BONUS TRACKS: Little Gifts and Some Stuff to Look Forward to in 2021
Like any good collection of presents under the tree, this week’s Bonus Tracks is filled with little sparkly surprises we hope will bring at least a moment’s joy and entertainment to close out the year.
Last weekend, Barack Obama released his annual lists of books, TV/movies, and music he’s enjoyed through the year, and some No Depression favorites are represented on the music list (which, he admits upfront, was made with heavy input from his daughter Sasha). Among his picks are Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over,” Jeff Tweedy’s “Love Is the King,” Waxahatchee’s “Can’t Do Much,” Bob Dylan’s “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” Faye Webster’s “Better Distractions,” Ruston Kelly’s “Brave,” Phoebe Bridger’s “Kyoto,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Ghosts.” Call me if you’d like to be a staff reviewer, Mr. President!
Most supergroups bring together some big names within a genre to make something special. But sometimes a supergroup is so super that it breaks genre boundaries entirely, and a new project dubbed Dopamine is the latest example. Assembled by producer T Bone Burnett, Dopamine will include Roots rapper Black Thought, Elvis Costello, Nathaniel Rateliff, Cassandra Wilson, and DJ Premier. Not much is known yet about what Dopamine is up to, but you can read more in this Brooklyn Vegan writeup of Black Thought’s comments on The Crate 808 Hip Hop Podcast.
I’m going to be super real with you right now. It’s very hard for me to get excited about any new books or documentaries about The Beatles. Can there possibly be anything that hasn’t already been said, dissected, written about, photo-collectioned, analyzed, and interviewed to death a hundred times over already? But The Beatles: Get Back, helmed by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, has got my attention, and this week’s five-minute sneak peek puts us right in the studio with the Fab Four in a way that’s exciting for fanatics and casual Beatles fans alike. The documentary is slated for release in theaters on Aug. 27, 2021.
A digital publication called The Pudding has created an AI, trained on Pitchfork reviews, among other things, to judge your Spotify listening history. It’s, um, not kind, ha ha. I was called out for my “stomp and holler” proclivities (not wrong) and worried over for my many listens to Andrew Bird songs. (But how smart is AI really? No mention, no arched eyebrow, no hotline-number-sharing for my repeated listens to murder ballads for research for an upcoming story?) You can try for yourself here, but know that we here at ND think your taste in music is fantastic, no matter what some dumb bot says.
In much less delightful news, this week brought news of K.T. Oslin’s death, as if 2020 hadn’t taken enough from us already. Oslin’s fascinating career took off when she was in her mid-40s, practically elderly for a woman by mainstream country music standards then and now, and was marked by hits like “’80s Ladies” and “Do Ya.” She was the first female songwriter to win Song of the Year from the Country Music Association, in 1988. She had Parkinson’s disease and tested positive for COVID-19 the week before her death at age 78, according to her friend and country music historian Robert K. Oermann. Read more about her remarkable life and music in this New York Times article.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Lotta Christmas music, as is the custom. But when it starts to be a bit much, as it inevitably does, we’re putting this track — Bill and the Belles’ “Another Damn Christmas Song” — on repeat: