Sunday, January 31, 2021

Music Week

January archive (final).

Music: Current count 37201 [37117] rated (+44), 132 [140] unrated (-8).

As I tweeted early last week, I got a big boost in my search for 2021 albums from Jason Gross's long Ye Wei Blog EOY lists. I also noticed a Brazilian artist/title I was previously unaware of that broke into the top 50 of the Expert Witnesses Poll (the Facebook post is here, but I've compiled a more succinct albums list (with my grades, also Christgau's, as they are most influential in this poll). I later found that Rod Taylor's Brazil Beat includes detailed reviews of several dozen recent Brazilian albums, including many he prefers to my pick. I've checked out a half-dozen or so, and nothing else struck me as favorably as Delta Estácio Blues, but what do I know? (For starters, one thing I don't know is Portuguese.)

Robert Christgau published his 2021 Dean's List last week. Most years he tips his hand by listing 3-5 unreviewed albums, but this year the only one was Doja Cat's Planet Her -- I had it at B+(*), so should give it another chance (same for his number 3 pick, Spilligion from 2020). I held off on posting his list and essay to his website, and still have a little more work to do before I can.

January 2022 Streamnotes is closed (link up top), but once again I haven't gotten my indexing done. I also haven't frozen my 2021 file, as I usually do around this time. Still, I might as well go ahead and post this much. Looks like this is going to be a difficult week.

Observed my late mother's birthday today by cooking one of her signature comfort food dishes: fried round steak in mushroom gravy. Small pleasures.

New records reviewed this week:

Black Pistol Fire: Look Alive (2021, Black Hill): Garage rock duo from Austin, Eric Owen and Kevin McKeown, half-dozen albums since 2011. Strike me as minor, but functional, the sort of band you can always enjoy but never remember. B+(*) [sp]

Solemn Brigham: South Sinner Street (2021, Mello Music Group): North Carolina rapper, has a couple good albums as Marlowe -- with L'Orange, a producer here. Rapid fire volleys most striking. B+(*) [bc]

The Brother Moves On: Tolika Mtoliki (2021, Matsuli Music): South African group, uses initials TBMO, opens with a politically charged rap ("You Think You Know Me") over a light township jive riff. Shades of Mzwakhe Mbuli, without the zing. B+(**) [bc]

Cheekface: Emphatically No (2021, New Professor Music): Indie rock trio from Los Angeles, with Greg Katz singing (also guitar), Amanda Tannen (bass), and Mark Edwards (drums). Second album. Fair mix of political ("it turns out the whole world will collapse/ but that's just a mistake"), personal ("I'm feeling good/ but I'm sure it will pass"), and a nod toward others ("there's always some reason to talk about yourself"). B+(***) [bc]

Chris Conde: Engulfed in the Marvelous Decay (2021, Fake Four): San Antonio-based rapper, previous album Growing Up Gay, "combines the classically detached spheres of hip hop, indie rock and avant-garde art punk of the drag variety." Has a metal edge not unlike Backxwash, but I'm not sure it helps. B+(*) [bc]

Andrew Cyrille/William Parker/Enrico Rava: 2 Blues for Cecil (2021 [2022], TUM): Drums, bass, flugelhorn. "Cecil," of course, is Taylor, the late pianist. The title tracks are jointly credited, as are two improvisations, with each contributing additional pieces, ending with a cover of "My Funny Valentine." None of which is especially reminiscent of Taylor. A- [cd]

Danger Dan: Das Ist Alles Von Der Kunstfreiheit Gedeckt (2021, Altilopen Geldwäsche): German rapper Daniel Pongratz, from Aachen, part of the Antilopen collective, third album. Title refers to artistic freedom, the suggestion that covering songs with alternate lyrics is what we call "fair use." Most are speak-singing over piano. The first sounds like Randy Newman, the title "Lauf Davon" close enough to "Sail Away." I can't place the others, and don't follow German well enough to get any subtle points. B+(*)

Jamael Dean: Primordial Waters (2021, Stones Throw): Pianist, third album. Sharada Shashidhar sings, effectively taking over. Bandcamp includes an extra 10-track hip-hop album, which has some plusses, but at that length it's kind of a wash. B+(*)

Kari Faux: Lowkey Superstar (2020 [2021], Don Giovanni): Rapper from Little Rock, second album, originally an 8-track EP, grows to 12 tracks here (still short: 29:03). B+(*)

FKA Twigs: Caprisongs (2022, Young/Atlantic): British pop star, Tahliah Debrett Barnett, two previous albums, well-regarded but left me unimpressed. This one is considered a mixtape, something to do with the long list of featured artists and possibly the array of writers and producers. Slips up in a couple spots, but at least has a beat, and the singer seems to be onto something. B+(**)

Ghost of Vroom: 1 (2021, Mod Y Vi): Collaboration by Mike Doughty (ex-Soul Coughing, vocals/sampler/guitar) and Andrew Livingston (cello/piano/organ). Talkie vocals over garage beats, some as singular as "More Bacon than the Pan Can Handle," some as timeless as "Revelator." A-

Lande Hekt: Going to Hell (2021, Get Better): Singer for British punk band Muncie Girls, first or second solo album (after a 2019 7-track mini). Starts with but doesn't sustain punk anger, reflecting: "You're doing fine and you're doing well/ but the Catholics think you're going to hell." B+(***)

Lande Hekt: Gigantic Disappointment (2019, self-released, EP): Solo debut, 7 songs, 18:23. Starts near-solo for its most striking song, falls back on a fairly average band. B+(*) [bc]

Kiefer: When There's Love Around (2021, Stones Throw): Last name Shackelford, plays piano/keyboards, fourth album, filed it under "pop jazz" because I don't quite buy it as instrumental hip-hop, and it got a couple Jazz Critics Poll votes. Pleasant enough, but who cares? B [bc]

Boris Kozlov: First Things First (2020 [2022], Posi-Tone): Bassist, from Russia, moved to New York in the 1990s, has a couple albums as leader, many side credits. With Donnie McCaslin (tenor sax/alto flute), Art Hirahara (piano), Behn Gillece (vibes), and Rudy Royston (drums). B+(**)

Alessandra Leão: Acesa (2021, self-released): Brazilian, several albums since 2006, don't know much more, can't even find a label for this one. Rhythm appeals here, fractured and complex. B+(***) [sp]

Carol Liebowitz/Adam Lane/Andrew Drury: Blue Shift (2019 [2022], Line Art): Piano-bass-drums trio. Pianist has albums back to 1994. B+(**) [cd] [03-04]

Roberto Magris: Match Point (2018 [2021], JMood): Italian pianist, many records, quartet Alfredo Chacon (vibes/congas), bass (Dion Kerr), and Rodolfo Zuniga (drums). Four originals, covers include Monk, Randy Weston, and McCoy Tyner. Nice and bright. B+(**) [bc]

Pete Malinverni: On the Town: Pete Malinverni Plays Leonard Bernstein (2021 [2022], Planet Arts): Pianist, mostly trio albums since 1988, this one with Ugonna Okegwo and Jeff Hamilton, doing Bernstein songs, as Nate Chinen put it, "forthright and elegant." B+(***) [cd]

Aimee Mann: Queens of the Summer Hotel (2021, SuperEgo): Singer-songwriter, 10th studio album since 1993, not counting band projects (like Til Tuesday). Part of a stage adaptation of Susan Kaysen's 1993 memoir, Girl, Interrupted. That introduces an element of distance that leaves one uncertain how to gauge the songs. B+(*) [sp]

Juçara Marçal: Delta Estácio Blues (2021, QTV Selo/Mais Um): Brazilian singer, appeared in Vésper and Metá Metá before going solo in 2014. Second solo album. Combines a soft touch with sharp angles and unexpected rhythms. A-

Oz Noy/Ugonna Okegwo/Ray Marchica: Riverside (2020 [2022], Outside In Music): Guitarist, from Israel, based in New York since 1996, trio with Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Ray Marchica (drums), usually tends toward fusion and funk but sticks with bebop standards here: not his fanciest, but pretty enjoyable. B+(***) [cd]

The OGJB Quartet: Ode to O (2019 [2022], TUM): Second album: Oliver Lake (alto sax), Graham Haynes (cornet/electronics), Joe Fonda (double bass), Barry Altschul (drums). Filed it under Lake, who dominated the previous Bamako, but Altschul wrote the title piece (where "O" stands for Ornette) and two more ("Da Bang" for Billy, and "Caring"). Those are high points, and Lake's free blowing impresses as ever, but nicked a bit for electronics that don't go anywhere. B+(***) [cd]

Emile Parisien: Louise (2021 [2022], ACT): French soprano saxophonist, tenth album since 2006, more postbop textures, a sextet with Theo Croker on trumpet, both piano and guitar, bass and drums. B+(**) [cd]

Pony: TV Baby (2021, Take This to Heart): Canadian pop group, Sam Bielanski singer-songwriter, first album after an EP. B

Masha Qrella: Woanders (2021, Staatsakt): German indie pop singer, originally Mariana (or Masha) Kurella, father Russian, started in bands before going solo in 2004, released an album of Loewe and Weill in Exile in 2009. In German, mine not good enough to follow but I catch words here and there, and find that comforting. One can hear bits of vintage krautrock in the electro, but they blend into something more . . . human? B+(***) [sp]

Raw Poetic Featuring Damu the Fudgemunk: Big Tiny Planet (2021, Redefinition, EP): DC rapper Jason Moore, albums since 2014, many with producer Earl Davis. Five tracks, 25:34. B+(*) [bc]

Samo Salamon/Cene Resnik/Jaka Berger: Takt Ars Sessions: Vol. 1 (2021, Samo): Guitar/tenor sax/drums trio, recorded on Oct. 29 and offered on Bandcamp on Oct. 31. Five pieces are jointly credited, all numbered "Free." Renik wrote one piece, Salamon four, and Paul Motian got covered. B+(***) [bc]

Samo Salamon/Cene Resnik/Jaka Berger: Takt Ars Sessions: Vol. 2 (2021, Samo): Four more "Free" pieces from the same session, long ones (76:38). B+(**) [bc]

Doug Scarborough: The Color of Angels (2021 [2022], Origin): Trombonist, has a couple previous albums (one from 2000), teaches in Walla Walla, WA. Original pieces, with piano (Jeremy Siskind) and violin (Akram Abdulfattah) prominent, also bass, drums, and darbuka (Mustafa Boztüy). B+(**) [cd]

Maria Sena: De Primeira (2021, Alá Comunicação E Cultura): Brazilian singer, first album. Dance beats with typical Brazilian sway, in other words pop. B+(***)

Piet Verbist: Secret Exit to Another Dimension (2020 [2022], Origin): Belgian bassist, several albums, leads a trio with Hendrik Braeckman (guitar) and Lionel Beuvens (drums), both of whom contribute songs, with covers of Monk and Charlie Parker tying this to the bop tradition. B+(*) [cd]

Viagra Boys: Welfare Jazz (2021, Year0001): Swedish post-punk group, second album, Sebastian Murphy the singer, original guitarist died after this album, sax is a nice touch. Ends with an estranged cover of John Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves," with Amy Taylor (Amyl and the Sniffers) reprising Iris DeMent. B+(***)

Ghalia Volt: One Woman Band (2021, Ruf): Last name Vauthier, singer-songwriter from Belgium, plays blues, looking to Tampa Red and Ike Turner for the two covers. Has a couple guest spots, but plays her own drums. B+(**)

Kanye West: Donda (2021, GOOD Music/Def Jam, 2CD): No rush to get into this 108:48 sprawl, with its 53 Metacritic score coming off the B- Jesus Is King, not to mention his dalliance with Trump and his feint at the 2020 presidential election. I figured I could wait for a sign, but none came. Still big enough to finish 19 on Billboard's Top R&:B/Hip-Hop Albums list, and 23 in the Hip-Hop breakout from my EOY Aggregate (highest unheard album until now). His minimalist raps over beats aren't all tedious, but his attempts at church music (see "24") are beyond awful. No, I didn't get to the 130:52 Deluxe Edition. C+

Joyce Wrice: Overgrown (2021, Joyce Wrice Music): R&B singer from Los Angeles, first album after an EP and singles, "grew up with the silky tones of R&B's golden era," by which she means the early '00s. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan: Volume 3 (1970-85 [2021], BBE, 2CD): As with previous volumes, this shows that there's a lot more depth in Japanese jazz than we've known from the occasional musician who gets away to Europe or America. (Aki Takase, long resident in Berlin, is the most recognizable name here.) The most striking pieces are not just proficient postbop or free jazz but go places we're not used to: Hiroshi Murakami's party music, or Tatsuya Nakamura's samba, or Koichi Yamazaki's sax closer. B+(***) [bc]

Modern Love (2021, BBE): New covers of David Bowie songs, commissioned by the British label, initials standing for Barely Breaking Even. Not their usual fare, which focuses on 1970s funk and Japanese jazz, so they don't have a house roster of artists to draw on. They managed to round up many artists I've heard of, with Meshell Ndegeocello and Jeff Parker the longest-established, L'Rain the most au courrant (and least interesting). The most successful tactic is to slow it down a bit and let the melody sneak up on you (e.g., Léa Sen on "Golden Years"). B+(**) [bc]

George Otsuka Quintet: Loving You George (1975 [2021], Wewantsounds): Japanese drummer, Discogs has last name Ohtsuka. He joined Sadao Watanabe's quartet in the late 1950s, released albums on his own from 1967, mostly quintets. This one features Shozo Sasaki on soprano and tenor sax, with fusion keyboards: Fumio Karashima, who wrote the first piece, followed by covers from Steve Kuhn, John Coltrane, and Minnie Riperton. B+(**) [bc]

Pink Floyd: Live at Knebworth 1990 (1990 [2021], Pink Floyd): I saw them once, at Madison Square Garden, and thought they put on a fine show, but all they did was literally play their last two albums (Animals and Wish You Were Here), with a couple cuts from Dark Side of the Moon for the encore, all with then-state-of-the-art videos. Here, 12-13 years later, they're picking and choosing songs, the band beefed up with Michael Kamen (keyboards) and Candy Dulfer (sax), and backup singer Clare Torry taking over "The Great Gig in the Sky," and Roger Waters nowhere in the credits. It's all music I love, but not until "Run Like Hell" did I start to consider I might prefer it here. B+(***) [sp]

Shintaro Quintet: Evolution (1984 [2021], BBE): Japanese bassist Shintaro Nakamura, quintet recorded in New York with Jeff Jenkins (piano), Bob Kenmotsu on tenor sax, Shunzo Ohnn on trumpet, and Fukushi Tainaka (drums). B+(**) [bc]

The Thing [Mats Gustafsson/Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal Nilseen-Love]: She Knows . . . (2001 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): Norwegian free jazz trio, started with eponymous group album in 2000, adds American free jazz legend McPhee (pocket trumpet/tenor sax) to pump up the volume. Previously released on Crazy Wisdom, and included in their Now and Forever box. B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey: The 1st Album (1973 [2011], Analog Africa): Long-running band from Cotonou in Benin (formerly Dahomey). Album originally credited to vocalist Ahehehinou Vincent as well as the and. Reissue adds two previously unreleased tracks, adding up to 4 tracks, 33:22. Keyboard pomp, horns, rhythms every which way. A-

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou: The Vodoun Effect: Funk & Sato From Benin's Obscure Labels 1972-1975 (1972-75 [2008], Analog Africa): In my database as Vol. 4, which now appears to be the label's release number. The German label started excavating the music of the former German "protectorate" of Togo and the adjacent French Dahomey (Benin since 1990), with albums like African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin & Togo 70s. It was only a matter of time before they got to the signature band of Benin's largest city. B+(**) [bc]

Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou: Volume Two: Echos Hypnotiques: From the Vaults of Albarika Store 1969-1979 (1969-79 [2009], Analog Africa): Mostly produced by Adissa Seidou, for Benin's leading label, Albarika Store. B+(***) [bc]

Orchetre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou: The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk 1969-1980 (1969-80 [2013], Analog Africa): Another substantial compilation of their work. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Martin Wind/New York Bass Quartet: Air (Laika) [02-25]

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