Album of the Week: Renaissance by Beyoncé


Album: Renaissance
Artist: Beyoncé
Release Date: July 29, 2022
Label: Parkwood Entertainment
Favorite Tracks:

  • ALIEN SUPERSTAR
  • BREAK MY SOUL
  • MOVE (feat. Grace Jones and Tems)
  • HEATED
  • THIQUE
  • ALL UP IN YOUR MIND
  • SUMMER RENAISSANCE

Thoughts:  I’m not going to say much because who hasn’t already said everything about Beyoncé?  But this is an exuberant new album of dance tracks that gets more thrilling as it goes along.

Rating: ****

Album of the Week 2022

January

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July

August

  • Petrol Girls – Baby

Album of the Week: Special by Lizzo


By https://open.spotify.com/album/1NgFBv1PxMG1zhFDW1OrRr, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71313872

Album: Special
Artist: Lizzo
Release Date: July 14, 2022
Label: Nice Life Recording Company
Favorite Tracks:

  • About Damn Time
  • Grrrls
  • 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)
  • Naked
  • If You Love Me

Thoughts: Lizzo returns with her follow-up to the instant classic Cuz I Love You.  As the first single from the album (which has already become the Song of Summer) says, it’s “About Damn Time.”  I have to confess that I don’t like the songs as much as on the predecessor but it’s Lizzo, so it’s still irresistible.  She’s definitely feeling knowledge for the time of her infancy and before with the songs incorporating disco and 80s synth-dance sounds.  Makes me wonder what a Lizzo cover of “Let the Music Play” would sound like. Lizzo’s tireless positivity fills this album with joy and it can get a bit cheezy at times.  But it’s also a political at a time when the personal is deeply political.  Lizzo is also finding new ways of sharing her deepest self and discovering she loves what she’s found.

Rating: ***1/2

Album of the Week 2022

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February

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July

Song of the Week: “About Damn Time” by Lizzo


Lizzo – “About Damn Time”

This is a Lizzo fan blog, so of course her new party anthem would be the song of the week.

Song of the Week 2022

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BONUS Album of the Week: Summer of Soul soundtrack


Album: Summer of Soul ( … Or,  When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised…)
Artist: Various Artists
Release Date: January 28, 2022
Label: Sony Music Entertainment
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Uptown” by The Chambers Brothers
  • “Why I Sing the Blues” by B.B. King
  • “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine” by The 5th Dimension
  • “Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers”
  • “It’s Been a Change” by The Staples Singers
  • “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” by The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra & Choir feat. Mahalia Jackson
  • “Sing A Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone
  • “Are You Ready” by Nina Simone

Thoughts:

While this new album dropped last week, it contains the soundtrack to 2021’s best documentary Summer of Soul, and was recorded in the summer of 1969 at The Harlem Cultural Festival.  The crew that restored these songs have done a great job of capturing the dynamic performance of the artists as well as the raw energy of the crowd.  The 5th Dimension may be considered hokey, but they totally kill it with the support of the Harlem fans.  David Ruffin hits high falsetto notes in “My Girl” that soar above the thousands watching that day.  And whether its gospel from The Edwin Hawkins Singers, rock from Sly and the Family Stone, or a revolutionary chant from Nina Simone, the people are there to sing along.

Rating: *****

Book Review: Major Labels by Kelefa Sanneh


Author: Kelefa Sanneh
Title: Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres
Narrator: Kelefa Sanneh
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Summary/Review:

Kelefa Sanneh, a former music critic for the New York Times, and writer for the New Yorker, revisists the history of popular music from the 1970s to today in a series of essays focusing on genres.  These genres include the venerable traditions of Rock, R&B, and Country as well as the upstarts Punk, Hip-Hop, and Dance.  The final essay focuses on the amorphous genre of Pop.

Sanneh is a fan of all these types of music so he brings in his personal experience when discussing them.  I find that appropriate since music is such a personal thing.  Sanneh does a great job at summarizing the history and the struggles of artists within these genres to remain true to their style.  He also notes that over the past 50 years that each of these genres is converging to create a new “pop” music even at a time when streaming music platforms should allow greater splits.

This was a fun an informative book for a music fan.

Recommended books

Rating: ****

Album Reviews: Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise) by Sault


Album: Untitled (Black Is)
Artist: Sault
Release Date: 19 June 2020
Label: Forever Living Originals
Favorite Tracks:

  • Stop Dem
  • Wildfires

Thoughts:

Sault, a British music collective that eschews media attention on their real identities, put out two albums this year that encapsulate the Black experience in 2020. Released on Juneteenth, and just 25 days after the murder of George Floyd, the music expresses grief, defiance, and hope in equal measures. The music blends soul, R&B, afrobeat, and funk that clearly draws on its antecedents while also being fresh and unique.

Rating: ****

Album: Untitled (Rise)
Artist: Sault
Release Date: 18 September 2020
Label: Forever Living Originals
Favorite Tracks:

  • Strong
  • Rise
  • I Just Want to Dance
  • The Beginning and the End
  • Free


Thoughts:

Releasing a second album just three months after its predecessor seems a recipe for a watered-down follow-up, but with Sault it is just the opposite. If anything, Untitled (Rise) is brimming with energy and relevance with the music filled with disco melodies and traditional African polyrhythms.

Rating: ****

Album Review: Spilligion by Spillage Village


Album: Spilligion
Artist: Spillage Village
Release Date: September 25, 2020
Label: Dreamville | Interscope | SinceThe80s
Favorite Tracks:

  • Psalm Sing
  • Ea’alah (Family)
  • Mecca
  • End of Daze
  • Hapi
  • Jupiter

Thoughts:

Spillage Village is a hip hop musical collective based in Atlanta, Georgia.  I am no expert on hip hop, but I find these days that when I really like something it comes from the Atlanta and Southern scene. The album was born of the COVID-19 lockdown with members of Spillage Village living at the studio as a safe place.  Naturally, the album reflects the concerns of the time as greater inequality and social justice concerns.  But is is also an album that is full of hope and joy.  In addition to rap, the album reflects a wide variety of musical styles including soul, funk, and gospel.  It serves as a perfect time capsule and a message of hope from this cursed year.

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: ****

Two Sentence Album Reviews Take Two


Some new albums that don’t exactly contain new content, so I’m reviewing them in bulk.


Album: MassEducation
Artist: St. Vincent
Release Date:  October 12, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Slow Disco,” “Los Ageless,”
Thoughts: A release of Masseduction with everything stripped away except Annie Clarke’s voice and a piano, making her sound more like a chanteuse.  I think I like this version better, although I didn’t really like the original much at all.
Rating: ***


Album: My Way
Artist: Willie Nelson
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Summer Wind,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “One for My Baby (And One More For the Road,” “What is This Thing Called Love?,” and “My Way”
Thoughts: Willie Nelson sings swinging standards in the style of Frank Sinatra.  What’s not to like?
Rating: ***


Album: Piano and a Microphone 1983
Artist: Prince
Release Date:  September 21, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “17 Days,” “Cold Coffee & Cocaine,” and “Why the Butterflies”
Thoughts: The first posthumous release from Prince’s music vaults is a glimpse of an artist at work.  Just Prince tooling around on a piano, working on several songs, and being amazingly talented.
Rating: ***1/2

 

Two Sentence Album Reviews


Got a backlog of albums from recent months, so here’s a collection of quick reviews.

 


Album: re:member
ArtistÓlafur Arnalds
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “re:member,” “undir,” and “ekki hugsa”
Thoughts: Piano-based ambient music, reminiscent of Sigur Ros.  Very soothing.
Rating: ****


AlbumMarauder
Artist: Interpol
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “If You Really Love Nothing” and “The Rover”
Thoughts: I’ve liked Interpol’s previous recordings, and this is an acceptable addition to their oeuvre.  But it feels a bit redundant and uninspired
Rating: ***


Album: Negro Swan
Artist: Blood Orange
Release Date: August 24, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Charcoal Baby,” “Holy Will,” “Daenham Dream,” and “Out of Your League”
Thoughts: Dev Hynes fourth album recording as Blood Orange is smooooooooooth.  The music is chill, but the lyrics examine depression and anxiety through an intersectional lens of political consciousness.
Rating: ***


Album: The Now Now
Artist: Gorillaz
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Humility (feat. George Benson),” “Hollywood,”
Thoughts: Damon Albarn’s second band – a “virtual band” at that – is now a veteran band of 20 years.  It features a stripped-down sound with fewer guest artists and I think it benefits from that even as it falls a bit short of Gorillaz best work.
Rating: ***1/2