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Brief Encounters: New Albums 9-24-21 – 9-30-21 Reviewed

one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden – Ada Lea – via Saddle Creek, one of the best singer songwriter confessionals of the year with the usual slash and burn emotionalism but stronger melodies and hooks – A-

In The Meantime – Alessia Cara – The Canadian singer is a much loved figure with a coupla hit albums under her belt, and this sounds like a goodie to me… at least commercially. Otherwise all I can hear is two solid songs and a lot of generic pop tracks on tracks – B-

Love Is The New Black – Anthony Hamilton – It took forever for Anthony to hit it big, his first two albums in the 90s weren’t even released and his third was in 1996 but it did no business; surrounded by D’Angelo, apparently one huge crossover r&b singer at a time is all the business can handle. By 2003, D’Angelo was in the rearview mirror and the old school soul singer came to the top. But he isn’t very prolific: 1990s – one album, 2000s – three albums, 2010s – two albums. But they are all first rate soul with a feel for hip hop productions yet not within a mile of drowning in it, and the wittily named Love Is The New Black, is a triumph of black soul singing and features Jennifer Hudson on a cover of the Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett composition “Superstar,” as well as a fistfull of prime originals including Rick Ross on “White Hennessy”. This is one of a dying breed that isn’t emorap or soundcloud, or rap at all, even not hip hop, but an 80s style beauty that brings to mind… ta dah… Luther Vandross – ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A-

New Age Norms 3 – Cold War Kids – These guys have one great song, “Coffee Spoon” and twelve albums of lousy alt rock, and this – D+

+/- – Boys Noize – Beats go prog from the great German EDM guy who has completely mastery of beats and of nothing else on this not much piece of falling asleep during sex dog – C

The Nightfly: Live – Donald Fagen – I was at the Beacon in 2018 when this live version of Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly was recorded (here) and trust me pop pickers, he messed with it a whole lot in the studio… which makes it an exercise in redundancy – B

The Last Domino – Genesis – a greatest hits plus deep tracks and rarities from the prog boys turned pop rockers with illusions of grandeur. For the record, they never recovered from losing Peter Gabriel. I upped the grade because I feel really bad for Phil -in excruciating pain he is forced on the road to pay for his divorce – C+

Chopin: Complete Nocturnes – Jan Lisiecki – the 26 year old Canadian pianist with some excellent late night vibing Chopin of remarkable calmness and beauty – A-

Sad and Beautiful World – Jesse Malin – I have to stop reviewing the former D-Generate, current nightclub entrepreneur, Americana , pretentious half wit. I guess “Greener Pasture” might be alright if it wasn’t for the lyric – C-

LOWKEY SUPERSTAR – Kari Faux (Deluxe) – the mixtapes has some featured artists worth checking out (JID!), and a whole lotta great songs with a cool as a breeze confidence and the best rap album of the week… from Don Giovanni -go figure – A-

My Time (Gangsta Grillz: Special Edition) – Lakeyah -it sure is the 20 year old rapper’s time, the Milwaukee native has moved to Atlanta where trap superhero Gucci Mane is featured on a song and she records for Quality Control Records (where Migos is signed), and DJ Drama returns with some excellent work on this lesbian and violent and men (but only for money) expose. She is part of XXL’s Freshman Class of 2021 and I can hear why: the flow is very good, the timbre a smooth calmness the antithesis of Megan and Cardi, and the songs resolutely memorable and nasty – B+

Provisional License – M1llionz – Birmingham is as rough an English city as you’ll ever meet, it is all industry and urban decay and M1l knows the streets and the world well with as nasty a set of rhymes and quietly disturbed drill on his debut mixtapes between time in stir – B

The Sound of Yourself – Mac McCaughan – The Merge Records co-owner, Superchunk leader, is a superior rock song writer with a beautifully grating whinge of a voice. The synth feels, as it often does even 40 years later, like coloring in the shades, and the instrumentals are a bore, but the rock songs, the great title track and the great single, “Dawn Bends,” make his second solo album worth the while – B+

Up – Magic Roundabout – In the early-80s Magic Roundabout were the first stirrings of Madchester and 35 years later you can hear where Stone Roses came from as Third Eye Records introduces us to what would have been their debut album. Exciting stuff until the 19 minute experimental noise last cut, which doesn’t work as music but it sure works as excavating the immediate pass – B+

Remember Her Name – Mickey Guyton – pulled the racism card after ten years of not being able to release a country album, and I am sure she’s right, just as I am sure this is very average country rock – C+

And Then Life Was Beautiful – Nao – if you aren’t crazy about Nao’s lovely, even intoxicating, voice because it is so nasal, you’re not going to like her neo-r&b. I don’t love it but the songs are pretty good and she wins you over as she deals in love’s success and failures – B

Firebird – Natalie Imbruglia – The 1990s Aussie star caught the coattails of girlpower for a more subdued pop confessional with dance beats and electronic instruments, she continues it here but the songs are awful ordinary – C+

Sticker – The 3rd Album -NCT-127 – K-pop boy band travelling the smooth r&b scales, with a strong title track and some pleasant also rans – B-

NORTHEAST CORRIDOR: STEELY DAN LIVE (Live) – Steely Dan – from 2018, so this begins the post-Walter Becker period with a period piece which adds nothing to anything and has zero reason to exist – B-

Reverberation – The Queers – I had a friend who was crazy for these old school punk rockers and I went with him to Mercury Lounge to check em out and quite liked them myself. On this cover album they make the Beach Boys, the Monkees (twice), the Stones, the Who, and their own “See You Later, Fuckface” and more vibrate with pleasure, and they are wonderful – A-

Green With Envy – Tion Wayne – more English drill but Tion is a pop guy at heart and slides into the UK charts with uber-English cheeky chappy Aardee – B-

Johnny Cash: Forever Words Expanded – Various Artists – I worshipped Johnny when he died, I’d seen him live maybe a dozen times and always enjoyed him (one great show was taped by TBS and absolutely wish they’d post it again). But that Ken Burns country show was an exercise in getting conned and, incredibly, managed to overestimate the man. He was good, but he certainly wasn’t countries lodestar… This is like that thing Wilco and Bragg did to Woody Guthrie, taking his poetry and turning it into songs. Bad songs – D+

I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico – Various Artist – Just what the world needed, alt rock stars with a tasteful tribute – MUST TO AVOID – D+

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