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2016: Best Albums Through June 30th, 2016

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Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper – Part of me thinks, the Junior Varsity Yeezus, but so what? How bad can that be? A perfect Gospel album about the birth of his daughter and making his baby mama his fiancee and and perhaps his wife. The purest and happiest album of the week, the month… the year?

The Life Of Pablo – Kanye West – It lacks concentration and sometimes the lyric gets clunky,and it is still is the best piece of music you’ll hear this year.

Blackstar – David Bowie – We’ve heard four of the five songs before and there is nothing approaching the old touch, but it sounds like nothing else you’ll hear this year, a trip hop beat, skronk jazz doomsday scenario.

Malibu – Anderson Paak – is a concept album about surfing in Pre–Vietnamese War Malibu before it sidesteps into a self portrait, peaking very very high and maintaining it with only an occasional falter on this state of the art hip hop triumph. “Come Down” a masterpiece and the The Game and Talib Kweli are fine featured artists

Bloom Forever – Thomas Cohen – Heartbreaking songs about the death of his wife Peaches Geldof-Cohen, with the gloom seldom moving. A brave and powerful statement of intense personal loss

Talking Quietly Of Anything With You – Free Cake For Every Creature – An out of left field contender for album of the year, Katie Bennett has released a flawless collection of self-realizing lo fi art pop strum and dream pop strokes. Astounding stuff with not a bad moment in the entire collection and the lick which doubles as a hook on the single is only beaten by the literally atmospheric “First Storm Of The Summer” . Plus best band name ever

American Tunes – Allen Toussaint – The great pianist died last November and this final album isis a more than fitting farewell. Jazz inflected piano based songs from the likes of Professor Longhair and (!)Paul Simon (the title track). The terrific Rhiannon Giddens adds her voice to two Duke Ellington songs and the entire enterprise is topped off by a smooth and elegant instrumental on his signature “Southern Nights”. The perfect conclusion to a glorious career

The Dreaming Room – Laura Mvula – This isn’t neo soul, it is art soul. And so was her first album which was a goodie but this is more than that. “Show Me Love” is so strange and off center and emotionally fulfilling, it is one of those cases where you can’t believe your ears. You have to listen again. And Nan, a taping of a phone conversation between Laura and her deeply religious Grandmother should be majorly precious and it isn’t incredibly enough. If those are highlights, constant listening is rewarded in coloration and details, in the sharpest of orchestrations and the most distinct and unique songs crea

I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It -The 1975 – This is the best album of the week because it is the most ambitious album of the week, and it hangs together as a concept album, though not in a story bound way. For 1975, it will break them hugely in the US: this will make them big, big stars here and while it isn’t as great as we think it is (it lacks the consistency of greatness), in 2016 has the stamina and stature of a masterclass in rock pop self-consciousness

Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic – The Gotobeds – The problem is there is no “New York Sucks” to take you by surprise and strategy. But once you’ve said that, everything else about it is the definition of a great sophomore album. The DNA is the same, but songs like “Red Alphabet” define the aging process for bands who have just signed to a major indie like Sub Pop. It is the same only better, it rocks but not to distraction, willing to stagger in place when it feels like while it sheds and merges its post-punk influence

Fire – Amy Klein – Where punk sensibility, feminist idealistic grrrl self confidence and a classic rock sensibility meet up to pull a major variation on the rock and roll anthem. It is like Sleater Kinney without the quirkiness, it plays itself straight and therein lies the variant

Patch the Sky – Bob Mould – He reminds me more and more of Van Morrison in the 90s, consistent excellence on album after album, this is his ninth of the century, third of the decade, and it is quite as good as, say, Beauty And Ruin. You get the feeling he could do it forever, and really any writer with a song as great as “Pray For Rain” buried in the middle here somewhere, deserves to do it forever

What I’m Feelin’ – Anthony Hamilton- Back with producer Mark Batson, this is Hamilton’s masterpiece, old school meets new school, state of the art r&b moving from trap to Gospel to 80s soul, unified by his powerful Southern fried tenor. The first two songs are so perfect they are the best start of a record this year

Side Pony – Lake Street Dive – A dance, a haircut, an attitude, and a ton of pop and blue eyed soul songs about sex.

Mind of Mine – Zayn – If the weeknd joined One Direction, learnt to sing as well as Malik, and then fired everybody and rearranged their last album, you’d have this statement of intent. At its best, which would definitely include the Farsi language “Flower”, it is quite excellent and at its worse, Zayn always has that falsetto to get him through. Yes, I think Naughty Boy should’ve produced it, but that is probably my biggest complaint

When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired – Mothers – Somewhere between Americana, indie, folk and singer songwriter, lies this compelling and intensely depressing set of songs by Kristine Leschper. Downbeat, lo fi, but not mellow, there is a sense of mutated strings hovering and ready to die

Full Circle – Loretta Lynn – 12 years after her disappointing Jack White produced album, this is a superb collection of recorded oldies and brand new tracks, with Loretta completely timeless on sweet agro “Fist City” and agro sweetness “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven”. There’s a special place in heaven for the Elvis Costello duet ,”Everything It Takes”

Upland Stories – Robbie Fulks – Steve Crawford recently told me that this is what everybody said the last Jason Isbell album was. Nice line, I thought, but I’ll be the judge. Crawford is right, of course, the journey alt country stalwart journeyman Fulks has released the album we’ve been waiting for. It starts at the top with the flawless “Alabama At Night” and it falls from there because it has no choice, but it never falls far

Give Me A Groove EP – Charlie Funk – Funk is a paid up member of the True Groove Funk EP, but he is more than that: on this debut EP he surges through with an indelible personality, a glammy pop front man with sex and style. “Sexy Cutie” is a an All Stars showstopper, “It’s Not A Joke” a horn riddled mood funk, “Lunch In Babylon” art rock and the title track the national anthem

Aa – Baauer – Electronica is to EDM what Americana is to country, and I wasn’t crazy about Baauer’s novelty hit from 2013 “Harlem Shake” to start with. Still, Baauer is about as good as you’re gonna get at this stuff, the opening track “Church” is all alchemic uplift and while it spends too much time spinning its wheels, much like the album there is payoffs. Anybody up adds M.I.A. to K-Pop master G-Dragon and make it better than you thought it would be, on one song, and Pusha T with Future (who finds the perfect Macklemore dis) on another, isn’t your average novelty or your average electronic DJ

Empire Builder – Laura Gibson – The Portland folkie who came out of the same scene that gave us The Decemberists, has crafted a set of songs about transience, small diamond shaped beauties that all do their job exceedingly well, if what they want to do is make you sigh softly underneath your breath

KINGSIZED – Dressy Bessy – Indie meets power pop with so many catchy melodies? You’d be excused for wondering what century it is. At first it’s a shocker but a little more research finds Dressy Bessy part of the Elephant Six Collective and Apples Of Stereo’s John Hill on guitar. But don’t let the marquee dazzle you, this is Tammy Ealom’s tough and girlie vocals album to hit or miss and she doesn’t miss once

Big Day In A Small Town – Brandy Clark – The follow up to 12 Stories, is an additional 11 stories by the best of the new breed of country girl songwriters who have paid their due and become singers as well. The quality of writing here simply can’t be higher, there isn’t a dud in the pack, and it makes her contemporaries seem like also rans. It might not be fair to use Brandy to beat on Kacey Musgraves (who she has written with) or newbies like Maren Morris, but it is just about irresistible. “The Girl Next Door” has levels upon levels while rocking righteously

Milestones – Chrisette Michelle – After breaking with Def Jam, this is Michelle’s first album as an independent, and the hip hop go to singer Queen of the hook, has fashioned a very fine r&b album for adults, sounding oddly un-rap and more mainstream Divaish. “Steady” is  Rihanna with a much better singer

untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar – Demos that never made it on to To Pimp A Butterfly, and since I was in the minority who thought Pimp was good not great, and since this is a Mix Tape type release, it should be worse, but it isn’t. Less is more, it is clear, uncluttered, deeply imaginative rap songs. And on the sixth track, you might be convinced he can find the space between raindrops.

Death Of A Bachelor – Panic! At The Disco – better than Fall Out Boy, and that includes the execrable “Victorious”. For sure, “Crazy=Genius” is the best song you’ve ever heard that name checks Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson and puns on “mike, love” and the best song ever about being 28 and peering down the loaded gun of 30. And then it gets really good.

Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites – Mark Kozelek – Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon lead singer covers glorious songs like “Moon River” and “Something Stupid” with immaculate precision and a glorious tenor both dramatic and understated

The Heart Speaks In Whispers – Corinne Bailey Rae – The thing about time is that it doesn’t stop and you can either follow it or you can be left behind. Corinne follows it on these songs of new romantic exercise, sweeter, and more light hearted (and nearly as good as) than her last one, The Sea. I guess that’s what new love can do

Anti – Rihanna – The kick is, this is a drug induced, unfocussed, mess of an album. But the only mistake is one of omission, “Bitch Better Have My Money” should’ve been included. Only “Desperado” from the first six tracks are open to debate, the ballads are pretty good, the fast ones better, and Trevor a bigger aid than Chris Brown, though not than Jay Z

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson – Various Artists – The Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams performances are sublime

The Lexicon Of Love II – ABC – Given the decades between them, II isn’t bad, actually it is kinda like Star Wars VII, it is similar without being the same, but not exactly great and missing something somewhere in the mix. I loved VII and I love LOLII, just not as much as I wish I did

Konnichiwa – Skepta – The Grime superstar’s latest is the sine qua non of the form, a straight up state of the art Grime album, one well executed track after another. Wiley makes an appearance on the fame ain’t what you think it is, even if every day is Saturday on “Corn On The Cob”, Pharrell is on the what must be the single “Number”

Avocet – Bert Jansch – A re-release of the late Scottish folkie’s 1979 instrumental classic… a complete delight, especially the seventeen minute title track – A

Wild Stab – The I Don’t Cares – After a couple of disappointing songs last year, this seemed like it was gonna be na alt rock star circle jerk, but Paul Westerberg is too good a writer and every time he takes the lead is magical and even when he doesn’t Juliana Hatfield is up to it. A delightfully swift witted, fast on its feet rock triumph

You Are Going To Hate This – The Frights – Sophomore effort is killer, it would be of interest for only its doo wop meets punk “All I Need”, but they sustain the sound for thirty minutes with invariably excellent results

Emily’s D+evolution – Esperanza Spalding – Her fifth album finds the excellent jazz bassist with all powers still in tact. The hour long deluxe version is a flawless exercise in modern jazz singing

Vices et Mensonges – Violence Conjugale – French post punks who when they buckle down makes the language sound as vicious as the beats, a true rarity. A true rarity as well? It sounds like it is good enough to be from the US or the UK. French EDM we know, even French rap, but French industrial post punk rock? Well, well! Mais ca plane pour moi

Wonderful Crazy Night – Elton John – No, this isn’t Don’t Shoot me, I’m Only The Piano Player, but at 68 years of age Elton still has the old skills to call on from time to time, around half this album is really really good. And though the world might well ignore it, it is still a fine piece of proto-glam piano pop

Wynonna & The Big Noise, – Wynonna & The Big Noise – Big Red is back with, with he exception of a Christmas album and a Greatest Hits, her first new disk in 13 years ,With featured appearances from Jason Isbell, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks, she takes her small and powerful band through a raucous, sing your guts out ride, that never lags, Christ Stapleton co-wrote the Tedeschi opener

New York Is My Home – Dion – The title track with Paul Simon is killer and the rest of it is no better or worse than a typical Dion blues album

Colleen Green EP – Colleen Green – New England’s answer to Bethany Cosentino without the Brian Wilson jones, this EP has six songs and they are all great, including the lyrics, she might not want to go to the disco, but she would be quite at home there

Porta Bohemica – Trixie Whitley – Anyone who has heard Trixie play guitar might have wanted a bluesier exercise, but what we got was an album as influenced by Daniel Lanois’s Oh Mercy field of sounds as it is by the blues or by long journeys (the Porta Bohemica is a European Orient express). Where it leads to is the deepest of emotional black holes, a place so quiet it is ineluctable, and ends up just being the sound of blue piano keys, secretively

COLLEGROVE – 2 Chainz – Lil Wayne is all over this fine rap collaboration, all good, some real fun, and “Rolls Royce Weather Every Day” a reminder how much better their life is to ours

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter – Margo Price – She might wanna think about writing less stories, when she goes in deep she loses me. And sure, this deeply influenced by ’70s country gals needs to be better to survive the comparisons, still I’ll take “How The Mighty Have Fallen” over “Merry Go Round” any time you choose

The Very Last Day – Parker Millsap – A modern day Jason Isbell, and this might break Parker big time

New View – Eleanor Friedberger – I was expecting a goodie, the coupla songs I’d heard were all aces, but this goes a touch too Lillith Fest before it ends. At its best there is an addictive tunefulness and a hard headed singer to pull em through . Shout out to that guitar solo on “Because I Asked You”

In The Magic Hour – Aoife Donovon – If Donovan is a journeyman vocalist and an Brooklyn indie stalwart, she is one whose time has come on this immaculately sung and arranged modern singer songwriter album, that summons Joni, but doesn’t stay there

Feed The Fire – Promise And The Monster – this is Billie Lindahl, who exude an enthralling ghostly sensuality on song after song

Masterpiece – Big Thief – The title track is something of a masterpiece itself, as Big Thief lead singer Adrianne Lenke sad and sorry singer comes to terms with life without her best friend. Everything else here is nearly as good in a indie rock pop singer songwriter Saddle Creek sort of way – B+

Impulse – Boyfrndz – If this is modern prog rock, deal me in. Huge songs, arranged into layers of pulsating sound, that pulse and hum from one hard riff and one melodic impulse to another by this big time Austin rock band

On Your Feet – Original Broadway Cast – I enjoyed the musical and I enjoy this Cast album more than “Hamilton” and “American Psycho” combined. Why? Because Gloria Estefan sang real songs so we get to hear real songs

Skilled Mechanics – Tricky – Former trip hop superstar, the Tricky kid is on his game with these funky rhythm beat tracks. But then he is always on his game and if this sounds like more of the same, it is more of the same of something no one else has ever done . “Don’t Go” is a blueprint tricky track

Love Letter For Fire – Sam Beam, Jesca Hoop – I’ve never much enjoyed Iron And Wine, they are a little too sincere for my tastes, and by little I mean a lot. But this album is quieter and smarter, a steady series of extremely skilful Americana which echoes The Civil Wars from a great distance

The Traveller – Baaba Maal – Senegal superstar foes electronica, that’s the short story. The large story is if there were more songs that rocked out with the persuasiveness of “Fulani Rock”, this would be the big time crossover he has been striving for since forever

The Long Way Home – Show Of Hands – If this is UK American, which it isn’t, or English folk, though without the clever clever of Fairport Convention, which it is, it is awful good

Views – Drake – Better than I initially thought, it takes awhile to sink in, and yes, it is a little boring, but the sound is very much what Drake does and after awhile you can hear it through the gloom

Let Me Get By – Tedeschi Trucks Driver – Not so fast with the Jam Band Crown abdicated by the Allman Brothers.. While the soul songs are fabulous, the Americana songs are nothing much, the quirk tracks odd though not unpleasant and the blues a drag till the solo kicks em over … maybe they should follow Eat A Peach’s lead and do a half live, half studio effort

We Are King – King – We were expecting great things from these soulful LA singers, and four years after “The Story” we got it. If you’ve heard the hype, believe it: these are three sisters who were great when I saw their showcase years ago, and while the production is overdone, they sing deep harmonies and improve everything they touch

The Ghost Of Highway 20 – Lucinda Williams – The mother of all daddy issues, Lucinda was sent reeling at the passing of her poet daddy Miller Williams a year ago, and this is pretty much a memento mori from a woman who can drag on and on at the best of times. Still, 2014’s double album Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone was pretty good, the tour was even better and if this goes on a bit, when she nails it, the terrific “Place In My Heart”, it makes up for a Springsteen with change to spare

Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig – Museum Mouth – First rate power pop punk tracks, filled with energy and explosions, hard to find a bad track, maybe “Riff From My Head” is a little obvious.Or a best track, maybe “Lacquer”. Somewhere in the middle lies the rest on this early Los Campesinos vocal sound alike rock out

Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like… The problem here is Gwen is eleven years older and she will never surprise us again the way she did with her first solo album, the EDM craftier pop masterpiece Love, Angel, Music, Baby. Having said that, this crafty pop quasi-biographical chart potentate moves are better than her last No Doubt and solo albums combined. It doesn’t matter in the slightest

Johannesburg – Mumford And Sons – The mini album is another South Africa gumboots meets Western singer songwriter in folk drag, classic rockists. Five songs, one a cover, all great, “Wona” a positive ID on “Gumboots” is best on record, but they don’t capture the magic beauty rockism of the live “There Will Be A Time” here. Kudos to all, especially Beatenberg test, but it sounds great

Magical Solutions To Everyday Struggles – Telstar Sound Drone – Via Copenhagen, this sounds like a Primal Scream steal, the way the new Primal Scream sounds like a Primal Scream steal, only a lot better. “Mentes De Ácido”called it “Velvet Underground covering ‘Tomorrow Never Knows'” and who am I to disagree? “Drugs Work” is one of the best songs of the week

Live At Easy Street – The Sonics – A live album from 2015 by these old school garage rockers who just get better and better…. down and dirty rollicking rocker after down and dirty rollicking rocker and hats off to the sax player on “Boss Hoss”

Fun’s Cool – The Prettiots – half of this duo is Lulu Landolfi, of Care Bears On Fire, who once blew me away opening for Titus Andronicus, and another former member of whom started a great band that disappeared, Claire’s Diary. These guys are smart tuneful, very funny and remarkably cool, somewhere between tongue in cheek and tongue in mouth

Standards – Into It. Over It. – Emo singer songwriter Evan Weiss may have been this good all along and I missed it, or this may be a personal best, but either way the quality of songwriting here, even the more angular “No EQ”, the bluesier “Who You Are Does Not Equal What You Are”, and definitely the Elvis Depressedly all grow up ish “Closing Arguments”, are good enough for me to assume he hasn’t done it before

Kindness For Weakness – Homeboy Sandman – If rap, as opposed to hip hop, is your scene, this guy raps very well, the voice could be stronger, but the slow and the rhymes are immaculate. If Grime came from the States it might sound like this. “Real New York” is terrific

Mi Vicio y Mi Adiccion – Kevin Ortiz – Latin pop but with less ballads and more horns and bop than you’re used to

American Appetite – Harriet – Dawes’ former keyboard player Alex Casnoff’s new band Harriet have something Dawes never had, astounding consistency. This is Socal indie pop with an eye on the 70s, but willing to ignore the 70s and go its own way. An occasional misstep, the title track is too clever for its own good, is more than made up with by first rate rocker “Inheritance”

Hopelessness – ANOHNI – I’ve always loved Anthony’s voice and it is the best thing about this crossover to the mainstream attempt, gone is the Bon Iver in skirts vibe, replaced by gorgeous blue eyed soul textured pop maneuvers. “Watch Me” may be the song of the week.

Daydream – Empty Houses  – From the opening drum roll -as pure a stick on skin as you’ll hear, bending towards a “Twist And SHout” shout out and then a Motown sideways jolt into a fine pop song, you know this Indie pop band have their own agenda. From there they mine 60s pop for the modern age with creativity and passion

Creon – Rorcal – Death metal has never been so symphonic, it sounds like a thunderstorm at sea, waves and waves of hugeness flowing over you, drowning in sound. Quite something – B+

Back On My Wall – Burnt palms – So modern punk pop, which this nominally is, sounds a whole lot like Bangles jangle, which this certainly does

Wolves of Want – Bent Shapes – Boston indie rockers, with a post-punk feel and a way with a song, actually quite a few songs, this is a straightforward beauty of an album. Simply but effective rock pop and “Realisation Hits” is as good as it gets

New Misery – Cullen Omori – First I hated Smith Western, then I loved them, and now their vocalist has gone solo with this singer-songwriter confessional indie album (on Sub Pop) and I admire him at least from a distance. “And Yet The World Still Turns” is lo fi symphonic dream pop – B+

Hot Sauce – The Madcaps – If they’re meant to be funny, this French bands humor doesn’t travel, but if they are meant to be straight up no chaser garage rock, they do it well

I Long To See You – Charles Lloyd and The Marvels – saxophonist Lloyd’s new band play fresh arrangements of rock, folk, jazz, hey is that country and western, pop hits, sometimes a Gregory Porter or a Norah Jones adds vocals

Misty Shrub EP – Bird Dog – Despite being from Malibu, these guys have a rustic indie folk with beard vibes offset by an ambient sound based around soaring harmonies. And even better than you think it is

Suicide Songs – MONEY – Somewhere between funny and manic depressive, this is modern shoegaze from Manchester

Spagat Der Liebe – Klaus Johann Grobe – Swiss DJ duo, write MOR EDM the way it should be, heavy on the tech and beats, with a 70s Farfisa here and there, and strong could only be done this way songs

Don’t You – Wet – So far, so hype, so good, with these consistently talented synth poppers

The Colour In Anything – James Blake – Blake is a genius but I can’t take him for more than a couple of songs at a time, slow, sad, electronica, Bon Iver (who perform on one track), as machine music. I saw him at T5 a coupla years ago, and loved him and still nearly fell asleep. The same happened here

Majesty – Flamingods – “Majesty was written and arranged with a conceptual narrative, cohesive both musically and lyrically following the story of protagonist Yuka on his journey of enlightenment through an exotic jungle landscape.” I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong, this is an enormously beautiful psychedelic soundscape of dream music, especially the first half,  and “Anya” may well be the best track of the week

Arias – Pumeza Matshikiza – Lovely soprano, compared to Maria Callas, though I can’t hear it. These Arias are superbly sung and even if you aren’t an opera fan hang around for “La Paloma”, the original version of Presley’s “No More” -you’ll adore it

A Sense Of Falling: Strange Geometry Outtakes EP – The Clientele – I don’t know why these didn’t make the album, gorgeous and melodic 60s inspired pop rock

Introducing Karl Blau – Karl Blau – This is a surprise find, a country covers album, including well trodden tracks with long pedigrees such as “To Love Somebody”, “No Regrets”, and “That’s How I Got To Memphis”, plus a nearly ten minute version Link Wray’s “Fallin’ Rain”, which K Records alumni Blau (the “Introducing” must be a genre reference) justifies every step of the way. His “No Regrets” is an intelligent rejoinder to Scott Walker’s old cover

Dawn – RY X – Strum and sing, yes, lo fi absolutely, but consistently interesting and worth listening to

Statik Kxng – Statik Selektah – Why is everything to do with Slaughterhouse so good? Slaughterhouse emcee KXNG Crooked hooks up with DJ Statik Selektah, and the result is a well rapped, well versed, terrific sounding album, head and shoulders above the dark sampled business as usual Drake influenced sounds we hear all year

The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser – Rob Zombie – “The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God” is the song Marilyn Manson hasn’t nailed down in twenty years, and if nothing else is as good, all of it is world class Zombie metal blood and guts even the electronic workout. Plus, at 31 minutes in length you are only a rotation away from hearing “Teenage Rock God” again

3001: A Laced Odyssey – Flatbush Zombies – Flatbush Zombies is Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick “The Architect” Elliott, all three are excellent nyc rappers, and at their best, even at their second best, they are all handle the chores with efficiency, and the long one that ends the album is one of their best. Not crazy about their backing tracks

Colin Stetson Presents Sorrow A Reimagining of Henryk Górecki’s 3rd Symphony – Colin Stetson – Using woodwind (his instrument of choice) and synthesizers and electric guitars, plus standard orchestration, let’s see where he goes in three movements: “The first is a 15th-century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus, the second a message written on the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II, and the third a Silesian folk song of a mother searching for her son killed by the Germans in the Silesian uprisings.”, so it goes deeply into the Polish late 20th Century’s symphony, and discovers a sounder larger and sometimes the equal of the original and quite beautiful, and very very sad

Wanderlust – Little Big Town – Four part harmonies their speciality, with good to great songs and a modern veneer provided by the producer, one Pharrell Williams. And they are joined by Justin Timberlake on the fine “Cmon”. Otherwise, WIlliams and the band wrote every song and they all work. “One Of Those Days” is a must hear

99¢ – Santigold – 99 Cent – Santigold – Sure, we’ve already heard five of these songs, one was iffy, one was a great pop track, and the other three relatively minor. And that’s the way the album goes as well, wonderful disco songs, relentlessly cheerful and upbeat, with a Caribbean lilt for spice. Another fine album

Free Will – Freeway – I never understood why this Philadelphian rapper never broke through, and this, if a touch old fashioned, is filled with really good tracks. I prefer it to the new Drake, with the outstanding “Addiction” leading the way, “Bennie And Stella” (with a truly remarkably catchy hook) bringing up the rear and everything else at least middling

Twentyears – Air – One side greatest hits, one side rarities and odds and sods, both sides excellent

Your Girlfriend Thinks I’m The Shit EP – Round2Crew – Pop rap that sounds like a modern day LFO, a good giggle with memorable pop moments

Brahms: The Four Symphonies Live – Detroit Symphony Orchestra – If Johannes Brahms was a rock star, he would be Ray Davies, as great as the greatest but a step behind in public perception. If only he had written an opera, right? These four symphonies are delightful and beautiful, full of character and intelligence

Inside Another Side – Paul Foglino – When the folk revival finally kicks in, Foglino will be there ahead of us all, with this excellent collection of acoustic guitar flavored songs. The former bassist for 5 Chinese Brothers, studied with Dave Van Zonk, and has been playing around town ever since. This collection contains the eagerly awaited “That’s How I Know” -a live staple which the Wiggles should cover. But there are no disappointments here

Stranger To Stranger – Paul Simon – Paul’s more than legitimate thanatological stresses is smarter and scarier on “The Werewolf” than it was five years ago on “The Afterlife” five years ago, but “The Afterlife” was a better song. Song for song, that’s the problem with his electronica meets mutated African beats. It doesn’t sound as good as even his first album of the ’10s. There is no “Dazzling Blue”…. having said all of that, it is still good enough

Leave Me Alone – Hind – Madrid chick band add pop punk to occasional Latin flow and uncomfortable lyrics to general badassness, just waiting on Taylor Swift endorsement to break Stateside

Paramount – It Lies Within – Hardcore metal from industrial slums Flint, Michigan is a no nonsense ear bleeding treat. Start with “Lights The Way” just to remind yourself there are melodies as well

Talk Tight – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Pop punk tracks catchy pro-melody hookiness – B+

Hold On! – The James Hunter Six – terrific English blue eyed soul guy with that strange jazz inflected soulfulness that was apparently invented by Georgie Fame. Terrific stuff

Long Play – The Wealthy West – Alt-country but don’t leave yet, Brandon Kinder, for it is he, has a terrific voice, and the songs are wistful sad beauties

Eternal Returns – United Fruits – “The songs captivate what it’s like to fall in love, to feel pain from falling in love, letting go of love, and the fear of being alive”claims a United Fruit, and actually, that’s what it sounds like, loud indie rock-pop from Glasgow, teeming with melodies and guitars

That’s Hip Hop – Joell Ortiz – Slaughterhouses’ MC is a master rapper and this is old school as fuck, plus the actually rapping is hard to doubt at all: this man has a terrific voice, can rhyme well, knows a hook and knows what flow is.Even the samples are terrific, listen to “Fall Back”

Dreamless – Fallujah – Brainy prog metal electronica, the sort of stuff you might imagine from a band named after a battleground for the US in Iraq

Hella Personal Film Festival – Open Mike Eagle & Paul White -This is a uniquely clever rap album, the West Coast eclecticist Open Mike Eagle is a smart lyricist and a good rapper and here he is joined by English DJ Paul White, who gives him a huge pool to splash around in.

Inceste EP – Imperial Triumphant – Black metal plus wild noise, a terrific 20 minutes of headbanging crunch and industrial strength everything

Collect – 18+ – Samia is from Honolulu, Justin from Berlin, and the duo’s second album is a goodie, moody dark sounds with hip hop in its DNA. All of it is good, two voices, delayed and far apart coming together, it uses rap sing speak to its own ends. “Wet Blunts” is better than good

The Lexicon Of Love II – ABC – Given the decades between them, II isn’t bad, actually it is kinda like Star Wars VII, it is similar without being the same, but not exactly great and missing something somewhere in the mix. I loved VII and I love LOLII, just not as much as I wish I did

Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan – I wish there was more “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” and less “Come Rain Or Come Shine” but even so, the arrangements are rewritten for Dylan’s Americana band and sound unlike the versions you’ve heard all these years at least on that level, and the vocals hit their notes, with phrasing that belongs to Dylan and yet honors the precedent

Black – Dierks Bentley – I’ve loved Dierk ever since watching him out perform Brad Paisley at MSG years ago, and this has done nothing to change my high opinion. Strong,well played, country songs, that rock when necessary, well sung and despite its muscle, it doesn’t push you too hard. Named for his wife. He makes it seem so easy you wonder why no one else does it

Mayday – Boys Noize – Germany’s Boys Noize is the last and final absolute House to rave master DJ, and here collaborations with Hudson Mohawke, Spank Rock, Poliça, Remy Banks and Benga, changes nothing. They don’t make em like this any more

Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites – Mark Kozelek – Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon lead singer covers glorious songs like “Moon River” and “Something Stupid” with immaculate precision and a glorious tenor both dramatic and understated

V – Tiger Army – Sound like Del Shannon, not prime Shannon but even so…

Por Favor – Brett Dennen – This guy seems incapable of writing a bad song, maybe a little quiet, maybe a touch boring, but even so, the songs are always great. Here as well, just another Brett Dennen album filled with pop rock low impact but charming and effortless singer songwriter moves

Cowardly Deeds – Randolph’s Leap – The eight piece via Glasgow have a way with a song and if it seems over arduous the songs are always good enough, “Not Thinking” is typically playful and lovely

Everything At Once – Travis – They were always a good band in theory and a bore in practise, here they are still a little on the boring and tasteful UK rock side but not so much that the sheer wealth of material stops it from being a fine set of songs, boring but fine

Mac Gollehon And The Hispanic Mechanics – Mac Gollehon And The Hispanic Mechanics – Powerful mix and match of salsa drums, neo-soul jazziness and r&b flavored takedowns of mammoth proportions, half of which are remixes, all of which are dance tracks, and one of which, “Eleganza” is all of the above at one time

Black – Dierks Bentley – I’ve loved Dierk ever since watching him out perform Brad Paisley at MSG years ago, and this has done nothing to change my high opinion. Strong,well played, country songs, that rock when necessary, well sung and despite its muscle, it doesn’t push you too hard. Named for his wife. He makes it seem so easy you wonder why no one else does it

Sweet Charity Original London Production – Various Artist – Juliet Prowse’s 1966 turn, pretty darn good for the late Elvis cohort on “GI Blues”. Juliet’s “If My Friends Could See Me Now” is one of the best

Light On The Lake – Whitney – A little samey but these two Smith Western survivors have released a fine of soul country tracks that go from strength to strength, so that makes two for two viz former SWs

Black Terry Cat – Xenia Rubinos – Cross pollinated electronic soul that defies such an easy categorization. Xenia is a fine singer and her songs are modern pop tropes of the first order

Summertime – Willie Nelson – I am not a fan of either Bonnie or Willie, but I am affair of Gershwin and even as a nonfriend, there is a great spirit behind these covers. You wanna stick Willie in a room with Bucky Pizzarelli, somebody to give him just a touch more swing. Still, at 82 years of age this has life and real power to it

Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing – Luh – Heavy duty electronic beats and soulful singing goes Goth, “I&I” is an original vibrating thing that works, the rest of it by the former Wu Lye lead singer Ellery Roberts and his main squeeze, artist Ebony Hoorn have created a passionate ill temperate album

Masterpiece – Big Thief – The title track is something of a masterpiece itself, as Big Thief lead singer Adrianne Lenke sad and sorry singer comes to terms with life without her best friend. Everything else here is nearly as good in a indie rock pop singer songwriter Saddle Creek sort of way

Impulse – Boyfrndz – If this is modern prog rock, deal me in. Huge songs, arranged into layers of pulsating sound, that pulse and hum from one hard riff and one melodic impulse to another by this big time Austin rock band

Ephemera – Little Green Cars – Imagine if Paul Simon, and not just any Paul Simon but Paul Simon (1972) Paul Simon was from Dublin, and was sometimes a woman, and you will have a feel for this truly lovely indie pop album.

Pop Deluxe – Mari Wilson – This is an updated You Break My Heart In 17 Places, without the winking, superb straightforward covers of 1960s pop hits

Adult Teen – Lisa Prank – One woman emo pop lo fi electric guitar and drum machine, but it is much catchier than that sounds, the songs don’t sound all of a piece because they revolve around pop melodies not riffology and the brave new world of girls emoting (hi there Free Cake For Every cre), try “Drive Anywhere” which sounds very ordinary till the bridge becomes a melodic explosion

Burden Piece – Clique – Loud but melodic power pop punk bank from Philly with a terrifical musical dynamism, especially when they use two lead singers, that maintains your attention

Year Of The Rabbit EP – Eskimeaux – Hot on the heels of her buddy Frankie Cosmos album, this sublime four songs of lo-fi smart singer songwriterly beauties, adds a pop veneer on her first rate confessionals. A hidden gem

Fire In The Church – Montana Of 300 – I love the tracks this guys has, and his voice has a first rate undertow to it, “Fighting Demons, Dropping Jewels” is as clever as a state of his life can be, and while it is dated as far as it goes, so what?

A Cure For Loneliness – Peter Wolf – “Some Other Time, Some Other Place” is the best song of the week, it sounds like an old Rod Stewart classic.”It’s Raining”, originally planned as a duet with Bobby Womack, would have been greater with the late master, but is still pretty darn wonderful. And if the rest of the albbum is a subdued J. Geils, well, what’s wrong with that

Blastoma – Ngaiire – Former Chet Faker back up singer, provides a glorious and soulful vocal for these slow burn pop songs, the songs are good as well

Mariner – Cult Of Luna, Julie Christmas – Symphonic metalcore with so much power and with a great singer who wails her way in from time to time and a screamo from the bowels of hell who, er, harmonizes? – B+

Peach – Culture Abuse – Impressive California former noise pinks, now loud pop punk with a penchant for catchy is as catchy does, try late entry “Turn It Off” -about as clear a rave up, and as well executed a pop track as you’ll hear this week

#GPG – Guizmo – This is the real deal, 90s style rap only in French by a man who can really rap and, indeed, sounds to non French ears like he has something to say: powerful stuff. The guy had covered “Gangsta Paradise” in the past and this is closely related to US hip hop but it isn’t pop, it is darker

Rita Wilson – Rita WIlson – Sure, she is an actress first and this is a bit dilettantish. BUT, Rita co-wrote all the songs and she has a lovely voice… and the songs are pretty good in a So-Cal singer songwriter MOR sort of way. Plus she is cute, the same age as me, and married to good guy Tom Hanks so…

Teens Of Denial – Car Seat Headrest – Another bedsitland singer songwriter, though this is pretty darn advanced, breakthrough mode, for Matador Recording artist (as they say in the trades) Will Toledo. It’s like emo if emo was fucking awesome. “Friends are better with drugs”, Will claims, friend are also better with this album

Penitentiary Chances – Boosie Badazz, C-Murder – Boosie is well beyond badass on these doom laden songs, his fourth album of 2016. Boosie went to prison in 2004, C-Murder is currently incarcerated and this has all the immediacy of a body blow in a prison courtyard rumble. The duo were in the same dorm at one point and this has veracity to spare,from “Dear Supreme Court” to “Black Babies Don’t Mourn”. the rapping is hard as nails, the sentiments snapshots of a life many of us can’t, or don’t want to imagine, and on track after track they use fine if straight lace words to a life as lived

Skybreak – Zo! – Knockout r&b album, old fashioned in an 80s way but still just about perfect by this utility player

Lily – Christy Moore – If you remember his earlier group Moving Hearts, once a favorite of mine, you will understand that a step quieter and a step older makes Christy’s solo work no less beautiful. If you don’t know his earlier band, you are in for a real treat. The opening track is a beautiful thing

California Sunrise – Jon Pardi – Pretty good traditional country rockers, “Out Of Style” is a good Kris Kristofferson rip, though the title track is self sufficient

Painting Of A Panic Attack – Frightened Rabbit – I have never been a fan of this Scottish indie band, but somewhere over the years they’ve added backbone to their dreamy anxious pop sound. Mark Deming claims 2013’s Pedestrian Verse was the breakthrough, but I hear it on “I Wish I Was Sober” and especially “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” -gateway drugs to a very beautiful and sad yet strong album

I Will Be Nothing Without Your Love – The Ready Set – A rock nyc fave from way way back (here is a 2011 interview), Jordan has improved with age, his skills at songwriting are unquestionable, and his tuneful exuberance a true pleasure

Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness: Part One EP – Tokyo Police Club – Headline of the week: this one from Spin’s debut of the EP: “Tokyo Police Club’s Effusive New EP Turns Pumpkins Into Pumpkinade”. It’s funny because it’s true…

Singing Saw – Kevin Morby – It sounds like Americana but in a good way, which isn’t a surprise because I’ve liked everything I’ve heard him from both his previous bands the Babies and especially Woods (my token Brooklyn indie band). This is a terrific collection of Americana soul song

Westerner – John Doe – Rockabilly John, it doesn’t kick in till the third way mark, but then it steadies up nicely with the good “My Darling, Blue Skies” and especially “Go Baby Go”. Then it settles in nice with prime John Doe story song “Sweet Reward” and maintains an even see how we are grown up through to the end

Son Of A Pimp, Pt 2 – Mistah F.A.B. – The hook on “Not In Love Anymore” is so good, it runs away with a song so good it is difficult to run away. The rest of the album is as much fun as rap ever gets, very enjoyable stuff, try it really, I love it like Ricky loves Lucy (one of his of course)

Burden Piece – Clique – Loud but melodic power pop punk bank from Philly with a terrifical musical dynamism, especially when they use two lead singers, that maintains your attention

Pyr – Ghold – If you go for sludge, this is the slow sink ever downwards you want, the eleven minute opener is aces in my book

Earth – Neil Young – If you love the half half “Love And Only Love” off this live album from last year’s tour with Promise Of The Real. you will love the entire thing. While there aren’t the songs on your Neil Young playlist, three of them, including “People Want to Hear About Love” off the ecologically sound The Monsanto years, are on mine. The natural bees buzzing stuff is an annoyance

Tweens – Wye Oak – This Baltimore duo were always part of the sort of Brooklyn bill that had me pegging em electronic folkies, which they aren’t, they are indie rock folkies, and here they have loud but not calamitous rocking folkies on one goodie after another. This is one of those albums that deserve time so the hooks and melodies can settle in – B+

“.. It’s Too Late to Stop Now … Volumes II, III, IV & DVD” (3 CDs and 1 DVD) – Van Morrison – Extending what could well be considered one of the greatest livers ever, these adds taken from the same concerts in 1973 (Troubadour, Rainbow) loses nothing and adds only more terrific performances. The DVD is awesome, if Van’s pants were any tighter he could have proven it was turned on. Oh, and Van looks hysterically miserable during a singalong to “I Just Want To Make Love To You”

Pure McCartney – Paul McCartney – Got a catalog? Re-release it. No surprises here for the fan, but a couple of the 67 tracks, “English Tea” for one, “Fine Line” for another stands up really really well (both off the terrific Chaos And Creation In The Backyard), But too many dogs you’d hoped to never hear again, “Ebony And Ivory”, “Let ‘Em In”, “Say Say Say” and personal worse “Mull Of Kintyre”. Still, if you have the time, Paulie makes the case once and for all: he is the greatest melodist since Gershwin

Live From A&R Studios – The Allman Brothers – Dating from 1971, Butch Trucks told Rolling Stone: ““That the crowd couldn’t see us didn’t mean a damn thing. Duane had two very iconic statements he used a lot. One was ‘This ain’t no fashion show.’ The other was ‘This ain’t no ballet.’ We were up there to play music. All you need is ears. You don’t need to be able to see it. We weren’t putting on a show. And those fans that made it into A&R were, I would imagine, the ones who came to see us at the Fillmore East every time. And they were there to hear what we had to play, not to see how cute we were or how big our dicks were.” I’m gonna be dead 20 years and they will still be releasing live recordings

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