The Early Bird: Top New Releases 1-31-20 – 2-6-20

Written by | January 31, 2020 9:21 am | No Comments

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The year has been about singles mostly, but this week is about albums. Drive-By Truckers haven’t released a great song since “Shit Shot Counts, and their POTUS protest album, The Unravelling, doesn’t change a thing. Not only is the rottenly prosaic “Babies In Cages” something that really should not be written without greatness in its DNA, and certainly not with singers like Patterson and Cooley, who can’t do rage to save their lives. Or save ours.  Having said that, any protests is better than none and there are a handful of good songs and an occasional axiom (“you can’t see the rabbit from the hat” ) and settle in again and then “Heroin Again” and all you can think is, can’t they find a rhyme for oxycontin? And really, requiem for a dream? Surely there’s enough real horrors without quoting movies? The playing is consistently excellent but it’s not enough (Grade: B-). Speaking of protest, Jah Wobble has brought together PiL except for Johnny for the thoroughly repelled A Very British Coup four song EP, featuring Mark Stewart of the post-punk synth agitators The Pop Group, and three from Jah himself (Grade: B+). Still in the 80s(ish), Soft Cell’s Marc Almond remains a dramatic, impassioned deliverer of gothic soul nightmares on Chaos and a Dancing Star (Grade: B). The final One Direction, Louis Tomlinson, releases a bland boy band album on Walls with moments here and there, try “Defenceless” if you must (Grade: C)

Back in the states, Meghan Trainor misjudged her skills, she thought she was a bombshell popstar and she was only half right -giving up her unique and amusing songs about the real world of romance for songs by committee. At her worse (the Nicki Minaj feature doesn’t cut it) TREAT MYSELF needs to be better, but there is enough oldschool Trainor, “Funk” is a beat worthy and clever workout, to make it pretty good (Grade: B-). Finding a middle ground between Ke$ha (featured on one song!) and Kesha, High Road  was announced by the thrilling Big Freedia blasting “Raising Hell” and the album, though much better on the dance tracks then on the ballads, is consistently fun (Grade: B+).

Over at the singles, Billy Ray Cyrus performs a middling but not unpleasant “I Am… I Said” (Grade: B). Even for Bowie himself, it is easier to cover Tin Machine than David Bowie, and “Baby Universal” which I completely forgot from the clearly underestimated Tin Machine 2, is even better here than it was on the original (Grade: B). Two memento moris, Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch’s “Letter To Nipsey” has two good rappers as heart felt as can be (Grade: B), the other is Chief Keef’s re-release of 2012’s  “Kobe” which is the Laker as metaphor for best (Grade: B). H.E.R. is quite possible the best new singer of the past two years (though she’s been at it since she was fourteen), “Sometimes”  is a piano and acoustic build soul song a beauty from a woman who is at that time and place where she can do no wrong (Grade: A).  Taylor Swift gets political on the not inaccurate “Only The Young,” and who cares? Except it is an exceptionally strong track, better than anything except maybe “Miss Americana” and “Lover” on her last album, and with the subtlest of hooks (the pause between “young” and “run”) (Grade:B+) .

One major release that I am not ready to discuss in detail  yet is Lil Wayne’s feature packed Funeral. I saw him last year opening for Blink 182 and was very disappointed but on first listen, here he taps right into emorap sing speak (hardly a shocker from the once upon a time rocker) and his flow when he raps is very strong… still listening but my feeling is it is much better than Tha Carter V (Grade: B+)

I Am… I Said – Billy Ray Cyrus – B

Kobe – Chief Keef – B

Baby Universal ’97 – David Bowie – B

The Unravelling – Drive-By Truckers – C+

Sometimes – H.E.R. – A

A Very British Coup EP – Jah Wobble – B+

High Road – Kesha – B+

Letter To Nipsey (feat. Roddy Ricch) – Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch – B

Funeral – Lil Wayne – B+

Walls – Louis Tomlinson – C

Chaos And A Dancing Star – Marc Almond – B

TREAT MYSELF – Meghan Trainor- B-

Only The Young – Featured in Miss Americana – Taylor Swift – B+

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