Album of the Week: Spirituals by Santigold


Album:  Spirituals
ArtistSantigold
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label:  Little Jerk Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • High Priestess
  • No Paradise
  • Ain’t Ready
  • Fall First

Thoughts: Genre-defying Santigold’s new release reimagines the African American folk tradition with synths, electric guitar, and her own ethereal vocals.  Like many recent releases, the music grew out of the pandemic and addresses the feelings of grief, loneliness, and rage of our times.  It’s a short album, 10 tracks in just over 30 minutes, but it packs a punch.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Album of the Week:  2022

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Song of the Week: “Right to Riot” by Hagop Tchaparian


Hagop Tchaparian – “Right to Riot”

British-Armenian producer Hagop Tchaparian creates a sonically-dense collage from field recordings of traditional folk musicians in Armenia and the Mediterranean region undergirded by heavy techno grooves.

 

Song of the Week 2022

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Favorite Albums of All Time: 70-61


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121 80-71
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

70

Artist: Various
Title: Hamilton: An American Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Year: 2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • Alexander Hamilton
  • My Shot
  • The Story of Tonight
  • Right Hand Man
  • Helpless
  • Wait For It
  • Guns & Ships
  • Dear Theodosia
  • Cabinet Battle #1
  • The Room Where It Happened
  • One Last Time
  • It’s Quiet Uptown

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2015

Thoughts: I never thought too highly of Alexander Hamilton the person (I’m a bit of an Aaron Burr buff) but I was transfixed by this musical that combines Broadway musical traditions with hip hop with American history.  I especially like how Hamilton’s story is adapted to that of the immigrant striver relating the story to modern day Black and Latin American people who don’t often get to see people who look like themselves in American history.

Bonus Sounds: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In The Heights was adapted into an excellent movie with a great soundtrack.


69

Artist: Billy Bragg & Wilco
Title: Mermaid Avenue
Year:  1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Walt Whitman’s Niece
  • California Stars
  • Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key
  • Ingrid Bergman
  • Christ for President
  • I Guess I Planted
  • The Unwelcome Guest

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 90s

Thoughts:  Billy Bragg is a folk/punk musicians and leftist activist from England whose music I like but I still need to listen to more of.  Wilco are a band from Chicago beloved by NPR hipsters whose music never interested me much.  But when they came together to put lyrics written by Woody Guthrie to music, it was magic.

Bonus Sounds:  The next step is to listen to actual recordings by Woody Guthrie.  Smithsonian Folkways has you covered.

Speaking of Folkways…


68

Artist: Various
Title: Anthology of American Folk Music
Year: 1952
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The House Carpenter” (1930) – Clarence Ashley
  • “The Butcher’s Boy” (1928) – Buell Kazee
  • “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O” (1928) – Chubby Parker
  • “John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man” (1930) – The Carter Family
  • “White House Blues” (1926) – Charlie Poole w/ North Carolina Ramblers
  • “Frankie” (1928) – Mississippi John Hurt
  • “When That Great Ship Went Down” (1927) – William and Versey Smith
  • Mississippi Boweavil Blues” (1929) – Charlie Patton (under the pseudonym “The Masked Marvel”)
  • “Sail Away Lady” (1926) – Uncle Bunt Stephens
  • “Wake Up Jacob” (1929) – Prince Albert Hunt’s Texas Ramblers
  • “Indian War Whoop” (1928) – Floyd Ming and his Pep-Steppers
  • “Saut Crapaud” (1929) – Columbus Fruge
  • “Moonshiner’s Dance Part One” (1927) – Frank Cloutier and the Victoria Cafe Orchestra
  • “John the Revelator” (1930) – Blind Willie Johnson
  • “Bob Lee Junior Blues” (1927) – The Memphis Jug Band
  • “Poor Boy Blues” (1929) – Ramblin’ Thomas
  • “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (1928) – Blind Lemon Jefferson
  • “Way Down the Old Plank Road” (1926) – Uncle Dave Macon
  • “Fishing Blues” (1928) Henry Thomas
  • “Black Jack David” — Carter Family
  • “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” (1929) — Blind Alfred Reed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: When I first got an iPod, around 2005 or so, I listened to a history of Folkways Records which prompted me to get this collection

Thoughts:

Experimental filmmaker Harry Smith pulled together this anthology in 1952 with selections from his collection of old 78 rpm records and it ended up becoming a major influence of the Folk Revival of the 50s and 60s.  Smith’s temerity in calling it “Anthology” instead of “An Anthology” and subsequent popularity skewed the real history of American folk music.  Nevertheless, as a compilation of recorded music enjoyed by ordinary Americans from 1927 to 1932, it is an excellent time capsule.  Selections include folk songs with roots in England, Scotland, and Ireland still enjoyed by rural Americans, Black American folk music (including blues and gospel), and old time music from a time when country and bluegrass are emerging.

The Internet Archive has the entire collection available to stream, including a fourth collection of folk songs chosen by Harry Smith that didn’t get a release until 2000.

Bonus Sounds:

There’s a 112 songs here, you want more?


67

Artist: Fugazi
Title: 13 Songs
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Room
  • Bulldog Front
  • Bad Mouth
  • Burning
  • Give Me The Cure
  • Burning Too
  • Promises

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991, because everyone in my Freshman dorm seemed to have this album

Thoughts: Speaking of leftist activism in music, the Washington, D.C. post-hardcore band took the DIY ethos to the limits making their shows as accessible as possible to all their fans.  Their debut album (actually a compilation of tracks from previously released EPs) was highly influential on the sound of the burgeoning alternative rock explosion.

Bonus Sounds:

Ian MacKaye of Fugazi maintains an archive of live performance recordings available for fans to download.


66

Artist: Cry Cry Cry
Title: Cry Cry Cry
Year: 1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fall On Me
  • Cold Missouri Waters
  • The Kid
  • Shades of Gray
  • By Way of Sorrow

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1998

Thoughts: Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and Dar Williams united to form a folk supergroup, recording this one album of cover songs.  They also had a very successful tour and I managed to see them twice on that tour including their end of tour performance at Somerville Theatre on New Year’s Day in 2000.

Bonus Sounds: Richard Shindell’s album Courier appeared earlier in this list, but my favorite Dar Williams’ albums are Mortal City (1996) and End of the  Summer (1997), and favorite Lucy Kaplansky album is Ten Year Night (1999).

Coincidentally, Cry Cry Cry was named after a song by …


65

Artist: Johnny Cash
Title: At Folsom Prison
Year: 1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • I Still Miss Someone
  • 25 Minutes To Go
  • The Long Black Veil
  • Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart
  • Jackson
  • Green, Green Grass of Home”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: I came to this late  due to a general disinterest in country music, not knowing that Johnny Cash is really good country.  Not only was Cash a good musician, he was a good person when it came to following Christ’s teaching of visiting people in prison.  This album recorded in a prison contains songs about prison, by prisoners, and most importantly, to entertain prisoners. The enthusiastic response of the audience of imprisoned men complements the perfect performances of these songs by Cash along with June Carter, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three. You can feel the disappointment when the prisoners are dismissed at the end.

Bonus Sounds: Johnny Cash had a late career resurgence with the American Recordings series which included interpretations of songs by decidedly non-country artists such as Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”


64

Artist: The Beat
TitleI Just Can’t Stop It 
Year:1980
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mirror in the Bathroom
  • Twist & Crawl
  • The Tears of a Clown
  • Ranking Full Stop
  • Big Shot

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990s

Thoughts: Known as The English Beat in the USA, the band emerged from the  UK two-tone ska scene with a debut album that mixed ska with New Wave.  It was a new sound for a new decade and remains one of the best albums of the 80s.

Bonus Sounds:


63

Artist: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Title: Rabbit Fur Coat
Year: 2005
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rise Up With Fists!!
  • The Charging Sky
  • You Are What You Love
  • Rabbit Fur Coat
  • Handle With Care
  • Born Secular

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2005

Thoughts: A debut album for Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley of sorts collaborating with Chandra and Leigh Watson, also making their debut.  The pop/alt-country sound with a gospel tinge contains impressive harmonies and thoughtful lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: Jenny Lewis has continued to release great music including 2014’s “Just One of the Guys.


62

Artist: Janelle Monáe
Title:The ArchAndroid
Year: 2010
Favorite Tracks:

  • Locked Inside
  • Cold War
  • Tightrope
  • Come Alive (War of the Roses)
  • 57821

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2012

Thoughts:  Monáe’s first full-length album continues her on-going science fiction dystopia about a messiasiac android. Musically, it’s a tour de force jumping among genres from song to song and even within songs. Funk, soul, new wave, afrobeat, psychedelia, and even punk rock are in the mix.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Janelle Monáe to come in this list, but until then you can also read my Music Discovery on her work from 2016 or read her recently-released sci-fi story collection The Memory Librarian.


61

Artist: Adele
Title:21 
Year: 2011
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rolling in the Deep
  • Rumour Has It
  • Set Fire To The Rain
  • I’ll Be Waiting
  • Someone Like You

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2011

Thoughts: The first time I heard “Rolling in the Deep” it blew me away and I’ve been following Adele ever since (along with most of the rest of the world).  The weary wisdom of Adele’s voice belies her youthful age at the time it was recorded.

Bonus Sounds: Adele is still pretty young even though she’s now a veteran artists continuing to release great works like last year’s 30.

Album of the Week: Natural Brown Prom Queen by Sudan Archives


Album: Natural Brown Prom Queen
Artist: Sudan Archives
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label: Stones Throw Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • Home Maker
  • Selfish Soul
  • ChevyS10
  • Yellow Brick Road

Thoughts: I’m naturally inclined to review anything by an artist with “archives” in their name (there are a surprising number of them).  Sudan Archives is actually the stage name for Los Angeles-based American violinist, singer, and songwriter Brittney Denise Parks. Incorporating dance music loops, R&B, hip hop, and Western African rhythms among other things, this album is full of energetic and creative tracks. Parks revealed her goals for the album to The Guardian: ““My stage name is kind of academic and on Athena, I created this thoughtful persona centred on divine Black femininity. Now I want to show my looseness, too. I’m a deep, insightful person, but I’m also fucking silly.”  I think she succeeds.
Rating: ***1/2

 

Album of the Week:  2022

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Song of the Week: “Quien te llamo?” by mediopicky


mediopicky – “Quien te llamo?”

Dominican-based artist mediopicky (stage name for Pablo Alcántara) mixes tropical beats, hip hop samples, and heavy metal riffs on this totally original dance track..

 

Song of the Week 2022

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Movie Review: Hairspray (1988)


Title: Hairspray
Release Date: February 16, 1988
Director: John Waters
Production Company: Stanley F. Buchthal | Robert Shaye Production
Summary/Review:

I’ve never watched a John Waters film and this seemed like a good entry point. I”m going to have to work my way up to the one featuring coprophagia.  Set in the early 60s, the film is set around a local Baltimore teenage dance show, The Corny Collins Show,  with a regular cast of teenagers ominously called the council.  “Pleasantly plump” teenager Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake, before she was in the vanguard of sensationalist daytime talk show hosts) auditions and earns a spot on the council.  Tracy is well received by most of the cast and audience, but snobby Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick, well before she created an earworm about graduation under the stage name Vitamin C) targets Tracy for abuse.

Meanwhile, Tracy’s best friend Penny (Leslie Ann Powers) begins dating a Black classmate, Seaweed (Clayton Prince), who introduces Tracy to his mother Motormouth Maybelle Stubbs (legendary R&B artist Ruth Brown) and the dance parties of Baltimore’s Black neighborhoods.  Tracy sees the injustice of segregation and begins to use her fame to try to integrate The Corny Collins Show.  The movie does have a bit of a “white savior” narrative, but I felt that the movie was very honest about racism in a way you don’t usually get in nostalgic movies about teenagehood.

Waters’ quirky style and visual flair helps make the movie entertaining and accessible while being quietly subversive.  The cast is also great.  Divine and Jerry Stiller play Tracy’s working class parents while Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono are Amber’s ambitious stage parents.  And their are cameos by Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora which is something that could only happen in the 80s. It’s hard to believe a movie could bring together such an odd cast for a “message movie” that’s nevertheless delightfully weird.  The music is great too, and all the different dances done by the council make me realize that the kids dancing on TikTok today have a strong heritage.

Rating: ****1/2

Song of the Week: “Congratulations” by Alex Lahey


Alex Lahey – “Congratulations”

I’ve been a fan of Australian singer/songwriter Alex Lahey for some time (see my 2017 Favorite Songs and my review of The Best of Luck Club). “Congratulations” is a classic kiss-off song from Lahey’s forthcoming album that actually reminds me of the work of fellow Aussie Courtney Barnett (which is not a bad thing).

Song of the Week 2022

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Favorite Albums of All Time: 80-71


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

80

Artist: Various
Title: This Are Two Tone
Year: 1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Specials – “Gangsters”
  • The Selecter – “On My Radio”
  • The (English) Beat – “Tears of a Clown”
  • The Specials – “A Message To You, Rudy”
  • The (English) Beat – “Ranking Full Stop”
  • The Specials – “Stereotype”
  • The Specials – “Do Nothing”
  • Rhoda Dakar with The Specials – “The Boiler”
  • The Specials – “Ghost Town”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: I was listening to the “Modern Rock” radio station and heard “Ghost Town” by The Specials and HAD TO HAVE that song.  The thing is that my suburban Connecticut home town’s record stores had limited selections.  I looked everywhere I could think of in the store where I might find The Specials. Finally, I did a last ditch look in the compilations section where I found This Are Two Tone.  Even though the songs were ~10 years old at this time, it is no exaggeration when I say that this album CHANGED MY LIFE!

Bonus Sounds: 2 Tone Records didn’t release many albums as bands like The Beat and Madness moved on to other labels, but a stunning three albums from the label will be on my list.  One great song that’s not on any of these albums is “Nelson Mandela” by The Special A.K.A.


79

Artist: The Go-Go’s
Title:Beauty and the Beat
Year:  1981
Favorite Tracks:

  • Our Lips Are Sealed
  • How Much More
  • Tonite
  • This Town
  • We Got the Beat
  • You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
  • Skidmarks On My Heart

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 80s, although it was my sister’s album

Thoughts: The most successful all-woman rock band of all time released this perfect collection of pop punk gems in 1981.  It seems to get better with each passing year.

Bonus Sounds: The Go-Go’s album discography is small but strong! Their 80s follow-up albums Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984) also have a lot of great tracks and Belinda Carlisle’s early solo work is also quite good.


78

Artist: Kris Delmhorst 
Title: Songs For a Hurricane
Year:  2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Under the Waves
  • East of the Mountains
  • Bobby Lee
  • Juice & June (NOT to be confused with Juice & Gin)
  • Hummingbird
  • Hurricane
  • Short Work
  • Mingalay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2003

Thoughts: Kris Delmhorst was already one of my favorite artists in the Boston folk scene, but this remarkable album saw her further incorporating old-time/Americana influences into music with a contemporary sensibility.  Since most of the songs work on meteorological themes, you could even say it’s a concept album.

Bonus Sounds: This is Kris Delmhorst’s 4th appearance in my countdown (two of her solo albums, one as member of a group, and one compilation).  I’d also recommend the 2005 album Redbird, the eponymous debut of a trio featuring Delmhorst with with Peter Mulvey and Jeffrey Foucault.


77

Artist: Jolie Holland 
Title: Escondida
Year:  2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sascha
  • Old Fashioned Morphine
  • Amen
  • Mad Tom of Bedlam
  • Darlin Ukelele
  • Damn Shame

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2004

Thoughts: A friend gave us this album and the Americana/alt-country/folk rock/je ne sais quoi sound blew my mind.  Jolie Holland was originally a member of The Be-Good Tanyas before going solo and it has the same old timey-goes-modern vibe with an extra kick.

Bonus Sounds: Despite loving Escondida, I never got any of the Holland’s other albums!  I need to address that.


76

Artist: R.E.M. 
TitleMurmur
Year:1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • Radio Free Europe
  • Pilgrimage
  • Talk About the Passion
  • Moral Kiosk
  • Perfect Circle
  • Sitting Still
  • We Walk

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 1980s

Thoughts: R.E.M. were already top ten artists by the time I learned of them, but I enjoyed going back to their debut album.  I can’t imagine what it was like for listeners trying make sense of Murmur in 1983. It’s too melodic for punk, too folk for New Wave, and too cryptic for pop. Despite not being of its time, the songs on Murmur have a timeless quality.

Bonus Sounds: There is one more R.E.M. album coming up, but I like everything the band released in the 1980s, and even have a soft spot for 1998’s Up.


75

Artist: Pixies
Title: Surfer Rosa
Year:  1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bone Machine
  • Gigantic
  • River Euphrates
  • Cactus
  • Oh My Golly!
  • Vamos
  • I’m Amazed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 80s

Thoughts: I kind of went backwards with the Pixies from Bossanova to Doolittle to Surfer Rosa.  It took me some time to become accustomed to the harder-edged sound of their debut album, but over a gazillion plays it became an all-time favorite.

Bonus Sounds: More Pixies to come!  The band’s post-80s releases are spotty, but I do like Frank Black’s second solo album Teenager of the Year.


74

Artist: The Muppets
Title: The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording
Year: 1978
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rainbow Connection
  • Movin’ Right Along
  • I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along
  • I’m Going To Go Back There Someday

The First Time I Heard This Album …: College, early 90s, but I knew the songs for much longer

Thoughts: Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher went hard in making the original songs from a movie about puppets road tripping across America some of the most memorable in Hollywood history.

Bonus Sounds:  The Muppets have a considerably lengthy discography including soundtracks from their tv shows and movies, Christmas albums, and various compilations.  I remember liking John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) as a kid but it’s been a long time since I’ve given it a listen.


73

Artist: Nirvana
Title: Nevermind 
Year: 1991
Favorite Tracks:

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • In Bloom
  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • Endless, Nameless

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991

Thoughts: My opinion of Nevermind is colored by the fact that I was 17-years-old and a freshman at college when the album was released and seemingly changed the music industry overnight. Despite the nostalgia I might have for this album, I actually never owned a physical copy of the album, I just listened to it in other peoples’ dorm rooms. Thirty years later, this album still sounds fresh and different to me. Which is strange, because Nirvan were drawing on influences going back decades earlier and have inspired infinite soundalike bands since.

Bonus Sounds: Nirvana’s three original studio albums and the groundbreaking MTV Unplugged in New York live album are all worth a listen.


72

Artist: Portishead 
Title: Dummy
Year:  1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sour Times
  • Strangers
  • Wandering Star
  • Numb
  • Glory Box

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s

Thoughts:

Probably a perfect album.  Portishead combines a lot of things that were going on at the time in the 90s – hip-hop rhythms, creative samples, and ambience galore.  The music could be described as “chill-out” if only the tension were not constantly be ratcheting up.  The alluring vocals of Beth Gibbons carry the songs into an effervescent place.

Bonus Sounds: Portishead has three studio albums but I’ve only listened to this one.  I guess it’s about time to check out the other ones.  In the meantime, enjoy “6 Underground” by fellow trip hop artists Sneaker Pimps.


71

Artist: The Beach Boys 
Title: Pet Sounds
Year: 1966
Favorite Tracks:

  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Sloop John B.
  • God Only Knows
  • I Know There’s An Answer
  • I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
  • Caroline, No
  • Hang On To Your Ego

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: The Beach Boys, a band known for fun songs about surfing and fast cars, put out this album with mature and introspective lyrics and more complex musicality in 1966. It proved to be a stepping stone in the evolution of Rock to a more artistic form of music and the dawn of the Album Era. It took a long time for me to warm up to the Beach Boys were actually really good, serious artists (I grew up in the time of “Kokomo” after all) but this album really won me over.

Bonus Sounds: Good Vibrations.

 

Album of the Week: Silver Lining by Courtney Swain


 

Album: Silver Lining
Artist: Courtney Swain
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Label: Many Hats Distribution
Favorite Tracks:

  • Silver Lining (enough with the)
  • Camenti
  • Inanimate Object
  • Magic Mirror

Thoughts: Providence-based artist Courtney Swain released this album in the spring but I just learned about from WERS’ list of “Our Favorite Local Albums of 2022 So Far…” Their synopsis compares Swain to Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple, but I also see similarities to Laurie Anderson and oddly Norah Jones (at least in Swain’s unadorned singing voice).  The music draws from everything from jazz to electronica.  And the artiness of this album just sounds like something an alum of Berklee College of Music would create.
Rating: ****

Album of the Week 2022

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