The present is female (and queer)

As horrible as 2020 has been on so many fronts, at least we’ve had amazing music by queer female artists to help us get through it all. Where would we be without Becca Mancari’s The Greatest Part, Jamie Wyatt’s Neon Cross, Indigo Girls’ Look Long, Gordi’s Our Two Skins, Katie Pruitt’s Expectations, and the 35th anniversary deluxe reissue of Whitney Houston’s eponymous debut album (somebody had to say it!)? Singer/songwriter Caroline Rose’s 2018 album Loner was one of the best albums of that year, and any year, for that matter. The concept LP follow-up Superstar (New West) delivers on the […]

Queens of the Quarantine

Read every book on the bookshelf and your Kindle? Caught up on all the shows on your DVR? Looking for good music to pass the quarantine hours? Here are some suggestions. Forget Britney! Forget Christina! Mandy Moore is the ’90s teen pop diva with the most fascinating story, something she sings about in the song “Fifteen” on her excellent new album Silver Landings (Verve). Moore not only has the pipes, but she can write songwriting circles around Brit and Xtina. Additionally, Moore can act! Fans of This is Us know that’s true. And did you see her in Saved? Plus, […]

Pandemic pals

Looking for musical friends with whom you can pass the time while the country shuts down (again!) as the pandemic continues to rage? The following albums are worth hearing while being in lockdown. I’ve always thought of Steve Earle as the Bruce Springsteen of modern country. With his similar vocal style and his songs about the common man, Earle makes music that could be described as Springstwang. This has never been truer than on Ghosts of West Virginia (New West) by Steve Earle and the Dukes. The songs are intended to be a musical companion piece for playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s […]

House music

Let’s face it, things are getting ugly and scary out there. As this is being written, confirmed COVID-19 cases have reached more than 10 million worldwide, with more than half a million deaths and counting. Self-quarantining is the hottest (and healthiest) trend in years. For those unable to get to their workouts at the gym or favorite dance club because they’ve been shut down again after reopening too soon, here are some new releases sure to get your heart rate up and your body moving. Play them loud and if the neighbors complain, dance harder.   Suddenly (Merge) by Caribou (aka musician and […]

(Beautiful) music men

When Orange Crate Art (Omnivore), newly reissued in an expanded double CD or LP set, was originally released in 1995, it was the first time that music legends Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, both known for their distinctive SoCal musical styles, had worked together since Parks collaborated with The Beach Boys on the notorious SMiLE album in the 1960s. Orange Crate Art turns out to be a collaboration that makes perfect sense on paper, if not in actual execution. Unlike say Nilsson Sings Newman, on which Harry Nilsson sang the songs of Randy Newman, having Brian Wilson (whose voice […]

(Beautiful) Music Men

When Orange Crate Art (Omnivore), newly reissued in an expanded double CD or LP set, was originally released in 1995, it was the first time that music legends Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, both known for their distinctive SoCal musical styles, had worked together since Parks collaborated with The Beach Boys on the notorious SMiLE album in the 1960s. Orange Crate Art turns out to be a collaboration that makes perfect sense on paper, if not in actual execution. Unlike say Nilsson Sings Newman, on which Harry Nilsson sang the songs of Randy Newman, having Brian Wilson (whose voice […]

Vinyl destination

All things considered, when you factor in her health, as well as her stated distaste for the music industry, 2007’s Shine (Craft Recordings), newly reissued and making its (180-gram) vinyl debut may be Joni Mitchell’s final studio recording. Mitchell, who became an increasingly outspoken critic of contemporary culture, especially in the 1980s and 1990s on albums such as Dog Eat Dog, Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm, Turbulent Indigo and Taming the Tiger, doesn’t relent in the least on Shine. Narrowing her focus to the destruction of the planet (“This Place”, “If I Had A Heart”, “Bad Dreams”, “Strong and Wrong” […]

Family affairs

 Extraordinary singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson knows a thing or two about good genes. Her father, Terry Gilkyson, was also a singer and songwriter with a fascinating career. In addition to writing hit songs for others, he sang on The Weavers’ hit “On Top of Old Smokey” and was nominated for an Oscar for writing the song “The Bare Necessities” from Disney’s 1967 animated feature The Jungle Book. Eliza’s brother Tony is also a musician and was a member of the important L.A. bands X and Lone Justice. Eliza herself has been a recording artist (under her own name) for more than […]

Safety in (small) numbers

Social distancing can be a challenge if you are in a band. It probably gets somewhat easier for musical duos and (possibly) trios. Tennis, married couple Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, have a habit of social distancing when it comes to writing their songs on long boat trips as they are known to do. For two people in the habit of keeping their distance from other folks, the timeless pop songs on Swimmer (Mutually Detrimental/Thirty Tigers) have a universal appeal. The evocative and suitably titled opener “I’ll Haunt You” lingers long after it ends. “Need Your Love” picks up the […]

What does Chicago sound like?

During the great COVID-19 shutdown of 2020 we have plenty of time to ponder all sorts of things. Such as what does Chicago sound like? In the early days, Chicago sounded like the blues and jazz. By the 1960s, Chicago’s rock scene included bands such as The Buckinghams, The Cryan’ Shames, Shadows of Knight and New Colony Six. Named for the city, Chicago went on to become one the biggest bands in the world during the `70s and beyond. Other `70s acts included Styx, The Ides of March, Cheap Trick and REO Speedwagon. The Chicago music scene lost ground to […]