Music for 9/26/21!!! Nao, Esperanza Spaulding

@@@ Nao: And Then Life Was Beautiful (Little Tokyo/Sony, 2021) The opening track of the album and both listens are from this week’s All Music notable release email. Nao’s voice is unique, with not a lot of lower frequencies and she’s got a swirling, slighlty trippy arrangement going here. It’s a pretty cliche vocal hook — and then life was beautiful. Lots and lots of vocal tracks here and a stuffed mix. If you listen to the lyrics it’s almost a self hep video. “Take a second to breathe it out, and then life was beautiful” — that’s the vocal hook. I listened bottom to top here and I definitely feel more here than from Esperanza Spaulding’s vocalizing but I would acknowledge that I get annoyed with super detailed or over singing. I find the backing vocals clutter-y and clouds out the high quality arrangements here.

@@@ Esperanza Spaulding: Formwela 7 (Concord, 2021) My generic feeling about Ms. Spaulding is that she’s technically brilliant and short on my soul and a bit too proggy and highbrow for my taste. This track is no exception as she sings over a sparse piano and the lyrics are kinda nerdy. When the band comes in it’s accompanied by a large percussive sound that sounds a bunch like an old spring reverb. She is definitely working this tune dynamically as she puts out a lot of energy at its peak and builds it from that small piano part with almost whispered vocals. ‘Hearing is a labor like reading, hearing is a labor like keeping still, hearing is a labor like seeing, seeing for real.” That’s essentially the chorus of the track. Ultimately I judge music by if and how it makes me feel, and I’m a bit surprised by how little I feel when I hear Spaulding perform. It’s too precious and a bit bloodless for my taste.

Music for 4/30/2020!!! Lucinda Williams, Ali Shaheed, Brendan Benson, Other Lives

@@@ Lucinda Williams: You Can’t Rule Me (Highway 20/30 Tigers, 2020)  The first tune off Williams’ new record and she sounds a bit tipsy/drawled out on the microphone.  She’s hardened up her sound to reflect her rebellious turn and it’s a blues rock thing with more rock than I’ve heard in her music before.  I’m not sure how I feel about the old school heavy blues thing she’s doing here.  I don’t love her singing in the tune and a bit more mess and fire might help.  I like her and I don’t hate it but I’m a bit nonplussed.

@@@ Ali Shaheed: The Midnight Hour (Jazz is Dead, 2020)  This is slotted as crossover jazz on Apple Music, a term I’ve never encountered before.   I guess it’s a fancy way to describe slightly more adventurous r&b with some classic jazz sounds tossed in.  Here a bit of flute, some chill keyboards, a real drummer, etc.  It does have a singer, in fact there are a ton of guest vocalists on this record.  It’s all right with nice sounds and well recorded drums.  The energy is a bit low for my taste but it’s a tune called hey lover so that makes sense.  Pretty standard for what I would expect from crossover jazz.

@@@ Brendan Benson: Richest Man (Third Man, 2020) Jack White, big rock star of the White Stripes, has been shitting out a ton of music with his Third Man imprint.  I haven’t been listening much and this is the record of one of the gents in the Raconteurs, a band White has trafficked in.  This is more polished than the Jack White-Led Zeppeling xeroxing, it’s downright bouncy energetic and upbeat rock, he’s happy to have a great wife and he’s got half the money but he’s got a full horn section and shit is happenin’.  Twice the love, half the money is an all right vocal hook btw.  Now if I was a judge on Chopped I would say this track needs some contrast, something to offset the gigantic upbeat chunk that lies at the core of the track.  I’m not going to chop it but it’s not an invalid observation.

@@@ Other Lives: Lost Day (ATO, 2020) Some major label alternative which would have been released as rock music before the ridiculous label alternative was created.  I partially correct myself as the proceedings get more orchestral and less rock after the intro with some hipster-y vocal arrangements and more than a few string flourishes.  I would say this is higher in textures than it is on energy.   The lead singer has a major label voice — open, friendly and engaging.  I’m not sure what that song was about.  Sonically it was about a smart sounding arrangement.

YTD recordings listened to: 322
Good music, not list worthy: 168
Not good music: 142

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, 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, 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, Anais Maviel, Chaka Khan, Pom Poko, Fried Egg, Tarek Atoui, Saicobab, General Purv, Shipping News, Big Thief, Mariachi El Bronx, Pour Me a Grog, Sudan Archives, Lakou Mizik, Moodymann, Pharmakon, Alefa Madagascar, Janjao, Luge, Wiki, Mick Jenkins, Jeremiah Jae, Fera, Gambian Griot Kora Duets, Drama, Beatrice Dillon, Mass Worship, mmmonika, Les Deuxluxes, Tony Allen, Fra Fra, Nihiloxica, Hailu Mergia, Pokey LaFarge

Music for 5/1/19!!! Jade Bird, The National, Tall Black Guy

@@@ Jade Bird: Jade Bird (Glass Note, 2019) I got to this mainstream indie folk record via last week’s All Music notable release email.  Ms. Jade Bird has a voice that goes from quiet Dylan-y to big female roar.  This is no Leonard Cohen music, it’s upbeat coffee bar/gas station ready stuff.  The second tune gets even perkier, yikes.  She’s rocking the classic Nirvana twitch-release move.  Quiet and intimate in the verse and roaring in the chorus.  It’s a fine and classic move but I find the lyrics and the sounds to be a tad light for my taste.  The third tune, the last of my listen, trespasses on classic FM rock radio with the power chords in the chorus.  Oh, there’s the tambourine, I’m out before the cowbell hits!  Behold the firing of the cheese cannon here, people.

@@@ The National: Hairpin Turns (4AD, 2019)  Nobody milks the titty of artistic pretension and pure ambition better than the National.  A great band pumping out sweet sonic sprays best used in the bathroom whilst you ease your bowels to their woeful anthems.  It is minimal in its arrangement but the hook asking the question ‘what are we going through? you and me.’  Days of brutalsim and hairpin turns, yadda yadda yadda.  I find it difficult that fans would cheer for such a low energy outfit as I don’t see the genius here.  I simply don’t see why anyone would rally around this flag.  The sounds here are okay — some pretty simple drumming (I’ve never cottoned to this drummer) some mellow keyboard and some basic guitar.  Sort of a peanutbutter and jelly wonderbread sandwich of sounds.  Sweet and okay.

@@@ Tall Black Guy and Alyssha Joy: Sip of You (Low Key Source, 2019)  I think I’ve peeped Tall Black Guy before and thought it was a couple notches above meh.  This track opens up with a strong r&b drum machine, some electronic swirl action and nice breathy vocals about ‘reaching for a sip of you’.  If you’re gonna go for the beats and vocals with stripped down sounds I think the vocals should be more action packed.  They are a bit hypnotic but they seem cut down and overwhelmed by the beat.

YTD recordings listened to: 223
Good music, not list worthy: 133
Not good music: 81

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, 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, Anais Maviel, Chaka Khan, Pom Poko, Fried Egg, Horndal, Wyxz, Tarek Atoui, Hawktail

Music for 6/19/18!!! Beyonce and Jay Z, The Greatest Showman, Onyx Collective

@@@ Beyonce & Jay Z: Apeshit (Sony Music, 2018)  The second tune off the new Beyonce/Jay Z surprise record.  It’s an attempt at a trap tune with hip hop sounds.  Beyonce rhymes on the mic and it’s all right but she does bust it impressively two thirds of the way through the tune.  Jay has a brief rap and it’s notable for dissing the Grammys.  The sounds are all right but honestly a little disappointing by virtue of the sounds not  being very interesting.  I guess if you don’t believe that Beyonce and Jay Z don’t stand for anything, which is my position, it makes their music a lot less appealing.  I think they’re both masterful business people but I think as musicians they’re overrated.

@@@  The Greatest Showman: The Greatest Showman (Atlantic, 2018)  Music biz blogger/bigmouth Bob Lefsetz posted about this movie soundtrack record.  He usually drifts towards cheese and this is no exception.  If you take Imagine Dragons and have a love baby with Disney shit and a little bit of Queen you get this over the top first track.  I feel the cheesy epic-ness forcing itself into every orifice of my body and I don’t like it.  If you’re not up for that you can enjoy the power ballad cheese of the second tune, A Million Dreams.  A young boy and his dreams, good for him but he’s gonna have to pursue them without me.  This shit is awful as far as I’m concerned as it further disconnects white people from reality.  And I say this as a reluctant white person.

@@@ Onyx Collective: Lower East Side Part Three (Big Dada, 2018)  I saw this experimental jazz record featured on the front page of the New York Times, which is not usually a positive as I rarely find great records (if ever!) in the New York Times.  But I persevere and I like experimental jazz.  It’s not as great as the Greatest Cheeseman reviewed above, but it’s trying!  The first piece is a drone with some tinkly metal percussion and toms, electric bass (?), and some interesting sax work.  It is supposed to be a dark record and I get that but it’s not full of classic free jazz skronk/frustration so it has a downer pretty vibe thus far.  I wish the recording sounded a bit better (especially the bass sound) but it’s a good record with the fourth track ‘There Goes the Neighborhood’ being my favorite of what I heard with it’s classic sax forlorn wail.

YTD recordings listened to: 339
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 178
Not good music: 153

Best: 6
Honorable Mentions: 4

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, 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, Gouge Away, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, Forro in the Dark, RAM, Fiver, Dona Onete, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Open Mike Eagle, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Tal National, Portal, Hernan Sama & Marcelo von Schultz, Jean Grae and Quelle Chris, Lawaii, Etran De L’Air, Ruby Karinto

Music for 7/26/17!!! Old Bliss, Tamika and the Slay, Duendita, Shacar

@@@ Olu Bliss: Traveling Bliss EP (As We Arrive, 2017)  Today we are going to listen to bands that will be playing Afropunk 2017.  I’m not a huge fan of soft, strummed blues folk but Bliss’ voice carries the day.  The second tune (clipped below) goes full band (even horns!) but the vibe is still mad mellow with Bliss’ loose and soulful voice.  The brother can sing.

@@@ Tamika & the Slay: Ugly EP (Self-released, 2017)  Old school rockin’ r&b also from the Afropunk at the Knitting Factory advert.  Ms. Tamika has a steamroller of a voice and she’s out in front of a burning band on this first tune.  Full horn section, organ player, tambourine, they’re only short the cowbell.  These guys may be smoking before the show but they’re washing it down with Red Bull as this is no sleepy ass shit.  Let’s peep more.  The second tune is a ballad but it builds to quite a crescendo.   I’ve peeped parts of four tunes and the one below is the best.

@@@Duendita: Yikes! (Self-released, 2017)  I’m not a huge smooth r&b kinda listener but this is a really nice track.  The singer has a quirky voice that I enjoy listening to her.  The mix has an appealing thickness to it that I dig.  A simple arrangement of keyboards and laid-back guitar highlight her super sweet multitrack vocals (in places).

@@@ Shacar: Ghost (feat. Santos) (Paradice, 2017) A r&b single I got to via the same Afropunk semi-final show.  It’s a simple arrangement with a simple tight beat, some piano chords underneath Shacar hitting the microphone.  There is a break with some rhymes but it’s Shacar and a vocal guest singing really well.  A focused, clean and funky track.

YTD recordings listened to: 488
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 266
Not good music: 200

Buys: 7
Honorable Mentions: 6

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, 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, Magrudergrind, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Anna Hogberg, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, James Brandon Lewis, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, J.I.D., Oddisee, Forro in the Dark, RAM, Fiver, Dona Onete, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity