Adrian Younge just found one of the surefire shortcuts musicians can take on the road to getting me to like them. These include (but are not limited to):
- Talking about both music and basketball on your Twitter feed
- Saying nice things about Barack and/or Michelle Obama
- Covering someone else’s song in a way that lets me know you’re open-minded and don’t take yourself overly seriously
- Cheeseburgers (not sure how this applies here, but it doesn’t make sense to make a bulleted list of shortcuts to my heart without mentioning cheeseburgers)
- Appearing on Fresh Air
Younge took the Fresh Air route, and I can’t resist taking a quick detour to say that there’s something phenomenal about the way Fresh Air host and executive producer Terry Gross interacts with people.
Her ability to bring out the best in her guests and her unflagging willingness to ask uncomfortable questions never cease to amaze me, in part because those two things are so often at odds with one another in radio and TV interviews. She challenges people without tearing them down, and builds people up without patronizing them or us. And somehow, at the end of her discussions — even ones that ventured into difficult territory — Gross thanks guests and guests thank Gross in voices that radiate intense sincerity, in spite of the rote nature of this final exchange. These “Thank you so much for coming on” / “Thank you for having me” moments pass quickly, but they really are moments, filled with so much humanity that they’re worth looking forward to unto themselves. (This American Life even made a short comedic film about the end of Fresh Air interviews, or, more accurately, a lack thereof.)
True to form, Younge’s episode had its share of constructive awkwardness — the exchange about German porn soundtracks was probably my favorite part of the whole interview — but Younge came out sounding authoritative, engaging and passionate about music, and I couldn’t wait to try out the goods they talked about on air. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long — the album he did with William Hart, lead singer of Philadelphia soul group The Delfonics, was just a Spotify search away. Called, fittingly, Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics, the album makes good on one of Younge’s most memorable quotes from his Fresh Air interview:
I don’t make music, I make worlds.
This statement would be totally pretentious if it didn’t turn out to be so totally correct. Clicking “play” on Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics really is like touching down on another planet — one where the beginning of Wu-Tang songs never end, and where you can up and choose which decade you’d like it to be. Younge’s complete dedication to the late-60’s/early-70’s recording process (his studio features only vintage equipment — no shortcuts here), personal commitment to the time period (just watch his Crate Diggers episode) and decision to collaborate with one of the era’s hit-makers combine to achieve a truly powerful aesthetic. So powerful, in fact, that it feels like you’re stepping into a small chamber that was hollowed out in time to allow for this one specific and loving simulacrum. It’s a bizarrely pleasant sense of compression, and I’m thrilled that Terry Gross put Younge on the inside track into my consciousness.
I invite you to welcome him into your own by getting a taste of Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics below. And if vintage soul isn’t your bag, don’t sleep on Younge — he has an intriguing collaboration with Ghostface Killah coming out on April 16.