Album of the Week: Pigments by Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn


This will be my last Album of the Week of 2022 (and possibly, ever, but more on that later) as I won’t have time to listen to new albums and do them justice, but I do hope I can do a round up of some of the best albums I missed before the year’s end.

 

Album: Pigments
Artist: Dawn Richard and Spencer Zahn
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Label: Merge Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Vantablack
  • Crimson
  • Umber

Thoughts:

Dawn Richard, whose earlier work fell more into the pop and R&B genre, adds her ethereal voice to the layer of atmospheric sounds made with her collaborator Spencer Zahn.  At times, this album sounds like one of those New Age relaxation tapes, but I don’t mean that in a bad way.  At any rate this is a very deeply expressive form of music that definitely deserves repeated listening to understand better.

Rating: ***

Album of the Week:  2022

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Album of the Week: Revolver (Super Deluxe) by The Beatles


Album: Revolver (Super Deluxe)
Artist: The Beatles
Release Date: August 05, 1966, Super Deluxe release: October 28, 2022
Label: Calderstone Productions Limited
Favorite Tracks:

  • Eleanor Rigby
  • I’m Only Sleeping
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Good Day Sunshine
  • And Your Bird Can Sing
  • I’ve Got to Get You Into My Life
  • Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Paperback Writer
  • Rain

Thoughts:

A few years back I reviewed the Super Deluxe re-release of The Beatles’ “White Album” so I figured I’d do the same for Revolver.  This is, in fact, my favorite Beatles album and we’ll be seeing in it in my All Time Favorite Albums countdown in a couple of weeks. Revolver is well-known as the transitional album for The Beatles from the lovable moptops of Beatlemania to a studio-oriented art rock group.  The new instruments, studio experimentation, and influence of psychedelic drugs and philosophy are all well documented, so I won’t get into that here. It’s a bit mind-boggling that the Beatles were on their final U.S. tour when this was released, including their final show in San Francisco, but were performing songs from 2-3 years earlier because Revolver could just not be played lived with the technology og the time.

Here are some reflections  and personal memories on the songs:

  • “Taxman” – probably the one song on the album I don’t love because it’s rich people whining about having to pay their share to society, and thus The Beatles’ most conservative song.  It’s got a great groove though, so it’s easy to ignore the lyrics.
  • “Eleanor Rigby” – when I was a kid my family had the “Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine” 45 and I used to listen to it a lot!  The song about lonely people was always very poignant, even as a kid.
  • “I’m Only Sleeping” – Kind of a theme song for me as I, like John Lennon, enjoy spending time in bed.
  • “Yellow Submarine” – even before listening to the single, I remember the neighbors putting this on their old stereo system and all the kids dancing around.  Kind of perfect that it was already a classic children’s song a decade after it was released.
  • “She Said She Said” – kind of weird that this song is inspired by Peter Fonda being obnoxious at a party.  Can’t imagine what young Beatles fans who’d never used drugs thought of this one in 1966.
  • “Good Day Sunshine”  – my sister made a short documentary about newspaper hawkers in Boston when she was in grad school and used this as the theme song.
  • “And Your Bird Can Sing” – kind of the perfect power pop tune, and ideologically opposite to “Taxman.”
  • “I Want To Tell You” is a great George tune that fits in the style of “Paperback Writer” and the Monkee’s “Last Train to Clarksville”
  • “Got To Get You Into My Life” – I’ve always loved this song and when I was a kid I didn’t even know it was a Beatles song because it was played on the radio all the time.  Later I learned that it was released as a single in the US in 1976 and somehow fit in perfectly with 70s soul.
  • “Tomorrow Never Knows” – I remember this being discussed in the documentary The Compleat Beatles and thinking it was so weird and wonderful and just needing to hear the whole song.  Only this year I learned that the “seagull” sounds are actually recordings of Paul McCartney laughing that were speed up and played backwards.

In addition to a remastered version of Revolver, that sounds excellent, the Super Deluxe edition includes two albums of demos and outtakes from all of the songs, the complete album in mono, and the “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” single remastered in stereo and mono.  It’s all good!

 

Rating: *****

Album of the Week:  2022

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Album of the Week: KALAK by Sarathy Korwar


Album: KALAK
Artist: Sarathy Korwar
Release Date: 11/11/2022
Label: The Leaf Label
Favorite Tracks:

  • Utopia is a Colonial Project
  • Back in the Day, Things Were Not Always Simpler
  • Kal Means Yesterday and Tomorrow
  • Remember Begum Rokheya
  • That Clocks Don’t Tell But Make Time

Thoughts:

Sarathy Korwar is a US-born, Indian-raised, London-based musical artists who fuses jazz and Indian classical music with electronic sounds to create unique sound.  Electronic artist Photay produced the album and adds to its atmospheric sound.  While most of the tracks are instrumental, with some spoken-word sections, the music revolves around themes of time, memory, and identity in a post-colonial context. The music is challenging yet meditative.

Rating: ****

Album of the Week: Endure by Special Interest


Album: Endure
Artist: Special Interest
Release Date: November 4, 2022
Label: Rough Trade Records Ltd.
Favorite Tracks:

  • Cherry Blue Intention
  • (Herman’s) House
  • Foul
  • Concerning Peace
  • L.A. Blues

Thoughts: The world needs more dance punk and that is what Special Interest provides.  Imagine Riot Grrrl crossed with 90s house music and you begin to get the idea.  The New Orleans band doesn’t overlook our troubled times but they do provide a release.

Rating: ****

 

 


Album of the Week:  2022

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  • A New Kind of Love by Ghost Funk Orchestra

Album of the Week: A New Kind of Love by Ghost Funk Orchestra


Album: A New Kind of Love
Artist: Ghost Funk Orchestra
Release Date: October 28, 2022
Label: Karma Chief Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Your Man’s No Good
  • Scatter
  • A New Kind of Love (pt. 1)
  • Blockhead

Thoughts:
Ghost Funk is just … ectoplasm, right?

I feel so funky.

Ok, Ghost Funk Orchestra is ten-piece outfit lead by Seth Applebaum that play a 1970s jazz/funk fusion style that sounds the score of films never made.  The improvisational feel makes it more than just a retro project, though. The music is also reminiscent (deliberately) of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Antibalas.

Rating: ****

Album of the Week:  2022

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Album of the Week: Dirt Femme by Tove Lo


Album: Dirt Femme
Artist: Tove Lo
Release Date: 14 October 2022
Label: Pretty Swede Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • No One Dies From Love
  • Suburbia
  • True Romance
  • Call On Me (with S.G. Lewis)
  • I’m To Blame

Thoughts:

Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Lo performs an exuberant dance pop with a dark edge reminiscent of Dua Lipa and fellow Swede Robyn.  It’s got some great tracks for getting down on the dance floor, but you might find yourself pausing if you take the time to listen to her confessional lyrics.

Rating: ***

 

Album of the Week:  2022

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Album of the Week: Blue Rev by Alvvays


Album: Blue Rev
Artist: Alvvays
Release Date: October 7, 2022
Label:Polyvinyl |  Transgressive
Favorite Tracks:

  • Pharmacist
  • Many Mirrors
  • Velveteen
  • Pomeranian Spinster
  • Belinda Says
  • Bored in Bristol

Thoughts:

I’m familiar with the Toronto quintet Alvvays mainly through their 2013 debut single “Archie, Marry Me,” which is a piece of power pop perfection.  This most recent album, while recognizably the same band, has a different sound.  Fuzzed out guitars play loudQUIETloud dynamics beneath the vocals of the captivating band leader Molly Rankin.  While Alvvays clearly shows their influences – specifically Television, The Go-Gos, Teenage Fan Club, Yo La Tengo, and The Smiths – their sound is definitely their own.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week:  2022

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Album of the Week: Fossora by Björk


Album: Fossora
Artist: Björk
Release Date: September 30, 2022
Label: One Little Independent
Favorite Tracks:

  • Atopos
  • Victimhood
  • Trölla-Gabba (featuring Kasimyn)
  • Fossora (featuring Kasimyn)
  • Her Mother’s House (featuring Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney)

Thoughts:

Björk returns for a tenth solo album drawing inspiration from the death of her mother in 2018 and the subsequent COVID-19 isolation period.  The album is sort of themed around fungi with the title translated as “digger,” thus Björk is digging up messages of life from the underground.  The music is familiar to Björk’s recent work, mostly down-tempo tracks with swirling clarinets and thumping electronic beats as the bed for Björk’s unique voice.  This all good but I do miss when Björk albums contained some upbeat dance tracks too.  Other voices complement Björk’s  with guest artist including her children Sindri Eldon and Isadora Bjarkardóttir Barney.

Rating: ***

 

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Album of the Week: Expert in a Dying Field by The Beths


Album: Expert in a Dying Field
Artist: The Beths
Release Date: September 16, 2022
Label: Carpark, Rough Trade, Ivy League
Favorite Tracks:

  • Knees Deep
  • Silence is Golden
  • Best Left
  • When You Know You Know
  • 2am

Thoughts: New Zealand’s The Beths continue to impress with perfect pop punk pieces about love, anguish, and regret from the pen and voice of songwriter/lead vocalist Elizabeth Stokes.

Rating: ***1/2

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Album of the Week: Natural Brown Prom Queen by Sudan Archives


Album: Natural Brown Prom Queen
Artist: Sudan Archives
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label: Stones Throw Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Home Maker
  • Selfish Soul
  • ChevyS10
  • Yellow Brick Road

Thoughts: I’m naturally inclined to review anything by an artist with “archives” in their name (there are a surprising number of them).  Sudan Archives is actually the stage name for Los Angeles-based American violinist, singer, and songwriter Brittney Denise Parks. Incorporating dance music loops, R&B, hip hop, and Western African rhythms among other things, this album is full of energetic and creative tracks. Parks revealed her goals for the album to The Guardian: ““My stage name is kind of academic and on Athena, I created this thoughtful persona centred on divine Black femininity. Now I want to show my looseness, too. I’m a deep, insightful person, but I’m also fucking silly.”  I think she succeeds.
Rating: ***1/2

 

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