Album: American Head Artist: Flaming Lips Release Date: September 11, 2020 Label: Warner Favorite Tracks:
Dinosaurs on the Mountain
Mother Please Don’t Be Sad
Assasins of Youth
The Flaming Lips enter their fifth decade as recording artists with this trippy new album. This seems weird to me even though I first heard the band in the 1990s, and began listening to them avidly with their legendary releases of the 2000s. The album is a loose concept album drawn from band leader Wayne Coyne’s childhood in Oklahoma City. Musically, the Flaming Lips aren’t breaking new ground and the lyrics are full of gratuitous drug references. But the melodies are gorgeous in this collection of mostly ballads awash in rich instrumentation. Kacey Musgraves provides counterpoint vocals on a few tracks.
Album: Shore Artist: Fleet Foxes Release Date: September 22, 2020 Label: Anti Favorite Tracks:
Can I Believe You
A Long Way Past the Past
I think this is what they call “headphone music” because the rich instrumentation and lush harmonies of Fleet Foxes become readily when pressed up against one’s ears. There’s a definite warmth to the album which according to the band’s frontman, Robin Pecknold “celebrate “life in the face of death.” And so I can say “it speaks to our time of COVID” for about the 100th time in this blog. But if good art is one of the few worthwhile things that the pandemic brings us, then I will accept that.
Blitzen Trapper has always sounded a bit like a throwback band, but on this album they explore a folk rock/alt country sound reminiscent of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Doubly so because the album draws inspiration from the Tibetan Book of the Dead which was also popular during the psychedelic era. Nevertheless, whatever deep metaphysical thoughts are in the lyrics, the tunes are warm and breezy and a pleasure to listen to.
Incarceration strips American citizens of their right to vote, sometimes even after they are released. This podcast focuses on one formerly incarcerated person who will be participating in voting for the first time this year.
Album:Dandelion Artist: Carolina Story Release Date: September 4, 2020 Label: Black River Americana Favorite Tracks:
Light of the Moon
Lay Me Down Easy
Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s I was deeply invested in the contemporary Folk/Folk Rock/Folk Pop/Americana, etc. scenes. Eventually I drifted away, partly because everything started sounding the same and I wanted to hear something different. Hearing Carolina Story reminds me of the excitement of discovering something new during the height of my folkie days.
The duo is the married couple Emily and Ben Roberts of Nashville. They remind me a little bit of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer with more country twang and less mysticism. But the best thing about Carolina Story is that they interpret traditional folk sounds in a voice that’s completely their own. They are especially good using their voices to provide a wide range of expression and the instrumentation of the duo and their backing band is particularly rich.
Album: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For Artist: Illuminati Hotties Release Date: July 17, 2020 Label: Self-released Favorite Tracks:
reasons 2 live
Singer/songwriter Sarah Tudzin’s pioneering work in “tenderpunk” takes a turn in this brief (12 songs in 24 minutes) but eclectic collection. This is the band’s sophomore effort after Kiss Yr Frenemies and shows a willingness to experiment. The album comes in the wake of their record label’s demise explaining why it is self-released and probably why it is so short. Still, if this is just a place holder until the next “real” album comes out, then we can expect great things.
Album: Dialectic Soul Artist: Asher Gamedze Release Date: July 10, 2020 Label: On the Corner Favorite Tracks: Thoughts:
I don’t know much about jazz, but I know what I like. South African drummer Asher Gamedze draws on free jazz and Black liberation traditions of the 1960s and 70s and fuses them with contemporary jazz and protest music. The standout track “siyabulela,” a slow tune with vocals by Nono Nkoane cuts to the soul.