REVIEWS

YAYA BEY
THE THINGS I CAN’T TAKE WITH ME
(BIG DADA)

Brooklyn singer/songwriter/producer Yaya Bey’s new EP The Things I Can’t Take With Me feels as intimate and honest as a conversation with an old friend. Her delivery is poetic and reflective, often sounding more like spoken word than song or rap. On the track “the root of a thing” Bey examines her mother and father’s relationship and draws comparisons between their actions and her own. Later, on the track “we’ll skate soon,” she speaks directly to a cheating ex. “There’s nowhere to hide / I see you / No matter where you go / You’re still you,” she sings with a detached wisdom that suggests she’s looking right into their soul. There’s a grainy, lo-fi quality to these songs which helps create her mellow, almost unbothered sound. On the outside, this might look like a breakup album, but by the end of the EP the breakup feels secondary to her own personal growth. Bey’s singsongy vocals and matter-of-fact lyrics give the impression that she’s more than ready to move on. On this EP, Yaya Bey invites listeners into her headspace as she confronts the things she must leave behind in order to continue her journey. —Shirani Jayasuriya 

DRY CLEANING
NEW LONG LEG
(4AD)

It should be no surprise that Dry Cleaning has found a home on 4AD, long known for curating a collection of eclectic and innovative bands. Though part of the current UK post-punk renaissance, Dry Cleaning are also their own distinct entity, weaving together wry humor, diverse influences, and art-school vibes. Florence Shaw does not sing but rather intonates, offering a mystical, sardonic presence that is as likely to provide insightful commentary as it is to take the piss. Sludgy bass, fuzzy guitars, sharp percussion, and the occasional synth perfectly complement Shaw’s storytelling. The album should be enjoyed in its entirety, though there are a couple of standout tracks to start with. “Scratchcard Lanyard” is told from the perspective of a mother on the brink: “I think of myself as a hardy banana… / A woman in aviators firing a bazooka.” “Her Hippo” is about the desire to escape—and the sense of futility that is always present (“I’m smiling constantly and people constantly step on me”). New Long Leg is an album that makes you think while also not taking itself—or anything else—too seriously (“Strong Feelings”: “Just an emo dead stuff collector, things come to the brain / Too much to ask about / So don’t ask”). —Mary Beth Campbell

DUNEBATHER
LIMINAL SPACES
(GLIMMERGLASS)

Dunebather is the musical moniker of New Orleans artist Michael Lawrence Mantese. Originally a bedroom pop project, Dunebather’s sound and scope have expanded into an amalgamation of avant-pop, psych-rock, and electronica. Liminal Spaces is his latest EP. Just like the concept for which it was named, Liminal Spaces is a collection of songs spanning genres, mixing sounds and influences between and within tracks. The lyrics are introspective, exploring the current state of being while searching for something more. The EP opens with “New Life Community Church,” its upbeat melody belying more serious matters: “Lately I’ve been sitting on the inside looking out / And the outlook looking bleaker by the hour.” The aptly named “Something Better Than This,” with its ‘90s vibe, is a rumination on what else life has to offer. “Pearly White,” a ‘60s-drenched number with a classic guitar solo, offers a semblance of hope: “Sign of the times / Maybe not so far gone / Oh but I won’t kneel now / I never learned how.” The themes on Liminal Spaces are at once rooted in current times as well as universal, much like the sound Mantese has created. —Mary Beth Campbell

GARAGE A TROIS
CALM DOWN COLOGNE
(ROYAL POTATO FAMILY)

Greasy, funky, freak jazz tailor-made for 3 a.m. sleep-deprived Jazz Fest nights, when everything starts to blend together and get weird, Calm Down Cologne is the sound of three master improvisers getting into the same room and throwing out the rulebooks. The short title track is the only tune Garage A Trois composed prior to setting foot in the studio for a daytime session before a gig in Seattle in 2019. Lengthy jams like the nine-minute opener “No Zone” feature members bouncing off each other in the type of way musicians who’ve played together for over two decades just know how to push the music. This album marks the much-welcomed return of founding guitarist Charlie Hunter, who rejoins New Orleans drum star Stanton Moore and saxman/key maestro Skerik. The group’s last two albums were excellent efforts featuring keyboard wiz Marco Benevento and percussion maniac Mike Dillon, but the band sounded quite different without Hunter’s signature touch. Indeed, his playing continues to be as dynamic as ever, creating rich sounds seemingly impossible for just one guitarist to play on their own. When combined with Moore and Skerik’s respective skills, one has to wonder how all these sounds are coming from a mere trio. From start to finish, Calm Down Cologne is an exhilarating listen that will almost certainly help Festers hold out until the next series of late night Jazz Fest jam sessions. —William Archambeault

KEEN DREAMS
THE SECOND BODY
(STRANGE DAISY / WHATEVER’S CLEVER)

It’s been a few years since James Weber Jr. was a regular presence behind the counter at Euclid Records, the beloved Bywater fixture he helped establish. However, that doesn’t mean he has left the music game. Somehow, he found time in the midst of a busy graduate studies schedule to push out an excellent dream pop record. The Second Body specializes in slow-paced ballads of the intellectual yet heartfelt variety, all draped in luscious arrangements. Songs like “Pinks & Reds” build up in spectacular fashion, ebbing and flowing through different terrains. Keen Dreams, which features Weber on guitar and vocals alongside bassist Shana Applewhite and drummer Eric Martinez, wisely recognizes its limitations as a trio. For this album, they struck an invaluable collaborative partnership with producer Shannon Fields and recruited a sizable list of guest musicians to flush out Weber’s tunes. Both “Pasted” and “Immediate Tonight” feature moody saxophone solos while pedal steel, vibraphone, and harmonica all become vital pillars for the album’s rich sound. While this material draws heavy inspiration from Daisy Hildyard’s lengthy essay The Second Body, Keen Dreams and friends have brought plenty of their own magic to the table to make this record a beautiful listening experience. —William Archambeault

KUMASI
LIVE AT MARIGNY STUDIOS
(MYSTERY ZONE)

I’ve always regretted missing the two shows Kumasi played with the legendary Tony Allen at The Music Box back in April 2018. I regretted it even more when Allen passed in April 2020 at 79. Now, a year after the death of the man without whom there would be no Afrobeat (according to his old bandmate, Fela Kuti), the genre’s New Orleans torch-carriers have released their third album. It’s their first live record and their debut with Mystery Zone, a new local label that was steadily gaining clout via cheeky dance parties on the top floor of Man Ray Records in the Quarter and low-key shows on the St. Bernard strip before COVID put a freeze on that sort of thing. Kumasi, also known as the New Orleans Afrobeat Orchestra, is a 14-piece outfit led by alto sax player and vocalist Stefan Poole. They’ve made a name for themselves with marathon shows at the Blue Nile and elsewhere, and this album’s five comfy tracks—three of them over nine minutes long—give me a closer approximation of a real show than most of the livestreams I’ve watched through my dirty laptop screen over the past 13 months. I’m still in my room, and I’m still not wearing pants, but these songs have my toes wiggling, especially track 3, “Glele’s Cut Loose.” —Raphael Helfand

LLRR
< = >
(CALL AND RESPONSE)

The sounds on this tape are brilliantly discordant. LLRR isn’t just post-punk or post-hardcore; they’re post-everything. These jittery rockers don’t have much fondness for the played out dynamics of most bands. The Kyoto group specializes in artsy tunes that simultaneously tear apart and rebuild various styles within the pop world. On tracks like “Flash Back Drive,” Minami Yokota screeches while angular shoegaze guitars slash over repetitive drum beats. LLRR likes to take sudden turns mid-song that feel reminiscent of an over-caffeinated child who can’t keep their focus. While such moves might derail other groups, it fits perfectly in LLRR’s unhinged dance floor chaos. “Fastcore Mad Impression” stands out as a gem that combines guitars imitating dial-up internet sounds with catchy chants and wacky distorted vocals. Fans of Japan’s noisiest export Melt-Banana will surely find something to love on this tape. While these tracks first hit the internet last year, LLRR recently teamed up with the always bizarre Tokyo label Call and Response for < = >’s physical release. I, for one, am hoping that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between the band and the label. —William Archambeault

SERPENTWITHFEET
DEACON
(SECRETLY CANADIAN)

DEACON, the sophomore effort from serpentwithfeet (Josiah Wise), is a joyous celebration of Black queer love. Though love and romance have always been centered in his music, the songs on DEACON are less ominous than Wise’s earlier releases, his gospel sound infused more with ‘90s and ‘00s R&B than the gothic vibes heard on blisters and soil. With the exception of “Sailors’ Superstition,” with its ominous tone and jaded take on relationships, this is a light album. The production on DEACON hearkens back to artists like Destiny’s Child and Brandy, built around heavy percussion and silky harmonies infused with the gravitas of a choir. Opening track “Hyacinth” is a lush and dreamy celebration of a healthy relationship: “I think my green thumb has led me to a real one / So glad the soil has yielded something more than bad luck.” “Heart Storm,” which features British singer and producer Nao, is a magical realist take on love that showcases both singers’ otherworldly harmonies over a synth-drenched bassline (“All creation’s goin’ crazy / Do we need this ceiling? / We should never hide our feelings”). Though simpler than his earlier works, on DEACON, serpentwithfeet makes this clear: Love, just like music, does not need to be dark and tragic to be worthwhile. —Mary Beth Campbell

NICK SHOULDERS 
HOME ON THE RAGE
(GAR HOLE) 

Home on the Rage is the third collection of songs from occasional New Orleanian Nick Shoulders. Unlike the rumpus of two former full-band releases, this album is a solo acoustic endeavor full-focused on Shoulder’s troubled troubadour anthems. His distinctive bodily yodel carries the album—mining the pitfalls of early train-hopping ballads with dark, carney-esque whistles mediated in sweet, subdued melodies. Often credited with spearheading the “punk country” genre, I’d argue Shoulders has edged a fresh mark in “outlaw country”—a fringe of progressive country with a folk introspection, confronting what defines “Southerness,” reimagining freedom, and exposing corruption in both the genre and the country at large. Although the songs face this ongoing challenge, there’s a brightness to the exposure, and any hope for redeeming our country, Shoulders is hitching his wagon to it. Home on the Rage is reminiscent of early songwriters like Hank Williams, though Shoulders isn’t bogged down with nostalgia. His skill lies in marrying this heritage to the contemporary climate with refreshing songwriting. You can expect to feel good listening to this record, knowing the care and bootstrap ethos it’s constructed with. Home on the Rage is out now on Gar Hole Records, a new label owned by Nick Shoulders and Tape Dad’s Kurt DeLashmet. —Danielle Dietze

TEENAGE FANCLUB
ENDLESS ARCADE 
(MERGE)

Since their formation in 1989, Teenage Fanclub have been an influential mainstay in the indie and alternative rock realms. On Endless Arcade (their ninth album), the band’s sound is less hectic than earlier works, though still rich in harmonies, guitar, and spiraling keyboards. With years of perspective in tow, Endless Arcade is a meditation on the importance of home and community, and the anxiety and fears which naturally arise with the realization that time is passing. The title track is a reminder that life is finite, but you should not forget to live: “Don’t be afraid of this life /…Of the love you displayed / Of the endless arcade that is life.” “Everything Is Falling Apart” builds upon this: “Hold on to the hand of a friend… / Everything is falling apart, apart from our love.” And on the more philosophical “The Future,” we are reminded that “…it’s hard to walk into the future / When your shoes are made of lead.” Despite these heavier topics, Teenage Fanclub never get lost in the melancholy, their lyrics and melodies toeing the line between facing life’s inevitable end and celebrating the joy that remains in the moments we have. —Mary Beth Campbell

AARON CARNES
IN DEFENSE OF SKA
(CLASH)

Let’s face it: ska is the butt of constant jokes and is seldom showered with critical praise. But if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find a passionate community throughout the world, joined together by their love of ska. Aaron Carnes sets out to tell those tales with In Defense of Ska, a book that combines well-researched dives into the history of various aspects of the genre with the author’s own personal reflections as a ska musician prior to the genre’s MTV boom. Carnes follows ska’s history and its presence in communities across the United States and all the way to Europe and Mexico. He details the development of various disciplines within the style, a strong reminder that ska is a diverse genre that goes far beyond the commercial sound that blew up on TV sets in the ‘90s. While outsiders often perceive ska as simple fun and overly childish, Carnes makes it a point to repeatedly shine a spotlight on the genre’s strong anti-racism history and other socially conscious themes. For instance, he details Korean American ska legend Mike Park and his struggles to figure out how to use his platform for good. In another section, Carnes examines how musicians in Mexico use the genre as a way to criticize the government and support the poor neighborhoods they came from. The book doesn’t lean too heavily on contemporary figures within the genre, but Carnes does include great profiles on rising YouTube sensation Skatune Network and Jeff Rosenstock’s debt-plagued days in The Arrogant Sons of Bitches prior to becoming a Pitchfork darling. While In Defense of Ska sadly lacks any references to New Orleans’ own history with the genre, Carnes has already retroactively addressed this issue with episodes of his podcast of the same name that features members of doomy downers Thou and underground ska vets Joystick. —William Archambeault

BEAU PATRICK COULON
REVEL & REVOLT
(DNO / BURN BARREL)

“Nine out of ten punk shows are kind of boring but that tenth one might change your life forever, so you keep going. You’ll never know what will happen unless you show up. It’s the same with protests and many other community gatherings.” This is how local photographer Beau Patrick Coulon introduces his first book, a collection of powerful images that showcases lesser-seen sides of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Revel & Revolt marries moments of euphoric celebration and brave defiance. Through Coulon’s lens, a sweaty Casual Burn set and a decorated brass band at Eris sit snugly alongside an impassioned speech from striking sanitation workers and the desecration of the controversial Battle of Liberty Place monument. By combining these images, Coulon shows the ways that people attempt to escape the oppression of everyday life. Sometimes, that escapism takes the form of crowds crammed together to thrash around to loud, cathartic music. Other times, it takes the form of specific targeted actions aimed at changing one’s conditions and the environment that surrounds them. Some of these images have graced the pages in past issues of ANTIGRAVITY, but these visuals feel much more powerful when seen in the context of this collection. Revel & Revolt documents that one out of 10 times when something unforgettable manifested out of the congregation of like-minded cretins. —William Archambeault

AKILAH S. RICHARDS
RAISING FREE PEOPLE: UNSCHOOLING AS LIBERATION AND HEALING WORK
(PM PRESS)

The subtitle could lead one to think that this book is all about unschooling, which some people view as a less structured version of homeschooling. It’s not. Raising Free People is about exchanging competition, conformity, and pressure for compassion, contribution, and appreciation. While some believe their children are destined for the American dream, Akilah S. Richards asserts that the acquisition and maintenance of freedom is a better destination. “I am afraid of raising a version of my child that is comprised of all the ways they learned to survive living with my wounds and me, a person whose actions are influenced primarily by the vices they developed to deal with my baggage, instead of the person they were meant to be.” This fear is what pushed the author and her husband to change the way they educated their daughters and document their family’s journey. Richards is focused on removing the schoolish lens through which most American parents view not only their children’s education, but also their abilities, behaviors, talents, health, social skills, emotions, and personalities. She is not imitating the institution of school in her home. Rather, she is eliminating academic education in favor of natural learning that reflects her children’s inclinations. The goal is to free them from pressure to perform conformity. She speaks of being a child and learning to stifle her personhood so she could excel at studenthood. For her, being great at school meant presenting the school’s version of greatness, not her own. To her, the ways that children are permitted to educate themselves is the path. It’s a path that some will never desire for their children and one that many don’t have the means to create. She never says it’s easy. What I find most endearing is Richards’ honesty and humor about how difficult raising free people truly is. With her husband, she is persistently striving to distinguish their worries as parents from their abilities as guides toward a crucial goal—confident autonomy.  —Tamara Prosper

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