SATURDAY, AUG. 27
Upon first listen, there’s no denying that British singer-songwriter Laura Mvula is possessed by the mad spirit of song. Your ears are her megaphone, each word critical like buckshot and black powder. A classically trained vocalist, Mvula naturally draws comparisons to neo-soul stalwarts like Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone, but as her 2016 LP, The Dreaming Room, demonstrates, there’s no box big enough for her. “Show Me Love” sounds like the heart-stopping, climactic moment in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s next great score — your pulse syncing to the crescendo’s steady pound of the timpani; “People” the soundtrack to the pending revolution, the repeated phrase, “How glorious, this light in us, we are a wonder,” now the marrow of your bones. By the time you reach closer “Phenomenal Woman,” based off the Maya Angelou poem of the same title, you’ve embedded yourself so deeply in her narrative that you’ve completely forgotten that she is equal parts a pop star.
Thundercat, aka Stephen Bruner, is best known for his work with acts such as Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendencies, and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly — TPAB was greatly shaped by his basslines and impromptu jazz lessons with Lamar. As well as sporting eccentric headwear, including an eagle-feathered Indian war bonnet or wolf fur, and being a bass god who also happens to have perfect pitch, Bruner has released three solo records, the most recent being 2015’s stellar The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam. The six-track, jazz-fusion foray into his forest mind balances buoyant instrumentals with themes of death and its aftermath. Bruner insists that TB / WTGR is a mini-album, not an EP, and with all that’s packed into its 16 minutes, you have to believe him.
While Afropunk has shifted more towards genres like soul, hip hop, and electronic, there will always be a few spots in each year’s roster saved for its namesake. While groups like In the Whale, Ho99o9, and Radkey are sure to stir some mosh pits, Trash Talk are guaranteed to deliver the heaviest set of the circuit. Signed to Odd Future Records, the Sacramento outfit having been pouring out crushing hardcore punk of the purest brand since 2005, led by the by the ever-punishing barks of Lee Spielman. If you don’t want a face full of anonymous fist, you might want to take a few