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Be Here Now: New Albums Reviewed 11-24-17 – 11-30-17

Bella Hardy – Hey Sammy – At its best when at its most English folke (the opening “Redemption” is delightful) where her full bloodied voice has the right material, less interesting the poppier it gets – B-

Björk – Utopia – After the heartrending Vulnicura, this collection of new loves found and lost and found again in a swipe right world doesn’t hit as hard. However, it is an intense and loving naturalized feminine guided world of flutes and natural sounds. Just about perfect except, it could use some beats and also, there is no such thing as a pop song here – A-

Cole Swindell – Down Home Sessions IV EP  – Another EP from the country songwriter so generic they should name a lite beer after him – C

Digitalism – 5KY11GHT – When an album is named Digitalism what do you expect? I’d call em instrumentals except is a Pro-Tools an instrument? Fine by me pure dance beats and swirls of synth – B-

Dude York – Halftime for the Holidays – Indie rockers try their hand at a seasonal album with results from great (“Jingle Bells Rock” sounds like the Ramones) to less successful (“Hollywood Holiday” is generic albeit not seasonal songs generic) – B-

Eagles – Hotel California (40th Anniversary Expanded Edition) – The selling point is “the debut of ten live tracks that were recorded during the band’s three-night stand at the Los Angeles Forum in October 1976”. The amazing thing is how they sound just the same as they did this year at Citifield,  and that was with Glenn dead – C+

Electric Light Orchestra – Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Wembley or Bust – The thing about ELO is, that like mentor Paul McCartney, they do their damndest to replicate their recorded sound. So, this is like weak versions of great songs, but great songs – B

Fabolous & Jadakiss  – Friday On Elm Street – Fabolous sounds like Eminem doesn’t he? Maybe the other way around right? I really love this guy, I saw him blow Pusha T off stage at BB Kings once, he is really a great rapper and this is a terrific album, Jadakiss is pretty great himself, and the two sound great together. But it isn’t a great album, the songs aren’t there – B-

Frank Turner – Songbook – If you love Billy Bragg, you’ll be vaguely please by this guy. I don’t love Bragg and find this folk rocker working class guy very irritating though, I guess, there is nothing intrinsically bad about these medium cool re-working of some of his catalog – C+

Hopsin – No Shame – Story songs by the “Sag My Pants” guy, at the top he hits his pregnant fiancee, then finds a pretty good excuse, and the stories snowball from there – B

Jake Owen – Greatest Hits –   Country star Jake’s last five singles tanked but Jake is a pretty good ol’ boy singer songwriter as this collection of hits and near misses proves. “Hee Haw” is addictive and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” deserved to and did break him big – B

Joey Jewish – The Vantes Project 2 – A Latin Jewish hip hop r&b ambient performer, sounds like nothing out there only slower – C+

Kaskade – Kaskade Christmas – Oh no he didn’t. “O Come Emmanuel,” with Skylar Gray taking the lead, is pretty good – C

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland – Psychedelic garage, drags on yet again – C+

Kodak Black – Project Baby 2: All Grown Up (Deluxe) – More songs about attitude modifiers… nine to be precise. All excellent – A-

Konata Small – Est. 1997 – Talented rapper tells his story. Not bad though a touch dated for an up to the second genre – B-

Little Mix – Glory Days: The Platinum Edition – Ten more tracks than the deluxe version though only “Shout Out To My Ex”  is memorable – C-

Louis Armstrong – The Nightclubs – From a good to great period in his career (both the 20s and the 40s were better), and the recordings could’ve been better (“West End Blues” for one is hurt by it), it doesn’t answer the basic Armstrong paradigm, who will get his recorded output in some form of order. Billie Holiday was nearby in two songs, funny they didn’t perform “The Blues Are Brewing” together – A-

Luis Miguel – ¡MÉXICO Por Siempre! – The great Mexican singer celebrates his heritage at just about the right time, with Disney’s day of the dead animated movie increasing interest in the country. An incredible baritone and mariachis as mainstream pop – B+

Mosaic MSC – Tiembla – EP – This is CCM? Color me bemused Spanish language mainstream pop rock ballads for Jesus  via LA – C+

Mujo – Reincarnation EP – Lo fi quasi ambient with freshly crafted beats and a jazz feel – C+

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon? – His best effort since Be Here Now finds Noel back with all his melodic skills in place and with his Beatles addiction on hold. It is wall of sound Brit rock and better – ALBUM OF THE WEEK A-

Philippa Hanna – Come Back Fighting – UK CCM singer in Nashville – C+

Pugwash – Silverlake – These guys are new to me, probably because I don’t follow power pop that closely: they are a quieter ELO,  so if that’s your thing,you can’t go wrong – C+

Scorpions – Born To Touch Your Feelings – Best of Rock Ballads – The title does not lie, except for the word best – MUST TO AVOID – D

Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift – The outtakes, remixes and demos from his masterpiece Carrie And Lowell. Not crazy about the remixes, crazy about everything else – B+

The Horrors – V – Depeche Mode influenced synth rock plus riffs, not bad – B-

The Nelons – The Americana Sessions – Southern Gospel band tackles some sweet American country pop classics like “Gentle On My Mind” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Nice fiddle, lovely voices, easy going versions of great songs – B

Tokio Myers – Our Generation – Ambient r&b, puts me to sleep but I can hear why it has its fans. The UK Got Talent winner is tailor made for his market – C+

Various Artists – Coco (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – I loved the movie as well but the music doesn’t stand up out of context. When will Disney finally replace the Sherman Brothers? Anderson-Lopez sure ain’t it – C+

Whitney – Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings – Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich’s band, formerly of Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. These are demos off last years debut. An odd move to sure, but still pretty pretty. They’ve called it Bon Iver plus soul – B

Why Don’t We – A Why Don’t We Christmas – Social media stars join together to get more soulful than 5SOS on this seasonal dog – C

Yes – Topographic Drama: Live Across America – The template for all prog-rockers… so if that’s your scene be my guest, it beats sleeping pills – D+

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