Album: The Future and the Past
Artist: Natalie Prass
Release Date: June 1, 2018
- Hot for the Mountain
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.
Album: Dirty Computer
Artist: Janelle 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Cate Le Bon is a Welsh musician although her song “Wonderful” sounds like a French pop song to me. You can find it on her 2016 album Crab Day.
What’s your song this week?
Róisín Murphy is an Irish singer-song writer in electronic dance music and “Gone Fishing” is an amazing aural experience. Read more at the KEXP Blog where it was recently chosen as “Song of the Gay.”