ALBUM REVIEW: Jenna Nicholl’s, Radio Parade

Some albums take you back in time, while others make time irrelevant. Radio Parade by Jenna Nicholls is one of those albums.

Released in 2018, Radio Parade consists of seven songs. Each song has a distinct narrative, yet they are cohesive. The album’s orchestrations range from ukuleles to steel guitar all mixed with jazz undertones. It takes you back in time while standing staunchly in 2019.

For the full article check out Haus Music + Sound Spotlight.

ALBUM REVIEW: St. Vincent, MASSEDUCTION

It has been awhile since I have written any of my musical musings and it’s not for a lack of words. I have discovered TONS of great music over the past few months. My job went crazy and my life went into an awkward spiral, but now I’m back, thanks to St. Vincent.

Over the last few months I decided to rejoin Vinyl Me, Please. I was once a member and I don’t particularly remember why I stopped. Through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram reading all my browsing history and spying on my personal life, I received many advertisements for Vinyl Me, Please, and November’s record of the month, St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION, caught my eye.

St. Vincent Music Review, MASSEDUCTION
Vinyl Me, Please Special Edition

Now, who hasn’t heard of St. Vincent? The record stores back home in Oklahoma take pride in her career because she was born in Tulsa, but my research tells me she moved to Texas before she was 5. I’d like to call her an Okie, but I don’t know if she would accept it.

Anyways, MASSEDUCTION quickly took me by surprise. Although I had seen a lot about St. Vincent’s music, this is actually my first foray into her catalog. I already have more of her albums on order.

To be candid, I really love MASSEDUCTION. This album served perfectly as an intro to St. Vincent’s work. I understand her earlier work is different, but this record has served as my gateway drug.

There are many reasons why I love this album, so many that it is hard to pinpoint exact reasons. Each song is like an impressionist painting. St. Vincent lays out what she sees, yet she leaves much to the imagination. Like many impressionist paintings, this album is also full of color as the orchestration ranges from heavy synthesizers to basic piano.

This album explores many themes, especially in relationships and self-discovery, but the reigning motif for me was self-acceptance. St. Vincent asks to be someone’s flawed foundation in “Hang On Me,” while calling BS on this world’s standards with “Pills” and “Los Ageless.” She knows what it’s like to be lonely and how her decisions have impacted her plight in life with “New York,” Fear The Future,” and “Young Lover.”

St. Vincent Music Review, MASSEDUCTION
The Telagraph.

At the end of all these emotions and trials, she is working on accepting herself, because ” “she can’t help what turns her on” in “MASSEDUCTION.” Although this doesn’t result in her over confidence, because she is still completely vulnerable in tracks like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” and “Smoking Section.”

For me, MASSEDUCTION is not a musical journey, yet a musical process, set to the tone of purposeful “pop” if you will (Disclaimer: I think being “pop” is one of the most freeing “genres” of music. It is never a diss in my writings). Through this album’s instrumentation one can find influences of rock, dance, jazz, and electronica. This is easily seen from the rapid tempo of “Pills” to the string arrangement of “Dancing With A Ghost.”

One last note, St. Vincent’s vocals are nearly pristine on this album. Ballads, like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” really show off her “classic” vocal talent. She may be considered an indie or alternative artist, but she can sing circles with the best of them.

MASSEDUCTION completely accomplished it’s title, as it has completely seduced me into the world of St. Vincent and, apparently, I’m not alone. I was online today trying to buy tickets for her shows in New York City this weekend and they are completely sold out. Off to StubHub I go!

Check out St. Vincent’s official website here.

Check out St. Vincent’s Twitter: @St_Vincent.

Check out St. Vincent’s Instagram: @St_Vincent.

Check out St. Vincent’s Facebook here.

ALBUM REVIEW: Beck, Morning Phase – Album of The Year

The Grammys are always exciting for me. I have not always watched the shows in full, but this year I had planned to camp out in front of the TV for its 3+ hour run. I always find it interesting to see if I can pick the winners based off of my knowledge and 80% of the time I am pretty accurate (not to toot my own horn…..).

Although, this year I completely missed Album of The Year. I didn’t find there to be any strong contenders, but I was leaning towards Sam Smith to take the honor. Ed Sheeran always seems to almost make it but will come up short in the end. Beyonce’s record was overproduced and overhyped. I didn’t think lyrically Pharrell would be a strong argument. Don’t get me wrong, I am actually a fan of each nominee, but this is how I see them against each other.

I didn’t even see Beck being a dot on the radar. I will preface this in saying that I had never listened to a Beck album fully and couldn’t name a single tune he sang. I did know he was a very talented musician and writer, but that is where my knowledge ended.

So after work on Tuesday, I had to make a stop at the record store and buy Beck’s Morning Phase.  The album had thrown me into a conundrum and I had to find my way out.

After the first listen I found nothing special about it. During the second listen it was just background noise. It wasn’t until the third listen that it turned to genius.

Beck, as a musician, almost solely won this award. He wrote every song on the album, produced it, and played the majority of instruments. This wasn’t about singing through lyrics, it was about the whole structure of the songs that turned into an album. And like Prince said, albums do matter. They were rewarding a full-fledged, multi-instrumental artist.

This album listens lyrically in a way I can’t exactly explain. I would be curious if Beck himself could. Every song makes since yet every song throws you for a loop. These songs are universal touching topics such as relationship breakup, rebellion to societal norms, and even suicide.

The album is about all those things that aren’t necessarily depressing, but what have adverse effects on us as a growing person. It’s a coming of age album no matter what age you are. After really digging into the lyrics I took away that I needed to focus more on being who I am and forget what others think or say. I need to embrace my individuality. I found this message in songs such as “Heart is a Drum,” “Unforgiven,” “Wave,” “Turn Away,” and “Waking Light.”

I also discovered how love can be like a little trinket that means the world to you, but you don’t know why or even where it came from (“Blackbird Chain”). I discovered that home is where the heart is, but once you leave and declare your independence it’s never the same (“Country Down”). Lastly, I saw where I can wake up in the morning and decide my fate, but it may take a few do-overs (“Morning”).

Beck proved with this album you don’t need fancy production or a god-like image to create a masterpiece in today’s musical realm. It is a breath of fresh air. I applaud the Grammys on this choice. They got it right.

And he didn’t even need a surfboard to get there.

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues

Google defines country music as a form of popular music originating in the rural southern US. It is traditionally a mixture of ballads and dance tunes played characteristically on fiddle, guitar, steel guitar, drums, and keyboard.

May I also add its contents include whiskey, women, cheating, drinking, and the occasional loss of a dog.

Google defines soul music as a kind of music incorporating elements of rhythm and blues and gospel music, popularized by African-Americans. Characterized by an emphasis on vocals and an impassioned improvisatory delivery.

May I also add that it often gives you those dancing feet and you may occasionally utter a positive “mmm” or “come on.”

Lastly, since this is not a test study sheet, Google defines folk music as music that originates in traditional popular culture or that is written in such a style.

May I also add it usually has a heavy guitar influence and imagery.

Now add them all together.

Country+Soul+Folk= Justin Townes Earle

My first encounter with Earle was through Wanda Jackson. He produced her latest studio album, Unfinished Business. He duets with Jackson on “Am I Even a Memory.” That became my favorite song off the album, and it spurred my interest in Earle. This album was produced to pristine detail.

Justin Townes Earle is the son of famed country musician Steve Earle. He has released 1 etownEP and 5 albums. I recently found his fourth album Harlem City Blues at Guestroom Records in OKC. I wasn’t exactly expecting what I heard. The album touches a wide array of subjects including suicide, breakups, loneliness, the need to leave, and coming back.

The album opens with its title’s namesake, “Harlem City Blues.” This song envokes every genre I discussed previously. The music is distinctly country, the tempo is folksy, and Earle’s voice contains the soul. This song makes me think it is touching suicide, for he states “dirty water is going to cover me over and I’m not gonna make a sound.” Although dark in content, this song possesses a positive sense of spirituality.

The album then goes into “One More Night in Brooklyn.” He talks about leaving town with his woman. I love the beat to this one. It’s almost “island-like.” This is an addictive tune. You then have a hoe down with “Move Over Mama.” Next is the song “Workin for the MTA.” This song especially evokes the essence of folk music, it’s about hard work in what I believe would either be mines or the building of train tracks. It has a purpose and mission. I see a man walking lonely through a desolate area dragging a sledgehammer when I listen to this song. It’s a great slow down moment for the album.

The last song on Side A is “Wanderin.” This is one of my top two favorites off the album. For this song’s face value, it talks about wandering over areas and personal situations, but deeper than that, it’s about reflecting on life and spirituality. It is a modern day “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” You have to wonder to find home.

My second favorite on this album is “Christchurch Woman.” The song talks about waiting for a woman. He talks of how he is waiting for a “Christchurch woman in the rain, and the rain keeps comin, but it ain’t enough to cover the pain.” You can feel pain in Earle’s voice as he is wanting that certain someone, yet even he admits he’ll probably get tired of her later in the song. This song could be comforting to those who are waiting. Waiting gets easier with each passing day, and you might even realize it’s not the right thing after all.

The closing song, besides a choir reprise of “Harlem City Blues,” is “Rogers Park.” The songs opens up with a beautiful piano arrangement and it carries throughout. It is like Earle is walking through a small town park, reminiscing on his life and what could and can be. This shows the genius of Earle’s songwriting. My favorite lyric: “There ain’t no hope in leaving them. There ain’t no prayer for the poor and all that’s lost in stealing. She can’t hold me anymore.” and a choral line of “Punching holes in the dark.” Let the interpretations begin…

In the end, this record is not of any genre. The country musical influence is dominant, thebloodshot records storytelling of folk is there, and Earle’s voice is extremely soulful. I find this album to be remarkable. Earle is multitalented, being able to produce, perform, and write: a musical triple threat.

Although I’m not ready to let that ol’ dirty water run over me, I am ready for my Christchurch woman in the rain, and more importantly, I can’t wait to purchase another Justin Townes Earle album.