What is the correct way to reignite your lost passion for music? Here’s an idea: go to the neighborhood record store and buy a paper bag full of CDs no one wants. Thus I found myself at Park Ave CD’s in Orlando spending $5 for a mystery brown bag of 10 CDs. Perhaps I should have been nervous at the price tag, when a new CD runs from eight to twelve dollars by itself. Instead, I pulled the trigger, brought the bag home, and now I’m going to share it with you. In fact, I’ll spoil it right now: Park Ave CD’s is a rare gem and I highly recommend going there. And if you go, just walk right past the doggie bags at the front. You’ll be glad you did.
Jessie Baylin – Little Spark
This album is a middling mixture of folk and indie pop. In terms of sound, it calls Feist to my mind. I thought it was pretty uninspired and boring, but I am hesitant to actually call it “bland,” because several songs showed signs of life, such as The Winds and Little Spark. Yuma was pretty chill. The album actually gets progressively better as you go along, which is certainly preferable to getting worse, as some artists seem wont to do. That said, I would not recommend going out of your way for this album — if this is not the type of music you already listen to such that you’ve run through the usual suspects, it won’t be a meaningful addition to your library.
Michele Mele – Cha Cha
Michele Mele only has 19 listeners on last.fm, which makes her one of the most underground artists I’ve heard all year. I’ll start by saying I was relieved this was not an actual cha cha dance album. I am not particularly knowledgeable in Latin American music, so I will just say this is a pop album with “Caribbean flavor”. And to be blunt, the album feels like an amateur effort. I don’t need to be an expert on Latino music to know that the composition could not be more banal if she tried. The vocal performance is questionable (as are the lyrics). Some of the choices made in production were debatable, such as the harmonizing of the vocals and the pieces of Latin flare included arbitrarily during the songs. As an example I’m sharing Hold Back Trigger not because it particularly stands out on the album in any way, but because it is what is on youtube.
Drew Kennedy – Wide Listener
I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post on country music for a while, but Drew Kennedy scuttled those plans by showing up in this grab bag, so we’ll just start with him, shall we? Truth be told, Wide Listener is not too bad at all. It’s a very pleasant, calm, melodic, well-produced album. There’s some decent imagery in the lyrics. It’s not the “my dog and truck” kind of country (which actually does exist), but at the same time the composition and songwriting doesn’t quite take it past pop-country into the realm of alt-country — that superficially experimental genre that people claim they’re listening to when they don’t want to admit they like country. I liked Venice Via Postcard and Sleeping Alone, but the videos for those are respectively poor quality and nonexistent, so I’ll also share Rose of Jericho.
Birigwa – Birigwa
The promotional material for the album claims it is “jaw-dropping Afro-jazz with wild, soaring vocals and strong rhythms”. I found that the only true part of that statement is that the vocals were, in fact, wild. The vocals by Birigwa are the only thing that makes this album anything more than an ordinary, uninteresting “Afro-jazz” production. If it’s not the first time you’ve heard African drums, there just isn’t much to keep your interest on this album. Is it good? Yes. Is it great? No. Get to the end of Yelewa and you’ll see what I mean about the vocals.
It Could Happen To You – Soundtrack
I’m not a big fan of soundtracks (that’s a story for another time), I’m not listening to a soundtrack for a movie I haven’t even seen, and I sure as hell am not going out of my way to listen to the soundtrack for a BAD movie I haven’t seen. In other news, I really need to learn how to take pictures.
Classic Soul Ballads
Not a big fan of multi-artist compilations, either. That idiosyncrasy is a bit easier to explain: I’d rather listen to each artist’s individual albums than listen to some contrived mixtape from BMG trying to push their crap.
LeAnn Rimes – Greatest Hits
Along that same train of thought, I wouldn’t ordinarily go for a Greatest Hits album, but we’ve already had two passes in a row, so I’ve got to listen to something, right? (he said before listening to the album) This was a low point in my grab bag experience. I don’t know if it’s because all my enthusiasm was gone by that time, or if late 90’s/early 00’s pop is just that dated. This album was a history lesson, and that’s about all I have to say about it other than perhaps that LeAnn Rimes does a good job demonstrating what I was talking about when I said “pop country” during the Drew Kennedy album.
I am sure that the person at Park Ave CD’s who put this bag together thought they were very funny. I think they’re very funny, too. I’m never doing this again.