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: It’s Real by Ex Hex


Album: It’s Real
Artist: Ex Hex
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Tough Enough
  • Cosmic Cave
  • No Reflection
  • Talk to Me

Thoughts:

This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris.  It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in.  There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Crush on Me by Sir Babygirl


Album: Crush on Me
Artist: Sir Babygirl
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Heels
  • Flirting With Her
  • Haunted House
  • Everyone Is a Bad Friend

Thoughts:

The debut album from New Hampshire’s Sir Babygirl features bubblegum pop, dance beats, and glass-shattering vocals belted out by Kelsie Hogue.  The lyrics focus on celebrating queer identity and learning to love oneself.  It’s a powerful and exuberant collection that shows that bubblegum can have some bite.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Remind Me Tomorrow by Sharon Van Etten


AlbumRemind Me Tomorrow
ArtistSharon Van Etten
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Told You Everything
  • No One’s Easy To Love
  • Comeback Kid
  • You Shadow

Thoughts:

Van Etten’s first album in five years features folk song arrangements over synthesizers with lots of oscallation and distortion. The effect is atmospheric and emotionally piercing, especially the lyrics the focus on surviving trauma, falling in love again, and muddling through the ever-messy present. This is a terrific work that is worth multiple listens.

Rating: ***1/2

Monthly Mixtape – December 2018


One final mixtape for 2018, and it’s quite the mix of songs! What are you’re favorite songs the year? I’m working on my year end list and will post it here on December 29th!

Forma Antiqva :: Canarios

Art d’Ecco :: Nobody’s Home

Bee Bee Sea :: Sonic Boomerang

Wafia :: I’m Good

Larkin Poe :: Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues

 

 

 

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: ****

Album Review: Love is Magic by John Grant


Album: Love is Magic
Artist: John Grant
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Love is Magic,” “Tempest,” “Diet Gum,” and “Is He Strange?
Thoughts:

American expatriate John Grant resides now in Iceland where he makes very weird music.  The synths and disco beats make the album feel straight from the early 80s complete with spoken word segments reminiscent of Laurie Anderson.  The lyrics are crude, angry, deeply personal, and sometimes just plain bizarre.  It took me a few listens to warm up to Love is Magic, but it still doesn’t feel as good as Grant’s earlier work.

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: Be the Cowboy by Mitski


AlbumBe the Cowboy
Artist: Mitski
Release Date: 17 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “A Geyser,” “A Pearl,” “Me and My Husband,” “Nobody,” “Washing Machine Heart,” and “Two Slow Dancers.”
Thoughts: Something of a concept album from the point of view of a married woman expressing her angst and ennui underneath a cheerful veneer. I love Mitski’s dynamic vocals and her guitar-playing style. She’s versatile musically too, transitioning through country, disco, and electro-pop without breaking a sweat. Lyrically she has a power with words to express introspection and vulnerability, even if it’s coming from the point of view of a character.
Rating: ***1/2