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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.

Plants and Animals: The Jungle (album review by Christa V.)

Plants and Animals is an indie band with a chill vibe. All of their songs sound very relaxed with cool beats and minimal lyrics letting the instrumental groove shine. Their best song though, “House on Fire,” is the least chill with fun synth parts that turn it into a bop. As a result is ends up being very danceable! The second track, “Love That Boy,” is probably the best example of their hallmark style with some melody in the vocal part, but overall keeping it relaxed. Another piece to highlight is “Le Queens,” a song entirely in French! It’s hard to place this one, the vocals are clear and melodic but almost sound like a whisper. This is contrasted with electric and nearly industrial sounds surrounding the words. It’s the most enigmatic song for sure, and highlights what Plants and Animals can do with their talents. Favorite tracks: 2, 3, 6

Matthew Shipp Trio: To Duke (album review by Christa V.)

This trio consists of Matthew Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio on bass, and Whit Dickey on drums. Here they present their take on seven compositions by Duke Ellington (hence the album’s title) as well as four originals. The result is a fantastic avant-garde jazz album that weaves between familiar chord progressions and new territory extremely easily. The result is a wonderful tribute to a jazz great, but the end result is all Shipp’s own. “In a Sentimental Mood” highlights this divide incredibly well. The piano takes the theme, but the other two start laying down polyrhythms that add complexity and depth to the composition. They eventually swing back to the melody, but it’s after pulling it apart piece by piece and fiddling with it for some time. The bass solo on “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” is wonderfully done, a rapid clip of notes that emerge one after the other. It then segues directly into the fast paced “Take the A Train” making for a really cool transition between the two tunes. Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 5

Arlo Parks @ El Club, Detroit, 9/29/21 (concert review by Paul S.)

London singer-songwriter Arlo Parks released her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams at the beginning of the year, and I've been addicted to it ever since. She has a brilliant way of writing poetic, expressive lyrics and wedding them to catchy melodies and detailed, atmospheric productions. Her music is easy to listen to, but her lyrics are sometimes devastating when you pay attention, particularly when she writes about subjects such as depression ("Black Dog") and queer relationships ("Green Eyes"). It's no wonder her music has struck a chord with a lot of people this year. The album spent 3 months on top of the North American college radio charts, and she's already won several major awards, including the BRIT Award for Best New Artist and the prestigious Mercury Prize.

She announced her tour in April, at a time when concerts generally hadn't started back up again, and I hadn't even heard too many announcements for upcoming shows yet, so I was really surprised. I was actually on vacation at the time, so I made sure I bought a pre-sale ticket as soon as I got home, because there was no other artist I was looking forward to seeing more. I actually had to buy a smart phone for the first time because El Club now uses an app called Dice for tickets, instead of having will call or paper tickets, so I had no choice if I wanted to go to this show. After months of waiting, the day of the show finally came. It was only the second show I'd been to at El Club since they reopened, the first being Danny Brown's Bruiser Brigade, who actually did a free reopening show at the venue. I got up pretty close, maybe 20 feet from the stage. The opening band was Michelle, who consisted of 4 female singers who all traded off on vocals, and 2 guys playing guitar and keyboards. They sang poppy R&B songs over chillwave-ish beats, and there was some semi-synchronized dancing at some points, A little sloppy and glee club-ish, but definitely energetic. After their set, Arlo's band gradually took the stage and started playing an extended intro to the first song, "Hurt". Arlo came onstage wearing a Cramps shirt, as if she wasn't awesome enough already, although it made me wonder how many people in the audience even listen to the Cramps. Her band had a different energy than the recordings, but they certainly adapted the songs well for the stage, sometimes stretching them out with guitar solos and extended bits. Arlo's voice sounded lighter and airier than on her album, and she seemed to dreamily sway along with the music. She'd mentioned on social media that she felt sleepy before the show, and it was evident, but she certainly seemed appreciative, and the audience was excited to be there, which was especially obvious during songs like "Eugene", where the crowd's voices rose during the bitter second verse, and "Caroline", where Arlo encouraged the crowd to scream along with the chorus. She didn't play two of my favorite songs from the album, "For Violet" and "Bluish", although I can see how those might've been harder to arrange for her live band. Everything else from the album was played, as well as some of the highlights from her first two EPs, which are decent, although I think she was still finding her sound then and the material she wrote for her album is much stronger. She's somehow more chill and down-to-earth onstage than I expected, not that I was thinking she was going to be belting out her songs. It made for an interesting dynamic, but I was just happy to be there and hear her play all these songs I've had stuck on repeat all year, and be around an entire room full of people who felt the same way.

Additional photos of this show have been posted to my blog.

[theanswerisintheBEAT]

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