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Music Notes


Janet Weiss leaving Sleater-Kinney is extremely depressing news, especially as while I have seen her play before, I have never actually seen S-K and will fix that problem on the fall tour. So I guess I will never see the classic band. She talks about the band going in new directions, but who knows what that means. It does seem to me that the two singles sound much more like a St. Vincent album (who produced it) than a Sleater-Kinney album (especially “The Future is Here”), but I’m not passing judgment on the album until it comes out. Plus, it’s not as if they would have repeated the same sound in the future, or at least that wouldn’t be their M.O. Here is a very good discussion of her incredible awesomeness as the greatest rock drummer of her time and the influence she had on S-K.

Hey, you can now take tours of the home of John and Alice Coltrane!

Who was like “I really need Neil Diamond’s life turned into a Broadway musical!” This is what a nation that elects Trump deserves.

Obviously, the most recent significant musical death was that of the great João Gilberto. Certainly Gilberto lived a full life, dying at 88, but that’s still a titanic loss in the world of Brazilian music, one of the world’s richest traditions.

John Doe has a new memoir out and this excerpt on what it was like traveling across the country with X in the deindustrializing early Reagan years is really good.

Trisha Yearwood on the ridiculous levels of sexism in the country music industry, which is ironic since women are putting out at least 3/4 of the good country music in the last decade.

Easily King Crimson’s best album is Red. It’s not even close. Most of the rest of the albums range from pretty good ( Larks Tongues in Aspic, Discipline) to absolutely atrocious (Lizard, In the Wake of Poseidon), with more on the bad side than the good. But Red combines the most rocking music they ever did on side 1 with the most interesting music they ever made on side 2. I’ve always loved “Providence.” Turns out, it has that title because it was recorded live at a show the band did at the Palace Theatre in Providence, which today is the Providence Performing Arts Center! I feel like launching a campaign to put up a historical marker or something in my adopted home town.

I’ve really read very few books about music over the years, which is odd given how much I listen to and think about music. As I mentioned several months ago in one of these posts, I read Lester Bangs’ Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung and liked it OK, despite every damn essay going back to Iggy Pop and/or Lou Reed. Many years ago, I read Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train, but I don’t think I got a lot out of it. But 15 or so years later, I just re-read it. Over the years, I’ve listened to a lot more Elvis and a lot more Sly Stone and I’m still listening to The Band. Not so much Randy Newman though. Anyway, I thought it was pretty excellent. So my question to you all is which books on music should I be reading?

Album Reviews:

Charles Gayle/Giovanni Barcela/Manolo Cabras, Live in Belgium

Charles Gayle is a genius but has never been a particular favorite of mine. Whether he is playing piano, sax, or bass, his music is very difficult, even for the free jazz movement. He has often described what he hears in the world not as music but as the sounds of New York. This is a man who made the conscious decision to be homeless in New York for 15-20 years so he could really feel the streets in his music. He has described his work this way:

“They’d stop to hear a song, but I’m not playing songs. What I hear is the traffic. Everybody in New York hears it, but it’s really vivid in my head. Horns and children and birds, too – I hear them so clearly, they hit me so hard. The subway roar, the jackhammers. Not that they’re so loud but they stay there. The trucks and the sirens and the screeching and the hollering and the brakes, all that jagged movement, the Arggghhhh!

That’s a good description of his music. So again, he’s brilliant but not often a lot of fun. In 2012, Gayle was invited to a festival in Belgium, where he played with the Italian drummer Giovanni Barcella. They hit it off and Barcella recruited another Italian to play bass, Manolo Cabras. They played some shows in Belgium and Italy and this recording is one of them. It’s really great. It’s still very intense, but also in some ways more accessible, more expressive, and more fun. Gayle has created versions of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” before and this reimagining of the song here as “Steps” is just brilliant.


Atomic, Six Easy Pieces

I’ve reviewed European jazz bands in this space before. They usually leave me ice cold. Often brilliant technicians, they also often lack the soul at the heart of jazz. Basically, they are too steeped in the European classical tradition and not steeped nearly enough in the African-American traditions that make jazz work. I keep listening though because of the potential. And Atomic, made up of Norwegians and Swedes, comes pretty close to making up for a lot of blah albums I’ve meandered through. I don’t know how a bunch of people from Lutheran countries can manage this right, but this album really swings while also channeling the experimental post-60s jazz of people such as Marilyn Crispell, who the trumpeter Magnus Broo has played with. It’s both challenging for the listener and engaging at the same time. Good stuff.


Yola, Walk Through Fire

I was incredibly impressed by this debut album from the London retro-singer. There’s plenty of soul and British pop music here, sure, but also a lot of country. Singing about her own struggles, which have included a house fire that burned her and an abusive relationship, this is an album where the retro sounds come together with a striking voice and outstanding lyrics to make one of the best releases I’ve heard in 2019.


Stats, Other People’s Lives

This is entirely acceptable, if not overly inspiring electro-dance music from this London band. There’s some Talking Heads here, some New Order, some from a lot of other bands more recent than that. It’s alright, but I didn’t find a memorable track. You may like it more depending on your tastes.


As always, this is an open thread for all things music and zero things politics. Seriously, no politics here.

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