Frank Ocean, "Blonded 02" radio show. (Beats 1/Apple Music). The Los Angeles-based R&B superstar recently issued the second installment of his Beats 1 show, and it feels like a shuffle-play peek at Ocean's musical psyche.
In opening with a breathtaking chorale spiritual from jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams' 1964 album, "Mary Lou Williams presents Christ of the Andes," Ocean sets a meditative tone, as if to center listeners in a moment of overwhelming power. He jumps from vintage to contemporary, reflecting moments in time against each other.
Los Angeles producer and guitarist Steve Lacy's "Dark Red" butts against a buzzing new track by New England/London group Something for Your M.I.N.D. Ocean drops songs by hip hop producers J Dilla and DJ Shadow, plays Port Arthur, Texas, rap duo UGK, R&B legends Usher and Whitney Houston and beyond. And, of course, he plays a few of his own works: "Solo," from his album "Blond," and his new single, "Chanel." Combined, the set confirms a crucial Ocean trait: excellent taste. (Available with Apple Music subscription.)
Ann Magnuson, "Open Letter to an Open Letter" (self-released). To paraphrase the singer, actress and performance artist Magnuson, "Seriously, what the heck?" Not one to pull punches, the Los Angeles-based artist repeatedly employs a more combustible word than "heck" on her new 12-minute work, which wrestles with the Internet, social media, hashtag culture, superficiality and the Trump-era political landscape, and does it along with a Last Poets-style conga rhythm accompaniment.
Magnuson rose in New York's 1980s downtown arts scene, earning attention for her deft monologues and acclaim in musical circles for her work in the 1990s as one half of the group Bongwater. (Warning: The song below contains a lot of profanity, may strike some as offensive and is not safe for work.)
The artist premiered her new song, "Open Letter to an Open Letter," in mid-March at the Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater. She did so as part of a sold-out performance called, "Seriously, WTF?! Dream Girl Reacts to the National Nightmare."
In a post for the website Dangerous Minds, Magnuson outlined the genesis of the song, which she recorded a few years back but never released. "In the three years since the piece was written the mad chatter on the Internet has become so voluminous, so unhinged, so ugly and combative that there can be no doubt that we really are in the midst of a Civil War. And that battlefield is getting really bloody." The song bears that out.
Kevin Morby, "Come to Me Now" lyric video (Dead Oceans). The Mount Washington-based singer and songwriter earned much praise for last year's delicate album "Singing Saw," which landed on a lot of best of 2016 lists. For his forthcoming album, "City Music" (June 16), Morby focuses on urban themes.
"Come to Me Now" is the first song to come from the album, and you can hear Morby's avowed influences, Lou Reed and Patti Smith, in his delivery and in the musical atmospherics.
"The organ you're hearing on this song is an old pump organ from the 1800s," wrote Morby in release notes. "I wish I could remember the brand — but I don't. This was my favorite part of recording this album, playing this thing and pumping air into it with the foot pedals."
Morby added that at first he thought the organ was a studio prop but committed to using it when he learned that it still worked. Added Morby: "Above it hung a framed photo of the original owner of the studios property, who died some time ago. Apparently his ghost still occupies the premises."