Every other week, Anthony Kozlowski pens the Atwood Magazine column Tunes & Tumblers, pairing new and classic albums with cocktail recipes. He quickly found however that drinking alone is a sad business. So he invited his friends Pedro Isaac Chairez and Ryan James into a recording booth to aid in mixing delicious drinks and to discuss the music that they all love. Strap on your headphones and enjoy a cold one on us.
Seven episodes in, the Tunes & Tumblers gang take their first trip back in time to explore the sultry wonder of Sade’s turn of the millennium album Lovers Rock. Between discussing the breadth and depth of love, our team softens the edges with a spicy take on a classic drink.
It was a quiet evening at Tunes & Tumblers headquarters. Pedro and I were passing the afternoon in a YouTube rabbit hole as Ryan burst through the door, eyes aglow. For those unfamiliar, our dear Ryan is an epicurean. Every trip to the market is accompanied by a stop at the local secondhand book shop or an estate sale. And his haul is never less than fascinating.
“Check it out,” he said with a grin, and tossed a CD on the table. Yes, you read that right. A CD. In 2019. And not just any CD. Sade’s pivotal 2000 album Lovers Rock. From the look on his face, it was quite the find, but there’s something you need to know about me. A disgraceful secret I’ve kept hidden from the world until now:
I’d never listened to Sade before.
If your first inclination is to click ahead to the next article, I don’t blame you. Ryan and Pedro nearly quit the podcast upon learning the shameful truth. But after much cajoling, I convinced them to stay on to record at least one more episode. And once we found a contraption that could play Ryan’s turn of the millennium gift, it became the subject of this week’s pairing.
an album by Sade
After a crash course in everything Sade, what strikes first about Lovers Rock — the group’s first offering after an eight year hiatus — is its divergence from their tried-and-true formula. Even those only familiar with mega hits like “Smooth Operator” (ie. me) can peg their trademark take on pop music, infused with a steamy dose of jazz and soul. Lovers Rock sees the band (yes, they are a band; don’t make the mistake I did and assume that “Sade” refers only to lead singer Sade Adu) expanding their sound. They ditch the jazz and opt for elements of soft rock, folk, dub, and the reggaeton sub-genre the album takes its namesake from. To quote Josh Baines of Vice, it’s “sun-dappled, f*cked-out, narcotic lovers rock that creates a singular sonic world that oozes with subtle seduction.”
Thematically, the album leans very much as one would expect. Dropping the needle would perfectly soundtrack any hotel room rendezvous. But Sade doesn’t stop at the well-worn path of romantic love. These are songs about the love of a friend, a neighbor, a stranger, the vastness of humanity. They ruminate on the different journeys love can take, through sweetness, sorrow, bitterness, or regret, but ultimately arriving at a cathartic wholeness. The band perhaps state it best in the closing track “It’s Only Love That Gets You Through”:
Somehow you’ve made it to the other side
You didn’t suffer in vain
You forgive those who have trespassed against you
You know tenderness comes from pain
In typical fashion, Pedro mixed a drink that perfectly captures this sentiment. Love is a journey, and so is this week’s sprituous pairing. Please feel the love responsibly.
A Lovers’ Alexander
- 1 part cognac
- 1 part cream
- 1 part crème de cacao
- cayenne pepper
- Mix the cognac, cream, and crème de. cacao.
- Pour into a martini glass and dust with some nutmeg.
- Add just a little cayenne pepper for those moments when love can burn.
- Toast with a friend, a neighbor, or a lover.
This album is almost twenty years old. In another year, it can legally order a drink of its own. At that ripe age, it deserves a classic cocktail to celebrate its classic status. We reached way back in the bartender’s playbook for this one and did a little play on a drink called an Alexander. Smooth, rich, and creamy, it recalls Lovers Rock to a point. Both are silky as hell, very sexy, and carry a little heat behind them.
Love and its many facets is the focus here. The good parts, the bad parts. Romantic love, familial love, love for your neighbor or the people around you. No matter where or how you find it, love carries a softness and a sweetness. In its standard form, the Alexander captures that perfectly. But anyone who’s been through a break-up or a tragic loss knows that love contains more than its soft side. A dash of cayenne pepper grabs the attention and reminds you that yeah, love can suck sometimes. The rich flavor of chocolate keeps the palate grounded though, as if to say that love will always see you through. And if it doesn’t, just have the bartender pour you another.
One thing feels particularly striking about Lovers Rock apart from the artistry on display. It’s not possessive. We’re not here on “lover’s rock” or a place owned by several “lovers.” Whatever it is as a genre (an offshoot of reggae noted for its romantic sound and content), the concept lends itself to interpretation. What is Lovers Rock and what does it say about how Sade wants us to experience their music?
In this episode, we attempt to solve that riddle over a morning commute and more than a few sojourns. According to Ryan, “[Lovers Rock] is where you are when you’re listening to the music. It’s a place. A rock with thousands of initials on it.”
Pedro takes a broader stance, claiming, “It’s less of a place and more the rhythm of a relationship between two or more people. The ebbs and flows. The motions that go along with it. The heat at the beginning that steadily smooths out.”
If you came for less philosophical fare, you may enjoy Ryan’s incredulity that I made an entire playlist just for songs with saxophone solos. The gang also reveal what music festival is essentially Coachella for forty-year-olds, and roll out their plans for a Tunes & Tumblers incel support group.
The search for a theme song continues in this episode too!
If you or your band think you have what it takes to soundtrack a podcast, submit a recording to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “[ARTIST_NAME] Tunes & Tumblers Jingle Submission.” In addition to having their music featured and credited in future episodes, the winner will also be invited onto a special episode of Tunes & Tumblers to talk about what they would pair with their music. The winner will be chose early this Fall, so don’t hesitate to throw your hat in the ring!
It feels impossible to talk about love in the context of music without falling on at least a few cliches. But for every maxim that’s been spouted a thousand times about how “love is the answer” and “all you need is love,” there are billions who relate. It may be the most universal of all human experiences, and for that reason the conversation never dies. Music (and all art for that matter) has a way of reaching into hearts and pulling out what we all feel. What is love? Sade themselves might have the definitive word:
It’s a rock that I cling to.
Tunes & Tumblers 007:
Sade and a Lover’s Alexander
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If you want to add any of the music discussed to your library, check out the full episode playlist below:
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© Pedro Isaac Chairez