Album Review: Fongola by Kokoko!


Album: Fongola
Artist: Kokoko!
Release Date: July 5, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Likolo
  • Azo Toke
  • Singa

Thoughts:

Kokoko! is a collective of artists from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They use instruments fashioned from trash to create sounds for a musical style that blends electronica with dance punk.  The synths layered on by their French producer Débruit also gives it an 80s freestyle dance pop sound.  Kokoko! makes refreshing music that functions equally well at a dance club or a political protest.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Freya Ridings


Album: Freya Ridings
Artist: Freya Ridings
Release Date: July 19, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Castles,” “Wishbone,” and “You Mean the World to Me”
Thoughts:

Freya Ridings is a young singer/songwriter from England who joins the tradition of women with bold, powerful voices (such as Adele or Florence Welch) singing songs of love and love lost.  There’s nothing innovative on this debut album, but if you like this style of pop singing – and I do – it’s worth adding to your playlist.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Keepsake by Hatchie


AlbumKeepsake
Artist: Hatchie
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Favorite Tracks: Without a Blush
Thoughts:

This is the first full-length album from Australian singer-songwriter Harriette Pilbeam, who records under the name Hatchie.  The songs are lush and dreamy and a suitable soundtrack to a lazy summer day.  The sound is reminiscent of early 90s bands with ethereal female lead vocalists like The Sundays. I really liked her 2018 EP Sugar & Spice, but the songs on Keepsake don’t packe the same punch with the exception of “Without a Blush.”  A lot of songs suffer from a repetitious nature where they start with a good groove or lyric but it becomes grating as the song goes along. The song “Obsessed” is a good example of this.  I was looking forward to this album but I don’t think I will be revisiting it.

Rating: **

Album Review: Cut & Stitch by Petrol Girls


AlbumCut & Stitch
Artist: Petrol Girls
Release Date: May 24, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Big Mouth
  • Monstrous
  • Weather Warning
  • Naive

Thoughts:

I have a soft spot for punk rock that features women’s voices shouting over shredding guitars.  The Petrol Girls website bears the tagline “Raging Feminist Post Hardcore from the UK and Austria” which about sums it up.  And while the shouted lyrics may not always be easy to understand, I appreciate that they’re saying important things, the emotion behind them is clear.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Reward by Cate Le Bon


Album: Reward
Artist: Cate Le Bon
Release Date: May 24, 2019
Thoughts:

Welsh singer Cate Le Bon sings ethereally over lush arrangements in her newest collection of art pop.  The reviews are good but it doesn’t resonate much with me.  Typically, quiet and minimalist music appeals to  me, but this album just feels, well … boring.  I hate giving a bad review, so don’t take my word for it, and see if it is more Reward-ing for you.

Rating: **

Album Review: The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey


Album: The Best of Luck Club
Artist: Alex Lahey
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore
  • Am I Doing It Right?
  • Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
  • Isabella

Thoughts:

Do you like 1980s power pop, but want to hear it from a young, contemporary artist? Australia’s Alex Lahey fits the bill on this album that just totally rocks.  She even rips out a sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” A year ago this week, I reviewed an album by Lahey’s fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, which I completely loved, and I feel just as strongly for The Best of Luck Club.  Lahey is maybe a bit less edgy musically than Barnett, but her lyrics are empowering and uplifting.  And even on the ballads the pair of ballads that close out the album – “Black RMs” and “I Want to Live With You” – Lahey express the contended domesticity of a loving relationship while still being a rock & roller.

Rating: ****

Album Review: there is no Other by Rhiannon Giddens (with Franceso Turrisi)


Album: there is no Other
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens (with Franceso Turrisi)
Release Date: May 3, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Brown Baby
  • Little Margaret
  • Pizzica di San Vito
  • Wayfaring Stranger

Thoughts:

Rhiannon Giddens is a name I’ve heard for a while but I’d not gotten around to listening to her music.  In fact, there was a time when I conflated her with the R&B singer Rihanna (ooops).  Well, Rhiannon Giddens is a folk musician, although that seems inadequate to describe the masterful fusion of musical styles on this album.  Giddens is joined by Italian jazz instrumentalist Franceso Turrisi on this album.  Together they perform a mix of traditional and original tunes that draw on bluegrass, gospel, Italian folk tunes, Arabic, and African sounds.  Many of the songs feature just two instruments with Giddens’ spinetingling vocals, while others have complex and fascinating percussion.  The sound is unlike anything I’ve heard while still feeling familiar.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend


AlbumFather of the Bride
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Release Date: May 3, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hold You Now
  • Harmony Hall
  • We Belong Together
  • Sympathy
  • Jerusalem, New York, Berlin

Thoughts:

I’ve liked Vampire Weekend since I first heard “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” a dozen years ago.  But I like them with the uneasiness of a white, preppy dude who grew up in the suburbs and likes the sounds of music of non-Western cultures listening to other white, preppy dudes who grew up in the suburbs incorporate those sounds into their pop music.  We’re all probably guilty of some level of cultural appropriation.

The sound on Father of the Bride is more stripped down than preceding Vampire Weekend albums.  It’s more of a folk rock sound with a little Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter. The lyrics also show the band in a different place, older and concerned with mortality and an uncertain present.  “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” bandleader Ezra Koenig sings on “Harmony Hall.” Those are words capture the zeitgeist of the times, and yet are hidden in a sunny pop tune that typifies much of the album.

Rating: ***

 

 

Album Review: Cuz I Love You by Lizzo


AlbumCuz I Love You
Artist: Lizzo
Release Date: April 19, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Cuz I Love You
  • Like A Girl
  • Exactly How I Feel
  • Tempo
  • Juice
  • Lingerie

Thoughts:

Lizzo is one of those artists that excels in making music that fits into multiple genres – pop, hip hop, soul, funk, & R&B – so much so that her music is kind of it’s own Lizzo genre.  I was going to compare the music on Cuz I Love You to the work of Prince, and that was before I learned that Lizzo is from Minneapolis (in fact she appeared on the Prince and 3rdeyegirl album Plectrumelectrum).  The other obvious comparison is Janelle Monáe, and again there’s a direct connection as the pair performed together at Coachella last week and Lizzo interviewed Monáe for them. magazine.  What sets Lizzo apart is her joyful exuberance.  A large, black woman gets discriminated at from every angle, but Lizzo has embraced self-love, and much of the theme of this album is sharing the message of empowerment.  And she sounds she’s having so much fun while doing it.

Rating: ****

Album Review: On the Line by Jenny Lewis


Album: On the Line
Artist: Jenny Lewis
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Heads Gonna Roll
  • Wasted Youth
  • Hollywood Lawn
  • Dogwood

Thoughts:

As a brief prelude to this review, a new album from Jenny Lewis reminded me of how much I liked Rabbit Fur Coat, followed by the stunning realization that the album was released in 2006! I discovered Rabbit Fur Coat at the time when I first started becoming aware of new music through podcasts and streaming services, and now my “new way” of consuming music is rather old at 13.

Okay, onto the actual new album, which is Jenny Lewis’ fourth. The album has a retro-sound reminiscent of 70s sunny California pop. This sound is added by the appearance of veteran musicians like Don Was, Ringo Starr, and Jim Keltner in he backing band.  Nevertheless, the sound is still fresh, and the lyrics are anything but frothy. Lewis is primarily a storyteller, telling stories of people desiring escape, lost love, and lots and lots of substance abuse. There’s a lot of humor in her lyrics, but often the humor is a way of revealing deeper pains.

Rating: ***1/2