In Our Headphones: Curren$y & the Alchemist, Tinashe, Silvana Estrada, Beach House, Karaoke on YouTube

In Our Headphones

Each month with In Our Headphones, members of KEXP's Digital Content team share the music that's resonating with them right now.

Curren$y & the Alchemist - Continuance (Jet Life/ALC Records, 2022)

photo by Luis Ferrá


It’s a Friday night and I’m rolling my third blunt of the day, listening to the latest full-length from longtime collaborators Curren$y (the preeminent crime and lifestyle writer of New Orleans) and the Alchemist (my favorite rap producer since 2007’s Return of the Mac). Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi (October 25, 1995, one of over a dozen singles clashes between the two pro wrestling legends). Steaming vegetables even though I just had field roast veggie sausages and sauerkraut for dinner. Chopped pickled okra to jazz it up, a heavy drizzle of mustard.

I’m nodding my head to the drum break that drives “Reese’s Cup,” while Spitta’s hazy, stoned drawl unfurls over a quick verse describing the color of his Range Rover and comparing it to the titular sweet treat. It reminds me of a quip I made about my own voice, now that I’ve gotten past the months of cringing having to listen to it back regularly for months: “Listening to my work in audio form really emphasizes how I always sound like I'm waking up from a weed nap.” Over a beat made for cruising down the strip in whatever city, Curren$y compares his car collection to Jay Leno’s on “The Tonight Show.” “Jodeci Tape” is so smooth it makes me want to buy a velvet couch.

The first blunt I had was with lunch, in a Redondo parking lot overlooking the water, leaning against my friend’s candy-painted ‘90s model Chevy Impala. Green and gray and splashes of light blue as far as the eye can see. My friend still lives on the Eastside of Tacoma; I used to see him at least once a week when I lived in the town. This is the first time we’ve seen each other in a while, maybe even since I moved to Greenwood. The ambient twinkles and staccato bass of “Obsession” — a song encapsulating the mindset of true hustlers — enhances our high and makes the trunk of his sedan rattle.

We’ve been bonding over Curren$y since we started hanging out in 2016, smoking blunts on the patio while his lady braided his young daughter’s hair, yelling at us to either close the patio door or smoke that shit somewhere else. Now he’s lauding me for making grown-up money dropping bars on what some people still have the nerve to call a blog. Spitta was always our shared motivation, as highly functional weedheads with an impressive capacity for work and a loyalty to the Chevrolet brand before my 1981 El Camino died in a torrent of black engine smoke. 

We’re both eating three-piece lunch combos from the Federal Way Ezell’s. Always order your chicken spicy. He’s in between clients, I’m spending a half-day driving, stopping, and jotting down thoughts for inspiration. You can’t be the sort of writer I am sitting at a desk for weeks on end. “Did you go there like a year ago, when they had a couple of fine white women working the lunch shift?,” he asked. I laughed because I was just thinking about that when we picked up our orders and headed north.

I replied, “I should have written a Craigslist Missed Connections post.” We erupted in laughter.

The vibraphone sample from a song named after Kool & the Gang rings through the air well past the parking lot. “Oh, so you not a starving artist anymore,” he asked. Or stated. I couldn’t really tell if it was a question or a remark. He congratulated me and reminded me he always said it would only be a matter of time before someone invested in my genius.

The two of us are part of a generation raised by rap music and our grandmothers, so it’s natural it remains a frequent topic of discussion between us. Dovetailing off of the conversational theme of investment, we talked about the Vic Spencer song series about gangsta-funded artist grants. We talked about the Seattle stop of the NBA Leather tour, featuring the Alchemist DJing for Boldy James in the opening set, one of our shared favorite MCs right now. (The languid soul of “No Yeast,” featuring inspired writing from both Spitta and Boldy wafts in the air along with reefer smoke.) 

We talked about Haram, an album he didn’t think he was going to like — “Too brainy,” he would remark about the duo of Armand Hammer previously, acting like he’s anti-intellectual even though he’s one of the smartest people I know — but recently bought a copy on CD to keep in the ride. 

I circled back to an earlier point and told him genius is a loaded word. He refused to retract. You see, we’ve shared about six years worth of high stakes conversations where he’s waited, urged, anticipated, pleaded, demanded for me to step into my purpose. To kick these bars and inspire the youth, to speak my truth. As Black men from meager beginnings, we’ve spilled many words on the idea of paying inspiration forward, so kids who came from the same or worse conditions can see there’s a way out. In a way, it’s the same thing Curren$y has done for us. — Martin Douglas

Karaoke Songs on YouTube

The pandemic has robbed us all of so much: companionship, spontaneity, livelihoods… and karaoke. Even as we all start to cautiously return to normal — wearing masks to see live music again, getting on crowded airplanes, heading back to Vinyasa yoga class — karaoke remains one of those things that I’m on the fence about. Using a microphone that some stranger has been projecting their breath and spittle onto for four-or-so minutes and then holding it inches away from my own face? Um, maybe not.

My friends and I all take our karaoke pretty seriously. I liken it to a sport. My boyfriend likes to play basketball and will shoot baskets weekly. I’m the same way with singing. Will the ball go through the hoop? Will I hit that high note? Can he get a good jump in? Can I sustain my breath for that entire lyric? When the pandemic first hit and gyms closed down, my boyfriend was left to shoot hoops alone in the backyard. But, my friends and I figured out a way to keep singing… via Zoom.

It’s pretty simple. Everyone gets in a Zoom call (or Google Meet, whatever suits your fancy), and you each take turns singing. Even after two years, we’re still refining the process. We used to share our screens, but we’ve learned there’s less of a lag if you don’t. We learned that duets do not work. And we also learned that YouTube is a glorious wealth of karaoke versions of your favorite songs. 

Of course, you’ve got your classic rock or Top 40 hits, like any book at the neighborhood bar. But online, you’d be surprised at what you can find. That band Cheekface that I was nerding out over last year? You got it. My shoegaze-fanatic friends were excited to find songs by Kitchens of Distinction and Chapterhouse. Seattle-based KJs (and record label) ggnzla have a whole playlist filled with KEXP-friendly tracks, including local luminaries like Chastity Belt, Tacocat, and Partman Parthorse (looking at you, Martin Douglas). At my next Zoom party, I’m hoping to try Aldous Harding or Cate Le Bon. It looks like some guy is trying to karaoke-ify the entire R.E.M. catalog (there are 118 songs in this playlist!), and while Michael Stipe is completely out of my range, I’m totally tempted to take on “Cuyahoga.” The selection is mind-boggling. 

So, that’s what’s been “in my headphones” lately, ‘cause we’ve got another Zoom party coming up and I’m overwhelmed with ideas on what to sing. If, like me, you’ve been missing out on singing with your friends, send them a Zoom invite and this link. Even though states are starting to relax their mask mandates and bars are offering up their karaoke nights again, I think I’m happy just to stay home with YouTube.  — Janice Headley

Silvana Estrada - Marchita (Glassnote Records, 2022)

photo by Travis Trautt (view set)


The daughter of luthiers from Veracruz, Mexico, with a voice sprung from the heart and the coffee fields, Silvana Estrada has broken onto the scene to offer a fresh take on the contemporary folk songbook. Seeing musicians from all over playing their instruments for the first time at her parents’ workshop, her intimate relationship with the world of experimental jazz, and her profound love of poetry were just a few key ingredients in the artistic evolution of the Mexican singer, songwriter, and musician who just launched Marchita, her first solo album. The album provides a new lens through which to think about the ideas of pain and heartbreak, a powerful, enlightening concept centered around understanding in order to heal.

I had the honor of hearing all of this straight from Silvana when she was in Seattle to play her sold-out concert at The Sunset Tavern on February 15th. Of course, her visit was the perfect excuse to invite her to our live room for her first Live on KEXP session.

This wouldn’t be the first sold-out concert on her first United States tour presenting Marchita, since the artist, traveling through the U.S. and Canada, has continued selling out shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Chicago. It was an ideal moment for a one-on-one conversation with Silvana, not only about the extremely intimate process that went into this album, but also about what an important impact major figures of Latin American folk, such as Chavela Vargas, Violeta Parra, and Mercedes Sosa, have had on her music. Indeed, Silvana herself says that she is a huge fan of these artists.

In Marchita, the listener is pulled into a harrowing musical experience, but one that is hardly dramatic. On the contrary, it’s necessary. From the outset, songs such as “Sabré olvidar,” “Marchita,” and “Carta” sound like classics. But if we’re talking about experiences, “Casa” takes first place. It’s a painful ride with an intensely jazzy mood, but one that remains firmly rooted in Silvana’s idea of an intimate conversation. That’s one of my favorite things about this album: how well it represents intimacy behind the closed doors of the studio. The album’s last track, “La enfermedad del siglo,” is the ultimate farewell.

And thus, this particular creative phase has come to a close, leaving behind 10 songs, launched in early 2022, that have already become lessons of love which will forever be available to anyone in need of healing.

Silvana Estrada has already prepared a new EP and a new album for the coming year. She says they feature happier songs, and that she wants to bring a new energy to her live concerts. And, although she does want to take a moment to rest after this tour, musically, she’s not stopping anytime soon. Her U.S. tour is only halfway over, and there’s still so much time left to enjoy her music. As for me, Marchita is going to be playing in my headphones for a long time to come. — Albina Cabrera

Beach House - Once Twice Melody (Sub Pop, 2022)

photo by David Belisle


I know, it’s such an obvious choice. When you’re a band with the level of fandom to warrant your own pop-up/installation on your new album’s release day, you’re so far from niche that it’s probably fair to call you mainstream. And then, for said record to not only immediately be culturally but also critically heralded, it’s like if I said, “You know what album’s pretty good? Pet Sounds.” 

But, goddamn. They really did it. Somehow, they just keep growing and refining their sound while staying true to the Beach Housian aesthetics we’ve known and loved all these years. But I’m not here to give a review of Once Twice Melody. Many people have already done that beautifully and it appears we’re all in agreement on it anyway so why would I state my thoughts on what the majority has already decided as fact?

I’m here to talk about me, naturally. The release of Once Twice Melody last Friday in conjunction with KEXP celebrating the year 2010 that week for our 50th anniversary has had me thinking a lot about my relationship with Beach House and those moments when I found the band I needed most.

2010 was one of those “lost years” for me. I’ve had a few of them, unfortunately, and the majority were in my early 20s which is probably why I always feel a few years behind everyone my age, just trying to catch up on what I missed out on. Instead of either starting to build a career or slinging back shots and dancing the night away at clubs, I spent those years inside. Hiding from the world with depression as my sole companion. 

I suppose it sounds sort of romantic in a Sylvia Plath kind of way when I write it out like that, but trust me it absolutely was not. And from a young age, romance is what I’ve always longed for. Not necessarily literal romance with another human being. Actually, maybe not that at all, I’ve been recently realizing. But experiences that feel romantic. And, this is the crux of what makes Beach House Beach House — a purveying feeling of larger-than-life romance, regardless of the song’s lyrics.

I was heavy in my music blog phase in 2010, finally feeling somewhat productive in my depression by pouring what energy I had into scouring the many various sites that would offer up downloads alongside insight from the bloggers I engaged with more than the few friends I had left. Gorilla vs. Bear, Brooklyn Vegan,, and Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist were just a few of the places I was virtually visiting daily while actively avoiding the outside world. It was my duty to collect as much information about this one topic as possible so that when I reentered the world someday I would be prepared to at least maybe fit into one scene.

I believe it was BIRP, with their enormous monthly ZIP drive of 100+ songs to download that first brought Beach House to me. Nestled amongst new singles from other soon-to-be-favorites Wild Nothing, Toro y Moi, and Small Black on their January 2010 playlist sat “Take Care.” The cascading synth chimes piqued my interest but it was Victoria Legrand’s yearning vocals crying out, “I’ll take care of you/ If you ask me to/ In a year or two,” that I was hooked.

Since then, few bands have been able to put into sound the kind of romantic longing that I’ve always felt but never quite been able to explain. Each release serves as another addition to my personal soundtrack as the main character, growing with me as the scope and budget of the film increases. As perfect companions to the more obvious romantic situations, Legrand and Scally have had more frequent recurrent roles in the boudoir than any former lover has. But it’s less about the activity — even cleaning the house or walking the dog while BH plays can suddenly put me in a state. Mostly good and sometimes bad but always swoon-worthy. — Jasmine Albertson

Tinashe - 333 (Tinashe Music, 2021)

photo by Marcus Cooper


Last summer I found myself, as I often do, stressed out at my desk and scrolling for some sort of musical salve. I didn’t know what I needed, but somehow even all my “break glass in case of emergency” ambient music just made me more disgruntled. What I needed was energy and so much of the music I reach for first is too bleak or floaty. And like a beam of light through parted clouds in the heavens – behold! – Tinashe.

I’d already been aware of the church of Tinashe (non-denominational) through my wife who puts on Songs for You almost anytime she gets the aux cable in the car. I always thought I appreciated Tinashe’s precise and wildly catchy songwriting whenever I heard it. But to me, there’s always a difference between listening to music when someone else puts it on and when you put it on yourself. Or maybe it’s about finding your own entry point. With the release of 333 last August, I joined the Tinashe congregation and now I would like to use some time to spread the good word. 

Tinashe makes perfect pop music. After shedding her major label in 2018 and going independent, her artistic vision has only flourished. Songs For You felt like a breath of fresh air and her latest feels like it goes to even greater heights. The numerology in the title is no flippant choice.“333” is a number associated with angels and divine protection. As Tinashe told Notion magazine, “I named it 333 because I really felt like I was on the right path, in alignment with what I was meant to do.”

Every song feels like a crossover chart-topper. The sultry stomp of “I Can See The Future” is magnetic from the minute she cooly sings “got a smart mouth for you dum-dums.” She shows her vocal dexterity and ability to flip on a dime with the Kaytranada produced “Unconditional.” “Angels” croons with the malaise of a Los Angeles night drive. “Undo (Back to My Heart)”... I mean, come on. How do you not jump out of your seat when this pulsing, hooky chorus hits? To me, a great pop song has a melody that feels timeless, like you already feel like you can sing along partway through the chorus. There are so many moments like that on 333.  Have you heard “The Chase”?! Put this song in every coming-of-age movie, add it to every break-up playlist, press it to the next Voyager Golden Record we send into space! 

And not just all of that, she also finds a way to make the experimental feel accessible. The album’s title track feels like echoes of Bjork’s Vespertine. Layers of pitched vocal harmonies play in the background as she hits a holy, divine falsetto in her own voice. “SHY GUY” gives one minute of drum and bass bliss while also paying homage to her love of video games. “Bouncin’” is already another pitch-perfect dancefloor anthem and then gets a stirring second life in a beautiful screwed-down reprise near the end of the record. 

Okay, despite all the pseudo-religious hyperbole, I really, truly can’t get this record out of my headphones. It just feels good to get so enraptured in a record that feels so brimming with life. I still find myself reaching for it constantly to life my spirits, to let myself have fun, to feel some energy. I love the feeling when you hear something so good you just have to evangelize it to others. Tinashe is a songwriting force, a master of her craft. — Dusty Henry

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