Jan 2021

Collapsed In Sunbeams (CD)

Sweet-voiced Arlo Parks debuts with an impressive set of left-of-center pop/soul, featuring poetic lyrics both introspective and observational. "Hurt" is particularly strong with its prominent bassline and subtly catchy vocal melody, offering the gentle reminder: "Just know it won't hurt so much forever." "Black Dog" is similarly sympathetic with its lilting, repetitive strumming and lyrics about a friend's depression. "Green Eyes" is a soft, rich, soul track with a head-bobbing rhythm and uplifting choruses. Collapsed In Sunbeams reveals a fascinating young talent with a bright future.

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120,000 Stories (CD)

Nobuko Miyamoto, singer/songwriter, theatre actress and activist, releases her first new album since 1997, 120,000 Stories. In addition to new songs, the album includes reimagined versions of older ones and tracks from her 1973 debut with Chris Kando Iijima and William “Charlie” Chin, A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America. Songs like the folky "Not Yo' Butterfly" - which shares a name with her upcoming memoir - directly address exoticism and sexism in punchy, singsong vocals. "What Time is It On the Clock of the World" is more theatrical and features some bluesy harmonica, but it's just as up front about its message: the dangers of climate change. There's no doubt that Miyamoto's activist spirit remains earnest and strong.

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The Blue Of Distance (CD)

Composer Elori Saxl's debut album is a beautiful set created with chamber instruments, samples of water and wind sounds that have been digitally processed, and analog synths. These pieces feel more like stories than your average ambient music, often building on layers and movement rather than meditative stillness. "Wave II" for example feels as if it's steadily propelling itself forward and even the peaceful "Wave I" maintains a walking melody throughout its warbly atmosphere. With The Blue of Distance, Saxl has painted an intriguing, living landscape that blurs the natural world with technology.

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