Archive | January, 2023

Fred Hersch & Esparanza Spalding – Alive at the Village Vanguard

15 Jan

Alive at the Village Vanguard does exactly what you would want; it places you right in the middle of the club. This is a recording of a live show at Village Vanguard and it manages to hold all of the energy of a live performance just to drop it on unsuspecting listeners. More importantly, it delivers the abundant charm of the two performers.

In particular, “Girl Talk” expertly recontextualizes an old, chauvinistic standard, refutes the original and reclaims the space with tremendous intelligence and humor. Spalding’s conversations with the crowd are both confident and fun and she interacts with the crowd throughout to great effect. In particular, they add a lot of charm to the already fun “Little Suede Shoes”

It’s not the most challenging album, however. Neither Spalding nor Hersch does much to complicate the music and the piano solos tend to move too slowly. Spalding does some great tonal work through the album though and Hersch plays excellent counter-point to her there.

It’s also just much more fun than your typical jazz release and much more approachable as well. If you’re looking for a pleasant evening with a couple of very talented, very likable performers, it’s hard to find something better than this.

Top Five Albums of 2022

3 Jan

This is another year with some major disappointments. There are definitely some developments in music that we would have been happier without and some big-name releases that we feel could have spent more time in the oven, but through all of that, there was also some really good music and these are our picks of 2022’s Album of the Year.

5. Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

This album takes you straight to the best Latin dancefloors. It’s a compelling and often unexpected mixture of sounds and influences and you’re never quite sure what’s through the next floor and the adventure is exhilarating. There’s so much texture to every sound and Bad Bunny himself paints with only the richest colors.

4. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Big Thief has never been more likeable. This album is funny, it’s intelligent and it’s warm in a way that their earlier music missed completely. They have gone from strength to strength of late and this is easily their best yet. They kept all of their usual poetry and all of their usual skill and added humanity to boot.

3. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers

There’s a lot of really good music in the latest Kendrick and if I could put his concert on this list, it would be an easy number one. There’s also a fair bit of filler though and I just can’t listen to “We Cry Together” any more. His personal growth is impressive as is his synthesis of the various themes he played with earlier albums. The whole thing really comes together with a very coherent thesis as well. It’s not quite at the standard of his best albums, but it’s still complex, rewarding and often innovative. It could have still used an editor though.

2. Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Wet Leg is very, very good punk rock. They know who they are and they are fantastic at telling you who you should be too. They’re the center of the room at the party, they’re the girls you wanted to be friends with in high school, they’re the people who will always be cooler than you. Enjoy spending time with them.

1. Rosalía – MOTOMAMI

Sometimes, an album takes a single feeling and weaves its way back to and around it at every step. MOTOMAMI is not that album. It takes from everything that seems to interest Rosalía in the moment and fearlessly makes it all hers. Even The Weeknd gets absorbed seamlessly and so ends up with music as good as any he’s ever made. There’s no pandering with MOTOMAMI and no compromise, just the best reggaeton album ever made.

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