My Spotify Release Radar: March 18, 2020

Release Radar is a playlist of new music created by Spotify and based on your personal taste. I have widely ignored it in the past but in the interest of constantly discovering new music, I have decided to start regularly engaging with it. For this feature, I listen to five random songs on the playlist and provide some feedback on each track.

Ella Fitzgerald, “Somewhere in the Night” (Live)

Ella Fitzgerald is known as the First Lady of Song for good reason. Her impeccable vocals are clearly on show in this intimate piano duet with Tony Flanagan recorded at a 1964 French gig. Part of a new expansive compilation titled The Complete Piano Duets, this version of the relatively little-known Mack Gordon song “Somwehere in the Night” is not only a showcase for her purity of tone but also shows how she could have fun performing a piece. The audience appreciates and even laughs, charmed, at the end.

Nina Simone, “Liberian Calypso”

Nina Simone spent quite a bit of time in Liberia, and this song is inspired by her stay in the West African country in the mid-’70s. It is one of the upbeat, danceable tracks on the Fodder On My Wings – indeed, it describes an incident when she went to a discotheque and danced naked on the tables for hours on end. Simone actually regarded Fodder on My Wings as one of her favorite albums that she made. It had fallen under the radar and been underrated among the many gems of her discography but recently got the re-release it deserves.

The Strokes, “Bad Decisions”

The Strokes was one of the bands of my teens and early twenties. It’s nice to see they’re still around and going strong. Their new single, “Bad Decisions,” is relatively simple yet effective. It remains true to their identity as a garage band. It is also complete with jaunty indie guitar-work, a danceable drum beat and a melody that is both catchy and delightful. Not quite as ingenious as much of the material on Is This It but certainly a noteworthy addition to The Strokes songbook.

Bill Evans, “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Bill Evans is one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time. This version of the Disney Classic, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” was originally featured on his in 1963 quintet record Interplay. Yet, it makes this month’s new release list because it appears on a brand new set highlighting recordings from the career of electric guitar pioneer Jim Hall, who steals the show bringing in the recognizable melody of the original tune in the final part of the 5-minute take. Much of the rest is a enchantingly brooding.

JP Saxe, “If the World Was Ending” feat. Julia Michaels

A JP Saxe song inspired by a recent Los Angeles earthquake, which provides the backdrop for what sounds like a half-assed proposition for a little Netflix-and-chill. It wouldn’t be such a bad song if it wasn’t also so damn annoying with all the production tinkering and voice alteration that are distracting for no good reason. Less is, sometimes, best. This song comes across as annoying as Julia Michaels’ peculiar enunciation. The worst part of the song is when she is awkwardly introduced in the second verse.