Now that the PNW winter and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is in full effect, taking time away from consuming/analyzing the news on social media is even more important. By now, Portlanders know that staying healthy and refreshing your soul is vital to the resistance. You can’t pour from an empty cup! So as folks begin to skip off gleefully into the new year (without Trump), please remember to take care of thy mental, physical, and emotional health on a daily basis. And on a weekly basis, please use this Refresh column as a designated break for you to get a class of water, stretch, take some deep breaths (in through your nose and out your mouth), and then dive in to a few new music releases that could help refresh your mind.
Winter Soulstice 2020, Various
Released on January 15, this 20-track winter-themed project features a slew of instrumentalists from Portland’s jazz scene collaborating on a thorough offering of eclectic lofi jazz. The project is the follow-up to July’s Lofijazzsoul Summer Soulstice 2020 project. Featured artists for this one include pianist Charlie 3rown, trumpeter Farnell Newton, percussionist Corydrums, composer/saxophonist BrandonLee Cierley, Hunter Gillam (also sax), drummer Tyrone Hendrix, Domo Branch, producer Luvjones, and more. If you’re looking for something chill and jazzy to put on while you work, read or do chores this season, this album is sure to satisfy.
“Black Beauty,” Ben Harper
After dropping his 2020 instrumental project Winter Is For Lovers, Ben Harper’s self-affirming pro-Black anthem “Black Beauty” is a new original he made for a new documentary called Black Boys, which “illuminates the full spectrum of Black male humanity in America through an intimate, intergenerational conversation at the intersection of sports, education and criminal justice.” The song itself repeats “Beautiful, so beautiful,” and names a plethora of things that Black kids can grow up to be. “I am an astronaut/I am a president/I am a revolutionary/I'm your neighbor,” Harper sings. “We are black/We are beautiful/So beautiful.” On the production side of things, everything is very fleshed out with a celebratory feel in the vein of Stevie Wonder’s arrangements on Songs In the Key of Life. Watch the beautiful melanin-packed music video below.
“Citizen” Sir Sly, feat Gary Clark Jr.
While I wasn’t too familiar with rock band Sir Sly, this single’s angsty lyrics that call out Trump supporters and eerie production that feels like heavy progressive stomps have won me over. The song’s about not wanting to be a perfect citizen during these troubling and tense times. “I don't wanna be a good boy and keep my mouth shut/Keepin' quiet for fear instead of openin' up,” sings frontman Landon Jacobs. “Little red hat, signal white pride/What you thinkin'? What you thinkin'?/White lie, sign of the times/What's the dream that you've been dreamin'?/You will never make anything great again/And you're not my friend, can I get an Amen?” Then comes Gary Clark Jr’s fierce, distorted guitar solo that brings the song to its highest and most beautifully chaotic peak.
“Lo Vas A Olvidar” Billie Eilish, feat ROSALIA
If there’s anyone whose music embodies the lives of modern emo teens, it’s Billie Eilish. Recently, Eilish teamed up with ROSALIA for this song for the HBO series Euphoria. While the song is definitely a somber one, there’s definitely a place for it, especially these days. If you’re feeling moody, sad, or just want to listen to something that sounds like it while you take a bath or whatever, this song is a good addition to that playlist.
“MLK Dr,” Smino
“Maybe we shouldn’t be getting this high,” Smino begins, a couple lines before singing “I just seen a martian right off Martin Luther King.” The minute and a half-long song is a quick trip but an enjoyable one, especially for smoking weed to. Also make sure to watch the animated music video which depicts an epic car ride through the sky.
Miss the live concert-going experience? Then DO NOT MISS the new Mercury Music Series, featuring livestream performances by your fave Portland artists—debuting with the fantastic BLOSSOM! Coming at you tomorrow, Thursday January 28! GET THOSE TICKETS HERE!