Title: Alien Stories Artist: String Noise Label: Infrequent Seams (Dist. Bandcamp) Formats: CD, Cassette, Digital Release date: April 2, 2021
The New York-based classical
avant-punk duo String Noise, featuring violinists Conrad
Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, is celebrated for their wide-ranging
performances of contemporary music. Since the duo’s founding in 2011, they have
added more than 50 new works to their repertoire. Their latest release, Alien
Stories, was influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, which also increased
attention on issues of racial equality with the musical realm. In support of
Black artists, the duo decided to co-commission, with Carnegie Hill Concerts,
new works from five young Black composer-performers based in New York City.
These five works are featured on Alien Stories.
Title: My People Artist: Cha Wa Label: Single Lock Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release Date: April 2, 2021
Since the late 19th century, Mardi Gras Indians have
paraded the streets of New Orleans outside of the gaze of tourists that flock
to Bourbon Street. The Mardi Gras Indian community is a group of primarily
Black New Orleanians who pay respect to Native Americans through their wardrobe,
music, and dialect. The tradition of Mardi Gras Indian krewes is said to have originated
to pay tribute to the Native groups that sheltered Black New Orleanians fleeing
enslavement. Drawing on this rich heritage, Cha Wa’s
My People captures the sounds of Mardi Gras Indian street parades and
blends them with other New Orleans influences including the ‘70s era funk of
The Meters, brass band music, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and African-inspired rhythms.
Title: Na Kozonga Artist: Jupiter & Okwess Label: Everloving Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release Date: April 23, 2021
Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jupiter & Okwess makes
music that pulls together international musical influences in a stand against
global injustice. Their newest release, Na Kozonga, is an explosive and
energetic compilation of music featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band horn
section, pioneer of Brazilian rap Marcelo D2, and the vocals of American Maiya
Sykes and Chilean Ana Tijoux.
Classical releases include the Catalyst Quartet’s Uncovered Vol. 1: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor featuring acclaimed clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Stewart Goodyear; and the woodwind quintet Imani Winds’ Bruits featuring guest appearances by soprano Janai Brugger and narrator John Whittington Franklin.
Also featured is composer Adrian Younge’s unapologetic critique of systemic racism on The American Negro, pianist-composer Cameron Graves’ thrash-jazz fusion release Seven, and the London-based fusion group Nubiyan Twist’s Freedom Fables.
Valerie June’s The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for
Dreamers is an amalgam of genres, referencing 1960s psychedelia, 1980s pop,
gospel, Americana, and especially Memphis soul. The connection to Memphis,
where June began her career, is evident throughout, from an appearance by Carla
Thomas to sessions recorded at Sam Phillips Studio and Royal Studios. Like this
album, Memphis is a melting pot of styles, and the instrumentation on The
Moon and Stars is just as diverse as its stylistic influences—from lush
strings to horns, pedal steel, and banjo. Jointly produced by June and Jack
Splash (Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, John Legend), the fourteen tracks of
original music have all of the elements necessary to guarantee success.
Title: Baby I’m Hollywood Artist: Judith Hill Label: Regime Music Group Formats: CD, Digital Release date: March 5, 2021
Many may be familiar with Grammy-winning artist Judith Hill through her work with
Michael Jackson, or any number of other artists ranging from Josh Groban,
Stevie Wonder and John Legend to the late Andraé Crouch. Hill was also one of
the featured backup singers in the Academy Award winning documentary 20 Feet
From Stardom (2013), and that same year she made it to the finals on The
Voice. Yet despite these successes and a debut album co-produced by Prince,
the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is still struggling in her
pursuit of a career in music. Hill’s new project, Baby
I’m Hollywood, speaks to the highs and lows of life in the spotlight,
and so much more.
Title: Simple Syrup Artist: Sunny War Label: Org Music Format: LP, Digital Release Date: March 26, 2021
Following a captivating NPR Tiny Desk performance and
an acclaimed album in 2019, Sunny
became an artist to watch for fans of acoustic roots music. Since then, the
L.A.-based singer and guitarist has certainly kept busy, founding a Los Angeles
chapter of the nonprofit Food Not Bombs, marching for BLM protests, and
recording her newest album, Simple Syrup.
Title: Firebreather Artist: Skylar Rogers Label: CD Baby (distrib.) Formats: CD, Digital Release date: January 29, 2021
With a sound that draws comparisons to Etta James and Koko
Taylor, Chicago-born vocalist Skylar
Rogers is a relatively new force on the blues scene. After the success of
her debut EP, she began touring nationally in 2019 and dropped her first single
last year. Now Rogers tears into her first full-length album, Firebreather,
with a powerful blast of energy that fuels her unique blend of “soul rockin’ blues.”
Mahon’s Black Diamond Queens: African
American Women and Rock and Roll is a chronological collection of case studies
of African American women’s contributions to rock from 1953–1984, and, simultaneously,
a feminist critique of the forces that have prevented African American women
from enjoying more success in the rock world. Mahon, an associate professor at
New York University, demonstrates that African American women and their music were
foundational to the rock genre, and that their contributions have continued to
be a driving force in the development of rock over time. These women, however, have
found success to be elusive, due to barriers of genre expectations, gender expectations,
racial expectations, and record industry marketing.