Monthly Mixtape – March 2020


Self-isolation is a good time to listen to new music.  Here are some recent releases worth checking out.

Coriky :: Clean Kill

Dirty Projectors :: Overlord

Mia Doi Todd :: Take What You Can Carry

Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela :: We’ve Landed

Broken Up :: Long, Long, Long

Cable Ties :: Sandcastles

FLOHIO :: WAY2

Kelsey Waldon :: Kentucky, 1988

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 7


Afropop Worldwide :: Remembering Johnny Clegg

A tribute to Johnny Clegg, who died last year, reviewing his genre-defying career of blending Zulu music and dance with pop in apartheid South Africa.

Futility Closet :: If Day

The true story of an effort to sell Canadian war bonds by staging a Nazi invasion of Winnipeg.  (This was dramatized in the weird and wonderful Guy Maddin film My Winnipeg).

Hub History :: Remembering the Boston Massacre

250th years ago this week, British soldiers fired into a rowdy crowd in Boston, killing 5.  Nat Sheidly reflects on the deeply personal tragedy for the people involved and how the incident has been reinterpreted in popular memory.

This American Life :: Everyone’s a Critic

Stories about white tourists observing Black church services, a Chinese journalist investigating coronavirus, and a woman who love the movie musical Cats.

Throughline :: Public Universal Friend

A glimpse into transgender identity in American history through the story of a Revolutionary War Era leader of a Quaker sect known as the Public Universal Friend.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Satanic Panic

The history of backmasking in popular music and the moral panic that ensued.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Appearances in 2020

Monthly Mixtape – February 2020


February was a short month with a bumper crop of good new tunes.  What are you listening to these days?  Let me know in the comments.

Black Market Brass :: “The Thick”

Coriky :: “Clean Kill”

Destroyer :: “Crimson Tide”

Down Time :: “Not a Complicated Person”

Jaimie Branch: “Simple Silver Surfer”

MGMT :: “In the Afternoon”

Smokey Brights :: “Flash Your Lights (Rudy Willingham Remix)”

Wednesday :: “Fate Is…”


Previous Mixtapes:

Movie Review: Make Mine Music (1946)


Title: Make Mine Music
Release Date: April 20, 1946
Director: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Joshua Meador, and Robert Cormack
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

Last year, I started a project to watch and review every Walt Disney and Pixar animated feature film.  With the launch of Disney+, I’ve decided it’s a good time to resume the project.  Instead of watching the remaining films in chronological order, I decided to watch poorly-reviewed films first and work my way to the all-time classics.  Make Mine Music is universally a Disney animated film held in low regard.  In fact, Make Mine Music is one of the few movies not available on Disney+ so I watched a version on Internet Archive that is from a 1985 Japanese laserdisc!

Make Mine Music is the third of six “package films” that Walt Disney Productions released in the 1940s when the war in Europe closed off markets and most Disney animators either were serving in the military or working on war time films for the US. government. These movies are basically a collection of shorter works around a theme that allowed Disney to release feature-length films cheaply and easily under these conditions.  (Fantasia, which was released before the US entry into the war is not considered a package film despite being made up of discrete segments).  With 10 different segments, Make Mine Music has more segments than any other package film and is basically a glorified collection of Silly Symphonies.

The theme of the movie is, of course, music.  The animated visuals are accompanied by musical performances by The King’s Men, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, Andy Russell, Dinah Shore, and The Andrews Sisters.  It’s tempting to see some of these segments as predecessors to music videos.  There are also some segments that adapt musical stories such as “Casey at the Bat” (more of a poetry recitation), “Peter and the Wolf,” and the longest segment, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met.”

There is no narration or anything that links together these segments, and a lot of them are below par by Disney standards, although parts could be spun off as mildly entertaining shorts.  And I know that this has been done, because I’ve seen “Casey at the Bat” before.  My favorite segment is “All the Cats Join In” which features stylized illustrations of teenagers enjoying swing music that is “drawn” as we watch (much like Harold and the Purple Crayon).  It might possibly also depict interracial dating although it’s more likely that it’s just a girl with a deep suntan.  I feel that “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” is a noble failure, because it’s a cute story but it would have worked better as a short, or maybe even if the characters were developed it could be a feature film on its own.  But at it’s current length it just feels like a padded repetition of the same gags.

Make Mine Music isn’t particularly good, but it isn’t loathsome either.  With ten segments there’s probably something for everyone, although it’s doubtful that anyone will be delighted by the entire film.

Rating: *1/2

Monthly Mixtape – January 2020


Welcome to a new year, and a new decade, of new music.

Alexandra Savior :: Send Her Back

Dream pop from Portland, Oregon.

Midwife :: Anyone Can Play Guitar

Fuzzy guitar-based atmospheric rock described as “Heaven Metal” by Madeline Johnston, creator of the project.

Atmosphere :: Dearly Beloved (Feat. Musab and Muja Messiah)

A hip hop duo from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

Previous Mixtapes:

Podcasts of the Week Ending January 25


Back Story :: The Real Martin Luther King: Reflecting on MLK 50 Years After His Death

Breaking through the softened, public persona of Martin Luther King to reveal the radicalism of his life work.

Best of the Left :: Our Longest War Has Been a Lie All Along (The Afghanistan Papers)

Back in 2001, I stated that a full-scale military invasion of Afghanistan, was not only immoral but a strategically unsound response to the criminal acts of the September 11th attacks. I have sadly been proven correct as the United States remains mired in this deadly quagmire going on 19 years.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: 4′ 33″

The story behind John Cage’s famous composition and why it’s more than a joke or a gimmick.

Have You Heard? :: History Wars: How Politics Shape Textbooks

How history is taught in schools is guided by textbooks, and the content of those textbooks is heavily shaped by politics, especially the government educational policy of two large states, California and Texas.


Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Appearances in 2020

Monthly Mixtape – December 2019


Better late than never!  Here are some good new songs from the last month of last year.

Madame Gandhi :: Top Knot Turn Up

Madame Gandhi, the former drummer for M.I.A and a runner of the London Marathon, s an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles.

Antibalas :: Fight Am Finish

My favorite Afrobeat band from Brooklyn (with ties to Daptone records) returns!

beabadoobee :: Are You Sure

Beatrice Kristi Laus is a youthful Filipino-British indie singer-songwriter.

MaLLy :: Black Moses

The latest from a Minneapolis rapper. Read more at The Current.


Previous Mixtapes:

Best of the Decade: Favorite Songs of the 2010s


And now, with no explanation and no apology, here are my 100 favorite songs from 2010 to 2019.

Title Artist Album
92nd Street Kris Delmhorst Blood Test
Americans Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Archie, Marry Me Alvvays Allvays
BALTIMORE Prince HITNRUN
Because I’m Me The Avalanches Wild Flowers
Beneath the Brine The Family Crest Beneath the Brine
Big Bad Good My bubba Big Bad Good
Black Willow Loma Loma
Bloodbuzz Ohio The National High Violet
Bright Whites Kishi Bashi 151a
Call Me Maybe Carly Rae Jepsen Kiss
Changes Charles Bradley, The Budos Band Changes
Chinatown Girlpool Before the World Was Big
Cold War Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid
Colonizer tUnE-YaRdS i can feel you creep into my private life
Comeback Kid Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow
Crazy, Classic, Life Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Cruel St. Vincent Strange Mercy
Cryin’ in the Streets Zeshan B Cryin’ in the Streets
Dancing on My Own Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1
Delicate Cycle The Uncluded Hokey Fright
Digital Witness St. Vincent St. Vincent
Dirty Money Antibalas Antibalas
Discourse My New Romance Shinedoe, Karin Dreijer Illogical Directions
Divisionary (Do the Right Thing) Ages and Ages Divisionary
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself Alex Lahey The Best of Luck Club
Don’t Wait Mapei Hey Hey
Don’t Wanna Lose Ex Hex Rips
Down By the Water Decemberists The King is Dead
Dynamite Taio Cruz Rokstarr
Every Day’s the Weekend Alex Lahey I Love You Like a Brother
Everybody Wants to Be Famous Superorganism Superorganism
Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) Shad Flying Colours
Familiar Agnes Obel Citizen of Glass
Feel this Moment Pitbull, Christina Aguilera Global Warming
Follow Your Arrow Kacey Musgraves Same Trailer Different Park
FREEDOM Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar LEMONADE
FUNKNROLL Prince ART OFFICIAL AGE
Future Politics Austra Future Politics
Gangnam Style Psy Gangnam Style
GMF John Grant Festival
Good as Hell Lizzo Coconut Oil
Good Mistake Mr Little Jeans Pocketknife
Hell You Talmbout Janelle Monáe, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0 Hell You Talmbout
Helplessness Blues Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
Hold On You Get Love and Let Go When Give It Stars The North
HOLD UP Beyoncé LEMONADE
Home Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Up from Below
Hot to Trot Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas Hot to Trot
I Give You Power Arcade Fire, Mavis Staples I Give You Power
I Love It Icona Pop, Charli XCX I Love It
Juice Lizzo Cuz I Love You
Lifted Up Passion Pit Kindred
Look at This A Tribe Called Red A Tribe Called Red
Loud Places Jame xx, Romy In Colour
LOW Young Fathers DEAD
Make Me Feel Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
MCs Can Kiss Uffie Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans
Memories are Now Jesca Hoop Memories are Now
Mighty Caravan Palace Wonderland – EP
Mourning in America The Milk Carton Kids All the Things that I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do
Nameless, Faceless Courtney Barnett Tell Me How You Really Feel
No Banker Left Behind Ry Cooder Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
No Going Back Yuno Moodie
Oblivion Grimes Visions
Old Town Road Lil Nas X 7
Once in a Lifetime Angelique Kidjo Remain in Light
Pedestrian at Best Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Quiet Milck This is Not the End
Quiet Erik Blood, Irene Barber Lost in Slow Motion
Right Hand Man Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Rill Rill Sleigh Bells Treats
Rolling in the Deep Adele 21
Romance Wild Flag Wild Flag
Same Love Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert The Heist
Santa Fe Beiruit The Rip Tide
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) Arcade Fire The Suburbs
Starships Nicki Minaj Pink Friday
Step Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City
Stranger Things Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein Stranger Things, Vol. 1
The Cave Mumford & Sons Sigh No More
The Fox Ylvis The Fox
The Scene Between The Go! Team The Scene Between
The Sweetest Thing JJ Grey, Mofro Blues Music
The Underside of Power Algiers The Underside of Power
This Girl Kungs, Cookin’ on 3 Burners Layers
Tightrope Janelle Monáe, Big Boi The ArchAndroid
Tremelo Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar
True Trans Soul Rebel Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Uptown Funk Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars Uptown Special
Venus Fly Grimes, Janelle Monáe Art Angels
Violet Clementine Lady Lamb the Beekeeper After
Wave of History Downtown Boys Full Communism
We are Young fun., Janelle Monáe Some Nights
We Found Love Rihanna, Calvin Harris Talk That talk
White Foxes Susanne Sundfør The Silicone Veil
Witness Benjamin Book, Mavis Staples Witness
Work Charlotte Day Wilson CDW
You Want It Darker Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker
Your Best American Girl Mitski Puberty 2

Performance Review: The Christmas Revels: An American Celebration of the Winter Solstice


The Christmas Revels: An American Celebration of the Winter Solstice
December 26, 2019 at 3 pm
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA

Each year the Christmas Revels adopts the music, dance, and storytelling traditions of a different world culture (in addition to some annual Revels traditions). Every so often that theme comes home and focuses on American cultures.  If you’ve been reading my Revels reviews for a while, you’ll remember that I participated in the Revels chorus in 2009 when it had an American theme. Ten years later, I’m fascinated to see another Americana performance from the audience.

I’ve long had an idea for a Revels performance set on the stoops of a row of tenements in an American city in the 1920s/30s. Immigrants from various parts of the world (Ireland, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe, China, etc.) and African American migrants from the South could come together and share their cultural songs, stories, and traditions of the winter season. 

This performance isn’t quite my imagined Revels, but it does come close! Set during the Dust Bowl/Depression era, a radio station host (Steven Barkhimer) offers guidance to a man named Johnny Johnson (Jeff Song), who is lost his memory and his direction. Johnny travels the country experiencing various American cultural traditions and repeatedly meeting a mysterious woman (Chris Everett-Hussey).

I always say that you don’t go to Revels for the plot. But in recent years they’ve been working on their narrative threads more, so this year’s story feels like a reversion to thinner storylines of the past. It also doesn’t make much sense. Needless to say the song and dance are great so it doesn’t need much else.

Several numbers from the 2009 show are revived in new settings, including:

  • A Shaker circle dance
  • Cherry Tree Carol – illustrated as a “movie” the cast watches
  • Children, Go Where I Send Thee – one of several numbers featuring the excellent vocals of Carolyn Saxon.
  • Longsword Dance to the Southern tune “Sandy Boys.”

Old time music is provided by Tui and Squirrel Butter on several numbers. Ana Vlieg Paulin provides a wonderful solo on “I Wonder as I Wander.” And long-time master of ceremonies keeps the audience on key and on in rhythm. My favorite numbers include:

  • “Dark as a Dungeon” – featuring tired coal miners walking through the audience to return to their families.
  • “Old Grandma Hobble-Gobble” – the Revels Children play a game with storyteller Bobbie Steinbach.
  • Sing-a-long with “I’ll Fly Away.”
  • The gospel of “Trouble All About My Soul.”
  • Medley of “Can the Circle Be Unbroken/This Land is Your Land.”

Performances of the Christmas Revels continue until December 29, so see it if you get the chance. And even if you miss it, mark you calendar for the 50th anniversary show in December 2020.

Related posts:

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


Here are five albums from 2019 that I really loved. Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, 2017 and 2018 as well.

The New Normal by STL GLD

The Boston hip hop act STL GLD is well-regarded as one of the best groups in the area by local media. Boston isn’t a notable location on the hip hop map compared with other cities, but The New Normal should draw attention to our city. Moe Pope, Christopher Talken, and Jonathan Ulman perform songs that speak to the present moment of the Trump era, and all the political and personal turmoil that entails, but also offering a positive alternative vision. And STL GLD is not shy about getting their message out, including holding a listening party for the album’s premier in the unlikely setting of the Museum of Fine Arts. I admit that I don’t know enough about hip hop to write a thorough review, but I know what I like, and The New Normal, lyrically and musically, is worth listening to.

It’s Real by Ex Hex

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.

The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey

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.

Cut & Stitch by Petrol Girls

I have a soft spot for punk rock that features women’s voices shouting over shredding guitars.  The Petrol Girls website bears the tagline “Raging Feminist Post Hardcore from the UK and Austria” which about sums it up.  And while the shouted lyrics may not always be easy to understand, I appreciate that they’re saying important things, the emotion behind them is clear.

Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

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.