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Music Notes


Let’s talk tunes!

I didn’t really spend enough time last week talking about the life and impact of Little Richard. But you really need to read Bill Wyman on his astonishing life.

Jason Isbell’s new album put a hell of a strain on his very public marriage with Amanda Shires and this is a really great story about it, about the difficulties of being a creative person inside any marriage, and just about marriage in general. Pretty tough read actually. I mean, I feel like I’m a pretty bad spouse when I am finishing a book and I am no creative genius or anything. I am going to wait until the next edition of Music Notes to review the album so that I can hear it a couple more times.

Bono turned 60. “Bono” created a playlist of 60 songs that “saved his life.” I put the second Bono in quotation marks because this playlist is so bland and so predictable that it sounds like it was created by a marketing team, which it almost certainly was. This makes the annual Obama playlists seem organic and interesting by comparison. I fail to believe that Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” saved Bono’s life at the same time in the Achtung Baby years and the lack of even a single old song or a single obscure cut from some band that only musicians know makes me highly questionable about this whole deal.

Drive By Truckers have a new quarantine-based song. Patterson Hood sings “Quarantine Together,” which is a very sweet song and a very good one. He doesn’t write songs like this much. Even before DBT went full protest band, he was writing about small-town crime and deindustrialization and suicide, not humorous sweet love songs. More of these would be good. And even though the band is all in their homes, they sound pretty great. Also, if Cooley isn’t baked out of his mind, then I don’t know what.

Robert Fripp has created ambient music to get us through COVID’s quiet moments. Dude, every moment right now is quiet. I don’t want Eno-esque ambience. I want “One More Red Nightmare.”

Sonny Rollins’ musing about art is always worthwhile.

Like nearly everything else in society, the 1918-19 flu pandemic had almost no effect on music.

Album Reviews:

Yves Tumor, Heaven to a Tortured Mind

The gender-bending and genre-bending go together with this experimental pop artist, someone who blends the many genres of past pop music into an accessible and yet odd R&B pop. This album is another example of the really outstanding R&B of the last decade that doesn’t really fall into any specific category (including R&B) and pushes forward familiar elements into new sonic territory while not losing its connection to listeners that makes the genre accessible in the first place. The album didn’t quite grab me as it has a lot of reviewers, but it’s certainly very solid.


Khruangbin, Con Todo El Mundo

When this was released in 2018, it was to enormous fanfare. An album of mostly instrumental rock that combines the Thai rock of the 70s with funk, Middle Eastern influences, and just about everything else. I didn’t think it was that amazing, but in terms of the world of instrumental rock, it’s about as good as it gets. This band certainly has a great sound and great taste both in terms of influences and how to meld those influences into a good listen today. Highly enjoyable.


Anderson Paak, Malibu

Paak is a California hip-hop artist who worked closely with Dr. Dre before setting out on his own. This 2016 album was a coming out of sorts, with rave reviews that were nearly the level of Kendrick. And while I wouldn’t say it is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard, Paak is certainly a skilled lyricist and rapper, whose tough childhood informs the music without overwhelming it or romanticizing it. He has a kind of “do the best I can” attitude about life while actually being a tremendously intelligent and talented individual. Pretty interesting work.


Sam Gendel, Satin Doll

So this album consisting of a few originals and mostly heavily deconstructed covers of jazz standards like “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” and “Freddie Freeloader” has had rave reviews from many mainstream outlets and the hipsters at Pitchfork since he has ties in the musicians they like. The problem with those reviews is that I really hate this album. Gendel is a skilled saxophonist and it is certainly an inventive album. But it primarily relies on electronic effects that remind me very much of the worst MIDI experiments of the 1980s. It’s basically unlistentable for me.


Jordan Rakei, Origin

Rakei is in the throwback R&B genre, looking as much to that smooth past of the 1960s as forward into the future. There’s really nothing wrong with that; like country music, there’s an endless number of ways to mine that material usefully. One way is to write an album focusing on the possibility that technology is overtaking our lives. And while such concerns aren’t exactly new, it provides a lyrical consistency through this. There’s no shortage of technology on the album either–plenty of vocal loops and electronics. At times, this can get a bit smooth-jazzy, but otherwise, an interesting work.


Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade, Between Two Worlds

These are all highly talented players. Denson is a bassist, Pilon a guitarist, and Blade a drummer. I knew of Blade so I thought I’d check out this trio. It’s pretty strong, but I have a critique that is strictly aesthetic, which is that Pilon’s guitar is very much in the tone of the mid-century jazz guitar that wanted to imitate the saxophone. To me, it sounds like it’s being played under water. This isn’t quite fair, because he sure can shred. But that’s I how I feel about it.


This is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics or disease.

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