The Early Bird: Top New Album Releases 6-5-20 – 6-11-20 Reviewed
As someone else noticed (I can’t remember where I read it, I’m afraid), despite some sprite featured artists the only hook Run The Jewels give to another is Mavis Staples glorious chorus on “Pull The Pin,” a highlight on career apex RTJ4 recorded back in 2019. Killer Mike and El-P and dropped it two days ago, just before the release date because, why wait with all the BS surrounding them. RTJ4 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 and while it may (hopefully) age fast, today it defines what we listen to as an incendiary blast of full scale revolt (Grade: A).
The other big album of the week is Dion’s late career, featured packed to the gills, electric blues thrillers, Blues With Friends. There are a couple of misteps, the Paul Simon one for Sam Cooke I coulda lived without, also the Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen song doesn’t happen, but the rest have moments of true blues powers, including the masterful guitar pyrotechnics of “Blues Comin’ On” with Joe Bonamassa and rising guitar hero Samantha Fish on “What If I Told You”. Moment for moment, a terrific entre into pop for the blues after all these years (Grade: A-) .
Over at singles, YG has the answer song to his epic and prescient “FDT” with the late great Nipsey Hustle) from March 2016 (aka the first of the songs calling POTUS out eight months before he was elected) with “FTP” which has the same hook but a different trigger, It isn’t NWA but at least it is today (Grade: A-). Still in protest mode, Bob Mould’s power pop punk righteousness on “American Crisis” is a gorgeous and angry distillation and Elvis Costello’s “No Flag” sounds like the guy we knew with the Roots a coupla years ago on the post-punk conflation of the personal and political, something of a hallmark at this moment in time (Grade: B). A coupla loosies, country popster Caroline Kole’s “Still Frames” is a full blown ballad with anthemic qualities (Grade: B+), Travis, the Scottish rockers from the 90s, return with “A Ghost,” a classic rockist proto- Brit Pop raver (Grade: B), Erasure dust off their synths 80s popping “Hey Now (Think I’ve Got A Feeling)” (Grade: B). Terrace makes you wonder how much Kendrick Lamar owes to him for his sound on the best song written specifically about this moment in Black Protest “Pig Feet,” which is where Robert Glasper hangs with Kendrick, and Denzel Curry and Daylyt perform industrial strength raps (Grade: A-).
Back on the album front, a coupla oldies. Frank Sinatra’s 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 sessions (Grade: A+). The Bowie Years is a 75 song return to Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums, both produced by Bowie, The Idiot and Lust For Life (and TV Eye Live -with Bowie on keyboards and backing vocals) though here we have four albums worth of live recordings (Grade: A-).
Strill albums, Paul Banks of Interpol’s latest supergroup Muzz (remember his work with SZA) with indie journeyman guitarist Josh Kaufman and Matt Barrick who played drums for Jonathan Fire*Eater -ground zero for Interpol, the singles off their eponymous debut bored with but through an album worth, Muzz’s Interpol put away their toys and pick up a guitar vibe pays off (Grade: B).
One last single, the legendary The Blind Boys Of Alabama’s “Stay On The Gospel Side” is a sweet sounding Americana from the singers who have been together since before the second world war, a nice enough song but a little laid back (Grade: B-)
Still Frames – Caroline Kole – B+
Blues With Friends – Dion – A-
No Flag – Elvis Costello – B
Hey Now (Think I’ve Got A Feeling) – Erasure – B
Nice ‘n’ Easy (2020 Mix) – Frank Sinatra – A+
The Bowie Years – Iggy Pop – A-
Muzz – Muzz – B
RTJ4 – Run The Jewels – A
Pig Feet (feat. Kamasi Washington, G Perico & Daylyt) – Terrace Martin, Denzel Curry, Kamasi Washington – A
Stay On The Gospel Side – The Blind Boys Of Alabama – B-
A Ghost – Travis – B+
FTP – YG – A-