San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Listen: Peter Frampton, Elton John and more new tunes.
Peter Frampton, “Frampton Forgets the Words” (UMe): Frampton is giving the talk box a break and letting his fabled 1954 Gibson Les Paul lead the charge on his latest album.
“Frampton Forgets the Words” features instrumental versions of what the English guitarist says are 10 of his favorite pieces of music, including Sly and the Family Stone’s funkified “If You Want Me to Stay,” David Bowie’s cosmic 1980s “Loving the Alien,” George Harrison’s triumphant “Isn’t It a Pity” and Radiohead’s sweeping “Reckoner.” The songs were recorded at Frampton’s Studio Phenix in Nashville, and backed by his full band he’s as fiery as ever on the guitar.
It’s in the vein of his 2007 Grammywinning album of instrumentals, “Fingerprints,” and it can hopefully help propel the bona fide legend into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where he belongs. Dinosaur Jr., “Sweep It Into Space” (Jagjaguwar): The fifth album since the band’s rebirth in 2005 after a decadelong hiatus is, once again, stellar stuff. The original incarnation of Dinosaur Jr. was a touchstone for ’90s grunge rock bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, but it’s the melodious postcomeback era that speaks to today’s alternative rock heads.
“Sweep It Into Space” is coproduced by incomparable singer and guitarist Kurt Vile, who also plays the 12string lead on “I Ran Away.” Along with tracks like “I Met the
Stones,” there’s a slew of signature moments from frontman J. Mascis herein. But bassist Lou Barlow also takes the microphone a couple of times on the album, like on the single “Garden.” It’s a thrill to hear the trio firing on all cylinders once again.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Alfa Mist, “Bring Backs” (Anti): Another standout in the recent inflow from London’s modern jazz movement, the pianist, MC and producer’s new album is a cool and reflective convergence of atmospheric jazz and hiphop. Following three releases on his own Sekito imprint and
recent projects with the London Contemporary Orchestra and Blue Note Records, this is Alfa Mist’s debut on AntiRecords, and it’s his most wellformed exploration of rhythm yet.
His couth flow and deft piano playing (which he learned by ear) on a Rhodes piano pair with a jazzy beat and smooth strings on “Organic Rust.” His cast of collaborators shines throughout as well, namely drummer Jamie Houghton on “Coasting” and bassistvocalist Kaya
ThomasDyke on “People.”
Filled with refined avantgarde movements, “Bring Backs” calls to mind the sonic shades of the Soulquarians collective at the turn of the millennium that brought together talents like Questlove, Erykah Badu, James Poyser and the late Roy Hargrove.
SONG OF THE MOMENT
Rina Sawayama and Elton John, “Chosen Family” (Dirty Hit): In a most unexpected but wholly welcome collaboration, JapaneseBritish electropop singer Rina Sawayama has joined forces with the great Elton John for a new reworked duet of her song “Chosen Family.” The sheer elegance of Sawayama’s vocals pairs beautifully with John’s piano and singing on the ballad about an openarms approach to loved ones in the LGBTQ community who might have been pushed away by their own family and friends.
John, who discovered Sawayama when he was sent her hit song “Comme Des Garçons” for his “Rocket Hour” radio show on Apple Music, said he was floored by the singer.
“Rina doesn’t just represent the crosscultural mix of inspiration from which the best music always thrives,” he said in a statement, “but a generation who have grown up with the internet and the entire history of music at their fin
gertips and mix together whatever they please with real love and understanding, unconstrained by old ideas of genre or boundary.”
Spellling, “Little Deer” (Sacred Bones): Oakland’s Chrystia Cabral, better known as Spellling, has announced the followup to the stunning “Mazy Fly,” one of the best releases to come out of the Bay Area in 2019. “The Turning Wheel’' is due out on June 25 and the lead single, “Little Deer,” is a flowering canvas of sounds that begs for more from the multidisciplinarian.
Inspired by Frida Kahlo’s painting “Wounded Deer,” Cabral employs 17 different acoustic instruments on the song before synths wash through her resplendent vocals, taking listeners through a journey of Odyssean proportions. Horns, congas and even a bassoon pepper into the decadent arrangement of what she says is “definitely a thesis track” for the upcoming album.
Zola, “Nosebleed” (selfreleased): The daughter of a French mother and a South African father, the Bernal Heights native might just have the most gorgeous voice in the city. Her latest single is a delicious indie pop number that’s meant to make you perk up your chest and shuffle your feet.
Zola, who has sung in both English and French throughout her budding career, operates in the former this time around over a spunky groove and sticky guitar hook. The song is about finding comfort in trying times of solitude — something that we’ve become all too accustomed to during the pandemic. “Paint every room a different color/ season all my meals with ginger,” she sings.
Catch her on the Chapel and Fast Times’ upcoming Instagram live stream on May 5.
Written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares Candlewick; 48 pages; $17.99; ages 5-9
One hundred years ago, an impoverished and impassioned boy in South India wonders about what is small and what is big, gnarly questions of little interest to his bythebook teachers. (He runs into lots of them.) In fresh territory, this picture biography shines overdue light on Srinivasa Ramanujan’s early life and his obsession with numbers. He scribbles numbers on his slate, the cool temple floor and later in notebooks. His difficult trajectory to the pinnacle of the math world, gracefully laid out, offers important reminders — that genius can pop up anywhere and that the contributions of genius have lasting impact.