Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is What Kinda Music, the new album from the duo of Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes.
What Kinda Music is a tale of two young jazz guns. In one corner, we have Yussef Dayes, the experimental jazz drummer, known for his blending of jazz and the breakbeats that mark hip-hop, and for his utility-man status in the U.K. jazz scene. Over here in the other corner, we have Tom Misch, the singer-songwriter who started out on SoundCloud, which makes you associate him with lo-fi bedroom auteurs, but he only went to the platform after dropping out of a jazz conservatory and working on his own music. The resulting album from this peanut butter in my chocolate, chocolate in my peanut butter moment is an album that blends Dayes’ experimentation with Misch’s jazz-inflected singer-songwriter mode for this generation’s answer to George Benson’s Breezin: a soft-jazz album that at first comes on like a warm blanket, but reveals itself to be more sonically adventurous and daring than you realize at first listen.
Released by the legendary jazz imprint Blue Note, the album came together organically when Dayes and Misch worked together on a record for another artist that Misch was producing. When Dayes came in to work on the album, Misch realized that he had seen Dayes perform at a talent show in school when he was a kid, and thought he was an amazing drummer, even 15 years ago, and the duo linked up and starting working on what became What Kinda Music. The album moves with the organic intention the duo brought to it; there are few albums released this year that are this much of a vibe. This is headphones music for a soft sweatpants existential crisis, party music for Zoom parties in self-isolation. This might be the most chill album with a drummer getting top-billing with the star; Dayes’ drumming is dexterous, impressive, and show-stopping, but it’s also restrained and tasteful, never not matching the exact tone the music needs.
What Kinda Music’s peaks are varied, from the loverman “I miss you when you’re gone” jam (“Last 100”), and Misch’s sprawling guitar solos on “Lift Off,” to the trip-hop-esque title track and the rain-is-falling sweep of “Tidal Wave.” But the album ascends to new vistas on “Nightrider,” a song that imagines Freddie Gibbs being transported to 1982 where he could rap over the most lush quiet storm R&B you can imagine. It’s the perfect melding of Dayes and Misch, become a perfect trio with Gibbs in tow. What Kinda Music doesn’t answer its title question, but whatever it is called, I could live there forever.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.