Innerfidelity New Music Mix: November 2019

More new music is here, mostly from November, a few late October releases that were too good to pass up. I’ve done something a bit different – each album has a short blurb from myself, as well as a genre tag.

I’ve attempted to provide tags that are slightly more specific than generic genre labels so as to give folks a little more info on what each album is. I’ll let the mini-reviews and music speak for themselves, but please let me know what you think of the new format and what you might like more or less of going forward. There’s some kind of challenging and experimental albums on the list this month, but as usual, I hope there’s a little something for everyone.

Quatuor Ebene – Beethoven around the world: Op. 59 Nos 1 & 2 (Vienna) Classical – String Quartet

This is one of those albums that you know is special just from the first note. It’s always a joy to find new performances of familiar old works that really bring something new to the table. I don’t have much to say other than go listen! The interpretations, recording and musicality are as good as it gets throughout the whole album.

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity – To Whom Who Buys A Record Jazz – Hard/Post Bop Instrumental

Gard Nilssen is a Norwegian jazz drummer who’s played with everyone from Bill Frisell, to Joshua Redman, to Ambrose Akinmusire. He’s largely been a session player, but several of his projects have surfaced in the past few years, and this is the most recent of them. The album embraces a kind of ‘stretch’ music that oscillates between Hard Bop, Post-Bop and light elements of Free Jazz. The album seems to embrace a new trend in modern jazz for very textural compositions, but each tune still has a clear underlying structure and direction, and just when it seems the soloist may descend into totally free improvisation, the band reins it in. The interplay that results seems to sit on the edge of perceptible groove, and will delight drummers and the rhythmically inclined to no end.

Roseaux – Roseaux II – French Alternative Pop

Roseaux is a somewhat obscure French band which shares company with the likes of Charlie Winston, though with a less experimental and rocking production style, and a stronger jazz foundation. The music is squarely French Pop, with a sprinkling of quirky sounds. The songwriting is generally not lyrically profound, but the songs go a lot of fun places, the first three songs transition from jazzy flute and piano interplay to choral backing vocals seamlessly, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on the sound of the album, the style changes, keeping things just fresh enough to make you keep listening.

Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka Soul – Modern

If you’ve followed Michael Kiwanuka at all, he’s had a fascinating trajectory over the last few years. He’s cited Marvin Gaye as a huge influence, and classic soul influences are clear in his music, but there’s something deeper too, a kind of cinematic sense of songwriting that owes more to a mixture of film scores, gospel and classic folk than James Brown. Otis Redding is perhaps a fitting comparison, but ultimately Kiwanuka is an artist all his own, and his real defining characteristic is the absolute sincerity of his performances and writing. Political and self-questioning lyrics blend to form something that never comes off as sappy, just vulnerable and thought-provoking. The production on this album is a delightfully juicy mix of distorted synthesizers and acoustic instruments, shifting effortlessly from orchestral and soaring, to moody and dark. While not every tune is exactly hi-fi, the overall mastering job and tone of the album has a velvety darkness and warmth that harkens back to classic records, and makes even the gritty, distorted tunes a pleasure to hear on resolving systems.

Cecilia Bartoli – Farinelli Classical – Vocal

Cecilia Bartoli is a well known Mezzo-Soprano with a colorature flexibility few other Mezzo’s can match. While she’s tackled both Mezzo and full Soprano roles, this album sees her paying tribute to Farinelli, one of the most famous opera singers and probably the most famous Castrati of all time. To that end, this album is a compilation of some of the most popular and virtuosic Castrati Aria’s of the 18th century, which were all written especially for Farinelli himself. While the album doesn’t exactly ooze academic historical-performance vibes, the orchestra plays so beautifully and Bartoli sings with such ease and musicality there’s really nothing to fault here. I’m generally not that interested in recordings of operatic singing, too often, unskilled recording engineers capture an overly-harsh sound, but this album makes the grade both sonically and musically.

Telefon Tel Aviv – Dreams Are Not Enough – ElectronicExperimental

TTA has had a rocky decade, with the accidental death of Chris Cooper, as well as numerous deaths in Joshua Eustis’ family and inner-circle. Despite this, TTA is now Eustis’ solo project, and this album is particularly an homage to the deaths that have surrounded him for the past 10 years. It’s also a chronicle of a recurring dream he’s had about being stuck at the bottom of the ocean. The sound design is absolutely jaw-dropping on this one, and slips deep into ambient and cinematic territory at times. The sparse lyrics are abstract, but listen carefully and do a little reading on the background of the album and you’ll realize how abjectly tragic they are. This isn’t always an easy album to listen to, but it’s worth a listen if you’re willing to really dig in and be open to anything.

Amon Tobin – Long Stories – Electronic Ambient

If you were a fan of Tobin’s previous album this year, Fear in a Handful of Dust you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. I’d call it sort of vaguely textural/ambient music, but it’s got a little overlap with experimental electronic. It’s not actually devoid of melodies and rhythms, but the ones that are present are put on the same level as the purely textural sounds because of the way the album is mixed, somehow both murky and clear at the same time. In a sense, it’s a sound collage mixed like an experimental album, and produced like an ambient album. If none of that makes sense, just know there are a lot of weird, but never harsh or edgy sounds, and you shouldn’t listen with the clear expectation of ‘tunes.’ Instead, listen to it a bit like an ambient album, notice the sounds that stick out and latch on to textural tidbits or moments that repeat or change slowly over time. Definitely a cool listen if you have the patience for something a little more subdued and cinematic.

La Tanya Hall – Say Yes Jazz – Vocal

I know La Tanya Hall only tangentially. She came in as the Jazz Voice teacher near the end of my time as a student at Oberlin, but I recall sitting in on several of her concerts and masterclasses and being thoroughly surprised. I don’t often hear jazz vocalists that really wow me either technically or musically – Cecile Mclorin Salvant is among the few recent ones that I count in that group. La Tanya Hall is another, and for very different reasons. While Salvant is inclined towards textural expression as a key ingredient in her music, Hall is more traditional, but not less skilled. She’s sung in Bobby McFerrins’ Voicestra, and has an absolutely commanding control of rhythm and pitch, focusing on extreme micro details of pitch and rhythm to show of her expressivity. I’m actually hard pressed to think of another singer with such a laser-focused pitch center, and she functions almost as the traditionally perfect ideal of a jazz singer who can fit into a small combo like any other instrument. This album shows that off wonderfully, and if you love or don’t care much for jazz vocals, this is an album I think you’ll like either way.

Chick Corea – Trilogy 2 Jazz – Instrumental Standards

Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade’s first Trilogy, released in 2013, was an international best seller and earned two Grammy’s. This second album, an anthology of live performances recorded over the years continues in the same vein, with the trio playing both standards and Corea originals. This album won’t convince anyone who isn’t already a fan, but for the Jazz enthusiast, these are three talented players laying it down and having fun while doing so.

Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet – Songwriter/Indie

You may know Andrew Bird as ‘that guy who whistles’ and also kinda plays violin. His music has always been a little bit of a novelty – he’s got some talent as a songwriter, but his arranging and performing chops always felt a bit secondary to the scale of his ambition. By contrast, this album is truly his finest work yet, precisely because it feels like the arrangements live up to his songwriting talents. Violin isn’t much of a spotlight on this album, and the whistling is very tastefully done, but it’s really his songwriting and the performance of the band he’s assembled that make this record shine. There isn’t a lot of complexity, but it’s solid indie songwriter music, and the lyrics and arranging are really top notch. Not every song will blow you away, but pretty much none of the songs fall flat, and most of the album makes me want to go in for a second or third listen. Need I say more than that?

Ana Frango Eletrico – Little Electric Chicken Heart – Tropicalia/Brazilian Pop/Rock

Ana Frango Eletrico is to Brazilian music what the best of the bedroom indie scene is to the folk music of the 60’s. It is, in a sense, continuing the Tropicalia tradition of mixing garage rock, pop, bossa and samba and light experimental electronic and production elements. This album sounds sometimes like upside-down Bossa Nova, french cafe music, and at times like Os Mutantes have been revived with an effortlessly cool new frontwoman. Unlike Os Mutantes, she channels the vocal harmonies of the Beach Boys or Elton John more than the Beatles, and in general the production, even while paying homage to Os Mutantes and other great bands of the Tropicalia era, is cleaner and tighter, more precisely focused and while there are elements of play, Ana Frango has a crystal clear vision on every single tune. I don’t get to say this often, but there’s not a single wasted note on this entire album.

Beck – Hyperlife – Electronic/Pop

Retro Synth concept album. Imagine a Tron-ified version of Morning Phase, with guest appearances by everyone from Chris Martin of Coldplay to Greg Kurstin. The work is really a collaboration between Pharrell Williams and Beck however, and the saturated, reverb-drenched ’80s electronic throwback has William’s thumbprints all over it. The rhythmic vocal chops and harmonies draw heavily from William’s work on the Hidden Figures soundtrack and his 2014 album GIRL, and the synth and drum work mesh seamlessly with Beck’s trademark twangy guitars and almost invisibly gentle synthesizers. If you ever wanted to hear what Beck doing Vaporwave might sound like, this is your chance. That said, with one or two exceptions, this is very much still a Beck production, so if you are part of the crowd that finds him ‘sleeper’ music, this album won’t change your mind. My only complaint is that, like both Pharrell and Beck’s previous albums, the production is occasionally so polished it comes off as smoothed over.

Listen to IF November New Music Mix 2019 by Grover via Qobuz in your web browser HERE.

App available HERE.

KaiS's picture

Did you kick out Tidal?
October playlist had that option too.

Or is it just an oversight?

I always liked your playlists, but having to access the titels manually substracts from the fun.

Grover Neville's picture

It takes an inordinately long time to listen to and actually curate even twelve albums (my process is quite a bit more rigorous than 'stuff I like' - every album here I listened to at least 2-3 times all the way through) plus the write-ups, and listening to all the stuff that DIDN'T make it. Creating the playlist on Qobuz, simple as it may seem takes a while, as does transferring it to any other service and trying to fill in gaps where they exist. Qobuz simply won because it provides higher resolution in general than Tidal. However, I've done a Soundiiz Transfer of the playlist to Tidal, and I can include that in future music posts.