Woo...there's so much here. Rock, Jazz, country, R&B, swing, Electronic. Another big release day in the music world. Let's begin with Mr. White...
Jack White - Boarding House Reach
There have now been a few generations of guitar heroes since the birth of rock n roll. Jack White became one of the first of his generation, embracing rock but looking to the blues as so many of his predecessors have. He is also a champion of the music industry, has his own record label and vinyl pressing plant. This new album is signature Jack White: Arrangements with a lot of space in them, highly-processed guitars, and heavy hooks. If you don't mind some occasionally-screeching vocals, White makes some pretty great music,
Toni Braxton - Sex & Cigarettes
I guess I need to get over my aversion to auto tune because it’s now more than a tool. It has become an aesthetic, and it’s used even on singers who can sing. The reason I need to get over it is because a) it’s not going away, and b) in many cases it’s not really that different than adding reverb or delay to a vocal. It’s just another way of painting with different textures in the studio. I happen not to like that paintbrush much, but oh well. It's like being mad at the '80s for synths and gated-reverb...that's just what they did.
Back in 1993, I could barely breathe without Toni Braxton asking me to Breathe Again. Despite her recording fairly regularly, I haven’t really heard her since the mid-‘90s, but look, here’s a new album. It’s pretty straight-ahead pop music. And it has that almost-subtle auto tune treatment all over it. Again, oh well.
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Beasts of Burgundy
Right around the time that Braxton was un-breaking hearts, the ‘90s swing-throwback craze was in full sw... .
Anyway. Remember the Squirrel Nut Zippers? They’re still making music, too, but as far as I can tell, this is their first studio album in 18 years. It sounds to me like maybe they're as swingy and fun as they ever were. And 20 years after the over-played fad faded, I’m kind of happy to hear them again.
Field Report - Summertime Songs
Here’s a band I didn’t know until this week. Band leader Chris Porterfield was in an early band with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. I've read that this project brings to mind Dylan and Springsteen and Paul Simon. Maybe their first two albums (that I haven't yet listened to) do, but remember David Gray? I think this album sounds a bit like him.
Sunflower Bean - Twentytwo in Blue
A young Brooklyn alternative indie rock trio with a little bit of punk and shades of Fleetwood Mac. Their first album received good reviews. I haven't heard it, but this sophomore release sounds pretty good.
Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain
At its core, this is pure country music with soul and heart. Andrews provides beautiful singing in that Dolly, Emmylou tradition. I am generally allergic to the commercialism of modern country music. I freely admit hypocrisy. I’m not really bothered by commercialism in many other genres, but my tolerance for it in country music is super low. I find that a more classic country music with genuine roots can be incredibly moving. I put this album into that category. This is Andrews' sixth album, and what I've heard is marvelous.
Miles Davis & John Coltrane - The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6
If you’re a jazz geek, particularly a Miles Davis geek there is so much music to listen to. Under his own name, there were more than 50 studio albums and dozens of live albums (not to mention all of the alternate takes and outtakes from the various sessions), and just when you think they couldn’t possibly find any more recorded material, they do. This box set is from one of Miles’ most important eras and documents his final tour with John Coltrane. Not only that, the rhythm section is the one from the legendary Kind of Blue, with Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Wynton Kelly on piano (as opposed to Bill Evans, who played on much of that album, too).
Since this is taken from several concerts throughout Europe, there are some repeats, but that will never stop jazz heads from checking out each and every interpretation. The fact is, all five of these players were monsters in their own right, and any time they spent together is grounds for documenting and paying attention. So if you’ve worn through all those other Miles recordings, here’s some more remarkable stuff to sink your teeth into.
Cavern of Anti-Matter - Hormone Lemonade
Most people will recognize that elements of electronic music are making their way into most genres of music. But there still is, of course, that enormous genre unto its own known as Electronic Music. I don’t know a ton about Electronic Music. There are so many sub-genres, but to my mind there are two types of electronic music: EDM (electronic dance music) and Ambient. Electronic fans will surely crucify me for that over-simplified distillation, but that’s how I feel about it.
If I have to toss this album into a category, I’ll put it in the ambient pile, but they do occasionally achieve some danceable grooves. Otherwise, you can expect to hear a lot of repetitive patterns that create various moods and live in those. I don’t hate this, I just I don’t know exactly when I would choose to listen to this type of thing. But people do. I just don’t know who or when. If you’re one of these people, I’d love to know why this gets you going.
The Maghreban - 01Deas
Okay so this electronic music makes a little more sense to me. This one I’ll dump in the the dance category; although, that’s probably not totally accurate, either. It was created by a hip-hop producer, and maybe that’s why I can latch on a little easier. It sounds more like a DJ mining grooves and creating tracks like sound collages, as opposed to a style of repetitive meandering.
Kurt Elling - The Questions
My friend Drew first played Kurt Elling for me in college 20 years ago. I was hooked. Elling injected new life into the realm of vocal jazz at a time when it seemed like there wasn’t much innovating to be done in the genre. He had energy and creativity, and I was enthralled by his interpretive skills and ability to make a song his own. I’ve watched that youthful energy gradually diminish over the years, but he still makes beautiful albums, and he definitely knows how to sing a tune.
George Ezra - Staying at Tamara's
This young dude creates a bouncy brand of semi-soulful Brit-pop with threads of folk occasionally revealing themselves. He also represents an unusual presence of a baritone in pop music. It's just good pop music.
Wynton Marsalis - United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas
Recorded between 2003-2007, these are live cuts from Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas featuring major rock, country, blues and pop musicians backed by Wynton Marsalis and his septet. If you’re intrigued by star-studded collaborations with a jazzy/bluesy bent, you’ll be listening to this.