What I love about so many Brazilian MPB veterans is that they still care about being progressively artistic, where European and American veterans usually just retire with a folky acoustic guitar. Take Marcos Valle’s brilliant comeback in recent years, for example.
Alexandre Kassin is of a younger generation, he’s 44, but he will make these albums for another 30 years, just like Veloso, Gilberto, Jobim. His recently released new album ‘Relax’ tells exactly this story: natural, epic and thrilling MPB, still wild and wide-eyed, still playful with the inherited sophistication, still reaching for the sky when it comes to chords, melodies and careful, nerdy arrangements.
Tokyo’s Videotapemusic has a new shimmering summer album out, ‘Souvenir’ – sort of like a super-soft and cozily semi-sampled yet edgy update of Haruomi Hosono’s wonderful exotica between 1973 and 1985. I think this guy started out pretty much alone but has expanded his recording circle of friends – this time it is almost like a session from Hosono’s heyday with a group of really great musicians. There are even steel pans and a steel guitar, horns and Carribean percussion, embedded in the electronics.
Sam Buck might have been pidgeon-holed as bro-country, but please forget that. Or, well, there are certainly more than traces left on his new 6 song E.P. “Bordeline”, but that only makes it weirder and better – because this certainly is some strange beast of a gay record. Yes, I forgot to mention that part – the actual pidgeon-hole genre is ‘gay bro-country’.
Which of course makes it conceptually better.
But what makes ‘Borderline’ so good – for me – is that as soon as I here that voice, and that phrasing, and those raw lyrics and big, long, howling melodies, I think of… Jackie Leven and Doll By Doll.
There’s no chance in hell Sam Buck ever listened to Doll By Doll. He usually name-drops Miranda Lambert and Thomas Rhett as influences (and throws in the odd Anohni reference). But then he drags in these occasional, messy electronics in the production, some ugly 80’s synth jabbing (it actually reminds me of Tony Visconti’s strange decision to bring in Jesse Harms’ AOR synths on John Hiatt’s ‘All of a Sudden’ in -82), and it all comes out so urgingly honest and beautiful, so relevant, on a messed up existential level… just like Jackie Leven used to do.
(His Bandcamp starts auto-playing track 4, but I suggest you take it from the top, for the maximum Jackie Leven experience.)
I needed to save up some space on my music server and actually considered deleting the better part of my Chinese collection. Unfortunately, I started with checking out some Zhou Hong-albums. Needless to say, I ended up deleting nothing … can’t help it, but this sentimental crap just breaks my heart. And I love how Chinese and American country music basically is the same thing, when it comes to chord changes and production values.