Album Review: The Cycle by Mourning [A] BLKstar


Album: The Cycle
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Label: Don Giovanni Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Can I May
  • Sense of an Ending
  • Mist :: Missed
  • So Young So
  • Be

Thoughts:

The Mourning [A] BLKstar website describes the group thusly:

We are a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.

Founded in Cleveland, Ohio.

I can’t sum up MAB any better than that.  The music has touches of soul, touches of gospel,touches of jazz, and touches of hiphop, all built over electronic music. The music is most reminiscent to me of Algiers, but MAB is mostly unique and original.  If you like strong vocals, beautiful harmonies, horns that lift you up, and beats that make you want to move, this album is for you.

I’ve spent the past month “catching up” on album releases from the first six months of 2020, and this is my favorite of the year so far, but also probably the most important release of 2020.

Rating: ****1/2

Monthly Mixtape – January 2020


Welcome to a new year, and a new decade, of new music.

Alexandra Savior :: Send Her Back

Dream pop from Portland, Oregon.

Midwife :: Anyone Can Play Guitar

Fuzzy guitar-based atmospheric rock described as “Heaven Metal” by Madeline Johnston, creator of the project.

Atmosphere :: Dearly Beloved (Feat. Musab and Muja Messiah)

A hip hop duo from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

Previous Mixtapes:

Album Reviews: Quick Thoughts


What if I didn’t review any albums for some time and then did a bunch at once?  Again?

AlbumThe Competition
Artist: Lower Dens
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Two Faced Love” and “Young Republicans”
Thoughts: These songs have a lush sound reminiscent of the 1980s New Romantics.  Which is fine, if you’ve listened to all of that 35+ year old music and yearn for more. The big twist is that lyrically it is much more political than romantic.
Rating: **1/2


Album: Close It Quietly
Artist: Frankie Cosmos
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “41st,” “So Blue,”
Thoughts: Greta Kline follows up on 2018’s Vessel with another collection of lo-fi folk rock tunes.  Her sweet voice clearly sings ruminative lyrics about growing into adulthood.
Rating: ***


Album: Crush
Artist: Floating Points
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Thoughts: This collection of minimalist electronic music from UK musician Sam Shepherd was just what I needed to hear right now.
Rating: ****

 


Album: There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Artist: clipping.
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Nothing is Safe,” “The Show, and “Blood of the Fang”
Thoughts: This the third album from this experimental hip-hop act from Los Angeles, and first since 2016’s Splendor & Money.  There are two great things about this album: 1. the rapid rhymes of Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame) and 2. the deep-textured synth sounds he raps over.  The lyrics are grim and gory, making it an appropriate addition to your Halloween party playlist.
Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 1


Futility Closet :: The General Slocum

The grim history of the worst maritime disaster in New York City.

Best of the Left :: Our built environment shapes society and vice versa

The issues of increasing urban density, building social housing, and deprioritizing the automobile in cities are near and dear in my heart. And yet, even Leftists tend to fall into the pro-car/pro-sprawl trap, so it’s good to hear these arguments for a more livable urbanism.

Hub History  ::  Love is Love: John Adams and Marriage Equality 

It seems like yesterday, but 15 years have passed since Massachusetts became the first state to perform legal same-sex marriages.  Here’s the history of how that came to be.

Sound Opinions  ::  De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising

I have a lot of nostalgia for De La Soul’s debut album which came out when I was a nerdy high school student.  The Sound Opinions crew explore how the album was created and explain why it’s so hard to find the album today.

Hit Parade :: The Invisible Miracle Sledgehammer Edition

If you turned on the radio in the mid-1980s, you were likely to hear music by members of Genesis (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Mike and the Mechanics) while the band Genesis continued to make hits.  Chris Molanphy explains this unusual situation in pop music history.

Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

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: 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: ****

Album Review: Acrylic by Leikeli47


Album: Acrylic
Artist: Leikeli47
Release Date: November 14, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Tic Boom
  • Girl Blunt
  • Roll Call
  • Hoyt and Schermerhorn
  • Iron Mike

Thoughts:

Leikeli47 is mysterious, masked figure from Brooklyn who raps about life in her neighborhood and the challenges of Black women in 2018 America.  The rhymes are strong and the beats are fine.  The music is fun, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious.  This album is a throwback to old school rap of the 80s while simultaneously forward looking.

Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 27th


Believed :: The Good Guy

This podcast series from Michigan Radio investigates the story of Larry Nassar, the women’s Olympics gymnastic doctor found guilty of sexual abusing his patients for decades.  This first episode depicts how Nassar was seen in the gymnastic community as a respected and lovable figure, not appearing as a monster despite performing monstrous acts.  There are obvious content warning for rape and trauma for anyone considering listening to this episode.

The Memory Palace :: The Dress in the Closet

This Halloween episode is a ghost story of sorts telling the sad story of Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone and how they were haunted by being guests of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his murder.

Hit Parade :: The Oh. My. God. Becky Edition

The Hit Parade visits the charts circa 1991-1992 when hip-hop hits finally reach #1.  It was a transitional period for hip-hop between its party song roots and the West Coast gangsta rap that emerged as a hit-churning style later in the 90s.  The new styles sampled pop and R&B songs and featured more conscious lyrics.  Artists included De La Soul, PM Dawn, Arrested Development, and … Sir Mix-A-Lot.  Host Chris Molanphy credits the newfound success of rap on the charts partly to Billboard introducing the new SoundScan system which more accurately tracked record sales and airplay.  This was another nostalgic episode for me as I liked a lot of the rap music from this period but never cottoned on to gangsta rap.

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