Album Review: Daddy’s Home by St. Vincent


Album: Daddy’s Home
Artist: St. Vincent
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Label: Loma Vista Recording
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Down and Out Downtown”
  • “The Melting of the Sun”
  • “Somebody Like Me”
  • “My Baby Wants a Baby”
  • “…At the Holiday Party”

Thoughts:

Annie Clark, who performs as St. Vincent, is something of a chameleon, changing her personal appearance and musical style from album to album.  This has lead to fascinating career with the highpoint of her 2014 album St. Vincent which I really loved, but also 2017’s Masseduction, which I really did not. On Daddy’s Home, the glam rock and pop noise of the past have been replaced by a soul and funk sound joined together thematically around the idea of New York City in the 1970s.  The album title is inspired by Clark’s actual father’s release from prison after serving time for a decade for stock manipulation, but Clark suggests this is more metaphorical than biographical.  To me, this album feels like a return to form for St. Vincent, which means it’s something new and experimental.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Menneskekollektivet by Lost Girls


Album: Menneskekollektivet
Artist: Lost Girls
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Menneskekollektivet”
  • “Carried by Invisible Bodies”
  • “Love, Lovers”

Thoughts: This debut album from a Norwegian duo consisting of singer-songwriter Jenny Hval and multi-instrumentalist Håvard Volden is one of the most remarkable things I’ve rested my ears on in some time.  It sounds like ambient music layered on Laurie Anderson avant-garde styles, layered on 90s techno, layered on 70s disco.  Maybe it won’t sound that way to you but the best way to describe it is as layered and rich.  The lyrics focus on feelings and capture emotions in their sound and repetition as much as in their words.  Their is a lot of improvisation and exploration in this music. I expect this will be on my favorite albums list at the end of 2021.

Rating: ****1/2

Album Review: The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite by IKOQWE


Album: The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite
Artist: IKOQWE
Release Date: March 5, 2021
Label: Crammed Discs
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Falta Muito?”
  • “Pele”
  • “The Medium (O Meio)”
  • “The End (Kamicasio)”

Thoughts:

IKOQWE are a pair of fictional characters who, coming from a distant time and space, are confronted with today’s world. Their impressions are conveyed over the course of an exciting album which blends electronic music, hip hop and the sounds of ancestral instruments from Angola.

If you read this description of IKOQWE’s Bandcamp site and aren’t interested in what they sound like, I don’t know what to tell you.  The description of the duo’s debut album goes on to say:

The album contains 11 tracks, and includes drum machines, vocals in Angolan slang, Umbundu, Portuguese & English, discussions about neocolonialism, iniquities & falsified history, radio sounds, utopian solutions, and much more.

I can also tell you that there are some sick beats on this album.  It’s creative and vibrant, and I’m sure I’ll be grooving to it for some time to come.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Really From by Really From (2021)


Album: Really From
Artist: Really From
Release Date: March 12, 2021
Label: Topshelf Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Quirk”
  • “Try Lingual”
  • “I’m From Here”
  • “In the Spaces”

Thoughts:

This Boston-based band gets its name from the question asked of its mixed-race members, “Where are you really from?”  The lyrics explore identity and social awareness, set to music that is virtuosic and eclectic.  In one album you can hear jazz fusion, aggressive indie rock, and acoustic singer-songwriter styles seamlessly blended.  The Pitchfork review of this album is very insistent on calling Really From’s style as emo and “math rock,” a genre I’m pretty sure they just made up.  But whatever the style, I know that I really like it.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Three Little Words by Dominique Fils-Aime


Album: Three Little Words
Artist: Dominique Fils-Aime
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Label: Ensoul Records
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: Dominique Fils-Aimé, a vocalist from Quebec, explores the sounds of soul music with hints of jazz on her third album.  The songs draw on influences from Do-Wop and classic Motown to more recent performers like Amy Winehouse.  Lyrically the songs celebrate Black history and music and the ongoing struggle for liberation. Everything seems to be arranged and produced to perfection.  Really the only flaw to the album is that it ends with an unnecessary cover of “Stand By Me.” If you like beautiful vocals and souljazz arrangements, this album is for you.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Good Woman by The Staves


AlbumGood Woman
Artist: The Staves
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Label: Atlantic
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Good Woman”
  • “Nothing’s Gonna Happen”
  • “Trying”

Thoughts:

The English folk trio of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor provide beautiful, close harmonies on this set of tunes.  But the sweetness of the songs does not prevent them from singing lyrics of defiance

Rating: ***

Album Review: Tell Me I’m Bad by Editrix


 

AlbumTell Me I’m Bad
Artist: Editrix
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Label: Exploding in Sound Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Tell Me I’m Bad”
  • “Chelsea”
  • “She Wants to Go and Party”

Thoughts: The Western Massachusetts trio Editrix combines sweet singsong vocals over shredding guitar. Both the vocals and guitar are provided by Wendy Eisenberg, while Steve Cameron plays bass and Josh Daniel plays drums.  The great punk/indie rock melodies support lyrics that are often political but also humorous.  I found a great piece online that breaks down each song, something I’d love to see more of: https://www.talkhouse.com/a-guide-to-editrixs-tell-me-im-bad/

Rating: ****

Album Review: Long Day in the Milky Way by Kris Delmhorst


Album: Long Day in the Milky Way
Artist: Kris Delmhorst
Release Date: August 14, 2020
Label: Big Bean Music
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Wind’s Gonna Find a Way”
  • “Nothing “Bout Nothing”

Thoughts:  I first learned of Kris Delmhorst when she was playing gigs in Somerville, MA just after I  moved there in the late 90s. Her albums Five Stories and Songs for a Hurricane area among my all-time favorites. But I totally missed it when her most recent album was released last August.

The album features Delmhorst’s typically well-crafted songs.  I particularly like the harmonies of Rose Polenzani, Rose Cousins, and Annie Lynch on back-up vocals.  But with very few exceptions the songs are all slow tempo, and just not as engaging as I’d expect. The music is pretty though, and the lyrics offer flashes of hope and healing in troubled times.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Self Worth by Mourn


Album: Self Worth
Artist: Mourn
Release Date: October 30, 2020
Label: Captured Tracks
Favorite Tracks:

  • “This Feeling is Disgusting”
  • “Gather, Really”
  • “It’s a Frog’s World”
  • “The Family’s Broke”

Thoughts: Mourn, a quartet from Barcelona, is a band that makes loud, energetic punk rock tracks with shouted lyrics.  I like that kind of thing. It feels like an album for “our COVID times” with the feelings of life’s many problems fully expressed, but also counterbalanced by a sense of resilience.
Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Sound Ancestors by Madlib


Album: Sound Ancestors
Artist: Madlib
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Label: Madlib Invazion
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Road of the Lonely One”
  • “Latino Negro”
  • “The New Normal”
  • “Duumbijay”

Thoughts:

Hip artist and producer Madlib collaborates with electronic music artists Four Tet on this collection that draws on both of their loves for music and record collecting. The music samples from a catalog of soul and R&B, Jazz, Latin, folk, and reggae to create  a tribute to ancestral music and something new at the same time.

Rating: ***1/2