I am pleased as punch to see the inspiring Alice Bag back on the scene with her new album, Blueprint. It’s her second solo album in three years (with a rare 45 squeezed in between), after beginning her trouble-making career with The Bags’ “Survive” 45 in 1979 and spending most of the ensuing four decades advocating for women, children (she’s a fellow teacher) and Latinx culture. She wrote a memoir I’ve heard from reliable sources is captivating, Violence Girl, that I just moved up on my massive stack after sampling her new record last night. I can’t write about Alice’s new record in great detail, as I was reading, but “77” (see above) and “Turn It Up” kicked my ass–I was needing a hardcore punk rock injection, and I have a soft spot for the West Coast variety. The rest of the album sounded fine–I’m going back to the well soon, and I suggest you drink from it yourself. A brave Chicana feminist school teacher and activist who’s about to turn 60 and hasn’t slowed down a millisecond is one of the many things we need right now.
Julien Baker came to my attention vaunted by humans far smarter than I, but my first impression was that she was hitting me squarely in one of my deafest spots: I am quite immune to heart-on-the sleeve outpourings, especially those sparely accompanied. I’m a bit stoic myself, and I don’t trust self-indulgence of any kind very much. However, I’d snagged Baker’s recent Turn Out the Lights in a moment of weakness (I was dying to burn up some trade credit, and someone had begged me to give her a listen), then I found it she was from Memphis (an entirely different weak spot I can never resist scratching), then my favorite writer of the moment, Hanif Abdurraqib, singled her out for powerful praise recently in The New York Times. So I listened–and she shook me by the lapels. Her writing and singing go uncomfortable places, and I don’t mean gushing emotionalism–I mean universally human struggle and pain. Reminded me of another Memphis thang: Big Star’s Third. It doesn’t sound like that dark musical night of the soul, though it often feels like it.
So…hmmm…not so short shrift. Take that as a recommendation.