Smooth Monday Jams: Check Your History

There are still a lot of people out there who have a negative connotation when the words "smooth" and "music" are combined, and I’m the first to say that not all smooth music is necessarily good. This isn’t your generic, corny smooth jazz CD or your boring easy-listening station (although there are some gems in those genres, as well). I’m attracted to the smooth tracks from all genres, of which there are more than you can even imagine. To ease the pressures off your Mondays, I bring you the “Smooth Jams” series, my favorite smooth tracks of the week.

Be sure to check out Sea Level tonight and every first Monday of the month at Tender Trap in Brooklyn. Free smoothness for all begins at 9 PM. I promise you’ll hear songs like this and many more to start your work week off on a smoother note.

Software – "Island Sunrise" (1988)

Shots out to Mamiko Motto for putting me onto this one (tune into her show Hepcat Radio on NTS every Wednesday 8-9 PM GMT). Anything beginning with the sounds of the ocean is off to a good start, but the ethereal pads, synthesizer chimes, and overall musicality of this track makes me melt.

Mya – "Smilin" (1997)

This unreleased gem by Mya is produced and arranged by Devante Swing, one of the most under appreciated musical geniuses of our time. Check your history!

Toro y Moi – "Touch" (2012)

Whoever said that no one is making any smooth jams anymore, is straight up wrong. Toro Y Moi serves up a tasteful and laid back groover. (pro-tip: mix into this.)

Toto – "Human Nature" (1983)

Toto basically recorded this entire song before showing it to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. I love this version almost as much as the hit most people know off Thriller. Toto were the unsung smooth heroes of the late ’70s and early ’80s: they were studio musicians on so many of the best tracks.

The Doobie Brothers – "Minute by Minute" (1978)

Gotta end with some yacht rock from one of the godfathers of smooth, Michael McDonald. AND I SAY CHURCHHHHHHHHH (shout out Meek Mill).

Go to “Africa” with Toto and Steve Almond

Writer Steve Almond analyzes Toto’s “Africa” and its nonsensical travel themes. Hilarity ensues.

Almond calls the song “the love child of imperialism and Muzak” with its light jazz melody and lyrics that ignorantly romanticize its namesake continent: “I hear the drums echoing tonight / but she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation / She’s coming in 12:30 flight … I bless the rains down in Africa.” He also notes that while the lyrics talk of Kilimanjaro rising over the Serengeti, the famed mountain is actually almost 200 miles from the desert. Overly emotive soft rock might have been the band’s strong suit, geography wasn’t.