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Brief Encounters: New Albums 8-6-21 – 8-12-21

Happier Than Ever – Billie Eilish – pretty good for a sophomore effort, the same sound only better, but for the Princess of the Zeitgeist not so much: Olivia Rodrigo is much closer to the tween teen girl aesthetic – B+

Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night – Bleachers – at its best, “How Dare You Want More,” Jack Antonoff’s band sounds like fun. (his great earlier band) without the Broadway addiction, at its worse, way too much, he is arch where he should be smooth, and incapable of the earworm that is the main reason for its existence, though it is a good sign that he already dropped the worst moments (one with the boss, the other with a femme fatale) – B

Traveler’s Blues – Blues Travelers – I’ve got nothing against the band making a career on the back of “Run-Around” and “Hook” -two goodies, I hate them for the abysmal cover of “Roadhouse Blues” – C-

See the World – Brett Dennen – he reminds me of Ron Sexsmith, just a superior songwriter who can’t seem to reach the next level – B

Leave A Scar – Dee Snider – The Twisted Sister with an album of heavy metal hair rock that should appeal to all Twisted Sisters fans – B-

Heart-Shaped Scars – Dot Allison – English folk and as delicate as a whisper in a lover’s ear, very quiet, subdued, and lovely though a little too unassuming and the touches, the violins on “Long Exposure,” can too easily be ignored. Having said that, it is a very beautiful thing – B+

Private Space – Durand Jones & The Indications – blue eyed soul with a side of disco on a surprisingly good album – B

Out Here On A Friday Where It Began – Hillsong Young & Free – You’d think Hillsong might want to learn some secular style humility after they went up in smoke (who remembers Carl Lentz? who remembers dangerous cults?) but here they are again with another atrocious album of live versions of disgraceful songs – MUST TO AVOID – F

The House Is Burning – Isaiah Rashad – the Top Dawg signing’s third album is his best, a remarkable collection of r&b-hip hop with raps (as opposed to rap with r&b) and a tight, intelligent set of bangers that bang. When you get Lil Uzi Vert on a feature and it still isn’t the best song available, you simply know how great it is. The best “Darkseid’ is hard to beat and 6lack brings his best to “Score”  – A-

Jubilee – Japanese Breakfast – Released two months ago, Michelle Zauner got so big so fast she dropped out of the Bright Eyes tour and started her own and for good reason. She writes beautiful songs that find a middle ground between 60s style pop and 20s style arrangements – B+

Celestial Blues – King Woman – sludgy and goth like quicksand of guitar thud and ghosted out singing – B

Trees of the Ages: Laura Nyro Live in Japan – according to the record label: “Originally issued only in Japan as Live In Japan in 2003, these 16 tracks recorded at Kintetsu Hall, plus 5 recorded at On Air West return as Trees Of The Ages: Laura Nyro Live In Japan. From Nyro-penned hits including “And When I Die,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “Save The Country,” to covers of Bacharach/David, Smokey Robinson, and Phil Spector classics, Trees Of The Ages is an essential document of Laura’s February 1994 historic visit to Japan. With Laura on piano and vocals, with harmonies by Diane Wilson, Dian Sorrell, Diane Garisto, the performances are sublime….” Who am I to disagree? That “Ooh Baby Baby” is one of the best Smokey covers I’ve heard – B+

Bobby Tarantino III – Logic – sure he can rap, who said he couldn’t? But he reminds me of Common – he keeps on offering opinions. and his r&b ballads, the godless “Inside” and the “old Kanye” (a crap claim) and also godless “God Might Judge” – C-

Native Sons – Los Lobos – the Los Angeles, Latin-American rock plus band have been around so long Paul Simon ripped em off on Graceland, with an ode to their roots in California, they cover everyone from Thee Midniters to Jackson Browne, to Buffalo Springfield, to Grateful Dead to the Beach Boys with invariable success – B+

Animal – Lump – the second crap Lump album, Laura needs to get back to her roots though even solo she has been on stall for years – C

True Blue (35th Anniversary Edition) – Madonna – is this Madonna’s best album? it is way up there (but I’d still go with The Immaculate Collection) and if you don’t know why here is a stacked set of the original album plus extended mixes from back in the day, remind yourself – A

Watch the Sound (Official Soundtrack) – Mark Ronson – I haven’t caught the AppleTV+ documentary but I can’t say I’m impressed with the music, Ronson did great work with Amy Winehouse, and the forced Britney Spears and Ol’ Dirty Bastard merger is one of the best songs of the 00s… but since then? “Uptown Funk” was 2015 and it was not much, and none of this is very good either- C+

Into The Mystery – NEEDTOBREATHE –  the Christian contemporary band who went secular with god in the tracks, have their best album in ten years and their best song, “What I’m Here For”. The music is rock Americana and the twang comes from Tennessee but what has always helped them is their songs and here they get it right from time to time, and completely wrong too often – B-

PAPER ROUTE iLLUMINATi – Paper Route EMPIRE – Young Dolph’s label featuring Key Glock, Snupe Bandz, Big Moochie Grape, on a strong OG glock and shit… try Young Dolph’s “Talking To My Scale” – B

Welcome 2 America – Prince – I know my Prince, and I have written full reviews of every one of his albums, so when I claim  W2A is overrated, it is overrated, politically acute, sure, but not that illustrious an add to his career. It is as good as, say, Crystal Ball (though not as good as The Truth) (here), and nothing matches a ballad like “One Of Your Tears” – C+

Great is the Lord – Schola Cantorum of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School – The English choir performing English hymns, none of which I recognize, but if you want to listen to songs of worship better these young men than anything Hillsong can offer you – B

Crowlink – Shirley Collins – last year Collins released the sublime English folk (and one of the best of 2020) Heart’s Ease, and with this 5 song EP the 86 year old woman’s return to music after a forty year break (2016) is a great success, and all three are part of a late career surge with exceedingly few antecedents. A masterful English folk resurrection – A

Electro Melodier – Son Volt – Jay Farrar’s tenth album of alt-country tunes and eyes wide open politics – B

All In – Skepta – After Stormzy, Skepta is the best rapper in the UK, and with only five songs on All In he doesn’t waste a second, both the J. Balvin and Kid Cudi featured songs are tops, and the other three are right behind – A-

New Day with New Possibilities – Sonny And The Sunsets – a follow up to 2012’s Longtime Companion is a jingle jangle country romp that hints at the Byrds – B-

F*CK LOVE 3+: OVER YOU – The Kid Laroi – The nearly 18 year old Kid Laroi’s team knows how to cash in on a hit, F*ck Love was release a year and was done with, but a remix of “Stay” featuring Justin Bieber hit big and so they released another three tracks to the also 2020 Savage re-release and are carried on the wings of a Bieber – B

Thank You For Believing (The Manifestation) – Toosii – more singer than rapper, Toosii piggybacks a new album on a release from earlier in 2021, one of the better hip hop rap albums of the year, and The Manifestation is clearly from the same vintage – B+

Thirstier – Torres – her sexuality is voracious, her songs are indie rock of the first order heading into the mainstream, and her fifth album is where everything clicks on a song not her breakthrough, she’s both broken through and got dumped by 4AD, but Merge got her at the right time and here is the album for those who don’t know what they’re missing – ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A

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