Best Of 2020: Albums In Alphabetical Order Through July 31st

Written by | August 3, 2020 4:46 am | No Comments

Share

 

Tell It Like It Is: The Sansu Years – Aaron Neville – Allen Toussaint guided the third Neville brother for Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn’s Sansu Enterprises and the Sansu years as it melded MOR to New Orleans soul, lots worth seeking out but how about “Baby I’m A Want You” ?

Artist 2.0 – A Boogie Wit da Hoodie – A Boogie is a master rap and r&b singer with 20 Hot 100 singles and a # 1 album, the man can write songs and the proof is he gets Lil Uzi Vert on two tracks, daBaby on another and Roddy Ricch (who has owned 2020) on the fourth, and they aren’t even the best. The problem with state of the art hip hop is it trips over songs and Boogie never does, he writes the songs and this sequel is better than the first, which was very good as well. Though the elements are the same, autotune, manufactured beats, dank samples, and hooks, there is a natural skill at writing subdued bangerz and the first six songs are as great an opening as I’ve heard all year

Good Luck Everybody – AJJ – Of the three state of the nation albums, AJJ’s folk rock horror story is the better, with a melodic yet wide eyed relentless horror at the state of the nation, the strength of the songs, the single of the year so far “Normalization Blues” especially, are in no way weakened by making their point with quiet and intense lovelines

The Neon Skyline – Andy Shauf – He’s like Mac DeMarco without the snark and with better songs, and excellent storytelling skills with intelligence, skills, and a consistent melodic sensibility

KiCk i – Arca – At her most experimental she can lose me, at her poppiest I’m enthralled, though I may overrate the nonbinary star, all you have to do is note that Bjork is featured on a killer track that should be enough to win you over

YHLQMDLG – Bad Bunny – The title translates to “I Do Whatever I Want” and includes performing in Spanish only and taking a sample from “The Girl From IPanema” and not fucking it up. The equal of Oasis, maybe even better, definitely better than that first solo album, the man is on fire as he adds trap not just to reggaeton but, more importantly, to a history of Latin pop music.

LAS QUE NO IBAN A SALIR – Bad Bunny – the album title translates to The Ones That Weren’t Going to Come Out and the follow up to an album barely four months old, still in the Top Ten, and among the best of the year, also follows a three hour live stream concert wherein Bad Bunny went through his closet of songs and then decided to release some in a surprise drop. A 30 minute, BB plus guests album that while not as great as his earlier three (if you include the J Balvin collab, and do include it), it is damn close. The Nicky Jam song is everything you want, the Zion And Lennox is the best on the record, or maybe the Wandel… closer to a mixtape sure, but a terrific one

The Deadbeat Bang Of Heartbreak City – Beach Slang – Beach Slang meets Tommy Stinson on a gritty, hard hitting ‘Mats like rocker of an album which might appear to be a rip off, maybe, right? Maybe and sure it sounds maybe a little too close to the originals, but if you don’t wanna hear songs that sound like “I Will Dare” (not to mention Westerberg’s “Knocking On Mine”) what, precisely, do you want?

Always Tomorrow – Best Coast – Bethany Cosentino remains the embodiment of a certain sort of woman deep in search of her own identity and from album to album she is sure she’s found it except her SoCal songs (with help from her gifted foil Bobb Bruno who does everything else as Cosentino writes the songs and plays guitar) are bummers way too often. Always Tomorrow is her fourth album as it reflects on her new found sobriety and she again attempts to rebuild herself. It takes a couple of listens, and usually Best Coast don’t take more than one, but it kicks in as moody and yet simultaneously upbeat songs about heartache in Cali. A mix of aloneness , break-ups, and the rapture anybody who has stopped drinking feels, it isn’t as good as the towering California Nights but it is awful close, an album with the surprise multi-tracked, one woman Bangles on the amusingly named “Different Light” at the top and one bubble yum Socal rock and pop track after another another, though if you wanna go track shopping, the sublime “For The First Time” is a good starting place, and the soon come “Wreckage” is a standout out jingle jangle guitar sound (ps: my friend Larry Lachman noted the similarities between Hotel California and Always Tomorrow‘s cover typography)

Beethoven: Late String Quartets – Ludwig van Beethoven, Brodsky Quartet – six quartets, composed two years before his death in 1827, were dismissed as minor at the time but were reassessed as among his finest work. The Brodsky Quartet, Elvis Costello’s old pals circa The Juliet Letters, were made for it and don’t disappoint in the nearly four hour long work

Retrospectives – Bernie Worrell – an instrumental last act from the late legend Bernie Worrell, a look back produced by Bill Laswell, Bernie keeps to his Parliament-Funkadelic material from a gorgeous instrumental “Grooveallegiance” to a psychedelic legend “Sir Nose D Voidoffunk (Pay Attention B3m)” and we do miss the three blind mice of the title but not that much.

Against Empire – Bill Laswell – four legendary drummers (Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Hideo Yamaki (Japan’s top dummer) and Satoyasu Shomura (Japanese pop phenomenon), join Pharoah Sanders and  Peter Apfelbaum, and the legendary bassist and producer himself for a minimalist and ambient sound that breaks through on Pharaoh’s sax and waves of drums before quietude stills it again

Rough and Rowdy Ways – Bob Dylan – sure, this is the time for our tears so where is “Hattie Carroll”? If ever we wanted Dylan past personal politics and taking a scalpel to society, this is it. When you think of Dylan’s protest songs it is clear what is missing from current protest music: artistry and poetry. Since we are not going to get it, we will happily accept his best album, filled with death and anger and brutal Americana, since Love And Theft

Built to Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston – Built To Spill – Doug Martsch pays tribute to Daniel Johnston with a fragile and beautiful set of covers that shine bright and easy and deep and moving, it is a shockingly excellent piece of work and a great intro to Daniel for the uninitiated

Upside Down 2020 – Buju Banton -circa Til Shiloh, with its cover of Bob Marley’s “Small Axe,” the baritone booming Buju seemed to have invented a new genre of reggae, call it Rasta Lite, and it was gorgeous. And then he went away from the sound for decades. This is similar, brilliant pop Reggae songs (how poppy? “Good Time Girl” is based upon “Blue Moon”, very tuneful and fleet footed. “Buried Alive” is one of his greatest songs

On Circles – Caspian – Undoubtedly some of the most gorgeous ambient by other means sonic dream landscape. It’s a little boring, though “Nostalgist” -which is the first song in five albums to feature vocals, proves they might want to reconsider their world of sonic beauty next time round

Bonus Trap – Cazzu – There is something going on with the second wave of Latin trap that is quite as rhymically click clacked and even more fun, especially “Bounce” -something of a masterclass in pure aural pleasure by a woman I would love to see crossover

The Savoy 10-inch LP Collection – Charlie Parker –  from 1944 – 1948

Slime & B – Chris Brown, Young Thug – in case you forgot, that was Mr. Slime Season Young Thug on “Havana,” all the kudos you might need as a pop star rapper though he has been consistently killing it on mix tape after mix tape since at least 2017. This meeting of minds does both Young Thug and Chris Brown a favor, especially Brown who is too prolific to be noticed and who adds the consistency he has lost over the 57 song album before last and 42 song last one. This is much better in every way

BLAME IT ON BABY – DaBaby – more of the same and the same is great, as long as he is this poppy and on the money, as long as he flows this well and spots it out and projects a pop sensibility aimed and targeted so hard at teens, he can do it for as long as he wants –

ChangesNowBowie – David Bowie – There is no reason this should be growing into a top ten Bowie album, but the nine song acoustic set recorded for the BBC for Bowie’s fiftieth birthday the day before his MSG big time gig, is a wonderful thing: Gorgeous, acoustic versions of some hits and some obscurities and all of them just beyond beautiful, has there ever been a “Quicksand” this perfect, this calm, this wilful: “knowledge comes with death’s release” and death is everywhere, for once we can’t hide our minds from it

Dark Lane Demo Tapes – Drake – is this it for Drake? Has he hit his Apex and is he now plateauing? The numbers here are not what you might hope for from the biggest pop star in the world. “Toosie Slide” started with a bang and then petered, beaten out by The Scotts, and the top ten Spotify songs in The US finds him with only three of the top ten songs in the US as of Sunday. Me? I don’t hear the problem, another great album doing for Drill what he did for Grime, and better than Scorpion for one

Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa – I wasn’t crazy about the Kosovan immigrant to the UK’s first album, and she seemed manufactured on stage, and now Dua has found her footing with a set of art pop that never moves its attention from the charts and is still exceedingly valid and pleasurable, both of the singles were great and there is more where that came from

Music To Be Murdered By – Eminem – The former Slim Shady knows the pop world wants him murdering his enemies and taking on the vast majority of everybody though middle aged hasbeens whining about how the world doesn’t understand him has a very limited shelf life. Having said that, Eminem is one of the best rhymers and rappers ever, and sometimes it is all worthwhile, the end of “Godzilla” is the best speed rapping you’ll hear, the Outkasts by other means “Yah Yah” is a world class banger, and “Stepdad” -his best revenge fantasy because its enemy deserves Em’s ire. If The album was 30 minutes it would be as great as anything he has done

Fetch The Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple – sometimes great, sometimes too strange for great, a clearly joining of Apple with other women and just as clearly Apple again deconstructing the men who she loves, clearly attracted to toxic masculinity. The percussion is excellent, I miss her piano, the songs don’t stick… what else? Using her dead dogs bones to beat drums is awful. Misandry is a great subject for rock music, one of the greatest, and she carries it well and if I was a woman perhaps I’d glom on it more strongly though I don’t think I’d misread it so thoroughly.  I just wish it was as great as I want it to be

Nice ‘n’ Easy (2020 Mix) – Frank Sinatra – The 1960 Nice ‘n’ Easy (reviewed here), arranged by Nelson Riddle, is one of his greatest albums and while I have no idea why we need a 2020 mix (except for financial reasons) we do get two outtakes from the session

2020 – Future Punx – I once saw these guys at a rave blow away every and all comers, including King of Trance Armin van Buuren, and then I lost track. So it pleases me no end to note that energy, beatiness, and badass songness is as great as I remember. If you want to get into Trance, start here

Tormented – Gary Wilson – a great American original, he makes everything sound off hand and amateur and it isn’t, it’s an illusion of sing song weirdness and nursery rhyme dance grooves from the maladjusted master. At his best, like this one and Electric Endicott, he is the only one who can do it

Legends Never Die – George Jones – two thirds the length of Our Favorites, and between the 150 odd tracks not a “He Stopped Loving Her Today” suggesting the age of the two of them is 50s/early 60s

Our Favourites – George Jones – Sure, another collection but this is a well programmed 93 song deep dive (look at the spelling of favourites so assume va the UK) and while it has no real backstory, just all over the place, it is exactly where to start before you even begin trying to figure out Jones recorded career. When I go for George I may well arrive here

The Complete George Jones (VOL.1 – 3) – George Jones – from 1957 – 1964

The Bonny – Gerry Cinnamon – All those UK male singer songwriters, the James Blunts and Lewis Capaldi’s of the world, have been waiting on somebody who can actually do singer songwriter folk music with all cylinders and  Scottish 35 year old Cinnamon, who was meant to be opening for Dropkick Murphys around this minute, can do it it all on this collection of folk rock balladeering. “Bonny” isn’t even the best song

Miss Anthropocene (Deluxe Edition) – Grimes – Charli, Banoffee, Grimes: this is the sound of modern pop breakdowns. Miss Anthropocene (misanthropy -geddit, she coulda called it Annie Hall), finds Grimes calling down the goddess of our times to watch the end of the world and dance, but by ourselves, to the sound. Meanwhile, the songs are a microscope on the fall out from dating the forward thinking himself Elon Musk, and while it doesn’t connect in the one place it should, where the walls of sound meets the melody, it is original stuff and Grimes best to date

Manic – Halsey – I should never have left Jingle Ball early last year, as Halsey drops a grown up look at romantic malfeasance, and while it is nauseating to imagine she is concerned enough to use so much effort on the G-Eazys of the world, she sure knocks the world into shape and we can only hope it breaks pop

Women In Music Pt. III – HAIM – Easily their best album, this is Haim as art pop rockers, with skillful arrangements and some really great songs, opening with “Los Angeles” -maybe their greatest moment, and ending with “Summer Girl” -also maybe their greatest, and while it goes on too long, and I can count five songs I didn’t need, it is still fairly consistent. Plus, what’s with that sax all over the place?

Inlet – Hum- Twenty-two years after their last album, this is where shoegaze meets metal in a glorious and beautiful sound that is unique. A shocker for me, my metal chops aren’t all that, but there is no hyping these guys, they sound simply and overwhelmingly beautiful

The Bowie Years – Iggy Pop  – The Idiot, Lust For Life, TV Eye plus an album of alternate takes, outtakes, and radio edits, and two live albums

American Standards – James Taylor – The Taylor touch makes every song a soft and sweet gem of pop and with John Pizzarelli co-producing its use of acoustic guitar as the main instrument makes as much sense as Bob Dylan’s rock band rearranged Triplicates, it gives it a reason beyond the simpler one, that it will make you very, very happy.

A Written Testimony – Jay Electronica – Jay’s first album in thirteen years as his record label owner, Jay Z, best work in years and years (except for “The Story Of OJ”, okay), and while Kanye embraces Jesus, Jay and Jay shout out Elijah Mohammed and the big A itself, on a very, very strong and up against the conceptual retort to the modern age of racism. Jay E is a great rhymner, Jay Z is at the top of his powers after all that crap with his wife, and the two have cut what might one day stand as a hip hop masterpiece. And maybe not one day… ps: coulda done without the “synagogues of Satan” line from both Jays: my dad was a Hajj and he always claimed for the Jews their prophets , Jesus, Moses, as well as Muhammed. PPS: the arabic writing on the cover translates to Peace Be With You

Colores – J Balvin – J Balvin has been going from height to height ever since Beyonce jumped on “Mi Gente” three years ago. If Coleurs isn’t as great as his Bad Bunny collaboration last year, the epic Oasis, it is better than his own Vibras. Colores is a highly concentrated dose of reggaeton plus beats, each song a perfect pearl of dance plus dance melody, and while it could have used a couple more as great as “Verde,” more people could use a lesson in less is more, 37 minutes of relentless pleasure

NO DREAM – Jeff Rosenstock – he reminds me a little of the Buzzcocks, he has the loud fast plus tunefulness vibe and his fourth album is absolute great: very catchy, completely alive, right in your ear. It maybe needs one or two slightly better song -they are all at the same level of excellence, but without it NO DREAM is still a terrific buzzy life (wait till you hear “Scram1!” which coulda been doo wop in a different lifestream)

TO LOVE IS TO LIVE – Jehnny Beth – The third album of the season that functions as an extended artistic vision, along with Fiona Apple and Run The Jewels, a post-binary look at the cupidity of sex and post-punk guitar modernity. Hurt by not enough songs as great as “Flower,” that’s the only thing wrong with the Savages solo effort

BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US – Jessie Reyez – the debut album of exquisitely sung mix and meet between acoustic indie vibes and r&b as Jessie works her way through songs of romantic disenchantment

Complete Mercury Albums 1986-1991 – Johnny Cash – If this is Johnny’s weakest moments, as he treads water till the American Recordings last act, it is still tremendous. If nothing else, it resurrects the legendary singers lost years

Man Alive! – King Krule – drum and bass dub, arty sounds, downbeat croak, and lotsa depression, Bristol sound after Bristol passed, comes across like a white Tricky only much less accommodating (when I saw KK at Bowery Ballroom he performed in virtual darkness just like Tricky did on the Bjork tour in 1996). A lot of Man Alive! is bass and drums but the structures are stronger and melody lines keep emerging even as depression wrecks his head. Like the man said, if the moon could listen to music it would listen to King Krule

See You When I am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!! – KYLE – if you think rap should sound good and be, you know fun, so does KYLE, the poppiest rapper out there and just a blast on song after song, including this entire collection of good vibes and especially “GIRLS” with Rico Nasty

Vertigo – Lil Peep -maybe his estate has figured out the posthumous new releases weren’t working and dropped this early and excellent EP to streaming services (including three videos)

Eternal Atake (Deluxe) – LUV vs. The World 2 – Lil Uzi Vert – A week after releasing Eternal Atake, Uzi adds an entire second album, LUV vs. The World 2, with features galore, and a pop sensibility that he has now proven for years and years. A great album, both of em, honor bound to be a smash hit

Good Souls Better Angels – Lucinda Williams – at first it is just another real good Lucinda Americana country work out, and at second it still is only with more great songs than typically, some terrific garage rockers, and songs like “Big Black Train” which signify more than seems possible, and more of the same but better. A just about perfect album up there with Happy Woman Blues and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Stripped.Down. – Marla Mase – four song EP, two off the last one, one of each of two others, one re-recorded, all spectacular

Miracle of Science – Marshall Crenshaw – an extended version of his 1996 album, after regaining the copyright from the dreaded Razor And Tie. Nobody’s fave Crenshaw, it felt at the time like “Starless Summer Sky,” the Grant Hart song, and ten others. A lovely album but too many covers. Nearly a quarter of a century later, it is clearly as good as anything in his catalog and the addition of two new covers, as well as MC’s shaking up of the song placement, and releasing one song backwards, all works completely… what’s not to like?

Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar – Maya Beiser, Ambient Orchestra, Evan Ziporyn – the best Bowie tribute so far, Blackstar rearranged for cello

græ – Moses Sumney – While “Cut me” and “Me In Twenty Years” leads, nothing is left behind on this gorgeous modern pop triumph with singing to die for and a standard of songwriting that doesn’t waiver in over an hour of queer desire and intricate woven sounds for songs that deserve it. Contender for album of the year

I Am Not a Dog on a Chain – Morrissey –  For all his grumpy, Fox News watching, bad vibes, has always been a man you miss at your own risk. I Am Not a Dog on a Chain is his third album in four years, and it is as explicitly tired of growing old as you’d expect and it is beautifully sung  and beautifully produced: a widening of his sound that never seems to be wide enough

Un Canto por México, Vol. 1 – Natalia Lafourcade – based on the concert performed on November 4, 2019 called Un Canto por México for the reconstruction of the Son Jarocho Documentation Center, these are recorded versions of the songs the Veracruz indie Mexican singer performed, mostly Natalia originals that sound like old school Mexicana

Ordinary Man – Ozzy Osbourne – Ozzy Osbourne’s first album in ten years, Ordinary Man, is so good I would be especially excited to see him on stage at MSG, after rescheduling from June 2019 to June 2020, except he just cancelled. He has Parkinson’s Disease. On the strength of the heavy metal plus a plethora of featured artists the 70 year old Osbourne had at least one more tour left in him, and he has gone on the record to explain it isn’t the Parkinson’s but pinched nerves that have stopped him from touring so he might make it back (he was in fine form when Alyson met him last week here). Certainly, the Post Malone song is terrific and the lead off track a thundering beauty and the Travis Scott feature proves Ozzy is more than capable of integrating hip hop into his sound. Let’s hope we get one more sighting

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately – Perfume Genius – Mike Hadreas is a good songwriter who moves steadily closer to the pop mainstream and away from the secondary queer pop leveling. At its poppiest, the first song, “Whole Life”, it is fantastic and addictive, and at its most morose, the second song “Describe” it is borderline ambient, and when he goes real mainstream, the third song “Without You” is baroque pop, it is worth the ride

Glass: Piano Works – Philip Glass, Jenny Lin – Composed in the 00s, recorded in 2017, seeing the light of day now, Glass’s final study of his works with the great pianist Jenny Linn. If you find Glass too esoteric, try him out here and you won’t

Dry – Demos – PJ Harvey – I thought we were going to be getting To Bring You My Love demos (and we got Rid Of Me demos decades ago), still Dry is a great album, her first four albums remain untouchables, the Dry demos are as stripped bear as possible, “Sheela-Na-Gig” remains a slap in the face

Meet The Woo 2 – Pop Smoke -the crown prince of East Coast drill was as nasty and as violent as any on on this terrific little horror show, and then was murdered in a home invasion

Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon – Pop Smoke – Pop Smoke was murdered during a home invasion after he posted a picture of his LA mansion on his instagram feed which accidently included his address, he was 20 years old. Smoke was a deep throated rapper who took England’s drill scene, an even more violent take on grime, and brought it to New York and the US with the addictive “Gatti” and “Dior” and the “woooo” call. Without Pop Smoke New York Drill might stall the same way soundcloud rap did after Lil Peep and XXXtentacion passed (an overdose, shot dead -in case you’re keeping score at home), though there are a coupla disciples ready to take the helm and Fivio Foreign (the ay ay ay guy) first in line, as, following a coupla well received mixtapes, Smoke’s debut album Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon drops. Produced by 50 cents, the sound is Woo darkness and brutality and joined by a who’s woo of featured stars to whom 50 gives a dirty sound a clean production, jumping onto tracks after Pop SMoke’s death is my bet. Quavo shows up on three tracks, both Lil Baby and Dababy on another, and Latin pop star Karol G makes an appearance. I love the sound completely and I love Pop Smoke’s voice, but every time I concentrate on the riches bitches and glocks lyrics I can’t take em seriously. Still, this is a loss for the rap community of the first order and while one assumes there will more in vaults, this is a real album and a labor of love. Two of his best songs aren’t here, but “Dior” shows

Every Bad – Porridge Radio – “Sweet” was a huge breakthrough for the UK post punks earlier this year and they maintain it with some of the strongest and most obtuse post-punk songs, lead singer Dana Margolin performs a tour de force on quietly devastating songs for the end of times

Poems of the past – Powfu – “death bed (coffee for your head)” is bedroom pop’s coming of age, a place where the songs are so strong and in the moment they break out of genre. The 21 year old Canadian is an unlikely leader but I would guess Junior High School kids adore him, indeed any arrested development person might: sweet sad songs about death and heartbreak, just six, all great, and including a remake of “death bed” featuring blink-182

RTJ4 – Run The Jewels – Killer Mike and El-P – It isn’t about George Floyd but informed by the George Floyds that came before him, as the two try to lift the knee off the neck of Black Americans. Taken at a breakneck pace, the duo nail one roaring diss after another without failing the songs. A lot of highlights but “Ju$t” is huge and so is the jazzed out “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)” A perfect meeting of song and audience that defines what we listen to as an incendiary blast of full scale revolt

Gravity Insanity – Sam Huber – outstanding seven songs of state of the art r&b and soul that still sounds analog

Rare – Selena Gomez – Gomez’s best album is a post-heartbreak-health scare set of fast on its feet pop-dance tracks with a point of view

Old Time Feeling – S.G. Goodman – Americana country style and “Space And Time” is an instant classic that Patsy Cline would have been all about and nothing else comes close but how could it? It’s still a consistently, beautifully sung work that should break her somewhere or the other

Heart’s Ease – Shirley Collins – Shirley Collins is an English folk icon, now 85 years of age, carrying the tradition of the songs you imagine Alan-a-Dale playing in Sherwood Forest. Her second release since Shirley returned in 2014, this impeccable collection of English folk, including the best version of “Barbara Allen” you’ll hear, is a reminder that great songs don’t age

Ghosts of West Virginia – Steve Earle – his best since… El Corazon! From 1997, I had a ticket to the Public to see the play he wrote the songs for and it got cancelled (of course) and I am truly bumming right now as the ten songs from the “Coal Country” not at the Public and I am sure adds to a storyline about dirt under your fingernails and true working misery. I’ve never trusted Steve’s politics more

Live From Clear Channel Stripped 2008 – Taylor Swift – If nothing else, the Big Machine release of a 2008, acoustic Taylor Swift eight song radio performance is a clear reminder that her preeminence in the pop firmament is no fluke. It also proves she was better in 2008 than she is in 2020, that she hit a height and hasn’t maintained it due to following too deeply into her pop EDM sound. Taylor was eighteen at the time of this radio concert, promoting Fearless with an  internet only live show and it stands up so well; I’ve long felt Taylor turned too hard to pop with 1989 and has lost some of her artistry, this albums seems to prove that her songs stood up without any help from Max Martin, and Nathan Chapman (who produced everything up to Red, and co-wrote “Love Story”) and Liz Rose who co-wrote her debut and half of Fearless are missed. At eighteen, Taylor comes across as fully formed, though right now she is furious that after the $300M for the Big Machine label, the new owners of the label, Ithaca Holdings, are turning pop country into money. Along with Clear Channel, every album up to Reputation has a radio commentary special edition on streaming services

folklore – Taylor Swift – as the “cabin in candlelight” version of “Cardigan” proved, much as 1989 is what happens when you add Max Martin to Swift, good things but still clearly Swift.  this is what happens when you add Big Red Machine to Taylor: good things. but still clearly Swift

Down In the Bottom: The Country Rock Sessions 1966 – 1968 – The Everly Brothers – The Everly Brothers performed some of pop’s greatest songs and those late 50s, early 60s Felice and Boudleaux Bryant are impeccable… then they all but invented country rock and I love the country though not as crazy about the rock portion

Finding Harmony – The King’s Singers – King’s College Cambridge choir sounding absolutely gorgeous with full harmonies that Pentatonix can’t dream of, plus the Kesha and Ariana Grande covers just add depth and vision

Pleased To Meet Me (Deluxe Edition) – The Replacements – That is deluxe and not expanded. None of the six rough mixes are anything less than stellar and the actual box set has liner notes by my Creem editor and friend Bill Holdship, enough of a reason to shell out for the hard copy

Hidden Treasures – Volume 1 – The Seekers – I’m not sure what the concept is. How is “The Carnival Is Over” and “Georgy Girl” hidden? 27 songs, some rarities, a great “Waltzing Matilda” and if all you get is a reminder of how good the Australian folkies were, well, what does it matter if not everything is hidden?

Hate for Sale – Pretenders – former rock nyc editor Helen Bach swears it’s a masterpiece and she claims that Chrissie’s attitude to romance is as accurate a depiction of love from a woman of a certain age as you might hear. Me? I think she dropped all the best songs before the album was released and though it is great it still manages to be old already. The lick on “The Buzz” is killer

3 – The Weeklings – Forget the Easybeats and Beatle covers because you knew they were going to be great anyway, and settle into the harp solo and then realize that’s the Beatles cover. Elsewhere the four piece power poppers meet garage rockers can occasionally come over more the late great Neil Innes then Lennon And McCartney, and that actually improves the tight and taut set of songs from the best at what they do (not Beatles impressions, power pop) on their best release to date

After Hours (Deluxe) – The Weeknd – Abel seems incapable of fallow periods, two years ago the EP Melancholy, My Dear is that perfect blue period pop sorrow and all three singles leading up to the big reveal, including smash hit “Blinding Lights” plus the Saturday Night Live performed “Scared To Live,” a song so great it is worth the fortune he must have spent sampling “Your Song” has promised a major release and The Weeknd has provided the good news. After Hours is a pop opera of sorts, connected songs about love and romance (and a disastrous arrangement) in the club late, late, late at night. 14 songs in a little under an hour and they are relentless excellent, sometimes druggy and disconnected a la Beauty Behind The Madness, sometimes a melancholy dear sadness, and sometimes Starboy tech stuff but always connected through a vision of life and music that is quiet and distraught except when he breaks through. If these are anthems of pop restructuring, they play like musical truisms nthd

Trapped…In the Mess We Made – Tomás Doncker & The True Groove All-Stars – from “Church Burning Down” as a horrified singalong to “The Revolution” with Regina Bonelli on back up vocals as she wails over the coda, Doncker unpacks his 2015 classic The Mess We Made and captures a zeitgeist that feels beyond our grasp. “I’m calling bullshit on the revolution…” he claims and the Tik Tok generation would get it

Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project (Deluxe)  – Tomas Doncker – Adds one dub version and three live tracks from three different shows, to the already No New York blues triumph adding fans everyday

Power of the Trinity…a Slight Return – Tomás Doncker & The Global Soul Ensemble – Ethiopian pop meets True Groove black rage unharnessed, is the third of the Haile Selassie trilogy. It is less an entrance to Doncker, go with The Mess We Made if that’s what you want, and more a musical simmer where black funk meets African beats and vocal deep dives, and as a truly deep dive singer Mahmoud Abbas joins Doncker at Central Park’s Summerstage back in 2012 on “Ere Mela Mala”. As an added plus, you can hear the late Lael Summer all over the album: the hope is Doncker releases a box set of all three versions and includes a live album culled from the remarkable 2012 concert

Rejoice – Tony Allen, Hugh Masekela – world music giants, percussionist Tony and trumpeter Hugh jammed ten years ago, and here is the result: a Afrobeats and AFro-pop masters at work

Silver Tongue – TORRES – Torres is such a romantic, and on her first album for Merge, she is electrically, by which I mean sonically, strong and boundless. This isn’t the one for her, maybe the next, but she is getting close to breaking it down and finding herself in St. Vincent land of production heaven and a wonder of love. It’s all good and “Good Scare,” which opens the album, is hard not to put on repeat, but hang around for “Two Of Everything”

The Preserving Machine – Ultimate Fakebook – emo twenty years older and stronger

Heavy Light – U.S. Girls -coulda done with more bangers, but song for song that’ll be your only complaint on a very strong outing, almost the equal of Meghan Remy’s great breakthrough In A Poem Unlimited from 2018. “The piano classicism of “The Quiver To The Bomb” is something, almost at random, you might use to attune your ears. Maybe the Americana “Woodstock ’99”. No, wait, that first single “4 American Dollar” which seems to have escaped from a crossover disco track in 1979… hell, it all works

Street Shots 2020: Streets of Kingston – Various Artists – Reggae with beats, lots of reggae, lotsa beats but a touch difference than dancehall

The Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” (Live) – Various Artists – The acclaimed production with Eric Owens and Angel Blue is available to stream on Apple, superbly performed opera, they just simulcast it at movie houses, and it is still at the Met. Very good news they decided to release a recording of the opera

Saint Cloud – Waxahatchee – I saw Katie Crutchfield in Brooklyn back in 2015 and she put me to sleep, and ever since then I’ve been wary. Not any more: in any form of what constitutes a great album, Saint Cloud is a great album, 40 minutes of musical and emotionally connected pearls of songs as a trip through the States, with “Lilacs” vying for best song of the year so far on these spectacular Americana tracks. A full on, not to be missed masterpiece

New York At Night – Willie Nile – Talk about late career resurrections, Willie has been releasing an album a year since 2013 and they are all great, including this memory album (but was it when he wrote it) that takes us into the New York City if the late 1970s, intellectually, and sometimes musically

Heaven To A Tortured Mind – Yves Tumor Neon Future IV – Steve Aoki – it reminds me of Blood Orange, full on art soul with tons of stuff you just don’t expect, like the guitar solo on “Kerosense!”. This is his moment, a kitchen sink fusion r&b attitude added to art rock and ambient

Alphabetland – X – The legendary punk art band from L.A.’s first album of new material since 1993 isn’t as great as you’ve heard, the spoken word ending should be missed, and we heard the best song “Delta 88 Nightmare” last year and it was written in the 1970s, but with those caveats Exene and John are in great voice, Billy and D.J. are the great anchors they have always been, and nobody has aged just about at all with any Doe jonesing Americana jettisoned

Red Flu – Young M.A – She can really rap, she is one of the best around -it is simple as that. Young M.A. is not a part of a movement, she isn’t soundcloud or emo or Atlanta Trap. Rather, it is old school beats and backing tracks and first rate rapping about life during the pandemic

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *