Any Other Way (Numero Group)
Any Other Way is an incredible soundtrack with a riveting story. Jackie Shane was assigned male at birth in 1940 Nashville, identified as female as a teenager, blew minds as a singer/stand-up drummer in various bands, moved to Toronto at the turn of the ’60s, sparked the city’s soul scene with incendiary live shows and a regional hit with William Bell’s “Any Other Way,” retired in 1971, then virtually disappeared—until this reissue. Shane deserves universal recognition for her stunningly brave, trailblazing transgender embodiment—the liner notes here are dazzling, featuring an extensive essay by soul historian Rob Bowman, along with dozens of photos. She also made some of the tightest, most electrifying soul music I’ve ever heard. Shane’s voice is fluid and commanding, and the backing bands just plain cook. There’s a half hour of studio recordings—burner after burner—and more than an hour of a 1967 live set that is simply exhilarating. A frontrunner for reissue of the year.
Tough Age also moved to Toronto (from Vancouver)—but there end the Jackie Shane parallels. Happily though, Tough Age swings hard in its own way, which is fevered minimal indie rock reminiscent of The Clean or rougher-edged C86 stuff—splitting the uprights of twee and punk. And the trio does it well—singers Jarrett Samson and Penny Clark sound great together, and the stripped-down grooves are on point—props to new drummer Jesse Locke. The concluding title track is kind of a drag (it’s about remembering and living with your shame—so you don’t forget it, man!) but the rest of the album whips up a righteous frenzy.
Murderburgers (Ernest Jenning)
Murderburgers: the first King Khan solo album—sort of. Having spent most of his career fronting the Shrines and collaborating with BBQ Show, this is the first album with the unadorned King Khan moniker. That said, he’s backed by Oakland’s Gris Gris, a retro-badass mob seemingly invented to support Khan’s goofball wild man schtick. Weirdly, the result is the most subdued Khan album in a long while—and weirder still, it’s among the best. The songs themselves are gems, and the arrangements are killer, with swirls of sliding and twanging guitar, keening organ, barking sax, tom-heavy drums. Sixties garage boogie is the main course, but “It’s Just Begun” brings woozy, White Fence country vibes, while “Born in 77” is a sped up “Gimme Shelter” crossed with “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.” There’s a dose of guitar solo thunder on the dumb Replacements homage, “Teeth Are Shite,” and a closing hymn in “Winter Weather.” Murderburgers is an impeccable pastiche, killing just a bit more softly.
A Place of Greater Safety
Beloved dream-pop darlings Luna “disbanded” in 2004, though married bandleaders Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips never stopped producing Luna-like jams on their own. Nevertheless, the band proper has just released its first album since 2004—a covers record (Sentimental Education)—and this, an EP of instrumentals with enough going on to transcend wallpaper and become something more, songs without words. Opener “GTX3” sets the tone, as Wareham’s chiming guitar runs through figure after fetching figure over a softly jubilant background. Even at its most rocking it doesn’t break a sweat, but its dips into melancholy never tip into gloom, and I’m just fine with the wistful gorgeousness that pervades the whole set.