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: Inner Song by Kelly Lee Owens


Album: Inner Song
Artist: Kelly Lee Owens
Release Date: August 28, 2020
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Favorite Tracks:

  • Arpeggi
  • Melt!
  • Night
  • Flow
  • Wake-up


Thoughts:

Welsh artist Kelly Lee Owens is a unique electronic music producer who is also a song writer and vocalist. Her second album seamlessly blends various electronic music types from dancefloor bangers to the ethereal and meditative to more typical pop song structures. Fellow Welsh musician John Cale joins Owens on “Corner of My Sky,” with lyrics in both English and Welsh.

Rating: ****

Monthly Mixtape: July 2019


Only three new songs for the month of July, probably because I’ve been too busy listening to “Old Town Road.” All of these bands share in common band names that are challenging to find in a search engine.

Necking :: Still Exist

Punk rock women from Vancouver.

Abjects :: The Storm

Punk rock women from London.

CUP :: Soon Will Be Flood

Electronic experimental music from Brooklyn

 


Previous Mixtapes:

Two Sentence Album Reviews: The EP Edition


Three short albums with three short reviews.

Album: A Simple Reflection
Artist: Cold Beat
Release Date:  24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Jennifer
  • Love is a Stranger

Thoughts: Ethereal vocals over synthpop beats transport the listener back to the 80s. Yes, these are all Eurythmics’ covers.
Rating: ***1/2


Album: boygenius
Artist: boygenius
Release Date:  October 26, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Souvenir
  • Salt in the Wound
  • Ketchum, ID

Thoughts: Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus formed a super group but only recorded 6 songs.  Strong harmonies and rich instrumentation make one wish for more.
Rating: ***1/2


Album: Collapse
Artist: Aphex Twin
Release Date:  September 14, 2018
Favorite Tracks: All of them.
Thoughts: Richard D. James mixes blips, whirrs, and beats into an ineffable whole.  I really like it and can’t explain why.
Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 17


HUB History ::  The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

The fascinating story of the most famous brain injury.

Planet Money :: Rigging the Economy

Liberal-tarians agree!  The economy is rigged.

Planet Money ::  XXX-XX-XXX

The history of the Social Security number.

Afropop Worldwide :: Roots and Future: A History of UK Dance

Caribbean music traditions and US dance beats come together in the only place they can: the United Kingdom.  A history of jungle, garage, drum & bass, and grime.  This made very nostalgic for the dance tracks of yore.

Have You Heard? :: Strong: Lessons from the West Virginia Teachers Strike

Reporting from the West Virginia teachers strike, featuring interviews with many, many teachers.

Invisibilia :: The Other Real World

Using a reality talent show to counter Islamist extremism in Somalia.

BackStory :: Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America

Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes, the Molly Maguires, and other Irish Americans of lore.

Re:sound :: Analog

When I was a kid I recorded myself as the DJ of a “tape radio” station called WLTS, so I feel a kinship with Mark Talbot. Also a repeat of the Ways of Seeing story I highlighted last summer.

 

Monthly Mixtape – February 2018


I haven’t posted any Songs of the Week this year, and I’ve decided to retire SOTW and instead make a monthly post of new songs I like.  Hence the term “Monthly Mixtape.”

The title song off of Courtney Marie Andrews upcoming album is “May Your Kindness Remain”

 

The James Hunter Six provides Daptone soul in “I Got Eyes”

Australian electronica artists Jono Ma and Dreems collaborate on “Can’t Stop my Dreaming (Of You)”

Parliament returns with their first track in decades “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me (feat. Scarface)” and it’s funky in a 21st century way.

As always, let me know what you like, what you don’t like, and what other songs I should be listening to.

Album Review: The Kid by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith


Album: The Kid
ArtistKaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “A Kid” and “In the World, But Not of the World”
Thoughts: An experimental synthesizer album with music that moves from danceable to the cinematic.  There are a lot of hints and references to outside works but there’s also a feeling that it’s not going anywhere.  This album may require a few more listens, but as of now I’m not completely sold
Rating: ***

Albums of the Month: July 2016


I’m adding to my stable of music criticism posts by introducing a new Albums of the Month feature.  The basic gist is that on the second Wednesday of the month (or, as is the case when I procrastinate, on Friday), I will write reviews of 3-5 albums released within the past three months (in this case May, June, and July of 2016).  If there’s an album you love that you’d like me to review, post a suggestion below.  Similarly, if there’s an album you hate that you want me to pillory, also let me know.  And if there’s an album you’re timid about listening to and want me to try first, I’m open to anything.

Ratings scale:

***** – An all-time classic album (highly recommended)

**** – Great album (recommended)

*** – Solid album (consider buying or streaming/downloading top tracks)

** – Weak album (only consider streaming/downloading top tracks)

* – Poor album (not recommended)


ARTISTJames Blake
ALBUMThe Colour in Anything
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
RATING: ***
COMMENTS:  Blake’s gospel-style voice is paired with electronic sounds or sometimes a piano in this mournful album of love lost and a directionless life. This is a headphone album to hear the textures deep in the sounds in the often spare arrangements.  This is not something to put on when you’re already feeling blue.  Despite the title, this is a colourless, muted recording.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Points,” “Waves Know Shores,” “Always,” and “Meet You in the Maze.”


ARTISTTourist 
ALBUM: U
RELEASE DATE: 6 May 2016
RATING: **1/2
COMMENTS: Reminiscent of Passion Pit and Jamie xx, this is electronic music that is danceable but introspective.  The standout tracks are excellent but overall it sounds repetitive and dull.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Run,” “To Have You Back,” and “Foolish.”


ARTISTRadiohead
ALBUMA Moon Shaped Pool
RELEASE DATE: 8 May 2016
RATING: ***
COMMENTS: Quiet and folky with orchestral flourishes, sometimes reminiscent of  Sigur Ros and early 70’s folk pop, This is not as innovative as I’m accustomed from Radiohead and while a worthy addition to their catalog, it’s not a vital one.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Burn the Witch” and “Desert Island Disk”


ARTISTFlume
ALBUMSkin
RELEASE DATE: 27 May 2016
RATING: **
COMMENTS:A downtempo electronic album feels the strains of anxiety and uncertainty, especially in the high register vocals of the many guest artists.  A few songs stand out, but overall this is kind of a drag.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Never Be Like You (featuring Kai)”, “Wall Fuck,” and “Tiny Cities (featuring Beck)”


ARTISTMoon Hooch
ALBUMRed Sky
RELEASE DATE: 10 June 2016
RATING: ****
COMMENTS: This is the latest collection of saxophone tunes with EDM arrangements. Mostly instrumental, but a few vocal tracks (with less sax because they’re singing – duh).  A great party record.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS: “Sunken Ship,”  “That’s What They Say,” “Something Else,” and “Alien Invasion”


ARTISTBlood Orange
ALBUMFreetown Sound
RELEASE DATE: 18 June 2016
RATING: ***
COMMENTS: This album bridges 80s r&b rhythms and sounds (a definite Michael Jackson influence) with socially conscious lyrics.  I want to like it more than I do.
OUTSTANDING TRACKS:  “By Ourselves,” “Augustine,” “But You,” and “Hands Up”


Song of the Week: “Malukayi” by Mbonwana Star (feat. Konono No.1)


Every year the editor of the excellent MP3 blog Said the Gramophone publishes a list of 100 Best Songs of the Year.  The list is diverse, and not every song is going to resonate with everyone, but I always discover something new I missed over the course of the year.

One of the songs from this year’s list is “Malukayi” by Mbonwana Star (feat. Konono No.1).  The seven-piece band is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and they combine percussion with chant-like vocals and electronic sounds.  It’s pretty brilliant.

My own list of favorite songs of the year is coming soon.  If there’s a song you think should be on the best of 2015 list let me know in the comments!