Planes? Trains? Automobiles…
Had so much going on this week, where do I begin? When you move out of the big city where you’re in the vice grip of mass transit, life is a bit simpler. Being a New Yorker born and raised, the only problems I’ve had were sick passengers with trains going out of service. Eh, that’s fine, it always worked out eventually, but I don’t miss that sweltering heat beneath slabs of concrete, and of course, being stuck under someone’s undeodorized armpit. Thank the Lord for small blessings. Living away from the rest of the world, as I knew it, I had to make a number of adjustments. Heading out from point A to B, the only way to get around now is by having your own transportation. What? Yeah, in the past if I needed to drive somewhere I’d simply rent one. Owning a car is a different beast altogether. My very first car, I’m the owner/operator. Changes. As in oil, filters, etc. and what seems like a never-ending expense. But I’m fortunate because I have auxiliary inputs and a CD player in that bitch. So this has nothing to do with planes or trains but just the ride. My drives would probably be lackluster if not for the music and podcasts to listen to. Hallelujah!
Today we get an offering, one I didn’t expect because I never expect to hear anything from this band, instead always expecting to hear something from Francis and his sprawling group that’s come out of hiatus. Who am I referring to? Well, Kim Deal and her ragtag outfit of Breeders. I don’t think anyone cares anymore of the problematic issues the group went through anymore, but if you do, don’t. The only thing that should ever matter is if The Breeders are making music you should care about. It’s been ten years since the band’s last official release, Mountain Battles, so you have to wonder if the new All Nerve (4AD) still has the bite and snarl of previous releases. This time around though, Kim Deal has brought back the original cast that created 1994’s Last Splash. Could they replicate the magic? You may not have to wonder because it seems the band has returned with a fervor and more than a penchant for writing wistful tracks filled with the dualing guitar explosions. I proceeded with caution though, not knowing what to expect, as other young groups have attempted to hone the sound of the group but always fell short. All Nerve opens with “Nervous Mary,” at an almost snail’s pace with Kim Deal breathlessly spreading her words over a sole guitar, and then both dynamics and velocity shift, filling the space around her guitar. It’s difficult to not continually go back to it as the use of vocal harmonies returns in full effect, and the unity of Jim McPherson & Josephine Wiggs is utterly captivating. But we move on, as the band does with a quick paced “Wait In The Car” which finds the group using space efficiently, loaded with Deal’s “ohs” and tongue-in-cheek lyricism. But then the title track shifts the mood, lost in emotion, filled with suburban despair. The Deal sisters drain all their guitar notes over the rhythm and while the vocals are so earthy and enticing, it’s Wiggs’ bassline that occasionally dominates things here.
All Nerve doesn’t give you much time to think as it moves from one unrelenting track to the next. “MetaGoth,” this time is definitely driven by Wiggs’ bottom end, is filled with dissonance, and stark vocals, losing itself in dread while “Spacewoman” adds wind instruments, slows the pace down, creeps around with distortion and the obligatory dissonance the Breeders are known for. But it’s Kim Deal’s voice that’s magnetizing, and thunderous. One thing fans could always appreciate about The Breeders is they don’t fuck around. You can be sure the band has no preconceived notion of creating a hit “single,” although “Archangel’s Thunderbird” sounds pretty damn close to getting them there. The rhythmic motion will have listeners aching for more of the same, but you can only expect these four to give you what they want to. The track moves forward, barely letting up or giving any room to breathe. But the band continues on with its play on dynamics throughout the release. The beauteous “Dawn: Making An Effort,” is a sprawling effort for the first 2 minutes as the gradual crescendo turns into a gorgeous harmonized piece. And “Skinhead #2”? It’ll make you fall in love with The Breeders once again utilizing that open space, the infectious rhythm volleying guitar work. But it’s Kim, it’s always Kim’s voice that’s hauntingly captivating. It may have been ten years since the band has released a new album, but All Nerve hits the mark every single time. Here you have four musicians that pick up exactly where they left off. It has the pop sensibility and starkness we’ve all come to love.
Sometimes you may lose track of someone. It could be a friend, a family member, but in this case, for myself, it’s London-based Ben Chijioke, better known as TY. His first two releases, Awkward and Upward (both on Big Dada) were a big deal, combining Hip-Hop, Neo-Soul, and R&B, to a vocal delivery that was completely relaxed and unique. By sheer happenstance, I ran into TY at a local bodega on the lower east side in NYC who was in town for a show I wasn’t aware of. Introductions were made, and he was pleasantly surprised to be recognized. That was the last time I heard or seen of rapper, although he’s had a couple more albums and an EP released since then. Today he’s dropped the new A Work Of Heart (Jazz re:freshed), an obvious play on words filled with 14 tracks. Listening to this new release I can only surmise it was a shift in labels as to why none of his music made its way to me across the Atlantic. And this album here, it hits just about all the right strings. Still present are the combined influences blended together in a style that’s all his own. Just about every track flows seamlessly from one to the next. He spends the first minute with the intro “WorKINGTro” which sets the mood before kicking things off on, “Eyes Open feat. OG Rootz & Deborah Jordan.” It’s a story of being intuitive, watching your every move and storming through obstacles set to a bouncy beat. Both Ty and OG spit knowledge while Jordan provides the sultry backdrop there singing in French. So sultry. Soon to follow is “Somehow Somewhere Someway,” feat. Last Poets’ own Umar Bin Hassan. (side note: Hassan is no stranger to Hip-Hop if anyone recalls Common’s “The Corner” where the Poet supplied additional vocals) Here the beat moves quicker but whatever tempo a song is being delivered matters not to TY because his words can be fitted however he pleases. Hassan’s brief piece adds a deeper level of consciousness spewing words rooted in American reality.
He even shouts out his own ‘hood in “Brixton Baby feat. MPHO,” and you know where and what both rappers rep, all the while giving props to their people of color. Ty expands on his own sound with “Harpers Revenge! Feat. Phillip Harper & Wayne Francis” where the rapper moves within the confines of a disco-era rhythm but a 2018 beat. And then there’s “Folks Say People Say” which holds things down with a groovy bassline and what could be string-laced keyboards. It’s the “oohs” and “owws” that’ll have you singing along to this joint. There are a lot of bangers here and some dope slower joints but the closer “As The Smoke Clears feat. Randolph Matthews & Malik MD7” could be a classic. The sweet background vocals are always added perfectly through his albums and it’s no different here with lyrics that deal with gritty reality. You’d be hard-pressed not to dig A Work Of Heart, which now takes me back to his previous releases. It’s a TY weekend ahead, and this album leads it. Dopeness.
I’m actually not sure but I think this one by Wu-Lu was released today(?) Sometimes release dates get blurred but I have this N.A.I.S. EP now. The singer-songwriter is, well, different. This is the South London based producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist’s second E.P. N.A.I.S. (Not As It Seems) is a 4 song release that offers up deep drum beats, distortion, sweet vocals, and some ethereal noise. Yeah, just up my alley. My only problem is that it’s only 4 songs. The one track that stands out for me is “Habesha,” a bizarre keyboard & bass driven number that hits hard when the drums come in. Wu-Lu’s own looped background vocals turn this bitch into a banger! What else can you possibly need or want? Nothing! It’s all here. N.A.I.S.is hot, and it burns with an exquisite energy.