Wild Nothing -- Indigo

For 2018's Indigo, Jack Tatum first made detailed demos, then took a small band into the studio and spent four days recording the songs live. These recordings were then built up by Tatum and producer Jorge Elbrecht as the duo added new parts and reused sounds from the original demos. The result is an album that's just as '80s-influenced as the last record, but much less fussy and more direct. Tatum hasn't forsaken glossy production and gleaming sounds -- everything here is clean enough to eat off of -- and the songs are slicker than anything in the Wild Nothing catalog. In fact, they are slicker than anything in the Howard Jones or Prefab Sprout catalogs -- two artists Tatum clearly reveres. This detailed, sweat-free approach could have sounded lifeless in the wrong hands, but the team here is lucky to have a typically strong set of songs to work with, and they don't swamp the melodies in overcooked cheese. The saxes are kept on a low boil, the synths are minimal, and Tatum's vocals are kept low in the mix as he sings calmly about heartache. The melodies and songs are strong enough that they could have withstood some less adept production; tracks like the swooning pop dream "Oscillation," the lovely "Letting Go," and the very hooky "Through Windows" would have shone like diamonds no matter what. Despite its slickness, this is a smaller album, built around real emotions and more scalable sounds, but its impact isn't felt any less. Indigo is another block in the impressive body of work Tatum has built over the decade, and it's some of the best retro '80s (but not stuck in the past) music anyone is making in the 2010s.~Tim Sendra, allmusic.com

 

John Coltrane -- Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album

"This is like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid."--Sonny Rollins

Yes, this is not a reissue, not a live album, not an album of outtakes. In 1963, Coltrane recorded a studio album that has remained unknown and unheard until now. It was recorded at Van Gelder Studios, the "Abbey Road" of jazz, with Coltrane's classic Quartet: McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison & Coltrane, at the height of his career. The music represents one of the most influential groups in music history, performing in a musical style it had perfected and reaching in new, exploratory directions that would affect the trajectory of jazz from then on. In short, this is the holy grail of jazz. There is a regular CD & Deluxe CD, and a regular & Deluxe LP. Deluxe versions include the seven found tracks and 7 alternate takes.

 

 

 

The Internet -- Hive Mind

Explicit and subtle themes of shelter, comfort, and shrugging off the weight of the world are threaded throughout The Internet’s Hive Mind.  All three are hinted in the opener with "What we gon' do?" and "They gon' get us to come together," with the second line repeated, gradually intensifying in force and volume to the point where it becomes a statement of resistance. Foremost is a carefree roller-skating jam named "Roll (Burbank Funk)," where Patrick Paige wraps a vigorous funk bassline around the oft-sampled break from Gaz's Salsoul nugget "Sing Sing."  Syd Bennett remains the prevailing voice, whispery and easy on the ear yet always heartfelt and often seductive. She continues to grow as a vocalist, sounding sweeter -- more Janet-like than ever -- on the quietly moving "It Gets Better (With Time)," while in the background of "Look What U Started" evoking the lower-end vocal of Brandy's "Baby." Hooks are not as common, sometimes concealed, rewarding listeners who don't mind delayed gratification. Just as "Mood" starts to wear out its welcome with common ingredients -- an off-the-cuff rhythm tied into a knot, plus bristly spaced-out guitar from Steve Lacy -- Bennett casually pulls out one of her most persuasive hooks like it's nothing. ~Andy Kellman, allmusic.com


Big Red Machine-- Big Red Machine


The seeds of Big Red Machine were planted in 2008, when The National's Aaron Dessner sent Bon Iver's Justin Vernon an instrumental song sketch of the same name, the project's self-titled debut was compiled over the two years leading up to its release in August of 2018. Using dozens of instruments -- including guitars, programmed and live drums, strings, portable synthesizers, and sampling and looping devices -- Big Red Machine's off-kilter soundscape was designed by Dessner, with Vernon adding impressionistic lyrics and wide-ranging vocal lines. Among the album's numerous guests are prior National collaborators such as Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, keyboardist Nick Lloyd, and drummer James McAlister, as well as the National's Bryan Devendorf. Other singers, brass players, and even a throat whistler are also in play in what are ultimately quietly dramatic tracks. The opener, "Deep Green," for instance, spotlights Vernon's cryptic remembrance with only skittering drums and electric guitar interjections in the foreground, while eerie backing vocals, keyboard instruments, and glitchy sound effects are recessed. Later, "Lyla" blends soul, hip-hop, rock, and indie electronica on a track that incorporates R2-D2-like blips as well as Rob Moose's violin and viola. It may come as no surprise after listening that the songs were originally constructed as blueprints for improvised live performances with rotating collaborators at festivals in 2017; the songs have an organic, impromptu character to them, even despite the subtle and not-so-subtle intricacy of their arrangements. More a headphones-type album than a radio-friendly one, what emerges are still songs before compositions or productions, though they may appeal to the more explorative indie rockers. ~Marcy Donelson, allmusic.com

 

Tash Sultana -- Flow State

This 23-year-old Australian first found an audience through YouTube videos in which she created over-the-top guitar soundscapes through the use of looping pedals, and while Flow State is clearly intended to also show off her gifts as a vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist (she plays all the instruments on these recordings), her guitar work shines pretty bright on this album. These songs have more to do with contemporary R&B than rock & roll, but Sultana has a rocker's love of the big guitar solo, and when she turns up the amps and lets rip on "Big Smoke," "Murder to the Mind," and "Pink Moon," she reveals a winning confidence and an ability to make her instrument snarl eloquently. Prince appears to be more of a role model to Sultana than any British blues guys, given her taste for pop-leaning R&B tunes, emotive high-pitched vocals, bold and personal lyrics, and a well-programmed drum machine. But Sultana clearly has a mind and a muse of her own, and like Prince she isn't afraid to follow it, with languid, low-key numbers like "Mellow Marmalade" and "Harvest Love" sitting side by side with dance grooves like "Cigarettes" and the attitudinal, hip-hop-influenced "Salvation." Tash Sultana is a modern rarity, a gifted guitarist with a healthy appreciation for flash but practically no rockist impulses, despite the presence of the nine-minute showcase "Blackbird." Sultana could stand to edit herself a bit better, but Flow State is unquestionably the work of a first-rate talent with potential, and if anyone is going to teach young women about the innate coolness of the guitar, she seems like just the person to do it.~Mark Deming, allmusic.com


Jean Grae --Everything's Fine

On Everything's Fine, rappers Jean Grae and Quelle Chris reflect on what it takes to stay normal and sane while dealing with intense personal issues and living in an increasingly corrupt, crazy world that constantly seems on the brink of destruction. The darkly humorous album sarcastically riffs on this sense of false, clichéd optimism, as well as stereotypes, the whitewashing of hip-hop (and popular culture in general), and the general sense of anxiety surrounding day-to-day existence. Right from the outset, the album is filled with dense, complex vocal arrangements, with both MCs (as well as their guests) delivering dozens of vicious caricatures of fake rappers and "woke" folks. The couple, who announced their engagement a few months prior to the album's release, have vastly different styles -- Grae, who also moonlights as an actress and comedian, is sharper and more dramatic, while Chris has more of a loose, conversational style and can sometimes be described as a stoner rapper -- but they complement each other well, and both drive the album's concept. Musically, some of the tracks sound like the type of sludgy, lo-fi boom-bap Chris is known for, but they branch off into several other directions, such as the smudged P-Funk vibe of "House Call," the spacy, late-night jazz groove of "Gold Purple Orange," and the grinding industrial drone of "Scoop of Dirt." In addition to guest appearances by underground rappers such as Your Old Droog and Denmark Vessey, several comedians also contribute. The brilliant John Hodgman wearily, reluctantly offers words of encouragement on the Negativland-like interlude "Don't Worry It's Fine," while Nick Offerman cheerfully encourages you to disregard anything that doesn't directly affect you during "Everything's Still Fine." On "OhSh," Hannibal Buress shows up to deliver a numbskulled rap satire while a barrage of samples of the word "shit" fly by at a rapid pace, and it's impossible to imagine everyone involved not cracking up in the studio. The album ends with two of its most cautiously optimistic tracks, the more uplifting "Waiting for the Moon" and the ethereal yet hard "River," which seem to resolve that things are, in fact, quite OK, but you still need to watch out and fight for yourself. ~ Paul Simpson, allmusic.com

 

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