Ari Lennox, Shea Butter Baby
Ari Lennox, Shea Butter Baby Dreamville/Interscope 2019

A small sampling of what Mercury editorial staffers have been listening to lately.

Ari Lennox, Shea Butter Baby
I've been listening to soul/R&B artist Ari Lennox on the regular, but since she hasn't yet toured to Portland, it hasn't been relevant for me to write about her in the Portland Mercury pages... until now! The new addition to J.Cole's Dreamville label has a sweet and velvety voice that my eardrums can't seem to get enough of. On her 2019 album Shea Butter Baby, Lennox uses contemporary slang and subject matter as she sings about the pleasures of living alone ("New Apartment"), sultry video chats ("Facetime"), and natural hair woes ("Shea Butter Baby"). Perhaps my favorite tracks are "I Been," which sees Lennox trying to smoke away the memory of an ex while having terrible luck on Tinder; and "Up Late," a song that anticipates a late-night hook-up with a new lover, with Lennox singing "Make your way to North Hollywood/Target lingerie/Kissing your lips dipped in/Backwood tips/I been crushing on you/We can fake watch the news." Lennox also recently appeared on NPR Tiny Desk (finally), and now all I need is for her to come play a show in Portland. JENNI MOORE

Imani Coppola, The Protagonist
Imani Coppola, The Protagonist Ipecac Recordings
Imani Coppola
If anyone remembers Imani Coppola, it’s for “Legend of a Cowgirl,” her trip hop-adjacent single that scraped the Top 40 back in ’97. But in the two decades since she’s cultivated a wild, diverse discography that includes a stint with Mike Patton’s filthy soul group Peeping Tom and a guest spot on a Baha Men single. Coppola is going for the farther reaches of the musical galaxy on her new album The Protagonist (out on October 4). The record jumps giddily from a cappella fuckery to rock breakdowns to acoustic power ballads to ridiculous jump 'n’ jive tunes about lying to her therapist. Don’t try to reason this one out; just strap in and enjoy the ride. ROBERT HAM

Tucky Buzzard, Coming On Again
Tucky Buzzard, Coming On Again Edsel 2016
Tucky Buzzard, Coming On Again
British boogie band Tucky Buzzard have some renown among fans of meathead rock as well as psychedelic heads—they arose out of the ashes of the excellent late-’60s psych band the End and transformed into meaty, beaty hard-rockers with an immensely silly name. But somewhere during the transition they recorded the first Tucky Buzzard album, a progressive rock masterpiece called Coming On Again that was originally released only in Spain and doesn’t fit comfortably into either of the band’s two incarnations. The centerpiece is the side-long title suite, which threads together wildly diverse segments including a dreamy orchestral balloon ride, a folksy trombone shamble, and a classical guitar interlude, as well as the driving boogie for which Tucky Buzzard later established themselves. Coming On Again is a wonderfully eclectic artifact of prog before prog became a dirty word—a testament to the gloriously naive ambitions of the fledgling long-player era, when bands with ambition and talent to spare attempted to cram as many ideas into a side of vinyl as they could. NED LANNAMANN

Helm, Chemical Flowers
I long ago wrote off the probability of Helm ever touring the West Coast since Luke Younger is a London noise musician and Europe has a way more supportive culture for experimental artists. So it was a cool surprise to see he’s playing at Holocene on Thursday, October 3 with Blanck Mass and Steve Hauschildt. Helm is basically the thing I really want from noise: super listenable, interesting soundscapes that don’t get bogged down in the trappings of musicality. Sure, there are melodic bits on Chemical Flowers but they aren’t the focus. If you were a fan of Atticus Ross/Trent Reznor's The Social Network score, but thought, “Boy, I wish this were more abstract,” allow me to recommend Helm. SUZETTE SMITH

Tom Misch, Geography
I love that every now and again the music world will present a laid-back champion fit to carry the mantle of Smooth Groove Steward, in the proud tradition of yacht-rock heroes like Michael McDonald or Al Jarreau. The latest gangly weirdo to appear fully formed out of nowhere (to me at least—I only just found out about this dude when the All Songs Considered channel on YouTube shuffled his 2018 appearance up after watching Masego and Daniel Caesar while I was doing laundry this last Saturday) is the UK’s Tom Misch, who apparently (thanks, Wikipedia) began his career as a Dilla-acolyte, sharing beats on Soundcloud before teaching himself how to sing and becoming a young captain on the seas of smooth so notable that De La Soul saw fit to drop a guest spot on his debut album, Geography. BOBBY ROBERTS