Album Review: We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches


Album: We Will Always Love You
Artist: The Avalanches
Release Date: December 11, 2020
Label: Modular
Favorite Tracks:

  • “We Will Always Love You”
  • “The Divine Chord”
  • “Interstellar Love”
  • “We Go On”
  • “Wherever You Go”


Thoughts:

20 years ago, the Australian electronic group made one of the most amazing albums of all-time, the sample-filled “plunderphonics” of Since I Left You. Then they disappeared for 16 years only to return with an uneven follow-up album (albeit with some magnificent individual tracks), Wildflowers, in 2016. Now after a relatively short 4-year gap, The Avalanches are back with a much-anticipated third album.

This work feels more down-tempo than previous works without songs like “Frontier Psychiatrist” or “Because I’m Me” to jump out and grab you. The most prominent samples on the album include low-key acts like The Roches, The Alan Parson Project, and The Carpenters.  The album also features a boatload of guest artists whose vocal interplay with the samples and electronic tracks is seamless(featured artists include Sananda Maitreya, Vashti Bunyan, Blood Orange, Rivers Cuomo, Pink Siifu, Denzel Curry, Tricky, Sampa the Great, Leon Bridges, Johnny Marr, MGMT, Clypso, Neneh Cherry, Jamie xx, Kelly Moran, Cornelius, Karen O, Kurt Vile, Mick Jones, Cola Boyy, Perry Farrell, and Orono).

The underlying theme of the album is outer space and how it is a metaphor for the distance between people. A photo of Ann Druyan, director of the Voyager Golden Record project and producer of the tv show Cosmos (both projects she worked on with her husband, Carl Sagan) is on the album’s cover. The final track, “Weightless,”  features the beeps of the message to the stars from the Arecibo radio telescope (and SETI gets a featured artists credit). The album was recorded before the collapse of Arecibo earlier this month so it serves as an unintentional obituary for another senseless death in 2020.

This is a beautiful album and gets better with each listen as my ears uncover the onion-like layers of the songs and the album as a whole.

Rating: ****

 

Album Review: Freya Ridings


Album: Freya Ridings
Artist: Freya Ridings
Release Date: July 19, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Castles,” “Wishbone,” and “You Mean the World to Me”
Thoughts:

Freya Ridings is a young singer/songwriter from England who joins the tradition of women with bold, powerful voices (such as Adele or Florence Welch) singing songs of love and love lost.  There’s nothing innovative on this debut album, but if you like this style of pop singing – and I do – it’s worth adding to your playlist.

Rating: ***

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: ****

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:

Album Review: The Future and the Past by Natalie Prass


AlbumThe Future and the Past
Artist: Natalie Prass
Release Date: June 1, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hot for the Mountain
  • Sisters

Thoughts:

This is the second album from Richmond, VA singer-songwriter Prass.  I was drawn to this album by the anthemic “Sisters” which will certainly make my end of year favorite songs list.  But the rest of the album is meh, a collection of downtempo tracks in a smooth R&B style.  That is not to deny it is a technically proficient recording with lyrics focused on protest and solidarity in the age of Trump, but it’s just not a style that resonates with me.

Rating: **

Album Review: Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe


 

Album: Dirty Computer
ArtistJanelle Monáe
Release Date: April 28, 2018
Favorite Tracks: It would be easier to list my least favorite tracks, but really there are no duds on this album.

Thoughts:

It’s hard to believe that this is only Janelle Monáe’s third studio album as she has made such a huge contribution to musical pop culture in the past decade.  Monáe’s film work put this album on the back burner, but it was worth the wait.  This is the first album where Monáe steps out from behind her Cindi Mayweather character, and thus it is the personal music she’s released.  Similarly, stepping out of the metaphors of the Metropolis narrative, Monáe directly addresses political topics of the day while celebrating women,  Blackness, sexuality, gender identity and being American (““It’s gonna be my America before it’s all over”).

Monáe picks up the mantle from David Bowie and Prince as the icon of redefining norms for gender identity and sexuality.  In fact, Prince worked with Monáe on defining the sound of the music early on and it shows.  Make no mistake though, this is Monáe’s album and guest artists from Grimes to Brian Wilson to Zoe Kravitz to Stevie Wonder move fluidly to her beat. This is the first great album of 2018, and the song “Americans” should be the song of the summer.

If you want to read more of my dumb thoughts on Monáe’s earlier body of work, check out my Music Discoveries post.  For a more thoughtful career evaluation, read this article by Charles Pulliam-Moore.

Rating: *****

 

Album Review: Revelations by Shamir


AlbumRevelations
Artist: Shamir
Release Date: 3 November 27
Favorite Tracks: “90’s Kids,” “Blooming,” and “Straight Boy”
Thoughts:  Shamir Bailey’s debut album Ratchet was built on electronic beats and dance rhythms, making it club ready. His latest album is stunning stripped-down, pure pop melodies that draw on rock genres from 60’s girl groups to grunge.  The music doesn’t impress me much, but I do love Shamir’s soulful voice and how it emphasizes the striking lyrics of tracks like “90’s Kids” and “Straight Boy.”  It’s a short album (31 minutes), so give it a second listen if it doesn’t move you the first time.
Rating: ***

Album Review: Colors by Beck


Album: Colors
Artist: Beck
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Favorite Tracks: Nothing stands out
Thoughts: I’ve been a Beck fan since he emerged on the scene in the 1990s and even once performed in a Beck choral performance, so I had to check out this new album.  And it is rather dull.  Nothing offensive about it, it features upbeat pop tunes that may sound good in the background at a party, but nothing you’d want to come back to.  So it’s ok, but disappointing for Beck who has done better.
Rating: **

Song of the Week: “Hot to Trot” by Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas


 

Ok, this blog has grown moribund and I find it impossible to keep myself organized enough to create a monthly “What I’m Listening To Now” post.  So I’m bringing back “Song of the Week.”  Especially since I heard this great new song on the radio (yes, the radio!) by Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas.  The band is from Detroit, Hernandez sings in English & Spanish, and this track at least reminds a bit of the early B-52s.  Enjoy some hot music for this hot Independence Day weekend!