July Music Roundup
Out of the handful of recent releases that I’ve been digging, namely Japanese Breakfast’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet and Waxahatchee’s Out in the Storm, my favorite is Sheer Mag’s full-length debut Need To Feel Your Love. While there’s nothing quite as immediately explosive as some tracks across their first three EPs, Sheer Mag have crafted an album that works exquisitely as a whole. Subject matter oscillates between active resistance against oppression and love, while balancing Sheer Mag’s Thin Lizzy-meets-punk rock formula with a few excursions in disco territory. Plus, everything is still catchy as hell. My favorite track is “Expect the Bayonet,” but check out the whole album and, if you want to be even more impressed, go see this band live!
I first read about Brother Ah (given name Robert Northern) in a great article in The Wire earlier this year, but I only recently got around to checking out the six albums — three reissues and three previously unreleased — that are currently available in limited quantities from Manufactured Recordings. Brother Ah is a French horn player who has recorded with Sun Ra, John Coltrane, and others, but these six albums are something else. The music features a variety of instruments and global influences, ranges from conventional to atmospheric to experimental, and can definitely be a challenging listen at times. As the hype stickers say, this is for fans of “deep, spiritual jazz.” Legendary drummer Max Roach plays on Brother Ah’s first album from 1972, Sound Awareness, but I’d recommend diving right into the previously unreleased albums from the Divine Music box set. The Sea and Searching, recorded in 1978 and 1985 respectively, are both outstanding and completely different from one another.
In a similar vein to Brother Ah, and in particular the synthesizer-driven Searching, is the compilation of Alice Coltrane’s songs recorded to cassette in the 80s and 90s during her time at the Sai Anantam Ashram in California, which was recently released through Luaka Bop. The double LP set, The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda is almost certainly going to stand as my favorite release this year. I didn’t get a chance to write about it because I was listening primarily in May, when I was so busy with moving that I only managed to include it on the Spotify playlist I made in lieu of writing. But I can’t say enough good things about these songs, the beauty of Alice Coltrane’s voice, and her synthesizer and organ playing. This album definitely deserves to be featured here for a second time. If you’re looking for more Alice Coltrane, you can’t go wrong with any of her albums, but my personal favorite is Journey in Satchidananda from 1971.
There have been so many other excellent jazz albums that I’ve neglected to mention over the past few months that have either been reissued or I’ve been lucky enough to find used. Here’s a handful of tracks to check out:
- The Bill Dixon Orchestra, “Voices,” from Intents and Purposes
- John Coltrane, “Jupiter,” from Interstellar Space
- Pharoah Sanders, “Love Is Everywhere,” from Love Is In Us All
- John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane, “Reverend King,” from Cosmic Music
- Cannonball Adderley with Milt Jackson, “Groovin’ High,” from Things Are Getting Better
- Donald Byrd, “Where Are We Going?,” from Black Byrd
- Paul Chambers Sextet, “Tale of the Fingers,” Whims of Chambers
- Yusef Lateef, “Back Home,” from The Blue Yusef Lateef
- Yusef Lateef, “Psychicemotus,” from Psychicemotus
Pretty much the only reason I decided to pay for Apple Music over Spotify was the convenience of having my streaming library integrate easily with my downloaded, non-streaming music. And the bulk of my non-streaming music was from the label Drag City, which was not available on any platform. Until now.
The label has just finished gradually putting their entire catalog (with the notable exception of Jim O’Rourke’s solo albums) on Apple Music. Since their roster includes many of my all-time favorite musicians (Scout Niblett, Silver Jews, Bill Callahan, Purling Hiss, and many more), I am beyond thrilled. In honor of this momentous change, here’s a 64-song playlist of some of my favorite tracks. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for Apple Music to hear it, but if there was ever a reason to switch from Spotify to Apple Music, having the Drag City catalogue at your fingertips is it.
Odds and Ends
Rock duo Washer has a new album coming out on September 15 on the eternally stellar label Exploding in Sound. It’s called All Aboard and the first single, “You’re Guess Is As Bad As Mine,” has me very excited for the rest of the album. Check it out here:
There was a great band from Minneapolis called Frankie Teardrop that I used to catch live all the time. They have unfortunately disbanded, but frontman Jordan Bleau has a new project called Cheap Fantasy that just released the five-song cassette Life of Glass. Now that I’m not longer in Minnesota, I won’t be able to see them live as often as I saw Frankie Teardrop, but these synth-pop gems will be on repeat for a while.
I’ve been looking for Cave’s Hunt Like Devil/Jamz double EP on vinyl for a long time now because it contains my favorite song of theirs. Well, I found it on one of my first record shopping trips in Brooklyn. The nine-minute kraut-rock jam “Hunt Like Devil” isn’t available to stream, but it should turn up with a quick Google search if you want to sample.
That’s it for now. See you in September!
Garrett Karrberg is based in Minneapolis