One of my favorite people in Chicago’s music scene isn’t a musician as far as I know; it’s writer, curator, manager, enthusiast and DJ, neonpajamas. He’s got another one with his album, Tokens: A Compilation. Ben (aka neonpajamas) consistently turns damn good music into even more with his vision and inexhaustible attention to detail, from memorable cover art (Tokens cover is by Darius Airo,) to spot on sequencing of tracks, his projects are inspired. This album is co-presented by Mishka Records and These Days.
Tokens opens with Elias Abid’s, “Falling Waters,” for me the song starts out sounding like morning in a wild place, then takes it’s time and gracefully builds to aura’s warm, intimate vocals, he sings. “I want you to remember me/I won’t become a memory, no/My destiny is calling me/I’m standing on fallen seas.” Next up is Death By Icon, an interesting and innovative hip hop trio consisting of Vic, Ant, and Dook. The album continues to develop with gems from producers Sage Nebulous, lasko, Walkingshoe, Jaro and BoatHouse. Vocal features are by Chando, Cae Jones and Lloyd Dotdot and Walkingshoe. There is a vibe of fluidity, four of the eight tracks’ titles reference water (“Falling Seas”, “Wave Goddess,” “Water Girl,” & “God Sailed). The overall composition of the project reminds me of something I once heard in a jazz masterclass; the instructor was talking about shaping a guitar solo and said, “first you whisper, then you talk, then you shout, then you go back to a whisper.” Tokens: A Compilation is a very well shaped album, listen and spend time with the artistry of some of Chicago’s top young producers and vocalists.