The Good is a Big God (Luaka Bop)
One of the most creative interpreters of traditional Brazilian pop, Lancellotti puts an odd foot forward on The Good is a Big God with the plodding incantation “Voltar Se” before correcting course and finding a groove on the title track, a clavinet-laden postcard from some Italian beach circa 1970. Most of The Good is a Big God feels like the artist at sunlit play, despite a rogue discotheque jam or two—Lancellotti’s guileless, nearly shy vocals perfectly convey ruminations on an enchanted world where spiders
kiss fingers and everyone appears to be paired up and lounging on a bed. “Insatiable” is a timeless carefree bossa nova; harp-and-
keyboard closer “Terra” is an exquisite lullaby.
Residing in Sweden, Venezuelan expat Linda Sjöquist released one of my fave records of 2013 as La Cancioneira, and a few years later I’m thrilled to find her not only making new music, but sounding pretty much the same—which is to say dreamy and melancholy, her languid childlike vocals draping easy melodies over acoustic guitars plus various atmospherics. Everything is set at gently swaying tempos and comes nestled in gauzy reverb— “Tillbakablick” (“Flashback”), a breakup revisitation sung in English, is the only misstep on an otherwise gorgeous, hypnotic album.
Panic Blooms (Rad Cult)
The sad monks of the Pennsylvania hinterlands stay the vintage-synth- and-vocoder course they set on 2007’s Dandelion Gum, though things sound slackened up. Panic Blooms, the group’s first album in six years, was apparently sparked by Trump’s election, though BMSR always sounded alienated; in any case, the obscured vocals don’t inspire righteous sing-alongs. The title track leads off, sounding like Chris Stamey’s “Something Came Over Me” performed by lethargic mutants, and pretty much setting the tone. Should-be single “Mr. No One” brings a welcome melodic reprieve, but in general, prepare your black hoodie, black jeans, black sneakers ensemble for BMSR’s show on May 31 at the Black Cat (natch!) in D.C.
Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 (Tompkins Square)
Richmond-raised Duck Baker occupies an odd little place in the 1970s solo acoustic guitar-picking firmament. Neither as flashy as
Leo Kottke nor as deeply soulful as John Fahey, and with occasional, unceremonious vocals, Baker sounds like your cool cousin who loosens up the family gathering, slowly getting weirder until the squares quietly leave the room. Les Blues du Richmond is a casually cool collection of ragtime, free jazz and points between, with covers of “Maple Leaf Rag” and Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Little Boy,” along with spacey explorations on originals like “Allah, Perhaps” and the ingenious hybrid “Homage to Leadbelly.”
Banba (Innovative Leisure)
“Black art not bad art” is the full album title, and it’s the rallying call throughout this EP by 22-year-old Chicago activist/musician
Ric Wilson, who came to attention as a high schooler with “If I Was White.” He comes from the same Young Chicago Authors program that helped launch Chance the Rapper and Jamila Woods, and gets help from Evanston’s Kweku Collins on the excellent “Sinner,” which has an easy D’Angelo funk roll but comes off more playful. Recalling fellow Chicagoan Open Mike Eagle, Wilson proves real talk doesn’t have to sound dire, and Banba’s relentlessly clear-skied atmosphere also reflects Wilson’s repping of Chicago’s famous Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Bless.