Since I launched this blog in March, I have tried to write about as many wonderful things as I can, in essays, the podcast, and every Friday in the New Release Roundup. Try as I might, I can’t write about all the good stuff coming out. This will be my annual attempt to correct that. For the next ten days, I’ll be highlighting albums I missed in 2016. To cast an even wider net, I’ve enlisted some talented friends to write about some of their favorites this year. You can read that here.
Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
Listening to “Me and Your Mama” from Childish Gambino’s (a.k.a. Donald Glover) new album, Awaken, My Love!, I couldn’t help but think of Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe/Overnite Sensation. The song comes on like dreamy R&B, pitch wheel on the keyboard lazily bending around bubbling electric piano and singers singing about love. Then, at minute two, Glover’s inner Frank comes raging out, best Stankfoot forward, with a nasty, funky guitar riff over a shuffle. He’s in full frenzy (think Prince in “Darling Nikki”), supported by a choral blast. This album does keep you on your toes. It’s got a virulently funky heart, hard to stand still while it’s playing. And as much as Glover and his players are hitting you with everything they’ve got, musically and metaphorically, it never feels over the top. It’s got an undeniable rhythm to keep it grounded. That was part of what Zappa did so well, and that’s all over the album (if you’re making a mix, put “Boogieman” and “Zombies” together with “Zombie Woof” and “Cheepnis”). Another band that did that well was Parliament Funkadelic, and if you hear that on “Riot,” it’s partly because Glover co-wrote it with George Clinton. And there are some tender and surprisingly heartfelt moments. “Have Some Love” is an earnest, old school brotherhood anthem. “The Night Me And Your Mama Met” reprises the softer moments of “Me and Your Mama” without the monster funk. “California” is a goofy reggae tune that feels like background music for a montage in a movie Glover might star in. It’s a dynamic album, a soundtrack to make you sweat.
“Me and Your Mama”
“Have Some Love”