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v/a: Oto No Wa: Selected Sounds of Japan 1988-2018 (album review by Christa V.)

This CD marks the fifth installment of the Music For Dreams series. This work was made by Ken Hidaka, Max Essa, and Dr. Rob who got together a range of Japanese musicians to make chill music ranging from ambient to jazztronica. The first track is an excellent opener featuring more chill ambient noises to ease you into the record. “Coco and the Fish” gets things going more with interesting, jazzy percussive beats mixed with ambient sounds that float you along. This serves as a great warm-up for “Gradual Life,” one of the more unique tracks on the album featuring primarily improvised percussion. One final track to point out is track 10 which is more melodic and features steel drums to conjure up the waterline for you. All in all, a fascinating album that’s easy to overlook but hard to forget. Favorite tracks: 1, 5, 6, 10

Take It From The Dead by Acid Dad (album review by Eva N.)

Acid Dad continues to contribute to the revival of the alternative sound with their 2021 rock album, Take It From The Dead. The guitar and drums vary between a low- and high-density rhythm, paralleling a relaxed and emotional mood. Vaughn Hunt’s airy voice echoes off of a particularly authentic-feeling production, sounding as if Hunt is singing live and close to the microphone. Ride with Acid Dad’s unpredicted licks and rocky nostalgia in Take It From The Dead.

Greg Yasinitsky: Yazz Band: New Normal (album review by Christa V.)

Yasinitsky is a saxophonist, composer, and arranger from the Pacific Northwest who created this group (Yazz Band) to showcase his original big band compositions. Made up of fellow improvisors and long-time collaborators, the band is a powerhouse of sound and technique. The title New Normal refers to the pandemic and how meeting together for large ensembles just wasn't possible. The songs are a mix of ensemble tracks recorded pre-pandemic with recordings done in isolation from distant parts of the globe. The resulting songs are a dynamic creation that showcase what makes big band music so fun to listen to. The opening track, "G.P.", is smooth yet energetic, making it an ideal opener. "Blues for Brecker" is up-beat and jazzy, guaranteed to make you want to move. The title track is smooth and tight as well, with great solos as well as ensemble work. This is definitely an excellent example of big band work, despite the challenges that came with the production. Favorite tracks: 1, 3, 5

City Slicker by Ginger Root (EP review by Eva N.)

Ginger Root’s 2021 City Slicker EP oozes with funk and charisma. Cameron Lew’s subdued voice casts the spotlight on the clearer-sounding instruments: the electric keyboard, tangy bass, and jazzy, upbeat drums. These sounds harmonize to create, as Lew dubs it, a unique “aggressive elevator soul” experience that will get you on your feet.

 

Idit Shner: Live at the Jazz Station (album review by Christa V.)

Shner is an alto saxophonist and a professor at the University of Oregon! Here she delivers a masterful performance live and gives her students (and others!) a real taste of how to translate academic music into success. The whole ensemble is incredibly tight, but it is Shner who really shines as a soloist and as the heart of the melody on most of the tracks. “Shake it Til You Hear it Sizzle” is where the band really revs up and delivers several energetic solos! That same energy gets brought to “Pascal’s Ballad” which is incredibly soulful and powerful. The fifth track, “Hippo’s Walk,” is where all of this energy really lets loose and emerges from the whole ensemble! The album ends with practically a scream from Shner’s sax on “Artificial Flowers.” A must-listen if you’re a fan of jazz saxophone! Favorite tracks: 2, 3, 5, 8

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) by Mudhoney (album review by Eva N.)

Mudhoney’s reissue of their 1991 rock album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, still fits the nineties’ grunge era like a glove. Its low-fidelity production, quick-paced drums, raspy guitar, and heavy bass layer together to create an hour and twenty-four minutes of wild grime. The album sometimes surprises with the addition of harmonica, the sound of snoring, and Mark Arm’s untamed voice. Kick back and bang your head to the enjoyably grating sound of Mudhoney.

 

Scenes: Trapeze (album review by Christa V.)

Scenes is a jazz quartet from the Pacific Northwest. The group consists of a tenor saxophonist, bassist, drummer, and guitarist. Every track on this album is so tight, you can tell that the group has been playing together for a while and can go off of each other's choices fluidly, each of them is a great soloist as well as an ensemble player. Many of their tunes are close to free form, there'ss a very loose structure but the melody can be hard to locate since everyone is playing so musically. Clearly they all (especially the saxophonist) are heavily influenced by the style of Coltrane and how he incorporated improvisation into his tunes in interesting ways. Many of the tracks have a more relaxed feel and would be great for speaking over, or just for relaxing to.  Favorite tracks: 1, 7, 8

Mini Trees - Always in Motion (review by MM)

Self-described as living room pop, Mini Trees' Lexi Vega sings about love, loss, anxiety, relationships and more. It's like a harmonic explosion sliding through space held down with tight percussion and dreamy vocals and maybe involving some nice, not scary robots. The music ebbs and flows but always with a constant energy, it pulls you along while everything is harmonizing with everything else. The album had no slow spots, no skips. It's one of my favorite new listens in a long time.

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