Do you miss packing your friends into the car, playing your favorite tracks and dancing in your seat? Us too. Welcome to Pass the Aux, where every other week the KQED Arts & Culture team introduces you to new(ish) releases from Bay Area artists. Here’s what we have on deck.
María José Montijo (MaJo), “Lejos De Ti”
Amid the dreariness of mid-pandemic existence, Puerto Rican-born healer and musician María José Montijo (MaJo) offers a balm for shelter-in-place angst for anyone who’s been longing for that feeling of an old friend's embrace. With her latest independently released track and music video, “Lejos de Ti,” MaJo drops us into her sunlit childhood home in Puerto Rico, alive with hues of green and gold. Against a crescendo of strings and the slow bounce of drums, MaJo's echoes of “amor” fill the void of an empty house. Interstitials of familiar Bay Area artists light up the screen as she sings to each loved one across time and space: “Aquí, lejos de ti / seís pies de distancia / es demasiado / cuando quiero / tu abrazo.”
MaJo dances in place to her own rhythm, inviting us to bear witness to her solo rituals as she passes pandemic time in the virtual company of chosen family. And though the song immediately reminded me to send a text to that one-friend-I’ve-been-missing, MaJo also presents a powerful portrait of spending time in the company of ourselves—especially when friends feel far.—Lina Blanco
Avi Vinocur, “Tell John Prine Hello”
On April 7, the day John Prine’s death was announced, Avi Vinocur sat down at his typewriter and composed lyrics to a song titled “Donald Trump Killed John Prine”—an indictment of the Trump administration’s inaction to contain the novel coronavirus, and an ode to the brilliant songwriter whose life it squelched. Since Vinocur publicly posted the lyrics, the phrase “Donald Trump Killed John Prine” has become ubiquitous, and appeared on T-shirts, hoodies and bumper stickers, which may have inspired the San Francisco songsmith to change direction. On his latest album, Hindsight (“a set of songs about the year that was”), Vinocur opted not to record the song, and instead wrote a new one. “Tell John Prine Hello” is sung from the viewpoint of someone who knows exactly what'll happen after they die: they’ll ride on up to heaven, and find John Prine, and introduce themselves. Recorded like the rest of the album—on an iPhone—the song has an earthy, grounded feel, even as the ascending melody of the chorus evokes spiritual transport. A little bit like a John Prine song itself, actually.—Gabe Meline