Album reviews: Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan, Solange, Stella Donnelly, Flamin’ Groovies, and Various Artists

Stella Donnelly delivers a series of sucker punches on Beware of the Dogs. Publicity image. Stella Donnelly delivers a series of sucker punches on Beware of the Dogs. Publicity image.

Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan

New Rain Duets (Three Lobed)

Essentially a 40-minute jam divided into four segments, New Rain Duets brings more exquisite atmosphere from Mary Lattimore, and, in a somewhat surprising role, Mac McCaughan. Best known for cofounding Merge Records and fronting Superchunk, McCaughan supplies not guitar but guitar-like synthesizer textures and samples, which perfectly complement Lattimore’s delicate, entrancing harp. Though it functions as ambience, New Rain Duets is never complacent or merely decorative as Lattimore and McCaughan explore the spaces between mist and tempest. The duo opens for Steve Gunn at the Richmond Music Hall on May 3. ****

Various Artists

Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 (Light In the Attic)

Erik Satie conceptualized ambient music with his Furniture Music pieces in 1917, and Brian Eno’s 1975 Ambient 1: Music for Airports pop-
ularized the term. Mainstream interest in music-as-decompression peaked during the yuppified, high-octane 1980s, as labels like Windham Hill peddled new age: acoustic music blending folk and jazz fusion with serene minimalism. As self-care becomes a scheduled item in our lives, and Marie Kondo brings sim-
plicity to the masses, Kankyo Ongaku is timely. It’s also pretty great: cuts range from the tranquil to the tran-
scendent, and the mildly unsettling moments sound like critiques of environmental degradation—a little edification with your quietude. ***1/2 new-age-music-1980-1990


When I Get Home

Meantime, Solange continues to bring a new-age aesthetic to R&B on When I Get Home. This isn’t the first time; “Cranes in the Sky” was her ode-to-self-care hit on 2016’s A Seat at the Table, an album that also featured the even more to the point “Borderline (An Ode to Self-Care).” Home is even mellower than Table, maintaining an unperturbed roll throughout. Solange’s restrained, lovely vocals perfectly match the synth-centered backing tracks, as do the lyrics, impressionistic mantras more than narratives. There’s a contentment here, and When I Get Home plays like a hazy, happy daydream populated by your friends, if your friends happen to be Gucci Mane, Panda Bear, and Playboi Carti. ****

Flamin’ Groovies

Gonna Rock Tonite! The Complete Recordings 1969-1971 (Grapefruit)

They say if there’s a bar in heaven, NRBQ is the house band, but if there’s a dive bar down the street, this three-CD comp is definitely on the jukebox. The Flamin’ Groovies are rightly celebrated for their late- ’70s British invasion-influenced work, but on their first three records, made in San Francisco at the height of psychedelia, they provided a link between early rock ‘n’ roll and punk, blending Little Richard, Captain Beefheart, and the MC5 on tracks like “Comin’ After Me,” “Headin’ For the Texas Border,” and the incendiary “Teenage Head.” The Groovies played like their lives depended on it, and if their besotted, thunderous, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll was out of step with its Aquarian time, it’s also eternal. ****

Stella Donnelly

Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian)

Stella Donnelly’s voice bears constant reminders of her Perth, Australia, provenance, but nothing could be more universal than these tales of male idiot/jerk/predators. She brings pathos on “Boys Will Be Boys,” but mostly, Donnelly cuts down boorish relatives, cover- gig hecklers, and crappy bosses with drolly caustic lyrics wrapped up in jaunty, even twee alt rock for sucker punch after sucker punch. The tunes aren’t ultra-memorable but they serve the lyrics, and Donnelly’s a charismatic singer and narrator
who sounds like she’s just getting started. ****

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