Music critic Daniel Garrett has compiled an extensive, topical survey of music news and notes including new album releases, concerts, books and talk.
Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan are compared by Hamilton for their musical roots and affiliation with particular communities and subsequent independence and experimentations with genre and form, though Dylan’s work has received much more critical exploration and celebration, suggesting, among other things, a misunderstanding of the choices—aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual, and political—that are made by African-American artists, who want both creativity and commerce, glamour and grit, imagination and intellect, and whose works affirm both style and substance.
Benjamin Clementine is to be encouraged. Who knows what else he might do? “The decision is mine ‘cause the vision is mine,” he states in the composition “Adios,” claiming ambition, difficulty, mistakes, and possibility—ending with a ramble about angels who sing, falsetto and bass; and Clementine himself singing, returning to the song’s frantic refrain. “St. Clementine-on-Tea-and-Croissants” may be a fantasy—an interrogation, imagined or real, of an irresponsible parent, a questioning that moves beyond polite manners and social ritual.
Caroline Rose is one of the performers who is keeping the singer-songwriter tradition alive, one of the performers who is keeping the independence music scene a resource for liberation: so are Alabama Shakes, Arctic Monkeys, Bright Eyes, Broken Bells, Camera Obscura, The Dears, Father John Misty, Foster the People, Rhiannon Giddens, Valerie June, Frank Ocean, Josh Ritter, Savages, St. Vincent, and Vampire Weekend.
Brooke Waggoner’s compositions acknowledge the inevitability of time, and the struggle between mundane responsibility and transcendent possibility, with love to be found or lost. On Sweven, the song “Widow Maker” seems to contain so much musical possibility—it seems both a strong statement and a kind of satire. American Songwriter (November 13, 2015) magazine made much of Brooke Waggoner’s video for the song “Widow Maker,” highlighting its scientific theme and humor.
Although its darkness is a little too unrelenting, Unravelling is a virtuoso performance, but it is much more than that. The long-awaited follow-up to Mosaic of Disarray was born of a terrible period in singer-songwriter Nick de Grunwald’s life when he felt he was coming apart at the seams. This new album dazzles the listener with the sheer variety of the songs, constantly delighting the listener with new soundscapes and characters stuck on the wrong side of life.
The music of Villagers is an articulation of life and relationships, shaped by desire, perception, and conscience. The first song on Where Have You Been All My Life? is light, mellow, slow-paced, and focused on a man who prepares to leave place and person for the open plains despite the new promises of a lover’s good intentions.
Lianne La Havas—a British girl of Jamaican and Greek heritage (her Greek father was a musician)—has been a part of music scenes large and small (associated at one time or another with Paloma Faith, Bon Iver, Alicia Keys, and Prince); and her work has won her critical respect and popularity. Yet, though young, recognized, and rewarded, there she has had to fight for her integrity.
Every generation asks and answers its own questions—and those become culture, history. Aye Nako’s The Blackest Eye considers how matters of self are shaped by world matters—especially regarding class, race, gender, and sexuality. “Leaving the Body” has a fast, thrashing introduction, churning, dense, spinning, with lyrics in which a narrator recognizes bad influence but also claims her own spoilage.
The roots of Armenian music are ancient—and its past is told in its stories of country and city, and in its melodies and rhythms, and by the instruments—cornet, drum, cymbal—that have been found by accident or excavation, as well as in the notes others have made in texts and paintings. The music, a folk art, is yet known for its singular voice—out of many, one. Of course, a classical art—an art of notation and study, of theory and excellence—began to be born too.