Record Bulletin

Record Bulletin, 12/17

Cleaning House

van morrison

dr. doglyle lovettdirty projectorsmichael kiwanukaneil young








In what might be premature clean-up, here’s a bunch of albums I can’t be bothered with anymore. Save for the Lemons, these are all B+ records in order of preference where more * is better. Most hooked me for a bit and implicated staying power or hinted at future payoff but haven’t delivered on either front. Were I to continue listening I might find a few worth keeping—and some are good enough that I haven’t shelved them permanently—but for the moment even the highlights are being put on the digital backburner while the rest are subject to eternal departure unless an irresistible itch of curiosity hits me or a friend insists I listen further. A dumping of Lemons comes after, and it would be longer, but to include more would require another listen for fairness, and I simply don’t care enough to go out of my way to tell you what I wouldn’t recommend.

Two big year-end favorites are briefly reviewed. I see the charm in Grimes, which in all fairness deserved more ear time, but time spent dissecting can be spent better on albums whose repeated listening reward is higher and more instantaneous. Tame Impala I straight up don’t get, probably for the same reason I don’t get Ty Segall: mostly noise, sometimes with a rhythm, rarely with a discernible or enjoyable melody. My loss, I guess, though I don’t feel like I’m missing much. Currently Metacritic’s top 25 has a few albums I haven’t spent much time with. These include Jessie Ware, Miguel, and Dirty Projectors, as well as a slew I haven’t heard at all. Dirty Projectors is promising enough, but the annoying tics override my interest to keep listening. Every time I hear Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream I end up wandering around the apartment or diverting my attention elsewhere. Jessie Ware didn’t make much of an impression on me the first time around and I doubt that feeling will change. It’s yet another instance that makes me wonder why I continue to regard the UK music press.

Reviews of Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean are forthcoming. Plenty of big profile releases that I doubt I’ll get around to reviewing by year’s end, though they’re on the album roll: Nas, Azealia Banks, Killer Mike, Big K.R.I.T., El-P, Lupe Fiasco, Elle Varner, Homeboy Sandman, Heems, and Nicki Minaj, among others. Most, you’ll notice, are hip-hop, an unfortunate side effect when your girlfriend isn’t particularly fond of the genre and your primary solo listening time is the morning, and hip-hop isn’t my ideal for waking up. To be fair, I wasn’t too turned on by Nas, Minaj, or Lupe Fiasco (not to mention their albums are fucking long), and both Big K.R.I.T and El-P’s initial allure has waned with time. The rest, though, are enjoyable, easily Honorable Mention status, several probably A-worthy. I’ll do what I can with what time I have left, but I’d like to pin down an ordered list by early January, which means lots of listening time devoted to what’s already made the cut. After all, what’s music criticism without a bit of vanity? Music, that’s what.

VAN MORRISON – Born to Sing: No Plan B (Blue Note): Despite Tom Hull’s overzealous adoration, I’m not convinced anything here measures up with his best. But these are good songs, and his move to Blue Note makes sense given his longstanding affinity for jazz, which comes through nicely via rolling blues shuffles alongside sax flares. Can’t go so far as saying anything on Astral Weeks was deeply contemplative, but the acuteness of his abstractions was more interesting than the banality of something so straightforward as “Open the Door (To Your Heart).” So sure; I like it, but it won’t be in my top ten like it will Hull’s. Might not make it into my album collection. Must be an old man thing, as it’s so light I’ve nearly nodded off twice while listening. (“Goin’ Down to Monte Carlo,” “If In Money We Trust”) ***
DR. DOG – Be the Void (Anti): Seventh studio album by Philly-based 60’s/70’s blues/rock enthusiasts who concoct a convincing first act that never comes out of its intermission. So close it kills me to put it here. (“Vampire,” “Lonesome,” “These Days”) ***
LYLE LOVETT – Release Me (Lost Highway): Country veteran’s last gas before leaving his label provides cornball covers and dinky duets. And sometimes that’s the way I like it, because it’s humble and fun at the same time. (“White Boy Lost In the Blues,” “Dress of Laces”) ***
DIRTY PROJECTORS – Swing Lo Magellan (Domino): So often has the epithet ‘pretentious’ been thrown at this band/album that even defenders relent the point, but I don’t know what exactly is pretentious about it in prog rock terms. No long ELP-esque solos, no Yes-like classical insistence, no Rick Wakemen suite attempts. Must be the aimlessness that fills the gaps between choruses, their faux-erudite and unsingable lyrics which grate far more often than they delight. Biggest drawback, though, is David Longstreth’s singing itself, which occasionally reminds me of Dennis DeYoung. Still, the guy knows a good hook when he has one and is smart enough to enlist his female bandmates to vocally even out his inconsistencies. Longstreth, not DeYoung. DeYoung is a travesty. (“About to Die,” “Offspring Are Blank”) ***
MICHAEL KIWANUKA – Home Again (Interscope): British Retro soul singer channels a bit of Bill Withers, plenty Otis Redding, a dash of Van Morrison, no Marvin Gaye at all, which leaves the question, “Who’s Michael Kiwanuka?” (“I’ll Get Along,” “Rest”) ***
NEIL YOUNG – Americana (Reprise): Another case of not feeling it. Writers I like are adamant about how brilliant Young is here, but they show their hand by telling anyone who mentions Crazy Horse can’t play for shit to piss off, a signifier they can’t adequately make the case for this mess. Poorly arranged (but that’s the point!), sloppily played (but that’s the point!), and shoddily political (but that’s… oh, well, okay), it’s no secret that the US “has been steamrolling its own past for as long as there’ve been steamrollers,” as Christgau puts it. So yeah, it’s admirable Young points it out. That the only way he could think to do it was through ironically retaining the original lyrics to songs no one thinks about anyway isn’t what I’d call genius. I’d call it flaunting knowledge you only acquired five minutes ago in the face of those who are unaware like you’ve been in on it for a while. Maybe he has. I still wouldn’t give a shit. (“Tom Dula,” “Get a Job”) ***
GRIMES – Visions (4AD): Soft-voiced groovetronica popping up on best-of lists like nobody’s business, accolades accompanying. As background music it works fine; up front the pipsqueak delivery is hard to stomach. (“Circumambient,” “Vowel = space and time”) **
CLINIC – Free Reign (Domino): “Psychedelic” because everybody says so. More like slow punk a la Velvet Underground. And Ade Blackburn is way harder to understand than Lou Reed. (“You,” “King Kong”) **
VIJAY IYER TRIO – Accelerando (Act Music): New York jazz leader kills the Michael Jackson cover, comes up with other tricks, too. (“Human Nature,” “Mmmhmm”) **
RHETT MILLER – The Dreamer (Maximum Sunshine): Old 97’s frontman’s newest solo album’s title refers to his belief a solo career is conceivable. First he has to wake up. (“Lost Without You,”  “Sleepwalking”) **
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound): I’ll admit this has grown on me, but not to the point where I’m willing to buy it, which given my self-made grading disposition renders it impossible to recommend. Fans will be thrilled, I’m sure, but despite how humorous Wainwright can be (and he really can be laugh-out-loud funny), his reedy vocals irk me and too often I can’t get behind the tunes. Superficial criticisms to be sure, but honest ones, and ones that, for now, I don’t mind sticking to. (“My Meds,” “Over the Hill”) **
MUMFORD & SONS – Sigh No More (Glassnote ’10): Such a big deal for a few years now but I still get bored after the bombastic first fifteen minutes. Others have sufficiently lambasted the lyrics, so I won’t, mostly because I’m not convinced anyone’s paying attention anyway. Proof in the pudding is their fans’ favorite song, the one where Mumford says “I really fucked it up this time,” meaning they recognize reality even if Mumford doesn’t and elsewhere attributes his love problems to God and temptresses. (“Roll Away the Stones,” “Little Lion Man”) **
THE ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT – Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP (Blue Note): At 37:21 it’s preferable to February’s full-length release: Mostly manageable running lengths, headier grooves, and distinct transitions from song to song that reminds you it’s not all just one song. (“Black Radio [Pete Rock Remix],” “Afro Blue [9th Wonder’s Blue Light Basement Remix]”) *
NEIL YOUNG – Psychedelic Pill (Reprise): That this of Young’s dual releases this year is receiving more favorable coverage makes me ponder whether his Americana politics are more subversive than I’m granting, especially considering it’s nine songs totaling 1:27:41. Tom Hull calls it a “long, warm bath,” Erlewine “noise rock as comfort food.” I call it bearable self-indulgence. Nine songs, an hour and a half, and the first song is a third of that time. Think about it. (“Twisted Road,” “Psychedelic Pill”) *
MASTA ACE – MA_Doom: Son of Yvonne (M3/Fat Beats): Old skool MC cops Doom’s Special Herbs for a “concept album” about growing up. From what I gather, he finished doing that a while ago. Then his mom died. (“Me and My Gang,” “Son of Yvonne”) *
TAME IMPALA – Lonerism (Modular): As one Guardian commentator observes, it’s “probably the best psych album since Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.” Remarkably, this is a compliment. (“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” “Elephant”) *
TINARIWEN – Remixed (Anti/Epitaph EP): Four remixes (derp) of three Tassili cuts. More interesting the first time through than it is the second or third. (“Imidiwan Ma Tenam [Gypsyphonic/Bobby Mac remix]”) *
MUMFORD & SONS – Babel (Glassnote): If at first you financially succeed, try, try again. (“Babel,” “I Will Wait”) *

HOT CHIP – In Our Heads (Domino)
HOWLIN RAIN – The Russian Wilds (American)
FELA KUTI – Live In Detroit 1969 (Knitting Factory)
PAUL MCCARTNEY – Kisses On the Bottom (Hear Music)
POOR MOON – Poor Moon (Sub Pop)
REPTAR – Body Faucet (Vagrant)
OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ – Saber, Querer, Osar y Coller (Rodriguez Lopez Productions)
OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ – Un Corazon de Nadie (Rodriguez Lopez Productions)
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH – There’s No Leaving Now (Dead Oceans)


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