The Early Bird: Top New Releases 11-23-18 – 11-29-18 Reviewed
So much Christmas, no little time. Spotify Singles, recorded especially for the streaming service, stuck fifteen songs on our doorstep, from Anderson .Paak, through Joan Jett, to Tony Bennett and Diana Krall, and I was considering reviewing em all but 1) you don’t pay me enough and 2) they are released as 15 singles so what a pain? Consider them an album, Joanie’s “Little Drummer Boy” -she released a version as a B Side back in the 80s and I loved it then, is fun, especially the yelp, the worst is Tony and Diana doing what they seem solely capable of, absolutely nothing with “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. Best of all is a woman I don’t know doing a song I haven’t heard, Fenne Filey’s “In The Bleak Of Winter” (Grade: B-).
But it is a quiet sort of a week, the sort of week that makes me wish I had slept in today. Rita Ora’s long, long, long awaited sophomore album, Phoenix, is better than her 2012 first, a pure EDM girl singer with some of that Charli XCX-Halsey, one person against the constructs of pop girlieism. It is too long, of course, but some of it is cracker and “Your Song” (not that one) is worth another listen (Grade: B). Speaking of long breaks between albums, Art Brut’s Top Of The Pops was released in 2013, the latest is more of the same, and the same it is is good, plus, despite Eddie Argos claim that this is not his Rumors or Blood On The Track, that is exactly what Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock out! is (Grade: B+). It has been fourteen years since Cliff Richard’s last album of new material, and the US cares so much good luck finding it anywhere but on Youtube, but Rise Up is a great album and doesn’t have the sort of summation feel you might assume from a 78 year old man who has spent 60 of em as a rock and roll god (Grade: B+).
Earlier this year, Lake Street Dive’s Free Yourself Up deserved a better fate, but if it didn’t click what chance does their even better, country, Americana, soul EP Freak Yourself Out have? (Grade: A-). Jaden Smith is a fascinating character, as is his sister, art brut in the original sense, he circles hip hop and keeps on derailing it, not bad for Hollywood royalty, The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story is gorgeous art pop hip hop stuff (Grade: B) .
Back to singles, Billie Eilish’ “come out and play ” is a very soft sung singer songwriter beauty, from the sixteen year old superstar and hero of girls of all ages. 2017 was her breakthrough year, this is perhaps her best song to date, a beautiful acoustic, slightly sleepy, story of friendship and hope, written with her brother, for Apple’s Christmas campaign -O know, what the hell, right? (Grade: A-). Mike Posner’s problems is he is good for one great song every five years or so and it hasn’t been five years since “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” and his “Stuck In The Middle” doesn’t cut it (Grade: C+). If you aren’t sick of grime’s inability to crack the States, try Wiley’s “Flip The Table Freestyle,” this man has flow to spare here, his annunciation sparkles and moves fast and smooth (Grade: B+).
OK, so a disappointing week after 11-16, but not terrible.
Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock out! – Art Brut – B+
come out and play – Billie Eilish – A-
Rise Up – Cliff Richard – B+
The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story – Jaden Smith – B
Freak Yourself Out – Lake Street Dive – A-
Stuck In The Middle – Mike Posner – C+
Phoenix – Rita Ora – B
Spotify Christmas Singles – Various Artists – B-
Flip The Table Freestyle – Wiley – B+