Bones for Tinder



From the Carter Family to Outkast, Robert Johnson to R.E.M., there’s a long, proud tradition of weirdness in Southern music. A key feature has always been contradiction—joy and pain, humor and dread, God and Satan—and there’s plenty to be found on Justin Robinson’s debut album with backing band the Mary Annettes. Previously known for his work with the Grammy-winning stringband Carolina Chocolate Drops, the singer and multi-instrumentalist covers roughly a century of music on Bones for Tinder, presenting old-timey folk and bluegrass in ways that rap and indie-rock fans might understand. On “Ships and Verses,” a sparse tune built from banjo and schoolyard handclaps, Robinson name-checks Janet Jackson and references Shakira, singing, “We don’t care if your hips lie/We’re not here for truth, just want to catch your eye.” The band gets a bigger sound on “Vultures” and “The Phil Spectors,” both of which pair Robinson’s magical-realist lyrics with hip-hop beats and the pluck and drone of acoustic instruments. It all comes together on “Bright Diamonds,” a surreal mash-up of past and present—”petticoats and crinolines, Theremins and violins”—that hint at what “Hey Ya” might have sounded like in 1927.

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