Listen: Star-studded tribute to Leonard Cohen and a multimedia ode to Oakland’s black history

Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died in 2016, but his influence remains strong. Photo: Matt Brown/For the Chronicle

The guide to chronicling notable new music.


Various Artists, “Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen” (Blue Note)

Famed Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen died in 2016, but his influence only grew stronger in the years since. Now Larry Klein, who produced Herbie Hancock’s 2008 album of the year, “River: The Joni Letters” – a tribute to the works of Klein’s ex-wife Joni Mitchell – is behind it. a new tribute album to his late friend Cohen.

“Here It Is” features a diverse cast of singers spanning 12 songs selected from different eras of Cohen’s works spanning multiple generations. Norah Jones steps in for “Steer Your Way” with slick pedalboard from Greg Leisz, while Gregory Porter covers “Suzanne” with fresh bravado. The album also features songs performed by Iggy Pop, Mavis Staples, James Taylor, Peter Gabriel and Sarah McLachlan, among others.

Klein has even assembled a core of instrumentalists he calls “a group of the most prescient and avant-garde musicians in the jazz world”, led by decorated guitarist Bill Frisell. In a statement, Klein said he hoped “that this musical language that we have developed together, the context in which we place these things, allows the songs to connect with people in a new way.”

The 1975, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” (Dirty Hit)

The incredible lyricism of 1975s leading songwriter Matt Healy, along with a varied mix of pop music on the band’s fifth album co-produced by Jack Antonoff, made the English rock band one of the biggest bands around. in the world.

Amid the frisky strings of “Part of the Band,” Healy recounts his drug addiction past, singing, “So many tantrums and heroin binges, I was going off the rails, I was living on the fringes.” He then cheekily flexes his unique storytelling ability, reminiscing about “Some posh vaccinian baristas, sitting east on their communist keisters.”

There’s currently no rock band quite as dynamic as 1975, and ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ is sure to be their fifth consecutive UK No. 1 album and possibly their second No. 1 in the UK. United States.

The 1975 is scheduled to perform in San Francisco on November 29 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Surprise Chef, “Education and Recreation” (Big Crown)

The Chronicle recently spotlighted a slew of Big Crown Records label releases, from modern R&B singer Lady Wray to the retro soul of Charles Bradley’s former instrumental mates Menahan Street Band and label founder Leon Michels’ El Michels Affair. Today, Australian jazz fusion band Surprise Chef are the newest ensemble on the label’s roster, and their latest album is a gripping adventure for fans of jazz, funk and cinematic soul.

The exotic “Spring’s Theme” and ’70s funk-inspired “Money Music” could easily fit into a Quentin Tarantino film score. But throughout “Education & Recreation”, Surprise Chef creates alluring soundscapes that send the imagination to new depths.


Teebs & Panda Bear, “Did It Again” (Brainfeeder)

In 2019, electronic producer Mtendere Mandowa, better known as Teebs, tapped Animal Collective’s Panda Bear (not Noah Lennox) to provide vocals on the song “Studie.” One of the best songs of that year and among the most magnificent, the duo’s synergy was palpable. Three years later, on “Did It Again”, they did it again.

Teebs lays down a hypnotic canvas with a punchy drum beat and heavenly string loops for Lennox to sing lyrical mantras. “And maybe that’s just the way we get along, we’re going to let the past fade away,” he reflects on the very meditative number.


Various Artists, “Tales of the City” (Empire)

More than just an album, “Tales of the Town” is a multimedia project that includes a series of podcasts and a short film that seek to tell the story of Black Oakland over the past 100 years. The newly released album component has a cast of the Bay Area’s most notable rappers and singers. On “Risen,” Oakland’s Elujay and Richmond’s Jane Handcock sing smoothly about always coming home to a swirling R&B beat. The song opens with a recording of Tupac Shakur exposing the maldistribution of wealth in cities like Oakland and beyond.

The album also features guest appearances from G-Eazy, P-Lo, Rexx Life Raj, Guapdad 4000, Allblack, Samaria and others. It’s another major effort by hip-hop company Empire, to continue to shine a light on Bay Area music, culture and activism.

Warning: The following video contains explicit content

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