October Album Reviews: Solange, Weyes Blood + more
Weyes Blood — Front Row Seat to the Earth
The most striking thing about this album is the voice of Natalie Mering. It’s a voice that is soothing yet mysterious, it can evoke calm, which helps because her latest is an affair of heartbreak and quandary; the world as it comes undone personally and politically. The steady hand that guides us through the muck is Mering’s gentle assuring tone. Part Dusty Springfield, part Syd Barret, the album balances somewhere between soul and psychedelia, adventurous in tone and scope. “Used to Be” soars into space whilst communicating heartbreak: “You used to the one that knew me, saw through me.” “Be Free” is another gem, the question of possession within the embrace; we are, but you are still. “Seven Words” is soul gold, kaleidoscopic images and gentle breezes, a beautiful moonlit drive: “I want you mostly in the morning when my soul is free from dreaming.”
Holy Sons — In The Garden
I can easily say without difficulty that Holy Sons’ latest album, In The Garden, is absolutely perfect. Each time it’s played in its entirety — not out of obligation but desire, a desire to be lifted and transported to the bliss and wonder of these songs. “Robbed and Gifted” is equal parts Polvo and Love, it’s the aerial shot of the ocean or the desert, the curiosity of the distant light in the desert. “Denmark” is the walk through a mountain terrain, a picnic overlooking a cliff; it is all splendor, the outstretched arms in the sunset. “Pattern Gets Colder” is like watching the smoke from a joint fade into the sky as the high kicks in, it’s all violet and slow. This an album that continually improves as a whole piece; expansive rock, guitars that echo and soar, vocals that ripple and settle, soul stirring, angelic even.
Solange — A Seat at the Table
“Fall in your ways, so you can sleep at night, fall in your ways, so you can wake up and rise,” and here begins the journey for A Seat at the Table, Solange’s revelatory album. It is a treatise on blackness, but not the treatise, it is not the appropriate but antiquated notions of those that came before us, it is Solange giving us the spirituals of us where we are now. “Scales” acknowledges that we want to be fresh, the dopeboys have rights, too. Our pursuits from the cerebral to the simple do not discredit our selfhood, and that is what this album is about: selfhood. “Cranes In the Sky” chronicles this struggle of living in it: “I tried to drink it away, I tried to put one in the air, I tried to work it away, I tried to change it with my hair,” but alas it never went away; the death, the discrimination, the assault on the self never went away. It’s a beautiful album in its vision. It’s not an album about being black, it’s an about being as a black person. It’s narrated, partially, by Master P — yes Master P — and here he sounds like Dubois. Written entirely by Solange and navigated by Raphael Saadiq, Dave Longstreth, Dave Sitek and Q Tip to name a few. This is especially fucking awesome because it’s all of those people making a Solange album yet they are almost insignificant to the vision, which is completely hers. The only thing to really say about this album is thank you, thank you for letting us be ourselves again.
Kelly Lee Owens — Oleic
Kelly Owens’ EP Oleic is an examination in trance and rhythm. “CBM” establishes a base and moves within it, worlds within a BPM, colors in motion. “Oleic”shares a similar quality a groove within stillness, the simplicity and complexity of layers combined, it seems to expand while maintaining the frame, the magic of architecture.
Bobo Yéyé — Belle Époque in Upper Volta
The thing about culture is that once it becomes internalized, origins become blurred and lost. The futility of tracing beginnings or looking for genealogy of sounds sometimes robs us of the appreciation of the final result. “Air Volta,” the first song on this album, is Afro-Cuban perhaps, the horns have the rhythm of African music with Spanish spice, though both cultures are so close it almost seems reductive to classify. “Ma Douce Ledy” has French tones with American R&B. “Si Tu Maime” is another thing of beauty, slow jams with keyboards that evoke the Scarface soundtrack. “Ne Toumde” is a party indicative of samba or Soukous. A wonderful addition to your collection, whether a scholar or novice of these sounds. It is always wonderful.
Marching Church — Telling It Like It Is
In a way the world is in a terrifying state of despair and uncertainty, as much Marching Birds’ debut album Telling It Like It Is is like the What’s Going On version of that horror. It is a dark, beautiful album, cold wind and cawing birds. “Let It Come Down” appears like a storm cloud, leaves blowing through the streets. However, do not mistake my description as a sign of quality, it is a high quality deeply soulful album. “Heart of Life” is Motown revival, it is a call to arms, a harkening to family and friends amidst the toppling structure. “Lion’s Den” is pure magic, a bobbing sobbing head, “Calenture” is the glorious gospel number. I feel changed and uplifted.
Purling Hiss — High Bias
A Purling Hiss album is always the release of Excalibur’s sword in terms of rock n’ roll, the kingdom will be avenged and restored. The guitars are forces of change, the music takes all forms from raucous to revelry. “Fever” bursts through the gate in all its ragged glory. “Follow You Around” is everything: great Rolling Stones pop, Velvet Underground, T Rex at it’s Rexiest. It’s a song you could play 35 times straight and then contemplate a 36th. “Everybody in the USA” is Sabbath, it’s KISS: “Save me, I’m afraid of everybody in the USA, take me far away from everybody in the USA.” I imagine it sung by a sea of five year olds as their parents wander aimlessly off a cliff distracted by their phones into a burning pit, “this is war!”
Julia Jacklin — Don’t Let The Kids Win
Imagine where you were the first time you heard Patsy Cline; is this album like that? I don’t know. It’s a good first line, let’s run with it. “Pool Party” is a doo wop-y country swing, 60s soul meets country, even if that country is Australia. A tale of a leaving a drunken mess that sounds like a song you would love while being a drunken mess. “Leadlight” is such a perfect song that the album could almost end there, but no, there’s more. Jacklin is discovering life, but through the lens of youthful mistakes, broken hearts, and poor decisions. It is youth as a damaged Christmas present. “Small Talk” is the unspoken gaze around a room, people watching, imagining and abandoning futures: “Catherine Devenue, you look just like my mother used to when she loved me.” “Sweet Step” is about dancing, finding the right steps, maybe dancing alone, but dancing, like no one’s watching; the hope and possibility, naïve and beautiful. Don’t Let The Kids Win is great in title and concept, and I concur, hold on to all that makes you even it breaks you.
Axis: Sova — Motor Earth
Speak of the greats, Pussy Galore, rock music as an affront, a universe of guitar and squall, the tradition colliding with the modern, ghosts abound. Axis: Sova’s Motor Earth is living, breathing, it is a beast with fangs shown. It’s also a party. “Love Identity” is the boogie and the phantoms, it shakes and writhes and strikes without warning, eight minutes and thirty seven seconds of flame. “Eyes Have It” is gritty Trux and New York Dolls stumbling in the alleys of decadence. “Violent Yellow” is action, solid gold, glass shards reflecting strobed lights. “Routine Machine” begins as a lit match and becomes inferno, a fire that burns slowly and engulfs all, from light to ash.