Album of the Week: Present Tense by Yumi Zouma


Album: Present Tense
Artist: Yumi Zouma
Release Date: March 18, 2022
Label: Polyvinyl Record Co.
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mona Lisa
  • Where the Light Used to Lay
  • Astral Projection

Thoughts:

The fourth album from Yumi Zouma, a band based out of Christchurch, New Zealand, features lead vocalist Christie Simpson’s ethereal vocals layered over dreamy guitar pop.  I try not to let nostalgia guide my taste but this music is reminiscent of electronic pop of the 1980s or perhaps an early 90s group like The Sundays.

Rating: ***

 

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

March

Album of the Week: What I Want by Lady Pills


AlbumWhat I Want
Artist: Lady Pills
Release Date: February 11, 2022
Label: Plastic Miracles
Favorite Tracks:

  • Daughter
  • My Weight
  • She Said

Thoughts:

I learned about Boston band Lady Pills from this story on WBUR. The band is a project of Berklee College of Music alum Ella Boissonnault who has persisted with Lady Pills through lineup changes and the loss of performance space due to the COVID pandemic. Boissonnault recorded this album playing all of the instruments herself which does with great dexterity.  The sound is an indie pop with flashes of 70s punk and 90s empowerment songs by women singer/songwriters but a whole lot of quirks that are uniquely her own.

Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

Album Review: Laurel Hell by Mitski


 

AlbumLaurel Hell
Artist: Mitski
Release Date: February 4, 2022
Label: Dead Oceans
Favorite Tracks:

  • Valentine, Texas
  • Working for the Knife
  • The Only Heartbreaker
  • Love Me More
  • That’s Our Lamp

Thoughts: This blog has long supported Mitski, so I was eager to hear her first album since 2018’s Be the Cowboy.  We’re lucky to have this album as Mitski came close to retiring and the lyrics of the songs deal with her uneasy relationship with stardom.  The music is appropriately downbeat compared to prior outings, although it also seems to fit a trend where artists like Billie Eilish and Courtney Barnett have also slowed down on their most recent releases. Although that’s not true for all the tracks, such as the energetic 80s synthpop style of “The Only Heartbreaker.”
Rating: ****

Album of the Week 2022

January

February

Album Review: Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast


Album: Jubilee
Artist: Japanese Breakfast
Release Date: June 4, 2021
Label: Dead Oceans
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Paprika”
  • “Be Sweet”
  • “Savage Good Boy”

Thoughts:

Japanese Breakfast is an indie pop project lead by Michelle Zauner.  The album is full of joyful pop sounds that hit right just now.  I like the sonically dense musical arrangements and the interplay between lead and backup up vocals.  The songs are also hooky as heck!

Rating: ****

Album Review: Daddy’s Home by St. Vincent


Album: Daddy’s Home
Artist: St. Vincent
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Label: Loma Vista Recording
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Down and Out Downtown”
  • “The Melting of the Sun”
  • “Somebody Like Me”
  • “My Baby Wants a Baby”
  • “…At the Holiday Party”

Thoughts:

Annie Clark, who performs as St. Vincent, is something of a chameleon, changing her personal appearance and musical style from album to album.  This has lead to fascinating career with the highpoint of her 2014 album St. Vincent which I really loved, but also 2017’s Masseduction, which I really did not. On Daddy’s Home, the glam rock and pop noise of the past have been replaced by a soul and funk sound joined together thematically around the idea of New York City in the 1970s.  The album title is inspired by Clark’s actual father’s release from prison after serving time for a decade for stock manipulation, but Clark suggests this is more metaphorical than biographical.  To me, this album feels like a return to form for St. Vincent, which means it’s something new and experimental.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Palberta5000 by Palberta


Album: Palberta5000
Artist: Palberta
Release Date: January 22, 2021
Label: Wharf Cat Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Big Bad Want”
  • “Something in the Way”
  • “The Way That You Do”
  • “All Over My Face”
  • “Before I Get Here”

Thoughts: Palberta – the trio of Anina Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser from New York City (not western Canada) – make melodic punk music reminiscent of early Sleater-Kinney.  I haven’t listened to their earlier work but apparently this album is a transition for the band from pure punk noise to indie pop.  Nevertheless, the punk sensibilities remain with sweet harmonies over rattling guitars and drum beats.  Most of the album’s 16 tracks clock in at 2 minutes or less.  The second half of the album is stronger than the first, but I enjoyed it all.

Rating: ***1/2

Monthly Mixtape – December 2019


Better late than never!  Here are some good new songs from the last month of last year.

Madame Gandhi :: Top Knot Turn Up

Madame Gandhi, the former drummer for M.I.A and a runner of the London Marathon, s an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles.

Antibalas :: Fight Am Finish

My favorite Afrobeat band from Brooklyn (with ties to Daptone records) returns!

beabadoobee :: Are You Sure

Beatrice Kristi Laus is a youthful Filipino-British indie singer-songwriter.

MaLLy :: Black Moses

The latest from a Minneapolis rapper. Read more at The Current.


Previous Mixtapes:

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

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: Tracyanne & Danny


Album: Tracyanne & Danny
ArtistTracyanne & Danny
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts
  • Jacqueline
  • O’Keefe

Thoughts:

This duo features Tracyanne Campbell, formerly of the Scottish band Camera Obscura whose album Let’s Get Out of This Country was on my list of favorite albums of all time.  Her partner is Danny Coughlan, an English singer-songwriter from England, of whom I have no prior knowledge.  The sound of the album reminds me of 60s pop, not necessarily what the nostalgia industry categorizes as “60s music,” but the type of pop that was popular with older listeners in the period. Nevertheless, there’s a a lot of variety from folk to lounge music to jazzy to  the lushly orchestrated. The album on the whole is beautiful but melancholy, as to be expected since it is Campbell’s first album since the death of friend and bandmate Carey Lander in 2015.

Rating: ***

Related Post: Concert Review: Camera Obscura