Get Down On It

There’s nothing like the music industry’s customary lull at the beginning of the new year to send a guy into a state of writer’s block; there simply wasn’t anything worth writing about to me. It is showing signs of picking up, however, as there are a number of high-profile artists with new music on the way in the next couple of months. As you can see, I’ve freshened up the place a bit, using a revised template and new colors, trying to inject some new life into the page – lemme know what you think of the changes.

I’m also experimenting with a slightly different format, a more conversational motive; again, your thoughts are welcome. The title for this post came from a familiar place- a random tune that, for no reason, popped in my head. Subliminally, I think my co-worker played this song, and I managed to overhear it while talking to a customer; since several of the artists this time around are Dance-oriented, it seemed like the perfect lyric for it.

For this post, got a mixture of albums and EP’s for ya: new albums from Tame Impala, Pet Shop Boys, Cerrone, Drive By Truckers, and Moses Sumney, plus EP’s from Khruangbin & Leon Bridges, 53 Thieves…. and starting off with this….

Back in 2017, I suffered the first of two Pulmonary Embolisms, which, if you don’t know what that is, it’s blood clots in the lungs. Mine traveled from my left leg up to near my heart, making it so hard to breathe, that I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without being completely out of breath. After spending a couple of days in the hospital, I was sent home. A little over a year later, after being off of the Eliquis I was taking (by my doctor’s advice), I suffered my second P.E., so now I’m on the medication for life.

The music industry recently lost a shining figure in Andrew Weatherall, a DJ and producer responsible for some of the most memorable music to come out of late 80’s/early 90’s UK, and beyond; he passed away on February 17th at the age of 56 due to a Pulmonary Embolism. He was a producer adept at meshing different styles together into something workable; for me, his crowning achievement was the production work he provided for the 1991 Primal Scream album Screamadelica. Produced during the early 90’s Madchester craze that produced several fine groups, such as Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Charlatans UK, and others, it combined elements of 60’s Psychedelia with modern rave flourishes like Acid House and some Hip-hopish beats; it’s an album I still pull out every so often – in fact, I’m listening to it right now, as I write this review.

He was best known as a producer/remixer for others, but he did put out the occasional album. There is a new 4-track EP just out by him called Unknown Plunderer, which features that track and “End Times Sound“, along with two remixes of the title track.

Andrew Weatherall

The original versions of the two tracks are long, sprawling Dub-influenced tracks, which are very nice; of the remixes, The Radioactive Man remix is a dark, 80’s breakbeat-influenced track, while the Manfredas remix is Disco-influenced- it recalled Cerrone’s classic 1977 track “Supernature“… check out the title track…

He left behind a treasure trove of music by which we can remember him…

… and speaking of the French Disco king, Cerrone recently released a new album called DNA, by my count the 27th studio album for the 67 year old drummer and composer best known for his so-called audio porn classics Love In C Minor and Cerrone’s Paradise from ’76 and ’77, and the more synthesizer-influenced Supernature from ’78…… Trivia note: did you know the lyrics for”Supernature” were written by none other than British artist Lene Lovich? She went on to produce two fine, quirky New Wave albums for Stiff Records in the late 70’s, Stateless and Flex… yes, I own them both… anyway, this new album


finds him still churning out some nice dance music in his old age. The new music has more of a kinship with the Supernature sound more so than the lush orchestration of his earlier, most well-known stuff- he’ll never top his first two albums, as far as I’m concerned – this is more electronic, anthemic, almost soundtrack-like, more in the vein of Giorgio Moroder. It is good to have him still in the mix… here is a video from the album, “Resolution“…

Switching gears for a bit, a new artist I happened to come across during a visit to the Majestic Causal playlist on Spotify was the duo 53 Thieves; they’ve released their debut EP entitled after hours – it is the followup to two earlier singles, “dreamin’” and “what you do for me” (both of which are included here). Don’t know much about this group, but I did read they were formed by two exchange students from England studying at a Texas university, who are either married or related, and through a series of file and data exchanges over the internet, created the group, with production help coming from an Austin, TX based producer and another guy based in New York…. love it or loathe it, this is how the modern group comes together these days…

However it came together, the sound is one reminiscent of Alina Baraz and Galimatias (together and individually), aligns perfectly with Majestic Casual’s chilled, late-night vibe sort of aesthetic, and sounds really nice. Check out the track “dreamin‘”

… And while talking about Texas, there’s a nice collabo from Houston-based instrumental trio Khruangbin and Austin-based Soul revivalist Leon Bridges called Texas Sun that came out recently. This is a four-track EP that combines the talents of both artists- essentially lyrics and vocals from one being added to the music of the other. Khruangbin likes to explore the music from different cultures, like Asian and Middle Eastern styles and infusing them into Soul, Rock, Country or whatever else- they have two albums to date. Bridges has also released two albums, both baked in the sound of classic Soul.

Leon Bridges

The EP is a celebratory expression for their home state; the title track is a spaghetti-western Soul, while “Conversion” uses a melancholy Blues to transition into the old Gospel standard “At the Cross“. My favorite track is the minimally funky “C-Side“, while “Midnight” is a smoldering retro R&B. Four tracks isn’t enough for this collabo, here’s hoping they do a full project together, because this short set is fantastic… Here’s the video for the title track…

My first exposure to 28 year old L.A.-based singer-songwriter Moses Sumney was via albums by James Blake and The Cinematic Orchestra last year; I can see how he gravitated to those artists, as he shares a similar style. His sophomore release grae is a double album that he is releasing in two parts- the first part was just released, with the second half of it coming later in the year. His first album Aromanticism was released to critical acclaim in 2017.

Moses Sumney

If you’re looking for something easy on the ears, this isn’t it; however, if you want something that will challenge your musical palette, and provoke thought lyrically, this is it. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I can best describe this as ‘High brow Soul’- like a Prince meets James Blake, using the theatrics of a Grace Jones. As a singer, he has tremendous range, kinda Prince-like, especially in the falsetto range; musically, he has what I’d call a lot of ‘atmosphere’ – a soundclash of quiet and serene against loud and brash – instrumentally, it can be very Baroque-sounding, with instruments like harps, flutes, and English horns in the mix. Lyrically, it’s all about the ‘gray area’, hence the album title. A track like the single “Virile“, for instance, challenges the traditional notions of what it means to be masculine – the gray area. “Cut Me“, another single, was formed as a tribute to Aretha Franklin – an old-style R&B song with a futuristic feel, with a decidedly un-Aretha lyric “Ooh, when my mind’s clouded / And filled with doubt / That’s when I feel the most alive / Masochistic kisses are how I thrive…“. On “Conveyor“, he takes the theme from “Virile” and transitions it as the analogy of going from boy to man, while “boxes” speaks to the mental aspect of being Black: “And the most significant thing that any person can do / But especially black women and men is to think about who gave them their definitions / And rewrite those definition from themselves...”

Most songs seems rather personal, yet many can identify with their themes, so if nothing else, this album will make you think. It’s not dance, or Pop, not Soul in the traditional sense, and definitely not for everyone – I had to give it multiple listens before it all sunk in for me; but that’s a good thing – it’s not disposable, like most music… Here’s the video for “Virile“…

The last time Drive-By Truckers released an album, 2016’s American Band, they caught some flak from a portion of their fanbase for being not only too political, but too “liberal” for some tastes; how dare they do that? Founding members Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood felt it was necessary to speak about things on their minds, and since there were some who didn’t like it last time, they decided to do it again; and so they brought us The Unraveling, a statement very apropos for the times.

Drive By Truckers

This one, too, has rubbed some of their fans the wrong way; it appears DBT actually can step outside of the insular environment in which some of the typical demographic that listen to them reside. I’ve often said that no one wants to hear your opinions (especially politically), unless they agree with you; to me, it’s a shame some folks can’t get behind what they’re talking about.

Some of the talking points which form their rage against what they consider to be the unraveling of current American society include mass shootings and the relative inaction and apathy shown by those in charge (“Thoughts and Prayers“), immigration detainees and the turning of our backs on Lazarus’ Collosus (“give me your tired, your poor…”) on “Babies In Cages“, the opioid epidemic on “Heroin Again“; the struggles of living in a small city (“21st Century USA“) – this one was written while passing through Gillette, WY – we know this because they said the town was “named for razor blades…” – the lyric “folks working hard for shrinking pay...” is actually an everywhere struggle; “”Grievance Merchants” seems to suggest their disgust with those who think they’re losing their country and execute violence against certain targets as a response. On the final track “Awaiting Resurrection“, they tie all of their rage together with the lyric “Guns and ammunition, babies in a cage / They say nothing can be done / But they tell us how they prayed / In the end, we’re just standin’ watchin’ greatness fade / Into darkness / Awaiting resurrection.”

You don’t even have to guess how I feel about the album, as I happen to agree with what they’re saying… I don’t buy a lot of CD’s these days, but this one is on the buying list… Check out the lyric video for “Thoughts and Prayers“…

As I was listening to some of the tunes on the fourth album The Slow Rush from Australian-based artist Kevin Parker aka Tame Impala, it seemed as if I’d heard some of the melodies, riffs, etc. before; actually though, everything here is original, although derivative.

Tame Impala

This album is one I’ve been waiting to hear – it’s been over four years since his last album, 2015’s Currents; some of the singles released in advance of the album gave me the idea this might be good – and it is. I was first introduced to him through the music of a like-minded artist, Chaz Bundick aka Toro y Moi – they had that sort of lo-fi retro-sounding danceable Indie Rock thing going. Parker seems to be changing the sound a bit, still sounding kinda lo-fi, but stepping away from it a bit, and into something a little more psychedelic – overall, it’s a fine blend of psychedelic and electronic styles. I mentioned earlier that it seemed like I’d heard some of the melodies and riffs before; he adeptly draws from styles going back to the 70, like so called AOR (album oriented Rock) or Prog Rock, some Adult Contemporary, 80’s electronic, and everything else leading up to now- he can throw a riff in there that makes you think Supertramp, but he can replicate the sound without copying it, if that makes sense. Check out the track “Borderline” and tell me it doesn’t remind you of something else, but you can’t place it; same thing with “It Might Be Time” and several others on the album.

This album, along with the Drive By Truckers album, is one of the best of the new year, worth the advance buildup, and the wait. Here is the video for “Lost In Yesterday”…

It just doesn’t seem like it’s been 35 years since I first heard the Pet Shop Boys, but it was late 1985 when “West End Girls” was released, reaching the #1 position of the Billboard charts in early ’86. The duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are, in my book, up there with the likes of Lennon/McCartney, Gamble/Huff, and Difford/Tillbrook from Squeeze as purveyors of a hook-laden song, and they may stand alone as being able to make it danceable, too.

Pet Shop Boys

The new album Hotspot is their 14th album, and it finds them sounding a little more contemplative than I remember- not surprising, since these guys are now in their 60’s. They still can write a hook-laden dance track, but they are interspersed with some mid-tempo tracks, some of which I could do without. Unashamedly, I like them most when they’re upbeat, like on the track whose video is below, “Monkey Business“, and my personal favorite track “Happy People“.

I have to say I haven’t kept up with PSB much since the late 90’s, but I do check in on them from time to time. This is not their best album, but they still show flashes of when they were at their best… Here’s the video for “Monkey Business“…

Get ya back up off the wall… Dance… come on…”

Kool & the Gang

By maestrotjd

I'm a music head. A classically trained violinist/violist literate from chant to Chopin to Copland, Soul man, aging Punk, Classic rocker, Alt rocker, Church choir man, House head, Techno, Industrial guy, almost Rasta, Ska & Rock Steady baby, Junglist, Dubstep to Two-step to Chicago old school steppin', Lounge & Exotica, World Fusion, Latin & Bossa Nova dude, Jazz man from Swing to Bebop to Acid, Trip hop and Hip hop, ya don't stop, a lil bit Country, Gospel, and everything in between. These are my musings (or ramblings).

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