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Robert Plant New Vinyl Thursday

It’s Robert Plant New Vinyl Thursday at The Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven. Check out this week’s list of new vinyl arrivals:

2Pac- Greatest Hits

Alela Diane- Cusp

All Them Witches- Nothing As The Ideal

Ari Lennox- Pho

Weekly Review:

R&B singer Ari Lennox has built a reputation as a performer to watch through her collaborations with rapper J. Cole and her sultry, neo-soul album Shea Butter Baby. Now, Lennox’s debut EP PHO is finally issued on vinyl along with a companion LP of instrumental versions.

PHO is brief at seven tracks and 22 minutes, but it is hardly slight. Lennox has no trouble establishing herself as a singer who can channel Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston or Erykah Badu with ease. Lennox keeps the mood laid-back and seductive, while keeping the tempos pushing forward. 

“Backseat” is an R-rated collaboration with labelmate Cozz that details an adult rendezvous in the titular location.  “Backwood” uses smoking as a metaphor for the same activity in “Backseat.” On “Night Drive,” Lennox incorporates horn samples and namechecks Herbie Hancock.

The EP’s brightest track is “La La La La,” an enthralling interpretation of how bad relationships can still feel so good. Lennox shows her poise as a singer on this nearly six-minute track, knowing just when to hold back and when to put it all out there. 

Five years after it was released, PHO remains a compelling capsule of a captivating singer and is an essential addition to any neo-soul library.- Joel Francis

Art Blakey & Jazz Messengers- The Big Beat

Billy Strings- Renewal

Weekly Review:

Not yet 30 years old, Billy Strings has become a sensation in the old-time world of bluegrass music. Strings has been earning accolades and awards for years, leading to worries that Strings might grow restless and stray from the genre. Strings stoked this fire a bit himself when he said he didn’t know if his music could be called bluegrass any longer.

So far, these fears have been unfounded. Strings’ third album, Renewal, is a straight-up bluegrass album that crackles with creativity and vitality. The album emerged after a period Strings spent in isolation with his bandmates. 

Across Renewal’s generous 70 minutes and 16 songs, Strings processes his past, growing up in a central Michigan town ravaged by the opioid crisis, the addiction that touched his parents and other tragedies and romances (musical and otherwise). These are weighty topics to be sure, but Strings’ crack band know just when to lean in for added poignance or inject some buoyancy into the performance.

Between Strings’ Grammy-winning album Home in 2019, last year’s pair of Cutting Grass albums by Sturgil Simpson and now Renewal, it is clear we are living in a bluegrass rebirth. These albums have been celebrated by bluegrass fans but are accessible enough for all music fans to embrace. Anyone sleeping on Renewal because of old stereotypes needs to shake off their own dust, grab a copy and join the revolution. – Joel Francis

Black Pumas- Black Pumas

Bob Marley- Legend

Bobbi Humphrey- Fancy Dancer

Brand New- The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me

Brandi Carlile- In These Silent Days

Bruce Springsteen- The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts

Cage the Elephant- Melophobia

Cat Stevens- Teaser And The Firecat

Charles Mingus- The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady

Cold War Kids- New Age Norms 3

Colter Wall- Live In Front Of Nobody

Courtney Barnett- Things Take Time Take Time

Weekly Review:

Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett has established she’s more likely to hang out at the perimeter of a party and take notes than be in the center of the dance floor.  On her third album, Barnett is feeling her way back into a world that is just now starting to reopen.

The album opens with Barnett ruminating at a window, watching a garbage truck and taking note of other happenings in the neighborhood. With a lyric that could turn Bob Dylan green, she muses “Well time is money/and money is no man’s friend.”

Things Take Time Take Time finds its pleasures in the minutia. Barnett’s unadorned performances often sound like demos, with this stark background bringing the small details into further relief. Singing against a programmed drum beat on “Turning Green” a tired-sounding Barnett sings “lethargy is kinda forcing you to see the flowers in the weeds” before unleashing the only guitar solo on the album, an angular feat that would have been at home on Wilco’s Star Wars album.

A couple songs later, Barnett sounds positively exuberant on “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight.” The portrait of love Barnett paints here is touching in its practicality and self-confidence. 

“Stars in the sky are gonna die eventually, it’s fine/You know that every morning/I’m rising with you on my mind,” she sings. 

Later, Barnett ends her day singing “If I don’t hear from you tonight/I know you probably closed your eyes/And everything will be alright.”

Fans of strong songwriting who can appreciate subtlety and nuance will find lots to soak up on Things Take Time Take Time. There aren’t any immediate earworms, but the entire album adds up to a gratifying experience.- Joel Francis

Sometimes a record blows your head off the first time you listen to it. But sometimes, kind of  like a new haircut, a record takes a little time to grow on you.
As the title might suggest, at the risk of sounds a bit crass, the new album by courtney barnett, “Things Take Time, Take Time,” is a bit of a grower.
My first exposure to Courtney Barnett was seeing her opening for Belle and Sebastian at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. She performed as a power trio. What made an impression on me was the raw rock guitar energy that surround this laid back but compelling voice.
On “Things Take Time…” that guitar energy has been stripped away and replaced with a drum machine, a cleaner guitar tone, and the occasional keyboard sound.
The result, upon first listen, is a less dynamic album than we are used to. Most songs plod along with lazy strummy parts behind what I like to call “Mo Tucker” beats.
Once I made the adjustment to the tone and arrangement of this record I started to really zero in on its true magic, the Dylaneaque caliber of poetry in  Barenett’s lyrics.
The opening track “Rae Street” consists of a handful of snapshot observations: garbage trucks passing by, a parent teaching a child to ride a bike, someone painting a brick wall…  all could be a part of any western community. The scenes are all tied together with a dryly delivered chorus:
“Well time is money
And money is no man’s friend
And all eyes on the pavement
I’m not gonna touch up
Don’t worry so much about it”
It’s hard not to see these observations in the aftermath of the pandemic. In one sense these “business as usual” activities could be viewed as comforting while if not kind of futile.
Barnett has really tapped into the power of simplicity while at the same time creating an ambient-like sonic carpet that offers more treasures upon repeated listens.
On the track “Turning Green” she waxes poetic in front of a simple bass line and drum machine until it explodes into a twisty post-punk guitar mess.
“Oh The Night” closes out the the record with a Fender Rhodes infused Neal Young beat. Like most of the tracks on “Things Take Time..” the song is addressed to the ever-changing “You.”
Part of the fun in Barnett’s songs is figuring out who “You” is/are? Sometimes “You” is an old friend. Some times “You” is an ex lover. Sometimes, as in this case “You” could be Barnett herself, exorcising her demons for your listening pleasure:
“And you say, “That’s showbiz, baby
Nothing ever stays the same”
But I’m the same kid, always laughing
At your jokes the same old way”
On beautiful blue vinyl this one is a contender for “Sleeper Hit Of The Year” for me! – Major Matt

David Bowie- Diamond Dogs

David Bowie- Pinups

David Bowie- Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

Deftones- Ohms

DMX- Exodus

Weekly Review:

The eighth album from rapper DMX, was supposed to start his comeback. Instead, X’s first release since 2021 also became his first posthumous release. The disappointment of Exodus becoming a period at the end of X’s career, rather than an ellipsis leading to a new chapter is compounded by the album’s frustrating unevenness. 

There is a good album trying to get out in Exodus, but it is consistently shouted down by inane cliches and squandered star appearances. Nas and Jay-Z ended their beef more than a decade ago, but the two iconic rappers still rarely appear on the same track together. The pair use their features on “Bath Salts” to brag about their wealth, which seems especially callous since DMX, who’s first five albums debuted at No. 1, died with debt and legal issues. 

DMX puts the album’s thesis on full display two songs later, on the chorus of “Money Money Money.” “Money, money, money,” X growls. “Bitches, bitches, bitches.” Did he really need to come out of retirement to gift us with this insight? Reinforcing the album’s pointlessness, the previous song, “Dogs Out,” with Lil Wayne, is built around the dated Baha Men hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

A glimpse of humanity finally starts to appear on the gentler “Hold Me Down,” featuring Alicia Keys. X takes another step down this introspective path on “Skyscrapers,” which finds Bono offering his best Chris Martin impression, cooing platitudes on the chorus. Unfortunately, these songs are followed by an inane skit that sounds like a 14-year-old trying to write a Quintin Tarantino scene.

Exodus’ final stretch reveals the album this could have been. “Walking in the Rain” features X looking back on his life and his best bars on the album. “Letter to My Son (Call Your Father)” is a tender portrait of parental advice and regrets. If Exodus had more moments like this, it could have been a significant artistic statement. Instead, it is a wasted opportunity with a few buried gems.- Joel Francis

Donald Byrd- Places And Spaces

GA-20- Does Hound Dog Taylor

Gojira- Fortitude

Gorillaz- Song Machine, Season One

Greta Van Fleet- The Battle At Garden’s Gate

Halsey- If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

Weekly Review:

True to its title, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power  radiates strength and intensity. With a production assist from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Halsey layers dark, industrial elements over her sound.

Reznor and Ross’ influence is palpable, but not overwhelming — this is still very much Halsey’s album. Its sound doesn’t quite have the weight or grunginess of Nine Inch Nails, nor is it trying to be, but the resemblance is there.
This heavier sound marks a notable tonal shift for her, and that shift can be heard in real time in the album’s second track “Bells in Santa Fe” as tense, sparse electric keyboarding shimmers over her lyrics as a background drone builds up gradually into a deep, industrial grind by the end.
Motherhood looms large in the background and foreground, and in Halsey’s hands it is not so much a conceptual starting point as it is an expansive scaffolding from which to explore feminine power and resilience.
Despite dressing up as the Virgin Mary on the album cover, Halsey is not interested in being a one-dimensional archetype of empowerment. She bears plenty of battle scars with lyrics like, “Go on and be a big girl / you asked for this,” on “You asked for this,” following up with “You better show ’em why you talk so loud.” In other words, she has come by that inner fire honestly.
She shows off a spiteful side several times, singing about having her patience stretched to the breaking point on “Easier than Lying,” her “screw around and find out” anthem. “Whispers,” on the other hand, reckons with her inner demons, openly wondering why she sabotages herself at every turn.
Preoccupied as Halsey is with strength and power, she skillfully avoids giving them a superficial treatment, never losing sight of power’s dirty underside or the unpleasant realities that shape it.
Both the rawness of her lyrics and the new direction her sound has taken lend the album a weight and complexity that back up her pretensions to the powerful persona she embodies. Halsey is already known for strong statements, and If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power has a solid claim to being her strongest one yet.
Albert Schmurr

Horace Silver- 6 Pieces Of Silver

Idles- Ultra Mono

Jimi Hendrix- Are You Experienced

Jungle- Loving In Stereo

Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- Live In San Francisco ’16

Kiss- Destroyer: 45th Anniversary, (Deluxe Edition, Anniversary Edition)

Makaya McCraven- Deciphering The Message

My Chemical Romance- Black Parade

Nathaniel Rateliff- The Future

Neal Francis- In Plain Sight

Neil Young- Homegrown

Nina Simone- Hits

Outkast- Aquemini

Primal Scream- Live At Levitation

Primus- Miscellaneous Debris

Prince- Welcome 2 America

Robert Plant- Raise the Roof

Sam Cooke- The Best Of

Sarah Jarosz- Undercurrent

Silk Sonic- An Evening With Silk Sonic

Weekly Review:

Pop star Bruno Mars and rapper/singer/producer Anderson .Paak have been burning up the internet since they released their first song online last March. The slow trickle of singles since then has built plenty of anticipation for a full-length collaboration. Now that it’s finally here, An Evening with Silk Sonic doesn’t disappoint.

After an introductory track narrated by P-Funk legend Bootsy Collins, the Evening kicks off with “Leave the Door Open,” a smooth slice of Marvin Gaye-inspired R&B that leads straight to the bedroom. Other songs borrow liberally from Rick James, the Delfonics and Isley Brothers. Playing spot-the-influence with Silk Sonic is child’s play. What makes the album so irresistible is hearing how much fun the pair is having putting together their throwback party mix. 

Silk Sonic’s evening is delivered with a broad wink. On the playful “Smoking Out the Window,” Mars complains that “badass kids runnin’ ’round my whole crib like it’s Chuck E. Cheese.” The James Brown pastiche “777” is filled with tongue-in-cheek boasting about how much fun the pair plans to have. The upbeat party only pauses for the Philly soul-styled heartbreaker “Put on a Smile.”

If there is any flaw in An Evening with Silk Sonic, it’s that it ends so quickly. At eight songs (plus the intro) and barely more than half an hour, the party is just starting to heat up when the album ends. At this point, there is no choice but to flip the album over and start the whole celebration over again.- Joel Francis

Snail Mail- Valentine

Weekly Review:

You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice the wave of strong, young, female, voices in the indie rock world for the past five years.
Lindsy Jordan of the band Snail Mail as been at the precipice of that wave since her debut album, Lush, in 2018. At just eighteen years old her wooly brand of jangle pop seemed to voice an intensity and wisdom about love and longing far beyond her years.
On her latest release, Valentine, on Matador Records records, the arrangements and production have started to catch up to her songwriting.
The title track ”Valentine” opens the album with a simple sentiment, made more complex in these times of constant camera monitoring, of just wanting to be alone with someone:
“Let’s go be alone
Where no one can see us, honey
Careful in that room
Those parasitic cameras, don’t they stop to stare at you”
The track grows into a dynamic chorus that expresses anxiety in the idea of being “erased” in a past lovers mind.
There’s a slightly more relaxed (dare I say more mature) quality to Jordan’s voice on display here.
Much has been made about her stint in rehab and her return to living with her parents during the pandemic for some of the writing of Valentine.
“Ben Franklin” sees Jordan using some of those experiences as metaphors for losing oneself in a relationship.
“Moved on, but nothing feels true
Sometimes I hate her just for not being you
Post-rehab, I’ve been feeling so small
I miss your attention, I wish I could call”
“Ben Franklin” also features a beat much more danceable and groovy than anything that appears on Lush.
“Forever (Sailing)” reveals some real future pop potential, while the track “Madonna” has a bridge that would almost pass as hip-hop, complete with a siren-synth sound that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dr. Dre production.
The sonic palate has definitely expanded for Snail Mail but for the most part Jordan continues to process the world through relationships.
She even manages to get some lovely string arrangements on the closing track “MIA.”
As if Molly Ringwald’s character from Sixteen Candles merged with her character from The Breakfast club, the combination of confidence and vulnerability are the secret sauce that keeps Snail Mail at the forefront of an ever expanding sea of strong, young, female voices. (Please forgive the, old man, 80’s references.)
Cool limited edition gold vinyl! – Major Matt

St Vincent- Daddy’s Home

Taylor Swift- Red (Taylor’s Version)

The War on Drugs- I Dont Live Here Anymore

Weekly Review:

 “I Don’t Live Here Any More” is the fifth studio album by The War On Drugs.
I’m not sure if it’s the cover art (a picture of frontman Adam Granduciel, from the neck down walking in snow covered boots holding a guitar in one hand and a cup of tea in the other) or if it’s the crisp, pastoral style that gives this album more of a cold weather vibe.
Sometimes an album just feels like it was made for a particular season. The autumnal quality of transition is a consistent theme throughout “I Don’t Live Here…”.
Track one “Living Proof” is a slowly emerging, meditative folk song about the empathy and compassion that can arise through surviving all of life’s bumps and bruises. The track ends with a guitar solo that resolves to a beautiful glitched out finish.
“Harmonia’s Dream” is more akin to The War On Drugs we are familiar with from the last couple albums. A chugging beat, interspersed with icy, atmospheric guitar lines. The momentum mixed with space feels like November Road trip though the Dakotas.
For me, track three “Change” is where I find Granduciel fulling embracing the  mid 80’s pop sounds of chorus drenched guitars and plate reverb drums reminiscent of acts like Cutting Crew, Naked Eyes, and Cory Heart.
 Not just the main songwriting force and guitar player, Granduciel is also a the producer and rumored to be a bit of a mad scientist when it comes to work in the studio.
Wikipedia claims: “The songs on I Don’t Live Here Anymore were all reimagined, rewritten and/or remixed multiple times over the course of the album’s three-year recording process.” It was recorded at seven different locations. And Granduciel even relocated to New York City in order spend a full year working on the album.
Even after the album was supposedly in the can and fully master by legendary engineer Greg Calbi, Granduciel still went back and remixed mastered the album himself with engineer Shawn Everett.
The title track and pinnacle of “I Don’t Live Here…”features a dreamy soulful backing vocals by the indie pop band Lucius. The song references personal transformation while attending a Dylan concert and “Dancing to Desolation Row.”
Granduciel has never minced words about his love for Bob Dylan. His passion for dynamics and grand pop choruses fused with with a Dylaneaque vocal deliver comes across strongly on the track “Old Skin.” There’s even a lonesome harmonica button at the end that could have been performed by Bob himself.
“Wasted”  returns with that steady back beat interlaced with pulsating bass that is equal parts Rod Stewart’s Young Turks and Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.”
“ I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is not a huge departure from WOD’s grammy winning last album “Lost In the dream”  but everything seems to be slightly more in focus. The reverbs times are slightly shorter. The vocals are slightly higher in the mix.  But the space for intimate reflection is still there.  – Major Matt

The Weeknd- The Highlights

Twenty One Pilots- Scaled And Icy

Ty Segall- Harmonizer

Umphrey’s McGee- Mantis

Various Artists- Dr. Suess’ The Grinch (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Weekly Review:

There have been several Grinch movies over the years. First came the beloved half-hour cartoon from the the 1960s, voiced by Boris Karloff. In 2000, a godawful live adaptation was made starring Jim Carey. This soundtrack, however, is from the much-improved computer animated version released in 2018. 

This 13-song collection kicks off with a pair of songs from Tyler, the Creator. (Parenting pro-tip: This probably the best way to introduce your small child to this artist.) Tyler playfully rhymes across the familiar melody of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and performs the R&B original “I Am the Grinch” with Fletcher Jones.

From here the soundtrack turns into a holiday sampler, delivering both of Run-DMC’s yuletide classics, a pair of cuts from the Brian Setzer Orchestra and reliable chestnuts from Jackie Wilson, the Supremes and Nat King Cole. Buster Poindexter and Pentatonix round out the set with updates of a couple solid – if unsurprising – Christmas tunes. The soundtrack concludes with two pieces from Danny Elfman’s enchanting, energetic score.

The Grinch soundtrack doesn’t contain anything you can’t easily found elsewhere, with the exception of the Tyler, the Creator and Elfman cuts. It’s a fun collection that relies on safe choices, making the soundtrack a good option for family gatherings with young kids or relatives who turn up the Christmas tunes before Thanksgiving.- Joel Francis

Velvet Underground & Nico- The Velvet Underground & Nico

White Zombie- La Sexorcisto: Devil Music

 

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Enjoy the music and we will see you soon. Your loving Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven staff:

Sherman, Gordon, Cat, Matt, Dylan, Doyle, Heather, Dave and Max

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