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The Early Bird: Top New Recorded Releases 2-4-22 – 2-10-22

Early Bird? A day late bird poster as I found my Eddie Vedder live review (here) a bitch to write and it ate up the day. So a day later, let’s take a look at this week’s highlights. As a recorded phenom, Mitski is so much better on stage it isn’t funny, and even 2018’s breakthrough Be The Cowboy was much better on stage. Four years later, the Japanese-American superstar’s brilliantly named Laurel Hell is a welcome true years after she had decided to quit the business where her indie rock credentials melded with pop tones and obsession with sex paid off. Mitski was under contract with Dead Ocean Records (who started the process of turning Bright Eyes music into money) and so here is the result, a quiet, somewhat bland set of low key indie pop plus synths and distracted vocals (Grade: B).

Over at singles, Dead Oceans Records are back again, dropping three Bright Eyes singles as they took a page out of Taylor Swift’s book and have re-recorded at least some of the songs we know in their original state of being, Bright Eyes dubs them not “Taylor’s Version” but the less companionable “Companion Version”: a five song companion EP per each reissue, with featured guests here and there. Moving Bright Eyes from Saddlecreek -an indie label with a bewildered owner, to Dead Ocean, one of the top indies anywhere, begins here (Bright Eyes must own their masters), with a step back of 20 plus years. The first album is a warehouse of songs from the fifteen to seventeen year old Conor, A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995–1997, songs he’d written while he was still with Captain Venus. On the album, Conor begins developing the sound, drum machines, electronica, though it is mostly folk acoustic, for a set that sounds like his first hangover brought to life, Mike Mogis wouldn’t join till the next one, Nate Wolcott till 2005. The track Bright Eyes have dropped early is “Falling Out of Love At This Volume – Companion Version” which is reborn as a fuzzed out indie rocker and not the worse for it (Grade: B+). The sophomore effort was the deeply depressing, folk Americana Letting Off The Happiness plus other sounds and the arrival of Mike Mogis, to fill out the sound. It’s a tough album though “June On The West Coast” is magical, the first new single is “Contrast And Compare – Companion Version” (Grade: B+) featuring Waxahatchee and which substitutes the old Americana with much clearer guitar twang and horns. The legend began proper with third LP Fever And Mirrors (there is the old “A Night With Saddle Creek” documentary featuring Conor sticking the mirror that came with the album sleeve ready for shipping), an album that positively brims with negativity and Conor sounds paranoid, insulated, incapable of coping and on the brink of the breakdown that would find him a year later in a hospital apologizing to his father for the accidental OD. The Companion has a pointless Phoebe Bridgers adding her voice on “Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh” in which Conor discovers his girlfriend is cheating on him

More singles, Nicki Minaj made a mistake endemic in so many rappers careers, she got stuck doing features, her last album in 2018 was her 2009 mixtape appearing on streaming services, the new single “Do We Have A Problem?” with Lil Baby and Nicki somewhere between trap and dancehall on a goodie (Grade: B+). Speaking of which, Beenie Man is nothing if not the “King Of Dancehall” on this strongly average track (Grade: B). Drill is out to lose more young black rappers than Soundcloud Rap, Soundcloud lost names like Juice Wrld and xxxTentacion, Drill lost Pop Smoke, TDott Woo just last Tuesday, and Chicago Trap deity King Von, the result for King Von is his first posthumous album will be his breakthrough and the first single features 21 Savage on “Don’t Play That” -drill plus trap beats (Grade: B+).

Back at albums, what makes John Williams so remarkable as a movie soundtrack composer is his skills at breakaway anthems, from the Christopher Reeves “Superman” to Harry Potter (all of them) to “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, The Berlin Concert is a follow-up to the Vienna concert, with the 90 year old conducting both (Grade: B+), the UK version of Imagine Dragon, Bastille add beats to UK pop and have had a handful of hits and their latest album Give Me The Future, is ear candy and should add another coupla hits (Grade: B). Last summer we couldn’t get enough of the “black Woodstock” on Hulu for Questlove’s reclamation of the Harlem fest Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [Live at the Harlem Cultural Festival, 1969], personal revelation The 5th Dimension who, yes, were backer than we noticed, and David Ruffin who wasn’t, and at a measly 17 tracks we deserved a whole lot more material (Grade: A-). Finally, though only three songs in length, Planningtorock’s Gay Dreams Do Come True is hyper pop as mainstream disco dynamite (Grade: A-)

Give Me The Future – Bastille – B

King of Dancehall – Beenie Man, Panta Son – B

Contrast And Compare – Companion Version – Bright Eyes – B+

Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh – Companion Version – Bright Eyes – B

Falling Out of Love At This Volume – Companion Version – Bright Eyes -B+

The Berlin Concert – John Williams, Berliner Philharmoniker – B+

Don’t Play That – King Von, 21 Savage – B+

Laurel Hell – Mitski – B

Do We Have A Problem – Nicki Minaj, Lil Baby – B

Gay Dreams Do Come True – Planningtorock – A-

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [Live at the Harlem Cultural Festival, 1969] – Various Artists – A

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