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Music Notes


I saw the Colombian-Canadian artist Lido Pimienta two weeks ago at Brighton Music Hall in Boston. She’s a pretty good artist and a pretty good act too. Not my very favorite, but I was certainly glad to see her. Pimienta’s fans love her very much and it’s always great to see a show in front a court that worships the artist, at least when she’s good. Sometimes that’s even more enjoyable when you merely like the artist and so maybe aren’t expressing the total adoration yourself like you might for another act and you can watch the audience a bit more. The music was surprisingly sparse–a very good drummer, Pimienta playing some stuff programmed into a keyboard, and then the voice. That’s it. I was kind of impressed by how much noise she got out of that. I do think the music would be a bit more fun with a guitar and bass with it, but whatever, that’s her call and she’s doing just fine on her own. She played most of Miss Colombia and then some new songs too. She has another album coming out soon. Definitely looking forward to it.

Quit looking at live shows through your phone and pay attention to them! Not everyone needs your shitty upload to YouTube. Moreover, Adrianne Lenker has urged people at Big Thief shows to shut the fuck up and listen to the opening act and god bless her for it.

I was saddened to hear of the death of the great bassist Charnett Moffett. He played with everyone from the time he played on Branford Marsalis’ debut album as a teenager. But what I know him for is his work on my favorite jazz album ever made, Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages. RIP you legend.

A few other losses in the music world here in the last couple of weeks. Covid took out DJ Kay Slay, a key part of the hip-hop scene in the 00s. I imagine he wasn’t vaccinated. The composer Harrison Birtwistle died. The mid-60s folk sensation Paul Siebel who fled the industry due to crippling stage fright died at 84. Art Rupe was a lesser known Leonard Chess, a white guy who got into making and promoting “race records” as Black music was called at the time. He was 104 when he died a few days ago, so not bad.

Interesting story on Otis Redding’s family in Macon. I actually met his daughter and grandson, who I know through their pastor, who is my brother-in-law. The museum is pretty cool, though not surprisingly a little smaller than it could be with more money behind it. I especially like Macon’s horrible Confederate soldier statue being replaced with an Otis statue. Or is that some of that critical race theory I keep hearing about?

New Kendrick album coming in May.

Annie Lennox songs, ranked.

On the Iranian electronic underground scene. Love Bandcamp for stuff like this. Or for that matter, how about the current scene in Kyoto?

I’ve long been fascinated by the weird sexualization of female classical musicians. Why you would take an expert pianist, sex her up in clothes that she would never wear normally, and then have her sprawl across a piano says what about the latest Brahms recording now? But here is an article about female performers taking control over their outfits and making the performance a bit visual as well as aural. This ends up being quite a good article on the ways in which women’s clothing is demeaned by male critics.

Album Reviews:

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sorry is Gone

This album from 2017 has been on my to-listen list for one of the very longest of anything. Which was silly because this is good rock and roll about recovering from horrible relationships. “The shotgun’s under the futon” is perhaps something one wants to take into account when listening to this album. But more common, Mayfield is just depressed by her terrible relationships. “The world won’t stop hurting me” sums up this album pretty well. And yet, she produces such great music out of them, in the style of Juliana Hatfield. Good stuff.


Sylvanie Hélary, Glowing Life

Another of these half-available albums for streaming from jazz labels that seem to think that if they put the whole album on Bandcamp that no one will buy it, which is somewhat ironic since of all music fans, probably the most likely to buy physical albums are lovers of free jazz. Anyway…..this rocks a lot more than you’d think. Hélary is a flute player who also provides some spoken French vocals for this album. But the core of it reminds one of Henry Cow’s attempts to merge art rock and free jazz. The influences though are a bit poppier than were with Henry Cow–the point here is to make this music really pretty accessible. In fact, for those of you who aren’t sure about this new jazz stuff and want to check out something that will be a good bridge to it, this album is a good choice.


Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz, Random Dances and (A)tonalities

Some time ago, maybe even a couple of years back, I wondered what had happened to the clarinetist Don Byron, who was everywhere in the jazz scene of the 90s and then had kind of disappeared. Some took exception to me saying he disappeared, but I maintain it’s basically true. He’s not on that many albums these days considering his ubiquity in the 90s. But someone told me to check out this duet album he did a few years ago with the pianist Aruán Ortiz. Byron also plays some saxophone here. It’s a nice album, though a bit austere for my preferences. It’s a well-played piece of work, often closer to chamber music than jazz. But does it make me excited? No, not really. It’s a fine album, just not a classic to my ears


William Parker, Mayan Space Station

On the other hand, this definitely excites me. William Parker leading a power jazz-rock trio! I didn’t know Ava Mendoza before this, but oh my god this woman can rip some serious guitar riffage. This is like the second coming of Sonny Sharrock. And Gerald Cleaver on drums, you know you are never going wrong there. This is hot music, I mean really fun, really great jazz, the top of the genre. You want to hear this.

Nothing from the album itself is on YouTube (though Parker has a song called “Mayan Space Station” on the excellent Sunrise in the Tone World album) but here they are playing live at a jazz festival in 2020.


Jeremy Ivey, Invisible Pictures

Mr. Margo Price is a hell of a songwriter. Like so many of these people, he would have remained completely unknown if she hadn’t become a huge star. That’s a bummer only in the sense that you wonder how many of these people are out there in Nashville, working at the Kroger or Starbucks and trying to sell their excellent songs on the side. In any case, Ivey is an excellent songwriter and pretty fair singer too. This isn’t perhaps quite as lyrically profound as his last album, but this is a set of very good songs that sound great and I mean what else do you want in your music?


Xenia Rubinos, Una Rosa

A decent though inconsistent Latin pop album that combines some really interesting lyrics at times with some pretty cliched sounds and yet at other times has some quite happening sounds with some whatever lyrics.


Tomeka Reid/Kyoko Kitamura/Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris, Geometry of Caves

How you feel about this album will depend on your patience for experimental voice performances. The musicians are all geniuses–Reid is a master cellist, Bynum one of the today’s great trumpeters, and Morris a legend on guitar. But the Kitamura vocals are just almost impossible for me to handle. I’ve never been a big fan of jazz vocals of any kind, but the kind where people are just making up sounds is the least appealing of them all to me. So just not my thing, much to my disappointment.


Sara Bug, self-titled

Your classic not too bad debut album, where a singer hasn’t really gotten all the pieces together yet but the talent is quite obvious. Some of these songs seem half-baked, but like Angel Olson, among others, Bug has a good new sound for southern folk-rock. The best songs, particularly the closer “Back in Nashville” do a great job merging country and rock. I’ll be curious to hear the next album.


Hayes Carll, You Get It All

Another very fine album from this Texas songwriting master. While the roughness in his voice has never been the most appealing for me, he’s produced solid work after solid work for twenty years now. This is one of the best of what I’ve heard. The opener is a example of the God coming back to Earth and telling the self-righteous Christians who treat the poor like garbage how hypocritical and awful they are. Lots of boogie shuffles, a few slow songs, an excellent duet with Brandy Clark.


Kevin Morby, Sundowner

I saw Morby at the Newport Folk Festival this summer and was really impressed. Given that it was Newport, I could also watch a nearby Patterson Hood have this enormous grin while listening to Morby’s set. So I was all excited about hearing his recent album….and then found it a little disappointing. It’s fine, a totally acceptable album of contemporary folk music, but I expected more than a little more heat in the vocals and the music and it wasn’t really there.


Born of Osiris, The Simulation

An extraordinarily rare exploration of metal for me and I am reminded why. I have no real basis to evaluate this kind of material because I just don’t like it on principle. My dislike of metal has long interested me. I like punk after all. It’s not the intense music–I listen to free jazz for christ’s sake so that’s definitely not a problem. I think it’s the vocal styles of just screaming and the endless focus on speed. Anyway, I heard it, I remembered why I don’t like the style, and I have nothing to say about the album in any useful way. I think this album is terrible, but then I think it’s all terrible.


Butch Walker, American Love Story

Well now this is certainly a fascinating album. A “rock opera” about the terrible times in which we live, especially the revival of open white supremacy, Walker attempts to paint a picture of how terrible whites have become in the Trump years while also keeping a sympathetic mind toward how people ended up this way, such as the song about the redneck homophobe with the Confederate flag tattoo and how he was born into that. Whether it all works or not is somewhat up in the air. His pop sound doesn’t always work that well with this level of heavy material. And while at times he shows a lot of complexity, he doesn’t always paint with the most subtle brush here. This not the world of Drive By Truckers’ American Band with songs such as “Ramon Casiano” and “What It Means” or even Priests’ attempt to understand red America on The Seduction of Kansas. Instead, these songs are “Everything White,” “Flyover State,” “6Ft Middle-Age American Man,” and “Blinded by the White.” Amusing, but not always profound. Nonetheless, this is most certainly an interesting and worthy album, if not a fully successful one.


Jonathan Terrell, Westward

Solid if not particularly exceptional country album. I do recommend hearing “Lemon Cigarettes and Pink Champagne” at the very least, which is probably the best song on the album. Terrell reminds me of the glory days of country music when good singers and songwriters were floating around all over the place but were usually unable to break through.


Ruth Mascelli, A Night at the Baths

I’m at least a bit more aware of club music’s details than that of metal. Meanwhile, while it’s not my scene, I know enough about the history of gay bathhouses to at least have a sense of that culture, from what can pick up by just reading about it. So I’m at least willing to hear an album of club music dedicated to the hedonism of the bathhouse. Mascelli is a queer artist in New Orleans who decided to make this after a night in a particularly seedy sex club there. I suppose it probably does represent this culture OK, but whether this is something that does anything interesting with the music is another question and one about which I am pretty skeptical. It’s an art project as much as anything and as such, probably does what Mascelli hoped it would. I just don’t really see it translating well outside of that. Could I see this adapted by a queer filmmaker doing an exhibition on the bathhouse scene that I run across in a museum someday? Yes.


The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, 21st Century Molam

Fun, if not profound retro band back to the music of northeastern part of Thailand in the 60s and 70s. This band is based out of Bangkok and has some westerners in it as well. The question for something like this is how much you like the original music. Remaking west African or Brazilian music tends to be an easier sell for a lot of people because that stuff is such a big part of North American music forms, or at least its cousins through the African diaspora. Southeast Asian music is a different thing entirely. But I like these sounds. You may well too.


As always, this is an open thread for all things music and art and none things politics.

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