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The CHIRP Blog

Entries categorized as “Album Reviews” 12 results

Mike Nikolich writesAlbum Review: Chicago Afrobeat Project Mashes Music Styles on Latest LP

by Mike Nikolich

As a teenager, I began listening to African stations via shortwave radio, a hobby I still enjoy today. Through this medium, I discovered West African artists like King Sunny Ade, Malian guitar virtuoso Ali Farka Touré and Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti.

Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, my wife and I were regulars at the legendary Equator Club, near Broadway and Lawrence, and we had the chance to see many of these wonderful artists up close and personal.

I still love music from Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Zaire, and regularly play artists from these countries on my Friday afternoon show from noon to 3 pm. When the award-winning Chicago Afrobeat Project announced its latest LP, What Goes Up, I jumped at the chance to review it.

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Categorized: Album Reviews

Topics: chicago afrobeat project

Sophie Holtzmann writesAlbum Review: “Strange New Universe” by C.H.E.W. (Split Album with Penetrode)

The DIY hardcore scene has always had its certain charms: as low as $5 covers, Old Style flowing like milk and honey, name your price albums, and my personal favorite - split side albums. For those that need a refresher, the ‘split side album’ is when two bands join up and each get a side of the vinyl. Of course, the penchant for split side albums is wholly dependent on the two bands collaborating, which is why all punks should be ecstatic over C.H.E.W.’s new album with Philadelphia band Penetrode, titled Strange New Universe. Each band has a separate digital album for their releases, and you would be missing out if you skipped a listening to C.H.E.W.’s 4 track masterpiece.

C.H.E.W. is a Chicago hardcore favorite, and you should probably know that the name doesn’t stand for anything (while they themselves joke about its meaning ranging from “Chicago Hardcore Exists Within” to “Cocaine, Heroin, Ecstasy, Weed”). They have a reputation for a ruthless rock sound and wailing femme-fronted vocals. On this album, C.H.E.W. releases 4 new tracks that deliver on everything you’d expect after hearing their first album (s/t).

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Categorized: Album Reviews

Topics: c.h.e.w.

Josh Friedberg (Music Historian's Corner) writesMichael Jackson Review Extravaganza, Part 1 of 2: Off the Wall and Thriller

written by Josh Friedberg

Michael Jackson was a genius—no joke. The man may be more remembered as an entertainer than as an artist, but separately from his groundbreaking dancing, concerts, and music videos, most of his studio output as an adult is very much worth listening to, whether or not you like to dance.

His level of craftsmanship in the studio was exceptionally high, and the picture that emerges from Steve Knopper’s 2015 biography, MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson (which I reviewed here) is of a driven perfectionist who always strove to create something new.

Many disparage his work after 1982’s blockbuster success, Thriller, but since his death in 2009, much of his work has come under considerable especially 1991’s Dangerous. With CHIRP sponsoring a Classic Album Sundays listening party for 1979’s Off the Wall this coming Sunday, it is an ideal time to revisit the adult solo career of the King of Pop.

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Categorized: Album Reviews

Topics: michael jackson

Josh Friedberg (Music Historian's Corner) writesAlbum Review: Smokey Robinson’s My World: The Definitive Collection

by Josh Friedberg

Smokey Robinson was called the greatest and most influential songwriter in R&B history by Rolling Stone, and he has often been acclaimed for bringing exceptionally sophisticated lyrics to many Motown hits of the 1960s. In fact, in addition to his hits with the Miracles, he wrote or co-wrote hits for the Temptations (including the immortal “My Girl”), Marvin Gaye (“Ain’t That Peculiar”), and Mary Wells (“My Guy”), among others.

I don’t know if 2005’s My World: The Definitive Collection was the first single-disc overview of Robinson’s entire career, but it is a satisfying listen with some all-time classic moments, including “Cruisin’,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “I Second That Emotion.” It can feel surprising, as it is not in chronological order, so the transitions between the Miracles’ classics and the solo material can be slightly jarring, but overall, this is an excellent compilation whose material deserves many listens.

The collection opens with two new recordings, “My World” and “Fallin’,” and the classic R&B style of the former—with electric piano and a bass-saturated groove—is complemented by the more jazz-influenced chords of the latter. The lyrics on both are spare, and though some might laugh at a line like “Palpitations, heart beating so erratic/ Whenever I think about you, these things are automatic,” it works with Robinson’s classic falsetto and smooth delivery.

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Categorized: Album Reviews

Topics: smokey robinson

Clarence Ewing writesAlbum Review: Songs We Taught the Lord (Vol. 1 & 2) by Phil X. Milstein and Thurston Moore

On December 3 and 4, 1996, tape manipulator and sound collagist Phil Milstein got together with Sonic Youth guitarist, singer, and songwriter Thurston Moore to take a musical trip. They didn’t physically travel far to record their two duets, one at the Iron Morse Music Hall in Northampton, MA and the other at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA. But what they created might help send a listener to the inner or outer limits.

Their recordings stand as the ultimate in “Anti-Pop” music: There are no 3-4 minute chart-friendly singles, no twenty-something starlets singing passages from their diary, no breaks featuring this month’s hot rap star. What you do have is two middle-aged dudes who recorded two very long tracks (Vol. 1 is 42 minutes long  and Vol. 2 is 44 minutes) that set aside verses and hooks in favor of an approach similar to drone and noise music, something they’ve both been doing for decades.

Moore layers his guitar improvisations and effects over Milstein’s found-object sound structures as musical themes and ideas drift by like clouds. Their interactions are not unlike what jazz musicians do when they improvise, listening and responding to each other through the sounds they make.

Both volumes of this 2-record set are the kind of music where you can put your headphones on, press “play,” and lose track of time for a while. It’s good stuff if you need to add some active yet low-key abstraction to your life.

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Categorized: Album Reviews

Topics: phil x. milstein, thurston moore

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