Album Reviews: Mitski, Corinne Bailey Rae, Woods
Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
(New York City/Mie Prefecture, Japan)
Able to capture the world by bearing her entire self again and again wholeheartedly, Mitski has nailed the swan dive on her latest album. Mixing in touches of country, intense cinematic orchestration and devastating stories, this is an album that will move you over and over. The switch from sombre to spiritual on “Bug Like an Angel” hits like a powerful wave thanks to its choral chants, as you ride the wave with Mitski as she goes from morose spiritual reflection to debating how promises of any kind can damage those who can’t keep them. The country base of “I Don’t Like My Mind” gives Mitski so much room to reach into the depths of her soul and lament about terrifying toxic thinking can be to people, even when they can recognize it. Masterfully, the track not only emulates the dread, but also grows louder and louder like the work, music and other distractions Mitski describes, as a subtle nod to her deafening the voices in her own song. The scale of Mitski’s writing explodes on “When Memories Snow,” to match the cascading intensity of her overwhelming memories, to create a huge, orchestral beast of a track in less than two minutes. The iconic mix of melodies and subtle dreamy production gives an instantly moving and memorable feeling to “My Love Mine All Mine.” Layering all the slide guitars, clanky pianos and Mitski’s beautiful delivery to make you wish with all your heart that this one thing works out for her at least.
Sleepy Jean – Shoot Me in a Dream
There’s a cheeky cinematic sneer to Sleepy Jean’s latest record, as it feels like a constant soundtrack to a genre film you’ve been waiting to watch. “How Soon?” sets off this whole adventure with touches of Western and Crime sounds, while the vocals send you on a trip of their own with the range of hush to growl they bring. The slinking guitars on “Left Handed Delights” have a more off-kilter quality to them, often leaving you off balance until every chorus knocks you into a tornado of harmonies. Leaning into both the gunslinger and Tarantino-laced vibes of the record, “No Tomorrow” feels tailor made for a scene where someone walks cool in a suit and either breaks into dance or lights a cigarette without ever looking at it. The most powerful vocal lines come roaring through on “Sweet Tooth” as the aching and need break through that emotional barrier and find Sleepy Jean wailing into the track’s retro rock and doo wop chords.
Corinne Bailey Rae – Black Rainbows
Often remembered for her soft-pop R&B classic, Corinne Bailey Rae has been refining her sound into a transformative creature over the years. With a sound that combines bits of magical electronica, with experimental production and a lush instrumentation, this has asserted a new era in Rae’s career as a whole. A far cry from “Put Your Records On,” “A Spell, A Prayer,” has a more cosmic wonder to it, as Rae takes us through harps, earth-shaking feedback and dozens of guitars and synths that feel like they’re alive, and that’s just touching the surface of this track. The whole sonic range of the album is ecstatically and a touch chaotically condensed onto “Black Rainbows” for a chunky and stomping overture, where every beat and line are oscillating between pleasure and demented weight second to second. The punk side of the record reaches its boiling point on “New York Transit Queen,” emulating Le Tigre-style electro-punk with more blown-out speakers and sounds than Kathleen Hanna and co. usually drop. The shift to cosmic jazz lets “He Will Follow You With His Eyes” slink into romantic luster with full surreal drive, and even move into a more experimental and sultry back-half to take things out with mesmerizing detail.
Putamayo Presents (Various Artists) – Bossa Nova
Capturing the best of the genre through new voices, the latest collection from Putamayo is a beach trip through the sounds of its suave titular sound. Ana Caram’s “Blue Bossa” immediately wins you over with its cool guitars and sax, while Caram’s voice takes you to a calm home and recalls hints of Astrud Gilberto in the best way. Though “Ondas” is led very much by its vocal line, it’s the pointed plucked guitar runs that set it apart, and give it a bizarre percussive quality you don’t always get with this kind of bossa nova. Meanwhile, the ringing percussion and violin runs give Amanda Martinez that extra boost on “Manhã de Carnaval” right when her silky voice leaves the track. Taking the extra production to add a more modern approach to the genre, Tamy’s “Te Esperei” sways while letting all the accordion runs give the whole thing a vicious back and forth dynamic.
Woods – Perennial
— (Brooklyn, New York)
Almost like a summation of every trippy and 60s influenced act that came before, Woods deliver a transformed sound that brings all these ideas to a new conclusion. Wearing all their influence on their sleeves while creating something with a touching emotional whole, Woods have really found their niche amongst a lot of retro revival acts. There’s a touch of Beatles-like sounds on “Between the Past” as it lulls you into a hazy mix of sunny guitars and synth flutes that seem hum forever. You’re transported into a deep psychedelic river in the kaleidoscopic explosions of “Another Side,” as the dense instrumentation and brutal rhythm section help establish a world of enchanting danger like something out of “Heavy Metal.” The pianos leave room for the track to breathe and glide along on “Sip of Happiness,” as it drips with the most palpable pop of the record, while the most honestly downbeat lyrics of the record flow to give a heavy counterpoint. The highs of “Little Black Flowers” offer a remedy to that beaten-down feeling here, as the track delivers a warm deliverance from the pain that came before it.