Music News: Peter Tork of the Monkees dies at 77

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Peter Tork takes the mic with the Monkees in London, 1967.
Peter Tork takes the mic with the Monkees in London, 1967. (Mike McLaren/Central Press/Getty Images)
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Peter Tork, the Monkees' bassist who added endearing personality and instrumental color to the '60s pop idols, has died at age 77 after a decade fighting carcinoma.

In a group that was a fictional Beatles-inspired TV band before its members demonstrated their actual musical chops, Tork played the group's Ringo: the genial, sometimes confused oddball who contrasted with other members like heartthrob Davy Jones and intellectual Mike Nesmith.

When the group started to play their own instruments, though, Tork was all business: he took his job seriously and fostered musical ambitions that weren't always shared by his bandmates. Between Monkees reunions, Tork pursued a solo career and acted on TV shows like Boy Meets World.

His musical contributions to the group may be most recognizable in the instrumental textures he contributed: although he primarily played bass, he was a multi-instrumentalist who wrote harmonies and played memorable parts like the piano intro to "Daydream Believer." (Washington Post)

Jussie Smollett arrested in Chicago

In a shocking twist to a sad story, actor/singer Jussie Smollett, a star of Fox's hit hip-hop drama Empire, has been arrested in Chicago. He's charged with filing a false police report regarding what authorities now say was a staged assault that occurred late last month. He told police that he was attacked by two men in what appeared to be a racist and homophobic hate crime involving a noose, but investigators were unable to corroborate Smollett's account, and two detained suspects told police they had been paid to stage the attack and were released without being charged.

Smollett has repeatedly asserted the truth of his account, and his representatives are currently not commenting on the case. Chicago police allege that the actor's motive for staging the assault was that he was "upset by his salary and seeking publicity." (New York Times)

The 1975 win big at the Brits

The 1975 emerged as the big winners on Wednesday at the Brits, the premier popular music awards in the U.K. The Manchester quartet won Best British Group and Album of the Year for their LP A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. Singer Matty Healy used the Best Group acceptance speech to criticize misogyny in the music industry, making amends for previous comments suggesting it was no longer a problem.

Best Female and Male British Artists went to Jorja Smith and George Ezra respectively, but the Carters — Beyoncé and Jay-Z — stole the show when they won the award for Best International Group. In their acceptance video, they reprised their look from the "Ape****" music video, with what sounded like Blue Ivy's impatient voice in the background. (BBC)

This week's new releases

Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center

In April of last year I interviewed Phoebe Bridgers fresh off her debut release, Stranger in the Alps, and asked her about meeting one of her heroes, Conor Oberst. She let me know that "I think [one should] meet your heroes if they're going to go above and beyond and just be your forever people. Conor's a forever person. [...] I think it's invigorating to meet your heroes when they're so human and cool." They've toured together and been features in each other's songs, but now we have a full-length album from their project together Better Oblivion Community Center. Their time together is shown off with their ideas and voices bouncing off each other like old friends having a well tread conversation in songs like "My City." (Jade)

Gary Clark Jr.: This Land

Eight years since the Austin, Texas native signed with Warner Bros. Records, Gary Clark Jr. has become perhaps the best-known and most acclaimed bluesman of his generation, known for his jaw-dropping guitar skills and thrilling live performances. With his new album This Land, though, he's not just going to let his ax do the talking. The title track is a sort of sequel to Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." That's right, sings Clark, an African-American man who says the song was inspired by his experiences of racism. "This land is mine." (Jay)

Sleaford Mods: Eaton Alive

The first thing you hear to kick off the title track of the latest Sleaford Mods album, Eton Alive, is a loud belch. The British duo have never taken themselves very seriously, and on their fifth album, they aren't being precious about anything. In the past they've made political albums, using dark humor and sharp wit to cut down Brexit and working class life. The humor this time takes a look at the music world — taking jabs at Blur and NME, but sounding fresh, poppy, and fun at the same time. Check out "Kebab Spider." (Jade)

Yola: Walk Through Fire

YOLO, so you should know Yola. The U.K. singer-songwriter was previously best known for a stint in Massive Attack, but she's coming into her own with a new solo album produced by Dan Auerbach and recorded in his Nashville studio. Walk Through Fire is a gale-force blast that combines elements of soul, country, and R&B. The track "Ride Out In the Country" is well-named: it captures the way Yola takes a classic country sound and adds the depth of her seasoned voice. (Jay)


Audio sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
London Festival Orchestra And Chorus: "Rule, Britannia!"
BoxCat Games: "Against The Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
The 1975: "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)"
Better Oblivion Community Center: "My City"
Gary Clark Jr: "This Land"
Sleaford Mods: "Kebab Spider"
Yola: "Take A Ride In The Country"
The Monkees: "Daydream Believer"


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