We’re halfway through the last year of the the 10’s, and I’m back from a short break that saw me celebrate my birthday, and take my first ever trip outside the country, visiting Mexico for a destination wedding. It appears I didn’t miss that much in the way of new music, but I do have some new stuff to talk about. In addition to revealing my top choices for the year so far, got some singles to tell you about, and I’ll be doing some short takes on new full-length releases- the latest from The Black Keys, a new album from Daniel Caesar, the latest from Yuna, and a new joint from Georgia Anne Muldrow.
The Best So Far…
This year to date, I’ve reviewed 40 new albums across nine posts (not including the ‘Best Of 2018’ post); of those new releases, these are my Top 5 albums so far this year, albums that have remained in constant rotation in my disc player (yes, I STILL buy the CD’s!). These are in no particular order:
Melodiesinfonie – “A Journey to You” I told y’all this one would make the list when I reviewed it. Latest from Zurich, Switzerland-based producer Kevin Wettstein has the cool vibes reminiscent of the best 90’s trip-hop jazz.
Durand Jones & the Soul Indications – “American Love Call” Friends who met at Indiana University start a band, create a vintage Soul sound a la the Delfonics, Impressions, and others, and do it well.
S.P.Y. – “Dubplate Style” Drum ‘n bass is alive and well in the hands of Sao Paulo, Brazil born, London-based producer Carlos Barbosa de Lima, as he takes the genre back to the old school.
Gary Clark Jr. – “This Land” The most fully realized album to date from Blues/rock guitarist shows his versatility, and a little bit of controversy, too!
The Specials – “Encore” The first album since 1981’s More Specials to feature the vocals of original lead single Terry Hall, these aging skanksters haven’t lost a beat.
What’s Coming Up?
The next couple of issues will contain reviews of, among others, Blood Orange, 311, Nate Mercereau, Angie Stone, and Massive Attack.
Among future releases are BET’s top Global act Burna Boy with his second album “African Giant” (7/27). August brings Gospel artist Vashawn Mitchell, who drops his new one “Elements” (8/9), Raphael Saadiq is back with “Jimmy Lee” on 8/23, Common returns with “Let Love“, Sheryl Crow releases “Threads“, and Trisha Yearwood gives us “Every Girl“, all on 8/30. The month of September brings us the latest from my 90’s faves The Brand New Heavies with “TBNH“, and there is a ‘lost’ Miles Davis album originally scheduled for release back around 1984 called “Rubberband” that will finally see the light of day; both of them will drop 9/6. Also due are new albums from The Pixies, with “Beneath the Eyrie” and Lumineers “III“, both set to drop on 9/13, and the solo debut from Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard called “Jaime” comes out on 9/20.
From the Singles Bar…
This is an artist I just recently discovered, and he just happens to have a new album that just came out this past week…. look for a review of it in my next post… Ash Walker is a London-based DJ/producer who specializes in a sort of Dubby Soul/Jazz… his latest single features vocals from British vocalist Laville, whose debut album was also released this past week, and is called “Under the Sun“…. love this…
The latest from 25 year old NYC-based Amber Mark is another in a series of fine singles she’s released; we need a full album from her… she’s lived all over the wold, and her music reflects influences from all over as well… she’s talented, and she purdy too!… here’s “What If“…
The latest single from 31 year old Snoh Aalegra is a gorgeous Pop song “Find Someone Like You“… she is of Swedish/Persian ethnicity, Sweden born and raised, but now based in L.A…. and she purdy too!… her first album Feels was critically acclaimed… eagerly awaiting the next one… check the track…
THE HEARD (Reviews)
The Black Keys
There’s been some talk about the demise of Rock & Roll as a musical art form, as increasingly, popular musics are blending genres together, creating what’s said to be a genre-less musical culture where everything is sounding alike. Five years and some solo endeavors since their last last album, 2014’s Turn Blue, the duo from Akron, OH are back with a vengeance, lettin’ us know that Rock music is still alive.
This is a stripped down affair, with just the duo and their overdubs, augmented only by a couple of backing vocalists. There is plenty of classic Rock riffin’ going on- I hear all of the 70’s classic Rock types here, and Dan Auerbach’s vocals echo classic voices like Steve Miller, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.
The Black Keys have made it, so they had nothing to lose doing an album that breaks no new ground, but revisits old territory; they’ll only increase their fanbase with this one… I love it…….. here’s the video for “Go“, a great piece of The Knack/The Romantics-era Power Pop…
The fourth album from 32 year-old Malaysian- born singer Yunalis Zara’ai is the followup to her fine 2016 release Chapters, which contained her song with Usher “Crush“, and one of my favorite songs of that year, “Best Love“. A devout Muslim, she has recently married and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue and further her musical career.
I love her voice and vocal style- she has that cool, relatively unaffected vocal style that draws comparisons to the likes of Sade and Aaliyah – check out “(Not) the Love of My Life” and “Amy“, which are two of my favorites in this set, and “Teenage Heartbreak” and “Forget About You“. The tracks intended to be singles include “Castaway“, the nice album opener which features Tyler the Creator, and the Bruno Mars-ish “Blank Marquee“, feat. G-Eazy. She includes a track addressing her critics regarding the upholding of her religious tenets (“Does She“), and closes the album with a track for her homeland, “Tiada Akhir“, which is sung in her native language.
There is nothing here that floats my boat like “Best Love” from the last album, but there is a lot to like, nonetheless… here’s the video for “Blank Marquee“…
Case Study 01
One of the main definitions of the word “Entropy”, also the lead track from the new collection from this 24 year old Toronto native is as a scientific term relating to statistical mechanics; another definition is “lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.” That actually is a good way to describe the feel of this, the sophomore album from Caesar, following up his 2017 debut Freudian.
I was expecting something closer to his last album, which was gospel tinged R&B, but this is closer to everything else you hear in today’s so-called Alt Soul- I heard the track “Cyanide” and actually thought it was someone else. It’s more melancholy than I expected, but on the plus side, the malaise has him grasping for his faith. The closest he gets to anything on the last album is his collabo with Brandy “Love Again“; otherwise, he also collaborates with John Mayer (“Superposition“) and Pharrell Williams (“Frontal Lobe Musik“). He shows himself as articulate and literate enough to use scientific metaphors and religious references throughout the album, but then betrays it by lapsing into self-centered P ‘n D talk in other areas.
Daniel also put his foot in his mouth recently when speaking about Black people and racism, saying basically they’re too sensitive; I’ll refrain from commenting on that, preferring to stick to this album review, to which I’ll conclude by paraphrasing AT&T’s current ad campaign for an overall assessment of the album: just OK… here’s the video for “Cyanide“…
Georgia Anne Muldrow
A prolific musical chameleon is one of the best ways to describe Georgia Anne Muldrow. Her last album Overload won my R&B Album of the Year for its’ quirky Neo Soul stylings; she is, however, quite adept in other areas, as well. Over the past decade and the course of nearly 20 albums, she has released those where she displays her Rap skills, albums where she has done a sort of cosmic Jazz, and then there is the funkmeister Georgia, which is where this album falls- this is a collection of funky instrumentals.
A few years ago, The Brand New Heavies released an album called Dunk Your Trunk, which was similarly an album of funky instrumental tracks; their purpose in making that album was reportedly for people who needed a backing track for something they were promoting – business, news segment, background music, etc…. my blogging buddy daddydforreal and I have a dormant podcast which has utilized one of the tracks as our opening theme music… not sure if that is the intention with this album, but it could certainly serve that purpose. Over the course of 16 tracks , she produces one mildly to very funky track after another, for an hours’ worth of music; to my ears, nothing particularly stood out, but some tracks worked better than others- it’s up to you and your personal taste to decide which ones- one of my favorites is “Das Funk“, which is the audio track posted with this review.
This will work best as funky background or elevator music; you may subconsciously find yourself tapping your feet or nodding your head while studying or cleaning up when this is playing… here is “Das Funk“…