Monday, June 19, 2023

Music Week

June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40436 [40392] rated (+44), 12 [16] unrated (-4).

I published another fairly long (5592 words, 96 links) Speaking of Which last night. Lots of important points there.

I noticed a few more mid-year album lists:

A few more, like Boston Globe and Times of London, were paywalled, and others no doubt missed Google's net. I doubt if they change the listings I presented last week very much. They drove much of my listening this week, as did Robert Christgau's June Consumer Guide -- although in the latter case it mostly got me to relisten to albums that I possibly had shortchanged previously. Two of them I bumped up a couple notches, although even now I'm wondering if one might have been more correct. The rest I left as is, with Wednesday's Rat Saw God headed for a lower grade before the last couple cuts showed some promise. It's one of the five or so best-regarded albums of the year, which leaves me feeling wildly out of synch with current music trends.

Pretty out of synch with his Consumer Guide, too, although I will note that the África Negra compilation got an A- from me back in May 2022.

I updated the Consumer Guide database at Robert Christgau's website. It had gotten considerably in arrears, although the practice of withholding reviews nine months to give his Substack subscribers some exclusivity makes it seem more like a bookkeeping exercise. Still, something I should be doing more regularly, if only to keep from having to rediscover how to do it.

I've been playing the original Hairspray soundtrack a lot. While the dance songs are as great as I remembered, the real earworm is the slow dance number, Gene Pitney's Town Without Pity. The lyrics still resonate: "How can we keep love alive/ how can anything survive/ when these little minds tear you in two." Indeed, the "little minds" the film sends up in the early 1960s have returned to hector us, even more stunted and deformed than before.

New records reviewed this week:

Gracie Abrams: Good Riddance (2023, Interscope): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, first album, soft-spoken and very steady. Trails off a bit toward the end. B+(***) [sp]

Amaarae: Fountain Baby (2023, Interscope): R&B singer, Ama Genfi, born in New York, raised in Atlanta and Ghana, where she is based now. Second album. Interesting in various subtle ways until the punk "Sex, Violence, Suicide" erupts, which makes one wonder about the rest. A- [sp]

Roxana Amed/Frank Carlberg: Los Trabajos Y Las Noches (2022 [2023], Sony Music Latin): Argentinian singer, albums since 2004, has developed some jazz cred of late, which the pianist and a group that includes Adam Kolker (clarinets/tenor sax), Simon Willson (bass), and Michael Sarin (drums) adds to. Still goes slow, laden down with art song. B+(*) [cd]

Kelsea Ballerini: Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (2023, Black River, EP): Singer-songwriter, slotted as country but doesn't quite have the sound (Lana Del Rey is more her archetype). Dropped this on Valentine's Day, thinking about her recent divorce, which helps add some gravitas. Six songs, 15:54. B+(**) [sp]

Bar Italia: Tracey Denim (2023, Matador): British lo-fi group, third album, Italian-born Nina Cristante the main singer. Grows on me but no clear idea why. B+(***) [sp]

Michael Bisio/Timothy Hill: Inside Voice/Outside Voice (2022 [2023], Origin): Bassist, mostly associated with avant-garde, here in a rather spare duo with the guitarist-singer. Centerpiece is "I Fall in Love Too Easily," which isn't easy at all. B+(*) [cd]

Robert Sarazin Blake: One Summer Night: Live at the 2018 Subdued Stringband Jamboree (2023, Same Room): Folkie singer-songwriter, more than a dozen albums since 1996. B+(**) [sp]

Blondshell: Blondshell (2023, Partisan): Singer-songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum, father a hedge fund mogul, recorded an EP and some singles as BAUM, first album under this alias. Wikipedia has a long section on "Personal Life," which I read as read as "rich people are fucked up too, but can afford fancier labels." B+(*) [sp]

Eddie Chacon: Sundown (2023, Stones Throw): Half of the 1990s neo-soul duo Charles & Eddie -- with Charles Pettigrew (1963-2001) -- returned to music with a 2020 album, now this one, an understated quiet storm. B+(*) [sp]

Davido: Timeless (2023, DMW/Columbia): Nigerian afropop star, David Adeleke, actually born in Atlanta, grew up in Lagos, studied business in Alabama, returned to launch his career -- no doubt helps that his father is one of the richest people in Nigeria. Fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Indigo De Souza: All of This Will End (2023, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter, from North Carolina, father "a Brazilian guitarist who was absent during much of her childhood," third album. Half impressed me, scales up poorly. B+(*) [sp]

Jeremy Dutton: Anyone Is Better Than Here (2023, self-released): Drummer-composer, first album, side credits back to 2018 with James Francies (piano here) and Joel Ross (vibes). Also draws on spot help from Ben Wendel (sax on 8/12 tracks), Mike Moreno (guitar on 7), and Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet on 2), plus bass (Matt Brewer or Daryl Johns). B+(**) [cd]

En Attendant Ana: Principia (2023, Trouble in Mind): French group, third album, songs in English, Margaux Bouchaudon the singer. Reminds me a bit of Belle & Sebastian, but doesn't connect as readily. B [sp]

Alexander Hawkins Trio: Carnival Celestial (2022 [2023], Intakt): British pianist, cover notes "with" Neil Charles (bass) and Stephen Davis (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Phil Haynes/Drew Gress/David Liebman: Coda(s): No Fast Food III (2022 [2023], Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): Drummer, from Oregon, album credits since 1984, often with the late Paul Smoker. Released the first No Fast Food album, with Gress (bass) and Liebman (sax, usually soprano), in 2014. Nice free jazz play, the discs short enough they could have been combined (31 and 35 minutes). B+(***) [cd]

Keigo Hirakawa: Pixel (2022 [2023], Origin): Pianist, born in Japan, raised in Ohio, has at least one previous album. Postbop quintet with Rafael Statin (reeds), guitar, bass, and drums. Fast, with some particularly hot spots. B+(**) [cd]

Javon Jackson: With Peter Bradley: Soundtrack and Original Score (2021-22 [2023], Solid Jackson): Tenor saxophonist, nominally a soundtrack for a documentary on the painter/sculptor (b. 1940), but sounds like a fairly tight group set, with Greg Glassman (trumpet) on most tracks, backed by plain (Jeremy Manasia), bass (David Williams), and drums (Charles Goold or McClenty Hunter). B+(***) [cd]

JustVibez + Negro Justice: Art of the Craft (2023, self-released): Nashville hip-hop duo, Negro Justice the rapper, Justvibez the producer. B+(**) [bc]

Killer Mike: Michael (2023, Loma Vista): Atlanta rapper Michael Render, five albums 2003-12, since then has focused on his duo with El-P, Run the Jewels. Looks back here, with gospel effects. B+(**) [sp]

Larkin Poe: Blood Harmony (2022, Tricki-Woo): Southern roots-rock band, principally sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, originally from north Georgia but based in Nashville, regular albums since 2011. Guitars aplenty. B+(*) [sp]

Model/Actriz: Dogsbody (2023, True Panther Sounds): New York band, first album after several singles (first in 2017), Cole Haden the singer/auteur, his angst rising from sonic depths -- I wouldn't call it noise, but it does remind me of where that rose from in the early 1980s. B+(***) [sp]

Meshell Ndegeocello: The Omnichord Real Book (2023, Blue Note): Singer-songwriter, originally Michelle Lynn Johnson, adopted name (from Swahili) has been streamlined over the years. Thirteenth album since 1993, her credit "instrumentation, vocals, liner notes," with fifteen other musicians credited on one or two songs each. B+(*) [sp]

Pony: Velveteen (2023, Take This to Heart): Jangle-pop band fronted by Sam Bielanski, songs co-written with Matty Morand; second album. B+(*) [sp]

Smokey Robinson: Gasms (2023, TLR): Now 83, early Motown songwriter, fronted the Miracles, went solo in 1973, couple dozen albums since, this the first set of new material since 2009. Title refers to moments of pleasure, a concept that includes but extends beyond sex, not that he's lost interest in such things. B+(**) [sp]

Rust Dust: Twere but It Were so Simple (2023, Omad): Singer-songwriter Jason Stutts, based in Brooklyn, plays guitar, second album, contemplating the cosmos. B+(**) [sp]

Samia: Honey (2023, Grand Jury): Singer-songwriter from New York, last name Finnerty, second album. B+(*) [sp]

Shalom: Sublimation (2023, Saddle Creek): Singer-songwriter, raised in South Africa, based in Brooklyn, exotic credentials at odds with the very straightforward (but far from boring) rock framework. That lifts the introspection up enough to be notable, even a bit fun. B+(***) [sp]

Edward Simon: Femeninas: Songs of Latin American Women (2023, ArtistShare): Venezuelan pianist, moved to US when he was ten, studied in New York, based in San Francisco, couple dozen albums since 1994. Featuring credit for Mexican singer Magos Herrera, with the band also listed on the cover: Adam Cruz (drums), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Luis Quintero (percussion). Includes a three-part piece by Simon (lyrics by Herrera), plus eight songs as advertised (two from Brazil also feature guitar by Romero Lubambo). B+(*) [cdr]

Son Volt: Day of the Doug: The Songs of Doug Sahm (2023, Transmit Sound): Country-rock band led by Jay Farrer, after Uncle Tupelo broke up. Eleventh album since 1995. B+(*) [sp]

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: Altitude (2023, Snakefarm): Country singer, debut 1978, never a big star but had some success in the 1990s, as he started to build his reputation for bluegrass. Dubbed this band in 2003, this his ninth album under the name. Slow start, recovers toward the end. B [sp]

Stuck: Freak Frequency (2023, Born Yesterday): Postpunk band from Chicago, second album, Greg Obis the lead singer. What marks it as "post" is that the instrumentals get more energetic. B+(**) [sp]

Uncle Waffles: Asylum (2023, Kreativekornerr): South African amapiano dj, born in Eswatini (Swaziland for you old-timers), second album, reportedly a viral breakout. Beats. Lots of beats. B+(**) [sp]

Rufus Wainwright: Folkocracy (2023, BMG): Famous parents (Kate McGarrigle, Loudin Wainwright III), immortalized as a baby in one of the latter's more memorable songs, debut album 1998, ten albums later, a collection of covers (five traditional folk songs, one of his own, one by Schubert, others eclectic), most joined by guest singers, produced by Mitchell Froom. Has a few moments. B [sp]

Youth Lagoon: Heaven Is a Junkyard (2023, Fat Possum): Alias for Trevor Powers, three albums 2011-15, this is his fourth. [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Roger Bekono: Roger Bekono (1989 [2023], Awesome Tapes From Africa): From Cameroon (1954-2016), played guitar and sang, Discogs only lists one more album beyond this minor four song, 30:15 gem. B+(**) [sp]

Ernesto Djédjé: Roi Du Ziglibithy (1978-82 [2022], Analog Africa): Singer from Côte D'Ivoire (1947-83), recorded from 1970 up to his "mysterious" death (Discogs lists six albums). Dates not given, but the four songs (25:52) can be tracked back to four albums. B+(**) [sp]

Sonny Rollins With Heikki Sarmanto Trio: Live at Finlandia Hall, Helsinki 1972 (1972 [2023], Svart): Live set with a pickup band, although the keyboardist (playing Fender Rhodes here) is a pretty big deal in Finland, with Pekka Sarmanto (bass) and Esko Rosnell (drums). After a spoken intro, they expand greatly on "Night and Day," "My One and Only Love," and "St. Thomas." It's impossible to hear the latter and not smile wide. A- [sp]

Nkono Teles: Love Vibration (1982-84 [2023], Soundway): From Cameroon (d. 2011), based in Nigeria, "one of a small handful of pioneers of the Nigerian electronic music scene in the 1980s." Six tracks (33:02), three from 1982-84 albums, which seems to have been his peak period. Would slot nicely into one of those Nigerian disco compilations. B+(**) [sp]

Ali Farka Touré: Voyageur (1991-2004 [2023], World Circuit): Legendary guitarist-singer from Mali (1939-2006), unveils nine previously unreleased jam tracks, as charming as ever. B+(***) [sp]

Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers: Somewhere Under the Rainbow: Nov. 5, 1973 (1973 [2023], Reprise, 2CD): First disc features Tonight's the Night, recorded earlier that year but unreleased until 1975. But note there's another -- if memory serves, better sounding -- live version, from Sept. 20-22 with the same band (Nils Lofgren, Ben Keith, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina), released in 2018 as Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live. I've liked many of Young's live albums, but this one seems especially unnecessary. B [r]

Old music:

Big Joanie: Sistahs (2018, Daydream Library Series): Afro-British g-b-d trio, Stephanie Phillips the singer, first album (a second came out in 2022), advertised as postpunk but I don't really hear it -- did help get them opening slots for Sleater-Kinney and Parquet Courts and a label co-owned by Thurston Moore. B+(***) [sp]

Fokn Bois: Coz Ov Moni (2010, Pidgen Music): Hip-hop duo from Ghana, names given as M3NSA and Wanlov the Kubolor -- ok, Bondzie Mensa Ansah and Emmanuel Owusu Bonsu. First album, soundtrack to "the first pidgen musical film in the world." B+(**)

Fokn Bois: Fokn Wit Ewe (2012, Pidgen Music): Second album, more accessible in English. They get on track with a chant thanking God they're not Nigerians, then admitting that Liberians are even worse. Later they beg Somalians to "Help America," and luxuriate in extraterrestial sex. I take these, and not just the skits, to be jokes, like the title. A- [sp]

Fokn Bois: Coz Ov Moni 2 (Fokn Revenge) (2014, Pidgen Music): Another soundtrack, presumably a sequel to the original "pidgen musical" film. More jokes, no doubt, as they even permeate the music. B+(**) [sp]

Fokn Bois: Fokn Ode to Ghana (2016, Hobo Truffels/Yoyo Tinz): Effectively a remix of a various artists instrumental album Ode to Ghana (2014, Hobo Truffels), with the raps added and the original artists billed as producers. A mixed bag. One sobering piece claims Obama for Kenya and goes: "Thank God we're not an African-American." B+(**) [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

Taj Mahal: Savoy (2023, Stony Plain): Eclectic roots bluesman Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, started in 1965 in a group with Ry Cooder called Rising Sons, reunited last year in a Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee tribute. Goes back even earlier here, reminiscing about Chick Webb in the Savoy Ballroom (some years before he was born in 1942). He sticks to top shelf songs here, risking comparison to Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, Jimmy Rushing -- even the sureshot Maria Muldaur duet, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Of course, he has his own take, but I wonder how useful this really is. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]

Water From Your Eyes: Everyone's Crushed (2023, Matador): New York duo, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown, specify pronouns but not instruments, several albums since 2017, although this is the first one to get any real notice. Disjointed, which seems to be the sound of the year -- one that makes me despair of ever being hip again, but much here that I do appreciate. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • JoVia Armstrong & Eunoia Society: Inception (Black Earth Music) [06-30]
  • Will Bernard & Beth Custer: Sky (Dreck to Disk) [09-05]
  • The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Harvesters (Aerophonic) [07-18]

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