The Early Bird: Top New Releases 11-15-19 – 11-22-19 Reviewed
The horror, the horror. Andrew Lloyd Webber is the pop opera impresario who is viewed as an ancestor of Verdi – a high culture for the teeming masses, though he is more a lightweight Gilbert And Sullivan. This was never truer on his single worse opera (musical), the execrable “Cats” -which will be arriving in movie houses near you just before Christmas. The coming attraction is a mix of fascinating and terrifying, though there isn’t much they can do about it except have Jennifer Hudson sing “Memories” at the top of her lungs. Taylor Swift also stars, and her single, “Beautiful Ghost,” a new arrival co-written by Taylor and Andrew, would fit in nicely on the new Celine Dion. Much more Andrew than Tay Tay, he offers one of his overthoughful, meandering melodies that undercuts its own skills. A full orchestra arrangement is overdone and bland, of course,it is no worse than anything else in the musical (Grade: C). Better, but truly besides the point, is the “Lover” remix featuring Shawn Mendes who takes a verse and harmonizes on the chorus, though the song is built for that stupendous bridge (“ladies and gentlemen will you please stand…” ) and keeps that hook for herself. Sure, I love it though it is really, really unnecessary (Grade: B+). Speaking of Shawn, the Shawn- Camila romance is stuck in the bright lights of social media, and therefore seems staged and as creepy as “Cats”. Camila began her solo career with two masterpieces, “Havana” and “Never Be The Same”, and has sucked exponentially since then. Now, she is touting her upcoming album, the direly named Romance. “Living Proof” is a low key, sweet enough EDM though nobody can get away with a line like “when you touch me, it’s like a Van Gough” (Grade: B). If Billie Eilish was 34, I would say stop whining and enjoy the ride, but she is 17 (18 on December 18th) so she has every reason to sing “everything I wanted”, ,about the vicissitudes of success in a world where everybody wants a piece of her, on her first release since the album. Billie finds comfort in her big brother though her listeners empathy might not be so great, it is too secluded an emotion and the song is on the minor side, but the production is a wonder of mood (Grade: B). I am patiently waiting for Jessie Reyez to reach the absolute upreaches of the pop firmament, her cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” is not going to do it, even though the vocal perfection and the coda terrific, she has one of those voices that imparts emotions into every single word she utters (last weeks “Honesty” Remix? Wow) (Grade: B+).
I can’t wait for the movie, till then the soundtrack of Lil Peep’s EVERYBODY’S EVERYTHING is much better than the first pst-death release, hits, obscurities, the Fall Out Boys collaboration, it is clearly the one Lil Peep album to get your hands on and while it doesn’t make the case (Peep died way too soon for a canon to emerge), it at least, clearly makes the case for the case (Grade: B+). As a rule of thumb, I loath black exploitation inspired by soundtracks, whether by Beyonce or Common, or Kendrick for that matter, so here is an exceptional exception Queen & Slim: The Soundtrack : “Yo Love” -the Vince Staples, 6lack, and Mareeba come together, is Vince’s best in years, and there is also a Syd solo, a Megan The Stallion as banging as you expected, and Lauryn Hill who seems to be getting her act together with her second great song in succession and more (Grade: B+). I certainly wasn’t crazy about the live action “Lady And The Tramp” on Disney+, for one thing it is not inclusion but cultural bullshit to suggest that a black wife and a white husband would go unnoticed at the turn of the century Northeast. The soundtrack is mostly incidental music but hang loose for Janelle Monae’s excellent version of “He’s A Tramp” -not Peggy Lee but who is? We don’t get her second song on streaming … (Grade: C-) . The return of Celine Dion uses updated production values and while there is no “My Love Will Go On,” it is no worse than you’d expect from a thumpy 808 behind the populist, on Courage, her first album of new songs since 2013 (Grade: C-). I preferred Aphex Twin’s near the start of their career so if you prefer the great electronic progenitor near the start of his career, you will probably admire Peel Session 2 – recorded in 1995, as much as I do… I’d love to get my hands on that Warp Box Set (Grade: A-). Maybe those Christian Contemporary guys have worn me down, after not dissing Hillsong’s last release, I am not going to diss Bethel Music’s lovely instrumental Without Words: Genesis, it truly helps not hearing people scream their devotion down your ears (Grade: C+). Maria Taylor has been on fire all decade, and despite an updated production sound that wasn’t necessarily necessary , her eponymous third album of the decade deals with marital realities while inducting her toddler pre-teen son (on piano!) in the family business. There is nothing close to a bad song here (Grade: A-)
One more thing, Joe Steinhardt (of Don Giovanni Records), who records by the name Modern Hut, gave me an advance copy of his follow up to the brilliant Generic Gift from 2013, Amos. I don’t know when he is going to release it, and I promised not to review it, and I won’t except to claim it as a true follow up with more anti-folk even as it bursts through different genres.
Peel Session 2 – Aphex Twin, Warp Records – A-
Without Words: Genesis – Bethel Music – C+
everything i wanted – Billie Eilish – B
Living Proof – Camila Cabello – B
Courage – Celine Dion – C-
Crazy – Jessie Reyez – B+
EVERYBODY’S EVERYTHING – Lil Peep – B+
Maria Taylor – Maria Taylor – A-
Beautiful Ghosts – From The Motion Picture “Cats” – Taylor Swift – C
Lover (Remix) [feat. Shawn Mendes] – Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes – B+
Queen & Slim: The Soundtrack – Various Artists – B+