Monday, June 13, 2022

Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 38120 [38065] rated (+55), 97 [107] unrated (-10).

It's been a very frustrating week, especially a blow to my confidence that I can manage basic tasks of household maintenance. Still trying to figure out an air conditioner problem with the temperature over 100F. Dreading tomorrow, but no reason to think I won't get through it, or feel better once it's over.

Nothing much more to say about the music below. I did bump two albums I had at B+(**) up a notch today on revisit, but I'm pretty sure that's as high as they will go.

Been trying the new Napster web interface, and so far I hate everything about it. Looks almost exactly like a Spotify clone. Given that Spotify has more music and is much more robust -- comparing Spotify's Linux app to Napster's web interface; Spotify's web interface is probably no better -- the only reasons I thought of for keeping Napster were that it was a bit better for browsing (still pretty awful) and a bit easier for song lists, and they managed to squander both advantages. Plus Napster has a unique problem: it periodically stops with a notice that my account is being used on another device. I've also had to swat down many offers to download the supposedly superior Napster app, only to find they still don't have one for Linux (though supposedly they're working on it now).

New records reviewed this week:

070 Shake: You Can't Kill Me (2022, GOOD Music/Def Jam): Rapper Danielle Balbuena, second album, sings more here, so much so I had this noted as "art pop" before spinning it. Deeper than that. B+(***)

Florian Arbenz/João Barradas/Tineke Postma/Rafael Jerjen: Conversation #5: Elemental (2022, Hammer): Swiss drummer, in several groups including VEIN since 2006, started his Conversation series in 2021 with various guests, this quartet the largest mix to date, the others playing accordion, sax, and bass. B+(***) [bc]

Bad Bunny: Un Verano Sin Ti (2022, Rimas Entertainment): Puerto Rican rapper-singer, fourth album, I figure him for reggaeton but Wikipedia also says "Latin trap." Appeal mostly in the beats, as usual. Long: 81:53. B+(**)

Bloc Party: Alpha Games (2022, Infectious/BMG): British indie band, debut EP 2004, sixth album, suggested genres like "dance-punk," but more clearly within the Britpop gamut, closer to Blur than to Oasis, less catchy than either. B

Boris: W (2022, Sacred Bones): Japanese "heavy rocks" band (to crib from their website, probably more accurate than doom metal, drone, psychedelia, noise, or experimental rock), 27th album since 1996, group name taken from a Melvins song, have some collaborations with noise artists Merzbow and Keiji Haino. Album title is supposedly a postscript to 2021's NO. I'm not getting a typical metal reaction here, but not much else either. B-

Buck 65: King of Drums (2022, self-released): Canadian rapper Richard Terfry, from Nova Scotia, Bandcamp puts him in Toronto, started 1994, went on hiatus in 2015, started to resurface in 2020. No song titles, just "Part" 1-21 (54:53). Rhymes fast and clever, over beats little evolved from his heyday. A- [bc]

Buck 65/Tachichi: Flash Grenade (2022, Black Buffalo): Canadian rappers Rich Terfly and Tyrone Thompson, the latter with a couple 1998-2002 albums, more since 2017. B+(**) [bc]

Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (2021 [2022], Giant Step Arts): Unnamed member of the Trio is bassist Dezron Douglas. Abraham Burton released two outstanding albums on Enja in 1994-95, then largely disappeared until he started recording again in 2014. He did, however, record a quartet album in 1998 co-led by drummer Eric McPherson, so their group seems to start there. B+(**) [cd] [06-19]

Neneh Cherry: The Versions (2022, EMI): Don Cherry's step-daughter, released a great hip-hop album in 1988 (Raw Like Sushi), two more through 1996, has occasionally resurfaced with odd projects since then (e.g., The Cherry Thing, with Norway's avant-jazz group, the Thing). This is a various artists tribute she nonetheless claims: 10 pieces (including 2 takes each of "Manchild" and "Buddy X") from those three albums, done by as many guests, some bringing the beat, some not so much. B

Tom Collier: The Color of Wood (2022, Summit): Mallet player, Discogs credits him with a 1988 album, five more 2004-16. Uses three different marimbas here, not sure what (if anything) else. B [cd]

Dan Ex Machina: All Is Ours, Nothing Is Theirs (2022, self-released): New Jersey band and/or singer-songwriter Dan Weiss -- not the drummer, nor the other drummer, but known to me mostly as a rock critic, although I've listened to his Bandcamp oeuvre, which remains too obscure to get listed in Discogs (but AOTY lists two albums and an EP, with a total of 3 user scores). Bandcamp page says these 17 songs were written between 2003-11, and "have been played live for more than a decade," and were "mastered in 2021," and offers shifting lineups, but doesn't come out and say when they were recorded. So we'll treat it as a new album, although it could pass for juvenilia. Gets better down the home stretch, possibly helped by slipping in a couple covers (Kurt Cobain, Lisa Walker). B+(***) [bc]

Drive-By Truckers: Welcome 2 Club XIII (2022, ATO): Southern rock band, many superb albums since 1998. This seems to be one of the more measured ones, with quiet songs just ambling along. I find them gently reassuring. A- [sp]

Eels: Extreme Witchcraft (2022, E Works/PIAS): Indie band from Los Angeles, principally Mark Oliver Everett, who recorded two albums as E (1992-93) before naming this group in 1996. Fourteenth album, first I've bothered with. Has an agreeable sound, without bombast or other excesses. B+(*)

Empath: Visitor (2022, Fat Possum): Noise punk band from Philadelphia, Catherine Elicson the singer, second album. Sound has some appeal, but I don't hear much more. B

Everything Everything: Raw Data Feel (2022, AWAL): English art rock band, from Manchester, sixth album since 2010. Singer Jonathan Higgs leans into his falsetto, electrobeats are snappy and occasionally catchy. B+(*)

Fantastic Negrito: White Jesus Black Problems (2022, Storefront): Xavier Dphrepaulezz, b. 1968 in Massachusetts, moved to Oakland at 12, father Somali, released a record in 1996 as Xavier, switched to this moniker in 2014, fifth album as such. Often described as "black roots music," drawing on blues, soul, and funk, but not precisely defined, as if it's not necessarily rooted yet. B+(***) [sp]

Hugo Fernandez: Ozean (2022, Origin): Guitarist, (4) in Discogs, second album, quartet with electric bass, drums, and trumpet/flugelhorn -- Christoph Titz stars here. B+(***) [cd] [06-17]

Liam Gallagher: C'mon You Know (2022, Warner): Founder, with his brother Noel, of Oasis, which in England seems to be regarded as the greatest band since the Beatles, perhaps even greater, although I don't know anyone who shares that view. After Oasis broke up in 2009, he started Beady Eye. Third solo album since 2017. Sometimes impressive (e.g., "I'm Free"). B+(*)

Mary Gauthier: Dark Enough to See the Stars (2022, In the Black/Thirty Tigers): Folk singer-songwriter, often impressive. B+(***)

S.G. Goodman: Teeth Marks (2022, Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter from Kentucky, first name Shaina, second album. This didn't really register until the guitar riff that kicks off the second-side opener, the grim but defiant "Work Until I Die." B+(***)

Michael Head & the Red Elastic Band: Dear Scott (2022, Modern Sky): Singer-songwriter from Liverpool, started with the Pale Fountains (1982-85), then Shack (1988-2006). Second album with this group, after an EP in 2013. B

Honolulu Jazz Quartet: Straight Ahead: The Honolulu Jazz Quartet Turns 20 (2022, HJQ): Discogs only lists one album, from 2003, with three members still here -- Tim Tsukiyama (sax), Dan Del Negro (piano), John Kolivas (bass) -- so Noel Okimoto (drums) was a late arrival. I have another album in my database, and Google knows of at least two more. Eight originals (all four write individually), plus five covers, some of which one prays will never become part of the standards repertoire ("Scarborough Fair," "Wichita Lineman"). B [cd]

Kathryn Joseph: For You Who Are Wronged (2022, Rock Action): Scottish singer-songwriter, third album, plays keyboards, not much else going on musically -- though just enough for her purposes. B+(*)

Avril Lavigne: Love Sux (2022, DTA/Elektra): Canadian singer-songwriter, seventh album 20 years after her bestselling debut (also newly available in a 20th anniversary edition). Most pieces co-written with John Feldmann and Mod Sun, who also co-produced with Travis Barker. Twelve fast tracks in 33:38, fierce songs that tend to confuse love and hate, perhaps because the music fits both. B+(**)

Dmitri Matheny: Cascadia (2021 [2022], Origin): Flugelhorn player, born in Nashville, based in Seattle, fifth album since 1995, quintet with Charles McNeal (tenor/soprano sax), Bill Anschell (piano), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd] [06-17]

Ben Morris: Pocket Guides (2022, OA2): Pianist, based in Boulder, Colorado; first album, original compositions with a text from E.H. Gombrich. Large band: 13 strong, including cello and two violins (one doubling on mandolin, the other on Hardanger fiddle, for a Norse folk touch). Unpleasing to my ears, but cannot deny its art quotient. B- [cd] [06-17]

My Idea: That's My Idea (2021, Hardly Art, EP): Five song (12:41) debut for Brooklyn duo of Nate Amos (from the group Water From Your Eyes) and Lily Konigsberg (who has a 2021 solo album, an earlier duo, and the group Palberta). B+(**) [sp]

My Idea: Cry Mfer (2022, Hardly Art): Full-length debut, 13 songs plus 2 "digital bonus tracks." Small voice, light touch, nice drums. B+(***)

The Mysterines: Reeling (2022, Fiction): Indie rock band from Liverpool, first album after several EPs. Got some chops, but grinds a bit hard, and I suspect they're full of it. B [sp]

Jason Palmer: Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village (2021 [2022], Giant Step Arts): Trumpet player, prolific since his 2014 debut, this live set a quartet with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Edward Perez (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). B+(**) [cd] [06-19]

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Unlimited Love (2022, Warner): Funk rock band from Los Angeles, debut 1984, commercial breakthrough with their 5th album in 1991, releases slowed down after 2002 -- six years before this 12th album, 73:04 long, with John Frusciante back, and Rick Rubin producing. B

The Regrettes: Further Joy (2022, Warner): Band from Los Angeles, Lydia Night the singer (presumably the songwriter), seems to have started as punk or riot grrrl (list of cited influences starts with Bikini Kill, L7, and 7 Year Bitch, but also includes Lesley Gore and the Crystals/Ronettes). Third album, reminded me at first of Voice of the Beehive but wound up close to Lily Allen territory. Line I jotted down: "you're so fucking pretty it takes my breath away." Second pass could add a dozen more. A-

Derek Senn: The Big Five-O (2022, self-released): Singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo, three previous albums, claims he's sold out a venue in Aberdeen ("where his Americana's more popular than with the Americans"). Some topical songs (from "Quarantine" to "Texas Legislature"), some personal, at least one on the "Zeitgeist." B+(**) [bc]

Alexander Smalls: Let Us Break Bread Together (2022, Outside In Music): Singer, seems to be his first album, if anything he's better known as a chef, with three cookbooks to his name. Not a commanding or even very compelling vocalist, he seems to ease back and let the songs do the work, like the menu composer he is. Starts with "Wade in the Water," "St. Thomas," "Watermelon Man," the title piece (reprised at the end, after "Mood Indigo"). He doesn't sing on "St. Thomas" -- John Ellis reprises the Sonny Rollins classic, and plays some fine bass clarinet later on. Ulysses Owens Jr. seems to be the one who rounded up the all-star band. B+(***) [cd]

Soft Cell: Happiness Not Included (2022, BMG): British electrop duo, Marc Almond and Dave Ball, recorded four albums 1981-84, one in 2002, now one more. They sound little evolved from their heyday, plastic synth melodies formed into songs that are just catchy enough. B+(**)

Spanish Harlem Orchestra: Imágenes Latinas (2021 [2022], Ovation): Led by pianist Oscar Hernandez, eighth album since 2002, exactly as advertised. Thirteen members, including vocalists Marco Bermudez, Carlos Cascante, and Jeremy Bosch. B+(*) [cd]

Grant Stewart Quartet With Bruce Harris: The Lighting of the Lamps (2021 [2022], Cellar): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, debut 1996 but discography picks up around 2004, quartet with piano (Tardo Hammer), bass, and drums, plus Harris on trumpet. B+(**) [cd] [06-17]

John Wasson's Strata Big Band: Chronicles (2022, MAMA): Bass trombonist, originally from Minnesota, studied at UNT, played in their big band and with the USAF, other big bands (best known were Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, late but I don't know how late), recordings mostly with the Dallas Brass (he also holds the position of "staff arranger for the Dallas Cowboys stadium band"). Seems to be his first album. B- [cd]

Orlando Weeks: Hop Up (2022, PIAS): From Brighton, former singer for the Maccabees (2005-15), third solo album. B+(*)

The Whitmore Sisters: Ghost Stories (2022, Red House): Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore, sisters, first album together although Bonnie has six on her own (since 2004), Eleanor one (plus she plays in Steve Earle's band, and shares the spotlight on four albums with her husband Chris as the Mastersons). Roots sounds, nice harmonies. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cumbia Sabrosa: Tropical Sound System Bangers From the Discos Fuentes Vaults 1961-1981 (1961-81 [2022], Rocafort, EP): Six songs, 15:53, physical is 3 x 7" vinyl, short, upbeat singles by Climaco Sarmiento, Michi Sarmiento, Afrosound, Los Golden Boys, and Peyo Torres (2). B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Bike for Three!: So Much Forever (2014, Fake Four): Long-distance collaboration between Buck 65 (Canadian rapper Rich Terfly) and Greetings From Tuskan (Belgian singer Joëlle Phuong Minh Lê), second album after a 2009 debut. B+(**) [bc]

Buck 65: Sore (2004, WEA, EP): Three mixes of the title single, plus two extra cuts (17:33 total), worth hearing. B+(*)

Buck 65: Dirtbike 1 (2008, self-released): Idea was to knock out three hour-long tapes within three months, this one the first (66:38). B+(**) [bc]

Buck 65: Dirtbike 2 (2008, self-released): Second installment, a month later. Works in more hillbilly twang. B+(***) [bc]

Buck 65 [Produced by Jorun Bombay]: Laundromat Boogie (2014, DWG): This came out a day before his last WEA Canada album (a divorce saga called Neverlove), a song cycle of laundry and dirty romance structured as a single 33:17 mix. B+(***) [bc]

Abraham Burton/Eric McPherson Quartet: Cause and Effect (1998 [1999], Enja): Tenor sax and drums, with James Hurt (piano, wrote 2 pieces vs. 3 for Burton and 1 long one for McPherson) and Yosuke Inoue (bass). Strong saxophone. B+(***) [sp]

Neneh Cherry: Man (1996, Virgin): Third album, last for a stretch out to 2012, picked up a single shared with Youssou N'Dour ("7 Seconds"), Cameron McVey co-wrote most of the songs, produced by Booga Bear, Jonny Dollar, and/or Dave Allen. She seems to have fallen into a soul diva rut. B+(*)

Hata Unacheza: Sub-Saharan Acoustic Guitar and String Music (1960s [2013], Canary): Old timey music from Africa, 18 songs from 16 artists from 7 Central African nations (mostly: the outliers are Sierra Leone to Zambia, with 9 songs from Congo or Kenya) -- the artists served twice are S.E. Rogie (who I'm familiar with) and Jean Bosco Mwenda (who I should be). Flows nicely enough, but all seems a little quaint. B+(***) [bc]

Avril Lavigne: Let Go (2002, Arista): Debut album, she was 17 at the time, but with her advance had moved from Canada to Los Angeles to work with Clif Magness and the Matrix, and they turned out a big hit, selling 16 million copies, led by "Sk8er Boi." So far, so good, but the power ballads suck, and then there's this: "'Cause I'm feeling nervous/ trying to be so perfect/ 'cause I know you're worth it." B-

Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin (2004, Arista): Second studio album, another big seller (6 million worldwide). Mostly co-wrote with Chantal Kreviazuk, I find most of this absurdly heavy, but she does find a bit of clarity on a couple of punkish pieces, perhaps a way out. B- [sp]

Lowkey: Dear Listener (2008, SO Empire): British rapper Kareem Dennis, born in London, mother Iraqi, father English. I heard about him when a Zionist front group tried to get him banned from Spotify. First studio album after several mixtapes. Finding his politics, with a gruesome one on Iraq, and a more affirmative one called "I Believe." B+(**)

Lowkey: Soundtrack to the Struggle (2011, Mesopotamia Music): More political here, with six "skits" that aren't even remotely funny, though there are some nuanced stories, as well as principled and sometimes even hopeful anthems. Music is more assured, the rap fast and sharp. Early intro: "I'm a product of the system I was born to destroy." Runs long: 95:08. A-

Lowkey: Soundtrack to the Struggle 2 (2019, Mesopotamia Music): In 2012, he decided to "step away from music and concentrate on y studies." He returned with a single in 2016, and finally with this album, built around samples of Noam Chomsky, who points out: "Today's Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history." At the moment, I'm up to 1933 in a memoir called Defying Hitler, and the SA is already doing things few Republicans can even dream of, but the Nazis were stopped 12 years later, while it's still unclear how evil the Republicans will become, or how long it will take to stop them. The extra study may have sharpened his critique of neoliberalis (cf. "Neoliberalism Kills People"), but hasn't sharpened his beats. New events intrude, like "McDonald Trump" and "Letter to the 1%." Also reprises "Long Live Palestine," because some things haven't changed. A-

Jackie McLean/John Jenkins: Alto Madness (1957, Prestige): Two alto saxophonists, both b. 1931, Jenkins a couple months older but McLean already had a half-dozen albums, with many more to come. Jenkins was also busy in 1957 -- include Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Teddy Charles, Clifford Jordan, Hank Mobley, Paul Quinichette, Sahib Shihab, and Wilbur Ware -- but nothing later until a reunion with Jordan in 1990. Backed by piano-bass-drums, McLean's title piece ran 11:48, Jenkins' two pieces added up to 13:14, and they blew through two standards (another 14:19). B+(**)

Grachan Moncur III: New Africa (1969, BYG Actuel): Trombonist, father was a bassist of some note, died June 3 at 85, played on two landmark Jackie McLean albums in 1963, which got him two Blue Note albums (1964-65; all four plus two more McLean albums Moncur played on were packaged under his name for the first 3-CD Mosaic Select box). Discography after that was rather spotty, with two BYG albums (1969-70, this is the first), a JCOA set in 1975, one on Denon in 1977, and two much later (2004-07). Quintet with Roscoe Mitchell (alto sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Alan Silva (bass), and Andrew Cyrille (drums), plus Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on the last track. B+(***)

Grachan Moncur III: Aco Dei De Madrugada (One Morning I Waked Up Very Early) (1969 [1970], BYG Actuel): Short album (4 tracks, 28:41), recorded in Paris with Fernando Martins (piano/voice), Beb Guérin (bass), and Nelson Serra de Castro (drums). B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (Tapestry) [05-20]

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