Home Hear Michael Kentoff | A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes: Exclusive Premiere

Michael Kentoff | A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes: Exclusive Premiere

The D.C. singer-songwriter shares the first single from his upcoming solo debut.

Michael Kentoff takes you on A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes in his new single — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.

The first preview of upcoming self-titled solo debut, A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes was — like most of his work — an exercise in problem solving for the singer-songwriter of experimental outfit The Caribbean. When Kentoff became fascinated with the electronic dance genre footwork, he wondered if he could apply indie-pop songcraft to its cut-up production style.

“I love how jarring J. Dilla and DJ Rashid and a lot of Chicago footwork sound. I started to think if I can build songs out of guitar and piano, why can’t I do this with samples? I ended up putting two kinds of music I’ve never heard together, pop and footwork,” Kentoff says.

The D.C.-based artist soon found exploring this creative conundrum to be the perfect antidote for dealing with the postpartum depression he was experiencing in the wake of The Caribbean’s recent album. The results can be heard on Kentoff’s self-titled set, a surprisingly satisfying amalgamation of adventurous soundscapes and well-crafted melodies.

If there ever was such a thing as storyteller footwork, A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes is it. Over a rugged beat and a sonic mosaic assembled from loops pinched from a sample library featuring soundtrack music, Kentoff trots us through his childhood neighborhood. The song features an imaginative onslaught of textures that somehow smoothly pass by the ears as the listener gets lost in a rare turn of autobiographical Kentoff reportage.

Lyrically, Kentoff chronicles his family’s move to D.C. in the late-’60s, and sketches neighborhood characters such as hipster adults Gary and Jean Cohen, and the passively antisemitic neighbor Mr. Hunter. “When my mom was alive, I played this song for her and I couldn’t really tell what she thought,” Kentoff shares. “She was glad I wrote a song about Jews. She seemed to think I don’t appreciate being Jewish.

“As much as any song I write is about anything, A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes is primarily about my friend Gary Cohen, a former law partner of mine and contemporary of my parents, who came to D.C. from Nashville, and my mom, who came to D.C. (through Chicago) from Omaha,” he says. “Sort of a strangers-from-a-strange-land-into-a-new-strange-land story.

Photo by Cameron Whitman.

“Me growing up: My grandparents lived in Omaha, and my experience told me that Omaha was basically a Jewish town. Only going back as an adult did I realize that my grandparents and their friends and some family were the (only) Jews in Omaha. The gun racks on pickup trucks up and down 72nd Street should have tipped me off. I doubt Nashville was/is much different.

“I worked assiduously on this song in 2016-’17, as I did the others in this collection, down the hall from Gary — at work. I like to say that no billable hours were hurt during the making of this record and it’s largely true: The firm was flailing (and failing) and regular billable hours were a rarity. So I loaded Ableton onto my work computer (in hindsight, sort of a risky move), and began to find, load, chop up, loop, and arrange evocative library music samples — always with a pop song result in mind. Wherever the samples led me. Gary, being a Washington Color School painter when not practising securities law, would definitely understand and be supportive. He’d give a surprised look, an “Oh!” smile, and say, with his Nashville twang, “I liiiyyyk that, Michael!” I should tell him sometime.

Take A Tour of Washington’s Jewish Homes above, hear more from Michael Kentoff and The Caribbean below, and follow him on Facebook.


Photo by Cameron Whitman.