Art Brut, "People In Love"
This song, from It's a Bit Complicated, is a solid encapsulation of Art Brut's unique brilliance. Art Brut only makes sense to someone that has consumed a ton of pop and rock, and internalized all the cliches from them. If you're that person, Art Brut's send ups of all that stuff will just hit squarely.
Blackalicious, "The Fabulous Ones"
We've had Gift of Gab as a solo artist, but here he is on the breakthrough Blackalicious LP, Nia. From the lush, jazzy beats to the incredible rhymes, Blackalicious immediately became one of the highlights of hip-hop. This record still sounds fresh, 18 years later (OH GOD I'M OLD), and it and the follow-up Blazing Arrow are one of the strongest one-two punches of any rap act ever.
James Brown, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine"
By the time I was really aware of him, James Brown was already something of a parody of himself. I first remember encountering him as the guy behind "Living In America", and really, that song is kind of a ridiculous spectacle. It wasn't until I got to college and decided to learn more about hip-hop's roots that I learned more about his music. Star Time was released in 1991, and I bought it that fall as part of my education. And I was just blown away. His genius shone through so clearly, and it made so much sense how his music became foundational to so much of popular music.
All of which is to say: just sit back, close your eyes, and let this song wash over you. Let James take you to the bridge. And see if your day doesn't get just a little brighter.
Eddie Floyd, "Knock On Wood"
Hell yes, shuffle. A track from one of the Stax giants, Eddie Floyd here delivers one of his earliest big hits, and one that should be recognizable to anybody who listened to much AM radio when they were a kid, like I did. A lot of the soul greats were more singles artists than album artists, but a couple of Floyd's albums (Rare Stamps and Knock on Wood especially) are magnificent.
Spoon, "Small Stakes"
So, uh, I ran out of things to say about Spoon last time. But, whatever, this is a fun song to close out the set.