Highlights of my last seven days’ worth of listening, ranked on a 10-point scale that correlates (+0.999999) with increases in my heart rate:
ANGRY ANGLES – 9.3 – Along with the lesser (but still excellent) River City Tan-Lines, a great Memphis-area band I somehow missed. It’s Jay Reatard before his final burst, abetted only by Alix Smith on bass and pen, and it’s fer damn sure a punk rawk blast. Originals like “You Lied,” “The 15th,” and “She’s Dead” hold their own with killer covers of Wire, Devo, The Oblivians, and The Urinals. Talk about your increases in heart rate….
Julius Eastman/UNJUST MALAISE – 10 – A fitting title for this collection (look him up). Eastman was a minimalist/hypnotist in the classical field, and while that ain’t normally my bag, the opener on this three-disker hooked me post-haste: “Stay On It” is Morton Feldman gone…Caribbean?! Yeah. Elsewhere, Eastman’s booming vocals on “Prelude to ‘The Holy Presence of Joan D’Arc'” will force you to wonder what the saints did say, and “Gay Guerilla,” “Evil Nigger,” and “Crazy Nigger” are more than just attention-getting titles. Three discs I’d turn around and play all over again with pleasure and concentration.I just might, as soon as I post this.
Bryan Ferry/OLYMPIA – 9.3 – A very beautiful–and lush–recording. Ferry is in great voice and, as always, there’s a tricky mind fully engaged behind it. Featuring old pals named Eno, Mackay, and Manzanera in supporting roles, and a dude named Nile Rodgers on rhythm guitar. What amazes me about the record is how deftly certain elements are integrated: a cast of a thousand players into a singular sound; nice new Ferry originals with his usual sharp interpretative choice; flesh and blood noises with electronic ones; passionate swell with technological precision. In case you’d lost track of him, like I had (it’s a 2010 release), attend to it.
(the above ain’t me, but I couldn’t resist….)
Dinah Washington/DRINKING AGAIN – 9.0 – Spotted in the stacks at Vintage Vinyl by my eagle-eyed better half, we have played the heck out of this vinyl slab–and it had been played a lot before it was sold. It is worth a decent price for the desolate title track (no one’s done it better), but she’s in very fine form on the other standards Don Costa conducted and arranged for her. A fantastic late-night choice, and an even better one if you haven’t gotten beyond Washington’s classics.
GAL COSTA – 9.0 – I will never stop pushing the music of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, a not-quite-two-year-long explosion of weirdly catchy and politically complicated art that was garroted by a dictatorship. Costa was, maybe, “The First Lady of Tropicalia,” and her debut record is a wonderful way in for those a mite skeptical of descriptors like “weirdly catchy.” In her singing and rhythms, you can clearly hear the subgenre’s direct line back to samba and bossa nova. In that, you will be easefully rocked into a buzz–Rogerio Duprat’s arrangements and tunes by Veloso/Gil, though, will JUST nudge you out of that area where pure enjoyment is, um, counterrevolutionary, Or something like that. Pick to click: “Vou Recomecar” (or, translated, “I’ll Start”–a fetching title, that).
Robbie Fulks/UPLAND STORIES – 9.3 – The SOUTHEASTERN sequel/step-further that SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE wasn’t. Jason Isbell, you’ve been served, buddy. (I only say this because I want more great music from both guys.) Oh-so-sensitively produced (I’m not kidding) by Steve Albini, and, if it means anything, I didn’t plan on reviewing this–Fulks is very hit-or-miss with me, and I am wearying of so-called Americana. But playing it while I was writing was a beautiful mistake; on “America is a Hard Religion,” Fulks does the seemingly impossible by updating the Stanley Brothers (if not Tom Ashley!) to this precise moment in time. Guitar Gable and King Karl, Linda Gail Lewis, Sid Selvidge–you Southerners will have to wait another week.