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Brief Encounters: New Albums 11-12-21 – 11-18-21 Reviewed

Garbology – Aesop Rock, Blockhead – not bad art rap from the longstanding rapper and his producer – B

For Christmas – Amanda Shires – with the harmony Gospel singers The McCreary Sister on board, here we have a surprisingly good seasonal album of new songs by Amanda – B

Rhythm and Paranoia: The Best of Bush Tetras – Bush Tetras – I’ve gotten many bands and many albums wrong over the years, but my misreading of Bush Tetras is an embarrassment that thankfully nobody remembers. Forty years later, the 28 song comp gives me the opportunity to reverse that wrong. But it is too late for me to see Laura Kennedy or Dee Pop on stage and that is my loss. The snakey, quirky, bass hooking, beat pounding No Wave giants deserve another listen, and the another. Which makes it timeless – ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A

No Time for Chamber Music – collectif9 – if you don’t know (or simply don’t like) chamber music, try this Montreal collective who here re-arrange Mahler from symphony to strings, a light on its feet reading of classic Mahler, the nine piece string collective is lead by Thibault Bertin-Maghit -he lives up to his name – B+

Things Take Time, Take Time – Courtney Barnett – as straightforward a set of indie folk songs as Courtney has ever released, the first track “Rae Street” is a beauty and “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight” is better, absolutely her most accessible and lovely collection to date, sounding like Lou circa 1975 if he had been a woman. But is it her best? It is to me – A-

Back On My Baby Jesus Sh!t AGAIN – daBaby – there are two ways to get yourself cancelled and fast: 1) be a white guy caught using the n word, and 2) insult the LGBTQ community. Guess which one daBaby chose. This mixtape is a follow up to an earlier one from his 2015. It’s really strong but is he forgiven yet? Stay tuned – B+

The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows – Damon Albarn – as big a plank as the name of the album should warn you, still it is Damon’s best solo work, a sort of English folk, sometimes electronic tracks that are really slow and yet here and there grab your attention – C+

Imposter – Dave Gahan, Soulsavers – The Depeche Mode baritone with the electronic Brit duo Soulsavers, covering some goodies, including a first rate try at Dylan’s “Not Dead Yet” and the Nelson or Presley dependent upon taste “Always On My Mind”. It’s like a pop Scott Walker – A-

Passing (Music from and Inspired by the Original Motion Picture) – Devonté Hynes – the problem with Blood Orange is he is too arty for his own good but it isn’t the problem on this gorgeous mood music – B+

Elvis Back in Nashville – Elvis Presley – The 1971 sessions, includes some excellent Gospel and Christmas songs as well as beautifully sung Presley MOR tracks – A

The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions (Live) – Eric Clapton – this is the Clapton we’ve been seeing on all those goodbye tours, listen to “Layla” if you wanna know what I mean: acoustic snoozers and that has nothing to do with anything except he’s old and has rheumatism; never cancel Clapton, he has done too much for the blues. On the other hand, there is no reason to listen to this – C-

Heavy Load Blues – Gov’t Mules – Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Junior Wells, Bobby “Blue” Bland and more covered in big band mode by Warren Hayes and his gang- B

The Walls Are Way Too Thin – Holly Humbertson – the sadgirl with a first rate EP and one of those songs that will start appearing in playlists as if by a will of themselves, “Please Don’t Leave Just Yet” – A-

CRAWLER – Idles – the very hot UK rock band, opening for the Strokes at Barclays on NYE, sound more post-punk than Brit Rock, maybe you need to see em live – B

Open the Gates – Irreversible Entanglements – Moor Mother’s jazz band and it is better than her art rap with jazzy horns and relentless beats that will take you by surprise… – B+

DISCO: Guest List Edition – Kylie Minogue – one of the last of a breed, the 2020 genre exercise returns with the guests including Years And Years, Gloria Gaynor and Dua Lipa – B+

It’ll All Make Sense In The End – James Arthur – UK Idol winner is beyond bland on these deep feel singer songwriter turkeys – MUST TO AVOID – C-

MACON – Jason Aldean – the “Dirt Road Anthem” guy is still a shitkicker country rocker with the first half of a double that includes a live selection where, hey, at least we get “Big Green Tractor” again – B-

Autograph – Joell Ortiz – “My creative process is pretty simple. I write to the music that moves me and speak my truth”. So “On My Feelings” wasn’t a fluke, this is an excellent set of visions of the Slaughter rapper reviewing what went right and wrong, “Holy Ghost” is one of the best new songs of the week – B+

Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) – Joni Mitchell – Vol 1 is rarer, but even so a collection of demos, live cuts, rarities, all from her greatest two years is gonna be masterclass time. Not as good as Volume One, even if only because there isn’t a live “Urge For Going”, but it is just a question of degrees of genius – A

Calming Night Partner – Land Of Talk – Elizabeth Powell’s real indie band (on Saddle Creek) with a first rate EP, four tracks, all a wonder of arrangement and voice, the break on “Leave Life Alone” is the best new thing I’ve heard all week – A-

In Virus Time – Lee Renaldo – Since Sonic Youth were never as good, or as bad, as people imagined, neither was lead guitarist Lee, and his post-SY career -like the rest of the band, has been a drag. But Lee went through what we all did in 2020 and In Virus Time could certainly function as a soundtrack to the middle class, slowly waiting, note for note passing of the hours – B+

Between Us (Deluxe Version) – Little Mix – It took seven people to write “Shout Out To My Ex” but if that’s what it takes, it’s a terrific pop dance song from 2016 (yes, Jesy Nelson gets her credit), and the lead off on the greatest hits album, and the only song you need – B-

För Allting – Makthaverskan – the Swedish dreampoppers with a thoroughly charming piece of deeply melodic pop tracks… if it was louder it would be shoegaze – B+

Nevermind (30th Anniversary Super Deluxe) – Nirvana – In Utero is the better album, while Nevermind is the religion, however a 30th Anniversary album which is just the original plus four live gigs circa 1991 – 1992 is singularly bizarre and not very useful… unless making money is an end in itself – B+

Dragnet – NRBQ – The long, looooong running pop rock and garageband return with a fine set (except for an electronic bummer), try “I Like Her So Much” – B

Songs of December (Anniversary Edition) – Paul Anka – ten years after its initial release, Paul adds two songs – B-

Pearldiving – Robin Guthrie – ambient prettiness from Cocteau twin – B

The Tears Of Hercules – Rod Stewart – His third act is much better than his second though not as great as his first, the Marc Bolan tribute is excellent, the steal of a Dylan song he made his own decades ago is better, and moment for moment it is as good as 2013’s Time… maybe better – A-

Laundry Service: Washed and Dried (Expanded Edition) – Shakira – adds four songs to the twenty year old international breakthrough. “Underneath Your Clothes” still sounds great – B+

An Evening With Silk Sonic – Silk Sonic – a swift, enjoyable 30 minutes of old school soul pop, disco, and melody by a master and a second in command. Play it next to Sam Huber’s upcoming album – B+

The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker …Forever – Speedy Ortiz – the post-punks odds and sods from the start of the band, including their debut EP. Sounds great – A-

Bright Lights – Susanna Hoffs – the Bangle continues performing power pop takes on big hits and high tides (the Stones reference? a personal affectation), including a Badfinger cover with Aimee Mann, a Richard Thompson track which finds her bravely going where Linda Thompson has been before and a terrific Monkees song – B+

Red (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift – Red is the end of Taylor’s golden age, the Max Martin over interested 1989 followed it, and the proof of how great Red is certainly isn’t the ten minute “All Too Well,” it is the other new songs, especially the one with Chris Stapleton and the one with Phoebe Bridgers. And also, that acoustic “State Of Grace” is just a rung below “Love Story” – A

Trust Is For Believers (Live) – The Charlatans – The Madchester also rans sound more like early Primal Scream on these live tracks dating from 1990 – 2007; it sounds really good, better than you’d think of hard rock classicism – B+

Dig – The Grip Weeds – The brothers Rell, Rick and Kurt are on Marty Scott’s Jem Records and the long time power pop band they lead remain a 60s inspired, tuneful, baroque sometimes, psychedelic others, catchy always, purveyors of memorable songs – A-

Colours – The Wanted – The Irish boyband were so close to world domination playing the Stones to One Direction’s Beatles. They couldn’t sustain it but they were pretty good and this 20 song retro isn’t really greatest hits (though “Glad You Came” made it) and points to a future that 5SOS stole from em – B

BOOK – They Might Be Giants – apparently there is a visual element to this baroque pop bore – C-

Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal – Various Artist – the indie Americana lead guitarist of the Cardinals was a force on his own despite an early exist in 2019 (he killed himself), and unlike, say, an all into the pool Metallica tribute, Neal is helped and remembered on these covers of his songs by the likes of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Warren Hayes, Steve Earle, and more… maybe it stands up so well because the songs are less well known – A-

Heights – Walk The Moon – the New Wave band (named after a Police song) are just that but the sound has passed and the songs aren’t good enough to resurrect them – C

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