Tag: 2012

Gary Clark, Jr. – Black and Blu

ARTIST: Gary Clark, Jr.                               220px-Blak_and_Blu

TITLE: Black and Blu

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #6 US, #44 UK

SINGLES: Bright Lights (#29 Adult Alternative), Ain’t Messin’ Around (#10 Adult Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Third Stone from the Sun

LINEUP: Gary Clark, Jr., Mike Elizondo, Zac Rae, JJ Johnson, Scott Nelson, and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitar wonderkind releases his first major solo album that straddles many genres.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Gary Clark, Jr. made his name as a guitarist. As time went on, and reputation grew, he started a solo career (he had two very small albums released early on in his career that really have vanished, probably for good reason) and put together a sound which encapsulates many other genres, such as blues, rock, soul, R&B, and hip-hop.

This album covers the whole gamut of those styles and indluences, and also shows off his guitar work (especially on his cover of “Third Stone from the Sun”).  It’s remarkable how wide a range he covers in these tracks.

But there’s an antiseptic feeling here – and a feeling that he needed to cut down some of his showman-like solos in the studio. So it’s not perfect, but it’s a good start for an artist that will be a force for a long time as he improves songwriting and tightens up his jammy excesses.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He also released a mix-tape of version and remixes in 2014..

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two extra tracks on the Deluxe version, and those tracks are pretty decent.

GRADE B: Impressive, but flawed in a way. Still, worth hearing.

Waxahatchee – American Weekend

ARTIST: Waxahatchee              220px-American_Weekend_cover_art

TITLE: American Weekend

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Be Good

LINEUP: Katie Crutchfield

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut solo album was recorded in a bedroom and was noticed by NPR, kick starting a career.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’m not against lo-fi, but at times it seems like a big effort to listen to the tracks. Also, I’m not against bedroom recordings, as the intimacy. But again, the fidelity can be a challenge.

Katie Crutchfield’s solo project (as Waxahatchee ), overcomes those challenges by writing some damn fine tunes. The recording has quite a bit of treble, and is mastered pretty hot, but Crutchfield’s songs carry the day.

Just a guitar and a voice can make a powerful statement.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Crutchfield was a leader in the band P.S. Eliot, with her twin sister.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: It’s the songs, excuse the fidelity.

Taylor Swift – Red

ARTIST: Taylor Swift                       220px-Taylor_Swift_-_Red

TITLE: Red

YEAR RELEASED: 2012

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (#1 US, #4 UK), Begin Again (#7 US, #30 UK), I Knew You Were Trouble (#2 US, #2 UK), 22 (#20 US, #9 UK), Red (#6 US, #26 UK), Everything Has Changed (#32 US, #7 UK), The Last Time (#103 US, #25 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: With seven singles, probably no, unless you’re one of the badillion people who have this record.

LINEUP: Taylor Swift, with 44 studio musicians and six additional backup singers (!!) Not like the old days, is it?

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Firmly moving from country with dabbles in pop to a total pop star, Taylor Swift begins her true pop culture domination.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: (This is Ms. Swift’s fourth album. The first three I’ve put in my country music playlists to go through later. Why? Because, that’s why…)

A battalion of musicians and producers descended on whatever studios Taylor Swift was recording in, and the result was the album that put Taylor Swift on the way to super-ultra-duper stardom, and one of the forces driving pop culture in this decade.

Despite the vast array of talent, Swift has made this album sound like her own – as she’s in control and not a puppet of the producers. It has a current pop sheen, has the requisite electronic gizmos and tools (but doesn’t over do them – it uses auto tune and the like as enhancements, not substitutions), and the true pop songs are candy for the ears.

It’s not perfect, because there’s bloat. There’s four or five too many songs, and sometimes the ballads and slower songs are stuck in the way. Most pop albums could use some paring in these times, and this is no exception.

Yet, this is definitely a touchstone for the 2010’s, and cuts on this record will be long lasting.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There were 38 engineers, mixers, producers, assistants, programmers, etc. credited. Also, Swift’s hair stylist and make-up artist are credited. Ok then.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Of course, the deluxe version has a few b-sides and demos. 

GRADE: A-: Some bloat, but even after five years you’re not sick of the best songs.

Labrinth – Beneath Your Beautiful

ARTIST: Labrinth labrinth
TITLE: Beneath Your Beautiful
YEAR RELEASED: 2012
CHART ACTION: #34 US (EP), #1 UK (Single). Album Electronic Earth #2 UK
SINGLES: On the US EP: Beneath Your Beautiful (above), Express Yourself (#12 UK), Let the Sun Shine (#3 UK), Earthquake (#2 UK), Treatment (#55 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s 5 of the 6 tracks there.
LINEUP: Labrinth with some production and horns and duets with Emeli Sande, Tinie Tempah and Etta Bond
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Producer and songwriter releases an EP in the US of his latest UK hit plus other UK singles to establish himself here .

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 2012, Labrinth released an album Electronic Earth which featured several UK singles dating back to his debut “Let the Sun Shine” in 2010. We here in the US didn’t get any of that over here until the title track of this EP was released, thanks to a performance on the UK X Factor TV Series which went a bit viral.

He’s a talented producer and has a good voice. There’s nothing really challenging about this – it’s pleasant modern pop music. Of course there are hooks. The title track shows a little more depth than his other tracks, which may have been why they chose it for a US crossover. “Earthquake” is a neat up-tempo song with effects, and of course hooks.

I am curious why Electronic Earth hasn’t been released over here but this EP gives you almost everything you’d want thus far.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Some fans questioned the spelling of ‘your’ – it IS grammatically incorrect, but Labrinth said he wasn’t “an English GSCE”. Honest, at least.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Target’s CD version had two extra tracks.

GRADE: B: If you like the single, you’ll like this.