The Early Bird: Top New Releases 4-10-20 – 4-16-20 Reviewed
As New York Mayor Bill de Blasio might put it, there is a famine of new material being given to the paying public, this week the quarantining of new releases dovetails with a white canvas and while the world of pop isn’t dead or, if you’ll excuse the phrase, on respirators, it isn’t doing what it needs to do: feed the beast of isolated individuals looking for new sounds in huge numbers. Which is one reason I haven’t mentioned for the lack of streaming music frenzy. For instance, today you could have rented the new Trolls movie for $20, or streamed the album…
What there is starts with the enormously inconsistent album artists, the Stroke. With the exception of their debut album, the Strokes have never maintained it for forty minutes. It’s been fourteen years since “Once In A Life” and in the interim they’ve gone from bad to worse and, indeed, Julian Casablanca’s solo career as well as his other band, The Voidz are better. Of the three singles already released from this latest The New Abnormal only one was killer. It is easy to assume that The New Abnormal is more of the same, three dogs, four whatevers, and two good ones to slot into the live show. Actually, the good ones are more like four, with “The Adults Are Talking” -a typical post-punk meets glammy New York rock vibe, literally leading the way and for every hard sag, “Eternal Summer” followed by “At The Door” almost sinks the sucker, there’s a “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus”. Plus ending an album with a turkey like “Ode To The Mets” is soooo New York (Grade: B).
Speaking of single artists, Charli XCX has only ever done it over a single since her feature on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” seven years ago, so take the raves with a pinch of salt except for the Phil Spector wall of sound arrangement of electronic pop that is the gorgeous “forever” and suggest something I missed, her pop artistry can cut very deep (Grade:B+), Phoebe Bridgers is another artist that stinks of overrated: all I’ve ever heard from her that has blown me away is “Motion Sickness”, so with its strange Asian feel in its DNA and a lovely horn solo by Bright Eyes’ Nathaniel Walcott, she is better than we had any right to expect (Grade: B). Toni Braxton has a terrific vocal on “Do It” but otherwise the soul woman’s song is up to nothing (Grade: C+), the problem with Usher is his reputation never recovered from being a walking STD and so he fell out of his moment completely, “sexbeat” -featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris, should be an all out banger, instead it is a slow burn snooze (Grade: C). In 2016 E=40 released 80 songs and since then the West Coast art rapper has been less prolific, and this year, as anybody who is performing anything but trap hails his influence, he has been quite quiet with “Go” low key and strong pure rap flow and flowing right over beats to the chorus which is clipped and crushed and backing harmonies which are mostly completely unique, his first release of the year (Grade: B+). Gregory Porter is at his peak with “Thank You” -a jazz, swing romantic sweetie of a song (Grade: B+). Speaking of pop stars who kinda blew their credibility (remember? Usher), Kenny Chesney never recovered from his aborted marriage to Renée Zellweger and that ten gallon hat began to look awful suspect, “Knowing You” is a crappy country ballad (Grade: D+).
Staying with country, John Anderson’s new album, Years, his first in five years, is a true bore and I blame the king midas in reverse producer Dan Auerbach: like Jack White and Jeff Tweedy, every old school master they attempt to resuscitate come out the worse for it. Sure, John can still sing and sure some people might like a song like “Celebrate” and if you do you might make it through the album but I find the whiny strings and skip to my lou Jesushead prettiness somewhat awful. It is just a tremendously tedious enterprise and a pity (Grade: C-). There was always the possibility that witty and viciously right on “Girl In A Country Song” would tie Maddie and Tae into a novelty vibe they can’t get out of. Didn’t happen. Five years later, the harmony strong twosome’s sophomore effort The Way It Feels is a strong collection, the duo co-wrote the album with a handful of pros but it always feels like the witty, and ebullient women at work (Grade: B+). I can’t wait to see the new Trolls movie though I assume it will be painful, it will sure kill a coupla hours, not unlike the soundtrack, As indifferent as TROLLS World Tour (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is, better Anderson Paak and Parliament than “Can’t Stop The Feeling” (Grade: C+).
Finally, the shelter at home present doesn’t make an appearance till this single where Twenty-One Pilot’s first track in two years is a pop rock indie r&b that tackles a sense of unease with a great couplet on “Level Of Concern”: “would you be my little quarantine or is this the way it ends?”
forever – Charli XCX – B+
Go – E=40 – B+
Thank You – Gregory Porter – B+
Years – John Anderson – C-
Knowing You – Kenny Chesney – D+
The way It Feels – Maddie And Tae – B+
Kyoto – Phoebe Bridgers – B
The New Abnormal – The Strokes – B
TROLLS World Tour (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – TROLLS World Tour, Trolls – C+
Level Of Concern – Twenty-One Pilot – B+
SexBeat – Usher, Lil Jon, Ludacris – C