MUSIC, RELEASED, REVIEWED
ORK RECORDS: NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Various Artists (Numero Group)
New York City is responsible for many musical moments, a fountainhead of creative musical movements from hip hop to punk rock. Ork Records, founded by Terry Ork, had a huge role to play in releasing the music of the New York scene that spawned such musical institutions as The Feelies, Television, Richard Hell, and Alex Chilton, to name only a few. Numero Group has put together, in their common fashion of excellence, a compilation of singles from the Ork Records catalog on “ORK Records: New York, New York.” The album begins with the first single Ork released, the brilliant, jaw dropping Television song “Little Johnny Jewel,” within the first two minutes of which you will see the birth of the sound of more than half of all record collections, it is demonstration in how and why guitar music was and will continue to be a superior form of music. Television, in the course of seven minutes, makes evident why they are one of the most important artists in the history of the guitar as an instrument. But oh no, there’s more “Take Me Home” by Cheetah Chrome, incredible, “Forces At Work” by the Feelies, electrifying, “Fire And Smoke” by Marbles, beauty incarnate, “The Singer Not The Song” by Alex Chilton, exemplary, “She Might Look My Way” by Prix, magnificence. The album has 49 songs; it is two plus hours of transcendence. Oh, rock music, we have forsaken your parentage, we must return to your lessons. This album is a requirement.
KELELA — Hallucinogen (Warp)
Rhythm and blues, as a form, invokes a particular thing that is usually associated with sort of a dated aesthetic, but if the definition of “having the blues” is conjoined to music with rhythm, then R & B as a model is still a relevant term. With that noted, Kelela is making amazing R & B music as demonstrated by her excellent EP Hallucinogen. Of the school of beats, the first song, “A Message,” details the insecurities and pains of longing and forlornness, but the music bumps like that of Magic Mike or Bjork. It is the sound of late stoned or drunken nights in dimly lit rooms looking at a phone, waiting for or regretting a text message or phone call. On the flip side, “Rewind” embodies the same heartbreak, but the beat is skate jam, perhaps chronicling a night out trying to have a good time, but being distracted by the lost (or loss of) love. Structures and types come and go, but a love song is a love song. Kelela explores those places of love that exist on the infatuation and the adulation of love, but also the delusion, the self-blame, the crushing end, the intense part, the best and worst part, “The High” as she calls it, but what are we if not for love.
TY DOLLA $IGN — Free TC (Atlantic)
First off, if I reviewed this album before. I apologize; I couldn’t find it, and it didn’t fucking come out then anyway, so I know this is coming out now, so this review will be more accurate. Ty Dolla $ign, is making an interesting version of R & B — I would go as far as to say that the current state of the music could be referred to “post Dolla $ign.” Maybe the biggest beacon of this direction is the song “Loyal” by Chris Brown, a song that ruffled the feathers of many of the form’s purists in referring to women, blatantly, as hoes vs. in implication, and this is kind of Dolla $ign’s thing, the attitude a rapper, but as a singer, which is simplified and also reductive of rap, but anyway, regardless, Ty Dolla $ign goes pretty hard. Free TC is an album that he hopes to use the proceeds from to put toward his brother’s (TC) case, which is admirable, but the album doesn’t overtly address these issues. It is a case of the “if it ain’t broke” school, which I appreciate, because I, personally, don’t want to hear him do political songs. So you have a song like “Saved” featuring E40, that basically addresses not saving these hoes, or “Blasé” with the consistently fantastic Rae Sremmurd and Future which is like ratchet Kraftwerk. Now, there are other songs such as “Solid” with Babyface (yes, that Babyface) that is a Ty Dolla $ign song with an acoustic guitar, call it James Taylor ratchet. Free TC is going to keep the core audience, possibly even surprise them. Now, if you are fan of the more chivalrous style of soul music, this might not be for you, but hey, tuh-may-toe tuh-mah-toe.
JOANNA NEWSOM — Divers (Drag City)
Joanna Newsom has made a dynamic album but more of a statement, a thing to be visited and revisited, used as a source of strength and inspiration, a commentary on life, love, and time, and virtue in what seems a superfluous period, or at least dominant contemporary attitude, and that album is called Divers. I listened to this album with purpose and intent, meaning, I made a space to give it attention, it is that kind of album, the subtleties are powerful. It begins with “Anecdotes” a tale of a two soldiers, perhaps accepting their fate, understanding that their existence could be easily dismissed in the mundane space that life at time consumes (“Anecdotes cannot say what time may do.”) The temporal theme of life is ever-present throughout the album; age and time, the weathering and withering, the obsession with, the constant ticking of the clock appear within the duration of the album’s 54 minutes, the last song is “Time, As A Symptom.” War is also a metaphor, or at least duty to, responsibilities, “the land lone and leveled by some unrecorded and powerful hand,” and within wars and responsibilities there is the legacy left and/or assumed “the text will not yield where the Hand of the Master begins and ends…The event only lives in print.” So in these spaces, inside of these lines we live and love, and often, fail to love properly (“I could never find my way to being the kind of friend you seemed to need in me, till the needing had ceased”). It is an amazing piece of work, “Goose Eggs,” “The Things I Say,” “You Will Not Take My Heart Alive,” and on and on. Music has become, can become, just and only, nothing more, “just beats” or “only a…” and for the most part, in that truth, this album is not that, it is moving if you allow yourself to be moved, free of the updates and arguments and the schedule of time and responsibility which move us away from the loved and loving, “In our lives is a common sense that relies on the common fence that divides, and attends, but provides scant defense.”