by dave heaton
An ongoing series, pondering 2022 music, five releases at a time.
Alabaster DePlume – Gold
“To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1” by Alabaster DePlume was a 2020 highlight of serenity and grace. Its title tells two things: instrumentals are not usually what he does, and he has a theatrical ‘stage name’, befitting a poet or charlatan. Which is he – poet, charlatan, instrumentalist? Yes. And guru, activist, instigator, bandleader, provocateur, and more. The evidence stretches out over the hour that is Gold. “Do You Know a Human Being When You See One?”, a song asks, and it’s a million-dollar question. Leading a gaggle of sharp collaborators through recording sessions, for Gold he mapped out a plan and spliced the music together to suit it. With recurring themes of frailty and justice, and darkness layered onto the bittersweet tones, Gold tackles the messiness of being alive in 2022, tries to channel the goodness from within it, and begs us to dissect what it means to be good and carve our own collective and individual path towards it.
Babyface Ray – FACE
File Babyface Ray under “rappers who sound like they’re about to fall asleep”, whether the topic is sex, money, hard-knock lives or overall swagger. Mostly the last two: hard-knock-life-informed swagger, wrapped up in a MoodTM, pensive and hurt. Melodies sketched out to echo off city streets, while ‘Face walks alone, on an existential journey: “Ain’t nobody hold my hand, had to walk by myself / I got hunger in my face, I got diamonds on my chest.”
Black Flower – Magma
Belgian jazz-fusion group starts out creeping towards a hip-hop vibe, with haunted-mansion organ, before hitting the flute hard and taking off in high, funky-‘70s skies. Soaring with an intentional and at least somewhat self-conscious globe-trotting flair, with occasional detours to a circus. If this is Epcot World Showcase jazz, that doesn’t make it not groovy.
Drake – Honestly, Nevermind
Drake might think he’s made a late-night club masterpiece but it’s more like nice mood music when you’re working from home in your depressing basement office and need to put on something with light energy and pleasant grooves where you can tune out the lyrics (the ravings of a heartbroken stalker with the maturity of a teenager, far as I can tell), treat the vocals as part of the aesthetic, and let it carry you through your Monday-morning doldrums. (Saving the hardest raps for the last track = “wake-up, zone-out time is over”.)
Hater – Sincere
“A stretch to be myself”, is a relatable feeling these days. Wrap it up in shoegaze-rock, crank it loud, and Sincere is off to a good start. From Malmö, Sweden, Hater is a band that keeps things simple, as their name and the album title indicate. The feeling is the thing, and these songs are full of it – that impending, something is about to happen feeling of romance, doom, or most likely both together. (Like the song title says, “Summer Turns to Heartburn”.) The lyrics, best as I can decipher, are an intense conversation with oneself, or with another person who’s become so physically, psychically, or theoretically close it’s hard to tell the difference.