KAMASI WASHINGTON- THE HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE
“The Harmony Of Difference” is the 30 minute EP follow-up to South Central Los Angeles Jazz Saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s three disc, three hour debut “The Epic”. Washington, a leading light of today’s jazz who often collaborates with like-minded musicians outside of jazz like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus & Thundercat, writes five concise thematic pieces that are combined into one lengthy fourteen minute suite called “Truth”, which is possibly one of 2017’s greatest recordings. There is not a misstep one the EP, which may somehow better his audacious debut. If you are looking for a good entry point to current jazz, Washington is a great place to start. He takes the traditions of the hard bop masters, particularly John Coltrane, and expands it into current R&B and Hip Hop, enriching and enhancing both genres.
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KELELA- TAKE ME APART
“Take Me Apart” is Kelela’s long awaited debut after a series of stunning EP’s. Kelela makes innovative, futuristic pop music, danceable and sex-focused, but more akin to early Bjork, FKA Twigs and the xx than current club music. Her music is patient, sultry & sensual, increasingly rewarding upon repeated listenings. Lead single “Frontline” is a standout track, but “Take Me Apart” is consistently pleasurable from beginning to end.
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WOLF PARADE- CRY CRY CRY
“Cry Cry Cry”, Wolf Parade’s first album in seven years, is quietly its most rewarding listen since the Canadian group’s debut “Apologies To The Queen Mary”, which took indie rock by storm back in 2005. Wolf Parade sticks to its recognizable driving rock sound, led by punchy synth riffs and co-singer/songwriters Dan Boeckner & Spencer Krug’ passionate vocals. The group brings a better stable of songs to the table, after two decent but not great albums released over the last decade in “Expo 86” and “At Mount Zoomer”. Tracks like “You’re Dreaming”, “Artificial Life” and “Valley Boy” are among the band’s best and though many of the album’s songs stretch past the five minute mark, “Cry Cry Cry” speeds by quickly without any real missteps.
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ST. VINCENT- MASSEDUCTION
Fifth full-length album by singer-songwriter & wunderkind guitarist Annie Clark (As St. Vincent) is one of 2017’s best albums. Like two of her heroes, David Byrne & David Bowie, Clark is never content to rest on her laurels, stretching her writing and musical chops to yet again create an album unique to her discography. Thematically, “Masseduction” deals with heartbreak, leaving and distance. It’s already been called St. Vincent’s most pop-oriented album. This may be true as far as song accessibility but none of it sounds remotely like any current pop dominating the radio. “New York”, “Los Ageless”, “Pills” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny” are early faves.
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COURTNEY BARNETT & KURT VILE- LOTTA SEA LICE
Low key, low stakes, but consistently enjoyable platonic collaboration between two indie-r0ck standouts. Philadelphia native Kurt Vile & Australia’s Courtney Barnett are close friends whose music you wouldn’t necessarily but together. Vile plays expansive but mellow guitar-based rock- a northeastern slacker-persona doing psychedelic country. Barnett’s music is much more punk-based and energetic. Vile & Barnett, societal misfits both, are expert songwriters known for witty whip smart turns of phrases and a sharp eye for detail. “Lotta Sea Lice” is much closer to Vile’s sound than Barnett’s. It is among neither artist’s best albums, but especially opening track “Over Everything” and single “Continental Breakfast” make it a fun listen.
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