Episode 217: Mustafa

“Air Forces”

Mustafa is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Toronto. He first gained national recognition in Canada for his poetry, and in 2016, he served on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Youth Advisory Council. Later, as a songwriter he contributed to the Grammy award-winning album Starboy by The Weeknd, and he’s written songs for Usher, Camila Cabello, and others. In May 2021, he released his own debut album, called When Smoke Rises, inspired by his experiences losing friends to inner-city violence. His album has been critically acclaimed, and was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. I spoke to Mustafa about his song “Air Forces,” a track he made with his longtime collaborator, Grammy-winning producer Frank Dukes, plus Swedish artist Simon On The Moon, and Jamie xx.

You can buy or stream “Air Forces” here.

Illustration by Carlos Lerma.

Regent Park, neighborhood
Remember Me, Toronto – short film
“The Age-Set” – Dinka people of Abyei
Mickey Newbury
Puffy L’Z

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Episode 216: Lykke Li

“I Follow Rivers”

Lykke Li is a singer and songwriter from Sweden. She started releasing music in 2007, and for much of her career, she’s worked with producer Björn Yttling, who’s also a member of the Swedish band Peter Björn and John. Her second album, Wounded Rhymes, came out 10 years ago. It was named one of the best albums of 2011 by the New York Times, Pitchfork, The Guardian, and more, and it won the Swedish Grammy for Best Album. The song “I Follow Rivers” was the breakout hit from that album, and for this episode, Lykke and Bjorn break down how they made it, with help from co-writer Rick Nowels. I spoke to the two of them while they were at Björn’s studio, Ingrid Studios in Stockholm.

You can buy or stream “I Follow Rivers” here.

Illustration by Carlos Lerma.

Lars Skoglund, drummer
John Eriksson, drummer
Wurlitzer, electric piano
Atlantis Studio
ABBA – “Dancing Queen”

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Episode 215: The Shins

“New Slang”

Singer, songwriter, and producer James Mercer wrote “New Slang” when he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It came out as a single and then he re-recorded it for The Shins debut album Oh, Inverted World, which came out 20 years ago, in 2001. After the movie Garden State came out, featuring the song “New Slang,” that album went gold. And the soundtrack for the movie won a Grammy. Nowadays, James Mercer lives in Portland. I spoke to him from his home studio, and he told me how The Shins actually first started as a recording project, a side project, while he was in another band called Flake Music. In this episode, James breaks down “New Slang” and looks back at how his songwriting and his early home recording skills came together to mkae this iconic song.

You can buy or stream “New Slang” here.

Illustration by Carlos Lerma.

Clip from Garden State
“Blast Valve” – Flake Music
“Those Bold City Girls” – The Shins
Henry’s Dress
“Target Practice” – Henry’s Dress
Shure SM57 microphone
RØDE NT1 microphone

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