Album Reviews

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Malachi Lui  |  Jul 24, 2021  |  1 comments
Glaring errors in music criticism, whether out of ignorance, misunderstanding, rushed deadlines, personal happenings, or whatever else, are at some point in the fields unfortunately commonplace; at some point in the field, you’re bound to make mistakes. When revisiting my past reviews, I balked at my original review of The 1975’s 2020 double LP art pop extravaganza Notes On A Conditional Form. Back then, I called it “frontman Matty Healy’s overblown vanity project [...] a miserably scattered, fake deep musical torture session.” How did that happen? Before dissecting my oversight, however, I’ll provide extended context and a much-needed reassessment.

Nicholas Coleman  |  Jul 15, 2021  |  3 comments
Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show contains mostly unreleased material capturing Frank’s full Nassau Coliseum Long Island, NY performance plus additional tracks from MD and RI shows. The ’88 band, a well-oiled machine intended to be Frank’s Fox television show “house band”, included some of the finest musicians that had ever worked with him. Naturally, Frank was to have complete show control including guest selection. He intended to choose people with wildly different backgrounds and viewpoints, but at the last minute, Fox pulled the plug.

Nathan Zeller  |  Jul 09, 2021  |  5 comments
You’ve no doubt heard of Jon Batiste in conversation and song, for he’s currently an integral piece of the complex puzzle that is today’s version of musical entertainment and of being a musical entertainer. Being bandleader of Stay human, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s house band provides a steady gig and the financial stability that allows him to flourish and more easily express himself.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 08, 2021  |  11 comments
On Sunday January 15th, 2006 following a blizzard, the late musical greats trumpeter Roy Hargrove and pianist Mulgrew Miller flew into Newark Liberty International Airport, cabbed it to 449 seat Merkin Hall in the Kaufman Music Center near Lincoln Center—a venue with near perfect acoustics—and with no soundcheck or preparation and after standing in the wings and calling out some tunes, stepped onto the stage and delivered some of the remarkable music making documented on this two LP set. A second equally impromptu performance almost two years later (November 9, 2007) at Lafayette College in Easton PA where Miller lived with his family fills out the set of mostly standards indelibly performed.

Malachi Lui  |  Jul 02, 2021  |  4 comments
In 2014, Swedish cloud rap artist and Drain Gang collective leader Bladee (Benjamin Reichwald) emerged with the lo-fi cloud rap single “Into Dust.” The song’s shallow lyrics (“I’m gonna bleed in the club/I got weed in my lungs/I don’t need any love/I can’t feel when I’m drunk”) and rudimentary video (a sunglasses- and sweater-clad Bladee stumbling through a forest with “WHYY” superimposed over the footage) are often memed, though he’s shifted styles several times since then.

Evan Toth  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  2 comments
Pikefruit - a duo (Alex and Nicole) from the Pacific Northwest that creates ethereal, electronic music - recently released a new album titled, Inflorescence. Iridescence? I know what that is. Fluorescent? I get that. Incandescent? Got it! But, inflorescence? I have to admit, even this English major was a bit stumped on that vocab word. Good old Webster’s was able to help out, of course: inflorescence is “the mode of development and arrangement of flowers on an axis” or “the budding and unfolding of blossoms.” As their first full-length reveals, Alex and Nicole are indeed blossoming.

Malachi Lui  |  Jun 30, 2021  |  8 comments
As jazz vinyl sees a great resurgence, new labels issuing archival material and recent recordings contribute to a now-overwhelming catalog of available records. Run by former ECM producer Sun Chung, Red Hook Records bills itself as “a place for encounters, where musicians have opportunities [to] carve new adventurous ways of creative wayfaring [and] dissolve musical boundaries.” Red Hook’s release focus and target audience remains unclear; not all jazz buyers are audiophiles, and not all audiophiles accept newer recordings. The label’s inaugural release is Hanamichi,
Simon Guile  |  Jun 13, 2021  |  21 comments
You don’t hear much about the band Pantera in either the audiophile or even in the vinyl community. Its music and lyrics come across as brash, and thrash metal definitely isn’t the first genre that comes to mind when thinking of records to show off the sonic capabilities of one's stereo equipment.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 01, 2021  |  65 comments
Seven years ago (2014) Sony/Legacy reissued for Record Store Day a swell version of Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, mastered by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound and pressed at RTI. It was positively reviewed on this site.

Michael Fremer  |  May 30, 2021  |  10 comments
Some people collect Tone Poet Blue Note reissues the way some people amass baseball cards. I know more than a few Tone Poet enthusiasts who, after buying one, had a Bert Lahr Lay’s potato chip moment and couldn’t stop buying them—at least until they encountered the late pianist/composer/arranger Andrew Hill’s Blue Note debut Black Fire (ST-84151/B0029975-01).

Michael Fremer  |  May 27, 2021  |  54 comments
"La Nevada" means "snowfall" but the opening track of this Gil Evans classic begins as a musical desert mirage of a distant train that approaches slowly, with you sitting on the tracks directly in its path. As the train gets closer (and louder) the repeated simple four bar riff grows in intensity adding growling, snarling brass and reeds drivers by Ron Carter's and Elvin Jones's insistent yet slinky rhythmic drive. Aside from the trombone section's part being notated, the performance is improvised, a highlight being Ray Crawford's guitar searing the left channel behind which trombone locomotive horns warn you to get out of the way, but by then it's too late and the music runs you over!

Michael Fremer  |  May 25, 2021  |  14 comments
I meant to review this album of Norah Jones "extras" that she released last year but it kind of slipped through the cracks. It plays like a carefully thought out thematic song cycle but it isn't. Instead it's a set of "leftovers" from a series of collaborative efforts, many of which were released as singles. You might even think it's a personal "break-up" album, particularly given the album title, but it's not that either.

Michael Fremer  |  May 24, 2021  |  24 comments
Fifty one later Déjà vu still delivers a powerful musical, lyrical and sonic jolt, especially on this newly remastered 50th anniversary set that includes the original record on 180g vinyl mastered by Chris Bellman, cut using the original master tape.

Michael Fremer  |  May 17, 2021  |  162 comments
Is it possible to now write anything that hasn’t already been written or said about this record? I haven’t any fresh insights to offer that might advance what you probably already know. A good Kind of Blue pressing puts you in the 30th Street studio to hear the performance. Ashley Kahn’s “Kind of Blue” book sets the pre-recording stage, offering both musical and technical details and puts you as much in the control room as in front of the band.

Nathan Zeller  |  May 17, 2021  |  4 comments
September 26th, 1997 marks the release date of Travis’s debut effort Good Feeling. It’s also the day the group didn’t take the world by storm.

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