Matt's Music Hall

What We're Listening To

Matthew Ramirez
December 06, 2012

Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin, Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg is great year-round, but fall and winter feel especially appropriate for his ruminations on love and sex. Everyone knows the classic Histoire de Melody Nelson, but almost as good (and just reissued on CD and LP in 2010) is the sole album he cut with Jane Birkin, the French actress and his long-time lover(and Hermès bag namesake). The record’s most popular track, “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus,” was banned all over Europe for Birkin’s convincing ad-libs during the song’s very literal climax. The 35-minute song cycle is short enough to rifle through several times in a day; it’s addicting, timeless pop music.

Jessie Ware, Devotion. The 27-year-old British singer made her name by adding vocals to songs for producers like SBTRKT, but her recently released collection is a throwback to the great records from singers like Sade and Aaliyah. Ware smartly blends her adaptable, impossibly smooth voice over tracks that mix early-2000s R&B production with a contemporary flair inspired by artists such as James Blake, the xx and Jamie Woon. The result is a cut like “Sweet Talk,” a sultry whisper of a song that wanders through noticeable reference points (Prince, even Mariah Carey) while sounding totally unique. Put it on and clean your house with sophistication.
Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Lamar’s official debut album, on the heels of a great independent mixtape in 2011, is a marvel: 12 songs that build a narrative of the younger Lamar’s self emerging into the violent and ruthless world of inner-city Compton. He’s subtitled the record “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar,” and while this would normally emit skepticism, he pulls it off. The record is as immersive as a film, as textured and nuanced as a Teju Cole novel, smart and progressive in equal measure. A record that already sounds classic.

Tame Impala, Lonerism. The Australian band follows up its pretty great 2010 debut, Innerspeaker, with a record that does everything sophomore outings are supposed to do: Expand their sound, build on themes, go deeper and wider. They sound like the Beatles, sure, but that actually means something here — songwriter Kevin Parker channels Lennon’s self-deprecating lyrics (and voice) with a McCartney ear for melodies, all wrapped up in psychedelics, simultaneously as warm as a summer car seat and comforting and cool as a favorite sweater. Headphone music,
for sure.

The Smiths, The Queen is Dead. What would be winter without a now-traditional jaunt through one of the bleakest yet most life-affirming records ever made? The band is at its most pitiful, their most persnickety, and their most memorable. Morrissey never sounded so wistful, Johnny Marr’s guitar tone never sounded so crisp. A timeless piece of Manchester rock that has proven to be immeasurably influential all these years later.

Matthew Ramirez is PaperCity’s resident playlist savant.