St. Vincent: A smile is more than showing teeth

She’s an original, creating a songbook out of the kind of compressed studio effects that would force lesser talents to fire the engineer. So she should reconsider someone besides John Congleton, whose work on Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness and Annie Clark’s other albums confirms that pouring his trademark electronic glaze overContinue reading “St. Vincent: A smile is more than showing teeth”

The consequences of outsider art

Sodden and schizophrenic, The Outsiders is Eric Church’s worst album. From 2006 to 2011, Church’s singing and writing improved bit by bit, peaking on Chief, an album for reactionaries and so-called liberals who lament the good days when Merle and Willie and Waylon made real country. I’ve played Chief more often than any album thatContinue reading “The consequences of outsider art”

Toni Braxton-Babyface: “a synecdoche of a much larger paled void”

Chris Randle’s review of Toni Braxton and Babyface’s Love Marriage & Divorce doubles as a farewell to an idea of R&B: In the distant aughts, before radio tuners spun too fast for slow jams, there was Mariah’s “We Belong Together,” an R&B song colored by the experience of crying to R&B songs: “I turn theContinue reading “Toni Braxton-Babyface: “a synecdoche of a much larger paled void””

She’s still on a mission: Katy B

Katy B – Little Red It begins with a bump ‘n’ grind straight out of a millennial Tracy Young remix, but before it breaks into a sweat “Next Thing” has moved on to “5 AM,” in which Katy, like Tracey Thorn in Everything But The Girl’s “Lullaby of Clubland,” wanders into a club still packedContinue reading “She’s still on a mission: Katy B”

Love makes things happen: Braxton and Babyface

Toni Braxton and Babyface – Love, Marriage & Divorce. With a title as bright as a wedding ring it should have been easy to place the songs in a coherent sequence. Blame the occasional fatuous songwriting and the discreet application of Auto Tune for the distance between the stars. But Babyface and Braxton could haveContinue reading “Love makes things happen: Braxton and Babyface”

Reviews: Against Me! and Rosanne Cash

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues Closer to being the woman she envisioned but with no commensurate satisfaction, Laura Jane Grace turns to jangle pop tropes: “Paralytic States” even boasts an arpeggiated twelve-string hook encased in its punk rhythm like a gold nugget in a river rock.The new bassist and drummer don’t add much andContinue reading “Reviews: Against Me! and Rosanne Cash”

Album reviews: Angel Haze, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Wig Out at Jag Bags The international community of session men in 1974 would have embraced Stephen Malkmus. Capable of runs imbued with a darting catch-me-if-can quickness, and low ends for ballast, his guitar playing would have been the wittiest instrumental filigree on a Linda Ronstadt or Manassas record.Continue reading “Album reviews: Angel Haze, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks”

Stephen Malkmus: “male without the tediously burdened spirit of masculinity”

Mike Powell: I listen to these albums with a kind of passing happiness, surprised by how easily Malkmus can still make me smile, vaguely saddened by the idea that a smile is probably the most complex emotional response he’ll get from me. Wig Out at Jagbags isn’t all that different in spirit from 2011’s MirrorContinue reading “Stephen Malkmus: “male without the tediously burdened spirit of masculinity””