Nina Simone — Wild is the Wind (1966)

Great mix of bluesy barn burners, muted loungey numbers, and songs with a full jazz backing band. I think Nina is at her best when she’s showing off the full range of her voice and her emotions. Both are never more true than on the devastating track “Four Women,” a song about the horrors of the slave trade and generational trauma. On a “Wild is the Wind” and others, she demonstrates a more vulnerable, delicate register. There’s something about Nina and her voice that’s crushingly beautiful in a way her more glossy contemporaries can’t match. Happy to add this to my desert island discs list.

Alela Diane – To Be Still (2009) [Rough Trade]

Heard this artist first at a tiny show at sxsw. Made a point of picking up this album on my next record store trip. She’s from Portland and she sings Appalachian folk over finger picked guitars, banjo, and fiddle graced by occasional pedal steel. Has the same preciousness of a Joanna Newsom album, with dreamy Polaroids and brocade on the packaging. Infused with themes of nature and love, the album works well as a sunshiny counterpart to some musically similar but lyrically darker material from Marissa Nadler. As Diamonds is a standout track. She has other more current albums I’ve yet to explore but definitely will get to.

Terry Riley — In C (1968)

Terry Riley – In C (1968)

A highlight take on this famous minimalist piece of music. This one has a strange arrangement, with a clamour to it that I initially mistook for eastern gamelan music. But the actual instruments used are western — Oboe, clarinet, flute, viola, trombone, and vibraphone. Clocking in around 41 minutes, listening to this is like listening to a locked groove—an infinite drone that veers around harmonically while circling the same home key. If you tune in closely enough, it seems to shift like a kaleidoscope. I remember buying this in Seattle at that famous record shop on the corner in capital hill. Really glad this turned out to be a hit instead of a miss as far as recordings of In C goes.