An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, May 22, 2023
Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).
Music: Current count 40245  rated (+41), 42  unrated (+0: 14 new, 28 old).
Worn out after writing yesterday's Speaking of Which. Actually, worn out before I rushed that out, only to catch the last quarter of Heat-Celtics, with the B-teams nursing a 30-point blowout. Looking back, the no-comment Irfan (weather) piece could have been followed by pages. And the Burleigh piece reminds us that billionaires aren't just harmless eccentrics -- as does the whole section on Trump, I guess.
It looks like the center-right won in Greece, after Syriza caved under pressure from the Eurozone masters. For background on Greece, see James Galbraith's The Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (2016). One should note that the big difference between debt in Greece and in the US has nothing to do with quantity. It's simply that Greece's debt is tied to the Euro, a currency they can't control, making them vulnerable to the nasty whims of foreign bankers.
Nothing much to add to the music below, which is short on jazz, especially up top -- but I have more catching up elsewhere. Ware was a late promotion, one I'm still a bit iffy about. Oladokun was brought forward from next week. Brubeck got a chance when I saw I was about to go another week with no Old Music. Skyzoo could have made the A-list on sound alone, but I was less satisfied with the story concept -- something I rarely notice, so perhaps that should have been a positive.
I've started working on a website overhaul, but don't have much to show for it yet. The idea is to create a parallel structure I can copy old content into. Hopefully it will be better organized, less ramschackle. But mainly it's meant to give me a fresh start on the book projects (discarding the old attempts).
I also have some small home projects to get to, before it gets too hot -- which is sometimes the case already.
New records reviewed this week:
Nia Archives: Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall (2023, Island, EP): British electropop (drum and bass?) producer, has several EPs. Six tracks, 17:04. B+(*) [sp]
Artemis: In Real Time (2023, Blue Note): All female supergroup -- Alexa Tarentino (alto/soprano sax, flute), Nicole Glover (tenor sax), Renee Rosnes (piano/keyboards), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Noriko Ueda (bass), Allison Miller (drums) -- down one (Anat Cohen) plus guest vocals (Cécile McLorin Salvant) on their second album, with Rosnes the lead (but not only) arranger. Still lots of talent, but such fancy postbop is wasted on me. B+(*) [sp]
Daniel Caesar: Never Enough (2023, Republic): Canadian soul singer-songwriter Ashton Simmonds, third album. Soft and slinky. B+(*) [sp]
Lewis Capaldi: Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent (2023, Captiol): Scottish pop phenom, second album, first was a big hit in UK and a minor one in US. Most likely this will do as well or better. I sort of get the appeal, but find it overblown, again. B+(*) [sp]
Sylvie Courvoisier & Cory Smythe: The Rite of Spring/Spectre D'Un Songe (2021 , Pyroclastic): Two pianists, playing two pieces from Stravinsky's "Le sacre du printemps" (34:29), plus Courvoisier's second title piece (29:16). B+(**) [cd]
Defprez: It's Always a Time Like This (2023, Closed Sessions, EP): Chicago hip-hop crew -- Crashprez, Defcee, Knowsthetime -- has a 2021 album, return with this 10-track, 23:46 mini. B+(**) [sp]
Orhan Demir: Solo Guitar: Freedom in Jazz (2019, Hittite): B. 1954 in Istanbul, Turkey; moved to Canada in 1977, where he picked up the guitar. This is solo, the first of three volumes (so far). It remains consistently interesting for more than an hour. B+(***) [cd]
Orhan Demir: Solo Guitar: Freedom in Jazz Vol. 2 (2020, Hittite): Not exactly more of the same -- a bit more delicate -- but close. B+(**) [cd]
Orhan Demir: Solo Guitar: Freedom in Jazz Vol. 3 (2022 , Hittite): Wraps up this series in fine fashion. B+(***) [cd]
Joe Farnsworth: In What Direction Are You Headed? (2022 , Smoke Sessions): Much in demand mainstream drummer, dozen-plus albums since 1998, close to 200 side-credits since 1992, most often with Eric Alexander. Quintet with Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), Julius Rodriguez (piano), and Robert Hurst (bass). Wilkins continues to impress. B+(*) [sp]
Satoko Fujii: Torrent: Piano Solo (2022 , Libra): Japanese avant-pianist, many albums, this her ninth solo and fifth in the last six years. Starts out strong, as expected, then meanders a bit much, through six original pieces, a couple quite long. B+(**) [cd] [06-02]
Alison Goldfrapp: The Love Invention (2023, Skint/BMG): English singer-songwriter, the vocal half of the synthpop duo Goldfrapp (with Will Gregory) since 2000, first solo album. B+(***) [sp]
Kara Jackson: Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? (2023, September): Poet, singer-songwriter, plays guitar, keeps it folkishly simple. B+(*) [sp]
Faten Kanaan: Afterpoem (2023, Fire): Brooklyn-based electronica producer, uses analog synthesizers, fifth album, draws on baroque as well as minimalism. B+(*) [sp]
Yazmin Lacey: Voice Notes (2023, On Your Own/Believe): British soul singer, first album after a 2017 EP and several singles. Light touch, the opposite of gospel-inspired oversinging. B+(**) [sp]
Lankum: False Lankum (2023, Rough Trade): Irish folk group with postmodernist overtones (like drone), originally recorded as Lynched (2014), third album since they changed their name. B+(**) [sp]
Joëlle Léandre/Craig Taborn/Mat Maneri: hEARoes (2022 , RogueArt): Bass, piano, and viola, a 39:15 improv piece in seven parts, the piano most impressive but picks its spots. B+(***) [cd]
Max Light: Henceforth (2022 , SteepleChase): American guitarist, studied in Boston and New York, second album (plus side credits with Jason Palmer, Noah Preminger, and Kevin Sun). This is a nice postbop quartet with Preminger (tenor sax), Kim Cass (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). B+(**) [cd] [06-16]
Logic: College Park (2023, Three Oh One/BMG): Rapper Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, eighth album since 2014, first six charted 1-4. Runs long (67:25), with a series of skits on the road to a gig in DC. B+(*) [sp]
Alex LoRe & Weirdear: Evening Will Find Itself (2021 , Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, looks like his fourth album (debut 2014), quartet with Glenn Zaleski (piano), Desmond White (bass), and Allan Mednard (drums). B+(**) [cdr]
Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry [Marilyn Crispell/Carmen Castaldi]: Our Daily Bread (2022 , ECM): Tenor saxophonist, also credited with tarogato and gongs, third group album with piano and drums. Fairly quiet, solemn even. B+(*) [sp]
Matt Muntz: Phantom Islands (2023, Orenda): New York bassist, also plays bagpipes (primorski meh, "a traditional bagpipe from the Croatian coast"), debut album after a half-dozen side credits. Original pieces based on folk melodies. Group with tenor sax (Xavier Del Castillo), oboe, clarinets, guitar, and drums. Pretty tedious, even without the annoying bagpipes. B- [sp]
Navy Blue: Ways of Knowing (2023, Def Jam): Rapper Sage Elsesser, ten EPs 2015-19, seventh studio album since 2020, this his major label debut, has also done production for MIKE and Mach-Hommy. Underground, beats ambling seductively, words knowing. Featured spot for Kelly Moonstone a highlight. A- [sp]
Joy Oladokun: Proof of Life (2023, Amigo/Verve Forecast/Republic): Singer-songwriter, born in Arizona, parents from Nigeria, fourth album, follow up to the highly recommended In Defense of My Own Happiness. Another batch of superb songs, which fit comfortably between guests ranging from Chris Stapleton to Maxo Kream. A- [sp]
Bill Orcutt: Jump on It (2023, Palilalia): Guitarist, started out in a hardcore band called Harry Pussy, as a solo artist settled into what's called American primitivism (looking back to John Fahey), idiosyncratic improvisations based on folk guitar. B+(*) [sp]
Paramore: This Is Why (2023, Atlantic): Indie pop group from Tennessee, Hayley Williams the singer and only constant member since 2004, although founding drummer Zac Farro returned in 2017. Sixth studio album. B+(*) [sp]
Princess Nokia: I Love You but This Is Goodbye (2023, Arista, EP): New York rapper Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, adds a short and sharp break up EP (seven song, 18:04) to her four albums catalog. B+(**) [sp]
Rae Sremmurd: Sremm 4 Life (2023, Eardruma/Interscope): Two brothers from Tupelo, Mississippi, surname Brown, go as Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee, 2015 debut a breakout hit, fourth album. B+(*) [sp]
Rough Image: Rough Image (2023, WV Sorcerer): Instrumental rock group from northeast China (Changchun). Long pieces with tight grooves and industrial klang and exotica, occasionally a bit of chatter. B+(***) [bc]
SBTRKT: The Rat Road (2023, Save Yourself): British electronica producer Aaron Jerome, third album under this alias after one under his own name. B [sp]
Skyzoo & the Other Guys: The Mind of a Saint (2023, First Generation Rich): New York rapper, dozen-plus albums since 2006, ties this one to the FX series Snowfall, about the 1980s crack epidemic in Los Angeles -- the central character there was a young drug dealer named Franklin Saint, who is given center stage here. The Other Guys are a DC-based crew with a half dozen albums since 2014. B+(***) [sp]
Sunny War: Anarchist Gospel (2023, New West): Nashville-based singer-songwriter, plays guitar drawing on country blues and punk (she started with a band called the Anus Kings). Seventh album since 2015. Don't know whether the gospel overtones are new or just part of her shtick. B+(***) [sp]
Ramana Vieira: Tudo De Mim (All of Me) (2023, self-released): Traditional fado singer, plays piano, born in California of Portuguese parents, sixth album since 2000. B+(*) [cd]
Jessie Ware: That! Feels Good! (2023, PMR/EMI): British singer-songwriter, several albums, goes hard disco for this one, proclaiming "pleasure is a right." A little glitzy, Sometimes I'm reminded of Chic, then find myself missing the signature bass lines. But most songs are pure pleasure. A- [sp]
Wednesday: Rat Saw God (2023, Dead Oceans): Rock band from Asheville, North Carolina, with singer Karly Hartzman. Fifth album since 2018. Defaults to a fairly standard Velvets-style alt/indie base, but they can bring considerable noise on top, not always welcome. B+(*) [sp]
Gaia Wilmer Large Ensemble: Folia: The Music of Egberto Gismonti (2023, Sunnyside): Brazilian alto saxophonist, has a previous octet album, raised an 18-piece big band for this project, plus three guests, including the 75-year-old composer on piano for two tracks. (My own experience with Gismonti doesn't extend much beyond his work with Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek, where he mostly played guitar.) B+(**) [sp]
Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Maps (2023, Backwoodz Studioz): New York rapper, half of Armand Hammer, albums since 2003, father was a Marxist writer who moved the family to Zimbabwe for the revolution. Second album with LA-based producer Segal. I've been nibbling around his albums for a while without finding one compelling, but figure I might as well bite here. A- [sp]
Jacob Young/Mats Eilertsen/Audun Kleive: Eventually (2021 , ECM): Norwegian guitarist, dozen-plus albums since 1995, this his fourth on ECM, backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Ruth Anderson/Annea Lockwood: Tête-À-Tête (1974-2020 , Ergot): Electronic music pioneer (1928-2019), founder and director of Hunter College's Electronic Music Studio 1968-79. In 1973, Lockwood fell in love with Anderson, and lived and worked together for five decades. This memorial collects two previously unreleased Anderson pieces: one a subtle drone piece from 1983 (17:12), the other pasted together from intimate conversations from 1974 (18:36), then concludes with Lockwood's later elegy, "For Ruth." B+(*) [sp]
Bill Evans: Treasures: Solo, Trio & Orchestral Recordings From Denmark (1965-1969) (1965-69 , Elemental, 2CD): The trio recordings are typically brilliant, same for the slightly less compelling solo set, but then there's the "Orchestral Suite," played by the Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra and the Danish Radio Big Band, featuring Palle Mikkelborg, burying several Evans tunes in lush. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Park Avenue South (2002 , Telarc): Live album at a Starbucks in Manhattan, this edition of the pianist's Quartet with Bobby Militello (alto sax/flute), Michael Moore (bass), and Randy Jones (drums). Starts with a terrific piano intro to "On the Sunny Side of the Street," before Militello swings into action. And, of course, "Take Five" is as great as ever, but who expected the drum solo to nail it? A- [yt]
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: