Tom Misch: What Kinda Music Album Review

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By Joshua Paez
Music Journalist

Album: What Kinda Music
Artist: Tom Misch, Yussef Dayes
Release Date: April 24, 2020

With another fantastic display of musicianship, Tom Misch released What Kinda Music with jazz drummer Yussef Dayes. After splitting from the London-based jazz-funk duo Yussef Kamaal in 2017, Yussef compliments Tom rhythmically and soulfully on this 12 track release. 

This indie/alternative album embodies what it means to groove and be moved by rhythm. Once you listen to this album once, there’s always some detail that will make you come back for more. I’ll break down the stand-out tracks (despite every song on the album being outstanding) that are my favorite and what I love about them.

The first track, “What Kinda Music,” opens up with an other-worldly arpeggiated string instrument, followed by toms painting the soundscape. This intro sets a mood that gives you a floating sensation, and this feeling is heightened by Misch’s voice, fat bass synth, funky breakbeats, spacey background vocals and a violin string section. This track is a welcoming theme for the rest of the album.

“Nightrider” is a captivating track that truly bottles the feeling of driving down the highway at night and is fed to you in the grooviest way possible. Every detail about this song makes you float. The spacious reverb, soothing melody, and smooth drums makes your head nod to the beat. The bass, drums, guitar, synths, and vocals are so balanced and come together to evoke unexplainable emotions of relaxation.

My absolute favorite track off the album, “Lift Off,” is over five minutes of what I love about jamming in music. This song features Rocco Palladino, who lays down the electric bass chords, giving the rhythm section texture and depth.

Though this track has no lyrics, Misch sings to us on his guitar with an envelope filter pedal that compliments the bass by creating massive “wah” sounds. The drums do an amazing job of “playing in the pocket,” keeping a heavy groove that makes me want to bob my head even harder than I did earlier in the album. 

So much is done with so little in this track. With only three instruments, Misch, Dayes and Palladino blend their playing so well together. Misch’s improvisation and phrasing is a feat to admire as you hear his John Mayer influenced lines. The way the three musicians feed off of each other’s ideas is a demonstration of how jazz artists create conversations in their music and add a deeper, more fulfilling experience to listeners.

“I Did It For You” is a bright, upbeat song with minimalist lyrics that can make you pick up the pace in your step. The syncopated rhythms and catchy melody create an experience that makes you want to close your eyes, tap your foot, and contemplate relationships. 

“Julie Mangos” features groovy synth and heavy hitting swing rhythms to further illustrate Misch’s funk and soul capabilities. A little bit of the “wah’ guitar can be heard in the background, adding texture to the rhythm. Towards the last minute of the track, a fast breakbeat showcases Dayes’ chops and is ear candy for lovers of funk drums.

Though every song on this album deserves to have deep analysis and appreciation, What Kinda Music can be summarized by the themes of spacious reverb blending the groovy drums, funky guitar, soothing vocals, and improvisation that can set the mood for any nighttime car ride. 

This album, in comparison to the rest of Misch’s discography, is easily one that demonstrates his high level of musicianship and is complemented by Dayes’ mastery of rhythm and groove. This album is different in a way that it is more organic in terms of improvisation and interaction between him and Dayes. I’m excited to see where this style takes him on future projects and for other musicians.

Featured image via Blue Note Records.

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