Most of my memories are musical. When I reflect on stories from childhood, vivid images are punctuated by songs. My parents’ black-and-white tiled kitchen (before they renovated) is filled with the sounds of Delta blues, a favorite of my dad’s since back when he hosted his own college radio show.
In 1980s Japan, during a time of rapid urbanization and technological advancement, a new genre of music sprouted from the era’s bustling, neon streets. Pioneered by Yokohama-born composer and historian Hiroshi Yoshimura, the artistic movement, known as “kankyo ongaku,” or “environment music,” began to spread across the nation.
Islands of black-clad fans congregated outside the steps of Portland’s First Parish Church on a Sunday evening in early March. The cool aura of cigarette smoke and septum piercings couldn’t hide their earnest anticipation. To the random passersby, the crowd might have provoked pause, as if Portland’s bygone punk scene had been shaken out of hibernation by the unseasonably warm night.
Gliding through the noon-blue heat of the Florida interstate, my brother in the driver’s seat asks me to play a song. I’ve never heard of his request before, but trusting his judgment, I search it up on my phone and add it to the queue.
“King Creole” was the name of a mythic Cajun guitarist known for his command of various styles of rock and roll, made famous by the 1958 film named after him starring Elvis Presley. It is also the name of the bouncing intro track from Dawn Richard’s encyclopedic 2021 album, “Second Line.”
Like the original “King Creole,” “Second Line” boasts Richard’s mastery of multiple genres.
Every now and then, you’ll hear a song that feels like it’s been composed especially for you—its rhythm calibrated to your pulse, lyrics drawn from the marrow of your memory. A few months ago, I came across such a song.