reviews 2019

Chaka

Chaka Khan Hello Happiness

After a 12 year absence from the recording scene, Chaka Khan is back with Hello Happiness. Hello Happiness matches the veteran r&b artist (that Jim calls "one the greatest voices of the last half century") with edgy producers Switch and Sarah Ruba, best known for their work with Major Lazer and M.I.A. Jim calls the album an“overproduced experiment”and adds that songs like "Isn't That Enough" sound like the producers are“sampling”Chaka rather than just letting her sing. Greg agrees, noting that the overproduction results in her playing a side role on her own album. He concedes that the seed of the album started out as a good idea: hip, young producers working with a legend. And "Like Sugar," the album's lead single, wound up on his 2018 year end mixtape. That song features Chaka on timbales; and according to Greg, that's a sign she was more involved with that song than with others on the album. Both Jim and Greg hope to hear more from Chaka, with her talent more prominently in the forefront, soon.

JimGreg
Go to episode 693
Solange

Solange When I Get Home

Solange recently released her surprise fourth album When I Get Home. This record marks a departure from the style of her 2016 album A Seat at the Table, as When I Get Home is more of a mood piece. Greg thinks that the music is worth several listens to get into the layers of those chant-like lyrics and Solange's dream-like singing tone. Jim agrees and feels like this record is heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder. While he misses the frankness and direction that was front and center on her last record, he digs the cosmic jazz that dominates When I Get Home.

JimGreg
Go to episode 693
Bob Mould Sunshine Rock

Bob Mould Patch The Sky

On his 13th solo album, Sunshine Rock, Hüsker Dü frontman and serious rocker Bob Mould threw longtime fans for a bit of a loop with four song titles referencing the sun and cover art resembling a lollipop. Greg calls it Mould's attempt at bubblegum pop, while Jim compares it to The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset." He says since Mould formed a power trio with Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy (formerly of Verbow) in 2012, he's been at a career high. The most recent albums recorded by that trio (Beauty & Ruin and Patch The Sky) have focused on the deaths of Mould's parents and now Jim says he's emerged in a happier place. It reminds him of Hüsker Dü covering Donovan's "Sunshine Superman." Greg points out the melodies are at the forefront and there's a lyrical theme of reconciliation. "The Final Years" is a wistful look back at time with his parents, while "I Fought" is like a message to his late songwriting partner Grant Hart, moving past bitterness to appreciation. Greg and Jim both appreciate Mould's honesty about who he is now.

JimGreg
Go to episode 690
Sneaks Highway Hypnosis

Sneaks Highway Hypnosis

Sneaks's third album, Highway Hypnosis, is twice as long as her debut release and it still comes in under half an hour. Sneaks, aka Washington, D.C. artist Eva Moolchan, works with producers Carlos Hernandez and Tony Seltzer on this project and Greg says she's broadened her musical horizons. The avant garde minimalism is still there with a punk ethos, but with a wider variety of rhythmic feels- from reggae to Chicago footwork on "Hong Kong to Amsterdam." Greg wishes she would stretch out on more traditional-styled songs, but appreciates the variety on the album. He's most interested in how she takes avant garde music and works it into a pop setting, so he's looking forward to what she does next. Jim, an avowed Sneaks superfan, was let down by the album. As bizarre as it sounds, he says the album is bloated and fears Moolchan is stuck in a rut. But he hasn't given up and looks forward to her future output!

JimGreg
Go to episode 690
Emily King - Scenery

Emily King Scenery

Singer-songwriter Emily King's third album in ten years, Scenery, is a departure from her earlier work. The New York City native went upstate to record this album and both Jim and Greg say she's found her voice as an artist. Greg calls King a“lithe vocalist”who deftly employs subtlety, rewarding close listening. She's hard to categorize as she moves between genres like soul, funk, gospel and a little bit of rock, but Greg calls that a strength. Jim has had a stressful week and appreciates the peace he's found in her music, calling it“wonderful, meditative, beautiful, seductive and peaceful.”He says the key is "Go Back," a song he says is about commencement, moving from one part of her life to another.

JimGreg
Go to episode 689
Maggie

Maggie Rogers Heard It in a Past Life

Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers caught the ear of super producer Pharrell Williams while she was still a student at NYU. Video of her playing her song, "Alaska" for Williams, and his emotional reaction, went viral in 2016, putting Maggie on many listeners' radars. Jim and Greg hoped that her new album, Heard It in a Past Life, would have more of the unique blend of folk and electronic beats that“Alaska”offered, but Greg laments that the album's heavy handed big label production by the likes of Greg Kursten and Ricky Reed is like“putting extra icing on a cake that's already perfect.”A highlight for Greg is the introspective "Past Life" because it's just Maggie accompanied by the piano“and the producers don‘t screw it up.”Jim goes one step further, adding that he thinks the record“is all icing.”He cannot relate to the album sonically, or to the album’s message.

JimGreg
Go to episode 688
sharon

Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow

Remind Me Tomorrow is Sharon Van Etten's fifth official album and first in nearly five years. Since her debut in 2009, Van Etten's profile had steadily grown until she essentially walked away from her recording career after 2014's Are We There. Instead she went to college hoping to become a mental health counselor, started a romantic relationship with drummer Zeke Hutchins, acted in the Netflix show The OA and gave birth to a son. Loyal fans didn't lose hope, though. One even made a t-shirt asking when Van Etten would record a new album. When she started work on the new album, instead of featuring guitar or piano as she has in the past, Van Etten built her sound around the Roland Jupiter 4 synthesizer. Greg says you might have heard that instrument on a Spandau Ballet album, while Jim calls it the“Farfisa trash organ of synths.”They both praise Van Etten's newly reimagined sound. Greg calls the sonics her“boldest touch here.”He says the connection between the creepy sounds and very astute lyrics and melodies indicate that Van Etten may be getting even better as an artist. Jim likens the album to Radiohead's Kid A in that it expresses uncertainty in the outside world and how it encroaches on personal life and self expression through art.

JimGreg
Go to episode 688