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Plants and Animals: The Jungle (album review by Christa V.)

Plants and Animals is an indie band with a chill vibe. All of their songs sound very relaxed with cool beats and minimal lyrics letting the instrumental groove shine. Their best song though, “House on Fire,” is the least chill with fun synth parts that turn it into a bop. As a result is ends up being very danceable! The second track, “Love That Boy,” is probably the best example of their hallmark style with some melody in the vocal part, but overall keeping it relaxed. Another piece to highlight is “Le Queens,” a song entirely in French! It’s hard to place this one, the vocals are clear and melodic but almost sound like a whisper. This is contrasted with electric and nearly industrial sounds surrounding the words. It’s the most enigmatic song for sure, and highlights what Plants and Animals can do with their talents. Favorite tracks: 2, 3, 6

Matthew Shipp Trio: To Duke (album review by Christa V.)

This trio consists of Matthew Shipp on piano, Michael Bisio on bass, and Whit Dickey on drums. Here they present their take on seven compositions by Duke Ellington (hence the album’s title) as well as four originals. The result is a fantastic avant-garde jazz album that weaves between familiar chord progressions and new territory extremely easily. The result is a wonderful tribute to a jazz great, but the end result is all Shipp’s own. “In a Sentimental Mood” highlights this divide incredibly well. The piano takes the theme, but the other two start laying down polyrhythms that add complexity and depth to the composition. They eventually swing back to the melody, but it’s after pulling it apart piece by piece and fiddling with it for some time. The bass solo on “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” is wonderfully done, a rapid clip of notes that emerge one after the other. It then segues directly into the fast paced “Take the A Train” making for a really cool transition between the two tunes. Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 5

Arlo Parks @ El Club, Detroit, 9/29/21 (concert review by Paul S.)

London singer-songwriter Arlo Parks released her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams at the beginning of the year, and I've been addicted to it ever since. She has a brilliant way of writing poetic, expressive lyrics and wedding them to catchy melodies and detailed, atmospheric productions. Her music is easy to listen to, but her lyrics are sometimes devastating when you pay attention, particularly when she writes about subjects such as depression ("Black Dog") and queer relationships ("Green Eyes"). It's no wonder her music has struck a chord with a lot of people this year. The album spent 3 months on top of the North American college radio charts, and she's already won several major awards, including the BRIT Award for Best New Artist and the prestigious Mercury Prize.

She announced her tour in April, at a time when concerts generally hadn't started back up again, and I hadn't even heard too many announcements for upcoming shows yet, so I was really surprised. I was actually on vacation at the time, so I made sure I bought a pre-sale ticket as soon as I got home, because there was no other artist I was looking forward to seeing more. I actually had to buy a smart phone for the first time because El Club now uses an app called Dice for tickets, instead of having will call or paper tickets, so I had no choice if I wanted to go to this show. After months of waiting, the day of the show finally came. It was only the second show I'd been to at El Club since they reopened, the first being Danny Brown's Bruiser Brigade, who actually did a free reopening show at the venue. I got up pretty close, maybe 20 feet from the stage. The opening band was Michelle, who consisted of 4 female singers who all traded off on vocals, and 2 guys playing guitar and keyboards. They sang poppy R&B songs over chillwave-ish beats, and there was some semi-synchronized dancing at some points, A little sloppy and glee club-ish, but definitely energetic. After their set, Arlo's band gradually took the stage and started playing an extended intro to the first song, "Hurt". Arlo came onstage wearing a Cramps shirt, as if she wasn't awesome enough already, although it made me wonder how many people in the audience even listen to the Cramps. Her band had a different energy than the recordings, but they certainly adapted the songs well for the stage, sometimes stretching them out with guitar solos and extended bits. Arlo's voice sounded lighter and airier than on her album, and she seemed to dreamily sway along with the music. She'd mentioned on social media that she felt sleepy before the show, and it was evident, but she certainly seemed appreciative, and the audience was excited to be there, which was especially obvious during songs like "Eugene", where the crowd's voices rose during the bitter second verse, and "Caroline", where Arlo encouraged the crowd to scream along with the chorus. She didn't play two of my favorite songs from the album, "For Violet" and "Bluish", although I can see how those might've been harder to arrange for her live band. Everything else from the album was played, as well as some of the highlights from her first two EPs, which are decent, although I think she was still finding her sound then and the material she wrote for her album is much stronger. She's somehow more chill and down-to-earth onstage than I expected, not that I was thinking she was going to be belting out her songs. It made for an interesting dynamic, but I was just happy to be there and hear her play all these songs I've had stuck on repeat all year, and be around an entire room full of people who felt the same way.

Additional photos of this show have been posted to my blog.

[theanswerisintheBEAT]

Flock of Dimes - Head of Roses Review by Laura Topf

 

“Head of Roses” is the second album by Flock of Dimes, solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, and does not disappoint. The album braids different genres under one dream-pop sound, including folk-inspired “Awake for the Sunrise,” which excellently combines Wasner’s emotive singing and raw lyrics. The album weaves together a story of heartbreak, introspection, and loss of identity, backed both by the anger of guitar solos on the second track and the stripped loneliness of the piano on the last track. While some of the middle tracks blend together, Wasner’s gut-wrenching vocals truly take center stage and interlace the melancholy album together. The title track brings the album to a conclusion, but not her journey to healing, saying “leave me to learn/love is time.” For any rainy day like the ones that we have been having, this album is definitely worth a listen. Favorite tracks: 1, 2, 5. -- Laura Topf

Methyl Ethel: Hurts to Laugh (EP review by Christa V.)

“Hurts to Laugh” only has five tracks on it, but each song is a vibrant musical tapestry that brings together psychedelic instrumentals with pop/rock melodies, fused with electronic beats. And as chaotic as that all sounds, it actually is quite soothing and pleasant to listen to. The audience is taken on a wave of sound through the record. The opening track is probably the best one, it has the most pop influences and the most melody to it. Through the rest, you tend to lose yourself in the psychedelic music without having a clear melody to really latch onto. Which can also be a pleasant experience, if sometimes a bit much. It’s a short record, definitely worth the listen. Favorite tracks: 1, 3

Allegra Krieger: The Joys of Forgetting (album review by Christa V.)

Allegra Krieger is a singer/songwriter from New York City with a sound somewhere between indie and folk. “The Joys of Forgetting” is her second studio album that highlights her ability to write lyrics in a clever way and create a distinctive atmosphere that gently rocks the listener. A great example of this is the opening track, “The Push and the Pull,” which has a distinctive sway to it that tugs the listener along. This is echoed in “Telephone,” but here she dubs over her voice to create a denser chord and more tightly packed feel to the song. The ending song, “Where,” utilizes similar techniques, but now the overlay sounds more like an echo. The music builds slowly over the course of the song as more instruments join in, but also leaves the listener in a peaceful state by the end of the song and the album. Definitely a musician to keep an ear out for! Favorite tracks: 1, 3, 11

Michael Wimberly: TMR Presents Afrofuturism (album review by Christa V.)

Wimberly is a jazz drummer and a staple of the NYC jazz scene. This is his first album under his name, and it showcases both his jazz roots as well as African rhythms, spirituals, and stylistic melodies. He’s joined by an all star group of musicians which all together generates an incredibly tight and fascinating album. Many of the songs interact directly with contemporary events, such as “Revolution” or “Radio.” And obviously there are African drum rhythms all throughout the album, but a few are even in African languages such as “Djeli Song” and “Solei Traditional.” Which is quite the contrast from the first few songs at the beginning of the record, which could be modern pop songs that you’d hear on the radio. Finally, of course the title track is there in multiple forms, the radio edit and the extended mix. The groove is simple and effective, making it one of the most catchy tunes on the album!  Favorite tracks: 3, 4, 7, 12

GUM: Out In The World (album review by Christa V.)

GUM is the solo project of Jay Watson, an Australian musician who is also a member of the bands Tame Impala and Pond. He has released several albums under this name, and clearly is building on his experience making psychedelic rock with his other groups. Many of the songs feature fascinating ambient sounds in the background of chill vocals. Some even manage to make a horn section sound ambient, which is quite the feat. Some of the tracks also manage to incorporate more elements from pop and rock, such as “The Thrill of Doing it Right” which starts with an awesome horn section opening and has a catchy beat under pop style vocals. “Don’t Let it Go Out” is similar, but with more of a rock feel with guitars and synths. Whatever track you listen to, it’ll probably be catchy and fun while still retaining a relaxed quality to it.  Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 7

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