Last October Oliver Ignatius released Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen-Section 1. Not so much a greatest hits compilation as a sampler of the artists that had been recording in his studio. Just nine months later we’ve received Section 2-a selection of 12 songs that represent the past year in Mama Coco’s history. A few of these bands have been featured here before, so I’ll get those out of the way first.
It’s been a pretty great year so far for Ignatius and company. Of the releases through today, four of them have tracks on my top 25 songs of the year so far. Also, albums by Oh! My Blackbird and The All-About find themselves on my top 25 albums. Not too shabby. The songs on this new compilation that also show up on my songs list are The Great American Novel’s “Layne Montgomery Is No Good At Girls” and “The Stick Song” by Oh! My Blackbird. Both fantastic songs and great albums. Check them out!
The lead track for Section 2 is “Sadie Hawkins,” the new single from The All-About. It seems like a continuation from their album Winterpop, with a bit more influence from The Killers. All the tunes by Zac Coe have an upbeat surface that’s constantly battling the darkness trying to bubble over. He has a great summery atmosphere around his music that makes his songs the most accessible to mainstream audiences (for better or worse).
One of my favorites of the bands I was not familiar with going in is Dr Skinnybones. Their song “Bad Education” is lyrically clever and musically compelling. Dynamics change from surf pop and punk to soul and country while Jake Williams sings about acceptance in American society. The lines “As we walk the streets I always knew, I will sing the songs that I usually do. Darlin don’t you ever think that I’m too dumb for you? I’m not good for you,” are delivered with equal parts anger and humility. That makes this one go from a merely well put together song to a great one.
Now, no Mama Coco’s compilation would be right without featuring Ignatius’s own band, Ghost Pal. This time is a little different, though. Word on the street is that Nathan Jones Is Dead is finally going to see the light of day. “Hop, Skip, & Jump,” debuting here, is the lead single from the album. The group is big on textures, with layers upon layers making you go back and listen time and time again to make sure you caught everything. This song is no different, as it opens up with handclaps and organs accompanying Ignatius’s vocals. It sounds like a great gospel rock and roll song and then it fades in and out of that sound, mixed with acoustic guitars and a short time later some bursts of electric guitar and harmonica. It’s an interesting piece of music, and if it’s at all representative of the record, I already know I’ll have to listen to Nathan Jones Is Dead at least ten times before I feel like I know anything about it.
I won’t touch on all the songs like I did on Section 1 (rather I will embed the full record at the bottom of the page), but there are a couple others that surprised me and I liked quite a bit. “Wagstaff” off the just released Octopus Wall Street by The Harmonica Lewinskies is a funky jam of humor and serious musicianship. When I talked to the guys from Sons Of An Illustrious Father last week, they were telling me how great THL’s live show is. One of the best they’ve ever seen. Based on this track, I can totally see that. Horns and harmonies, bluesy guitar solos, and lyrics like “You melt in my hand, I melt in your mouth,” how could it not be great?
The last song that really made me perk up is “Balloon” by the trio Bridges. While atmospheric and haunting, it is one of the most straightforward songs to come out of Mama Coco’s. Reminiscent of the sorely missed Homemade Knives, there’s a lot of pain in singer David Pollack’s voice. The electric guitar adds to the feeling of loss and heartache, and it pulls and twists at you as the instruments and vocals blend together.
I continue to be amazed at the quality of music coming out of this studio time and time again. I found it really interesting talking to one of the bands that has recorded there who said, “Yeah, I was just there one day and I ended up playing guitar for these guys. I don’t even remember the name of the band.” That’s the kind of community Mama Coco’s is creating, and I love it. I wish every city/music scene had a group of people who shared such love and admiration for one another. If you dig great music, grab this record immediately! Oh, and it’s free!!