We kick off this week's show with a moody rock romp from Ex Hex, a group based out of Washington, D.C., featuring Mary Timony (Helium, Wild Flag), Laura Harris and Betsy Wright. We follow with the mysterious voice of Gemma Ray, a deluxe reissue of a Smashing Pumpkins classic, the enchanting Icelandic singer Ólöf Arnalds and more.
The Smashing Pumpkins reissue is the band's polarizing Adore. Originally released in 1998, some fans rejected the album for having more subdued moments and electronic textures than the group's earlier records. But now, more than 15 years later, many consider it a classic. The deluxe version has more than 100 tracks, including outtakes, demos and previously unheard songs. We play the opening cut, "To Sheila."
Also on the program: the ethereal sounds of Montreal-based singer Sea Oleena; Azure Ray's Orenda Fink is back with a new solo album, a sometimes haunting examination of death and dying and Denver-based pop duo Tennis pushes itself in new sonic directions with an album produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, Jim Eno of Spoon and songwriter Richard Swift.
Outfitting police officers with body cameras seems to be the most concrete solution to come out of the police misconduct accusations in the Ferguson, Mo. And the push for cameras extends far beyond the suburban Missouri police department — more than 153,000 people have signed a "We the People" petition to create a "Mike Brown Law" that would require all police to wear cameras.
Ferguson officers didn't have dashboard cameras for their vehicles, much less body cameras, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in August, or during the chaotic protests and crowd control that followed his death. But now, thanks to a donation by two security companies, the police department is outfitted with about 50 cameras, which were already used during a protest last week.
It follows a national trend toward using these cameras. They are particularly appealing in places where police distrust is high because of prior histories of misconduct.
The argument is that technology can curb officers from acting out of line and help counter police distrust in the community. NPR's Martin Kaste has reported extensively on the camera trend sweeping law enforcement agencies:
"In this job, we're frequently accused of things we haven't done, or things were kind of embellished, as far as contact," Bainbridge Island, Wash., officer Ben Sias told Kaste. "And the cameras show a pretty unbiased opinion of what actually did happen."
People do seem to act differently when they know they're being recorded, and the ACLU has argued that cameras act as an important check on the power of police. To wit, The Wall Street Journal reported that a recent Cambridge University study looked into a yearlong trial of cameras by the police department in Rialto, Calif., and found an 89 percent decline in the number of complaints against officers.
But this doesn't mean problems of not knowing what exactly happened between police officers and the people will disappear completely. Recordings aren't completely neutral, depending on when they started and stopped, the camera angle and perspective and many other variables. While these devices can provide much-needed accountability, how and when to use them often falls on the police departments. Tech entrepreneur Sean Bonner writes:
"In Los Angeles the LAPD (which has been trying to overcome an unfortunate reputation the department earned very publicly in 1991 with the Rodney King beating and the Rampart scandal a few years later) are required to wear voice recorders which switch on automatically when their cruiser sirens are activated and record voice audio within a certain range of the car once the officer steps outside. The benefit here is obvious and the argument was made that this would ensure accountability. Which it would if they worked, but mysteriously the recorders stopped working and this kept happening until the department was forced to admit that their internal investigations showed that officers were purposefully breaking off the antennas on their recorders to disable them. Perhaps unsurprisingly the majority of the sabotaged recorders were in the Southeast division - a low income, high minority area with a long history of excessive force complaints. One can imagine mandatory body cameras might suffer similar 'technical problems.' "
In the case of Ferguson, the department there says it didn't file the most basic record of the police shooting of Brown — a written police incident report. So whether they'd willfully choose to record video of such incidents before they happen is a question.
And if confrontations are recorded, will the records be released? That gets to the thorny video ownership question. As Kaste has reported:
"While police videos are generally considered public records, in practice, they're often difficult to obtain. Most cities refuse to turn over footage that is part of an investigation, and some are now instituting restrictions based on privacy concerns."
So even if the raw footage is captured, and police actually recorded a disputed incident, the police department or the city might not release it.
In short, cameras can help. But when the cops get to choose when they record and whether to release video, they clearly aren't a cure-all for the trust problems ailing law enforcement.
This Week's Tracklist
- Odesza, "Sundara" (Counter)
- Odesza, "Say My Name (feat. Zyra)" (Counter)
- The 2 Bears, "Not This Time" (DFA)
- London Grammar, "Hey Now (Zero 7 Remix)" (Columbia)
- SBTRKT, "New Dorp New York (feat. Ezra Koenig)" (Young Turks)
- Talking Heads, "Once In A Lifetime (Doc Martin Remix)" (Rhino)
- Sleight Of Hands, "Seal The Deal" (Smoke N'Mirrors)
- Lisa Shaw, "Like I Want To (Fred Everything Mix)" (Salted)
- Redinho, "Playing With Fire" (Numbers)
- Grimes, "Go" (4AD)
- Hudson Mohawke, "Chimes" (Warp)
- Com Truise, "Open" (Ghostly International)
- Ali Love, "Deep Into The Night" (Crosstown Rebels)
- Mr. Belt & Wezol, "Feel So Good"
- Gorgon City, "Unmissable (Huxley Remix)" (Black Butter/Virgin)
- Maceo Plex, "Conjure Superstar" (Kompakt)
- Gabriel & Dresden, "New Ground" (Organized Nature)
- Tensnake & Jacques Lu Cont, "Feel Of Love (Boyz Noise & Djedjotronic Mix)" (Astralwerks)
- My Nu Leng, "Contact" (Black Butter)
- Arcade Fire, "Afterlife (Flume Remix)" (Capitol)
- Cyril Hahn, "Slow (feat. Rochelle Jordan)" (PMR)
- Groove Armada, "Soho Disco" (Om)
- Groove Armada, "Love Lights The Underground" (Om)
- Zero 7, "Take Me Away" (Make)
- Caribou, "Can't Do Without You" (Merge)
- Les Sins, "Grind" (Jiaolong)
- Kool & The Gang, "Summer Madness" (MVP)
Shabazz Palaces' music sounds like nothing else. Whether you describe them as "sci-fi," "way-out" or just a little strange, the Seattle duo's songs might as well come from outer space, considering how different they sound from most rap.
In the 18 songs and seven "astral suites" on their new album, Lese Majesty, Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire call out pretenders to society's thrones. "[We're] leaning on suckers like Duckworth in the paint," Butler tells KEXP host Kevin Cole.
More than that, for Butler and Maraire (a.k.a. Palaceer Lazaro and Fly Guy 'Dai), making music is about "working, creating something ... being about what you're doing." What they're creating here, as you'll see and hear in this performance of "They Come In Gold," is another mind-blowing set of experimental hip-hop.
- "They Come In Gold"
Watch the rest of Shabazz Palaces' visit to KEXP on KEXP's YouTube channel.
One of my favorite Far Side cartoons shows four triumphant cavemen with a giant carrot hoisted onto their shoulders with the caption: "Early vegetarians returning from the kill."
That's kind of what it looks like every autumn weekend when my better half, Dan, comes home from the farmer's market with a half-bushel of apples balanced on his shoulder.
Dan is really into apples. On one memorable "date" a few years ago, we attended a rare apple tasting in Santa Cruz run by the Monterey chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. "Really?" I asked. "A rare apple tasting? Is that even a thing?" Indeed it is.
When I was a kid, I knew about two kinds of apples: red and green — and I wasn't all that excited to find either of them in my lunch box. Who wanted a piece of fruit when the other kids had those little containers of crackers and "cheese product" with a red plastic stick for easy spreading? (You know the ones.)
But in Santa Cruz we joined a gaggle of rare-fruit enthusiasts to taste 71 different types of apples, and I realized that I hadn't been giving the apple enough credit. There were dozens of varieties here. These apples had completely ridiculous names like "Brushy Mountain Limbertwig" and "Karmijn de Sonnaville" and "Tydemann's Late Orange" and "Belle de Boskoop." Some were such a deep, dark red that they looked like plums. Others, when you sliced them, revealed pale pink insides.
It was eye-opening. And despite a steady drizzle, we spent a happy afternoon nibbling on little bites of cut-up apples and finally settling on our own favorite, the "Reinette Rouge Etoilee."
If there isn't a rare apple tasting coming up in your future, here's the next best thing: food writer and self-described "apple stalker" Rowan Jacobsen's new book called Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders. It's a who's who of apples — 123 "portraits," organized into categories like "Dessert Apples," "Cider Fruit" and "Oddballs."
Jacobsen makes the case that the apple renaissance we're enjoying now is actually The Second Age of the Apple. He says the first started back in the early 1700s, when seeds brought over from Europe by colonists multiplied like crazy in America. Unlike other fruits, apples "don't need us at all," Jacobsen writes. "They will run rampant through any temperate environment, metamorphosing endlessly."
Settlers began grafting the very best of those trees — snipping a shoot off one tree, fusing it onto another, and ending up with a clone of the original. "Every Granny Smith," Jacobsen tells us, "stems from the chance seedling spotted by Maria Ann Smith in her Australian compost pile in 1868."
The First Age of the Apple included Thomas Jefferson, who focused on four varieties of apples at his Monticello plantation — Esopus Spitzenberg, Newtown Pippin, Hewes Crab and Taliaferro. "They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin," Jefferson wrote disparagingly, from Paris, of European fruit.
The apple's biggest break came when Americans began to move west, Jacobsen explains. John Chapman (whom you might know better as Johnny Appleseed) helped establish nurseries in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois. It was a time of tremendous growth and experimentation; according to Jacobsen, there were some 7,500 American apple varieties.
But it wouldn't last. The 20th century brought with it industrial-sized orchards feeding national distributors who did not care to work with smaller farms or their "inconsistent" apples. Only a handful of apples — of the thousands once available in the 19th century — ever made it to the modern supermarket, Jacobsen says. The omnipresent Red Delicious apple was bred more for color than for taste: "American consumers brought this disaster upon themselves by consistently choosing the redder apple over the tastier one," he laments. Those are the ones I knew, until Santa Cruz.
That apple tasting was just a part of a larger movement focused on celebrating and saving these rare varieties before they die out.
John Bunker, founder of Fedco Trees, played a critical role in this second movement, Jacobsen says. He posts "Wanted" posters in towns in search of hard-to-find apples. Bunker has saved some 80 apple varieties that otherwise might have been lost.
A growing market for different kinds of apples has also spurred innovation from the apple industry. Jacobsen points to Gala and Honeycrisp as "recent stars of the produce aisle" that — though sometimes maligned by heirloom apple connoisseurs — he suspects would have been a hit among early American settlers. That said, there's concern that "focus-grouped" apples are being cast in Honeycrisp's image — sweet, crispy and juicy, but without much nuance.
The book also includes 123 apple biographies, with each fruit described and documented in loving detail. It feels a little bit like Facebook for fruit — profile photos taken from the most flattering angle, and a rundown of basic biographical data — origin, appearance, flavor, texture, season, use and region. (Of course, there's some good gossip, too — like how Golden Delicious "sired" Jonagold, Mutsu, Gala, Pink Lady, and many more).
You'll also find some fun facts in the short essays that accompany each variety. Remember fictional Vietnam vet and general badass Rambo? First Blood author David Morrell got the idea for his character's name from Summer Rambo, an apple his wife bought from a farm stand. The apple that helped 22-year-old Isaac Newton come up with his theory of gravity in 1666? It was a Flower of Kent.
There are some more useful tips as well — Jacobsen advises you on which apple to put in a strudel (Glockenapfel) and which apple to eat with a slice of cheddar cheese (Westfield Seek-No-Further).
And in a 300-page book devoted entirely to one fruit, there are some fairly creative descriptions such as: "Like the Incredible Hulk, Mutsu is huge, green, and strangely lovable." And, "Granite Beauty is like the Charles Bukowski of the apple world. It gives the feeling of dissolute existence brought on by life too deeply felt."
When you reach the end of the profiles, you'll find 20 apple-centric recipes, a glossary of apple terms, and resources for "apple geeks" — like mail order trees, mail order fruit, cider makers and annual apple festivals.
Speaking of apple festivals, don't be surprised if you run into Dan and me at the Monticello Apple Tasting in late October.