Rhapsody Streamnotes: November 14, 2008

November 14, 2008 Notebook

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 23. It is at least a way to keep up on new releases without having to track down all that product. Past notes are collated here.

My subscription's expired, so this may be the last of the series. It was particularly useful in helping to sort out last year's year end list. In fact, thus far this year it's netted 20 records on my A-list, most of which wouldn't be there if I had to beg or buy them. Moreover, a subscription would probably have paid for itself simply by keeping me from buying things that turned out to be nowhere near as interesting and/or satisfying as I had been led to believe. On the other hand, I'm not sure that's sufficient reason to overcome my extreme reluctance to pay for bits. So we'll see what it's like without it, unless I can get turned on again.

Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue (2008, Warner Bros.): Rilo Kiley singer, released a previous album with the Watson Twins which I may have overrated as the bottom rung in 2006's A-list, or maybe not. This one is also real close to the cusp, with several real strong songs (cf. "See Fernando" or "Jack Killed Mom" or the Elvis Costello-guested "Carpetbaggers") and some other things that don't quite compute. Not a rockist nor a folkie, given to some pretty sophisticated (or at least sneaky) compositional quirks. A-

Bette Midler: Mud Will Be Flung Tonight (1985 [1990], Atlantic): Thought I'd check out Midler's new Rhino best-of (Jackpot: The Best of Bette), but didn't find it. Instead, the latest thing they had listed was this dated February 2008, so I figured it might make a Recycled quickie. Now I can't find any other confirmation of this as a reissue -- just a 1990 CD that's probably the original release. More comedic patter than music (e.g., "Halley's Comet comes once every 76 years/so do I/why bother?"), even if you count "Otto Titsling" among the latter. Most annoying is her snooty accent. B-

Jamie Lidell: Jim (2008, Warp): UK singer-songwriter, evidently has a past as a techno producer, but the two albums I've heard now qualify as soul music, only notionally of the blue-eyed strain. This one is pretty upbeat, not overly slick. B+(**)

Brazilian Girls: New York City (2008, Verve Forcast): New York group, fronted by Italian girl Sabina Sciubba, singing in five languages, and backed by three non-Brazilian guys. World beat, dance beat, electro-ambient, downtown-avant, with three or four songs where it all works right, and few where it doesn't. B+(***)

Stereolab: Chemical Chords (2008, 4AD): A dozen-plus albums since 1992. The rhythm monomaniacally stands out, an odd effect mostly redeemed by keeping up a brisk pace, and they manage some harmonic depth despite the keyb dominance. Couldn't follow the words very well, not even the French which only defines two titles, although I got the impression it shows up elsewhere. B+(**)

Duffy: Rockferry (2008, Island/Mercury): Amy Ann Duffy, to be precise: Welsh singer, maybe singer-songwriter, passes for soul in her native land, drawing comparisons to Dusty Springfield and Joss Stone, which don't mean much to me. Several good songs, emotionally deep as country, but artsy as rock. Heard two of them on SNL, and they broke first here, but they're not alone. Nice debut. B+(***)

Issa Bagayogo: Mali Koura (2007 [2008], Six Degrees): Christgau warned that this needs to be played loud, which I (of course) didn't -- possibly why I'm not as taken with the record. Played at what for me is normal volume is sort of slinks by, pleasant background groove music, subtle, entrancing even. B+(**)

Tricky: Knowle West Boy (2008, Domino): Sounds much as I'd expect: gloomy, moody, dark, brooding, firmly tethered to a groove that keeps it going, despite all one's crosses to bear. B+(***)

Greta Gaines: Whiskey Thoughts (2008, Justice): Countryish singer-songwriter, has a few good lines and a couple of sour ballads, doesn't convey much heat in her love songs, but may just have been burned. B+(*)

Kimya Dawson and Friends: Alphabutt (2008, K): The "Friends" sound like a chorus of four-year-olds, who are most likely more at ease with the gross and carefree humor than I am, but probably not the didactically political "Sunbeams and Some Beans." I'm sympathetic and at least a little understanding and not generally that much of a prude, but can't imagine ever playing again a nursery rhyme like "Pee-Pee in the Potty." Also not a parent, or a person who's spent any significant time with the younger set, which Dawson has done, in spades. B

Steve Wynn: Crossing Dragon Bridge (2008, Blue Rose): Started out in 1982 in the Dream Syndicate, a Velvet Underground riff that could just as well qualify as post-psychedelia. Showed up in various projects since then. This one focuses on Ljubljana, Slovenia, celebrated with the inevitable "Slovenian Rhapsody 1." But like almost everything else Wynn has done, he settles down to tuneful Americana. B+(**)

Rodney Crowell: Sex & Gasoline (2008, Yep Roc): Could use another play or two, which would be a pleasure. Crowell's always been a singer-songwriter with something to say, and these low-key song-tales are plenty interesting. Don't hear an obvious hook song yet. B+(***)

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin' Bones (2008, Essence/Sugar Hill): Perfectly fine Australian country singer, adds her husband to the act. He hauls his own water, helped by a more than passable voice, sustaining Chambers' allusions. Darkly textured, deep, haunting, short on verities but long on mood. Sunk in more on the second play, which seems about right. B+(**)

Morgan Geist: Double Night Time (2008, Environ): Formerly of Metro Area. Did an album I liked a couple of years ago called Unclassics: Obscure Electronic Funk and Disco 1978-1985. He's one of the most disco-oriented electronica producers, and this stays close to the seams in, say, the Giogio Moroder/Donna Summer relationship. But not much of a vocal presence here. B+(***)

Records I looked up but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Taj Mahal: Maestro (Heads Up)

The following were written for Recycled Goods or Jazz Prospecting:

Anthony Braxton/Milford Graves/William Parker: Beyond Quantum (2008, Tzadik): Five pieces, named "First Meeting," "Second Meeting," etc. The "Fourth Meeting" is the most immediately compelling -- probably just the straightest and most accessible. Braxton plays "saxophones": alto is his preferred tool, and he's one of the most dexterous and expansive alto saxophonists ever, especially when he doesn't have to navigate his own contorted compositions. He plays sopranino toward the end; probably others, but he gets such a wide range of sound out of alto I could be wrong. Graves is a little-recorded percussion legend, adding some vocalizing and other strange effects here and there. Parker is a massively-recorded bass legend. Much food for thought all around. A-

Otis Redding: Live in London and Paris (1967 [2008], Stax, 2CD): Two live shows from March of the monumental soul singer's last year, most songs duplicated in both sets, distinguished primarily by the intensity of his performance, a rave-up that can get to be too much, although the rush cannot be denied. B+(**)