Album Review: The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey


Album: The Best of Luck Club
Artist: Alex Lahey
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore
  • Am I Doing It Right?
  • Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
  • Isabella

Thoughts:

Do you like 1980s power pop, but want to hear it from a young, contemporary artist? Australia’s Alex Lahey fits the bill on this album that just totally rocks.  She even rips out a sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” A year ago this week, I reviewed an album by Lahey’s fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, which I completely loved, and I feel just as strongly for The Best of Luck Club.  Lahey is maybe a bit less edgy musically than Barnett, but her lyrics are empowering and uplifting.  And even on the ballads the pair of ballads that close out the album – “Black RMs” and “I Want to Live With You” – Lahey express the contended domesticity of a loving relationship while still being a rock & roller.

Rating: ****

Album Review: there is no Other by Rhiannon Giddens (with Franceso Turrisi)


Album: there is no Other
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens (with Franceso Turrisi)
Release Date: May 3, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Brown Baby
  • Little Margaret
  • Pizzica di San Vito
  • Wayfaring Stranger

Thoughts:

Rhiannon Giddens is a name I’ve heard for a while but I’d not gotten around to listening to her music.  In fact, there was a time when I conflated her with the R&B singer Rihanna (ooops).  Well, Rhiannon Giddens is a folk musician, although that seems inadequate to describe the masterful fusion of musical styles on this album.  Giddens is joined by Italian jazz instrumentalist Franceso Turrisi on this album.  Together they perform a mix of traditional and original tunes that draw on bluegrass, gospel, Italian folk tunes, Arabic, and African sounds.  Many of the songs feature just two instruments with Giddens’ spinetingling vocals, while others have complex and fascinating percussion.  The sound is unlike anything I’ve heard while still feeling familiar.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend


AlbumFather of the Bride
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Release Date: May 3, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hold You Now
  • Harmony Hall
  • We Belong Together
  • Sympathy
  • Jerusalem, New York, Berlin

Thoughts:

I’ve liked Vampire Weekend since I first heard “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” a dozen years ago.  But I like them with the uneasiness of a white, preppy dude who grew up in the suburbs and likes the sounds of music of non-Western cultures listening to other white, preppy dudes who grew up in the suburbs incorporate those sounds into their pop music.  We’re all probably guilty of some level of cultural appropriation.

The sound on Father of the Bride is more stripped down than preceding Vampire Weekend albums.  It’s more of a folk rock sound with a little Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter. The lyrics also show the band in a different place, older and concerned with mortality and an uncertain present.  “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” bandleader Ezra Koenig sings on “Harmony Hall.” Those are words capture the zeitgeist of the times, and yet are hidden in a sunny pop tune that typifies much of the album.

Rating: ***

 

 

Blogging A to Z Challenge Round-up #AtoZChallenge


Another year, another Blogging A to Z Challenge is complete! There were some first for me this year.  For the first time, I very ambitiously submitted two different themes.  And I also wrote up most of my posts from January to March and had them scheduled to go live well ahead of time.  I thought this would mean that I’d have lots of free time in April, but as usual, other things grew to fill that time.  Nevertheless, I got read, like, and comment on other creator’s A to Z projects, which is the most important thing by far!  Here are a few of my favorite A to Z’s for you to check out:

And here is a listing of my two series of A to Z posts.

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero
R: Rave On
S: The Servant Song
T: Thing of Beauty
U: Unworthy
V: The Voyage
W: Working My Way Back to You Babe and Walk of Life
X: 1999 and Ol’ 55
Y: You are Invited
Z: Zombie

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.
P: Pelotero
Q: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family
R: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
S: Soundtrack for a Revolution
T: Titicut Follies
U: Unforgivable Blackness
V: Virunga
W: Waking Sleeping Beauty
X: Xavier
Y: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train
Z: Zimbelism

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Revenge of the Two-Sentence Album Reviews


Album: Deserted
Artist: Mekons
Release Date: March 29, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Lawrence of California
  • Mirage

Thoughts: Mekons are an original UK punk rock band from the 1970s who remain fresh and relevant 40 years later.  The folk rock/punk rock sound of Deserted is reminiscent of Billy Bragg, and is inspired by the landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park.
Rating: ***

 

 


Album: Gnomes and Badgers
Artist: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • What if You Knew
  • Millvale, PA
  • Something Sweet
  • Smart Boy

Thoughts: I heard this playing in a coffee shop and through the magic of Shazam, I learned about a new band.  The album is an excellent collection of funk/jazz fusion from a former member of Lenny Kravitz’s backing band (so basically it’s the good part of Lenny Kravitz music without the bad part of Lenny Kravitz music).
Rating: ***


AlbumThe Seduction of Kansas
Artist: Priests
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Seduction of Kansas
  • Good Time Charlie
  • I’m Clean
  • 68 Screen

Thoughts:

A punk rock epic that draws inspiration from a book by Thomas Frank?  Yes, please!

Rating: ***1/2

 

Monthly Mixtape – April 2019


Welp! The A to Z Challenge is complete, so it’s time to get back to the regular routine around here, which means sharing great new songs from the past month!  What new songs do you love?  Let me know in the comments.

Calexico and Iron & Wine :: Father Mountain

CLAVVS :: Lay Back

Kindness :: Cry Everything featuring Robyn

Mavis Staples :: Change

Remo Drive :: The Grind

Previous Mixtapes:

A Song and a Story: “Zombie” #AtoZChallenge


We’ve reached the final day of A Song and a Story and we’ll be closing out with the Irish band cranberries’ hit

Zombie

“Zombie” is a serious song about the ongoing cycles of violence of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the song makes me laugh.  The reason why is due to Sarah, a friend from college.  Sarah was (and probably still is) a cheerful, friendly, and perky individual.  Cheerful, friendly, and perky individuals can sometimes be irritating, but not Sarah, she was legitimately all of these things withouth artifice.  Anyhow, when “Zombie” was a hit, Sarah liked to sing the chorus, greatly exagerrating Dolores O’Riordan’s repetition of “ZooOOOmmmBIE!!!” with a deep, gutteral voice.  I still can’t hear the song without thinking of Sarah.

Ok, so that was more of a memory than a story.  Not the best way to finish off the Blogging A to Z series, but Z is gonna Z.


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero
R: Rave On
S: The Servant Song
T: Thing of Beauty
U: Unworthy
V: The Voyage
W: Working My Way Back to You Babe and Walk of Life
X: 1999 and Ol’ 55
Y: You are Invited

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: “You are Invited” #AtoZChallenge


Today’s song is by the Washington, DC band The Dismemberment Plan and it’s about a magical invitation that gets one into any event, but doesn’t necessarily bring happiness:

You are Invited

This story starts in fall of 1991, during my first weeks at the College of William & Mary.  Somehow I ended up going with a guy from my dorm to an off campus house where his friends lived.  Turns out the guys in the house were in a band, called Muchas Smooches.  Gen Xers may recognize the band’s name from Calvin & Hobbes when Hobbes accuses Calvin of having “Muchas smocches with Susie Derkin.”

Turns out that hanging out with a band at their off-campus house was NOT typical of my college experience after that, but I did see some of the band members around campus from time to time.  One of them, Travis, was the host of the popular Quiz Kid show on our college radio station that for one semester was the lead-in to my not-so-popular late night world music show.

Fast forward to the early 2000s and by some means I no longer recall, I became aware of the band The Dismemberment Plan and their legendary album Emergency & I.  I put two & two together and discovered that the Travis I sort of knew at college was in this great band.  I don’t often get to do the hipster thing, but I guess in this case, I can say “yeah, I remember him back when he was in Muchas Smooches.”


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero
R: Rave On
S: The Servant Song
T: Thing of Beauty
U: Unworthy
V: The Voyage
W: Working My Way Back to You Babe and Walk of Life
X: 1999 and Ol’ 55

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

 

A Song and a Story: Solve for X #AtoZChallenge


In algebra, the letter x is used to represent a number, so today I’m going to “solve for x” and write a song and a story about tunes with a number in the title.

First up,

1999

When I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I had a weekly appointment with my radio to listen to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.  For a time  in the spring of 1983, in order to get a bit of privacy for my Casey Kasem devotion, I would hang out in the garage.  It wasn’t quite warm enough to hang out outside, but the garage door blocked the winds, and with patio furniture in storage, I had a cozy place to recline. Obviously, the Billboard charts were not the place to find obscure music, but nevertheless I learned of artists that I didn’t hear anywhere else.  Among these were Prince and the Revolution and the breakout album 1999.  The title track was about nuclear apocalypse, but it still reminds me of chilling in my garage watching the sunlight filter through the dust in the air.

Ol’ 55

In 2000, I volunteered at the Falcon Ridge Music Festival in Hillsdale, NY.  One of my shifts was the overnight security shift at the main gate.  It seemed appropriate for me as an insomniac to work overnight, but it was lonely and it was cold.  Fortunately, nearby the main gate an artist named Terry Kitchen was leading an all-night campfire song circle.  When it was clear that absolutely no one was coming through that gate, he invited me over to the circle.  Among the songs they played were some early Tom Waits songs, which at the time I was not aware of.  “This was when his voice still sounded normal,” someone told me.  “Ol’ 55” forever reminds me of that overnight campfire song circle on the night when I wasn’t really needed to defend the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek
D: Don’t Worry, Be Happy and Doctor Jones
E: Everyday Sunshine
F: Fly Me to the Moon
G: Ghost Town
H: Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe
I: If I Were John Carpenter
J: Jungle Strut and Justified & Ancient
K: Kiss
L: Loaded
M: Marble Halls and My Moon, My Man
N: New York, New York
O: Oliver’s Army
P: The Parting Glass
Q: Qué Onda Guero
R: Rave On
S: The Servant Song
T: Thing of Beauty
U: Unworthy
V: The Voyage
W: Working My Way Back to You Babe and Walk of Life

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

 

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: ****