Speaking Truth to Power

Fresh sounds for your weekend listening pleasure, including socially conscious beats to celebrate Juneteenth.
Whether celebrating good times or letting it be known they come in peace, Young RJ and Mega Ran speak volumes with 2HANDSUP. (Ne'Astra)

by | Jun 19, 2020 | New Music, Sounds of Now

The waves of recent protests, from Jackson Hole to New York, Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo, are about unheard or underrepresented people decrying injustice and demanding change. These last few weeks, shining light on and bringing ears to such voices in music has been my focus.

Here are some of my recent favorites on heavy rotation.

As people increasingly raise their voices, 2HANDSUP, the debut collaboration from Young RJ of Slum Village and veteran rapper Mega Ran, blessed my eardrums at exactly the right time. Across the album’s 12 tracks, the vocally dexterous duo complement each other while waxing poetic about racism, classism and police brutality. The beats they flow over keep things moving with classic boom-bap drums, jazzy textures and lo-fi freaked out samples reminiscent of their mentor, the almighty J Dilla. This is just the album to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. The messages etched throughout are refreshing, thought-provoking and relevant.


Chicano Batman make a statement on the best album you’ve never heard. (ATO)


Los Angeles-based band Chicano Batman combine elements of funk, soul, Tropicalia and psychedelic SoCal pop into their fourth and most accessible album “Invisible People.” Collaborative, experimental and heavily influenced by West Coast hip-hop, the album has a head nod-inducing, summer-friendly vibe with a lot of depth beneath the surface. The title track laments the underrepresentation of Latinx people in both the media and in music. It poses the question: What do we avoid thinking about to make our reality easier to digest?  The band attempts to answer that question and in the process, they have made “the best album you’ve never heard.”


Spain’s Melenas hit their stride with dreamy hooks, urgent rhythms and melancholic harmonies. (Trouble In Mind)


The indie pop-punk band Melenas hails from the picturesque city of Pamplona, Spain, home to the precarious running of the bulls. Similarly, their new album “Dias Raros” hits the ground running with infectious energy combining elements of dream pop, garage rock and melancholic melodies. The album title translates to “Strange Days” and fittingly possesses an intrinsic, introspective quality suitable for these uncertain times. The Spanish lyrics reference “those days where you spend more time inside than outside. Inside your own self, inside your bedroom and your own universe thinking about your wishes, dreams, memories, obsessions or fears.” The album’s 11 tracks are full of lush harmonies riding on top of urgent rhythm and buzzing guitar tones. The sound is reminiscent of the garage-rock movement of the 1960s and modern luminaries like Yo La Tengo and Stereolab. “Dias Raros” introduces a talented young band brimming with promise, building upon the foundation of their influences and hitting their stride.


Life On Planets’ latest draws inspiration from world travel, late-night parties and deep introspective thoughts. (Crew Love)

In his time gigging and wandering the earth, Baltimore native Phill Celeste, a.k.a. Life on Planets, encountered a kaleidoscope of sounds that he wanted to bring together for his latest offering, “The Only You” EP.  The five tracks draw inspiration from clubs, festivals, late morning after-parties combined with the deep thoughts and conversations he’s been having while living in these “Strange Days.”  Definitely not your standard-issue deep house EP, “Only You” is at times distinctly Afro-influenced. At other moments it is filled with catchy pop appeal, while remaining tough and clubby, and even contains a timely, soulful house civil rights anthem in the track “Brother.” The highlight is a majestic interpretation of the Steve Monite classic “Only You. Celeste flips it into a modern dance floor shaker that spotlights both his standout voice and renowned guitar skills.

On the singles front, we’re spinning notable new offerings from Khruangbin, Izo Fitzroy, Roy Ayers, Aluna, Yellow Days and Buscabulla.

Check out KHOL’s Spotify playlist for more. 👇

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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