Music for 1/31/19!!! Top Notch, Ninth Wave, Billie Ellish

@@@ Billie Eilish: bury a friend (Interscope, 2019)  Another pre-release tune from this record which may not ever be released.  It’s gonna be all released pre released!  This is a minimalist funk tune with dark themes.  Bury the hatchet, bury a friend.  But it’s all funky and accessible.  It has a manicured and minimalist arrangement.  I didn’t know the Billie Eilish story until now — she’s an 18 year old actress that’s getting a huge push, at least on the Apple Music.  I’ve listening to a couple of other pre-release tracks as I cruise around the interwebz and the interesting part of the record lies in the sounds.  Very slick and dynamic within the tunes.  However I find the lyrics to be less than convincing.  I think it’s supposed to be a serious record but the cutting edge sounds detract from the darkness of the record which is supposed to be about a nightmare or a dream or both.  To my ear, it’s pretty standard corporate music business.  Hinting at something dark without being able to render it honestly.

@@@ Top Notch: Ghetto Life (N/A, 2019)  A solo record from a Brooklyn hip hop collective.  I got to it via a promo email.   The sounds are retro ’90s NYC hip hop a la Busta Rhymes and the main sonic theme is the Jamaican dancehall rhymes over hip hop arrangements. There are also prominent Wu Tang clan elements here with some tracks featuring multiple MCs.

@@@ Ninth Wave: Half Pure (Distiller, 2019)  I got to this Scottish band’s track via a music publicist email.   It’s a dramatical, post-goth ditty rooted in ’80s synth rock a la the Cure.  Male singer singing ‘you’re only half pure, cuz the pain and the glamour that you were bred for’ is a pretty clever line but they wear it out.

YTD recordings listened to: 63
Good music, not list worthy: 35
Not good music: 25

Best: 0
Honorable Mentions: 0

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, RAM, Fiver, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Portal, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto, Elysia Crampton, Parquet Courts, Moskus, Kendl Winter, Tkay Maidza, Barro, Daniel Khan, Tallawit Timbouctou, Sumac, Tropical Fuck Storm, Harriet Tubman, Ammar 808

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Music for 1/27/19!!! Luis Fonsi, Vampire Weekend

@@@ Luis Fonsi: Sola (UMG, 2019)  Some Latin loverboy music that sits #1 on the Apple Music hot tracks.  This is straight up Spanish Bieber corn with a simple guitar figure, a minimalist and slightly slinky beat and lots of urgently sung vocals.  Thankfully for me this is cheese delivered in Spanish so I don’t have to endure the meaning; I just get the panty quaking vibe.  The ladies are lapping this up with 7 million streams on the GooglePimpTube in 4 days.

@@@ Vampire Weekend: Harmony (Sony, 2019)  Oh Lord, Vampire Weekend has some car payments coming cuz they went straight for the lowest common denominator.  I feel a bit dirty just listening to it.  What starts as a personal, ballad-y kind of thing explodes into a pop rock ooh ooh anthemic cheese that is not firm but salty and gooey like Cheese Whiz.  Very Paul Simon in the verse (but with less restraint) and then it sounds like something the Band might pop in a chorus but they would restrain themselves.  You even get a delicious tambourine at the end and I’m pointing at the singer here for the greatest crimes.  Clocking in at 5:08 I would be much happier if this was about 2:20 in length.  Eeessh.

YTD recordings listened to: 55
Good music, not list worthy: 32
Not good music: 22

Best: 0
Honorable Mentions: 0

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, RAM, Fiver, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Portal, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto, Elysia Crampton, Parquet Courts, Moskus, Kendl Winter, Tkay Maidza, Barro, Daniel Khan, Tallawit Timbouctou, Sumac, Tropical Fuck Storm, Harriet Tubman, Ammar 808

Music for 1/25/19!!! Dawn Richard, Bring Me the Horizon

@@@ Dawn Richard: New Breed (Local Action/Our Dawn, 2019) The new music for 2019 is starting to come on out after a post holiday recess. I’ve checked Dawn Richard’s music before and for the r&b style she does get out there. I originally got to her music after reading an article in the Guardian about how she does not use a publicist which I greatly admire. It also makes me want to spread her music far and wide. The production here is tight — compressed for power and bumping at the low end. Richard can sing — quietly and powerfully and whichever we way she wants to roll. I enjoyed the second track (title track) the most. A sinuous arpeggiated synth chord, a thick beat, some pro female empowerment lyrics and a dancefloor banger for the lesbian bars out there.

@@@ Bring Me the Horizon: amo (Sony Music, 2019) Also off this week’s All Music notable release email. This UK outfit does some proud genre mashing — some electronica, some rock, and even some metal. This first tune, I apologize if you feel something, is arty and weird lower in pretension and then that segues into a more brash rock thing. Not full metal, riffy but not messy but not pretty. Hard to peg. For major label business it’s you know a bit adventurous but when someone pushes I want to hear them freak the fuck out. Not art school bullshit here.

YTD recordings listened to: 53
Good music, not list worthy: 31
Not good music: 21

Best: 0
Honorable Mentions: 0

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, RAM, Fiver, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Portal, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto, Elysia Crampton, Parquet Courts, Moskus, Kendl Winter, Tkay Maidza, Barro, Daniel Khan, Tallawit Timbouctou, Sumac, Tropical Fuck Storm, Harriet Tubman, Ammar 808

Music for 1/24/19!!! Dolphin Gardens, Always a Bad Thing

@@@ Dolphin Midwives – Liminal Garden (Beacon Sound) Electronic music off this week’s CFUV playlist email.  Opens up angel choir style.  After a multi voice loop sesh in comes some processed (maybe reversed) sound.  I like it, I wish it would move faster but I can hang.  I dig the glitch and the chopping but I could use some beats.  The second tune opesn up with a harp patch which is cool and continues the very female energy on the record.  Traditional female energy and shit.  I dug the fourth tune Flux the most as it brought in the aggro and a lit bit of insect energy to contrast with what came before.  There’s some attention up in this record so check it out if you want some chopped female-tronica.

@@@ Always A Bad Thing – Your Songs Of Light, My Songs Of Death (Baffled Octopi) Self-described electronic folk also off this week’s CFUV playlist email.   I’m feeling this first tune ACID: pronoun: BURN.  It’s drone-y and a little rhythmic and weird.  I hear nothing folk-y here, maybe it was a folk track before it went through the processing machine.  The second tune opens up like a Radiohead track and it’s more rock than folk.  I like this music, it’s a bit all over the place so it’s hard to pass on to others what it is, but it’s mostly electronic, a little indie, a little dissonant and that’s about it.

YTD recordings listened to: 51
Good music, not list worthy: 29
Not good music: 21

Best: 0
Honorable Mentions: 0

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, RAM, Fiver, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Portal, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto, Elysia Crampton, Parquet Courts, Moskus, Kendl Winter, Tkay Maidza, Barro, Daniel Khan, Tallawit Timbouctou, Sumac, Tropical Fuck Storm, Harriet Tubman, Ammar 808

Music for 12/17/18!!! Idles, The 1975

@@@ Idles: Joy as an act of resistance (Partisan, 2018) #6 on the Guardian’s best of 2018 list.  I don’t know what I expected but this is a rock/Brit rock/punk type of mash.  I do like the jagged ridiculousness of the second tune ‘Never Trust a Man with a Perm’.  The singer is full of accent and pugnacity.  I guess being American stuck with this ass nugget Trump and seeing the word ‘resistance’ I was expecting something political.  This is mostly a bar fight punk blaster which I’m into.  I’m surprised it made it to the top ten at the Guardian for sure.

@@@ The 1975: Love It If We Made It (Polydor/Interscope, 2018) I got to this tune via an awful ass year end list.  I think I’ve heard these guys before and wondered what the fuss is about.  The production is flawless, a fly on this car is not to be tolerated.  I’m not sure what you call this music.  It sounds like a band, but it’s not rock and it’s sure as fuck cheesy.  The sound of it is awful to my ears, it’s pure shopping mall arena business.  The chorus is particularly notable for the mess of it.  It’s got a synth bass, a guitar plink, some synth splashes, big vocal splanks, a guitar wail, and some drum fills.  Talk about a buffet!!!  Yet I hate it.

YTD recordings listened to: 692
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 374
Not good music: 267

Best: 16
Honorable Mentions: 8

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, RAM, Fiver, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Portal, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto, Elysia Crampton, Parquet Courts, Moskus, Kendl Winter, Tkay Maidza, Barro, Daniel Khan, Tallawit Timbouctou, Sumac, Tropical Fuck Storm, Harriet Tubman

Best of 2018

**** not arranged by preference ****

1. Courtney John: Ecosystem (Soul Fire, 2017)

A perfectly crafted combination of old school roots reggae flavors with a great band and a singer I like a whole bunch. The band is tight and relaxed simultaneously with space for organ solos, guitar business, etc.

2. Guy One: #1 Best (Philophon, 2018)

A unique large ensemble African record from Ghana that sports elements of Afrobeat this record smokes from beginning to end. Great playing, great singing and high energy. This is about as good as music gets. I have spun the fuck out of this record all year.

3. Melissa Laveaux: Radyo Swivel EP (No Format, 2018)

It must suck to be a Williamsburg indie hipster and see how a Haitian Canadian woman who lives in Paris does your hipster indie songwriter thing better than you could dream of.

4. Magrudergrind: II (Relapse, 2016)

All the players in the band are above average and they are tighter than a welldigger’s ass in the middle of the winter but it’s the drummer who takes the gold star. He thrashes, he sprays, he grooves, he drives the bus.

5. Irreversible Entanglements: Irreversible Entanglements (International Anthem, 2017)

This free jazz trio plays really well but the woman on the microphone doing the spoken word part is the star here and they burn all the way through. She coughs up more than a few cutting lines, especially in the first piece. Check it out.

6. Los Texmaniacs: Cruzando Borders (Smithsonian Folkways, 2018)

This is a beautiful and super musical mariachi record regardless of the politics involved here. Needless to say Trump is a fucking asshole and I’m a fan of Mexican culture. I’m particularly impressed with the accordion player but I’m super into accordion. Everybody in this band plays and sings at a super high level.

7. The Ballantynes: Liquor Store Gun Store Pawn Shop Church (La Ti Da, 2013)

If you took the Blues Brothers and put ’em in flannel shirts and gave them a lot of any old school white trash beer and removed the horn section and the frat boy bullshit you would have something very close to this record. It’s a guitar driven soul/rock record with a lot of guitars, a male and a female singer that both do good work with a slap-tastic ramped up band.

8. American Lips: Kiss the Void (Ancient Fashion, 2017)

It’s not easy to make a mainstream hooky rock record and have it sound fresh. These guys do a good job of recreating an early ’80s half punk/No Wave kind of thing but with a pop sensibility and plenty of hooks.

9. 700 Bliss: Spa 700 (Don Giovanni, 2018)

Organic electronic production and a pleasantly confrontational African American female MC/singer/spoken word artist headline this EP. A friend of mine says this has a retro electro feel but I’m not schooled enough in old school electro to know.

10. Tim Hecker: Konoyo (Kranky, 2018)

Tim Hecker’s new record, Konoyo, is dark. And it’s also unsettling. It’s also extremely well put together and beautiful. It is an ambient music record without drums or over rhythms with an emphasis on metallic sounds and bell like sounds

11. Shad: A Short Story About War (Secret City, 2018)

The lyrics on this record outperform — smart, conceptual, well thought out. It’s called a concept record but I think that’s bogus. Just because an MC is intelligent enough to connect warmongering with capitalism does not a concept album make. It’s called thinking motherfuckers.

The arrangements here are really good with no particular bent except maybe a retro thread — there are some jazzy sounds and mellow ones and there are more driving and urgent arrangements (for example the tune clipped below).

12. Vaudou Game: Otodi (Hot Casa, 2018) A tour de force of all funk genres with an absolutely ripping drummer and fantastic band energy. It’s hard to believe humans can be this funky.

13. Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (Mello Music, 2017)

I got to this hip hop record at the very beginning of this year but have struggled as to whether to put it on the ’17 or ’18 list so I’m going to put it on both as it’s that good. Incredibly well done lyrics and ear catching (but not poppy per se) arrangements take listeners to a whole ‘nother place. I can’t begin to praise the way this record is put together and executed, it’s hip hop and beyond hip hop at the same time.

14. Paul de Jong: You Fucken Sucker (Temporary Residence, 2018) In an era of shiny, happy people taking our civilization right over the cliff de Jong mixes the personal and implies the political with a tune like You Fucken Sucker. In addition to that nugget of true indie misery the ambient pieces towards the back of the record could be portraits of the opioid mind or the economically downtrodden or the millions of disconnected folks out there. Life is messy as fuck but rarely does that mess make it onto wax and the interwebz. DISCLAIMER: I worked on this record and I work with this musician.

15. Hernan Sama & Marcelo von Schultz: Sonidos desde el camp para los animales y la vida salvaje (Self-released, 2018)

What makes a great free jazz hit? It’s a slippery question. This self-released sax/drums set ticks all the boxes for me. A little Ayler, a little Mu Sessions and just a freshness to the playing or a desire to play what other people might expect.

16. Tal National: Tantabara (Tal National/Fat Cat, 2018) I don’t usually go for the super stuffed songs but the melodic complexity of the guitarists combined with the drummer and the active singers makes for a glorious hot African mess. When they lean into the central grooves of the tunes it is ecstatic in nature.

17. Gouge Away: Burnt Sugar (Deathwish Inc, 2018) I have a soft spot for the angry female punk singers. Though these guys get into more than straight ahead power chord punk bashing they sport a classic up in your grille attitude. I don’t idolize the gent but it has that ragged Nirvana Bleach era energy and the drummer here kills it. They all kill it.

18. Babylon Trio: Habibi (Rebel Up, 2018)

Iraqi refugee musicians tear it up with Arabic street music flavored with euro club flourishes and some of the cheesiest and partyistic synth patches in years. The energy and the messiness of it is so refreshing. It’s ‘I don’t give a fuck’ messiness and not ‘I can’t play straight’ messiness.

Music for 12/7/18!!! Soccer Mommy, Esperanza Spaulding, Jupiter & Okwess

@@@ Soccer Mommy: Clean (Fat Possum, 2017) Both of the NY Times music writers have this record on their best of year list. Both writers! Once again showing the music coverage at the Times is a bag of ass. I find this downtempo guitar indie record unengaging and pretty derivative. Nothing particularly noteworthy in the lyrics or the music and it affirms the worth of mopey white people music when it shouldn’t be affirmed. But then again the Times put Arianne Grande’s record on the list and listening to that record is akin to drinking a quart of dirty dishwater. It’s not surprising the New York Times as a quiet proponent of white supremacy would single this record out of the thousands released this year for notable recognition.

@@@ Esperanza Spalding: 12 Little Spells (Concord, 2018) Another New York Times best of year choice. I come to this record prejudiced as I do not like Spalding — I find her technical skills to be plentiful but there’s a coldness and lack of soul to her music and these tunes only serve to reinforce that perception. This first tune is more symphonic prog rock than it is jazz. I like this second tune more, the singing is quite nice but I predict it’s going to collapse into a proggy mush….and there we go. I define a great record as one that you want to play over and over again and you continue to find things in the record that deepen the listen. I see this record as a work of technique with moments of beauty and that’s not my definition of a great record.

@@@ Jupiter & Okwess: Kin Sonic (Everloving Records, 2018) This is another New York Times record they call it ‘magnificently funky’. If this first power rock funk inflected tune is any indication this record is not going to come close to the funkiness of Vaudou Game. I’m on the third tune and I like this record but to be honest it’s more of a rock record than a funk record. It’s got some funk in it but it’s a thread and not the core. Stick with Vaudou Game. A lot of chanted vocals, some funky guitar and a drummer that rocks.

YTD recordings listened to: 676
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 368
Not good music: 263

Best: 16
Honorable Mentions: 8

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, RAM, Fiver, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Portal, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto, Elysia Crampton, Parquet Courts, Moskus, Kendl Winter, Tkay Maidza, Barro, Daniel Khan, Tallawit Timbouctou