by dave heaton
An ongoing series, pondering 2022 music, five releases at a time.
Anna Butterss – Activities
From the description ‘jazz bass instrumentalist’s debut solo album”, what do you hear in your mind? Probably not this. Unless you’re thinking in a broad, more freewheeling-creative-spirit direction. Or if you know, for example, that Butterss has played not just with Makaya McCraven, Jeff Parker and Josh Johnson but also Aimee Mann, Phoebe Bridgers, and Jenny Lewis. Activities is an interesting title choice; the music suggests a multitude of settings and actions. There’s a vibe of busy-ness, of the disparate activities and emotions that make up a life – some frenetic, some restful. There’s a song called “Doo Wop” with an intro that resembles, yes, doo-wop. “Blevins” has an almost cocktail-lounge vibe, but is also melancholy. “Super Lucrative” is like a little science-fiction pop jam, perhaps a video game theme. “The Worst Thing You Could Do For Your Health” is a funky synth jam with hints of UK jungle. Activities is eclectic, but it’s not a rollercoaster ride from one sound to another. Its impulses and reference points have been blended into something new and multi-faceted. The melodies and moods linger.
Dustin Lynch – Blue in the Sky
All the macho visions of current country radio music are here, on Dustin Lynch’s fourth album. There are parties in boats, trucks and open fields. A Chevy waiting to take us through the backroads of Tennessee, to the small town that stays the same forever, populated with “homegrown” beautiful women as static and unreal as the town itself. The biggest stadium-ready hook is tied to the image of “Stars Like Confetti”, a beautiful night that he can’t ever get back to, if it even existed in the first place. The whole album starts feeling like the shell of a man’s ego, populated by ghost lovers and missed opportunities. He’s in “party mode” because he’s “running from the truth”. His wish that “Summer Never Ended” will never be a reality. The beach itself resembles a Chesneyesque totem for the promise and cruelty of summer; teasing infinite pleasure yet failing to hide the inevitable heartbreak lurking behind the empty lifeguard stand. “I go back there all the time in my mind” (about “Pasadena”) might be the most representative lyric. The fuel within the songs is a man’s inability to create the world he wants, and control it. At album’s end he’s trying a different tack – re-writing the cowboy image as a domestic, suburban, monogamous one and using it as a pickup line, hoping to write himself a happy ending.
Euglossine – Some Kind of Forever
Sometimes I feel like I’m listening to a children’s fairytale storybook; other times it’s like a dream I’m having, wherein I’m lying on the floor of a recording studio after a Steely Dan session wrapped up but the session musicians kept playing through the night. Maybe there’s no difference between those two feelings. Tristan Whitehill’s 15th or so release as Euglossine is a new-age/muted jazz fusion album that meanders and bops along with the spirit of either interminable escapism from the harshness of the world or a more idealistic reach for a kinder, gentler world. The rustic ghostliness of “Grandfather Clock” slows down time and envelops me the most, breaks me free from the distracting tendency of pondering which ‘70s studio nerds would have been a better reference.
The Furniture, The Furniture
The debut album by the Baltimore-based experimental duo The Furniture might be as inconspicuous as actual furniture. You feel unsettled — or the opposite, calm — and you’re not sure why. Synthesizers are why…. and drums, taunting with their near-invisibility. There’s an industrial, factory mood here but it also feels like we’re listening within a fog.
Tekla Peterson – Heart Press
Heart Press by Tekla Peterson (aka Madison, Wisconsin-based musician Taralie Peterson) spelunks in the darkest regions of the heart on these brutal songs processing the burning-out of a love relationship. These same songs sung over acoustic guitars in a plaintive manner might have me running for the hills, but an ‘80s electro-pop setting (action-movie vibes) and dramatic post-punk vocals do wonders for the material. This is a personal apocalypse, and she leans into that side of it to a Goth/doom extent. The chorus that lingers is, “God, take me from this beautiful garden of pain!“