Music for 5/29/23!!! Shirley Collins, Jealous of the Birds

@@@ Shirley Collins: Hares on the Mountain (Domino, 2023) A coupla listens off this week’s Line of Best Fit and this is some folk/singer songwriter music from an 87 year old. The record opens with the track Fare the Well My Dearest Dear and it’s a guitar/mandoling driven ditty with distinctive UK/Irish flavors to the melodies. Traditional and modern at the same time, I dig it. I’m on the third track now and my main observation revolves around how this is music just focused on being music and not music designed to sell or be popular and having that as a main motivation makes it very enjoyable to me. In addition to her soothing voice the varying instrumentation from song to song keeps the show fresh.

@@@ Jealous of the Birds: Cynic’s Song (Atlantic, 2023) The video below is the third tune on the record and it’s a steady slow banger with acoustic guitar, some ringing piano chords, and a wee bit of shaker. The arrangement is manicured and Ms. Birds can surely sing, but I’m not sure the impact the track is having on me. The fourth track brings more of rhythm section into the proceedings which instantly turns it into Starbucks music to buy coffee by. I’m giving the opening track a quick listen after checking out other tracks and it’s a spacious fingerpicked guitar part over a simple and delayed drum machine before it rocks out by quickly clicking through to track 2. I prefer the record above to this record, this one’s trying too hard.

Music for 4/23/23!!! Kara Jackson

@@@ Kara Jackson: Why does the Earth gives up people to Love? (September Recordings, 2023) This young woman was youth poet laureate in the 2019-2020 period and is a singer/songwriter to boot. I got to this record via the 10 most reviewed records of the week from Pitchfork. Her lyrics here are strange and high quality and honest, I really like them as it’s not often you hear a record where someone really gets into the lyrics. Musically the record is slotted as folk music and it is folk music but there is definitely other stuff floating around in the arrangements, a full band at some points bit flushes of percussive sound etc. Also a schmear of jazz and while she doesn’t go all sing song Swiss yodeller as Joni Mitchell famously did, there is a connection between the two here. She don’t super really give a fuck and is focused more on making a creative record which I think she has really succeeded at. I’m on the seventh track and this will be my last listen for the moment but I’m definitely going to circle back on this record which totally has it going on.

Music for 10/18/22!!! Robert Chaney, Sophie Birch/Antonina Nowacka

@@@ 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.

Music for 9/25/22!!! Jesca Hoop, Marina Allen

@@@ 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.

Music for 9/3/22!!! Brent Faiyaz, Jackie Oates

@@@ 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.

Music for 7/29/22!!! $uicideBoy$, Pigeon Pit

@@@ $SuicideBoy$: 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.

Music for 7/11/22!!! Nicola Cruz, Naima Bock

@@@ 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.

Music for 1/23/22!!!! GCOM, Jake Xerxes Fussell

@@@ 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.

Music for 1/1/22!!!! Joy Oladokun, Luke James & Nu Deco

@@@ 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.

Music for 12/23/21!!! Arooj Aftab, Tonebeds for Poetry

@@@ 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.