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Album Reviews: October 2023

World Music Radio / Jon Batiste

A relatively close-up image of a person wearing a vintage radio headset, against a backdrop of a blue sky.

Anyone who has followed Jon Batiste’s career (especially after his 2022 Album of the Year Grammy win for We Are) might expect an album such as World Music Radio–a project seemingly crafted to help match (or perhaps, facilitate) his still-growing reputation as a household name. It appears that Batiste crafted these songs with the idea that all music is “world music,” and throwing a multitude of disparate genres and artists together to help prove his point. It may be a flawed theory, as ideally, we want the vast number of musical expressions to stand on their own and be respected for the realm in which they exist. Centered around fictional host/DJ Billy Bob Bo Bob (I don’t know), the music is full of highs, such as the multi-genre “Be Who You Are” (featuring JID, Camilo & NewJeans), and lows, like “Clair de Lune,” on which Kenny G appears. There’s a lot going on here, and the work occasionally suffers under the appearance of trying too hard.
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The Singles: Echoes from the Edge of Heaven / Wham!
Legacy Recordings

Multi-colored background with the name WHAM! in gray block lettering, also featuring a silhouette image of the group members, also in gray.

Released in conjunction with the Netflix special, WHAM!, the compilation The Singles: Echoes from the Edge of Heaven, does not vary much from 1997’s The Best of Wham! — at least not in the single-disc configuration we are discussing here. At any rate, this collection does feature some songs not included in the previous best-of. This edition is a straight-ahead collection of the group’s most memorable tracks, featuring their earliest hits, along with some lesser-known tunes. Some may scoff at the failure to include “Careless Whisper,” which, depending on who you ask (or what part of the world you live in) was either credited to the group or George Michael himself. I feel it should have been included just for the sake of completion. Highlights of course include “I’m Your Man,” “Everything She Wants,” and evergreen holiday hit “Last Christmas.”

Time Will Wait for No One / Local Natives
Loma Vista

Black and white image of the band standing around large cutouts of the letters L and N, laid over a repeated pattern of the title "Time Will Wait for No One" in orange lettering against a yellow background.

Cali band Local Natives return with their fifth long-player, Time Will Wait for No One, a record the band describes as one that came after a period of collective unease—the difficulties that come with being a part of a group for an extended period of time (the band has existed as Local Natives for about 15 years). Despite those troubles, Local Natives have continued to inch further out into soulful indie-rock vistas, while retaining most of the elements that won them a loyal fan base in the late 00s. These songs benefit from having two great vocalists (Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer) which are immediately showcased on the intro and title track. “Empty Mansions” highlights their maturation into a harmony-fueled indie band, hinting at a decidedly chill, less self-aware Maroon 5. Lead single “NYE” originated as a song performed at guitarist Ryan Hahn’s wedding and is thankfully included here. Other highlights: “Just Before the Morning” and “Desert Snow.”
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You’re the One / Rhiannon Giddens

Close-up image of a woman with album information in the upper right-hand corner, in the style of records from the sixties.

You’re the One is another fine example of a still-rising singular artist seeking to expand her range. It is her first studio recording in six years, and first LP of all original material. The album is produced by Jack Splash, who has done a great job of assisting more R&B-leaning artists (Solange, Alicia Keys) make some dynamic records, but overall has been under-utilized in the industry. Giddens seems to have desired to create a project that will largely endure, but with varying results. You’re the One opens with the rock/country/funk kiss-off “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad.” It’s a great opener for the LP. Then there’s the delightful “Wrong Kind of Right,” and “Yet to Be,” which features Jason Isbell in a delightful setting. Fans will likely find a lot to enjoy on this project and hopefully can experience these songs on her late summer/fall tour. Other key tracks: “You Put the Sugar in My Bowl” and “Hen in the Foxhouse.”
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DF: October 2023