The year has begun for us and those new releases are coming. Promise. However, this is a great week for the industry to catch up with some newer artists who finally get physical releases.
Kero Kero Bonito
2018 was the year that international pop officially broke through in the States. However, this UK uses it as a sort of visage to put fantastic music out. Beyond the promise of their beat-driven candy-coated initial singles ("Flamingo" also out on 7" single this week), KKB is at their best when they simply write and pay no mind to what genre it may occupy.
The TOTEP EP was their turning point. Four solid songs that sound more like British guitar pop dominated by the single, "Only Acting," (also on "Time N'Place") and the sublime, "Cinema."
"Time N'Place" is the trendsetter. Without any boundaries, KKB writes circles around pop, indie pop, and other hybridized strains of pop. "Time N'Place" neatly encapsulates their lives, just as easily as yours.
Spin the bittersweet glitter bomb in order or at random to get the best of this highly promising new group.
Roy Pablo EP and Soy Pablo EP
Straight from the chilly climes of Norway, Boy Pablo brings you some lovelorn, yet sunny, guitar pop. While his main influence appears to be the smoke-drenched warble of Mac DeMarco, Boy Pablo is more on the ball with his writing.
"Roy Pablo" establishes the sound and the blueprint. "Yeah" builds masterfully like lost C86 pop unleashing a heavenly chorus. "Everytime" is meaningful midtempo storytelling, while "Dance, Baby" does as advertised.
"Soy Pablo" builds the vocabulary with the bittersweet, yet danceable, "Feeling Lonely." "Sick Feeling" introduces a new anthemic sway and "T-Shirt" is brilliant in its simple sentiment.
Boy Pablo is Nicolas Munoz (and quite possibly his band) and these 13 songs will leave you wishing and waiting for "Toy Pablo."
In 2019, my honest wish is that Americana will return to storytelling. There are a handful of artists that do it with the simplest words and a perfectly-timed phrase.
Portland, Oregon's Delines head up the list of new ones. "The Imperial" is soulful Americana that leaves you hanging on nearly every word. As lush as "Let's Be Us Again" is, singer Amy Boone reflects loneliness, doubt and the relief of a return to simplicity.
"Eddie and Polly" is a tour de force. Over songwriter Willy Vlautin's simple jangle, this vagabond tale is novel worthy.
THROWBACKS OF THE WEEK
BUBBHA THOMAS & THE LIGHTMENT
It's cool if Thomas' name does not ring any bells. The Houston-based drummer is one of the unsung in music. Thomas was raised in the Texas city shortly before the High School Funk Band renaissance that was Kashmere Stage Band.
Thomas was the original drummer for Kashmere's Conrad Johnson at another high school and this influence was just enough to push Thomas to strive to make H-Town a Jazz/Funk mecca.
Thomas toured with R&B revues and recorded as a session musician for a plethora of small Houston labels before starting his own with the Lightnin' single "The Phantom." Thomas had a hand in guiding the nascent careers of many musicians including saxophonist Kirk Whalum.
Those early recordings ranged from spiritual to funk to jazz. Their wide range gave Thomas the idea that jazz really needed no boundaries. From 1970-1975, Thomas and his band, The Lightmen, released four distinctly different albums that reflected the changes in music and culture nationally.
1970's "Free As You Wanna Be" pulls several blistering Coltrane-esque lines into focus. Thomas' rumbling percussion provides all the foundation necessary for his musicians to soar into flight like Trane and Sun Ra while predating the return to traditional jazz that is ahead as Fusion fades.
1971's" Fancy Pants" is the classic. Boldly arranged horn charts. Bubbling Rhodes. "Ashie" is a rare free-jazz melodic beauty. "On The Road Home" builds from exotic guitar chords and free-flying flute to a near Latin-meets-spiritual zenith.
1972's "Energy Control Center" is where Thomas and his group use jazz as their point to take off with no return. "Leo" ventures into traditional piano, while the oozing "Wench" plays to the fans of the current Miles Davis – yet at a slower, funkier pace. "All Praises To Allah" is blistering as Thomas drives the band harder than ever through changes that allow everyone to solo in almost every key.
After such a wild ride, by 1975 The Lightmen ease into the funk craze with "Country Fried Chicken." The driving force of "Energy Control Center" is pitched down and the ’70’s effects are stepped up. Compared to the first three, it is a mellow record – but Thomas' arrangements are still on point.
In hindsight, the most important factor about Thomas' music was not just his devotion to making it away from the major cities – the sequence of "Creative Music" demonstrates the spiritual side of jazz makes a glorious bridge between Free, Traditional and even Fusion.
The dreaded sophomore slump. Forty years later, television's misstep is actually quietly unappreciated. "Marquee Moon" was the shot heard 'round the world. The pistons of punk firing. The culmination of their uphill climb from building the stage to play at CBGBs to making a record with no interference. Separate from the legend, "Adventure" trades tension for quieter reflection.
Less frenetically paced, the twanging guitars and rumbling bass of "Glory" predate the Paisley Underground coming in the ’80s. The appreciated arpeggiations of "Days" predict R.E.M. While the sunny chords of "Careful" lean toward power pop, the second side pushes back into guitar heroics that almost meet the standard they erected. However, "almost" was not good enough and Television ended four months after "Adventure" was released.
The Monkees Greatest Hits
The Prefab Four. Criminally underappreciated. The Monkees were far more than a "TV band." If anything, this first collection of singles deserves some praise – first for songwriter choice (Boyce and Hart, John Stewart, Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin & Carole King), and as the last blast of pure unadulterated pop before the music industry grows up and freaks out.
"Clarksville" will always serve as the band's clarion call. "Daydream" remains as poignant as ever, while "Steppin' Stone" is premature punk and "Pleasant Valley," the last technicolor breath of suburbia dreams before reality crashes the party.
Waiting for the Sun
The legacy of The Doors continues to be tough to trace. Films like "Danny Says" and books like "We Got The Neutron Bomb" give the band a hallowed place as the inspiration for punk bands.
Of course, The Doors are far from Punk. (In fact, musically they habitually stray far from Rock - like the baroque beauty of "Spanish Caravan") The first pair of earth-shattering albums were all written from Morrison's previous poetry collections. "Waiting For The Sun" is his writing exclusively for the band. After what proved to be a tense process, the results were originally met with mixed reviews. However, over the years of legend-building around The Doors, "Waiting" continues to grow in stature. Morrison's love songs are written with menace ("Hello, I Love You,") his remembrance of things past painted with Blake-ian simplicity ("Love Street") and sentiment ("My Wild Love.") As innocuous as the lyrics might seem, this is the last time you will hear Morrison relate so beautifully ("She's walkin' down the street/Blind to every eye she meets") and longingly to be heard ("Morning found us calmly unaware/Noon burned gold into our hair" from the hidden gem "Summer's Almost Gone.") The Romantic poet perishes mid-album in their quest for the grandiose "The Celebration of the Lizard." When the angrier, pragmatic Morrison emerges, "Not To Touch The Earth" burns a hole in the Sun, "The Unknown Soldier" embraces bleak, grim reality and "Five To One" chillingly slams the vault closed on Morrison's songs of innocence and experience. The band will never be this laser-focused again and Morrison soaking in self-loathing will save his finest writing for his epitaph "L.A.Woman" - an epitaph that saves his city and all its future angels.