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The Early Bird: Top New Recorded Releases 10-8-21 – 10-14-21 Reviewed

My great nephew Andrew’s friend Nicholas recommend Don Toliver when I was in Orlando to celebrate my nephew’s life, I was vaguely aware of Don through his featured vocals on one of the best rap albums of the immediate past, Travis Scott’s Astroworld, but at Nick’s recommendation I jumped in further this year, and now it has paid off with Toliver’s hip hop and r&b triumph, Life Of A Don, which features Travis twice, and maintains an even keel through neo-r&b with rap production values (Grade: A-).

Staying with albums, I reviewed James Blake’s fifth album earlier, Friends That Break Your Heart‘s a melodic song based minimalism, earlier today (here) (Grade: A-), my feelings about English rock and roll in the 21st century is pretty well documented (I don’t like it), but there are exceptions, 1975 is one and glammy singer songwriter Sam Fender is the other, Seventeen Going Under is a cool 70s rocker with tunes to burn and star power all the way through (Grade: B+). Thrice are a definitive post-hardcore band, and while there are enough melodies for the emo-core monicker, they sound like prog by another name on Horizon/East (Grade: C-); at this stage in their career, London synth pop duo Oh Wonder may be regretting Lil Uzi Vert sampling them, but the truth is they have a lot more intensely lovely songs than just “Landslide” and 22 Break shares a handful of them (Grade: B), Justice may well be Justin Bieber’s best album and the deluxe adds three goodies (Grade: A).

Over at singles, “Sherry Darling” is one of those not first tier songs that we prefer to the classics, it’s a “Two Hearts” or an “Out On The Streets” and this performance, about to be released on Bruce’s “No Nukes” live album is perfection (Grade: A); the first single from the eponymous first album, Pretenders drop their cover of Ray Davies “Stop Your Sobbing” performed live on the BBC (Grade: B+); Robert Glasper is way overrated and better at jazz than r&b, except when H.E.R. is on the track with a co-sign, as she is on the brooding and soulful (and sexy) “Better Than I Imagined” (Grade: B), hyperpop superstar Arca’s easily (I mean EASILY) most commercial song to date “Born Yesterday” is an electronic pop beauty aided and abetted by Sia (Grade: A-) , I very seldom give The Beatles a negative review, and can’t wait for Let It Be, but the 2021 mix adds nothing to the anodyne McCartney bummer “The Long And Winding Road” (Grade: C-); Finland’s soul man Sam Huber’s third single of the year is the sweet soul, 80s inspired “Lessons Of Love” which is a sound of Philadelphia horn based track of the first order… about now Sam should try country, I mean he can sing ANYTHING, why not? (Grade: A)

Born Yesterday – Arca, Sia – A-

Sherry Darling – Live at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – 09/22/79 – Bruce Springsteen – A

Life Of A Don – Don Toliver – A-

Friends That Break Your Heart – James Blake – A-

Justice (The Complete Edition) – Justin Bieber – A

22 Break – Oh Wonder – B

The Long And Winding Road – 2021 Mix – The Beatles – C-

Stop Your Sobbing – BBC Live Session – Pretenders – B+

Better Than I Imagined – Robert Glasper, H.E.R., Meshell Ndegeocello – B

Seventeen Going Under – Sam Fender – B+

Lessons Of Love – Sam Huber – A

Horizons / East – Thrice – C-

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