Category: Music reviews

A review of The Fullness By Omar Musa

There are many collaborations on this album. Chief collaborator, Paperboy, has a wonderful sense of Musa’s linguistic and delivery skills, and the sound takes its cue from poetry/jazz fusion masters like Gil Scott Heron and Amiri Baraka – vocals and instruments working in a synchronicity that feels both polished and improvisational.

A review of Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Eilish is wry in the way of the enfant terrible but also scary, a bad seed with a beat box and an hermetical disposition that runs to chaos. At first, I thought she’d sprung fully angst-ed out of the head of some A&R woman. The maturity of her lyrics and the fierce, unwavering satire in her phrasing and in her tunes—all a clever ploy for pop stardom in the vein of a DJ Alanis Morrisette or a more whispery Bjork.

Corrections: An Internet Interview with Jack Hamilton, author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination

Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan are compared by Hamilton for their musical roots and affiliation with particular communities and subsequent independence and experimentations with genre and form, though Dylan’s work has received much more critical exploration and celebration, suggesting, among other things, a misunderstanding of the choices—aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual, and political—that are made by African-American artists, who want both creativity and commerce, glamour and grit, imagination and intellect, and whose works affirm both style and substance.

Rebirth of a Troubadour: At Least for Now by Benjamin Clementine

Benjamin Clementine is to be encouraged. Who knows what else he might do? “The decision is mine ‘cause the vision is mine,” he states in the composition “Adios,” claiming ambition, difficulty, mistakes, and possibility—ending with a ramble about angels who sing, falsetto and bass; and Clementine himself singing, returning to the song’s frantic refrain. “St. Clementine-on-Tea-and-Croissants” may be a fantasy—an interrogation, imagined or real, of an irresponsible parent, a questioning that moves beyond polite manners and social ritual.

Singer-songwriter Caroline Rose and the band Algiers, Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, and Music Culture

Caroline Rose is one of the performers who is keeping the singer-songwriter tradition alive, one of the performers who is keeping the independence music scene a resource for liberation: so are Alabama Shakes, Arctic Monkeys, Bright Eyes, Broken Bells, Camera Obscura, The Dears, Father John Misty, Foster the People, Rhiannon Giddens, Valerie June, Frank Ocean, Josh Ritter, Savages, St. Vincent, and Vampire Weekend.

Dreams of Trouble and Transcendence: Brooke Waggoner’s Sweven

Brooke Waggoner’s compositions acknowledge the inevitability of time, and the struggle between mundane responsibility and transcendent possibility, with love to be found or lost.  On Sweven, the song “Widow Maker” seems to contain so much musical possibility—it seems both a strong statement and a kind of satire.  American Songwriter (November 13, 2015) magazine made much of Brooke Waggoner’s video for the song “Widow Maker,” highlighting its scientific theme and humor.

A review of Unravelling by Channel D

Although its darkness is a little too unrelenting, Unravelling is a virtuoso performance, but it is much more than that. The long-awaited follow-up to Mosaic of Disarray was born of a terrible period in singer-songwriter Nick de Grunwald’s life when he felt he was coming apart at the seams.  This new album dazzles the listener with the sheer variety of the songs, constantly delighting the listener with new soundscapes and characters stuck on the wrong side of life.

Reflection, Imagination, Possibility: Lianne La Havas’s Blood

Lianne La Havas—a British girl of Jamaican and Greek heritage (her Greek father was a musician)—has been a part of music scenes large and small (associated at one time or another with Paloma Faith, Bon Iver, Alicia Keys, and Prince); and her work has won her critical respect and popularity. Yet, though young, recognized, and rewarded, there she has had to fight for her integrity.