Madvillain, Pretenders, Arctic Monkeys and More: My Albums of the Week #18

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

Madvillain
Madvillainy
(Stones Throw, 2004)

TRACKLIST (favorite songs underlined): 1 – The Illest Vilains // 2 – Accordion // 3 – Meat Grinder // 4 – Bistro // 5 – Raid // 6 – America’s Most Blunted // 7 – Sickfit // 8 – Rainbows // 9 – Curls // 10 – Do Not Fire! // 11 – Money Folder // 12 – Shadows of Tomorrow // 13 – Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test // 14 – Figaro // 15 – Hardcore Hustle // 16 – Strange Ways // 17 – Fancy Clown // 18 – Eye // 19 – Supervillain Hustle // 20 – All Caps // 21 – Great Day // 22 – Rhinestone Cowboy

Having listened to it, I understand why this is such a landmark hip-hop album. It’s different, tinged with surrealism and a bit of mystery. The songs are short, the production is a little subdued yet refined, constructed mostly from obscure tracks and the occasional Sun Ra number by Madlib, yet surprisingly catchy. They provide the perfect, comic book-like setting for MF DOOM lyric machine, as he spews lines that appear to represent society’s repression via his famed villainous alter ego.

 

Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
(Domino, 2006)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – The View from the Afternoon // 2 – I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor // 3 – Fake Tales of San Francisco // 4 – Dancing Shoes // 5 – You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights but You Were Staring Straight at Me // 6 – Still Take You Home // 7 – Riot Van // 8 – Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured // 9 – Mardy Bum // 10 – Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But… // 11 – When the Sun Goes Down // 12 – From the Ritz to the Rubble // 13 – A Certain Romance

Arguably the top record of the British mod-rock songwriting lineage of its time. A great showcase for Alex Turner’s compositional prowess with some of the most memorable rock songs of its day, despite its surplus tracks. There’s definitely something different about this one in both music and lyrics – the former embracing a garage-like bite that remains fresh to this day and the latter, a nice depiction of youthful machismo (being rowdy, fighting and taking girls home for a quick one while he’s away).

 

Josh Johnson
Freedom Exercise
(Northern Spy, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Nerf Day // 2 – 856 // 3 – Western Ave // 4 – Bowed // 5 – Eclipsing // 6 – New July // 7 – False Choice // 8 – Punk // 9 – Simple Song // 10 – Return Recoil

Interesting use of electronics within primarily acoustic instrumentation. Josh Johnson’s debut album as a leader is a fascinating smooth and mostly mellow fusion of such modern jazz styles as jazz-tronica and nu-jazz with more traditional ones. A great opening statement, though there is still much room for improvement.

 

The Mariel Bildsten Quintet
Backbone
(Outside In, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Ecaroh // 2 – The Man That Got Away // 3 – Rosita // 4 – Monaco // 5 – Mood Indigo // 6 – The Light Is Low

One of the most impressive debuts as a leader of 2020 that I have heard so far. Trombonist Mariel Bildsten’s EP (though it is as long as many albums in the history of jazz), shows a sprightly reverence to tradition via arrangements of a number of classics. The end result has an elegance and radiance to it that at best recalls that of the great Duke Ellington.

 

Pretenders
Pretenders
(Real, 1980)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Precious // 2 – The Phone Call // 3 – Up the Neck // 4 – Tattooed Love Boys // 5 – Space Invader // 6 – The Wait // 7 – Stop Your Sobbing // 8 – Kid // 9 – Private Life // 10 – Brass in Pocket // 11 – Lovers of Today // 12 – Mystery Achievement

That Brit punk/new wave band with that American female singer. Chrissie Hynde is one of my music heroes and my fascination for her is equivalent to my appreciation of this historic Pretenders lineup. They were a perfect vehicle to her versatile songwriting and their ability was perfectly encapsulated in the tracklist of their debut LP, as they switch from aggressive punk (“Precious”) to tender ballad (“Lovers of Today”) seamlessly. Shout out to James Honeyman-Scott on lead guitar, criminally underrated.

 

Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg
(Fontana, 1969)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Je t’aime… moi non plus // 2 – L’anamour // 3 – Orang-outan // 4 – Sous le soleil exactement // 5 – 18-39 // 6 – 69 année érotique // 7 – Jane B // 8 – Elisa // 9 – Le canan est sur le balcon // 10 – Les sucettes // 11 – Manon

Its exaggerated sensuality can seem a little awkward on the first listen, placing the listener in the position of the third wheel at a dinner date with a couple in the first month of their relationship. Yet, this celebrated, international hit record is one of the finest orchestral pop LPs of its time and a fine showcase for Serge Gainsbourg’s marriage of sophistication and sensuality within catchy pop tunes. Jane Birkin is not a vocal powerhouse and she struggles at times, yet Gainsbourg can use her stridency effectively and playfully.

 

Tom Oren
Dorly’s Song
(Concord Jazz, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Night Butterfly // 2 – Under a Carob Tree // 3 – Melody // 4 – Mrs. Barbarelli // 5 – Adolia // 6 – Zoo // 7 – Don’t Let Me Wait For You // 8 – That Night I Heard // 9 – So Angela // 10 – Give Me Peace

Israeli-born pianist Tom Oren reinterprets music by his mother, a huge influence in his artistic formation and a renowned musician in her own right. This is his impressive debut as a bandleader and a nice showcase for his musicianship, defined by an awareness of space and an atmosphere dense with emotion, marrying jazz with Israeli folk music traditions.

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