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

Album Review: Palberta5000 by Palberta


Album: Palberta5000
Artist: Palberta
Release Date: January 22, 2021
Label: Wharf Cat Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Big Bad Want”
  • “Something in the Way”
  • “The Way That You Do”
  • “All Over My Face”
  • “Before I Get Here”

Thoughts: Palberta – the trio of Anina Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser from New York City (not western Canada) – make melodic punk music reminiscent of early Sleater-Kinney.  I haven’t listened to their earlier work but apparently this album is a transition for the band from pure punk noise to indie pop.  Nevertheless, the punk sensibilities remain with sweet harmonies over rattling guitars and drum beats.  Most of the album’s 16 tracks clock in at 2 minutes or less.  The second half of the album is stronger than the first, but I enjoyed it all.

Rating: ***1/2

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: 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.

 

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 Review: Unlovely by The Ballroom Thieves


Album: Unlovely
Artist: The Ballroom Thieves 
Release Date: February 12, 2020
Label: Nettwerk Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Unlovely
  • Tenebrist
  • Homme Run
  • Begin Again
  • Pendulum

Thoughts:

I first learned of Boston-based trio The Ballroom Thieves a few years ago when they were the standout performers at a festival I attended.  Their new album speaks to our times with lyrics that address personal relationship and social movements, and often both at the same time.  The band is described as folk rock and Americana, but I don’t think those genres quite capture the infectious pop sound of the songs that also draw upon classic rock, soul, and even a touch of metal.

Calin “Callie” Peters (vocals, cello, bass), Martin Earley (vocals, guitar), and Devin Mauch (vocals, percussion) are all excellent instrumentalists and the recording captures their performances as well as their tight harmonies.  I tend to get lost in music at the expense of the lyrics, but I was drawn into the chorus of my favorite track “Tenebrist” which is both inspirational and sarcastic:

We all muddy the water
To make it seem less shallow
And if our grief grows like a shadow
In the morning that’s alright
We need the dark to know the light

The music hides anger, frustration, and exhaustion with our political present in the lyrics, so it’s worth a deep listen.

Rating: ****

This performance from WGBH leads off with “Tenebrist” and some older tracks.

The Paste Studio performance includes “Homme Run,” “Love is Easy,” and “Pendulum.”