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Be Here Now: New Albums 10-2-20 – 10-7-20 Reviewed

SAVAGE MODE II – 21 Savage, Metro Boomin – the return of gangsta rap and trap, growling in your face with determined ferocity as well as occasional heart beneath the glock, three songs in it goes on a great run but it doesn’t maintain it. Still, better less than perfect than most other folks perfect on a hugely important  mixtape for both Save and producer Boomin. It doesn’t all pay off, but enough does  – B+

All Love Everything – Aloe Blacc – like taking a bath in tepid dishwater, the always bland and feel good Aloe does more of MOR pop soul be good to yourself than most people can stomach. Not everything has to have an edge, but if it doesn’t it isn’t gonna cut it – C

Live Forever – Bartees Strange –  genre bending debut from the black Americana guy whose last release was a collection of the National covers, joins Tomas Doncker and  Boots Riley, as artists who can and do black music, and then can and do everything else. It is a strong and very weird collection hurt by its lack of a, what’s that word? -hit – B+

THE ALBUM – BLACKPINK – Congrats to the prefab K-Pop girl band for failing to use Cardi B for any proper purpose, though they do get Selena Gomez right on a shrugathon of a debut – C+

2020 – Bon Jovi – you listen to white man’s guilt Jon in suspended disbelief that it can sound so terrible, rock hits the bottom of the barrel – MUST TO AVOID –  D+

Keep ‘Em on They Toes – Brent Cobb – blue collar country by a very strong songwriter who shines on his third collection, the only thing holding Cobb from big time is his voice, which doesn’t have enough muscles for his songs – C+

A N N I V E R S A R Y – Bryson Tiller – neo-r&b soul singer with an 80s vibe, even Drake can’t save him  – C+

CMFT – Corey Taylor – C-mother-fucking-T, waddup? Nothing at all in this straight arrow, hard rocking album, a relentless riffage work that never stops for breath and be listened to uninterrupted by the Slipknot leader, skip “Silverfish” but skip nothing else, an astonishingly strong outing – B+

The New OK – Drive-By Truckers – They will never have another Decoration Day or Southern Rock Opera, but they will have another Go Go Boots and this excellent collection of fully formed songs might be even better. Protest has never been this strong, as their second album of 2020 takes the bad taste of their first one out of your mouth – A-

A Holly Dolly Christmas – Dolly Parton – did you read where Dolly might be posing for Playboy at the age of 75? As my buddy Edward Huerta would say: respect. This is not as bad as “Mary, Did You Know” lead me to suspect, she covers “All I Want For Christmas Is You” with Jimmy Fallon, another song with Willie Nelson, another with Miley Cyrus. It isn’t bad at all, though it isn’t all good either  – B-

Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes (Live) – Ella Fitzgerald – recorded two years after Live In Berlin, this long lost live album finds Ella at an absolute peak, capable of everything jazz from doo wop to the songbook; sublime singer singing sublime with humor and joy – A+

Live In Chicago – Fitz and The Tantrums – The LA via French party soul band are amazing on stage, one of the most fun things you will see.. But their material has weaknesses we’ve long considered part of modern r&b. They can’t seem to get over that hurdle on recordings though this comes as close as they can… a wild and fun, get down guys rave up -B

Agüita – Gabriel Garzón-Montano – when he is performing reggaeton, the Brooklyn Spanglish singer songwriter is on fire, but when he is doing Latin Americana and singer songwriter ballads he can be boring. Luckily, for the most part he moves between the two and only comes a cropper when his artiness gets the better of him on electronic wtf “Fields” – B

American Beauty: The Angel’s Share (Demos) – Grateful Dead – demos of the Dead,s songs of their best album – B+

Shiver – Jónsi – the former Sigur Ros has moved from Iceland to LA, and reboots his career nearly exactly as you thought he would, with atmospheric and slow moving art-pop in a boringly beautiful album of hope and horror mingled – B

Evidence – Josh Baldwin – Bethel Music alumni has the voice for CCM, he can sound committed without sounding committable, and his CCM is a form of Americana -which makes sense – B-

Speed, Sound, Lonely KV (ep) – Kurt Vile – it is hard to admit you’re wrong… hard, not impossible. As a never close to an admirer of the Neil Young fan, I’ve been waiting for the collection to change my mind and only discovered it once every … well once every once, this once. Still Neil Younging, of course, but with two very strong John Prine covers, a Cowboy Jack cover, and two new ones, and recorded in Nashville over four years, it is a beautifully EP with a cool country drawl. A wonderful thing guaranteed to make you feel a calming, beatific vibe whenever you hear it – ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A

mama’s boy – LANY – Alt rock from the predictably iffy alt rock band –  C-

Stay Alive – Laura Jane Grace – recorded in isolation (one song is called “Shelter in Place”), the leader of political punk rock band Against Me has recorded a set of acoustic protest song which despite or maybe because of their cliches is a strong up against the wall topped off by “The Hanging Tree” (as in “a burning crucifix and a hanging tree” -echoes of earlier Against Me) and the pop folk “The Swimming Pool Song” – B+

Tickets To My Downfall (SOLD OUT Deluxe) – Machine Gun Kelly – adds ho to the hum with five additional songs to his pop punk new world order, only the one with Yungblud and a member of The Used worth the add, listening to it again after a week, I overrated it the first time, nothing going on here  – C+

The Rarities – Mariah Carey – as Mariah tries to tell her story on the 30th anniversary of her debut album with a new memoir and a double featuring songs from the 90s to now on one and a live performance at the Tokyo Dome on March 7, 1996,  it becomes clear that the crossover of Carey -something she never went all the way with, never fulling embracing her Irish side at all, it still echoed somewhere in that operatic scale of singing she perfected years ago. Mariah’s story is about damage, but her songs aren’t – B

Melanie C – Melanie C – aka Sporty Spice with a generic dance album UK style, not a good song in the lot – C-

dusk – mxmtoon – more rhyming diaries from the nineteen year old singer songwriter though with a bigger sound’s second EP of the year, starting with a fangirl on Bon Iver and following with a Carly Rae Jepsen feature – B-

Buen Viaje – Ovi – the Cuban singer adds trap and Urbano Regional for a full voiced set of modern Latin pop – B

Live Around the World – Queen, Adam Lambert – After seeing them a coupla years ago, I passed on the victory lap this time. As documented here, it was a glammy Arena rock without its real singer but with plenty, way plenty, of gusto – C

Twenty Years Of Rascal Flatts – The Greatest Hits – Rascal Flatts – a popular but lousy country Middle Of The Road trio who, easily, fill a greatest hits with, well, country hits. The good news is that they aren’t Florida Georgia Line bad – C+

Live at Radio City Music Hall – Rex Orange County – the bedroom sadboy singer songwriter wowed Radio City Music Hall with a hugely expanded sound, a clear coming of age for the English twenty-two year old with a handle on old music genres distilled – B-

Rilo Kiley – Rilo Kiley –  The debut EP, released on streaming platforms for its 21st anniversary, which means it can vote in time for the election, sounds like super fresh indie rock-folk crossover and a 22 year old Jenny from child star to serious romance wrecker – B+

Digging Deep: Subterranea – Robert Plant – 14 albums in 40 years of roots Americana, including a handful of hits, a wonderful refresher course – A

Mettavolution Live – Rodrigo y Gabriela – the classical guitar duo from Ireland via Mexico, add assault to flamenco and covers to originals, including a twenty minute take on Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” off this live one from 2019, a minute longer than their recorded version.. yes, twenty minutes – C+

Us + Them – Roger Waters – I caught the tour at Barclays and enjoyed it (here), though moment for moment I preferred David Gilmour at MSG around the same time, the album is less useful though I am happy to hear the live “Picture That” – B

Róisín Machine – Róisín Murphy – Irish dance master with the state of the art disco album, a mix of old singles and new track with an absolute grasp of House Music and lyrics that singe – B+

Shamir – Shamir – the crossover pop singer counts Taylor Swift for teaching  how to write songs and the 27 minute, 11 song album is a helter skelter ride of tuneful pop songs aiming for the charts – B+

Homegrown – Smoke DZA – DZA was rhapsodizing kush when Wiz was graduating from milk to diet coke, and he does it still, dreamy , hazed put stoner stuff… a little boring but I’m not stoned at the moment – C+

Carefree Theatre – Surfer Blood – gorgeous indie mood pop, Surfer Blood. They sound the way the Drums should, a casual dreaminess – B+

Wherever You Go – Tomas Doncker – His second album of the year (third if you include the Howling Wolf deluxe)  isn’t the #BLM trap working Trapped… In The Mess We Made, the political gives way to the personal with a classic rock, electric blues triumph in the time of Covid-19 – A

WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE – Westside Gunn – The best thing about Griselda Records isn’t the top man Westside, but the token woman Armani Caesar, who steals an album that features features by the likes of Busta Rhymes and Slick Rick. That isn’t to say Gunn is a slouch on yet another purist rap art album that is a lot of fun… just not that much – B

The Saga of Wiz Khalifa (Deluxe) – Wiz Khalifa – doubles the length of the original, sometimes to more effect than different ways to praise kush, check out the Megan Thee Stallion duet “Y U Mad” – C+

Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club – UK post punk add synth and drum machines to sing speak, including an ode to John Cooper-Clark, socialists welcome here – B

My Life 4Hunnid – YG – The Bloods member has an ode to the dangerous gang, along with two strong songs already dropped, “Out On Bail” and “FTP” from the Compton gangster rap with cool to spare’s fourth album – B

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