Kacey Musgraves, Ka, Lindsey Buckingham

Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed To explain my indifference to her last album, I blamed “the half-life of winsomeness.” Whereupon Golden Hour went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year ten months later. On Star-Crossed winsomeness joins the ranks of the undead. Fifteen pearly, gleaming quasi-pop songs arranged as a cycle about theContinue reading “Kacey Musgraves, Ka, Lindsey Buckingham”

Gesturing outward: Cleo Sol and the Killers

One of these made my best-of-2021 list last week. Guess which. Cleo Sol – Mother The West London singer-songwriter whose appearances on SAULT’s albums are as essential as Shara Nelson and Caron Wheeler’s on Massive Attack and Soul II Soul’s, respectively, shrouds herself in a quietude that takes getting used to. Although on “Build MeContinue reading “Gesturing outward: Cleo Sol and the Killers”

Useful fictions: Tinashe and Dave

I’ve got another album of the year contender below…. Tinashe – 333 Her confidence continues to swell, and her fifth album is her best. From opener “Let Go” and the hairpin turns (in 1:06!) in “Shy Guy” to the vocal pirouetting of “Last Call,” the songs demonstrate Tinashe Kachingwe’s mastery of R&B dynamics: the stackedContinue reading “Useful fictions: Tinashe and Dave”

In search of a context: Sleater-Kinney, POLO G, Garbage, Rufus Wainwright

Sleater-Kinney – Path of Wellness What Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein think of fan response to Janet Weiss’ uncivil departure matters less than the murmuring from a fan base that based on my experience would’ve moved on–if it were any other band.

Going big, staying small: Wolf Alice and Japanese Breakfast

Two albums, one excellent and the other solid, alternate between maximalism and minimalism in ways that strain their makers’ creativity and my patience. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend From its Day-Glo sleeve colors to its genre flitting, this English foursome’s third album commits itself to, in the words of its punkiest tune, playing the greatestContinue reading “Going big, staying small: Wolf Alice and Japanese Breakfast”

A dozen of 2021’s best albums: a first draft

Editors hope that the writers to whom they assign albums persuade them to love the album too. Andy Beta did this when Sons of Kemet released Your Queen is a Mother three years ago. A jazz album whose distinctive churn gives it dance floor possibilities, Black to the Future has soundtracked first my tentative crawlContinue reading “A dozen of 2021’s best albums: a first draft”

Efflorescing and deliquescing: The Chills

The Chills – Scatterbrain Martin Phillips’ success with commissioning sleeves that act as visual equivalents for his songs still impresses. Limpid, efflorescent and deliquescent, surprising with sudden depths not visible from its shimmering turquoise surface, his third album since 2015 finds him in what at first sounds like a complacent mood.

Shimmering neon lights: Ashley Monroe and Dawn Richard

Two of my favorite artists immerse in electronics. The results? Mixed for a certain country artist. Ashley Monroe – Rosegold Her last album had hinted at the shift in priorities, but the transformation into electronica will surprise listeners. This is not to say Ashley Monroe has turned into Roisín Murphy; rather, she and her collaboratorsContinue reading “Shimmering neon lights: Ashley Monroe and Dawn Richard”

All-American self-hatred runs deep: Genesis Owusu and BROCKHAMPTON

Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth A Ghanaian who lives in Canberra and blasts To Pimp a Butterfly, Kofi Owusu-Ansah has dozens of other fly records abuzz in his head, and with debut Smiling With No Teeth he’s made all of them. Albums like this get praised for “density” and using “brittle funk,” andContinue reading “All-American self-hatred runs deep: Genesis Owusu and BROCKHAMPTON”