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2024 Album-A-Day: Week 3

You know the drill.

January 15th: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

I was familiar with a few Janelle Monae songs, and with her amazing performance in Glass Onion, so I checked out this album and I liked it a lot. It's apparently the third album in a sci-fi concept series, so I'm missing some context, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying these psychedelic soul bangers. You know how you can tell from the get-go that this is a great album? Prince is on the second track. PRINCE. And that's not even the best song on the album. "Electric Lady," "Q.U.E.E.N.," "Dance Apocalyptic," these bombastic songs showcase Janelle's talent for songwriting and their voice. The less explosive songs like "We Were Rock and Roll" and "Look Into My Eyes" display a more restrained side to their talents. I'm definiely going to revisit this album a lot.

January 16th: The Turning Wheel by Spellling

I had heard this album talked up by music critics, especially Anthony Fantano, but I was not prepared for the journey that this album would take me on. The moment I heard "Little Deer," I knew that this was something special. This album is a combination of dark synth-pop, psychedelic soul, and baroque pop, sort of like Kate Bush performing Prince arrangements of Pet Sounds. "The Future" and "Emperor with an Egg" are surreal and beautiful, and "Boys at School" is dark and alluring. This whole album fascinates me, and I haven't heard much else quite like it.

January 17th: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz

I had listened to the first couple songs on this album back when it came out, but for some reason I didn't listen to the whole thing. I'm so glad that I finally remedied that. This album is a powerhouse. The opener "Introvert" sets up the massive sound of this album, with orchestral flourishes and Simz' rapid-fire flows. "Woman," "I Love You, I Hate You," "Fear No Man," these songs kick ass. They're great if you want to analyze them on a lyrical level, but they're also great if you just want to listen to some hip-hop jams. Most albums work on one of those levels, but for one to work on both is something to be commended.

January 18th: Donuts by J Dilla

I've heard the story of this album repeated by many a music lover, about how Dilla was bedridden when writing and recording this album, and died shortly after its release. That alone is tragic. However, if I didn't know that story, I wouldn't have assumed anything like that listening to Donuts. This album is jams on top of jams on top of jams. They tend to be under 2 minutes and flow together seamlessly, so it all just kinda flies right by me, but the entire time I'm caught up in this vibe and this groove. It's possible that my love of MF DOOM and specifically Madvillainy were the perfect gateway into this, as they have similar styles of sampling (and also were both on the same record label). Some of my favorite songs were "Workinonit" and "Time: the Donut of the Heart."

January 19th: Sha Sha by Ben Kweller

My previous experience with Kweller was the all-Ben supergroup The Bens with Ben Folds and Ben Lee, and I'd heard the first song on this album a few times through track radio of other bands I like, so I thought that this was a good starting point. My thoughts: Good! It's got all the ingredients for an indie rock/power pop album I love: catchy melodies, hard hitting riffs, weird lyrics, and that deadpan delivery. "Wasted and Ready" and "Commerce, TX" have great hooks, and falling is the perfect closer. I really enjoyed this

January 20th: Endtroducing.... by DJ Shadow

Continuing on the instrumental hip-hop classics, I listened to this album that I'd heard was influental. This is a very different flavor from Donuts, however. While Dilla's music was about taking little pieces from records and re-arranging them into short, punchy jams, DJ Shadow is more interested in building an atmosphere. The songs tend to be upwards of five minutes, and I really like the way they gradually build and become more complex like "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" or "Midnight in a Perfect World." Also, the drums. I reeeeealllly like these drum samples. The occasional samples of just... someone talking threw me off initially, but the more I listened it became more part of the vibe. I liked this one.

January 21st: Crosby Stills and Nash and Deja Vu by Crosby Stills and Nash and/or Young

I'd heard the hits from this album before, and I was somewhat familiar with Neil Young's discography, but I hadn't heard either of these albums. I'm glad that I have now. CSN is quintessential Laurel Canyon folk-rock, and I'm not the first person to point out how immaculate those harmonies are. "Judy Blue Eyes" and "Guinnevere" are very enjoyable. And as if that wasn't enough, when you get Neil young involved, it transcends. "Helpless," "Teach Your Children," "Country Girl," all of these prove that this combination was meant to be. Of course, I'm familiar with the decline of the band after Neil Young went further in his own direction and the other guys were unable to recreate that success, but a good album remains a good album.

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