Music for 12/14/22!!! Little Simz, Danakil Meets Ondubground

@@@ Little Simz: Who Even Cares (AWAL, 2022) Off an email from Australian music mag Happy. Fresh out of the oven meaning just released, I think I heard a pre-release track from this record. This is track 9 on the record and it sports a slightly retro, soft and medium funky attitude. She’s more than solid on the microphone here. Slotted as hip hop she’s more straddling r&b and hip hop. I’m checking out the second track Gorilla and it’s more raucous and more hip hop with an upright bass, splashy hi hats and sassy rhymes. I’m on the third track and she’s got spot on production and she’s skilled microphonically but I don’t find myself pulled in by the tunes.

@@@ Danakil Meets Ondubground Part 2 (Baco Records, 2022) I got to this big fat modern sounding dub record with trap hats, dub and blunted feels via the WRIR playlist email. There are a ton of guest singers on this record from loverboy to dancehall toast to rough boys. The sounds are very new with drum machines and synth basses. I’m on the fourth tune and it’s an interesting blend of sounds, a lot of which I like and some I don’t like as much. It’s cool to take sounds that are central to other genres and then put them into a genre I super dig but I wish it hit harder and had more classic reggae funk. Not funk from classic reggae but the overall funkiness of reggae is a main draw for me.

Music of 10/14/22!!! Edge Slayer

@@@ Edge Slayer: When U Ball (Interference Ball, 2022) I got to this hip hop record via the UK online music magazine Crack. That’s right Crack Magazine! It’s slotted as hip hop, but this is a female driven r&b record. From New Orleans, home of many great and strange musicians. Bflat Athame is the title of the third track and it’s a dancefloor banger and this is the second track with pretty explicit lyrics. Lots of refences to her vajeen and how juicy it is, how excited she is, it’s in that vein. I like the synths here as well as the beat, the vocals a bit less. Let me peep the track clipped below. I don’t mean it personally but I like the sounds much more than the vocal arrangements. It’s just a bit croon-y and could use more energy and variety on this front.

Music for 10/3/22!!! High Vis, George Riley

@@@ HIgh Vis: Talk for Hours (Dais, 2022) I got to this punky/rocky English band via a music publicist email. Imma tellin’ you people we’re gonna see more rock in the short and medium term. These guys are not American which makes sense as American rock music has been boiled down to pretty much the Foo Fighters for a bunch of years now and other places did not swear off rock the way we have here in the U.S. This is pretty straightforward stuff with a lot of guitar rocking, and the track below is the opener for the record. It leans epic with big power chord action and melodies, I have nothing against it. Recent records by The Morlocs and a record I reviewed from the label Flenser are more interesting and original but some folks want that familiar shit. Pretty strong Oasis flavors here.

@@@ George Riley: Time (PLZ Make it Ruins, 2022) This is one of the records on this week’s Pitchfork’s 10 most reviewed albums of the week. I can’t tell if the background to the track clipped below is a guitar player or a roughed up synth but it’s a really interesting combination as she works the mike with a fair amount of energy. Once the beat comes in it really smacks hard. I’m now on the fifth track, the title track, and there’s a certain intense energy to this music — like she means it. God forbid someone hit the big red button called passion. The record is slotted as electronic up on Apple Music but it’s really a r&b record with some really hot arrangements. Start with the track below and go from there.

Music for 9/17/22!!! Ray Laurel, Death Cab for Cutie

@@@ Ray Laurel: Manic Pixie Dream Boy (Venice, 2022) I got to this track via this week’s Line of Best Fit. Strummed electric guitar intro, then falsetto vocal, then a big cloudy ’80s chorused guitar fart and dancy rock drumming. It’s got a lot of energy and I’m always into that but I’m not finding a lot of sounds here to love. Don’t love the guitars a lot, neutral on the drums, and neutral on the vocalizing. As I’m a super fair guy so I check out another track, this one called Coconut Perfume. Yowsa it’s good to be fair cuz I dig this funky thing, it’s a languorous slinky thing with a solid beat and more falsetto vocals. All the sounds are much better deployed.

@@@ Death Cab for Cutie (Atlantic, 2022) I’ll tell you straight up I’m not a huge fan of Death Cab, in fact I think they’re a leading proponent of a branch of the indie rock tree that I refer to as douche indie. This is a chill ambient non rocking track from a rock band that I think is going to explode in douche rock righteousness. Oy, Death Cab’s singer is one squeaky ass clean sounding motherfucker. I’m guessing with a title like Fragments from the Decade it’s an allegorical, big lyrical theme. Right at halfway you get a big clean guitar solo, on point. I like the drum sound here, a big room but clear in the mix. Fragments from the decade are dancing in the fire….meh. That right there is some Lord of the Rings type shit right in the middle of an indie rock setting. This is high end sleepytime tea. I just don’t get why people listen to these guys.

Music for 9/9/22!!!! Sudan Archives, John Legend

@@@ Sudan Archives: OMG BRITT (Stones Throw, 2022) A couple of listens from this week’s Line of Best Fit email. I’ve heard Sudan Archives before and I thought she could pop off with something really interesting, but I’m not sure recasting herself as a trap goddess is what I expected. This track clipped below is a hardass, robot sex queen and I think folks love the iron bitch routine. The undercarriage of the track is total trap, fat booty bass and skittery hat action. She’s over the top with a lot of detached spoken word business and vocal action. I’m giving a quick listen to the track Milk Me and it’s a world flavored lovergirl track with a non descript string sound that could be from a lot of different places with a stick-y (lots of snare stick sounding drum machine action) beat, processed vocals as well some really nice singing and a flute part. This track I like a lot, I would check out more of this record.

@@@ John Legend: Splash (Republic/UMG, 2022) A new record by John Legend is gonna get press in multiple outlets. You’re not going to be able to take a shit for the next week without running into John Legend and his new album. What to say about John Legend? He’s seems like a really smart and cool person, but his music? Oy, it’s a cheesy shonda. Maybe worse than cheese might be this track which is loverboy cheese. With a spare guitar strum, some processed vocals, he gets into a Christian horny space, it’s a John Legend booty anthem. Wow I don’t even know what to say about the Disney flavored gent gettin’ raw-ish. I can’t say I totally buy it, but authenticity and conviction are not required for American pop music, in fact it’s not useful at all — looking at you Madonna. I think this is the lead single and he’s got two guests on this track. All we need here is Jay Z showing up to pimp some crypto and this would be corporate music complete. This seems more about branding than about music but these days it’s a thin line.

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 8/21/22!!! Blackhaine

@@@ Blackhaine: Stained Materials (N/A, 2022) I got to this artist via a UK festival announcement out of Crack Magazine. If you dig electronic music you should get on their email list. This track opens with dark clouds before a spoken word artist comes in with the heavy. Some wild swirling and more synths and more voices are added. It is neither fully hip hop and it’s most definitely a pretty complex mix to say it’s solely spoken word. Oooh, I was wrong there’s the beat and we in hip hop land. Super slick in both good and bad ways. I like the wee high freq synths up high and am annoyed by the limousine beats. I’m giving a quick peep to another track called Prayer and it deploys the same formula in a different manner. Advanced synth actions, earnest spoken word rhyming and polished production, that’s what we have here. It’s a more interesting variation on Drake’s aesthetic because Drake is boring as fuck. Honestly and for the millionth time I don’t know why they slick everything and don’t throw in some contrast to deepen their music. When you slick everything it’s as if you love ketchup and you don’t believe in mustard. The art is in the balance between the ketchup and the mustard and the relish. And the wiener.

Music for 8/2/22!!! Robert Glasper, Amber Mark

@@@ Robert Glasper: Better Than I Imagined (Concord, 2022) A couple listens off Variety’s best of 2022 thus far. This is an ongoing work presenting a mashup of various black musics — jazz, hip hop, r&b, whatevs. I haven’t been a huge fan as it has sort of a pretentious feel to it and leaves out such beauteous ugliness as trap music and dancefloor genres. This is a lush, medium funky ballad with a sultry vocalist. I’m going to peep another track as this is a bit of a sleeper. I’m checking out the second track Black Superhero as it has Killer Mike on it and my distaste here continues as this is most definitely black music for black folks in brownstone Brooklyn — smooth, funky but not dirty and grizzy. Kinda classist and seems aimed at the historically black college graduates.

@@@ Amber Mark: Three Dimensions Deep (EMI, 2022) I’m going to start on the second track here, What it Is. It’s remarkably similar to the track above, lush and polished with a medium funk feel to it. I like these two tracks (this one and the one above) but I find them lacking in heat and heart. Amber has a very nice voice but I want someone to come on in and wreck up the joint. I’ve sampled parts of four different tracks and I give it a solid B. Nice sounds, maybe a bit polite, with really good singing.

Music for 7/19/22!!! Tyshawn Sorey, Stimulator Jones

@@@ Tyshawn Sorey: Mesmerism (Yeros7, 2022) This is a piano trio jazz record, pretty straight with Mr. Sorey who is a monster drummer/percussionist as well as a drummer heavily into composition. Instrumentation here is piano, drums and bass and regardless of how you feel about the tunes chosen or how the musicians do in covering them these guys can all play and Mr. Sorey makes the session much much more interesting with his quick witted playing and overall musicianship at the drum kit. This should work big time for straight jazz folks.

@@@ Stimulator Jones: Soon Never Comes (Stones Throw, 2022) I got to this alternative r&b record via the notable release email from All Music from a coupla weeks back. The first tune is heavy on both ’70s loverboy vibes and thwacky boom bap. The contrast between that snare sound and the hot fudge sundae sweetness of the rest of the tune is pleasant. If Earth Wind and Fire popped a handful of Oxycontin it would sound like the vocalist and the instrumentalists on this record. The pumped up snare is present on this second tune so maybe that’s the formula for the whole record. The third tune, and my last for this listen chooses a higher tempo drum machine but it retains that friendly ass sonic top end. The soft rock/funk here is quite extreme in its softness.

Music for 5/18/22!!! Kalia Vandever, Tank and the Bangas

@@@ Kalia Vandever: Regrowth (New Amsterdam, 2022) I see tons of record covers and seeing the dress Vandever wears and with a title such as ‘Regrowth’ I thought we were heading for some pretty vapid coffeeshop singer songwriter business but alas it’s really solid trombone jazz recording. I do confess to having a soft spot for trombone, it’s a beautiful instrument. I’m on the second track and it sports a lot of dynamics and the players do their thing quite crisply. It has a pleasantly tight feel. This is no skronk fest, they burn a little bit but it’s more patchouli rather than the Twin Towers burning down. Vandever’s playing is complex and feels circular as she keeps reshaping her ideas and building on them; she’s a really interesting player. I’ve checked out a bunch of tracks and the ideas seem to start with a short phrase or melody that just spiral out from there. There are some moments I like less than others but overall it’s both accessible and substantial.

@@@ Tank and the Bangas: Red Balloon (Verve, 2022). Oh wow, this is some smooth ass, corporate groomed, expertly manicured pubic bush r&b from Verve. This is so for folks with jobs who seek to pump themselves up with feel good jams it hurts. I’m hurtin’ over here. If you say Prince put a lot of pop into his music to appeal across the board, this is more flattering to the listener and I can just hear how some poor recording engineer worked on these mixes for months smoothin it out and then over mixing with little goodies here and there. There is nary a tack sticking up here, yowsa. Ironically the music would be more effective in my opinion if it was a bit grittier, but grit there isn’t, it’s fully processed like one of them orange cheese slices. A miracle in its way but not so tasty.