantic beat co-produced by ASTR and Chuck Strangers, the latter a member of Badass' Pro Era collective, drives hard.

Of course, dancing's also a euphemism here, as anyone grooving to "Teach Me" learns when guest vocalist Kiesza arrives to start educating. By the end, we've all learned a lot.

Django Django, "First Light" (Because/Ribbon Music). A five-minute missive from a British band whose self-titled debut was one of the best rock albums of 2012, Django Django's "First Light" continues along the band's impressive trajectory. Mixing dusty-sounding synth tones, warbling analog harmonies and big hand claps, "First Light" has the vibe of psychedelic London circa 1967 — if most of the strummy guitars were replaced with analog synthesizers. The result is a humming trippiness that teems with Zombies-style harmonies and go-go happy bounce. The first song from the quartet's as-yet untitled forthcoming album, it's certainly not a huge departure. But the band's sound is already so distinctive that too much of a deviation would have been a disappointment anyway.

Lee Ann Womack, "Out on the Weekend" (Sugar Hill). Some versions of songs are just better than others, and what country singer Lee Ann Womack does with Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend" is a case in point. "Weekend" is one of my favorite Young songs, but that only expands my admiration of Womack's take. Taken from her recent album "The Way I'm Livin'," she adds a twangy energy to the song, which first appeared on Young's 1972 album "Harvest," and fills it with a longing just as heavy as the original.

Where Young and his band played it low and soft, almost like a blues, Womack adds lots of Nashville as she sings about the desire to "pack it in and buy a pickup, take it down to L.A." A pedal steel guitar hums, an acoustic guitar strums. She sings of running from a love, of starting anew. Womack and her Nashville band patiently move through the version with a violin soloing in due time, trading lines with a pedal steel. The result, one of many such revelations on Womack's latest, lingers long after the coda fades.

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