Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Released August 26, 2016
Released May 7, 2017
SYNESTHESIA THOUGHTS: By now, I am more than certain that you have seen these incredible music videos on social media, all filmed in one take and starring a young woman practically gliding from one instrument to the next, multi-tracking herself in real time via live looping and performing sensational "mash ups" featuring Foo Fighters merged with Bobby Caldwell or Radiohead mixed with The Police. Her timing and performances are as impeccable as her musical taste...and to think, this young woman is all of 18 years old.

Elise Trouw is her name and I was as gobsmacked by her videos as I know m any of you have also been. For me, I was so impressed, I needed to discover if she happened to have any music of her own and excitedly, I discovered her album "Unraveling," which was released just last year around her 18th birthday and as impressed as I already was with her videos,  her album show cases  without question that she is the real deal!

Over 10 tracks, all of which Trouw either wrote or co-wrote and on which she sings every note and performs every single instrument herself, "Unraveling" is a lovely slice of expertly produced pop songs which straddle the divide between alternative rock of the title track, funk ("She Talking," "Target"), light jazz ("X Marks The Spot," "Illuminate," "Your Way") , thumping club jams ("Burn"), dreamy bedroom pop ("Awake") and two gentle piano ballads ("Catch My Breath," "Random Thoughts") which almost feel like very early Todd Rundgren selections. Yes, the lyrical content explores the eternal pop song themes of love and loss, but Trouw, through her superior musicianship, her smoky vocals and stunning gifts with melody, makes everything feel as fresh as a new day's sunrise.

Just one album in and I am ready for more!
Released October 7, 2017
SYNESTHESIA THOUGHTS: It was music that I never really thought that I would ever hear.

It is difficult being a fan of the band XTC as people like myself are never able to reconcile the fact that despite that this band created, produced and released some of the exceedingly finest music of the 1980's and 1990's, the band remains in considerable and increasing obscurity due to their aging fan base and nearly invisible presence upon radio stations. Certainly the band's lack of touring for much of their career and their official disbandment in 2006, even then after six years of inactivity, did not hing to keep their collective name in the forefront of music listeners' minds. But still...

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a new release from late 2017 that features the talents of former XTC bandmates, singer/songwriter/bassist Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers, reunited for the first time in 35 years (!) for a delightful four song EP that superbly serves up an exquisitely idiosyncratic slice of literate English pop.

While as a member of XTC, Moulding signified the reality that it is not always about quantity but about quality as former bandmate Andy Partridge wrote the lion's share of XTC's music yet, song for song, Moulding was unquestionably his songwriting equal. For this new musical collective moniker of TC&I (clearly a play upon the name "XTC" while also cheekily referring to their own names) and their splendid "Great Aspirations," Moulding's songwriting and wonderful voice and musicianship take center stage with four glorious songs that made me simultaneously long for the their XTC past while also giving me hope that even more new music will follow in the near future.

Opening with "Scatter Me," easily the jauntiest tune I have heard about one's mortality and being reduced to ashes ready to be spread into the world, and continuing with the..ahem...aspirational "Greatness," the melancholic tale of gentrification entitled "Kenny," and finally, concluding with "Comrades Of Pop," the playfully stern warning to new, upstart bands wanting to get through the doors of the music industry, TC&I have deftly and artfully taken up the mantle that XTC placed downwards years ago.

Wry, classy, and elegant, TC&I's "Great Aspirations" is a more than warmly welcome addition into the music collections of not only longtime XTC fans, but simple anyone who thrills with the sounds of that distinctively British perspective that fully charms and intoxicates. Welcome back, dear fellows. I do hope that you choose to stay a while this time.
Released February 9, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: I am not typically one that utilizes the term "return to form," as I think it would be presumptuous (and a tad insulting) for me, a listener, to suggest that the artists in question had somehow "lost their way" artistically. Yet, in the case of songwriters/singers/multi-instrumentalists Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, the duo collectively known as MGMT, there was indeed something almost dangerously elusive about their self titled third album (released September 17, 2013) that felt to be more defiantly "art for art's sake," making for an experience that I have not returned to. With "Little Dark Age," their first release in almost five years, MGMT have not dialed down the weirdness by any stretch but what they have accomplished, a greatly so, is to weave in the eccentricities with their striking gift with melodics and pop hooks, so evident within their 2007 debut.

Opening the album with what is easily the best pop tune of the year so far, the deliriously clever "She Works Out Too Much," complete with alluring additional vocals from Cellars' Allene Norton (who performs double duty with singing and supplying the voice of the excessively chirpy workout girl) and an instrumental track that sounds like the percolating lost incidental music from a Super Mario Bros. game starring out of tune keyboards and synthesizers left over from early '80s Todd Rundgren albums, briskly and brilliantly sets the stage for a work that delves into the dark corners of our 21st century solipsism while existing as a work that is remarkably playful given the subject matter.

From the secretive title track to the warmly synthetic dreams of "Me & Michael" and "James" and hypnotic haze of the appropriately entitled "Days That Got Away," and the stoned soul jam "Hand It Over" all sit more than comfortably with the up to the millisecond "TSLAMP (Time Spent Looking At My Phone)" and the disturbingly poppy sounding self-lacerating teenage suicide note "When You Die" (which reminded me of Elton John's strikingly nasty "I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself" from 1972)  plus its more intensely desperate sounding twin "One Thing Left To Try" and the interior "When You're Small," all of which congeals into a woozy, sinister slab of 21st century psychedelia that houses the band's most contagious melodies in years.
Released March 9, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: As with Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, it is still very early in the musical year of 2018 and we have yet another entry that is easily one of the very best albums of the year.

August Greene, the new collective that is the trio of drummer Karriem Riggins, pianist/keyboardist Robert Glasper and rapper/lyricist Common, have arrived with a brilliant,  beautifully pensive, soulfully meditative debut release that explores, motivates and celebrates the notion of Black American excellence and exceptionalism, especially in the post-Obama through-the-looking-glass arrival in the current Trump landscape.

Working alongside bassist Burniss Travis, vocalist Samora Pinderhughes and even a lush guest appearance from Brandy on a cover of the Sounds Of Blackness' "Optimistic," August Greene weaves a sublime yet consistently head bobbing spell fueled with Riggins' J Dilla inspired jaggedness, and Glasper's almost mournful Vince Guaraldi stylings as Common performs less as a rapper and more as an orator, stepping into the role of leader with silken ease.

Tracks from "Black Kennedy," "Practice," "Let Go" and more follow a gracefully subdued path while "No Apologies" and the 12 minute finale "Swisha Suite" grow considerably more propulsive and experimental, the entire proceedings flow as effortlessly as liquid, showcasing and therefore,  elevating 21st century hip-hop far past its current status of superficial, mumble trappings. August Greene's self titled debut is as elegant as it is streetwise and the path for all who listen leads to a higher and higher plane. 
Released March 16, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC:  The return of bassist/singer/songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, four years after her gorgeous "Comet, Come To Me" (released June 2, 2014), is equal parts most welcome as well as superbly audacious.

With "Ventriloquism," Ndegeocello and her ace band do not perform a set of newly written originals, but rather a collection of 11 cover songs of selections originally performed and released in the 1980's and 1990's. The result is a stunning, atmospheric album where the traces of the original songs, once performed by the likes of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, TLC, Janet Jackson, Ralph Tresvant and others, are obviously apparent even as Ndegeocello somehow, someway makes these songs, so particularly idiosyncratic, all her own...and that even includes her BOLD re-workings of no less than George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," Sade's "Smooth Operator," and good gracious, Prince's elegiac, devastating "Sometimes It Snows In April." 

Succulent and oozing with invention and innovation, this also may be one of the year's very best albums.
Released March 23, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: You know, I had just about had had it up to here with Jack White--at least, with the releases of his previous two official albums both solo "Lazaretto" (released June 10, 2014) and with the third album from The Dead Weather entitled "Dodge And Burn" (released September 25, 2015).

To my ears, those albums were two disappointing works that felt as if White had run out of ideas completely as they were each by turns, squeaky, squawky, shrill, sadly recycled and armed with a level of entitled cultural appropriation that was borderline offensive (honestly, Jack Black is blacker than Jack White) and down right pouty as his feud, such as it is, with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach was one that he was definitely losing as Auerbach was making exceedingly better albums by this point.

Perhaps the four years away have been a great time for Jack White to re-group and re-think his approaches, especially with those silly boundaries he places upon himself from color schemes and strict adherence to archaic recording technology which does smack of arrogance rather than preference. With "Boarding House Reach," his third solo release, White has thrown out the rule book altogether and clearly sounds like he is having fun being lost in the unpredictable throes of creation Because of that kid-in-a-candy-store exuberance, the album works incredibly well, making this the first White related release I have thoroughly enjoyed since his first solo album "Blunderbuss" (released April 23, 2012).

Opening with the power ballad/gospel tinged utopian plea of "Connected By Love" and closing with "Humoresque," allegedly based upon an original tune composed by none other than Al Capone and filled end to end with all manner of spoken word segments, funk workouts, conga lines, deranged hip-hop beats, vocoder weirdness, bizarre synthesized advertisements as if Jim Morrison created television infomercials from a backwoods revival tent and of course, White's trademark guitar hero slashings. If it sounds like a mess, maybe it is. But for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the "anything goes" aesthetic as I had no idea of what would be arriving next, making the entirety of the album one surprise after another as it felt to be a work of full artistic rejuvenation.

And if he brings back The Raconteurs, we'll definitely be solid again.

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