Getting to the bottom

50 best bassists of all time

A great bass line is like a mantra: It sounds like it could go on forever, and it only feels more profound the more you hear it - Rolling Stone says in its introduction to the list of 50 best bassists of all time. It starts with Thundercat - who went from Suicidal Tendencies to West Coast Get Down - on spot No 50, to Motown's home bassist James Jamerson.

"The UK government’s idea of gigging in the age of coronavirus is an unworkable shambles. And no wonder. It’s an experience and an industry of which they have as much first-hand knowledge as a maggot does of mountain biking... Have you seen a Conservative attempting to enjoy music? It’s like watching a drunk goose try to water-ski" - NME's Mark Beaumont writes about his government's plan to save live music venues. There's a real solution - "Luckily the Music Venues Trust, backed by 500 grassroots venues across the country, have come up with their own roadmap to reopening. It’s a far simpler affair, consisting essentially of just two steps. Step one, the Government provides a £50 million fund to ensure all venues can survive until October, the earliest many envision being able to put on viable gigs. Step two, they fuck off out of it".

Up to Sony's invention of Walkman, music was primarily a shared experience. "After the Walkman, music could be silence to all but the listener, cocooned within a personal soundscape, which spooled on analog cassette tape" - New Yorker writes on the 40th anniversary of the genius gadget being shared with the world - "The Walkman wasn’t the end of meeting people, but it paved the way for surviving an unthinkable era in which we would find ourselves unable to meet at all".

Resident Advisor reports on specific rules on nightclubs reopening, as the COVID-epidemic is weakening in parts of the world: China has cautiously restarted its nightlife; South Korea has shut down its club due to a recent spike of COVID-19 infections in the country connected to the clubs; Switzerland has increased the maximum number of people allowed to attend indoor public gatherings from 300 to 1,000 with no social distancing; in Australia, nightclubs could be allowed to open as early as August if community transmission rates are kept low, although a four-square-metre-per-person rule to allow for social distancing is likely to be enforced; New Zealand has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, aside from international border controls; Bars and nightclubs in Iceland opened their doors as the government eased lockdown rules.

On June 19 - or Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States - Die Jim Crow, the first nonprofit record label for formerly or currently incarcerated musicians in America, released its first full-length album, Shirelle’s 'Assata Troi'. Shirelle, 32, was incarcerated twice, but now she holds the position of deputy director of Die Jim Crow, trying to look back on her life so far - “this album really is about coming of age, but not of age 21, more like of age 28, where you’re just starting to realize certain things”, as she's told the LA Times. Die Jim Crow was founded in 2013 by Fury Young, an artist and activist, who took to Kickstarter to raise funds for a one-off record featuring incarcerated artists, generating nearly $20,000.

In 1990, Richard Shannon Hoon started filming himself, and continued doing so during his days in psychedelic rock band Blind Melon, until he died of an overdose in 1995. His recordings are assembled in a new documentary 'All I Can Say' where everybody can see "the disillusionment of stardom psychically shut somebody down, piece by piece, before your eyes", as Rolling Stone says in their review.

An immensely talented, LA-based collective that has grown from a group of school friends using jazz as a form of escapism to become one of the most influential forces in contemporary music - Dazed writes in a big profile of West Coast Get Down. They were playing for years in LA jazz bars perfecting their craft and style – "they" being Tony Austin (drums), Ronald Bruner Jr (drums), Stephen ‘Thundercat’ Bruner (bass), Cameron Graves (keys), Brandon Coleman (keys), Miles Mosley (bassist), Ryan Porter (trombonist), Patrice Quinn (vocals), Terrace Martin (multi-instrumentalist), and Kamasi Washington (saxophonist) – when they got their big break, playing of Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly'. That wasn't the highpoint, rather a kick - West Coast Get Down is only just getting started, Dazed argues.

"[Henry] Rollins wore shorts and no shirt and slowly covered his torso with tattoos, including ones for his own band. Was it ego or pride? I loved it either way, because I had neither... I had a poster of its ['Damaged'] cover up on my bedroom wall, Rollins punching his reflection in the mirror, breaking it into a million pieces. He felt like garbage and hated himself too! Plus he had a lot of muscles. I could not have invented a more appropriate role model if I tried" - GQ's Matthew Schnipper wrote a heartwaring and earnest article about how he decided to name his son after Henry Rollins, hoping that hardcore icon will "make him tough in ways I can’t".

Venezuelan-born, Barcelona-based artist Arca released her new album, an avant-pop record 'KiCk i' which celebrates the "prenatal kick; that instance of individuation, that unmistakable moment where parents realise their baby is not under their control but has its own will to live, its own impulses that are erratic and unpredictable, separate to their own", as she told i-D in an extensive interview - "So this is celebrating the moment of disagreement that is an expression of feeling alive". About her own change from gay to trans Latina woman she said "we’re all in constant flux, you know? We’re all transitioning: from birth to death, it’s inevitable. And then there’s this transition that is optional, that socially – as imperfect and flawed as it is – allows you to express this thing that is so abstract and physical and primal".

Kanye West has shared a song 'Wash Us in the Blood', mixed by Dr. Dre and features Travis Scott, with video directed by Arthur Jafa. It goes back to West's raw sound, but it keeps the Christian narrative and gospel undertones. The video features plenty of protest footage, and some from West’s Saint Pablo Tour and Sunday Service rehearsals. The new track is set to feature on an album presently titled 'God’s Country'. Vulture has an interesting perspective on the song - "On one level, the song is a return to form and a smoother pairing of West’s newfound faith and existing politics. It’s also motivational boilerplate. But that’s to be expected. The sneaker man does not want you so free that you stop wanting sneakers”.

opMatters had made a very good selection of 50 best albums released in the first half of the year. There's albums that received wide critical acclaim, like the latest by Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan and Perfume Genius, and some that were less talked about like Amnesia Scanner, Drab City, Yves Tumor etc. To round up the review of the first six months of this year, Pitchfork made a selection of the best overlooked albums released this spring.

A beautiful article in the Sunday Long Read about alt-country musician Jim White, who was struggling with poverty and mental health, while also trying to build a career, and raise a daughter. SLR writes about how White bought a house, which turned out to be the foundation for his life, his career, and his relationship with his daughter - "Jim had learned to stand tall during his personal storms, drawing artistic inspiration from them. When he bought the Winterville house, he was in the midst of a protracted custody battle with Willow’s mother. The fight, fierce as a Category 5 hurricane, would shape his daughter’s upbringing and his identity as a parent. This struggle, and untold others to follow, would test the limits of the bond between father and child". A great read!

"Gabriel Ólafs understands how to craft short yet expressive piano pieces that recall the intimate sensibility of 19th-century salons as much as modern Icelandic indie groups" - PopMatters says in a review of the new album by the young Icelandic pianist. PM argues Ólafs "focuses on mood and emotive gestures to develop pieces, both concise yet brimming with beauty", adding he "shares more in common with the art-rock artists of his homeland (Sigur Rós, Sóley) than prominent contemporary classical pianists".

Sara Martin / Leon Bridges

NPR Music has published a massive project documenting A Century of Black Music Against State Violence - a 50 songs list describing specific acts of police violence, and some of the ugliest stories with which America - and, since it goes international, the world - has to reckon. It is a story of Black American music and its response to oppression, and particularly, state-sanctioned violence. It starts with 1927 Sara Martin's 'Georgia Stockade Blues', continues with John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, N.W.A., and dozen others from the Afro-American canon, to finish with this year's Leon Bridges' 'Sweeter'.

Fact magazine presents multidisciplinary artist Cecilia Bengolea with a 13-minute video 'Dancehall Weather' where performers dance at various times of a day and in various weather conditions. “Dancing in the wet weather of the Caribbean, sweat and tropical rain further dissolve the boundaries between inside and outside”, says Bengolea, “reminding us perhaps that inner body fluid is an electrical conductor that functions for the body in similar ways to the synapses of the brain”.

Metallica fans have voted 'Master of Puppets' as the most significant song by the band, Loudwire reports. The knockout tournament called "Some Kind of Bracket" started a month ago when Metallica initially distributed the contest's first-round bracket on social media with over 60 songs in the competition. On June 18, the semifinals found 'Master of Puppets' going up against 'Fade to Black' and 'One' battling 'Enter Sandman'. By June 22, the tournament had winnowed down to the 1989 single from '…And Justice for All' and the title track from Metallica's 1986 album. By the following day, a victor had emerged - 'Master of Puppets'.

This is the perfect time to focus on outdoor or semi-outdoor events where a “concentrated plume of droplets” is less likely to hit you, Gabriel Scally, honorary professor of public health at the University of Bristol, told the Guardian about the future of shows, music or otherwise. The issue that is going to matter a lot is - how well is the venue ventilated, which spells trouble for the punk bands from the basement circuit. Nightclubs have an even lower chance of returning soon, not until there’s a vaccine - with the exception of New Zealand where they’ve basically eradicated the virus - or unless everybody dances in a certain direction!?! Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at University College London points to a new way of thinking: “Our focus shouldn’t be on getting back to normal, but on finding a way to adapt".

Chase Rice

Country singer Chase Rice staged a large concert in Tennessee last weekend with zero social distancing and not one face mask in sight. In the 10,000 capacity venue about 1,000 people turned out for the concert, and all attendees were given temperature checks, although organizers were unable to enforce physical distancing during the actual concert, TMZ reports. A similar case involved American Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the administration’s own coronavirus task force. On Sunday, Pence attended a near-capacity, indoor event at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas with 2,200 attendees, and a 100-person choir singing without face masks, CNN reports.

The United States Postal Service is releasing a series of Forever Stamps on July 1, recognizing the timeless impact hip-hop has made on a global scale. Photographs by Cade Martin will be the focal point of these special release stamps, depicting emceeing, breakdancing, deejaying and graffiti art. Each stamp features the words “Forever”, “USA", “Hip Hop”.

Beyonce / Chris Brown / Megan Thee Stallion

Big winners at the 2020 BET Awards included Migos (Best Group), Lizzo (Best Female R&B/Pop Artist), Megan Thee Stallion (Best Female Hip Hop Artist), DaBaby (Best Male Hip-Hop Artist), Roddy Ricch was named Best New Artis while his album 'Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial' won Album of the Year, and Beyonce’s 'Brown Skin Girl' (HER Award). Chris Brown won Best Male R&B/Pop Artist and Best Collaboration ('No Guidance' featuring Drake), and DJ Khaled won Video Of The Year for 'Higher' featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend. Check out the full list of nominees and winners at Deadline. Public Enemy joined forces with Nas, The Roots’ Questlove and Black Thought, YG, and Rapsody for a special performance of 'Fight the Power' to kick off the 2020 BET Award - watch here, and Alicia Keys gave a powerful performance of 'Perfect Way to Die'.

Lil Baby's 'My Turn' sits in the top spot of the Billboard 200 for the fourth week of 2020, with 70,000 in sales, Billboard reports. In the runner-up spot is Bob Dylan's 'Rough and Rowdy Ways', which scored him the highest spot that he's gotten to in more than a decade; it sold in 53,000 equivalent albums, most of which came from traditional album sales. Dylan has now become the first artist with a US Top 40 album in every decade since the 1960s. Teyana Taylor achieves her first top 10 album, as 'The Album' bows at No. 8 with 32,000 equivalent album units earned.

Sam Valdez

Sam Valdez released her new single, a shoegaze-folk beauty 'Clean'; Flaming Lips announced their new album with big words in a laid back song 'My Religion is You'; with Mourning [A] BLKstar everything is seemingly unusual - the name and the dark gospel genre - whereas music is actually deep and warm; Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament struggles with vivid dreams and helplessness in 'The Divine Perfume'; Anteloper play modern jazz + electronica which makes for hypnotic 'Bubble Under'; Gordi's 'Sandwiches' is an elegiac love song; an impressive line-up of Tony Allen, Shabaka Hutchings, Dele Sosimi, Tamar Osborn, Miles James, Ed ‘Tenderlonious’ Cawthorne, Afla Sackey and Antibalas on Keleketla's upbeat and harmonious 'International Love Affair'.

Documentary film 'Carmine Street Guitars' is "the digital equivalent of hanging out in the Manhattan shop of the title, a Greenwich Village institution of sorts... It is 80 minutes of pure woodwork-musicianship-upcycling erotica for a very specialist but passionate market", Guardian says in a review. "If a film had a smell, this one would be of sawdust, varnish and pure love" - the G says in its verdict. It's available on digital platforms now.

"I’ve always liked doing the stuff that I like" - super-producer Rick Rubin told about the way he chooses albums he produces. There were hip-hop albums, metal, pop-superstars, classic rock - The Ringer listed 100 of those, from best to worst. "If Rick Rubin had assisted no superstars and done absolutely no work in the previous two decades (Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slayer, Johnny Cash, 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik') or the two decades or so to come (Dixie Chicks, Avett Brothers, Adele, Black Sabbath, 'Yeezus'), his superproducer rep would still be assured for "I’m thinkin’ we start '99 Problems' a cappella alone" - The Ringer writes in a profile.

COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted disease, but it hampers all forms of human contact and is cruelly depriving. This is a moment for everyone, whatever their sexual orientation, to acknowledge how diminished life is when touch, closeness and affection is risky and unsafe, whether due to oppression or infection - Ludvig-van.com writes in a spot-on introduction of the article about the homosexuality of Leonard Bernstein and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

"It’s Haim as we haven’t quite heard them before: not just eminently proficient musicians, entertainers, and 'women in music', but full of flaws and contradictions, becoming something much greater" - Pitchfork argues in favor of the third album by the three California sisters. Other critics like it as much: "Haim take us through a dark place and they do it frankly. But they never let the momentum dip. And they never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel" - Independent; "Experimental, soothing and vulnerable; it’s a thing of great beauty" - NME; "Richly searching, explosively produced third album" - Guardian.

“We wanted to make it more about the music. Not about what anybody knows less or knows more. Just make something that feels good to the heart” - saxophonist and producer Terrace Martin told the Fader about Dinner Party, a new supergroup he shares with pianist Robert Glasper, producer 9th Wonder, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and The Chicago-based singer Phoelix as an added member. They've known each other for years - Martin and Washington attended high school together; Martin and Glasper attended jazz camp together at age 16; Washington and Glasper used to sit in with each other at The Piano Bar in L.A. Dinner Party’s self-titled debut spotlights jazz and hip-hop’s shared history of protest, and it is due out July 10th.

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The average tempo of 2020's top 20 best-selling songs is 122 beats per minute, the highest it's been since 2009, BBC reports. The lyrics follow suit - this year they celebrate joy and sensuality and thrill. For the last few years, pop has been getting slower, as artists like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish incorporate the leisurely cadences and rhythms of southern hip-hop and trap music into their songs. This year the songs are faster and happier, just like in the times of the last crisis.

Hum

Brooklyn Vegan, inspired by the latest Hum album, has put together a list of 28 essential songs from the crossover between shoegaze and heavier genres of music like punk, metal, post-hardcore, and grunge. It goes from songs that helped sew the seeds of the genre like Failure and Shiner, to the more recent bands who took this sound and turned it into something more prominent than ever, like Alcest, Torche, and Holy Fawn.

That last musician in the White House was there ages ago, time for a new one?!

Kanye West unveils his political platform - conservative, anti-vaccine, pro-life...

Kanye West talked in lengths with Forbes about his presidential bid - he has chosen a party name, Birthday Party, a slogan, “YES!”, and a vice president - Wyoming preacher Michelle Tidball. His political views are quite conservative - he said vaccines are “the mark of the beast”; he believes family planning is racist - “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work”; he envisions a White House organizational model based on the secret country of Wakanda in 'Black Panther'. NME's Mark Beaumont argues that West's "Presidential bid, by swaying even a small amount of liberal and minority voters away from Biden, might well serve to aid Trump’s re-election chances. You might even wonder if the whole idea for the West 2020 campaign came from POTUS sliding into his DMs to stroke his permanently priapic ego".

Helene Fischer, the “queen of schlager”

"I love schlager, and unironically so" - Guardian's Angelica Frey writes in favor of one Germany's biggest cultural exports. Why does she? - "I love the frequently occurring one-two rhythm – the oompah! – and the cheerful, sweet melodies and lyrics, which, while lacking wit and bite, are unbridled expressions of joy". Finally -"I also love the way this bright, shiny thread is woven so closely into the fabric of pop music".

Martin Scorsese is directing a documentary about New York Dolls frontman David Johansen, based around a performance Johansen gave at NYC's Café Carlyle, Variety reports. "His music has been a touchstone ever since I listened to the Dolls when I was making 'Mean Streets'" says Scorsese, adding - "Then and now, David's music captures the energy and excitement of New York City". The film will follow Johansen’s arrival in New York’s East Village in the late 1960s and the start of his musical career started in the 1970s as lead singer for the punk/glam pioneers the New York Dolls, along with his role in the swing revival as Buster Poindexter in the 1980s and in the blues as part of the Harry Smiths in the 1990s.

A small tribute by Loudwire to the Native Americans in rock and metal:

Testament vocalist Chuck Billy is a descendent of the Pomo Native American tribe; he spent much of his youth on the Hopeland Indian Reservation north of San Francisco

Jimi Hendrix often spoke about his grandmother, who was a member of the Cherokee tribe

Jimmy Carl Black was a Cheyenne drummer for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Rock band Blackfoot - founded by musicians with Cheyenne, Cherokee and Lakota Sioux - experienced major success in the late 1970s

Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna is a descendant of the Iroquois tribe...

"This past week alone, the hip-hop world loudly celebrated Black voices at the BET Awards, in popular interview podcasts, and during Monday night’s Verzuz battle. But the industry continues to be silent on its own transgressions: Those same platforms have also conspicuously amplified the voices of men accused of abusing Black women. In reflexively offering praise and visibility to such figures, hip-hop institutions implicitly condone their alleged behavior. This support reflects a pattern apparent across the music industry of protecting, and even uplifting, men facing serious allegations of assault against women - particularly against Black women" - The Atlantic brings out a serious issue.

Across the UK, young people are ignoring lockdown, strapping on bumbags and making for woods and fields. With the coronavirus pandemic having closed bars and clubs and cancelled or postponed festivals, raves are sweeping the UK - Guardian reflects on illegal raves being held in the UK. There were plenty already - 4,000 people in Daisy Nook; 2,000 people attended a “quarantine rave” in Carrington; 1,000 people raved in Brookhay Woods, near Lichfield; hundreds of revellers danced to house music in a forest near Kirkby; 1,000 people gathered in Stokes Croft near Bristol; police shut down a rave in an underpass of the M1 motorway in Leeds; hundreds gathered in a courtyard in Moss Side in Manchester. One raver Katie, who attended an illegal rave in a forest near Glasgow, summed it up pretty close: “I had this feeling of: wow, people really will go far for a party, won’t they?”.

"The history of Black rockers is crazy. Little Richard and Chuck Berry were literally risking their lives. At any point, they could have been shot by cops at the side of the road" - music journalism veteran Scott Sterling told Los Angeleno in conversation with Tony Pierce about black guitar players. And they're one the most important ones; "Bad Brains was kind of like on some Miles Davis jazz thing. Those guys could really play"; "We can talk about [Thin Lizzy's] Phil Lynott all day and twice on Sunday"; "Lenny Kravitz is a guitar hero. A lot of his great solos are themes. It’s not about blowing everyone away, it’s creating a little melodic theme that people can latch onto"; "Eddie Hazel from Parliament-Funkadelic... is one of the main dudes"; "Tom Morello is literally a guitar hero. An educated Black man who can play with Bruce Springsteen just as easily as he can play with Zach"; "Isn’t it interesting that most people don’t consider Slash a Black guitarist?".

"I understand that streaming is what people use, but in terms of artists getting direct benefits from their art immediately, Bandcamp, I would say, is obviously the superior tool for that" - Wyatt Stevens, founder of Haus of Altr label, told Resident Advisory about his favourite streaming service. Bandcamp's founder Ethan Diamond told RA they get support from many sides - "If there's one thing I hear more than anything else, it's 'please, don't change'". People say stuff like, 'I was able to quit my job to focus on music full-time because of the money I made from fans through Bandcamp. I was able to focus on my label full-time. You're the last hope.' Extreme stuff like that. I definitely take the trust that artists have put in Bandcamp over the last decade very seriously and try to remember that in pretty much everything that we do".

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