Album reviews: Resavoir, Black Pumas, Lil Nas X, Kylie Minogue, Elephant9, and Various artists

Elephant9 issues a double album jazz monster with Psychedelic Backfire I & II. Publicity image. Elephant9 issues a double album jazz monster with Psychedelic Backfire I & II. Publicity image.


Resavoir (International Anthem)

It goes down smooth and it’s jazz, but it isn’t smooth jazz. Members of Chicago collective Resavoir have played with Chance the Rapper, Noname, and Mavis Staples, and the band maps a similar wholesomeness onto these nine pithy originals that don’t just walk the classic/fresh tightrope, but live directly on it. The ensemble meshes beautifully, and trumpeter/bandleader Will Miller’s songs seem to emanate from some chirpy city park on a sunny afternoon, year unknown. [8.3]

Black Pumas

Black Pumas (ATO)

Something more explicitly retro comes from Austin’s Black Pumas—they’re on locally connected ATO Records, though they sure sound like a Daptone band with their classic soul songs and crisp, minimal production (by guitarist Adrian Quesada, who’s played with artists from Grupo Fantasma to Prince). The tried-and-true instrumental textures are animated by powerhouse vocalist Eric Burton, who croons and belts with range and authority. The Pumas’ live show gets glowing reviews, and we’ll have a chance to see what’s up on September 11 at the Southern. [7.6]

Various artists

1977: The Year Punk Broke (Cherry Red)

Can there be any need for another punk compilation? Cherry Red makes a great argument with 1977, focusing chronologically and geographically on a 3-disc, 87-song motherlode that tracks the UK/Ireland explosion month-for-month. All but the hoariest punkers will hear much of this for the first time; a few perennials are buried amidst the likes of The Stukas and Some Chicken. 1977 transmits the feeling of witnessing the magnificent cascade of refusal that spattered the year of “The Queen’s Jubilee” and Rumours. [8.7]

1977 – The Year Punk Broke, V/A [3CD Box Set]

💥Released Friday 28th June! '1977: The Year Punk Broke' 💥A 3CD box set celebrating the explosion of a new British phenomenon and reflecting how a thrilling, controversial scene developed over those tumultuous twelve months.Many of the year’s major breakthrough acts and cult favourites are included (The Jam, The Damned, The Boomtown Rats, Buzzcocks, The Stranglers (Official), Sham 69, Only Ones, The Rezillos, 999, Xray Spex, Alternative TV) – as well as the older guard (Doctors Of Madness, Eddie & The Hot Rods) and many more! £17.99 direct from now 👉

Posted by Cherry Red Records on Friday, June 21, 2019

Lil Nas X

7 (Sony)

Boasting the music-biz story of the year plus arguably the song of the year, Lil Nas X lowers the stakes for his debut by making it a quickie, at just 18 minutes and seven tunes (eight if you count the Billy Ray Cyrus-abetted remix of “Old Town Road”). As a vocalist, Lil Nas X is an unassuming sweetheart, but the songs here are as lightweight as his smash single without the offhand charm. Still, the Nirvana crib “Bring U Down” shows that X has open ears, and the wonky drum track on “C7osure” suggests his taste for the artlessly idiosyncratic—good signs. [6.6]

Kylie Minogue

Step Back In Time: The Definitive Collection (BMG)

Despite countless global hits, Kylie Minogue has suffered comparisons with Madonna, pegged as an imitator and a pop puppet opposite Madonna’s industry empress. This abridges the story—Minogue ditched writing/producing svengalis Stock Aitken Waterman early on, increasingly asserting herself lyrically and in the studio. And, musically, Minogue has kicked Madonna’s ass for at least twenty years. Step Back In Time jumps around chronologically, putting Minogue’s later, better stuff on disc 1 and filling disc 2 with her earlier, fluffier stuff. Not that any of it’s heavy, of course—but as dance-pop candy goes, it doesn’t get any sweeter. [8.7]


Psychedelic Backfire I & II (Rune Grammofon)

Two albums of live, molten jazz-rock from Norwegian trio Elephant9. Swing and soul are nowhere to be found as drummer Torstein Loftus whips up demonic grooves while bassist Nikolai Haengsle races alongside and organist Stale Storlokken emits skronky, overdriven solos from his own quasar. Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske brings some delicacy to II, notably on a cover of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (!), but it’s still a monster. To call Elephant9 Medeski-meets-Mahavishnu hints at the band’s chops but severely undersells its obliterating power. Horrible noise lives! [8.8/9.0]

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