REVIEW: Prince, Originals (Warner Bros.)

Prince’s estate has been a bit of a PR shambles since the star’s sudden death in April of 2016. The lack of any discernible will has led to a never-ending legal battle between Prince’s family and the banks appointed to care for the business dealings of the musician’s vast estate. Despite the financial squabbles, the estate has managed to eke out a few posthumous releases that one would assume even hardcore fans have to admire. Sadly, this is unlikely since Prince’s elite hardcore fans are an admittedly miserable and impossible lot to please, complaining endlessly about any and everything to do with the man. These releases speak more to spreading the legacy to potential fans as well as to those who already identify as “fams”- the term Prince applied to his followers as he found “fan” (short for a fanatic) to be derisive.

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VIDEO: Madonna’s “God Control” Is Cynically Woke

Madonna’s roll-out for her new album, Madame X, has not been without controversy but not the usual brand. Faced with a relentless barrage of ageist condescension for daring to turn 60, much less continue to make music, Madonna has unsurprisingly struggled to connect with any of her new singles. So, it’s not without a pinch of cynicism that she has released an elaborate storyline video for her latest single, “God Control,” protesting gun violence. Piggybacking woke activism is not exactly a tactic without questionable baggage. Is Madonna genuinely concerned about mass shootings in America? Is she exploiting the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub for her own promotional gain? Probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B. But the gratuitousness of her “message” can’t help but be met with a raised eyebrow. The video itself is beautifully filmed by Jonas Akerlund, and the song is kind of a Daft Punk-ian banger, mixing vocoder disco with impressively catchy faux symphonic strings. The rapping breakaways, however, are undeniably cringeworthy.

STREAM: Thom Yorke’s New Solo Album, ANIMA

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has released his latest solo album, ANIMA, to streaming services. The physical edition comes out July 19. Yorke continues to explore his nervous dread of modern life over skittering, twitchy beats. It’s cautiously optimistic music that requires an attentive listener, despite being enveloped in existential unease.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson, who worked with Radiohead on the video for “Daydreaming,” has directed a short film to coincide with ANIMA’s release and features Yorke and actress Dajana Roncione. It is streaming now on Netflix.

Black Midi’s Compositional Chaos

A few months ago Sirius XMU played a song by an English band called Black Midi. I was driving when I heard it and completely dumbfounded: It was noisy, anti-melodic, primal and tight- not the type of stuff you hear on the radio in 2019- even on the “indie” radio stations. Several friends have sent me messages in the last few days asking if I’d heard this band yet. Barely. But now I’ve watched the band’s performance filmed at a hostel in Iceland that was aired live on KEXP back in November of last year. In an age when electronic music drives the trends, it’s almost jarring to see a new band this young channeling no-wave, math rock, English post-punk, and Don Caballero-esque compositional chaos. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it yet, but I know I’m intrigued.

All for Naught: Lennon and McCartney’s Last Recording Session

An excellent, well-researched delve into the mysterious evening when John Lennon and Paul McCartney entered a studio together for the first and only time five years after The Beatles had come to an acrimonious end.

It had been nearly five years since Lennon and McCartney appeared in a recording studio together. The last time around, they were at Abbey Road Studios in London with Harrison and Starr, working on the Abbey Road track “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Given all that had transpired since then, those five years might have felt like 25.

VIDEO: Elvis Costello & The Imposters “Mr. & Mrs. Hush”

Mr. Costello returned last fall from his brief cancer scare with his finest record in 15 years. Look Now! is a tour de force journey through the man’s kaleidoscopic musical songbook. The Burt Bacharach-isms mesh effortlessly with the storied yet always acerbic lyrics. As one of the finest backing bands in the business, The Imposters (who are the Attractions minus Bruce Thomas) are incredibly gifted musicians and confidently take risks amidst often complex arrangements. “Mr. & Mrs. Hush” is a standout on a stellar long-player. The band is on tour this summer with Blondie before embarking on a larger tour this fall.

STREAM: Silkworm “Dremate”

A definitive version of Silkworm’s 1994 classic In The West is forthcoming from Comedy Minus One records. It has been remixed from the original two-inch tape by Steve Albini, who also served as the engineer on the initial recording sessions. The physical release will be on double vinyl with re-imagined artwork and limited to 1500 copies. A bonus CD completes the package featuring 7″ b-sides and a live version of “Halloween.” This streaming version of album highlight “Dremate” is limited to the download accompaniment to the bundle.

Despite being released in the midst of college radio’s halcyon days, this record has never before been released on vinyl. Mindblowingly, Silkworm also released Libterine later that same year.