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Drag The River – “Losers/ Marooned” – [Last Chance Records]

humana   1/14/2018   7-inch, Country

Well, this Colorado country band is pretty mellow, and the downtempo songs go along quite well with their band name. The studio versions are on Side A, and the live versions are on B. They aren’t that much different, although the live ones sound a bit grittier and more affecting. Great for a grey, overcast day. Just have some ice cream on hand to pick you up.

Cup – “Hiccup” – [Aaagoo Records]

humana   1/14/2018   A Library, CD

Tym Wojcik is Cup, and these hazy punk songs prove to be more than just a hiccup in his repertoire. Fast-paced guitar works like a jolt to the system in this seventh release from Cup. Songs are 1- to 3-minute bursts of energy. Drink up.

Remember Karen – “What You Say and What You Mean” – [Self Released]

humana   1/14/2018   A Library, CD

I don’t know who Karen is, but this Oakland band pays a fine tribute to her with this release of pop rock goodness. Each song’s lyrics are on the insert, but the vocals are clear enough to make them out. The upbeat guitars and drums provide a fine setting for letting the wisdom of said lyrics sink in. “Afternoon Waking Life” (2), “Slide Collection” (4), and “The Midwest is Boring” (9) will have you bopping and rolling down the window of your car as you blast th

Lyken, Mark / Dove, Emma – “Mirror Lands” – [Time Released Sound]

humana   12/5/2017   A Library, CD

This is a beautiful soundtrack written by Lyken and Dove and set in Scotland, home of the Cromarty Lighthouse, to whose last keeper this is dedicated. There are sounds of water lapping at docks, drills, industry, voices, and geese. Minimalist piano weaves in and out of the tracks in a haunting, beautiful way. The atmosphere is chilly, lonely, and lovely. This is electronica and industrial and field sounds. I love it.

Squarepusher – “Feed Me Weird Things” – [Rephlex]

humana   12/5/2017   A Library, CD

Drum and bass and breakbeat–that’s the genre, and this is the debut studio album of Squarepusher, aka Tom Jenkinson. This is a stunning release that is frenetic, shimmery electronica at its finest. The notes on the CD are fascinating, asserting that Squarepusher “gives us the SOUND of SOUND.” Jump into the energy floe and lose yourself. 7 is my favorite track.

Alexander, Arthur – “Ultimate, The” – [Razor & Tie Music]

humana   12/5/2017   CD, Soul

Out of undeserved obscurity comes the clear, smooth voice and stylings of Arthur Alexander, who paved the way for soul with his songs mixing country, blues, pop, and rock. As Paul McCartney said once, “If the Beatles ever wanted a sound, it was R&B. We wanted to be like Arthur Alexander.” The Beatles and Rolling Stones were only two bands that recorded Alexander’s songs. Try any of these gems–they sparkle with feeling and emotion.

Powwow Songs – Music of The Plains Indians [coll] – [Musical Heritage Society]

humana   12/5/2017   CD, International

These songs were written and performed for the great yearly celebrations, called powwows, of the Great Plains Indians of North America. The liner notes describe the particulars of each dance, and the meanings are felt in the hearty vocalizations and drumbeat of both the Northern and Southern Plains Indians. A true slice of social and ceremonial native music.

Four Lost Souls – “Four Lost Souls” – [Bloodshot Records]

humana   10/28/2017   CD, Country

“These songs aren’t going to sing themselves” (from “Poor Valley Radio”). And count your lucky stars that Jon Langford (who wrote and sings the songs along with Bethany Thomas and Tawny Newsome) and his band (rounded out by skilled guitarist John Szymanski) found themselves in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to sing the great Americana songs contained on this CD. Yes, the sobering election of 2016 made them feel lost, but they stepped up to the plate and responded with these sometimes rocking, sometimes ballad-y songs. Be sure to read the poem in the sleeve.

Flamin Groovies – “Fantastic Plastic” – [Sonic Kicks]

humana   10/22/2017   A Library, CD

They’re back and better than ever! What a fun and enjoyable collection of brand-new rock songs penned by Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson! These are uptempo songs and smooth ballads by this group whose origins are in San Francisco. Each song is great in its own way, but “She Loves Me” and “Lonely Hearts” are two of my favorites.

Seafang – “Solid Gold/ Stardust” – [Emotional Response Recordings]

humana   10/22/2017   7-inch, A Library

Of course I love this 7″ dimension of wonder because it’s shoegaze from a quintet in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Solid Gold” is an upbeat, fast-paced number, while “Stardust” is a bit slower, but both are fine examples of lovely haze with Heidi’s pretty vocals backed by the band’s energetic guitars, drums, and bass. Think Go-Gos KFJC-style.

Cotillion Soul 45’s [coll] – [Cotillion Records]

humana   10/1/2017   7-inch, Soul

Oh what fun it is to open a box of 10 7″ discs recorded in 1968- 1970 on the Cotillion label and dance to the soul sounds of artists including Darrell Banks, C and the Shells, Moses Smith, and Lou Johnson. There are ballads on here, too, and the liner notes are a must-read for cool background info. Covers of “Ain’t No Sun” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” are highlights. Pick any disc and get your soul groovin’!

Demen – “Nektyr” – [Kranky]

humana   9/24/2017   12-inch, A Library

This artist comes from Stockholm, Sweden, and her music and vocals create an atmosphere that is a lovely, murky swirl that makes you feel like you’re inhabiting some kind of cool night world where anything can happen, both good and bad.

Ilaiyaraaja, Isaignani – “Ilectro!” – [Finders Keepers Records]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, International

When I first listened to this CD, I thought, “Bollywood!” But it’s Kollywood with a K! Which refers to Tamil cinema. But this is so much more. Ilaiyaraaja is an incredibly prolific score-master of cinema, creator of “euphoric electronics and robotic funk,” and all you have to do is pick any track to hear the creative energy behind all that this Southern Indian pens. Though the songs have known popularity mostly in Tamil speaking territories, I know this will get a fair airing in Ann Arbor’s show, among others.

New Orleans Funk: Voodoo Fire In New Orleans Vol. 4 [coll] – [Soul Jazz]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, Soul

These songs from 1951-77 get the funk to rise in your blood in the best possible way, and the liner notes explain in a most excellent fashion how this type of music came to be from the earliest days in Congo Square, New Orleans, where “slaves, ex-slaves and free blacks congregated each Sunday to socialise, dance, party…and worship.” From Eldridge Holmes to Norma Jean to Chocolate Milk to Clifton Chenier to Zilla Mayes, this is a not-to-be-missed compilation, meant for more than just Soul Patrol.

Ferrat, Jean – “Les Annees Barclay” – [JBarclay]

humana   9/10/2017   CD, International

These two CDs take you back in time to the late 60s cabaret scene in France, where singer-songwriter Ferrat specialized in setting poetry to music. This very polished sound is easy on the ears, mellow and romantic, and, as the liner notes say, pop in the best sense of the word. Track 3 made the 2013 BBC list of 20 songs that most changed the world. Each song will transport you to the environs of France and all its boutique glory.

Salamander Wool – “Lunarsophic Somnambulist” – [Ehse Records]

humana   7/30/2017   A Library, CD

Salamander Wool’s music is by Carso Garhart and Twig Harper contributes electronic elements and production techniques. The first track is probably the best, with its field sounds (recorded over time in West Baltimore) and bells. Vocals join the sounds partway through the track, and are present on the other tracks as well. These are an acquired taste, but the music itself is pleasant enough, with its guitar strumming that is Americana-esque. Track 5 has water sounds and then whirring (a washing machine?). The lyrics have merit, and overall this might just be great music for the solar eclipse coming up.