Album: On the Line
Artist: Jenny Lewis
Release Date: March 22, 2019
- Heads Gonna Roll
- Wasted Youth
- Hollywood Lawn
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.
Album: so sad so sexy
Artist: Lykke Li
Release Date: June 8, 2018
- two nights
- jaguars in the air
- so sad so sexy
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.
Album: Tracyanne & Danny
Artist: Tracyanne & Danny
Release Date: May 25, 2018
- It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts
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.
Related Post: Concert Review: Camera Obscura
Album: i can feel you creep into my private life
Release Date: 2018 January 19
tUnE-YaRdS, once Merrill Garbus’ musical project is now officially a duo including bassist and co-songwriter Nate Brenner. Like earlier recordings, i can feel you creep into my private life is heavy on samples, loops, and beats with even more emphasis a club dance music sound. Always a political group, tUnE-YaRdS sees the personal is political as the lyrics examine racism, white privilege, and cultural appropriation (apropos to white people who use African, Latin, and Native American rhythms in their music). The message can be heavy handed at time and fails to truly transcend the way the music does.
Album: 50 Song Memoir
Artist: The Magnetic Fields
Release Date: 2017 March 10
“67: Come Back as a Cockroach,” “78: The Blizzard of ’78,” “81: How to Play the Synthesizer,” “85: Why I’m Not a Teenager,” and “15: Somebody’s Fetish”
This is an album that I saw on the Best of 17 lists that I missed when it was released and since there weren’t many new releases in January, I decided to give it a spin. As the title implies, it is a 50-song album, one for each year in the life of singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields previously released an album called 69 Love Songs so this is relatively breezy). The songs expertly mix personal memories with cultural touchstones (a Jefferson Airplane concert, Judy Garland’s death, the AIDS crisis) with the music recognizing the musical sounds of the time without being imitative (although it appears the disco era lasted longer for Merritt than everyone else). It’s both humorous and heartbreaking as the story of anyone’s life would be. While I enjoyed it, I kind of liken it to a long book or an lengthy movie that as good as it is, it’s not something I’m going to have the time to return to again and again.
Artist: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Release Date: 17 November 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Ring-a-Ring O’ Roses,” “Deadly Valentine,” and “Dan vos airs.”
Thoughts: The single “Deadly Valentine” is the standout track on Gainsbourg’s first album in six years, one that reflects on grief and loss on the death of her half-sister. While there is an allure of a woman’s voice singing breathily in French, most of the album is full of synthesizer crunches and disco beats that sound like very generic electro-pop.
The Nunnery of Minneapolis makes loops of vocal sound live to create the mesmerizing “Powerwalk.” And that’s about all I can tell you about The Nunnery because they seem vague about their identity online.
“Deadly Valentine” is the lastest single from British-French actor and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg. It’s a dancable track with lyrics that make wedding vows sound really creepy. But this song is nowhere as creepy as “Lemon Incest.” The song is featured on Gainsbourg’s newest Album Rest, due out on November 17.
The Brooklyn band Florist performs “Blue Mountain Road,” a sad but beautiful song about death and loss, inspired the death of singer Emily Sprague’s mother.
“1973” is a song by Beth Orton off her new album Kidsticks. Orton is an English singer-songwriter who blends folk music with electronica to create “folkltronica.” 1973 is a significant year since that was the year I was born, but I expect Orton isn’t aware of that.