Kendrick Lamar, Alice Coltrane & More: My Albums of the Week #20

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.

 

Alice Coltrane
Journey in Satchidananda
(Impulse!, 1971)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Journey in Satchidananda // 2 – Shiva-Loka // 3 – Stopover Bombay // 4 – Something About John Coltrane // 5 – Isis and Osiris

The centerpiece of a legendary run of modal, spiritual jazz albums by the one and only Alice Coltrane. The instrumentation is wild and Journey in Satchidananda includes some instruments, such as the tamboura and Coltrane’s own harp, that had rarely been heard on a jazz record before. Together, they create amazing, prayer-like settings for some great solo work, including by Pharoah Sanders (whose name appears on the cover) on saxophone.

Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly
(TDE/Aftermath/Interscope, 2015)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Wesley’s Theory // 2 – For Free? // 3 – King Kunta // 4 – Institutionalized // 5 – These Walls // 6 – u // 7 – Alright // 8 – For Sale? // 9 – Momma // 10 – Hood Politics // 11 – How Much a Dollar Cost // 12 – Complexion (A Zulu Love) // 13 – The Blacker the Berry // 14 – You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said) // 15 – i // 16 – Mortal Man

One of my favorite 21st-century albums. A major artistic statement. Kendrick Lamar’s hip-hop opera has a vivid narrative and deals with such themes as social justice, desire and mental health and self-love, and alternates personal monologues with the poetry of universal resonance. The instrumentation is dense, with influences ranging from jazz to soul to retro-funk, vintage hip-hop and rock. Interludes give To Pimp a Butterfly the impression of cohesion but make no mistake about it, here Lamar has no time for conventions and in the end, the tracklist and track sequence is as stimulatingly eclectic as it gets.

 

Miguel Zenón and Luis Perdomo
El Arte del Bolero
(Miel, 2021)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Cómo Fue // 2 – Alma Adentro // 3 – Ese Hastío // 4 – La Visa Es Un Sueno // 5 – Que Te Pedí // 6 – Juguete

Piano and saxophone duo celebration of the bolero through the lens of jazz. It’s not super-exciting but Zenón and Perdomo are two top instrumentalists and it’s a pleasure to hear them doing what they do best.

 

Émilie Simon
Émilie Simon
(Barclay/Universal, 2003)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Desert // 2 – Lise // 3 – Secret // 4 – Il Peut // 5 – I Wanna Be Your Dog // 6 – To the Dancers in the Rain // 7 – Dernier Lit // 8 – Graines D’Etoiles // 9 – Flowers // 10 – Vu D’Ici // 11 – Blue Light // 12 – Chanson De Toile

Half good, half bad. Quirky art pop from France. Émilie Simon’s vocal range is limited and her childlike delivery is particularly annoying when singing in English. Thankfully, a couple of tracks save it from being a cringefest, particularly “Desert” that alone elevates the quality of the album considerably.

 

R.A.P. Ferreira
Purple Moonlight Pages
(Ruby Yacht, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Decorum // 2 – Greens // 3 – Noncipher // 4 – Omens & Totems // 5 – U.D.I.G. (United Defenders of International Goodwill) // 6 – Laundry // 7 – Dust Up // 8 – Cycles // 9 – Absolutes // 10 – No Starving Artists // 11 – Leaving Hell // 12 – Doldrums // 13 – An Idea Is a Work of Art // 14 – Mythical // 15 – Pinball // 16 – Golden Sardine // 17 – Ro Talk // 18 – Masterplan

The jazz-rap tradition is alive and well, as R.A.P. Ferreira’s album shows. This is a fluid collection of solid tracks, driven as much b the beats as by the lyrics themselves, complete with intriguing philosophical references that rather than seeming self-centered are curious, compelling and deeply stimulating (lines like “the self is defined by the struggle” come to mind).

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