Album of the Week: Came by Tran Uy Duc


Album: Came
Artist: Tran Uy Duc
Release Date: December 20, 2021
Label: Self-Released
Favorite Tracks:

  • Three
  • Banal (feat. Pilgrim Raid)
  • Catwalk

Thoughts: Every so often when I listen to music too much everything starts to sound the same.  That’s why it’s refreshing to listen to this album by Tran Uy Duc, and 18-year-old artist from Vietnam, of what is basically a bunch of vignettes of machine-metal sounds.  Every so often it sounds a little bit like music and it sounds wonderful.  Check out Pitchfork for a more in-depth review.
Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week: 2021 Hangover


In 2022, I’m going to try to review one new album every Friday.  However, since not that many new albums are released at the beginning of January, I’m going to use this time to catch up on some of the buzziest albums I missed last year.  So here are three albums arranged from youngest to oldest artist.

Album:  Sour
Artist: Olivia Rodrigo
Release Date: May 21, 2021
Label: Geffen
Favorite Tracks:

  • brutal
  • drivers license
  • good 4 u
  • happier

Thoughts: Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album was all the rage this year, as the child actor made the transition to pop star but with a heavier rock edge than is typical for child actors who become pop stars. Her angry breakup songs are reminiscent of Alanis Morissette, but I think Rodrigo also brings a new insight on teenage anger and frustration in the 21st century.  Being 48 years old, I wouldn’t expect this to resonate with me but I do remember being 17 and have children approaching that age so I can feel the rage.  Anyhow, I’m belatedly adding this to my Favorite Albums of 2021 list.
Rating: ****


Album: Happier Than Ever
Artist: Billie Eilish
Release Date: July 30, 2021
Label: Darkroom | Interscope
Favorite Tracks:

  • Oxytocin
  • Not My Responsibility
  • Therefore I Am
  • Happier Than Ever

Thoughts: It doesn’t seem so long ago that Billie Eilish was the 17/18-year-old with the big breakout debut album.  Now on her sophomore effort, Eilish is “Getting Older” as the opening track is titled. The album is almost entirely downtempo compared to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? But there’s a great variety of downtempo from early 70s singer-songwriter style to trip hop reminiscent of Portishead to Laurie Anderson avant-garde recitation.
Rating: ***1/2


Album30
Artist: Adele
Release Date: November 19, 2021
Label: Columbia | Melted Stone
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Easy on Me”
  • “Oh My God”
  • “Can I Get It”
  • “I Drink Wine”
  • “To Be Loved”
  • “Love Is A Game”

Thoughts: It’s funny that Adele names her albums after her age, because any time I listen to 21 I ponder how she seems to have so much life experience at such a young age.  Now at 30, I’m equally amazed that someone who as seemingly been a pop culture phenomenon for so long is still so young.  Adele’s voice is lovely as always.  She does more than emote but also reflect and reconcile on songs about her recent divorce, motherhood, and the price of fame. If there’s one flaw, it’s that some songs and the entire album go on to long, which makes me sad, because one should never feel that they have too much of Adele.
Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Valentine by Snail Mail


Album: Valentine
Artist: Snail Mail
Release Date: November 5, 2021
Label: Matador Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Valentine”
  • “Ben Franklin”
  • “Automate”
  • “Mia”

Thoughts:

Snail Mail is an indie music project of Maryland’s Lindsey Jordan. I hadn’t heard of Snail Mail before the big buzz about this album’s release so I decided to check it out.  The music has a 1990s sound reminiscent to me of something like Letters to Cleo or Velocity Girl, but also more contemporary artists like Girlpool and Clairo.  Songwriting is Jordan’s strong suit with some impassioned lyrics on love and love lost.  She also makes some pretty intense videos as you can see below.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Structure by Water From Your Eyes


AlbumStructure
Artist: Water From Your Eyes
Release Date: August 27, 2021
Label: Wharf Cat Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “When You’re Around”
  • “Track Five”
  • “”Quotations””

Thoughts: This album from the Brooklyn electro-pop duo Water From Your Eyes documents a break-up.  Specifically the end of the romantic relationship between band members Rachel Brown and Nate Amos, although they remain together as a band and as friends.  There’s a lot of variety to hear: Beatles-esque harmonies, shoegaze guitar, ghostly vocals, relentless industrial noise…  It changes from track to track and sometimes within the song.  But there is, er, structure here as the album is broken into two sets of four songs symmetrical to the other four.
Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Get Up Sequences Part One by The Go! Team


Album: Get Up Sequences Part One
Artist: The Go! Team
Release Date: July 2, 2021
Label: Memphis Industries
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Let the Seasons Work”
  • “Cookie Scene”
  • “Tame the Great Plains”
  • “World Remember Me Now”

Thoughts: The Go! Team haven’t been as good as they used to be for a while.  Or perhaps, the remarkable sameness of their music is an indication that they are as good as they used to be, they just haven’t changed while the listeners have.  Anyhow, The Go! Team is always fun to listen to as they cobble together from various sources, the weirder the better.  I think I like this album better overall than its predecessor SEMICIRCLE.
Rating: ***

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Album Review: Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar


Album: Afrique Victime
Artist: Mdou Moctar
Release Date: May 21, 2021
Label: Matador Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Chismiten”
  • “Tala Tannam”
  • “Asdikte Akal”
  • “Afrique Victime”

Thoughts: Mdou Moctar is a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter from Niger who is one of the Tuareg people, a semi-nomadic Muslim group of the Sahara region.  His musical style is called assouf or “desert blues,” popularized by artists like Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen.  Moctar and other assouf artists take influence from the guitar playing style of Jimi Hendrix, although the musical structure deviates wildly from the Western pop system of verse-chorus-bridge.  A lot of reviewers describe the music as psychedelic although I’d say it’s more improvisational and more of a hypnotic reverie than a drug trip. The songs are sung in the Tamasheq language, but I’ve read that they deal with the horrors of French colonialism and the ongoing exploitation of Africa by the West, as well as songs of love and resilience. Listening to this album was an “ear-opening” experience.

Rating: ****

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: 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: 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: ****