Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Music Week

May archive (final).

Music: Current count 42377 [42349] rated (+28), 31 [27] unrated (+4).

Recovering from my off week, I wrote a pretty substantial Speaking of Which, posted late Sunday but not nearly as complete as I wanted. I expect to add a few more things today, which will probably delay posting this until late. Still, I should get this prepared before it gets too late.

One possible problem is that we're at the end of the month, so I need to open a June Streamnotes file, as well as wrap up the May file (177 albums over five weeks). (Ugh! Looks like I didn't wrap up April either. Caught up now bringing the Streamnotes rated count to 23921. Turns out I had a previous, more generous, review of Serengeti's Kaleidoscope III not logged in the database. This work killed enough of the day to push this post back to Tuesday.

What else needs to be said here?

Last week, I did a Music Week update, and posted notices elsewhere, asking for input on a domain name renewal, and less directly on the possibility of other people using my writings as a starting point for a music reference website. I got zero feedback on the latter. I did get one letter regarding the narrow domain name issue. The advice there was to drop it, and the reasoning made sense to me, so I took if auto-renew. It will probably disappear before before you read this. I still need to do some clean up work on my end. So "Terminal Zone" is dead for now, and the website project is shelved.

I finally broke down and opened up a 2024 metacritic file, which will eventually turn into the EOY aggregate file. I started by looking at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2024 list, and assigning one point for album ratings 80+ from most sources: I don't see much value in loading up on metal specialists (AOTY tracks 6 that I have ignored so far, but metal albums reviewed elsewhere are tracked) the active list is here. Eventually I'll get to pages that are organized by source and sorted by release date, starting with the sources I'm most likely to follow anyway. Later on I'll probably consult Metacritic for additional sources -- they sometimes read ungraded reviews and assign scores which can be used here.

Next step would be to start scanning through untracked sources, especially ones that covers genres that I'm interested in but are gerrymandered against at AOTY, like jazz, hip-hop, country, world, and electronica. Ones with clearly graded reviews are best, but I've been known to count everything mentioned by some reviewers. Also, as usual, I'm adding my grades (a nudge for my favorites, but also, I think, useful info), with more to come. Also coming soon are mid-year best-of lists, which will appear as '+' as opposed to '*' for positive reviews. (Most midyear lists aren't ranked, and the numbers are at best provisional, so I think I'll skip them. EOY lists will eventually replace them.)

I figure this is a spare time project, not something I'll make a point of trying to keep up-to-date. It's useful for me primarily for prospecting (which is one reason I bother little with metal, or for that matter classical). I may not even keep it going -- although having the framework together is a big step toward doing the EOY aggregate, and also helps with Jazz Critics Poll. As my book projects continue to flounder, the odds of me doing that again improve.

The metacritic list exercise led to most of the records below -- not that I needed the list to check out Swift and Eilish, but it provided a nudge. Good as their albums are, the others that made A- are probably a bit better, and sweeter to find. (Well, Murray didn't come from the list, and never needed to.) The high B+ grades are also good records, and could very well click for you.

Not much from the demo queue. I'm keeping it sorted by release date, and the remaining CDs are June-July releases, so I'm trying not to rush them. One the other hand, a hint for publicists: send me a note when something becomes available on Bandcamp or Spotify and I'm liable to cue it up before deleting the mail (I did that three times while writing this, and will give this one a second spin).

New records reviewed this week:

Yaya Bey: Ten Fold (2024, Big Dada): R&B singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, fifth album since 2016. Nice flow, has some grit. B+(***) [sp]

Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Rewilder (2023 [2024], Intakt, 2CD): Bass/piano/drums, third group album, joint credits, title piece split into "I" (51:49) and "II" (53:04). B+(***) [sp]

Britti: Hello, I'm Britti (2024, Easy Eye Sound): New Orleans singer-songwriter Brittany Guerin, first album, produced by Dan Auerbach. B+(**)

Isrea Butler: Congo Lament (2023 [2024], Vegas): Trombone player, lead in the Count Basie Orchestra ghost band, credits Ike Quebec and Bennie Green albums for inspiring this quintet with Doug Lawrence (tenor sax), Dave Loeb (piano), bass, and drums. Seven covers: two from Green, one Quebec, a Stanley Turrentine, the standards including a delightful "Pennies From Heaven," and a Ma Rainey blues to close. B+(***) [cd] [06-01]

Rachel Chinouriri: What a Devastating Turn of Events (2024, Elektra): English singer-songwriter, family from Zimbabwe, first album after a couple of EPs. B+(***) [sp]

Cindy Lee: Diamond Jubilee (2024, Realistik Studios): Per Wikipedia: "the drag queen hypnagogic pop project of Canadian musician Patrick Flegel, former guitarist and lead singer of Women." Fifth album, 32 songs, over two hours. Lots of things here, probably could be edited into a good album, maybe two, but as is it doesn't sustain the interest it first elicited. B+(*) [yt]

A.G. Cook: Britpop (2024, New Alias): British electronica producer, initials for Alexander Guy, best known under the alias PC Music but third album under this moniker, a long one (three parts: "Past," "Present," "Future"; 24 tracks, 99:43 total). B+(**) [sp]

Charley Crockett: $10 Cowboy (2024, Son of Davy): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, plays guitar, more than a dozen albums since 2015. Easy does it. B+(**) [sp]

DIIV: Frog in Boiling Water (2024, Fantasy): Post-punk/dream pop/shoegaze band from Brooklyn, fourth album since 2012, singer-guitarist Zachary Cole Smith and guitarist Andrew Bailey from the original band, two others from 2013/2015. B+(*) [sp]

Billie Eilish: Hit Me Hard and Soft (2024, Interscope): First two names, skipping Pirate and surnames Baird (mother) and O'Connell (father), also discarded by brother Finneas, who seems to be the composer in their songwriting team, but she's undoubtedly the persona, an artist with a knack for seeing the wonder of the peculiar world she lives in: home-schooled, DIY-recorded, Grammy winner at 17, third album here at 22, most likely another smash -- but once again, I'm slow on the uptake, nudged on by nuggets of genius peeking out from soft and sly but seemingly unremarkable pop schist. Not totally sure here, but I'm probably saving myself some paperwork on down the line (like I had to do last time). A- [sp]

English Teacher: This Could Be Texas (2024, Island): British group, from Leeds, Lily Fontaine the singer, first album after a 2022 EP, much touted, not unreasonably. B+(***) [sp]

Beth Gibbons: Lives Outgrown (2024, Domino): English singer-songwriter, voice of Portishead in the 1990s, treats this as her debut solo album, although she has a 2002 duo with Rustin Man and is featured on a 2019 recording of Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3. Some remarkable music here. Songs to match. A- [sp]

Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (2023 [2024], ArtistShare): Alto/soprano saxophonist, albums start in 1989, "revisits the 1980s heyday of jazz in Greenwich Village," with a fairly large group -- nine musicians, a choir, vocals on three tracks (including a cover of "Here, There, and Everywhere"). Sax is engaging, but otherwise a mixed bag. B+(*) [cd]

Hawkwind: Stories From Time and Space (2024, Cherry Red): British space rock group, debut 1970, slowed down after 1982 (releases in 1985, 1988, 1990) but with never more than a 5-year break (2000-05) and only one more (2012-16) more than two years. Vocalist Dave Brock (guitar, keybs) remains from the original group, with Richard Chadwick (drums) from 1990, one from 2016, the other two from 2021. Nothing in my database since Robert Calvert left in 1979. This sounds about right, but not enough to matter. B [sp]

Julia Holter: Something in the Room She Moves (2024, Domino): Singer-songwriter, from Milwaukee, eleventh album since 2007 (including three early DIY efforts), crafts atmospheric art-pop that I've never particularly related to, although this one has some appeal. B+(*) [sp]

Kelly Moran: Moves in the Field (2024, Warp): Composer, usually filed as modern classical but started in a no-wave punk band, is filed in my database as electronica, but Wikipedia also mentions jazz, dream pop, and black metal. This is acoustic piano, solo, ten pieces, very nice. B+(***) [sp]

David Murray Quartet: Francesca (2023 [2024], Intakt): Tenor sax great, includes a bit more than his usual bass clarinet special, other names on the cover: Marta Sanchez (piano), Luke Stewart (bass), Russell Carter (drums). Sounds great, if a bit more relaxed than usual. (Of course, no sooner than I write that line, he rips off a monstrous solo.) A- [sp]

Rosali: Bite Down (2024, Merge): Singer-songwriter, last name Middleman, fourth album since 2016. B [sp]

Wadada Leo Smith & Amina Claudine Myers: Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens (2021 [2024], Red Hook): Trumpet and piano duo. Pretty slow. B+(*) [sp]

Sprints: Letter to Self (2024, City Slang): Irish garage punk band, singer-guitarist Karla Chubb, has a couple EPs before this debut album. Substantial songs, has the sound down perfect. A- [sp]

St. Vincent: All Born Screaming (2024, Virgin): Singer-songwriter Anne Clark, born in Tulsa, grew up in Dallas, studied at Berklee, seventh studio album since 2007. B+(**) [sp]

Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department (2024, Republic): Tenth studio album, not counting the redundant rerecordings, this one coming on the heels of one of the highest grossing tours ever. Not a lot of glitz here, which must mean she's focused on the songwriting. I'm not quick enough on words to qualify that, but I really like the tone and pacing, and don't note anything amiss. Note that I only listened to the basic album, not the extra disc (The Anthology). A- [sp]

Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties: In Lieu of Flowers (2024, Hopeless): Solo project by Wonder Years frontman Dan Campbell, third album since 2014. Has a fairly quiet folksinger phase, which rather often swells to power ballad and beyond -- a trick I quickly tire of. Sample lyric: "if there's a way of fucking up, I'm going to find it." B- [sp]

Conchúr White: Swirling Violets (2024, Bella Union): Singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland, second album. He has all of the songcraft and much of the sensibility of the singer-songwriters known as Withered Hand and Bon Iver and several more that have already slipped my mind. Probably has the same appeal, not that I care that much for any of them. B+(***) [sp]

Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand: Willson Williams (2024, One Little Independent): UK singer-songwriters, latter's real name is Dan Willson, has a few albums since 2009, Williams' longer discography goes back to 1999. I've never run across her before, but he has a reputation as a skilled songwriter with religious airs. This seems nice enough. B+(*) [sp]

Chelsea Wolfe: She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She (2024, Loma Vista): Singer-songwriter from California, seventh studio album since 2010, blends folk, gothic and metal, I guess into "darkwave." This is dark indeed, dense, but not unpleasing. What it all means is beyond me. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Berliner Jazztage, November 2nd 72 (1972 [2023], Lantower): Alto saxophonist (1928-75), an exceptionally popular hard bop star. I recommend his early Emarcy sets (1956-58, collected as Sophisticated Swing) and Somethin' Else (1958, on Blue Note, with Miles Davis), but I have nothing in my database after his 1958-63 series with Riverside ended, but he recorded more for Capitol through 1972 and Fantasy up to his early death. Like most of his records, this features his brother Nat on trumpet -- a giant in his own right, and a more prolific composer. Also George Duke (keyboards, wrote the 19:06 opener, "Black Messiah"), Walter Booker (bass), and Roy McCurdy (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Jacques Greene: ANTH01 (2010-13 [2021], LuckyMe): Electronics producer Philippe Aubin-Dionne, from Montreal, alias from a street crossing (like Sleater-Kinney), compilation mostly from 2010-13 singles but I haven't been able to date the end points. B+(***) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (Origin) [06-21]
  • Gilbert Holmström: Peak (Moserobie) [05-24]
  • Alex Kautz: Where We Begin (Sunnyside) [07-05]
  • Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Six Hands Open as One (Fundacja Sluchaj) [04-01]
  • Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (Calligram) [06-07]
  • Kenny Reichert: Switch (Calligram) [06-07]

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