Jan. 3, 2018 | Rodney Carmichael — Open Mike Eagle may have released one of the most political albums of 2017, but Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is also among the most personal. It comes across best in his live performances. For only the second time during his recent tour cycle, the LA-based artist played a set aided by the live instrumentation of musicians Jordan Katz (trumpet, keys, sampler), Josh Lopez (keys, sampler) and Brandon Owens (bass) for his Tiny Desk debut.
“Smells like lots of good soup in here,” he said to the audience one-third of the way through his set. The arctic temps hadn’t quite set in when he came to NPR’s Washington, D.C. headquarters in December, but Open Mike still exuded plenty of warmth while performing two songs from the stellar LP he released last September.
The album made multiple NPR Music best-of-2017 lists and earned him widespread critical acclaim for its inspired look at the inhumane demolition of public housing across America. The way we talk about displacement today, you’d think it was a new phenomenon; unfortunately, our language tends to evolve faster than we do. It’s been a decade since the last brick fell from the Robert Taylor Homes, the old Chicago Housing Authority project personified on the record. Yet, when it comes to excavating the politics of place, and all the racial implications inherent in cultural erasure, there is no project released in recent years that comes close.
The sound of a trumpet breathes an ominous air into his opener, “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home.” But it’s the underlying sense of imagination, as he sings on the hook about superpowers and secrets impossible to un-see, that gives it lift. By the time he closes out the set with “Very Much Money,” from his 2014 album Dark Comedy, it’s apparent that Mike Eagle has come to represent those scraping to survive winter in America.
“(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home”
“Daydreaming in the Projects”
“Very Much Money”
Open Mike Eagle (vocals, sampler), Jordan Katz (trumpet, keys, sampler), Josh Lopez (keys, sampler), Brandon Owens (bass)
Producers: Rodney Carmichael, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Bronson Arcuri, Alyse Young; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
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