Don't Lose Track is a collection from the widely published arts and culture journalist, Jordannah Elizabeth. The book includes reviews, essays and interviews hand selected by Jordannah from a catalog of over 200 articles.
|Publisher:||Hunt, John Publishing|
|Edition description:||Volume 1|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Jordannah Elizabeth is a professional arts and culture journalist, essayist, commentator and musician. She is a knowledgeable source and commentator on entertainment, pop culture and feminist and social issues.
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Don't Lose Track Vol. 1
40 Selected Articles, Essays and Q&As
By Jordannah Elizabeth
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Jordannah Elizabeth
All rights reserved.
Section One Music Reviews
I never professed to know very much, but there is something about hearing a sound and being able to paint a picture and a silhouette of a dramatic tale to surround a song, an album or a live performance that peaks the most dormant imagination.
I am an avid daydreamer, and when I listen to music my imagination goes into high gear, visualizing images and stories, and sometimes I even guess how the musician physically composed the song with zero information about the recording process. The trick to being accurate is doing it over and over and over again.
The trick to writing a good album review or a live review is that I allow my analytical mind to sit in the backseat of the Cadillac of my fantasies. You? You sit in the passenger side. The day I lose my ability to dream will be the day I drop you off on the side of the road in the hot sun and I speed off with arrogance and haste believing the music is about me. My radio will turn into 80 minutes of commercials and 10 minutes of 1:30 radio edits and I'll sit in my decaying Caddy smug and satisfied.
I do my best to listen to and review art.
Arranged alphabetically by artist
Alice Coltrane, Transfiguration (Live, 1976)
It's been noted that 1976's Transfiguration is a culmination, and a sort of completion, of the body of work Alice Coltrane had been building since 1967. The title track from the eponymous live album (not released until 1978) was purposely titled to mark the beginning of Coltrane's spiritual-based compositional phase where she strictly composed Hindu-inspired chants and meditation music. Strong and entrancing, "Transfiguration" is perhaps most importantly a free jazz piece that contains absolutely no bells and whistles, and no Hare Krishna title or lyrics. It's just Coltrane on piano and organ, Reggie Workman on bass and Roy Haynes on drums, giving the audience at UCLA in Los Angeles an opportunity to hear what Coltrane was naturally working with.
This subtly bold expression of the transition of Coltrane's musical identity and composition style allows a last taste, or rather a sending-off from her traditional experimental and improvisational genius, into a more transcendental compositional style. Transfiguration is her leaving a satisfying musical remnant of a season of art that was never to be duplicated again, since the definition of transfiguration is complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. This one is for the enthusiasts who don't want chocolate in their peanut butter. It's as if she respectfully left something for the people who she knew would not spiritually ascend into the clouds with her. She knew that it was end of the road for her and some of her loyal, purist followers, and she did a brilliant job of jamming her heart out and, in the process, creating a flawless piece of work.
Published: Aquarium Drunkard, April 2013
Blaze Foley, Cold Cold World (2013)
"Blaze is one of the most spiritual cats I've ever met; an ace finger picker; a writer who never shirks the truth." — Townes Van Zandt
Blaze Foley was a bright shining star in the world of dark emotive country and folk music in the 1970s and '80s, before being gunned down in a murderous quip between a father and son, Concho and Carey January, on February 1, 1989. 24 years after his untimely death, a full-length album of songs from Blaze and his band, the Beaver Valley Boys, will be released next month via the San Francisco-based Secret Sevens Records/Lost Art Records. Entitled Cold Cold World, the album is a collection of recordings captured between 1979 and 1980 in a Texas studio that finds Foley and his band in top form. The title cut alone is a striking and profoundly well-mastered track that highlights Foley's genius and natural knack for writing simplistically calm, yet philosophical country ballads. Cold Cold World is an honest, reverent homage to a songwriter whose relevance should never be lost on this world.
Published: Aquarium Drunkard, June 2013
Earl Sweatshirt, Doris (2013)
Nineteen-year-old hip-hop artist Earl Sweatshirt's full-length album, Doris, can be considered a post-modern feat and has the tendency at times to overshadow the innovative work of his counterpart, Odd Future-founder Tyler, The Creator. The stealthy, laid-back beats and rhymes of Doris are quietly reminiscent of the chopped-and-screwed era from Austin, Texas, but this young rapper's wisdom and self-awareness is truly the quality that stands at the forefront of his latest release.
There is a deep level of emotional intelligence and acknowledgment in this album, particularly in the second track, "Burgundy." He raps candidly about his family and his experience working to complete his album and the balance it took to create and release Doris.
"Burgundy" moves seamlessly into the fourth track, "Sunday," which is a revealing and surprisingly mature love song. Another heart-wrenching track on the album is "Chum," wherein Sweatshirt speaks about his return from exile at a boarding school in Samoa, where his mother sent him for behavioral problems right after he obtained viable attention and music industry acclaim for his first mixtape, Earl. "Hoarse" sports dark guitar riffs and seething musical rhymes that truly express Sweatshirt's ability to merge vocally and lyrically with any type of beat he his presented with.
Doris is elegantly disturbing as Sweatshirt continuously delivers real style and form without ever falling off a beat or straying away from each track's distinct subject matter. He has the rare ability to get an idea, feeling or general experience across in his songs and has a very unique tone to his style and delivery.
Sweatshirt's difficult experiences and his relationship with the music industry make Doris an album with uncannily dark and strained lyrics. Nonetheless, his delivery is authentic and creative, as is his expression of the irony of life's situations. The album draws you in more and more with its sensual and gritty beats and the well-thought-out flow from song to song. There isn't a song that sounds out of place on the track list.
Doris features a plethora of notable guests, including RZA, Frank Ocean and Tyler, The Creator, among others. Every artist delivers on Doris. It's incredible to hear the quality and depth of this very young lyricist. His heart and mind are very tied into his work, and it's been a really long time since the rap game has seen a true artist who pours so much depth and understanding into his music while almost completely avoiding cliché, shallow lyrics about getting money and being with women.
Published: New York Amsterdam News, October 2013
Gary Wilson, Feel the Beat (2012)
Buy if you like: Frank Zappa, Beck
Gary Wilson may be the best rock comeback story of the millennium. Since his return to music after 20 years of inactivity, he hasn't wasted time recording new material. With Feel the Beat, Wilson continues his experimental pop/jazz journey, accompanied by long walks in the dark with his recurring mystery lovers, Linda and Cindy. The composer of "6.4 = Make Out" also sings about makeout sessions with new ladies and, on "Lugene Kissed Gary Last Night," someone whose gender is unknown and whose advances are apparently unwanted by the kiss-centric artist. The compositions and execution tend to be more sophisticated than on previous recordings, suggesting Wilson put a lot of time and thought into this album. Fun, whimsical and bound to encourage spontaneous dance moves, Feel the Beat is a worthy addition to Wilson's unconventional legacy.
Published: Colorado Springs Independent, May 2012
J. Mascis at The Independent: Live Review (2014)
Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis was back in San Francisco on Saturday with his latest collection of solo, acoustic songs for a sold-out concert at the Independent [Nov 15].
Mascis arrived at the Independent around 9:30 pm, walking right through the crowd while the Australian folk duo Lulac finished their opening set. No one seemed to notice his pace as he made his way to the backstage entrance, and he was left unbothered.
Mascis' labelmates Luluc have been traveling on tour with him and played a lovely electro-acoustic set of sensuous indie-folk songs. Zoë Randell's voice was entrenched in a deep alto tone that was peaceful and mesmerizing. Their stage banter was endearing and the crowd politely applauded the band with disciplined adoration.
Luluc were off-stage for barely 15 minutes before Mascis sat down with his guitar. Promoting his new album, Tied to a Star, he played the single "Every Morning" and other cuts from the new release. His solo performances are interesting because he sits in front of a pedal board and seamlessly plays the melodies and leads of all the songs breaking from the acoustic folk and pop foundations for fuzzed-out riffs and bridges between songs.
Mascis also broke into songs from older Dinosaur Jr. albums, including "Where You Been." The crowd didn't seem to be as moved by Mascis' much-publicized cover of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You," but his voice was magical and the performance was given with sincerity.
The show was simple, peaceful and moved at a pace that Mascis solely commanded. It was definitely minimal, but the crowd seemed engaged throughout — helped in part by fluid guitar solos that lasted sometimes more than 5 minutes, and his signature vocal style.
Published: SF Station, November 2014
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly(2015)
The highly anticipated album from rapper Kendrick Lamar was released March 16 and quickly became one of the most successful digital releases in history. To Pimp a Butterfly is Lamar's triumphant third studio album and has been met with rave reviews for its piercingly honest and Afro-centric subject matter.
With musical and lyrical cameos from George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Ronald Isely and Bilal and public endorsements of praise from seasoned hip-hop artists such as Talib Kweli, Flying Lotus and Kanye West, To Pimp a Butterfly received record-breaking numbers on the digital-music-streaming program Spotify, racking up a staggering 9.6 million plays on the first day of the album's release.
This album holds nothing back. With singles like "I" and "The Blacker the Berry," Lamar opens up about his perspective and experiences as a Black man in America, his experimentation with psychedelic drugs and the evolution of his relationship with himself. To Pimp a Butterfly is a bold, expressive piece of music, and the media and music industry have not offered a negative peep about the album, despite its raw, fearless exploration of American race relations.
Elements of Afro-futurism, jazz and psychedelic music are all mixed in with the album's powerful beats. Lamar often delivers soliloquies of spoken word, storytelling and personal commentary throughout the album, giving the album variation and depth. The record was clearly thought out and crafted with very close attention to detail, making its artistic elements still seem effortless.
To Pimp a Butterfly could very well be considered one of the most important hip-hop albums to date. Lamar comes off as a visionary and sets the bar at a level that is not too high to reach but creates a new realm of art-nouveau hip-hop that will keep new generations of rappers looking deeply into themselves to achieve.
Lamar ends his album by seamlessly pasting together an interview-like conversation with the rapper Tupac Shakur in the song "Mortal Man." The album ends with humility as the young rapper asks Tupac about his perspective, as if he is hoping for advice on how to survive on his own as a natural leader and excellent lyricist.
Published: New York Amsterdam News, March 2015
Pink Mountaintops at The Chapel: Live Review (2014)
The Pink Mountaintops performed last night [May 31] at The Chapel in the Mission District to a loyal crowd of friends and fans, who patiently waited for McBean and his new line-up — which includes Dead Meadow's Steven Kille, Will Scott, and Gregg Foreman of Cat Power — to take the stage.
McBean strolled through the venue with a peaceful flow in his step, but the night was colored by a dark undertone, thanks to a number of quiet quips that from McBean that mounted into a surprisingly violent climax at the show's end.
"I don't know, maybe it's just that weird thing of life and pushing through it, the beauty of it, the sadness and the happiness of it," McBean had said of his new album, Get Back, while he slowly sipped his first cocktail at the bar a few hours earlier. "The more you're on the planet, the more amazing things will happen to you, and the more terrible things will happen to you, and you have to have the ability to constantly shake it off."
While the hazy, eerie atmosphere coated the venue, LA's Giant Drag was able to play a sensually dark set of songs, completely appropriate for the early evening. The crowd slowly trickled in throughout the night, not quite filling the room, and people seemed to shift and cycle through the venue, never standing in one place for too long. There was never a moment where there was a complete loss of the crowd's attention, but there was a quiet level of distraction going on. Whether it was because everyone had a chance to drink as much as they could possibly consume by the time Pink Mountaintops stepped onto the stage or whether the band's hazy wall of sound was slightly lost in translation was not really clear. ("Me and Kille are the drunks and Gregg and Will are the sober guys," McBean had noted earlier.)
After opening with "How Can We Get Free?" and a fresh song, "Ambulance City," from the new album, Stephen McBean broke a string and took his time to service and tune his guitar while the rest of the lineup improvised a song. Steve Kille swayed back and forth across the stage with his signature dance that closely resembles a confident swagger. After McBean got his guitar back in order, the set became more coherent and solid. The band flowed through "Wheels," "Plastic Man You're the Devil," and "The Second Summer of Love" and the crowd began settling in, planting their feet on the The Chapel's floor, finally beginning to engage with the music they were hearing.
Gregg Foreman, who has played with McBean as a duo and the sparsest version on Pink Mountaintops, shined. His erratically blissful guitar playing sewed the rest of the band's slightly eclectic instrumentation styles together. Kille and drummer, Steve Scott, are very different musicians. If not for Forman's unique experimental-psych guitar style, the band would have lacked an off-kilter characteristic that kept the crowd's attention during the middle and end of the show.
Everything seemed to flow peacefully as the show ended with the songs "New Teenage Mutilation," "Sweet 69" and "The Last Dance." McBean played solo for the last song, and it was endearing and really lovely to watch — until McBean suddenly smashed his guitar over his amp, hurling it over his head several times until it cracked, ending the show on a strangely violent note.
The band had joined him on stage seconds before McBean attacked his guitar, and they put their instruments down just as quickly as they had picked them up after McBean walked past them leaving the stage. The rest of Pink Mountaintops mingled with the crowd, seeming unaffected by McBean's behavior, allowing their non-inner circle to slowly disperse from the evening's odd occurrence. The show was weird, but the band is great.
Published: San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 2014
Psychic Jiu-Jitsu, Psychic JiuJitsu (LP, 2015)
The nouveau psych-rock band Psychic Jiu-Jitsu have released their debut full-length, self-titled album. The thing about Psychic Jiu-Jitsu is that they don't fit anywhere near a "genre check box" where you can neatly explain and entertain yourself with a number of comparisons to bands of the past, present or future. The album is refreshingly "out there," kicking the ten-track collection of songs off with the female-vocal-infused opening track, "Yulia's Capture at the English Front," starring the band's long-time friend and muse, Yulia Gorman. The next track, "Dreamachine," is another oldie-but-goodie deriving from early jams and recordings, becoming sketched out and perfected by a number of live performances of the song.
Excerpted from Don't Lose Track Vol. 1 by Jordannah Elizabeth. Copyright © 2015 Jordannah Elizabeth. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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Table of Contents
Foreword Mark Fritz viii
An Exclusive: Five POVs on Gentrification in America 5
Section 1 Music Reviews 15
Section 2 Columns 35
Section 3 Essays, Series and Profiles 59
Section 4 Best-Of Lists and Favorite Picks 77
Section 5 Interviews 93
Thank Yous and Acknowledgements 132