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Brief Encounters: Top Albums 1-29-21 – 2-4-21 Reviewed

Everything We Need – A Day To Remember – very emo rocking sound goes unplugged – C+

Revolutionary Love – Ani DiFranco – Back in the day, Ani was an outre, young folkie appealing to teenage lesbians everywhere, today we would call her non-binary (indeed, her last album was called Binary) and her new album mixes a folkie pacifist dream with soulful songs on a very strong collection, though I doubt the then teens will ever forgive her untouchable face – B+

Los Dioses – Anuel AA, Ozuna – the reviews have been mixed, but I absolutely love it. The most exciting buncha bangers by a duo since Bad Bunny and J Balvin in 2019 – A-

Collapsed In Sunbeams (Deluxe) – Arlo Parks – from the press release:“My album is a series of vignettes and intimate portraits surrounding my adolescence and the people that shaped it. It is rooted in storytelling and nostalgia…” Nostalgia? She’ll be 21 in August, what exactly is alternative masher nostalgic for exactly? When she was ten? So this is clever-ish, and her bi-sexuality is interesting about her schooldays: “I was that black kid who couldn’t dance for shit, listening to too much emo music and crushing on some girl in her Spanish class.” The album is pleasant but the hype hurts it – B

Madre – Arca – They is the best sound of hyperpop around, it is reworked and weird instrumentation pop that goes on till it stops and is more than background, it is more like seeped in. I recommend to the adventurous (and so we you won’t get blindsided when they become the next big things). It sounds like a spiritual awakening without the gods, like liturgies that aren’t. The instrumental at the end is another beauty –  ALBUM OF THE WEEK – A-

Dead Hand Control – Baio – intensely irritating indie art rock from the Vampire Weekend – C-

Isles – Bicep – Irish DJ, electronic duo are up to their biceps in samples on a somewhat dowdy collection of (mostly) instrumentals that fail to take off, the exception is the one where Clara La San adds voice, “Saku”  – C

House Of Miracles (Live) – Brandon Lake – CCM as overblown singer songwriter from the Bethel Music alumni – C-

Praise and Protest – Common Hymnal – not a bad mishmash -but I sure wish it was Gospel instead of CCM – C+

Heaven Beats Iowa – Cub Scout Bowling Pins – The Guided By Voices offshoot, because, god knows, we can’t get enough GBV – C-

Vuelve – Danny Felix – corridos tumbados, given a whole lotta credence when Bad Bunny jumped on a song. It sounds like a subdued mix of Latin Trap, rap, and old world Mexican flamenco – B

.wav – Flux Pavilion – geddit? A competent EDM guy with some good crossover, and I don’t know who is singing on these dance tracks but she sounds just right: as though the sounds are the sea and her voice is just bopping above – B

Deante’ Hitchcock: Live from Quarantine – Deante’ Hitchcock – talented Atlanta rap/soul guy with a best songs compilation – B

Family Album – Lia Ices – singer songwriter with a full band, the arrangements are a little tricky and the mood somber but she could’ve pulled it off it was tuneful – C+

Still That Kid – Logan Mize – typical and highly polished country guy, the first two songs are very good and while we get the point long before we hit the 40 minute mark, the man can write a song – B-

On All Fours – Goat Girl – the all female indie rock band have ascended to agitprop on this well repped but tedious rock and mood snooze – C-

Amends…Stripped – Grey Daze – Chester Bennington’s first band with acoustic versions from back in the day, the first two songs aren’t terrible – C+

joke’s on you – guccihighwaters – with big boy sad boys Powfu and nothing, nowhere featured, this is a not untypical slow paced deep sad sorta stuff – C+

Common Ground – Heath Sanders – youtube sensation who performs as old school as first song “Old School’s In,” a real good country rocker, and while nothing hits as big again the EP is solid enough – B

The People Tour: Live From Madison Square Garden – Hillsong UNITED – I saw Hillsong United at the Beacon Theatre in 2017, I mean before not just this MSG gig  but also the sex and money scandals rocking the Church from New York to Sydney -I gave the show a C+ and the best of this live one is as good as, say, the Killers, but most of it is draggy, overperformed grovelling – C-

MIXED EMOTIONS – Jack Kays – another sadboy locked in his bedroom, why do they all look like twinks with a bad hair dye? Sound like one as well – C-

Fed Up and Feeling Strange – J Mascis, Dinosaur Jr. – Masci sounds fully formed on the singer songwriterish live from CBGB’s twelve songs in 1993, then there is another fourteen tracks from the same vintage (including a fine “The Boy With A Thorn In His Side”) and finally another thirteen from 1998, and it is all Masci as a major songwriter and well worth the time – B+

Lyrics to GO, Vol. 2 – Kota the Friend – underground rap always moves forward from jazz bass instead of trap beats. Kota has a pretty good voice and is poppier than most – B-

Strawberry Mansion – Langhorne Slim – Nashville Americana favorite, writes an album in the wake of a hurricane and Covid-19, and sounds at times bewildered, sometimes fraught, but always not quite right as he rhymes danger with stranger – B

Colores – Lennis Rodriguez – mainstream Latin pop singer songwriter meets sugar coated pills – B

The Voice (Deluxe) – Lil Durk – the Chicago OG has the best flow here, and his raps are drill tough without being in the slightest bit poetic, but the result is a very popular sound with a handle on Atlanta trap. The deluxe includes twelve songs including one with the late lamented King Von – B+

Unbothered – Lil Skies – The Pennsylvanian 22 year old rapper is generic but not in a terrible way as he sorts through his life and counts his money – C+

Soulfire Live! (Expanded Edition) – Little Steven – A 2017 rock and soul gig, and if you don’t know precisely what it sounds like, you will – B

Lost In America – Lo Village – a Baltimore trio dealing with rap/r&b in a social commentary mode, though when you are using “Bufallo Soldier” three things are obvious 1) you have bucks, 2) you lack imagination, 3) you like the ‘Fugees – B-

II – LNZNDRF – three fifths of the National, some of Beirut, a touch of Grizzly Bear, adds up to art rock meets synth wall of sound  – B-

Sound Ancestors – Madlib – I’ve always admired without being enamored of the Mad crew -sadly MF Doom just died. But Madlib’s first solo album finds the producer reborn as an r&b guy and a real good one. It gets a little arty here and there, but it steadies itself as a strong black soul outing – A-

#7DJ (7 Días En Jamaica) – Maluma – The big time reggaeton guy goes all out dancehall plus during a week in Jamaica, and it sounds excellent. The best songs here, “Love” for instance, narrows the distance between Latin-Trap and reggae with a swinging stylishness – B+

The Third Chimpanzee E.P. – Martin Gore – one half of Depeche Mode with an electronic, almost ambient but not quite, industrial strength drums, collection of instrumentals – C+

What’s Going On (Deluxe Edition / 50th Anniversary) – Marvin Gaye -four mono takes, a coupla “singles” versions, a handful of remixes including one with BJ The Chicago Kid, and a demo of “Symphony”. But this is Marvin and we don’t need to be reminded to listen to him and that makes this a little useless – A

Silver Dream – Moon Taxi – indie rock meets Americana plus electronic beats… but worse than you think – D+

Dangerous: The Double Album (Bonus) – Morgan Wallen – adds three songs, two of which are new versions of old songs. He is pretty good at what he does, really. Just a mainstream and talented country guy who hit it big – B

COLOURS – PARTYNEXTDOOR – Have you ever seen Jahrain live? It is like watching Dramamine, and though he is always good on a label boss Drake song, alone it is a slog of electronica and somber r&b – C

Is This Desire? – Demos – PJ Harvey – yet another  compilation of demos from a specific album, this time the excellent Is This Desire? That’s the one where she put away her guitars for synths and piano, but on the demos you still get the guitars in full swing. The problem with all her demo albums is that what you want is the skeletons of songs being worked through, but the demos here are just about completed and waiting for the band to flesh it out a little but if that is what it takes to hear the album again, so be it – A-

Light for the World (Deluxe) – Juliette Pochin, James Morgan, Poor Clare Sisters Arundel – beautiful, chorale Christian chants and singing – B+

Home – Rhye -oddly down beat bedroom pop with a strong singer (mostly way up there, or at least way around there…) but a slow and somewhat boring sound – C+

Lucky 7 – Rich The Kid – one of the original, less than the top tier, Atlanta trap guys, is prolific though he hasn’t matched his 2018 The World Is Yours. DaBaby appears on one track, Migos on another. But it is a somewhat ordinary trap pop album – B-

THE FUTURE BITES – Steven Wilson – former progger (Porcupine Trees) moves into the digital era with electronic sound bytes – B-

All Bets Are Off – Tamar Aphek – electric guitar, bluesy moodiness from Israel, though apparently quieter than her work with Shoshanna. It takes a little while to get going but by the fourth track she puts her gorgeous sounding guitar to work on “Drive” – B+

Tha Wolf On Wall St – Tha God Fahim, Your Old Droog – two underground giant rappers, doing what they do over jazzy mood music – B

The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings – The Besnard Lakes – Canadian psyche rock sounds like what happens when you add an Americana wall of sound -somewhat on the gorgeous side and a little boring – B

Imploding The Mirage (Deluxe) – The Killers -“she’s got Howling Wolf eyes”? Great poets surprise you with thoughts you hadn’t had before, Brandon just ballfes you. If you don’t concentrate I guess these guys are alright, but the moment you pay attention they become the most pious, pompous and smug planks in the business… adds some new songs in the deluxe – C-

Vertigo Days – The Notwist- electronic indie rock now full swing art moodiness, goes on and on – C+

OK Human – Weezer – baroque and strings attached 60s pop, but Pet Sounds? Somewhere Brian Wilson is laughing himself sick – D+

The Good Times and The Bad Ones – Why Don’t We – I loved this boy band on the first listen, they are such clever clogs who add samples and 808s to their soulful boy voices sound. The opening two songs are pretty good, but then the songs morph to standard issue ballads and dance tracks -figure 5S0S, maybe a little better – C+

Rich Slave (Deluxe) – Young Dolph – adds eight good tracks to an already good album, the guy is a real gangster (he nearly got shot to death a coupla years ago), but that just makes him real. I love the way he constructs a track, he plays around with not beats, but voices – A-




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