An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2021
January archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 34804  rated (+48), 221  unrated (+2).
Not much to say right now, so probably best to go ahead and post this. I figure on making some changes after next week (or perhaps I should say the end of January), but I can wait until then to explain what and why. Still fiddling with EOY Aggregate, but that's one thing that I'll stop working on in the next week or so. I'll try to sum up what I've learned next week.
I meant to write a postscript to last week's Music Week, but moved on to other things and never got to it. My recollection is rusty now, but I had made some speculation about Robert Christgau's Wednesday Consumer Guide, and felt like I should follow up. Doesn't really matter now. The CG had three new and two old records I hadn't heard, so they loom large below. I also bumped Open Mike Eagle up after a relisten, but didn't bother going back to other B+ albums by Taylor Swift, Toots and the Maytals, or 75 Dollar Bill (the one I prefer is Live at Café Oto Dec. 19, 2019). I will say that my one-play reaction to Evermore was that it was every bit as good as Folklore.
I did a much needed update to the Robert Christgau website last week. The main thing was to add all of the CG reviews from his And It Don't Stop newsletter. As it's a paid subscription thingy, it was felt that there should be a delay before non-subscribers can see the reviews on the website, so the big thing was writing code to enforce that, although the bigger thing was keeping everything else working as various changes to the PHP programming language broke old code. I got a couple of letters about old things that were wrong, but the update seems to have worked reasonably well. We kicked around some ideas for a redesign (more under the hood than external), and I plan to start working on that within two weeks -- as recent things wind down and new projects get going.
I'm getting tired of trying to keep track of recent deaths, and was hoping to skip that part this week (after linking to a couple pieces on Phil Spector yesterday), but when I checked the list, I recognized Junior Mance (a fine pianist who had a long career after his early-1960s peak -- seek out Junior's Blues) and Duke Bootee (early hip-hop producer, co-wrote "The Message" for Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, and had a good one-shot album in 1984, Bust Me Out). Oh, also Jimmie Rodgers (1933-2021) -- not the legendary country singer but a pop star with some big hits in the late-1950s -- "Honeycomb" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" were among my first (and most played ever) 45s.
New records reviewed this week:
Adulkt Life: Book of Curses (2020, What's Your Rupture?): British post-punk group, from London, first album, short one (10 tracks, 25:21. B+(***)
Daniel Avery: Love + Light (2020, Phantasy Sound): British electronica producer, from Bournemouth, EPs from 2012, five albums. Fourteen tracks range from ambient (blah) to much sharper (and more compelling) machinery. B+(**)
BC Camplight: Shortly After Takeoff (2020, Bella Union): Singer-songwriter Brian Christinzio, from New Jersey, fifth album since 2005. Occasionally reaches for a Beach Boys harmony. B
Beach Bunny: Honeymoon (2020, Mom + Pop): Chicago indie pop band, Lili Trifilio singer, first album after a bunch of EPs and singles, short at 9 songs, 25:00. B+(*)
Belle and Sebastian: What to Look for in Summer (2019 , Matador, 2CD): Live double (99:54) by the Scottish band, founded 1994 and led by Stuart Murdoch. Gets better and better, although that may be because the older songs are the ones I recognize. B+(**)
BlackPink: The Album (2020, YG Entertainment/Interscope): K-pop girl group, four singer/dancers recruited and orchestrated by the label, released a Japanese album in 2018, this their first in South Korea and the US. More English and more hip-hop than most K-pop, with guest features for Selena Gomez and Cardi B. Short: eight tracks, 24:26. B+(**)
Susie Blue and the Lonesome Fellas: Bye Bye Blues (2020, Seraphic): Western swing band, based in Chicago, led by singer Solitaire Miles, who snagged the credit for the band's eponymous debut (2015). Mostly repertoire, and not just Bob Wills, like whom they used fiddle and pedal steel, but also borrowed heavily from the jazz du jour. B+(**)
James Dean Bradfield: Even in Exile (2020, Montyray): Welsh singer-songwriter, Manic Street Preachers leader, second solo album. This album bears a relationship to his former band much like Bob Mould's solo work does to Hüsker Dü: same but slightly diluted. B+(*)
Brian Charette: Beyond Borderline (2019, SteepleChase): Organ player, one of the few who doesn't sound like a soul jazz throwback, more than a dozen albums since 2009, solo here. B+(*)
Brian Charette: Like the Sun (2020, Dim Mak): This one also looks to be solo, but the "live" organ is surrounded by "drum machines, samplers, and arpeggiators . . . programmed to react . . . in provocative ways." Not really. B
John Craigie: Asterisk the Universe (2020, Zabriskie Point): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, alt-country, albums since 2009. Video suggests this was recorded in a country commune, as he has a lot of musicians and backup singers without making it feel cluttered. More like richly detailed, which fits the songs. A-
Cut Worms: Nobody Lives Here Anymore (2020, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter Max Clarke, from Ohio, based in Brooklyn, second album. Wikipedia advises: "for moth larvae that feed at night, see cutworms." Nice, melodic, even gets into some Beach Boys overtones. B+(*)
Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction: Live at Threes (2020, Out of Your Head Untamed): Bassist, live followup to group's 2019 album. Quintet, with Louna Dekker-Vargas (flutes), Ledah Finck (violin/viola), Tal Yahalom (guitar), and Stephen Boegehold (drums). B+(**) [dl]
Dvsn: A Muse in Her Feelings (2020, OVO Sound/Warner Bros.): Canadian r&b duo, singer Daniel Daley and producer Anthony Paul Jefferies (aka Nineteen85), pronounced "division," third album.
Empress Of: I'm Your Empress Of (2020, Terrible): Singer-songwriter Lorely Rodriguez, from Los Angeles, parents Honduran, third album. B+(**)
Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lose Your ind Yet? (2020, Cooking Vinyl/Blackball Universe): Xavier Dphrepaulezz, father Somali, he was born in Massachusetts, moved to Oakland when he was 12, heavily influenced by Prince. Recorded an album as Xavier in 1996. Adopted this name for his 2014 album. Stradles blues and funk, rocks some, asks the question, "is there justice in America." B+(***)
Ghetto Kumbé: Ghetto Kumbé (2020, ZZK): Colombian group, main focus on the drums spritzed up with a wash of electronica. B+(**)
The Grasso-Ravita Jazz Ensemble: Jagged Spaces (2020 , Grassvita Music): Guitarist Skip Grasso and bassist Phil Ravita, with Benny Russell (tenor/soprano sax), Greg Small (piano), and Nuc Vega (drums). B+(*) [cd]
Guiss Guiss Bou Bess: Set Sela (2019, Helico): From Senegal, although increasingly I'm seeing music from all over the non-English-speaking world classified not as "world" but under genres -- in this case, deep dubstep, bass house, or more broadly electronica. Still, the beats sound like drums, and profusion such as rarely found outside of Senegal. A-
The Happy Fits: What Could Be Better (2020, The Happy Fits): Rock trio from New Jersey, second album, upbeat, hooky. B+(**)
Roderick Harper: Evolving (2020 , R.H.M. Entertainment): Crooner, full name ends in Muhammad, originally from DC but found himself in New Orleans, couple previous albums, featured spots here for Ellis Marsalis and Donald Harrison. B+(*) [cd]
Stephanie Lambring: Autonomy (2020, self-released): Singer-songwriter, based in Nashville, second album, plays guitar and keyboards. Some songs touch on religion, not that it does much good. "Old Folks Home" seems appropriately sad. B+(**)
Pak Yan Lau & Darin Gray: Trudge Lightly (2016-18 , By the Bluest of Seas): Piano-bass duo, but both are "prepared," and credits include synths, objects, electronics. Gray is American, discography goes back to 1999. Lau is based in Brussels, has appeared in groups like Dream & Drone Orchestra and The Crappy Mini Band. This is her fourth album. B+(**) [bc]
Lomelda: Hannah (2020, Double Double Whammy): Singer-songwriter Hannah Read, from Texas, handful of albums since 2012. Wrote one of those albums "over a few months while sleeping in her car." B+(*)
Sabir Mateen/Christopher Dell/Christian Ramond/Klaus Kugel: Creation (2012 , 577): Tenor sax, vibes, bass, drums. Takes a while, but two-thirds through the "bonus track" Mateen really catches fire. B+(***)
McCarthy Trenching: Perfect Game (2020, self-released): Omaha singer-songwriter Dan McCarthy, albums since 2003 (demos) or 2007 (eponymous). As Christgau says, "clear, mild, droll, calculated, casual, and clever." I doubt I would have noticed without his review. B+(***)
Melenas: Dias Raros (2020, Trouble in Mind): Spanish indie rock quartet, all women, from Pamplona, second album, lyrics in Spanish. B+(**)
Buddy & Julie Miller: Lockdown Songs (2020, self-released): Country duo since 1995, both also have records on their own. Little info available, but obviously new songs for the glum occasion, with several public service announcements ("stay home," "put on your mask," "don't drink bleach no matter what the president said"), several about Black Lives Matter and John Lewis, a look back at "The Terrible Spanish Flu." Both sound considerably gruffer than I remember them. Time 26:22, but like the year, feels longer. B+(***)
MoE With Mette Rasmussen and Ikuro Takahasi: Painted (2019 , Relative Pitch): Experimental rock duo from Norway -- bassist Guro Skumsnes Moe and guitarist Håvard Skaset -- plus saxophone and drums. Moe is also credited with voice, but not much of that. Noise meets free jazz, roughly. B [bc]
Munson-Hicks Party Supplies: Munson-Hicks Party Supplies (2020, Soft Launch): From Minneapolis, John Munson ("who does most of the singing") and Dylan Hicks ("who writes the songs") -- I filed it under Hicks because I've heard of him before. Erudite, measured, not much of a party. B+(**)
NZCA Lines: Pure Luxury (2020, Memphis Industries): British synthpop band, founded by Michael Lovett, third album. One foot in cheezy disco, the other less decisive. B+(*)
Okan: Espiral (2020, Lulaworld): Afro-Cuban group, led by Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne, based in Toronto. B+(***)
J.S. Ondara: Folk N' Roll, Vol. 1: Tales of Isolation (2020, Verve Forecast): Born in Kenya, was so taken with Dylan he moved to Minneapolis to retrace his steps. Second album. Has the guitar and harmonica down, phrasing but not quite voice, impressive and sometimes annoying. Does have one thing right: "nobody wins in war." B
Chris Pitsiokos: Speak in Tongues and Hope for the Gift of Interpretation (2020, Relative Pitch): Alto saxophonist, solo, six exercises, each dedicated to master: Charlie Parker, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, John Zorn. Not so easy listening. B+(*) [bc]
The Justin Rothberg Group: Hurricane Mouse (2020 , self-released): Guitarist, based in New York, second or third album, Group includes Todd Groves (woodwinds), bass, drums, and percussion. Races along, guitar sometimes standing out. B+(*)
Sleaford Mods: Spare Ribs (2021, Rough Trade): British duo, Andrew Fearn generates the beats, bass lines, and whatever, while Jason Williamson sings/rap, embodying embittered working class consciousness, despite considerable success over the last decade. I won't say the new one suggests they're going soft, but it does nick off some rough edges. B+(***)
Sweeping Promises: Hunger for a Way Out (2020, Feel It): Boston post-punk group, Lira Mondai the singer, "angular guitars and sharp synth notes float atop a raw rhythm section." Sure, anyone can claim that, but not many start their influences/comparisons lists with Kleenex/LiLiPUT. A- [bc]
Aki Takase/Rudi Mahall: Fifty Fifty (2018 , Trouble in the East): Piano-clarinet duo, opens with the whimsical percussion of toy piano. B+(**) [bc]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Man Jumping: Jumpcut (1984 , Emotional Rescue): Early electronica, a sort of minimalism meets disco, first of two 1984-87 records, half-dozen names I don't recognize. B+(**) [bc]
Mirah: You Think It's Like This but Really It's Like This (2000 , K): Singer-songwriter Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, born in Philadelphia, went to Olympia for college and enjoyed the antifolk and riot grrrl scenes there -- she worked with Kimya Dawson there, and this debut album was co-produced by Phil Elvrum. Sometimes she sounds like a frailer Liz Phair, but she can also get tough and noisy, and even flashes a bit of swing on the closer. B+(***) [bc]
Lon Moshe & the Southern Freedom Arkestra: Love Is Where the Spirit Lies (1976-77 , Strut): Vibraphone player Ron Martin, from Chicago, based in San Francisco, only album as leader but played with Juju (Oneness of Juju) in the 1970s. Vocals, spiritual airs. B+(**) [bc]
Sun Ra Arkestra: Egypt 1971 (1971 , Strut/Art Yard, 4CD): First two discs slightly expand on previously released sets (e.g., Nidhamu/Dark Myth Equation Visitation, 2009). This box adds two more discs of unreleased recordings, "In Heliopolis" and "Egyptian Oasis." Lots of typical Sun Ra moments, but becomes a chore to sit through in one pass. (I had to take a break.) B+(*) [bc]
Riley: Grandma's Roadhouse (1970 , Delmore Recording Society): This popped up in a 2020 reissues EOY list, but I can't find that recent a reissue date. Riley Watkins wrote or co-wrote 6 of 10 songs, credited with "lead & 12-string guitars & vocals" in what appears to be his only album, but another better known artist has similar credits, and co-wrote 4 songs (with rhythm guitarist Bill Eldredge): Gary Stewart, a few years before he started knocking out hits. The only song that's clearly Stewart's is "Drinkin' Them Squeezins." B [bc]
The Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quintet: Spring (1968 , Matsuli Music): South African pianist, originally Chris Schilder, first album (age 22), featuring tenor saxophonist Winston "Mankuku" Ngozi, with guitar, bass, and drums. Piano comparable to Abdullah Ibrahim, and some lovely saxophone. A- [bc]
Group Doueh & Cheveu: Dakhla Sahara Session (2017, Born Bad): Group from Western Sahara, which has mostly been under disputed Moroccan control since 1970. Several previous albums, this one joined by a French trio, adding guitar and synth to the group's guitars and synths. A- [bc]
Solitaire Miles: The Solitaire Miles Jazztets With Willie Perkins (2008-10 , Seraphic, EP): A four cut, 14:24 set of outtakes from three albums the singer did with the pianist and eight more musicians listed on the front cover -- Eric Schneider (clarinet), Art Davis (trumpet), and Jim Gailloreto (sax) got larger type. B+(*) [bc]
Solitaire Miles: Susie Blue and the Lonesome Fellas (2015, Seraphic): Several sources credit this to the singer, although her name doesn't appear on the front cover. B+(**)
Viktor Vaughn: Vaudeville Villain (2003, Sound-Ink): Rapper Daniel Dumile, born in London, parents from Trinidad and Zimbabwe, grew up on Long Island, first group (KMD) broke up after his brother (aka DJ Subroc) was hit and killed by a car. Released his first album as MF Doom in 1999, his second as King Geedorah, then two as Viktor Vaughn before returning to MF Doom (and other variants). Terrific flow here, much imagination. He's going places. A-
Grade (or other) changes:
Open Mike Eagle: Anime Trauma and Divorce (2020, Auto Reverse): Underground rapper, has a decade-plus of sly, clever, often inscrutable albums. First spin sounded like another one, second got a bit catchier, further plays revealed further depth, which I should have been clued to by the title. [was: B+(**)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: