Revenge of the Two-Sentence Album Reviews


Album: Deserted
Artist: Mekons
Release Date: March 29, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Lawrence of California
  • Mirage

Thoughts: Mekons are an original UK punk rock band from the 1970s who remain fresh and relevant 40 years later.  The folk rock/punk rock sound of Deserted is reminiscent of Billy Bragg, and is inspired by the landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park.
Rating: ***

 

 


Album: Gnomes and Badgers
Artist: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • What if You Knew
  • Millvale, PA
  • Something Sweet
  • Smart Boy

Thoughts: I heard this playing in a coffee shop and through the magic of Shazam, I learned about a new band.  The album is an excellent collection of funk/jazz fusion from a former member of Lenny Kravitz’s backing band (so basically it’s the good part of Lenny Kravitz music without the bad part of Lenny Kravitz music).
Rating: ***


AlbumThe Seduction of Kansas
Artist: Priests
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Seduction of Kansas
  • Good Time Charlie
  • I’m Clean
  • 68 Screen

Thoughts:

A punk rock epic that draws inspiration from a book by Thomas Frank?  Yes, please!

Rating: ***1/2

 

Two Sentence Album Reviews


Album: Temporal
Artist: Julia Kent
Release Date: January 25, 2019
Favorite Tracks: Last Hour Story, Sheared
Thoughts: Canadian cellist and composer Julia Kent creates atmospheric pieces with repeated melodies, drones, and tape loops.  The result is cinematic scores for films that don’t exist, and an odd ASMR response.
Rating: ****


Album: amo
Artist: Bring Me The Horizon
Release Date: January 25, 2019
Favorite Tracks: Ouch
Thoughts: What if heavy metal was mixed with electronic dance music? Would the result be satisfying to fans of either genre? Also, Grimes.
Rating: **


AlbumSiku
Artist: Nicola Cruz
Release Date: January 25, 2019
Favorite Tracks: Arka, Siete, Señor de las Piedras,

Thoughts: Electronic music may also be combined with folk musics, in this case the music of Ecuador.  Cruz adeptly brings together traditional drums and wind instruments – the siku of the album’s title – with electronic drones and rhythms.
Rating: ****


Album: 7 Directions
Artist: Nkisi
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Favorite Tracks: III, IV
Thoughts: Congolese-born, London-based DJ Nkisi offers another take on electronic music.  Sounds and rhythms build, pulsate, and swirl with no resolution on seven tracks numbered “I” through “VII.”
Rating: ****


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Album Review: The New Normal by STL GLD


AlbumThe New Normal
ArtistSTL GLD
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Favorite Tracks: Burns, Gon’ Shine, Burns
Thoughts:

The Boston hip hop act STL GLD is well-regarded as one of the best groups in the area by local media.  Boston isn’t a notable location on the hip hop map compared with other cities, but The New Normal should draw attention to our city. Moe Pope, Christopher Talken, and Jonathan Ulman perform songs that speak to the present moment of the Trump era, and all the political and personal turmoil that entails, but also offering a positive alternative vision.  And STL GLD is not shy about getting their message out, including holding a listening party for the album’s premier in the unlikely setting of the Museum of Fine Arts.  I admit that I don’t know enough about hip hop to write a thorough review, but I know what I like, and The New Normal, lyrically and musically, is worth listenin to.

Rating: ****

Two Sentence Album Reviews: The Ones I Missed Edition


NPR recently released their 50 Best Albums of 2018, and while I reviewed several of the albums on that list, there were four I wanted to hear more of. This will probably be my last album review post of the year UNLESS you have a favorite album of 2018 that I absolutely must listen to and post it in the comments.

Album: Blueprint
ArtistAlice Bag
Release Date: March 15, 2018
Favorite Tracks: Turn it Up, Stranger, White Justice
Thoughts:

Alice Bag is a new discovery to me, but she was a member of the Bags, one of the earliest members of the Los Angeles hardcore punk scene in the 70s & 80s.  She remains an activist as well as a musician, her voice now having the wisdom of age to pair with the punk rock hooks.

Rating: ***


AlbumOrquesta Akokán
ArtistOrquesta Akokán
Release Date: March 30, 2018
Favorite Tracks: Mambo Rapidito, Un Tabaco para Elegua
Thoughts: Daptone Records, who revived classic soul music with Sharon Jones, does the same for classic Cuban music.  I don’t know much about mambo but this is a damned good album.
Rating: ****


AlbumWolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa
Artist:  Jeremy Dutcher
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Favorite Tracks: Mehcinut, Ultestakon, Sakomawit
Thoughts: Canadian composer and singer Jeremy Dutcher draws upon First Nations’ music for his classical compositions.  The pieces grow from samples of early 20th-century  wax cylinder recordings of Wolastoqiyik songs.
Rating: ****


Album: Siblings
ArtistColin Self
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Favorite Tracks: Story, Quorum, Stay With the Trouble (For Donna),
Thoughts: Composer and choreographer Self mixes classical arrangements, electronic dance music, and a soaring falsetto.  Collectively the songs work toward the idea of creating family for among people who identify as queer.
Rating: ***

 

 

 

 

Two Sentence Album Reviews Take Two


Some new albums that don’t exactly contain new content, so I’m reviewing them in bulk.


Album: MassEducation
Artist: St. Vincent
Release Date:  October 12, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Slow Disco,” “Los Ageless,”
Thoughts: A release of Masseduction with everything stripped away except Annie Clarke’s voice and a piano, making her sound more like a chanteuse.  I think I like this version better, although I didn’t really like the original much at all.
Rating: ***


Album: My Way
Artist: Willie Nelson
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Summer Wind,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “One for My Baby (And One More For the Road,” “What is This Thing Called Love?,” and “My Way”
Thoughts: Willie Nelson sings swinging standards in the style of Frank Sinatra.  What’s not to like?
Rating: ***


Album: Piano and a Microphone 1983
Artist: Prince
Release Date:  September 21, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “17 Days,” “Cold Coffee & Cocaine,” and “Why the Butterflies”
Thoughts: The first posthumous release from Prince’s music vaults is a glimpse of an artist at work.  Just Prince tooling around on a piano, working on several songs, and being amazingly talented.
Rating: ***1/2

 

Two Sentence Album Reviews


Got a backlog of albums from recent months, so here’s a collection of quick reviews.

 


Album: re:member
ArtistÓlafur Arnalds
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “re:member,” “undir,” and “ekki hugsa”
Thoughts: Piano-based ambient music, reminiscent of Sigur Ros.  Very soothing.
Rating: ****


AlbumMarauder
Artist: Interpol
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “If You Really Love Nothing” and “The Rover”
Thoughts: I’ve liked Interpol’s previous recordings, and this is an acceptable addition to their oeuvre.  But it feels a bit redundant and uninspired
Rating: ***


Album: Negro Swan
Artist: Blood Orange
Release Date: August 24, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Charcoal Baby,” “Holy Will,” “Daenham Dream,” and “Out of Your League”
Thoughts: Dev Hynes fourth album recording as Blood Orange is smooooooooooth.  The music is chill, but the lyrics examine depression and anxiety through an intersectional lens of political consciousness.
Rating: ***


Album: The Now Now
Artist: Gorillaz
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Humility (feat. George Benson),” “Hollywood,”
Thoughts: Damon Albarn’s second band – a “virtual band” at that – is now a veteran band of 20 years.  It features a stripped-down sound with fewer guest artists and I think it benefits from that even as it falls a bit short of Gorillaz best work.
Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo


Album: Remain in Light
ArtistAngélique Kidjo
Release Date: June 8, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Born Under Punches
  • Crosseyed and Painless
  • Once in a Lifetime
  • Houses in Motion
  • but really, the whole album

Thoughts:

In 1980, the Talking Heads released the seminal New Wave album Remain in Light which incorporated African rhythms and instrumentation into post-punk rock music.  Angélique Kidjo takes the music back to Africa by covering the entire album.  And, wow, it’s absolutely breathtaking! Even if you’ve listened to the Talking Heads album again and again, these feel like fresh, brand-new songs!

Rating: ****1/2

Album Review: All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do by Milk Carton Kids


AlbumAll the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do 
Artist: Milk Carton Kids
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Just Look at Us Now
  • Mourning in America
  • One More for the Road
  • Big Time
  • I’ve Been Loving You

Thoughts:

The folk duo of  Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan are reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel – tight harmonies, introspective lyrics, and understated instrumentation.  This is the first album recorded with a backing band, but nevertheless the instruments are restrained, adding resonant bass notes, thumping bass drums, and country twang only to support and emphasize the vocals.  Of course, the instrumental performances should not be overlooked, and the 10 minute long “One More for the Road” is highlighted by solos that are not at all indulgent.  While much of the album is inward-looking as you’d expect from contemplative folkies, “Mourning in America” is a standout political track.  I don’t listen to folk music nearly as often as I did about 15-20 years ago, but this is a standout album.

Rating: ****

Album Review: so sad so sexy by Lykke Li


Albumso sad so sexy
ArtistLykke Li
Release Date: June 8, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • two nights
  • jaguars in the air
  • so sad so sexy
  • utopia

Thoughts:

The album title sums it up perfectly as Swedish singer-songwriter sings heartbreaking tunes of romantic entanglings that ultimately end in failure. Stylistically, Li has shifted from indie rock and dream pop to contemporary R&B and electronic dance music.  It’s not a shift that I think works for her, as the music doesn’t sound bad, but it loses Li’s unique style for something that sounds like a lot of other music out there today. I’m thinking that this album will be recognized more as the transition to whatever Li does next than for itself.

Rating: **1/2

Album Review: The Future and the Past by Natalie Prass


AlbumThe Future and the Past
Artist: Natalie Prass
Release Date: June 1, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hot for the Mountain
  • Sisters

Thoughts:

This is the second album from Richmond, VA singer-songwriter Prass.  I was drawn to this album by the anthemic “Sisters” which will certainly make my end of year favorite songs list.  But the rest of the album is meh, a collection of downtempo tracks in a smooth R&B style.  That is not to deny it is a technically proficient recording with lyrics focused on protest and solidarity in the age of Trump, but it’s just not a style that resonates with me.

Rating: **