Album of the Week: Timbuktu by Oumou Sangaré


Album: Timbuktu
Artist: Oumou Sangaré
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Label: World Circuit Limited
Favorite Tracks:

  • Wassulu Don
  • Kanou
  • Kêlê Magni
  • Dily Oumou

Thoughts:

Oumou Sangaré is a veteran vocalist from Mali who sings traditional songs of the Wassoulou region.  The music reflects the joy, sadness, and tenderness of strife-torn West Africa with an emphasis on the struggles of women.  Like many recent recordings, Timbuktu was created during and inspired by living in isolation during the COVID pandemic.  In Sangaré’s case she was trapped in Baltimore while touring the United States and unable to return home.  Sangaré’s voice and lyrics are supplemented by music played on traditional instruments of Sangaré’s and a chorus of female voices.

Rating: ****

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Album of the Week: Where’s the One? by Congotronics International


Album: Where’s the One?
Artist: Congotronics International
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Label: Crammed Discs
Favorite Tracks:

  • Where’s the One
  • Kule Kule Redux
  • Doubt/Hope
  • Banza Banza
  • Guiyome

Thoughts:  The debut album from Congotronics International is an epic set of 23-tracks.  The supergroup is made up of members of Konono No.1, Kasai Allstars, Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, and Skeletons’ Matthew Mehlan for a total of 19 musicians from 4 continents.  The musical style is a fusion of traditional music of Congo with various rock styles.  The result is a music that is infectious, and not surprisingly a dense and loud conflagration of instruments and voices.

Rating:****

 

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Album of the Week: Air by Sault


AlbumAir
Artist: Sault
Release Date: April 13, 2022
Label: Forever Living Originals
Favorite Tracks:

  • Air
  • Sault
  • Time is Precious

Thoughts:

The anonymous UK music collective Sault released two highly regarded albums in 2020, Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise), and then Nine in 2021 which was only available to stream for 99 days (I missed it!).  While their earlier releases were a mix of R&B, disco, and afrobeat with experimental touches, I’m not sure where to classify Air.  I guess it’s experimental orchestral and choral music.  Most of the songs have vocalizations but no actual lyrics.  It could be the score for a movie, or perhaps a ballet.  It’s definitely different from the pop mainstream of today!

Rating: ****

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Album of the Week: Diaspora Problems by Soul Glo


Album:Diaspora Problems
Artist:  Soul Glo
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Label: Epitaph
Favorite Tracks:

  • Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)
  • Coming Correct Is Cheaper
  • Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!)(by the future)
  • Driponomics (feat. Mother Maryrose)
  • (Five Years And) My Family

Thoughts:

Soul Glo, a hardcore band from Philadelphia, have a lot to rage about – racism, politics, phony allies, and their sense of ostracism for being a predominantly Black punk band.  The horn section adds a lot to these “three chords and the truth” guitar anthems.

Rating: ****

Album of the Week: Electricity by Ibibio Sound Machine


Album: Electricity
Artist: Ibibio Sound Machine
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Label: Merge Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Protection From Evil
  • Afo Ken Doko Mien
  • All That You Want
  • Oyoyo
  • Freedom

Thoughts: London-based electronic Afro-funk ensemble Ibibio Sound Machine’s fourth album is a revelation to my ears.  The synthpop sounds and EDM-style low bass notes make their music highly danceable.  But as we go through the album there are albums that can remind one of Donna Summer’s work with Giorgio Moroder, Feta Kuli, and Grace Jones.  The tunes also showcase the powerful voice of lead vocalist Eno Williams, especially on slower tracks like “Afo Ken Doko Mien”
Rating: ****


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Album of the Week: Present Tense by Yumi Zouma


Album: Present Tense
Artist: Yumi Zouma
Release Date: March 18, 2022
Label: Polyvinyl Record Co.
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mona Lisa
  • Where the Light Used to Lay
  • Astral Projection

Thoughts:

The fourth album from Yumi Zouma, a band based out of Christchurch, New Zealand, features lead vocalist Christie Simpson’s ethereal vocals layered over dreamy guitar pop.  I try not to let nostalgia guide my taste but this music is reminiscent of electronic pop of the 1980s or perhaps an early 90s group like The Sundays.

Rating: ***

 

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Album of the Week: Classic Objects by Jenny Hval


Album: Classic Objects
Artist: Jenny Hval
Release Date: March 11, 2018
Label: 4AD Ltd
Favorite Tracks:

  • Cemetery of Splendour
  • Freedom

Thoughts: Norwegian art pop musician Jenny Hval’s most recent album reminds me of something from the 1980s.  Somewhere between Laurie Anderson and Suzanne Vega.  So, the weird part of the 80s, soft and honest, but strange.  It sounds good but I do feel bad that I am not as won over by this album as everyone else seems to be.

Rating: ***

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Album of the Week: Multitude by Stromae


Album: Multitude
Artist: Stromae
Release Date: March 4, 2021
Label: Mosaert Label
Favorite Tracks:

  • Invaincu
  • Santé
  • La solassitude
  • L’enfer
  • Mon amour
  • Mauvaise journée

Thoughts:

I’m guilty of not really paying attention to lyrics when listening to music.  There are songs I love that I listened to for decades before finding out what they really were about. Belgian artist Stromae (stage name for Paul Van Haver) sings in French, a language I only have rudimentary understanding of from a high school class over 30 years ago.  I find that voices singing in French have an added intensity regardless of their actual content.  The review of this album on Pitchfork examines the lyrics which focus on issues such as essential workers during the pandemic, parenthood, and sex workers, and his own experience escaping the Rwandan genocide.  Musically the album is highlighted by upbeat electronic sounds mixed with worldbeat-flavored French cafe music, instruments carefully layered over one another.  It’s a delight to listen to no matter what language you speak.

Rating: ****

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Album of the Week: What I Want by Lady Pills


AlbumWhat I Want
Artist: Lady Pills
Release Date: February 11, 2022
Label: Plastic Miracles
Favorite Tracks:

  • Daughter
  • My Weight
  • She Said

Thoughts:

I learned about Boston band Lady Pills from this story on WBUR. The band is a project of Berklee College of Music alum Ella Boissonnault who has persisted with Lady Pills through lineup changes and the loss of performance space due to the COVID pandemic. Boissonnault recorded this album playing all of the instruments herself which does with great dexterity.  The sound is an indie pop with flashes of 70s punk and 90s empowerment songs by women singer/songwriters but a whole lot of quirks that are uniquely her own.

Rating: ***1/2

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Album Review: Harmony of Difference by Kamasi Washington


Album:Harmony of Difference
ArtistKamasi Washington
Release Date: September 29, 2017
Thoughts:

I don’t listen much to jazz, especially contemporary jazz, but a streaming music account means there’s no excuse to not try new things.  The new EP by the hot saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington brings together 6 pieces in about 30 minutes of running time.  There’s a lot of retro feeling to this music, with nods to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” 60’s Brazilian bossanova, and 70s funk fusion.  The EP culminates with the 15-minute piece “Truth” which brings back and mixes together themes from the other five pieces.  Washington’s music has a sound that would be suited to scoring films although it’s also a bit too “smooth jazz” for my taste.
Rating: **1/2