This issue of
Citylife

Music Box

Bombino – Nomad

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Omara ‘Bombino’ Moctar is a member of a Taureg tribe, a nomadic people found throughout Saharan Africa. After growing up in Niger, Algeria and Libya, then working as a herder in Tripoli, he began honing his craft by playing with local bands and watching videos of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler. His desert blues music earned him notoriety in the region before he met Ron Wyman, who filmed a documentary on Bombino’s people and produced his first proper album, Agadez. While receiving a good deal of international attention for that effort, he seems primed for a true breakout with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as producer this time around. Agadez has a very clean sound and reminds one of fellow Saharan group Tinariwen, whereas Nomad ratchets up the volume and guitar fuzz. This is clearly the stamp of Auerbach, fresh off a Grammy win for last year’s production work on Dr. John’s Lock Down, which helped bring the good Doctor’s sound back to its dirty, swampy roots. Here, Auerbach adds excitement to Bombino’s already virtuosic playing and should help boost interest in an under-celebrated area of African music.

The Delfonics – Adrian Younge 

Presents the Delfonics

Many listeners who weren’t around for the heyday of Philly Soul were turned on to The Delfonics by Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film Jackie Brown, where femme fatale Pam Grier plays the groups’ classic hit ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)’ for Robert Forster on her turntable – prompting Forster (and probably a lot of moviegoers) to buy a Delfonics greatest hits album. The group’s sound is of the deeply soulful variety, with heavy strings, tinges of psychedelia and an odd but satisfying vocal delivery from singer William Hart that predates the quirky funk of Cee-Lo Green. Hart is the only remaining Delfonic to appear on this new release, produced by Adrian Younge. Younge, who also plays many of the instruments on the album, had previously produced the soundtrack for 2009’s Black Dynamite, another homage to 1970s blaxpoitation cinema. What you get with this pairing is a gritty re-imagining of Hart’s smooth soul, often using dark melodies that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Wu-Tang song. Highlights are opener ‘Stop and Look (And You Have Found Love)’ and ‘To Be Your One’.

David Bowie – The Next Day

Bowie’s first album in a decade sounds less like a comeback album than a continuation of the late-career peak he’d made with 2002’s Heathen and 2003’s Reality. Much like those albums had notes of his earlier work, The Next Day still finds Bowie sounding very much like himself, but not exerting the effort to keep up with (or ahead of) the sounds of the time, as he did so well for so long in the 70s and 80s. Instead, the onetime chameleon now seems focused on being himself and settling into old age. There are a handful of tracks, like the title song, where Bowie’s vocals actually sound a bit like Warren Zevon, even mimicking the late singer-songwriter’s tone with downer lyrics like “Here I am / Not quite dying / My body left to rot in a hollow tree.” Despite the often depressing subject matter, many of the tunes are catchy and upbeat, like ‘Dancing Out In Space’ and ‘How Does the Grass Grow?’ Also worth checking out is the goofy but awesome music video for ‘Where Are We Now?’, a dirge-like reflection on a long career.