Spins: Albums For Fall Listening

Spins: Albums For Fall Listening

BLK ODYSSY – “Blk Vintage”

Record Label: Self-released

Release Date: August 27, 2021

Flexing the same slow-burning groove employed by everyone from Marvin Gaye to D’Angelo and Erykah Badu, the debut from Blk Odyssy simmers with a diffused yet nervy energy. Led by Austin’s Sam Houston, the band’s bedrock funk is sure-footed. Framing a mid-album lull are the two hook-laden tracks, the steamy “Hang Low”, and on the other end, “Murda”, with a sprightly pulse that belies its dark message. When Houston was only 13, his older brother was killed by the police. It’s on the album’s chilling closer, “Drinking Good”, when he comes to see his family’s tragedy as far from unique. “​​Another nigga shot and killed it’s just another day.” – Jeff McCord

4 out of 5 Grackles


Illuminati Hotties – “Let Me Do One More”

Record Label: Hopeless/Snack Shack Tracks

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Applaud Sarah Tudzin for branching out. On the second IH release (if you don’t count their free Mixtape released to get out of a label deal), studio veteran Tudzin includes accomplished medium-paced and chorus-driven fare like “Knead” and “u v v p”, along with a forlorn acoustic closer, “Growth”. Yet Tudzin’s wit seems best suited for the slightly unhinged, and there’s no deficit of that: the social satire of “Joni: La’s No. 1 Health Goth” and “Threatening Each Other Re: Capitalism”, the exasperated scream of “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA”, and best of all, “Pool Hopping”, a shambolic romp that betrays the hollowness at the core of ‘you’re-not-the-partner-I’m-looking-for”. – Jeff McCord

4 out of 5 Grackles

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Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”

Record Label: Age 101

Release Date: September 3, 2021

After the sparse hammer-on-anvil thrills of last year’s Drop 6 EP, the heavy-handed Bond-theme production here feels like a bit of backpedal. Bold and brassy, Introvert is a long mixed bag. The album avoids deep fails through the grit and fluidity of Simz’ freestyling, and at times her audacity alone carries things forward. You can’t fault her hunger and ambition. Her best work has at times fallen short on the charts. When Simz rises above the awkward settings and everything connects (“Point and Kill”, “Rollin’ Stone”, ”Fear No Man”), she flashes her deserving brilliance. – Jeff McCord

3.5 out of 5 Grackles

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Various – I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico

Record Label: Verve

Release Date: September 24, 2021

Presumably held up to coincide with Todd Haynes’ excellent VU doc, Mirror works fairly well as these things go. On the final project of producer Hal Willner, an early victim of COVID, artists revisit the tracks from the Velvet’s 1967 debut in order. The ‘uneven’ label should be part of every tribute album’s title, and Willner, famed for his unusual pairings of artists and material, bats about .400 here. You root for the inspired pairings of Bobby Gillespie and Thurston Moore (“Heroin”) and Matt Sweeney and Iggy Pop (“European Son”), but both get lost after promising starts, trudging on for several more minutes. Sharon Van Etten’s dirge-like “Femme Fatale” falls way flat, and Matt Berninger taking on “Waiting For My Man” is the album’s biggest head-scratcher. He adds nothing to the song, and worse, it strains credulity.  Most of the rest is worth a listen. St. Vincent gives an art-school remake to “Parties”, Michael Stipe does his best Michael Stipe, and Kurt Vile’s “Run Run Run” is as much fun as anything here. The two standouts are polar opposites, the wondrous chaos of “Black Angel’s Death Song” from Fontaines DC, and Courtney Barnett’s dry-spoken delivery on  “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, which is either plaintive or sardonic. As if it matters. – Jeff McCord

3.75 out of 5 Grackles

Low – “Hey What”

Record Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: September 10, 2021

In lesser hands, you could write it off as a gimmick: the bulbous saturation, distortion and intentional sabotage of what might be otherwise pleasant folk music. But easygoing has never been the aim of Low, a married Minnesota duo that from the get-go set out to upend their flowing compositions and gorgeous harmonies. When their quiet, dead-slow mid-nineties material stalled, they refined their sound, finding new ways to present a catalog of over a dozen albums, all of them worthy. 2018’s Double Negative marked their most drastic reinvention, with digital overload slicing through their songs like broken glass through butter. Its work-in-progress feel has been perfected on Hey What, with songwriting more assured, and their multitudinous sounds inseparable from the compositions themselves. Low’s finest hour, Hey What is a work of monstrous beauty. – Jeff McCord

4.75 out of 5 Grackles

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