Album Review: Dandelion by Carolina Story


Album: Dandelion
Artist: Carolina Story
Release Date: September 4, 2020
Label: Black River Americana
Favorite Tracks:

  • Light of the Moon
  • Lay Me Down Easy

Thoughts:

Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s I was deeply invested in the contemporary Folk/Folk Rock/Folk Pop/Americana, etc. scenes.  Eventually I drifted away, partly because everything started sounding the same and I wanted to hear something different. Hearing Carolina Story reminds me of the excitement of discovering something new during the height of my folkie days.

The duo is the married couple Emily and Ben Roberts of Nashville.  They remind me a little bit of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer with more country twang and less mysticism.  But the best thing about Carolina Story is that they interpret traditional folk sounds in a voice that’s completely their own.  They are especially good using their voices to provide a wide range of expression and the instrumentation of the duo and their backing band is particularly rich.

Rating: ***1/2

 

 

Album Review: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For by Illuminati Hotties


Album: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For
Artist: Illuminati Hotties
Release Date: July 17, 2020
Label: Self-released
Favorite Tracks:

  • freequent letdown
  • melatonezone
  • content/bedtime
  • reasons 2 live

Thoughts:

Singer/songwriter Sarah Tudzin’s pioneering work in “tenderpunk” takes a turn in this brief (12 songs in 24 minutes) but eclectic collection. This is the band’s sophomore effort after Kiss Yr Frenemies and shows a willingness to experiment.  The album comes in the wake of their record label’s demise explaining why it is self-released and probably why it is so short.  Still, if this is just a place holder until the next “real” album comes out, then we can expect great things.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Dialectic Soul by Asher Gamedze


Album: Dialectic Soul
Artist: Asher Gamedze
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Label: On the Corner
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts:

I don’t know much about jazz, but I know what I like. South African drummer Asher Gamedze draws on free jazz and Black liberation traditions of the 1960s and 70s and fuses them with contemporary jazz and protest music.  The standout track “siyabulela,” a slow tune with vocals by Nono Nkoane cuts to the soul.

Rating: ****

 

 

 

Album Review: Jump Rope Gazers by The Beths


Album: Jump Rope Gazers
Artist: The Beths
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Label: Carpark Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • I’m Not Getting Excited
  • Jump Rope Gazers
  • Do You Want Me Now

Thoughts:

The New Zealand quartet lead by vocalist Elizabeth Stokes performs perfect power pop.  The Beths draw on a lot of pop/rock traditions but never seem to be derivative.  The songs are head boppers while the lyrics are tender and introspective.  In short, it’s perfect music for rocking out in a Covid Summer.

Rating: ****

 

Note: The Beths’ “Future Me Hates Me” was my 19th favorite song of 2018.

 

Monthly Mixtape – July 2020


Gabriel Teodros :: “If They Come for Me in the Morning… (feat. Aisha Fukushima)”

Liv.e :: “SirLadyMakemFall”

Sibille Attar :: “Hurt Me”

Holy Hive :: “Blue Light”

The Suffers :: “Take Me To The Good Times”

Sylvan Esso :: “Ferris Wheel”

MC Zulu & Bionik :: “Dancehall Energy”

Zee Avi :: “Good Things”

 


Previous Mixtapes:

Album Review: National Freedom by Lonnie Holley


Album: National Freedom
Artist: Lonnie Holley
Release Date: July 3, 2020
Label:Jagjaguwar
Favorite Tracks:

  • Like Hell Broke Away
  • Do T Rocker

Thoughts:

Lonnie Holley of Alabama works in many art disciplines, visual media and sculpture, as well as experimental blues music.  This album collects music recorded in a 2014 session. His music is rooted in blues with his gravelly vocals reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf but his performance draws on the improvisation of jazz (particularly on the 11-minute final track “So Many Rivers (The First Time)”).  The result is oft-time weird, but not inscrutable, and evocative of deep human emotions.

Rating: ****

Album Reviews: Music on the Wing


This week I’m posting less of a music review, and more of a suggestion for a couple of recordings I found clever, enjoyable, and even educational.  Each is a compilation of works by various artists that draw inspiration from a flying animal.  In one case, bats, and in the other, birds:

Album: Field Works, by Ultrasonic
Release Date: May 1, 2020
Label: Temporary Residence

Stuart Hyatt returns with another sonic wonder in the Field Works series, bringing the listener into truly uncharted acoustic territory. Ultrasonic is perhaps the first-ever album to use the echolocations of bats as compositional source material. For this special album, Hyatt has assembled an extraordinary group of contributors: Eluvium, Christina Vantzou, Sarah Davachi, Ben Lukas Boysen, Machinefabriek, Mary Lattimore, Felicia Atkinson, Noveller, Chihei Hatakeyama, John Also Bennett, Kelly Moran, Taylor Deupree, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Julien Marchal, and Player Piano. Ultrasonic is part of a broader storytelling project about the federally endangered Indiana bat. Generously funded by the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute and the National Geographic Society, each album contains an official printed booklet of The Endangered Species Act of 1973.

AlbumA Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean
Release Date: June 26, 2020
Label: Shika Shika

An album of music inspired by the song of endangered birds with 100% of the profits going towards organisations working to protect them.

“A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean” is the second Volume in the series following on from “A Guide to the Birdsong of South America”, originally released on Robin’s label Rhythm and Roots. Volume I raised nearly 15,000 USD for two birding organisations and featured artists like Nicola Cruz, Dengue Dengue Dengue and Chancha Via Circuito.

For this second edition we have shifted focus north of the equator and to the vulnerability of bird species like the Momoto Carenado (Nicaragua), Ferminia (Cuba) and the Jamaican Blackbird (Jamaica), birds who have dwindled in numbers as a result of the environmental repercussions of climate change, deforestation and trapping for the pet trade.

For the album we chose 10 endangered or threatened bird species and challenged 10 of our favourite producers or musicians from the region. Working with the Xeno Canto birdsong community and the Macaulay Library, we sourced a recording of each bird’s song. Each artist was then asked to create an original piece of music inspired by the bird and its song.

In line with out vision at Shika Shika the curation of artists is specifically geared towards those bridging connections between traditional music and modernity, or between organic and electronic sounds. There are contributions from artists in eight different countries, ranging from Jamaica’s organic dancehall trio Equiknoxx, to Dj Jigüe, one of the leaders of Cuba’s burgeoning electronic scene. Belize’s critically renowned Garifuna Collective have been bringing the unique Garifuna culture and language to a global audience for many years, while Tamara Montenegro has been one of the leaders of Nicaragua’s electronic music scene for the past decade.

The project would not have been possible without the support of an incredible Kickstarter community, helping us raise £12,599 in August 2019.

Once the costs of production have been covered, all of the proceeds from this album will be donated to Birds Caribbean, La Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica and Fundacion TXORI in Mexico. All profits from the sales of the record, music streaming, poster and t-shirt will be shared between these organisations who focus on engaging local communities to help improve and grow the bird tourism sector, create awareness of vulnerable birds with young people and crucially, provide rescue, rehabilitation and breeding programmes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlCirOY-zs8

Album Review: The Cycle by Mourning [A] BLKstar


Album: The Cycle
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Label: Don Giovanni Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Can I May
  • Sense of an Ending
  • Mist :: Missed
  • So Young So
  • Be

Thoughts:

The Mourning [A] BLKstar website describes the group thusly:

We are a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.

Founded in Cleveland, Ohio.

I can’t sum up MAB any better than that.  The music has touches of soul, touches of gospel,touches of jazz, and touches of hiphop, all built over electronic music. The music is most reminiscent to me of Algiers, but MAB is mostly unique and original.  If you like strong vocals, beautiful harmonies, horns that lift you up, and beats that make you want to move, this album is for you.

I’ve spent the past month “catching up” on album releases from the first six months of 2020, and this is my favorite of the year so far, but also probably the most important release of 2020.

Rating: ****1/2

Album Review: Agitprop Alterna by Peel Dream Magazine


Album: Agitprop Alterna
Artist: Peel Dream Magazine
Release Date: April 3, 2020
Favorite Tracks:

  • Emotional Devotion Creator
  • It’s My Body
  • Do It
  • Eyeballs
  • Up and Up

Thoughts:

Brooklyn’s Peel Dream Magazine only formed in 2018, but they sound like they’ve mined the sounds of 90s bands like My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab. On the one hand, the lack of originality is frustrating.  I could just listen to Loveless and Emperor Tomato Ketchup if I wanted to.  On the other hand, those 90s bands are making anything new either and I love escaping in the dense swirls and minimalist  sounds of Peel Dream Magazine’s shoegaze  guitars and dreamy synths.

Rating: ***