The UMC's - One To Grow On [1991]

Rap music is so beautiful. I rarely hear it described that way, but it struck me the other day while listening to this song. While much of it was born from unjust necessity, the image of young black men looking to the albums of their parents & grandparents to build a sonic background for their own paradigm shifting innovations in language is among the most impressive achievements in American culture. It takes extraordinary vision to see the whole of recorded music as a palette with which to paint new works. There's reverence and irreverence, pride and rejection all at once, and it doesn't get nearly enough praise for how lovely it really is.

Ernie Hagar & The Kingsmen - Reflections [1966]

Take a drift down that pedal steel stream. Few sounds can soothe my soul like these sliding string blues. Part of the pedal steel's secret is that the instrument begs the player to take the journey through all the tones between a song's notes, letting the listener tap deeply into the ebbs and flows of the music. And what a river this one is.

Hiroshi Yoshimura - Dance PM [1982]

Hiroshi Yoshimura made music to think by. He didn't seek to overwhelm or open a door to escape. Instead, he found a way to give the listener a microscope, a mirror, a telescope, and the space to observe what was already there. It's raining right now, and I think he would like that.

Dick Hyman - The Moog and Me [1969]

Picked this one up over at Mono Records in Glendale the other day after cueing up this track at the listening station and damn near cracking my neck to the beat. Dick Hyman was a jazz pianist who got caught up in the space age pop craze, eventually venturing into the world of experimental electronics. Here, he has the electro-funk grooves cranked all the way up and gets his Moog to replicate an incredibly believable whistle. The fact that it kicks off with the lead sample for Beck's "Sissyneck" is just the avocado on the toast.

Günter Schickert - Suleika [1983]

Just a funky little German noodle-guitar breakbeat with a splash of fireworks and metal overdrive. It feels more like a successful experiment than a full blown song, but that doesn't mean there aren't rewards to be reaped. It reminds me of the excited, endearingly unsure music my friends were making on four-track recorders back in high school, which, in all honesty, is one of my favorite genres. Not enough can be said about the warm charms of demos and doodles.

João Gilberto - Trolley Song [1970]

I'm such a sucker for the Trolley Song. It makes me feel the dumbest of blisses, and this might be my favorite version. The stripped back nonchalance that Gilberto brings to it only adds to it's private charm as it bounces about, untouched by the world around it while still able to soundtrack whatever may happen. A great Sunday song for watching the city spin.