New music

Reviews of this week's CD releases


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POP / ROCK Torres

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/08/2021 (369 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.



Thirstier (Merge Records)

Mackenzie Scott, who records and performs as Torres, is exuberantly, happily, and head-over-heels in love, and it shows on Thirstier.


Torres’s fiancée is New York painter Jenna Gribbon, and it’s apparent from this album and from samples of Gribbon’s recent work that each is the other’s muse. Gribbon’s paintings (one of them adorns Thirstier’s cover) are vivid, almost voyeuristic depictions of Scott and their friends in posed and unposed revelations of private, personal moments. Scott’s 10 new songs, meanwhile, are giddy exultations of joy and desire and they’re also her most accessible and uplifting tunes in nearly a decade of music making.

Recorded in six weeks at Middle Farm Studios in the U.K. and co-produced by Rob Ellis (the PJ Harvey collaborator who has worked on Torres’s last three records), Thirstier is an ode to the thrall and thrill of giving oneself to another. Torres and Ellis embrace and play with several musical styles here, from synth-pop (Kiss the Corners) to Exile-in-Guyville-ish indie rock (Hug from a Dinosaur) and cacophonous modern rock (Keep the Devil Out) but the thematic through-line is always love and its attendant joys (and fears).

There’s support for a partner who’s misplaced a laptop in Are You Sleepwalking?, which is a ‘90s guitar-rocker as fashioned by someone born in 1991. Electro-rocker Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head captures the intoxicating feeling having someone commit to you. Drive Me is a lean and angular musical and lyrics expression of lust, while the title track begins as a sweet, mid-tempo pop-rock cut but underscores its sentiment with huge, crunching guitars. ★★★★ out of five

STREAM THESE: Are You Sleepwalking?; Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head; Hug from a Dinosaur.

— John Kendle


John Mayer

Sob Rock (Columbia Records)

John Mayer didn’t want to create a “costume” record, he said in a recent interview with the newsletter Blackbird Spyplane. With Sob Rock, Mayer said, he sought to update the sounds of his childhood — he mentions U2, Lionel Richie, Paula Abdul and other late-’80s stalwarts — to the present day, a reupholstering of sorts. What he hoped to do, he says, was to “grind the influences into a fine enough dust that you can make a new paste out of it.”

John Mayer

Mayer mostly meets that standard on Sob Rock, a 10-track album that features songs released as early as 2018. The songs are all neat, emotionally legible — you never have to guess how he’s feeling — and the guitar solos, keyboards and drums almost universally hearken back to the period Mayer is harvesting for inspiration.

If there are songs that sound “costumed,” it’s the opener, Last Train Home, and the oddly named (and, it must be said, kind of putrid) Why You No Love Me.

But when Mayer sounds like himself — like someone who found something contemporary that he could generate by diving into the archives — he’s as good as ever, an extremely talented songwriter whose thoughtful dirtbag appeal is as apparent as ever.

New Light is a fantastic track with pep in the step, and Wild Blue sounds like the best song the Wallflowers never made. When you hear Mayer just plain having fun, like he does on Guess I Just Feel Like and Carry Me Away, you’re having a good time along with him. ★★★ out of five

STREAM THESE: New Light, Wild Blue

— Jesse Bernstein, Philadelphia Inquirer



Gerry Gibbs

Songs From My Father (Whaling City Sound)

Any jazz icon making it to 96 years old definitely deserves an appropriate tribute album. Vibraphonist Terry Gibbs was a go-to vibes player for generations of jazz folks from bop and beyond.

Gerry Gibbs

His son Gerry is a drummer who has produced this two-CD album of four different “Thrasher Trios,” playing 18 tunes written by his father. The four trios all have Gerry Gibbs on drums, but then fluctuate with Chick Corea, Kenny Barron, Patrice Rushen or Geoff Geezer on piano, and either Ron Carter, Buster Williams or Christian McBride on bass and one trio with Larry Golding on Hammond B3.

It marks Corea’s last recording prior to his death in February.

Terry Gibbs’ compositions are mainly representative of his long career in that they predominantly reflect bop and post-bop influences. They are highly rhythmic as one would expect with moments that call up Oscar Peterson and other high-flying pianists.

There is nothing too experimental here. This is music that sounds like the eras Terry Gibbs graced with his music. The track called Hey Chick was composed in 1961 and was originally called Hey Jim but with the suggestion of both Terry and Gerry, the title was changed to honour Corea. It features all four trios plus the audio from Terry Gibbs original release. While it could be said that this track and some others sound dated, that would be a sad misreading of the intended affection and tribute to one of the truly original jazz musicians of several generations.

The overwhelming effect here is one of fun, toe-tapping rhythm and genuine pleasure without artifice of any kind. Pure enjoyment. ★★★★ out of five


— Keith Black



A Poet’s Love

Timothy Ridout and Frank Dupree (Harmonia Mundi)

British violist Timothy Ridout, a BBC New Generation Artist in 2019 who marks his BBC Proms première this season, and Swiss-born pianist Frank Dupree wear their hearts on their sleeves with their debut recording. The album features seven selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s swoon-worthy ballet Romeo and Juliet, as well as notably their own transcription of Robert Schumann’s song-cycle Dichterliebe, with its translated title A Poet’s Love becoming this album’s title.

Ridout Dupree

It’s remarkable how well Russian violist Vadin Borisovsky’s popular arrangements capture the essence of the Prokofiev’s orchestral score, which was originally penned in 1935. The more darkly hewn sonority of the viola adds both substance and weight to the highly textural music.

After a luscious Introduction, highlights abound, including a lightly rendered The Street Awakens, replete with pizzicato effects, and more nimble The Young Juliet, further showing off Ridout’s technical prowess.

Dupree provides solid underpinning during Mercutio, including its rugged syncopated rhythms as well as during the decidedly more contemplative Juliet’s Death.

The highly romantic Dichterliebe, dated 1840 and comprising 16 songs, offers fine counterpoint to the more contemporary Prokofiev. The pair displays their close-knit, simpatico artistry sensitive to Schumann’s melodic ebbs and flows, particularly witnessed during Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, and Wenn ich in deine Augen seh.

The work itself also demonstrates the duo’s versatility, including the album’s shortest offering, a furtive Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne clocking in at a scant 39 seconds, while others, including Ich grolle nicht provides a greater sampling of Ridout’s burnished tone on his 16th-century Peregerino di Zanetto viola, able to reveal the hidden depths, and endlessly complex layers of love itself. ★★★★ out of five

STREAM THIS: The Young Juliet

— Holly Harris

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