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Brief Encounters: New Album Releases 9-10-21 – 9-16-21 Reviewed

Comfort To Me – Amyl And The Sniffers – punk meets post punks with a collection of raging rockers via Australia – B

God Is Partying – Andrew W.K. – I was never too fond of Andrew, there was something about his pop party that felt fake, but even so: he wasn’t this god-awful, prog heavy metal – MUST TO AVOID – D+

Aretha Franklin – the box set that was meant to drop in November with an early release, and on streaming sites you get 50 of the 81 songs, demos and alternative takes and live takes and obscurities and scurities! I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Aretha since I dived neck deck into her catalog and can assure you: this is the goods. Hang on for her live take on “It’s Not Unusual” -a cover we deserve more than a verse of – A

ASOT 1033 – A State Of Trance Episode 1033 (A State Of Trance FOREVER Spotlight: Maor Levi) – Armin van Buuren – from his studio in Amsterdam – in some ways, Armin releases, even his new album A State Of Trance Forever, are perfect streaming objects since they don’t lend themselves to repeat listening. Especially his radio program, which this is a recording of, has a built obsolescence and is still a blast -B+

The Melodic Blue – Baby Keem – Kendrick Lamar’s cousin and a good rap album, without a doubt, but not a great one, and of Lamar’s three contributions only his verse on “Family Ties” is killer – B

Mother – Cleo Sol – Cleo is the lead singer of Sault –the r&b band of whom I am the only person who considers them tedious, and Cleo is tedious in a similar, all smooth jazz and soul vibes, but not as tedious and with a better reason for being quiet wth a baby sleeping in the other room – B-

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? – Deb Never – Deb is modern day singer songwriter bummer pop via L.A., she collaborates with the likes of Brockhampton, and her electronic sad songs are as miserable as the album title… so caveat emptor – B

Cold Heart (The Blessed Madonna Remix) – Elton John, Dua Lipa – given Elton’s ability to remain cutting edge, none of these remixes are very interesting – C+

Spanish Model – Elvis Costello And The Attractions – ¿No preferirías tener el modelo de este año? – ALBUM DE LA SEMANA – A

Signs Of Life – Foy Vance – the Irish folkie is awful, always has been and always will, but having said that “Saplings” sounds like the Celtic cowboy playing tootsie with the mystic – C

Finding Inspiration Somehow – Gift Of Gab – Gift Of Gab is half of Blackalicious, the Underground rap duo popular in the early 2000s, and he took a nine year break and then died in June of this year at the age of 50. The only good news is a final album has been discovered and the man lost none of his immense skills as a rhymer and a rapper and an ear for dramatic and soulful samples – RIP – B+

A Beautiful Life – Heartless Bastards – six years after her last album, Erika Wennerstrom has a great rock and roll voice but the songs need to be stronger but instead they straddle the line between good and blah despite a fine ounding band and, yes again, great singing – B-

JOSE – J Balvin – I’ve been a huge Balvin fan since I watched him blow Bad Bunny offstage at the United Palace three years ago (here) and since then he has emerged as one of the biggest stars ever. Here he heads a list of featured artists that is an excellent mix of reggaeton and Latin-Urbano and EDM artists (I’m looking at you Skrillex), none of whom it really needs as he hits one rager after another with overblown dance vibes. It is a thriller from beginning to end and if that is the only ambition he has here, it is clearly enough – A

star-crossed – Kacey Musgraves – here, my dear, is Kacey singing overblown country on a divorce album that has Marvin Gaye somewhere sneering – C+

You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down – King Krule – Archy’s modern trip hop isn’t made for live presentation and the one time I saw him at Bowery Ballroom, the dark stage and sound reminded me of Tricky. I had a tix to the live set he documents here but guess what happened to that 2020 gig? Based upon this, I guess trip hop can be presented live and the skronk art wiliness of “Out Getting Ribs” sets the tone for King Krule surrendering to his poppiest instincts – B+

Go Find the Moon: The Audition Tape – Laura Nyro – is now being released and it finds the fully formed teen with her voice and her songs as strong as they ever were, the “Lazy Susan” is an absolute gem and that snippet of “Kansas City” a pleasant surprise (since it was 1965, I wonder if she’d been listening to Beatles For Sale?) – A

Souvenir – Maston, L’eclair – when people discuss cinematic dream pop they mean this kind of guy, equal parts large and small electronic dreamscape beauty – B

Te Ao Mārama – Lorde – singing songs off her current New Zealand honoring new album in her nation’s indigenous populations own language, Māori. I don’t dislike Solar Power but I don’t much like it either, it is pretty yet vapid and except for the title track I don’t return to it. But I love Te Ao Mārama, by changing the language Lorde attaches herself to her theme and the EP’s five songs are a calming beauty, a fulfilling dream of a country world’s away – A-

The Metallica Blacklist – Metallica – you get the sense that Metallica asked everybody they knew to cover there songs for Blacklist, and everybody said yes. With 50 songs in pocket some are better than others, but if you thought you’d never want to hear Alessia Cara covering “Enter The Sandman,” think again, and that is only one of six versions on the behemoth and whos who of all genres of pop, rock, Latin-Urbano, country and more – B+

HEY WHAT – Low – heavily textured electronic mood rock songs in search of a hook – C

Before I Die- 박혜진 Park Hye Jin – The SK via SOCAL singer songwriter adds Korean and English language to electronic confessionals on her debut – B-

Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV) – Pat Metheny – two long ones and a handful of oldies performed live in New York before the flood (aka 2019) with the jazz guitarist’s new trio – B

More Honourable Than the Cherubim – PaTRAM Institute Male Choir – the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute – sing songs of faith by contemporary songwriters; a beautiful soul stirring sound well worth listening to – A-

Unfollow the Rules (The Paramour Session; Live) – Rufus Wainwright – what people mistake about music criticism is they think we are PR people, and we certainly aren’t. I consider Poses one of the best albums imaginable but that was a long time ago and I haven’t been overwhelmed by Rufus since his 2010 memento mori All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu ; eight of these live via streaming tracks are off his last album – C

I’ve Been Trying To Tell You – Saint Etienne – four years after their last album, the dance and electronica moodiness that is Saint Etienne, the long term trio return with a simply splendid dream pop recording – A-

Bless My Psyche – Sincere Engineer – this is as great a pop-punk album as I’ve heard this year, deeply melodic, very upset, the Chicago band have one winner after all with “Recluse In The Making” a huge track for them – A-

Texis – Sleigh Bells – “Locust Laced” is as good a song as the electronic pop duo has ever dropped and heralds an album that may well be their catchiest exploration of where beats and melody congeal. But “Locust Laced” didn’t do much business and an album that should be very big may well sink – B+

Squaring The Circle – Sneaker Pimps – the trip hoppers return from the 1990s with a pleasantly old fashioned set of electronic tracks that could be a lot livelier – B-

What the Future Holds Pt. 2 – Steps – Abba wannabes (I mean it, listen to “Living In A Lie”), but despite their success in the UK with disco pop bubblegum, they are very obvious and just about unlistenable -D+

Little Eden – The Bevis Frond – The 80s indie rockers who returned in 2010’s latest release starts off with one of their jingle jangle best and then becomes bluesy political bores for 82 minutes – C+

Dark Matters – The Stranglers – the metal turned punk turned prog rock band’s latest also seconds as a tribute to their late keyboardist Dave Greenfield… pretty horrible but it wouldn’t be the Stranglers if it wasn’t – C

Back In Love City – The Vaccines – Ten years after London band rockers The Vaccines break through, this begins with a hugely entertaining 1-2-3-4 and then becomes a bore. Still, the title track is their best since “Post Break-Up Sex” – B

21st Century Love Songs- The Wildhearts – they don’t make em like this anymore, Ginger’s headbanging hard rock with metal surges rockers on an all out assault – B+

Astral Pariah – Trophy Scars – a big sounding blues metal headbanger vibe, no, wait, a loud, boring, blues metal headbanging vibe – C

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