Rhapsody Streamnotes: October 16, 2012

Count is low by historic standards, but up one from last month, so let's not worry about that. The count will go up when we start seeing year-end lists, but my metacritic file is as far ahead of the learning curve this year as it's ever been. The count would go up now if I were even more dilligent about it, and worried about the black print near the top; currently, starting at 26: Purity Ring, Swans, Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, Matthew Dear, Field Music, Father John Misty, Dirty Three, Chromatics, Damien Jurado, Allo Darlin', Flying Lotus, How to Dress Well, Mission of Burma, Screaming Females, Ty Segall Band, Six Organs of Admittance, Xiu Xiu, Actress, Baroness, DIIV, Richard Hawley, Here We Go Magic, Julia Holter, Redd Kross, Ty Segall/White Fence down to 100. Some of those I've looked for and haven't found, but most don't strike me as very good prospects.

On the other hand, in a month this thin nearly everything looks like a real prospect. A lot of them came with recommendations from Christgau and/or Tatum (DeMent, Hicks, Kid Koala, Low Cut Connie, Carolyn Mark, Andre Williams, but also Pink, P.S. Eliot, Patterson Hood, and Corin Tucker -- first three came close, and sharp readers will recall that there's ever been a Sleater-Kinney album I've liked half as much as my mentors did). On the other hand I salvaged Carly Rae Jepsen from Tatum's trash. I have a soft spot for teen dance pop and also for disco formalism and it hit both of them. As for Van Morrison, presumably I'm just out front for once. On the other hand, I don't recall anyone saying much about his 2002 masterpiece, Down the Road, the last time he's been this inspired.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on September 18. Past reviews and more information are available here (2883 records).

Damon Albarn: Dr Dee (2012, Virgin): Former Blur frontman, has dabbled in Mali Music and Gorillaz and divers other projects for a long time. On his own brings out the English muso in him, resulting in an opera, complete with soprano diva, disconnected rhythm tracks, sound effects. C+

Alhousseini Anivolla: Anewal/The Walking Man (2012, Riverboat): Tuareg bluesman from Niger, previously in Etran Finatawa. Striking how spare this is, how basic the groove, how unadorned everything else is. B+(**)

The Bad Plus: Made Possible (2012, E1): Star-laden piano trio -- Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, Dave King -- ninth album since 2001, first to break their all-acoustic concept, adding synth bits, not that they matter much. What matters is their preference for grand gestures: so grand they threaten to cave in on themselves, but time and again they pull up just short of the crash. B+(**)

Brother Ali: Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (2012, Rhymesayers Entertainment): White Muslim rapper from Minnesota, can't understand why anyone would be a conservative, and he's got a point here -- in fact, he's got lots of points, but he's in such a rush to get them out the beats get hard and brittle. B+(*)

Cat Power: Sun (2012, Matador): Chan Marshall has built up a popular, and belatedly a critical, following over nine albums since 1995. Have only heard the last two, but this one is solid and likable throughout. B+(*)

The D.A.: You Kids! (2011, self-released): Alt-rock debut from an El Paso group, "driving, melodic, engaged, humane, disillusioned" (quoting Christgau, all true), kept going on a bit past my interest level but not unpleasantly so. I wonder whether if I played this as many times as Low Cut Connie I wouldn't wind up liking it more, but probably not -- you didn't notice wit in that list, now did you? B+(***)

Iris DeMent: Sing the Delta (2012, Flariella): Her picture on the cover shows a face weathered beyond her years, but her voice hasn't lost an iota of charm or truth or sympathy, and the new songs -- her first album of them since 1996 -- signify so often on their first spin I can only expect them to grow on me. A-

The Flatlanders: The Odessa Tapes (1972 [2012], New West): Lubbock legends -- Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely -- cut these demo tapes a couple months before their set released in 1972 on 8-track as All American Music, later in 1990 resurrected on CD as More a Legend Than a Band -- still the one you want, but obsessives will find four previously unheard songs here, fans will enjoy the rest, and the ignorant will find them have some catching up to do. B+(***)

GOOD Music: Cruel Summer (2012, GOOD Music/Def Jam): Kanye West kept his name off this, but he shows up on seven of twelve songs, and is a writer and/or producer on three others -- that leaves two sludgy John Legend features, "Sin City" and "Bliss," and Kid Cudi's creepy "Creepers" -- heavy, loud, dull, with no snap or lift let alone wit. On the other hand, West brightens up everything he touches, and "New God Flow" comes close to fulfilling its considerable conceit. Maybe he should do his own album. B+(**)

Dylan Hicks: Sings Bolling Greene (2012, Two Deuces): Minnesota singer-songwriter, wrote a novel with a countryish singer character, wrote him some songs, and recorded them. The eloquence of the words is tempered by the breeziness of the music, and vice versa. A- [bc]

Patterson Hood: Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance (2012, ATO): Drive-By Trucker's third solo outing, restrained by the band's standards (even by his previous album's), which I find to be a blessing. Unsure of the details, reportedly autobiographical, not that that matters about someone you don't know. B+(***)

Wanda Jackson: Unfinished Business (2012, Sugar Hill): Had some rockabilly hits in the late 1950s, at one point touring with Elvis Presley, and when that ran out she found God and tried her hand at singing gospel, slowing down in the 1980s but in 2003 insisting that she was Live and Still Kickin'. Jack White picked her up for a 2011 dud, The Party Ain't Over, and now Justin Townes Earle gets a shot. In "What Do You Do When You're Lonesome?" he gives her a solid ballad, a change of pace from the uptempo stuff that always works, but his other picks are less successful. B+(*)

Carly Rae Jepsen: Kiss (2012, 604/Interscope/Schoolboy): Canadian dance-pop singer, second album, had a breakout single earlier this year ("Call Me Maybe") which is supposed to key this album, but catchy as it is hardly stands out, especially coming after "Tiny Little Bows" and "This Kiss" and followed by "Good Time." One could complain that the beats are so even-handed they risk monotony, but I find they're just right. A-

Kid Koala: 12 Bit Blues (2012, Ninja Tune): DJ, got his start twisting turntables, evidently piece this together by sampling old blues discs, replacing the surface noise with beat samples, turntable squeaks, ancillary commentary, coming up with something old and new and remarkable in its own right. A-

Kimbra: Vows (2011 [2012], Warner Brothers): Last name Johnson, from New Zealand, a pop chanteuse, barely past her teens, with danceable beats, but I keep getting a whiff of prog perfume, like she grew up with a crush on Kate Bush. B

Lianne La Havas: Is Your Love Big Enough? (2012, Nonesuch): English singer-songwriter, parents Greek and Jamaican, debut record has a folkie's direct simplicity and enough voice for a soul diva. The songs, most co-written with producer Matt Hales, are striking -- an album that could well grow on you. B+(***)

Bill Laswell/Raoul Björkenheim/Morgan Ågren: Blixt (2011, Cuneiform): Guitar-bass-drums trio, the bassist getting first billing because he's more famous, but the guitarist from Finland is the true talent here, as anyone who has heard of Scorch Trio knows. What Laswell does is to even out the beat, moving the focus from jazz to instrumental rock, losing some edge along the way. B+(***) [dl]

Low Cut Connie: Call Me Sylvia (2012, self-released): Second album, much tougher to get into than the first one, probably because it develops in several different ways, the first half fishing hooks back from the Brit Invasion, the second settling in as a rowdy bar band, either upping the energy and antic levels above pretty much anything else I'm aware of in alt-rock-land -- not that I give other bands anywhere near this much chance. I must like them. A- [cd]

Corb Lund: Cabin Fever (2012, New West): Canadian singer-songwriter, country division, earns his spurs with songs about cows and guns and drinking and the Bible although none of them add up exactly per formula, like "Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner," or "Cows Around" -- too set in the country for Nashville, I'd say, but maybe not for Texas, or Alberta. Hayes Carll helped write and sing the best song, but not by much. B+(**)

Carolyn Mark: The Queen of Vancouver Island (2012, Mint): Canadian country singer, eighth solo album after one with Neko Case as the Corn Sisters. Short on twang not to mention fidelity to traditional family values, but the songs flow gracefully, bite when you don't expect it, especially when giving Nobody a tough time. A-

Tift Merritt: Traveling Alone (2012, Yep Roc): Singer-songwriter, originally slotted as country -- born in Texas, grew up in North Carolina -- in seven albums never giving us much reason to move her, even though this is produced by Tucker Martine with Marc Ribot on guitar. B+(**)

Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream (2012, RCA): R&B singer, Miguel Jontel Pimentel, second album plus some EPs (which I couldn't get into). Not the slickest guy around, he trips up on the second song ("Don't Look Back") and never really gets his mojo back, going short-term in "Where's the Fun in Forever," and over the top in claiming "Pussy Is Mine" -- I'd be surprised. B [Later: B+(*)]

James Morrison: Snappy Too (2012, self-released): Trumpet player from Down Under, did a record called Scooby Doo in 1990 with Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, and Jeff Hamilton; wanting to recapture the magic, but with two of his cohort dead, he went into the studio with some of their tapes -- not clear how much -- and dubbed in a 17-piece big band, playing everything himself but the drums (Hamilton's department). Seems like a dubious concept, but on "Up a Lazy River" he lays the brass on so thick I'm reminded of a vaguely remembered stripping tune -- I consider that a high point. B+(**)

Van Morrison: Born to Sing: No Plan B (2012, Blue Note): Back on a jazz label, something he's always been "close enough" for, especially given his fondness for punctuating his shuffle rhythm with sax flares. First three songs are of a piece with his great ones, and time will tell whether the rest add up. The lyric I need dig into deeper is "If in Money We Trust," but that's not his first jab against capitalism and materialism, and he follows up the ambiguous "God is dead" there by declaring for his "Pagan Heart." Never expected him to be a deep thinker. Just do love to hear him sing (and play a bit of sax). A [cd]

Mungolian Jetset: Schlungs (2011, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian electronica group, their other albums reportedly remix-oriented, but this one is a series of jokes, starting with the fake-Strauss of "2011: A Space Woodysey" and moving on to mess with Giorgio Moroder. The vocals led one reviewer to liken them to 10cc. The instrumental "Moonstruck" is way better, yet still a joke. B+(*)

Jerrod Niemann: Free the Music (2012, Arista): Singer-songwriter from southwest Kansas, lodged in Nashville but a lot of things about his songcraft strike me as, well, rather prog, even when he tries writing about "Honky Tonk Fever" and insists that "Real Women Drink Beer" and "Only God Could Love You More." Most of his songs have co-writers, which may help him fit in, but he's not sure he wants to. B+(**)

Niki & the Dove: Instinct (2012, Sub Pop): Swedish electropop group, the singer Malin Dahlström, backed with keybs and drums; overwrought, always the easiest way to fake emotion, again the easiest way to fake engagement, so why pretend we care? B-

Pink: The Truth About Love (2012, RCA): Not promising: she's insisting on being called "P!nk" now -- hitherto a tic we could blame on her graphic designers -- and AMG acceded making it annoyingly hard to look her up. Back when I was setting type, I learned to correct copy to keep clients from making fools of themselves, as I've continued to do in cases like Kesha, Currensy, Tune-Yards, etc. More seriously, she insisted that her 2010 best-of, which is standard industry policy following her worst-ever album, be titled Greatest Hits . . . So Far! I've never seen an artist who insisted there are more to come actually deliver any, but she may have a couple here. Still, they mostly spin off her profanity -- I don't disapprove, but calling everyone else an asshole makes you wonder about her. She makes this more difficult than it needs to be. Even her lingerie looks like more trouble than it's likely to be worth. B+(***)

P.S. Eliot: Sadie (2011, Salinas): Alabama girl-punk band, twins named Alison and Katie Crutchfield, have a previous album and split up after this one, Alison going on to Swearin', Katie to Waxahatchee. Thirteen songs, short and punchy, except for the one slowed down to a whisper. B+(***) [dl]

Spider Bags: Shake My Head (2012, Odessa): New Jersey alt-punk group, the shine on their songcraft hints at Brit Invasion to me -- not least in the prog move at the end, what happens when you push a three-minute song over five. B+(*)

Swearin': Swearin' (2012, Salinas): Allison Crutchfield's latest punk band -- at 23 she seems to have run through several of them, with and without her twin sister Katie. Sound's a bit undecipherable, but the beat and basics are there. B+(**) [dl]

The Corin Tucker Band: Kill My Blues (2012, Kill Rock Stars): Ex-Sleater-Kinney. My position on the best-regarded, at least in circles I'm generally close to, rock band of their era (1995-2005) is that they had a great drummer and two singers I wished would shut the fuck up. Tucker was one of those singers, probably the less irritating one but I've never been clear on that. At least she's less irritating here, and on "Summer Jams" she fits in so seamlessly there's no irritation at all -- a spell she breaks with the moaning "Joey"; even there the guitar redeems, only to short out in "Tiptoe." B+(**)

Wildlife Control: Wildlife Control (2012, self-released): Debut from brothers Neil and Sumul Shah, who grew up "in the rolling hills and industrial decay of rural northeast Pennsylvania" and landed in Brooklyn, backed by some jazzbos from the same neck of the woods, not that you could ever pick them in a blindfold test. B+(*) [cd]

Andre Williams & the Sadies: Night & Day (2012, Yep Roc): B. 1936 in Alabama, had a minor R&B hit in 1957 ("Bacon Fat"), worked for Motown and Chess, did drugs and lived homeless, and when he got too old for that mounted some kind of comeback, devising styles he called "sleaze rock" and "punk blues" and often just winging it, cutting 16 albums since 1990, including at least one prior with Toronto's most supportive alt-country band. The rough ones are up front, including ones that challenge America and dismiss Mississippi, and the filler doesn't tail off much. A-


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:

  • Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)
  • Four Tet: Pink (Text)
  • Jon Dee Graham: Garage Sale! (Freedom)
  • LV: Sebenza (Hyperdub)
  • Mungolian Jet Set: Mungodelics (Smalltown Supersound)
  • Alexander Tucker: Third Mouth (Thrill Jockey)

Recycled Goods

The following were written during this period for Recycled Goods:

Gene Autry: Blues Singer, 1929-1931: "Booger Rooger Saturday Nite" (1929-31 [1996], Columbia/Legacy): Before Hollywood, he had a pretty good Jimmie Rodgers impression, not least the yodel, with a touch of sugar in his voice and a sly grin that would take him far; note that Legacy's The Essential Gene Autry starts after this one ends, and is worse for it. B+(**)

KC & the Sunshine Band: Greatest Hits (1974-80 [1980], TK): Thought I'd check my assertion above, but the closest I found on Rhapsody was a "2012, RKO" that appears to be download only; however, it matches the original TK best-of, a 11-cut LP that closed out their prime period; everything you need, not that there isn't more. A-

KC & the Sunshine Band: The Best of KC & the Sunshine Band (1974-82 [1990], Rhino): Reshuffles and adds five songs to Greatest Hits, one post-1980, two from Part 3, one from the band's The Sound of Sunshine, and, most importantly, "Do You Wanna Go Party": definitely! A-

The Slide Guitar: Bottles, Knives and Steel Vol. 2 (1927-34 [1993], Columbia/Legacy): Nothing much here screams out slide guitar, especially given how easy Tampa Red makes it seem -- he has 7 of 20 cuts; Curley Weaver and Sylvester Weaver 3 each -- so just another grab bag of vintage blues and hokum, including two early Helen Humes vocals. B+(**)

Hal Smith/Keith Ingham/Bobby Gordon: Music From the Mauve Decades (1993, Sackville): Drums-piano-clarinet trio, respectively, playing tunes that date from 1900-1920 ("the mauve decades"), so this predates trad jazz but that doesn't prevent the trio from swinging; Ingham is a natural here, Gordon eloquent, Smith gives it a little extra kick; found this looking up Smith, and this is the only album he has on Rhapsody (of a dozen or so). B+(**)


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd (but made most sense to review here)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, or may be a promo deal