Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 93)


Terence Blanchard, Magnetic     (Blue Note)

I’ve been shrugging my shoulders at this trumpet frontman since first sampling his myopic late-80s Eric Dolphy tribute, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the art form, the man’s many film scores weren’t tempting, either. So maybe this Blue Note joint really is all about the killer band Blanchard’s assembled, especially Fabian Almazan on piano, with young bassist Joshua Crumbly, drummer Kendrick Scott, and tenor Brice Winston proving able foils. Maybe it’s Ron Carter walking the bass and Ravi Coltrane running the soprano down on “Don’t Run,” or standout West African guitarist Lionel Loueke doing his thing. Maybe it’s great head-solos-head stuff like “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song,” or short bubbly fusion numbers like “Another Step”. Or maybe it’s time to give Blanchard his due - confident enough in his crew to sprinkle composing credits between four other band members, confident enough in himself to drench his trad horn tone in shimmering electronic treatments. Like Miles playing through a wah-wah pedal, there’s no gimmick at play in such digital manipulation. Just some new sounds, that’s all.


The Uncluded, Hokey Fright     (Rhymesayers) 

In which Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock offer a long (very long), sweet, goofy meditation on a not-inconsiderable conundrum - how to square the realities of adulthood with one’s self-identity as a misfit, with a special emphasis on the importance of staying sweet and goofy instead of morping into a crank. These two do claim a wonderful salty/sweet routine, with the added bonus that neither one is beholden to a flavor profile. And while the ode to laundromats doesn’t convince me I should start resenting my washing machine, I love the ode to earthquakes, love the heartfelt and funny organ donation PSA, and love the way Kimya delineates exactly why she keeps her eyes closed while onstage. “I am a snail under pressure,” love that, too. But too bad this project doesn’t claim more beats as insistent as those adorning “Tits Up”. And it must be noted that the salty/sweet routine sometimes highlights each performer’s shortcomings, with Kimya’s wry girlishness only occasionally outpacing her first-I-go-up-and-then-I-go-down flow, and Aesop’s wry machismo rarely outpacing his hey-ain’t-my-throat-clenched-real-tight-now flow. A noble curio.

Camera Obscura, Desire Lines     (4AD)

After quietly outperforming theoretical tutors Belle and Sebastian for the past ten years, the Glaswegian charmers return after time off due to a cancer scare, and while some listeners aver new avenues of awareness relating to things like mortality, most people will just hear another very tasteful Camera Obscura album. One major shift in emphasis: synthesizers instead of strings, meaning this 4AD beach party actually sounds smaller in scope than their last handful of outings. If Tracyanne Campbell rings your bell, you may swoon gently to such perfectly posed set pieces as “a postcard of Byron by the bed” or the way her notion of tragedy involves being “Fifth In Line To The Throne”. Only that last bit is actually quite funny, as Campbell well knows. A few other things that are quite funny include rhyming “jacaranda” with “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” (all depends on the accent, I guess) and rewriting The Cascade’s “Rhythm Of The Falling Rain” as “Every Weekday”.



Megadeth, Super Collider     (Tradecraft / UME)

Dave Mustaine, June 1 2013:“People think I hate our president. I don’t hate him. I just don’t always agree with him! But that’s something I can get over.” Dave Mustaine, August 16 2012: “My president is trying to pass a gun ban, so he’s staging all of these murders, like the Fast and Furious thing down at the border, you know, Aurora, Colorado, all the people that were killed there. And now the beautiful people at the Sikh temple.” Well, sure, Morrissey talks some dumb shit, too. But if Morrissey ever wrote a song entitled “Cold Sweat” owing zilch to James Brown and carrying the following couplet, you can bet he’d mean for it to be amusing: “I’ve got me a whole month’s wages / I haven’t seen that much in ages / I might spend it in stages / And move out to Las Vegas”.