May 30, 2020

Lawson Rollins – True North – Infinata

By Kristi Kates | Feb. 8, 2020

Lawson Rollins  True North – Infinata
With the title alone sure to appeal to northern Michigan fans, Rollins offers up a dozen new original contemporary jazz-pop/experimental guitar compositions showcasing his writing skills as well as the strength of his improv abilities, with which he takes plenty of risks. Rollins plays nylon string, electric and slide guitars on the set (additional musicians fill in the other instruments); standouts include “With the Wind” with its electronic burbles complementing Rollins’ guitar work and “Bluewave Bossanova,” the sets first Latin-inspired single. ** ½

Free Nationals – Free Nationals – OBE
Their current claim to musical fame is the fact that they’re Anderson .Paak’s live band – but they’re about to ramp up their status with this self-titled debut album, on which they’ve also brought in a host of special guests including Syd, Chronixx, Daniel Caesar, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Paak himself. The set melds many of the band’s influences, from Herbie Hancock to Stevie Wonder, resulting in energetic, funky hip-hop and retro-soul tunes like the musical phone conversation “Gidget,” and highlight “Cut Me a Break” with T.I. on rap/trap duties. ***

Marshall Crenshaw – Miracle of Science – MRI
Crenshaw is reissuing albums from his Razor and Tie catalog, and if you’re already a fan you’re going to want to start grabbing these now, as each one is being offered up with some tweaked production and bonus tracks. (There’s also a live album on the way.) This is the first in the series of reissues, and polishes the original set to a worthy sheen. Opener “What Do You Dream Of” is immediately catchy with one of Crenshaw’s signature acoustic guitar riffs; other must-listens include the ‘60s-inflected “Laughter” and a grooving cover of Grant Hart’s “Twenty-Five Forty-One.” ** ½

Cursive – Get Fixed – 15 Passenger
Sourced primarily from the same recording studio sessions that spawned the band’s critically acclaimed 2019 set, Vitriola, Cursive’s eighth collection of tunes is something of a mirror image to that set, most likely because the processes were in such close proximity to each other. Vitriola’s is clearly in evidence on tracks like the gritty “Black Hole Town” and the stress-filled “Barricades,” while Get Fixed breaks some of its own territory on the more aggressively noise-rock numbers like “Look What’s Become of Us” and “Vultures” with its immediately commanding opening melody line. ** ½


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