Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Louka  - Testing Your Patience

Louka - Testing Your Patience

Louka

Album title: Testing Your Patience
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2021
Label: self-release
(138) Page Views

Gorgeous chords flourish into exotic options while intoxicating stompbox romps saunter through roots-music traditions, “Testing Your Patience,” dazzles in dark and dirty flirtations, bursting in meticulous menace whose lively asides and meditative meanderings enchant in fancy fretwork and lyrical pirouettes. Incorporating years playing jazz, country and reggae, Louka’s impeccable sideman resume has laid a towering foundation for a diverse third album. Rambling mandolins dance alongside balalaika haikus spritzed in slick ricochets, locomotive lullabies melt into grooved rocking chair blues as expressive messages simmer in hospitable whimsy. Acoustic music layered in global kaleidoscopes and electric eclecticism, Madison guitarist Louka Patenaude’s skulking rock, foxy folk and baroque Americana turns wonderful conundrums into effortless treasures, a casual world-class palette colored in trotting chops, skittish licks and bluegrass flash.

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Eva Cassidy - Live At Blues Alley 25th Anniversary Edition

Eva Cassidy - Live At Blues Alley 25th Anniversary Edition

Eva Cassidy

Album title: Live At Blues Alley 25th Anniversary Edition
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2021
Label: Blix Street
(73) Page Views

A cornerstone of a career cut short, “Live At Blues Alley,” highlights Cassidy’s versatility and good taste in a thirteen-song set that swings hard in club-jazz mastery while soaring high with bell-like clarity and sensual empathy. A business decision turned historic document when Eva succumbed to cancer a short few months after the iconic D.C. gig, the 25th Anniversary edition beautifully restores the original’s gospel growls and choir-angel arrangements with mesmerizing delicacy. Funneling all her money into the recording, Eva put her heart and soul into a performance whose intimate setting focused on her tender strengths and supple vulnerability as she wound pop standards, childhood favorites and jazz ballads around pianist Lenny Williams and guitarist Keith Grimes’s subtle accompaniment with graceful cadence and soulful emotion.

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Neal Francis - In Plain Sight

Neal Francis - In Plain Sight

Neal Francis

Album title: In Plain Sight
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2021
Label: ATO Records
(137) Page Views

Brewed in sugary Southern boogie, funky blue-eyed soul and sly seventies jive, “Sight,” cooks tasty honky-tonk gumbos glazed in assorted keyboards and peppered in barbed slide guitar and slippery rhythms. Dodging life’s knotty problems with tuneful grooves and nomadic attitudes, Francis’ incandescent piano propels bold romantic gestures into sweet-talking propositions, sending fate-tempting epics jumping and tumbling in velvety bell-bottom textures. A forward-thinking throwback, Francis’ roadhouse showtunes are dreamy and steamy, celestial and terrestrial, cavalier but caring, elegantly dressed in glitzy synths, restless celeste and moseying Fender Rhodes. A dazzling live act, adding, “Sight,” to Neal’s awesome concert catalogue can only heighten an already upbeat jamboree. Find out for yourself when Neal Francis plays Madison’s High Noon Saloon January 13th with Chicago’s alt-Latinx powerhouse Dos Santos.

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Constant Smiles - Paragons

Constant Smiles - Paragons

Constant Smiles

Album title: Paragons
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2021
Label: Sacred Bones
(150) Page Views

Solemn, steady, cellar detectives, Constant Smiles’ cool elusive mood casts placid spells over merciful searching, enigmatic passions and rumbling conundrums. Tenacious patience makes, “Paragons,” a rising survivor’s champion companion, each song building upon ascendent defendants conjuring strong longing on bedrock clockwork while stark guitars whose ghostly solos skim weighty bass and dark synths lift with thrift and hopeful focus. Hallowed shadowy scenarios pushing unbendable agendas in whispered persistence, the Ben Jones-led collective hovers between meticulous Krautrock fits and tight dream-emo flights, effervescent sentries guarding and harboring floating innuendo with scissor precision. Evenly breezy in serene freedoms and fleeting machine-tooled soothsaying, this major label debut navigates half-remembered embers from burnt bridges in mesmerizing leveled-headedness, undeterred psychic surgeries meandering in candid analysis but direct in brooding execution.

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Jennifer O'Connor - Born At The Disco

Jennifer O'Connor - Born At The Disco

Jennifer O'Connor

Album title: Born At The Disco
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2021
Label: Kiam Records
(176) Page Views

Restless spirit and pro-active catalyst, Jennifer O’Connor turns a truly solo project into a musical opportunity examining contemporary identity, generational expectations and perceptive assessments through forays into electronic pop, gothic indie-rock and soul-baring folk. Writing, singing, playing and producing, this artist/entrepreneur is comfortable enough in her own skin to experiment with new intriguing sounds, allowing the truths in, “Disco,” to be stripped down or decorated as the subject dictates, constructing a fascinating multi-faceted personality wrapped in discarded pasts and valuable habits. Intellectual allusions and eclectic influences fuel O’Connor’s haunted sonics, framing sage refrains, discerning verse and real reveals while remaining thoroughly human with vetted questions and unflinching opinions shaping educated confessions; poignant pondering sauntering through wreckage and reckoning, beautiful modern blues harvesting subtly colored melodies.

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French For Rabbits - The Overflow

French For Rabbits - The Overflow

French For Rabbits

Album title: The Overflow
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2021
Label: self-release
(128) Page Views

Soft gossamer sustenance for damaged romantics, New Zealand’s French For Rabbits’ groovy ego-boosters lay sparkling marvels beneath dreamy soulmate-seeking feelings. Ephemeral pop remedies, “The Overflow,” charms in calm fairy-tale regalia, melodic microcosmic odysseys tinged in glittering twists; clever textured expressions toying in sharp stratospheric harmonies and sturdy curious counterpoint from a wide sound palette kidnapping theatrical parables in enchanted fantasies. Reality hides beneath the blithe wave-riding arrangements, balancing challenges while addressing concessions, pivoting decisions and revisiting histories. Studio-treated beats lead kaleidoscopic synths and digitized guitars into fetching episodes with cinematic acrobatics whose fluid moves submerge flirty coercions into sympathy and wisdom. Carefully aware and modestly confident, the quintet connects memories and wishes to lively tempos, hot pauses and lush touches in an otherwise pristine scene.

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Snail Mail - Valentine

Snail Mail - Valentine

Snail Mail

Album title: Valentine
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2021
Label: Matador
(120) Page Views

Smart, sensitive, inventive and unpretentious, Snail Mail delivers sizeable ideas filled with soaring detours and heady destinations, easily believable and highly enticing ingenuity fused to friendly independence and familiar uphill battles. The sublime, “Valentine,” dances warily around gritty issues with uber-juicy hooks baited in purposeful versatility swinging between voluptuous alt-rock and coltish folk-pop. Grounded in visceral incidents and healing experience, Snail Mail’s skinned knees teases and diplomatic panache capture exasperated flashes pulling at spidery sighs, concocting hypnotic possibilities around troubling obstacles. Pride collides with whispered asides in a sophomore effort whose three-year hibernation bears sweet fruit, authentic caution and willful resilience packaged in novel positivity and savvy compassion. A dynamic performer, Snail Mail plays Madison’s Majestic Theater along with Spencer and Hotline TNT December 8th.

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My Morning Jacket - My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket - My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket

Album title: My Morning Jacket
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2021
Label: ATO Records
(141) Page Views

Six years since their last album, My Morning Jacket returns intact, generating bodacious flavors for magnanimous rock-gospel banquets. Slow-cooked, Southern-fried revivals providing holy locomotive mojo, this self-titled re-introduction delivers the band’s classic mash of big riffs with sensitive messages, serving the faithful with brimstone blazes while drizzling discernible mercies with unearthly reverb. Thundering hooks, direct lyrics and rock-solid beats, “My Morning Jacket,” is classic MMJ, a bold bohemian thesis suited for outdoor arenas and bedroom headphones. Bon vivant stomps concocting intoxicating pomp beneath songwriter Jim James’ inimitable simplicity, each tune’s piercing queries fearlessly steers between sympathy and sincerity as returning members Patrick Hallahan, Carl Broemel, Bo Koster and Tom Blankenship bake, inflate and interrogate, simmering and sizzling with devious fever, brooding grooves and delicate measure.

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Lala Lala - I Want The Door To Open

Lala Lala - I Want The Door To Open

Lala Lala

Album title: I Want The Door To Open
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
Label: Hardly Art
(159) Page Views

Battling wills while distilling kind acts from hard facts, Lala Lala invites, invents, entices and consents, littering her songs in literary allusions and psychological caution, medieval rounds and indie wig-outs. Divine serpentine saxophone weaving among seamless sunbeam keyboards simmered in steeple-chasing space-jazz beats, “Door,” navigates post-millennial life’s slippery slopes with fondness and confidence and assistance from a stellar cast of fellow Chicagoans. Meditative experiments in future-pop, the album flows with supple supposition corralled inside ethereal cathedrals where Lala Lala, plunges headfirst into emotional atonement, echoing sound advice in vaulted halls carpeted with sparkling pageantry. Embarking on a world tour starting in Chicago October 8th, Wisconsin has to wait until next April to catch her in Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee Back Room or Madison’s High Noon Saloon. 

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Dar Williams - I’ll Meet You Here

Dar Williams - I’ll Meet You Here

Dar Williams

Album title: I’ll Meet You Here
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
Label: Renew Records/BMG
(157) Page Views

Place figures large in Dar William’s evocative songwriting. Human connections shaped by small-town legacies, ideas manifested by material experience, “I’ll Meet You Here,” organizes comprehensive memories whose swift descriptions carry metaphorical force, allegorical stories packed with casual narratives and modern parables fixed in picturesque specifics; pithy rhythmic lyrics painted in divine rhymes smiling on parading crusades and principled sympathies. Simple wisdom flowing from lived history, internal journalism and comforting philosophy, Dar’s tenth album hosts musical communities, cordial discourse between talented allies embellishing her level-headed truths through friendly acoustics. Teachable moments sweetened with kind reminders and effortless gentleness, “Here,” sees clearly, talks softly and warms the heart while opening eyes and tickling ears. Dar plays Mineral Point Opera House October 29th with exquisite folk-singer Heather Maloney.

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Deerhoof - Actually, You Can

Deerhoof - Actually, You Can

Deerhoof

Album title: Actually, You Can
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
Label: Joyful Noise
(191) Page Views

Whimsy riddled in mind-boggling prog, the acrobatic, “Actually, You Can,” crushes shell-shocked art-rock into calculated cataclysms, jaw-dropping flip-flops slinging lock-jawed stalker-rock into head-banged gangbusters hanging by a thread and tightening stranglehold grips onto greasy licks. Careening delirium cornering mod nods and tinkered winks, the deft and clever Deerhoof adds an absurdist’s mirth to the tangled angles and cock-eyed chords, distinguishing their mathematical flash and berserk quirks with insolent wit and trippy quips. Unbalanced and unchallenged, the bratty proletarian attacks craft wry laughs as who us buzz melts into chill detours before throttling back onto supersonic freeways. Jump-rope poems skipping in crazed hyper-beats, jazz-flamenco suites and punk-pop creeps as gnarly sparks from smoking-gun runs vie with sweet dreams and meta-confections for dynamic enchantments and surreal squeals.

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Efterklang - Windflowers

Efterklang - Windflowers

Efterklang

Album title: Windflowers
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
Label: City Slang
(200) Page Views

Luminous movements grace the seemingly complacent, supremely serene, “Windflowers,” a docile accomplice to heavenly events where expansive views bloom in cosmic awe. Working in an isolated country studio, Efterklang let nature infiltrate the album’s buzzing mind-hives with blissful synthesis and spiritual lyricism connecting a hopeful future to a reflective present. Electronics crackle in organic randomness like radio-static crickets woken from digital dreams, meandering tranquility unites humanity with modern possibilities, pairing porous voices with effervescent technology for tasteful, grateful elation. A placid baptism into the disco dunk-tank turned funk-lite hot-tub, each glorious song’s shimmering rhythms carry shiny diamonds through seamless streams in constant motion, flowing ego-less rivers suspending time and bending the senses; slow-motion vertigo from phantom mantras sweetly leading lost thoughts into safe, weightless spaces.

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