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Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) is a stalwart of serious roots reggae music. This is the live performance of a great in-depth collection of tracks representing almost four decades of work. The tracks are all energetic, swaying, and rolling with a great bass-line and punctured with a great horn section. Complete with a skewering of Columbus and Slavery, as well as tributes to Marcus Garvey, Haile Salassie, and … Jerry Garcia.
Favorites: Tumble Down, Marcus Garvey, Slavery Days, Not Stupid
This is a pour-over of both Psych and Metal offerings, curated in a partnership with a coffee roaster.
Half Psych, half Metal. Lots of chuggy guitar riffs. The music has “a roasted, molasses body and a chewy dark chocolate finish”, with hints of machine-oiled metal-shavings.
Track 3 (“Black Metal”) is so awful that everyone will enjoy it!
Metalish Tracks – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 15
Lots of cool jazzified-reggae and some instrumental funk from local artist. Has very nice roots bass lines, with plenty of sax, keyboards, and guitar melodies woven in. Vox on last track Woman Be Free. Also, an array of other interesting instruments appearing: sitar, tabla, baritone sax, and melodica.
Favorites: Praying Mantis, Not Even, Desert Sand, Heartbeat
Alternative/indie/pop, slow to mid-paced, not quite so “labyrinthy”, but lots of cool bendy jangly guitar on most tracks. Has elements of My Bloody Valentine, Brian Eno, Adrian Belew, and XTC. Vocals seem a bit drowned out in most places.
Favorites: Blinded, Chameleon Stripes, In The Lake
Thoughtful punk from Jeff Rosentock. Nice lyrics, and nicely articulated. Introspective, humorous, sarcastic, sometimes with a “miserable 20-something” feeling. And, while including some 20 instruments/musicians, and recorded in several studios on a budget, it plays with a very nice focus. Unlike earlier work, doesn’t include much in the way of ska-leaning tones, except for It Shits!!! There’s a great background story on the flap about how much work the album was and how they managed to do it on the cheap.
“Cold“, and “Saddr” more mellow than the rest of the set.
There’s a sample of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Dirt Dog at the end of 25!, and a clip from the movie Milk at the end of It Shits!!!
Favorites: Cold Chillin, Wednesday Night Drinkable, and 25!
This release is a nice display of future-leaning ensemble jazz. There is a custom-built vibraphone throughout, making the whole album give off a spacey vibe. And the rhythm section is great, keeping the tunes catchier if you just gotta have rhythm, like me. But a crew of other instruments create quite the orgy. At times, light, soft, ethereal, but for the most part, urgent, kinetic, chaotic. It slows down, stands still, and speeds up all at the same time.
VOX on Track 1 (Segregated)
Thirakwa, Ustad Ahmed Jan and Ustad Amir Hussain Khan – “Rhythms of India (Tabla Recital)” – [EMI (India)]
This is your brain, on Tablas. Two veteran Indian percussionists. Rapid-fire tabla drumming. A must for those with an interest in rhythms and drumming. And don’t miss one of the better features, the cool bass sounds of the (usually) left-hand tabla (or dagga?).
I preferred Thirakwa’s A-Side tracks 1 & 2, Teen Tala & Ek Tala over Khan. Oddly, a number of reviews I read indicate that Thairakwa was showing his age with uneven speed and power. Forget that! It’s all amazing drumming!
Part dreamy/psych-pop, part breezy surf rock. Soft vocals often fall under the echoy guitar work, but the melodies are still solid. Mellow summer beach music for baking in the sun.
More upbeat and/or orchestrated tracks: Yuba Diamond, Who Lives, Lucy Lucia
A couple of oddly-placed marimba tracks in the middle the beach vibe that would be a better fit elsewhere, Listen To My Shells, and Sisters.
Jumpin’ boogie-woogie jazz, with a big helping of novelty and hokum tracks. Some dipstick humor with Rubbin’ On That Darned Old Thing (covered by the Dead as The Rub). Sound quality is not that great, as if it has been taken from a ’78, but still tons of fun.
Lemon Nash – “Papa Lemon-New Orleans Ukulele Maestro & Tent Show Troubador” – [Arhoolie Productions]
A different way to listen to the uke. This is definitely blues, both southern and folk, with a few World War I songs. Songs related to Lemon Nash’s time in the bars, halls, and the red-light district of 50′s New Orleans and in traveling throughout the south in medicine shows.
Far from common strumming, his right-hand action on the uke is quite nice with lots expert transitions to triplets and picking.
A number of songs are interspersed with cool old stories of his personal experiences. Sweet and fun.
Stylish spacey R&B jazz, with a very healthy side of funk, soul, and African rhythms. These are longer full-length tracks taken from the 2011 repressing session of the rare 1977 Brighter Days. Lots of groovy snakey horn and winding bass lines. Spacey and spiritual vibes for sure.
Buttoned-up alt-rock/noise-pop/shoegaze. A lot of guitar-soup and punk-minded music infused with mid-90′s indie-like songwriting. The drum and bass lines are really tight. Tempos are quick and most tracks clock in at about 3 minutes, so the tracks don’t take the time to explore sounds and textures as in previous work, “Yeah Right”, but that seems to be a positive choice in my opinion. Substantial wailing in the male-only vocals, contrasted with the even-toned female lead vocals, coming together in the middle of the boy-girl tracks.
Standouts: Images, Start Again, Phase
I am not familiar with their discography, but I get the impression from web reviews that the focus of their series of albums hasn’t really been consistent, but that they are headed in a good direction with this album.
Good springy/bouncy alt-rock (maybe post-punk) from Taiwan via Phat ‘n’ Phunky records. Has a lot of nice guitar twang and a rolling bass line. Always upgeat. Both tracks have great energy, along with guitar solos. The lyrics are all in Chinese, so I can’t make out all the details, except for “We Are Forever Young” on “Forever”. It don’t matter, it’s all good. Bonus for the two-headed turtle and roses on the cover.
Two men, two guitars, one acoustic, one electric, and four mics. Lots of melodic interplay between the two, but overall, Imagho’s acoustic guitar is dominant. Eleven tracks, beautiful, mellow, peaceful, but mostly melancholic and moody. All instrumental.
Indie rock / power pop from San Jose. Fuzzy guitars, fast drumming. Seems like it fills a space shared with few other bands. Weird tuneful vocals, the meaning of which are an intellectual exercise. The the third track (Charyb Notes) is a bit of an existential piece. The last track switches up to fast punk, and may be a bit jokey, but it’s all good with me.
Lots of loud rockin blues out of Natchez Mississippi. Elmo fronts with vocals and jams wildly distorted riffs on a Fender, while Hezekiah plays the snare drum and harmonica (simultaneously). Pretty simple, fuzzy, raw, crankin’ electric blues. 1998 release from Fat Possum Records. My favorites: Blue, Booster, Hoopin’, and Natchez for the loud distortiony sound.
A second album from Lord Tang (aka Dominic Cramp), Gigante Sound (Oakland). Wish I had more experience with ambient, but that seems to be the space that EP falls into … All slow electronic instrumentals … with three of the five tracks being light industrial dub I suppose.
The Bruce Lee Band is the name given to the releases of Mike Park and his varied backing band. This is straight-up edgy ska-punk. Third-wave, fast, heavy on the ska upbeat, but with less poppy vocals and no slippage into Rocksteady or Reggae that’s common to many third-wave ska bands. An EP of five 2-minute songs. Past backup bands have included Less Than Jake and the Rx Bandits. This time, the artists include members of Bomb The Music Industry, Mu330, The Chinkees, and Skankin’ Pickle. Ska’s not dead!
Stars for tracks: A1 (Agh!!!), A2 (Tanning Depression), B1 (We’ve Got The Money)
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