@@@ Robert Chaney: Breath (Self-released, 2020) A last listen off a Guardian list of pandemic music discoveries. It is slotted as Americana on Apple Music and it is that. Old school style with a very John Prine-y sounding voice. Just vocals and melodic electric guitar. It’s got a clever vocal hook, clever as in literary, not clever as in hipster irony. This is the kind of America I want to live in. Surprisingly catchy guitar playing, he’s got it all going here.
@@@ Sophie Birch/Antonina Nowacka: Pripugale (Mondoj, 2022) An ambient release off this week’s Pitchfork’s 10 most reviewed albums of the week. The video below is the seventh track on the record and it opens with large strums of a (guessing) zither and a warbly female voice. It is a very ambient sound right here on this record but it’s an old school parlor folk flavored thing, though some more ambient stuff is being added to the strums. It’s interesting in its oddness and I dig some of that background business. I’m giving a quick listen to another track, lotta tape hiss which is cool and a tad annoying at the same time. It’s not really my cup of tea, I love ambient music, and I like folk music but I’m not sure I need them blended in this way.
@@@ Jesca Hoop: Lyrebird (Memphis Industries, 2022) Opens with a super gentle string arpeggio with a big upright bass underneath then a female singer comin’ in friendly and intimate. This is feel good coffee folk/alternative. Lyrically it’s a descriptive short story typa thing and the hook comes in the chorus with a big multitracked singalong move. I think the multitracked vocals in the chorus are okay but a tad on the cheesy/gimmicky. This is for people with good paying jobs that think human civilization is gonna work out just fine.
@@@ Marina Allen: Or Else (Fire Records, 2022) This is more standard adult alternative rock business, this time driven by piano and just a small bit of tambourine clinking. It’s an old school small drum sound and Ms. Allen goes a bit Joni Mitchell in the chorus, sing song-y all over the place. It’s a friendly arrangement, I like the flute hanging out on the side of the mix. I’m checking out a bit of the opening track and this music is rooted in music from the mid to late ’70s so adult alternative is a slightly mislabelled sitch, it’s more of a hippie folk soft rock biscuit. I’m checking out the opening track Celadon and while this isn’t my cup of tea I appreciate how the track is arranged and executed. Folks of this style should peep this as you may like it.
@@@ Brent Faiyaz: All Mine (N/A, 2022) This r&b artist is getting big spins up on the Youtube but I haven’t heard of him before. This is a slow booty jam, pretty lyrically explicit with a fairly fresh and evolving arrangement. Nice cracking snare sample that keeps time with the fairly large lasagna of vocal tracks backing the lead. I think the sounds and arrangement are better than the vocals as there are too many backing tracks for my taste and the sounds are sparse and interesting. I’m checking out another track called Rolling Stone and I like it better, oh there’s that wedge of backing vocals, it’s a bit much for me. He’s a really good singer, he should profile that more directly with fewer vocal tracks. The sounds here are solid as well but it’s beatless which is not my preference. I got to this track via the Twatter.
@@@ Jackie Oates: Wexford Lullaby (N/A, 2022) I got to this folk artist via a write up in the Guardian. The track opens with just Oates singing so it’s a good thing she’s got a beautiful voice. Around 1:05 there’s a male voice added. About 2:20 a third voice, another female, enters. This is super old school, stripped down and a combination of melancholy and beauty. I’m giving a quick listen to a coupla more tracks and the opening track on the record has two fiddles, piano and maybe more. The production is modern but not annoying, her voice is extremely clearly presented and while the instruments tilt to the epic the music is undeniably beautiful and there’s is thankfully a lack of cheese going on here. I like this record a lot without super loving it which means I might love it later in a different mood but I can see a lot of folks getting into it.
@@@ $SuicideBoy$: Sing Me a Lullaby Sweet Temptation (G59, 2022) I mean I like the formula and a whole bunch of the sounds but are they hyped? Maybe a bit. There’s never a hot shit moment, like this is super hot shit how did they make this? The dark nihilistic worldview hits with today’s society, it’s a toilet out there people. Let me peep a bit more oooh, they just made me a liar with the third tune, F***** Your Culture, it’s a flowing throwdown with the best rhymes of what I’ve heard to this point. I’m gonna go out after this fourth track 1000 Blunts — it’s cool, maybe a step down from that third tune, but the third tune is the hot spot on a record. Solid double to left center field not a home run for me.
@@@ Pigeon Pit: Hot Knives (N/A, 2021) I got to this publicist described DIY folk punks via a music publicist email. Hot Knives is the second track on a record called Treehouse and I’m not sure this meets what I call punk. Not to be a bitch and shit. It’s some urgent acoustic guitar strumming and poetic, confessional lyrics which may be punk but it’s also just a branch of folk music. The strumming branches out into a few runs and I don’t hate the singer’s delivery but I am not loving it. Plus he’s a bit low in the mix and straining to hear is only good if it’s some biblical prophesies shit. Solid B, more punk sauce please.
@@@ Nicola Cruz: Self Oscillation (Rhythm Section International, 2022) I’m listening bottom to top and this is also off Pitchfork’s 10 most reviewed albums of the week. It’s a brisk electronic record with a slant towards video game type synth sounds and a world-y flavored vocal samples. The second tune, Residual Heat, brings a dancehall flavor with a one syllable vocal sample. I’ve sample five of the six tunes on offer here and they’re all uptempo bangers with hip hop flavors in some places, classic funk and a dose of electronic abstraction in turns. Leans towards retro sounds but not exclusively and tightly arranged business here.
@@@ Naima Bock: Giant Palm (Sub Pop, 2022) I got to this via this week’s 10 most reviewed albums via Pitchfork. The first tune, clipped below, sports both an electro and a pastoral if not slightly mopey folk feel. I mostly like the arrangement (save the strummed acoustic guitar), the keyboard sounds are interesting and the cheesy drum machine works for me, but the vocals are a bit….standard. Multilayered and a bit low energy for me. Let me peep another track and see how that goes. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to mopey vibes but I think it’s possible to have a melancholy track and have a bit more snap to it.
@@@ GCOM: XO 4 (!K-7, 2022) I got to today’s listens via last week’s All Music notable release email. This is an electro track, and I’m guessing from the very beginning of the track that it’s set to be a sci-fi, epic track and not your unt-sss techno dancefloor banger. It’s a very ambient and sparse beginning with occasional kick drum before the glitchy updated drum ‘n bass sounds hit. R2D2 on meth would be an apt description here, pumped up robot electro. This is an almost 7 minute banger where the Odyssey 2001 feels alternate with the drum ‘n bass thwack action and as of now I don’t know if I will be here for the whole sandwich. I have nothing to really protest and while the ambient and the dnb is a bit interesting it’s not making me shit my pants. I want to shit my pants, I always want to shit my pants.
@@@ Jake Xerxes Fussell: Love Farewell (Paradise of Bachelors, 2022) This is the opening track of a folk record and while I did just type above that I want to shit my pants usually my reaction to a great folk record is not exactly a pants shitting moment. This opens with some guitar playing before Fussell heads in with his chestnut voice– a bit deep but not Isaac Hayes tone and I just used chestnut because I thought it fit without knowing why. The arrangement here is sparse and the production is not arch, as in made large for folks to feel more important. It’s hard to say where the point is where you pronounce a track or a record to be a bit sleepytime tea for your taste and I’m not sure Mr. Fuseell has violated my requirements vis a vis sleepytime vs. not sleepytime but there surely is not a ton to hang your hat on here and I believe that’s the point. There’s some really tasteful but staid guitar playing, there’s some unadorned vocalizing and then a bit of horn garnish, or mandolin, or electric guitar added and I’m gonna make the call that while this isn’t for me but he’s done a good and somewhat brave thing to not stuff his music with all sorts of stuff.
@@@ Joy Oladokun: jordan (Verve, 2021) I mean I shoulda known by the fact that it’s a NPR pick for 2021 and the record is out on Verve to see that this is gonna be some post hippie, macaroni and cheese comfort hippie typa thing. Chill organ, strummed clean electric guitar, and building our new promised land. I guess you can’t kill this aspirational yet slightly delusional viewpoint — my distaste is for the lack of creativity on the part of the musician and then a surrender to cheese by listeners who make this music a priority. I believe in recycling but not music.
@@@Luke James & Nu Deco Ensemble, A Live Sensation (Culture Collective, 2021) Oy, the same thing, just with falsetto loverboy singer but swelling organ, aspirational sounds — in this case gospel with a twinge of classic rock. See above review for response. Also some New Age feels in the lyrics as it unfolds.
@@@ Arooj Aftab: Mohabbat (Verve/UMG, 2021) I’ve come across this record on many lists. I can see why from the opening section of this almost 7 minute banger. It’s a Nick Drake-y type folk thing done by a South Asian woman and she does it very well. My wife would really dig this, she loves that business. How does a person adequately describe the classic South Asian singing style — intricate and flightful? It doesn’t matter. This artist also has the good fortune to put this music out when people can stand to be calmed down. This is very good calming music without resorting to waterfall sounds and rainstorm ambient music which drives me mad. The other South Asian sound here is the merdungam (I think) hand drum which rocks a minimalist beat here. Outside of the singing the sounds are pretty standard and since I’m a slut I would love to get a more interesting arrangement but that’s just me.
@@@ Tonebeds for Poetry: The Devil’s Nag (From Here Records, 2021) Also slightly in the folk category this lands in the odder part of town. Autotuned vocals, chattering drums mixed very dryly and a stringy banjo/guitar tone in the opener. They set out on a vibe and just keep riding it. I like how you wouldn’t expect the processed vocal with these sounds — I like unexpected sounds. The second tune drops the processing and moves more directly into the space rock part of town but completely without macho. I don’t often say this but I’m surprised I dig this. It presents rock feels mostly but the presentation is pretty creative to my ears. Well now I’m full of shit as the third tune comes through mostly cloudy ambient music, it was a palette cleanser, somewhat as the next couple of tunes spread out, take away the drums and put some spoken word business in there. Like it a whole bunch without losing my nut over it.
@@@ John Depew: Self-titled (Self-released, 2021) I got to this old school midwestern man and his stringed instrument record via Ted Gioia’s end of year list which I usually check out but it’s behind a paywall this year and he’s just giving out crumbs. Hath he no shame! Mr. Depew sure can play and he gets into on the second track Hog Killing. He can also sing really well — I’m not a huge fan of the reverb they put on his voice but it’s not enough to sink my liking of the record. He switches from mandolin to acoustic guitar on the third track Indian Blanket Flower and I’m really feeling this track more than the second after really liking the first. I think he might be a tad too literate for me at certain points. There are some quite beautiful passages at points here and a few places where it gets a bit lyrically clogged. I see he’s trying to update some very established sounds and I appreciate that effort, it’s quite difficult. I prefer his playing to his singing but that’s just me.
@@@ Milan Ring: Hide with You (Astral People, 2021) I got to this track via this week’s Line of Best fit email. Here we have a young female Australian musician and this is the opening track off a just released record. It’s a chill r&b track with singing and rhyming and a lot of vocal tracks. I don’t know if there should be a maximum number of vocal tracks to a song but it’s an idea worth considering. The arrangement here is chill pop with funky but not trap beats, nice thick basslines without menace and the aforementioned lots of vocal tracks. Surprisingly to me the outro comes together to chug out on a funky wave. Overall, it’s all right and whoever did the basslines here did a very good job.
@@@ Adele: Easy On Me (Sony, 2021) Adele is back, who gives a shit! I mean Adele can sing like a motherfucker but by the time the major label cheese has been ladled on there it’s not the most meaningful shit I’ve heard. When she gets to the chorus you get the electric bass to go with the meaningful piano. Of course she’s gonna have to unleash the vocals because that’s what’s she’s known for and I guess I’m just over these dramatic pop divas. My opinion is there’s just a wee bit too much Adele on offer here and the tune would be more interesting if there was more instrumentation and less of her vocals. This is quite a beautiful slab of boring.
@@@ Kelsey Lu: Morning Dew (Hydroharmonia, 2021) This track I got to via a Crack Magazine 10 mixes you gotta hear list email typa thingy. Actually I could not find the track namechecked on Crack Magazine and found this track both on the GooglePimp and on Apple Music. Opens with an acoustic guitar and what sounds like a bassoon. I’m not 100% on the bassoon statement but then you get vocals so it’s three components. The singing is breathy, not crazy breathy, but intimately presented which drives the track. I think she’s a cello player and in the chorus you get a descending, plucked cello melody. Another guess here but it sounds like they plugged in the bassoon and hit it with some fx actions so it’s kinda swirling and puffing behind the vocals that dominate. Overall, I woulda turned down the vocals and brought up the instruments a bit but this is strictly for folks with jobs that pay.