Live music is slowly returning to college campuses and this weekend at SUNY-Binghamton features two shows including a bluegrass festival and Willow Smith which sold out almost immediately.
Sufjan Stevens was played a lot in my home over the past decade but I never really appreciated his music until now.
G-Eazy: These Things Happen Too
(Release Date: 09/24/2021, RVG/RCA Records)
Gerald Earl Gillum, aka G-Eazy has been cast during the first seven years of his career as the “James Dean” of rap and while his penchant to pen lyrics about his hedonistic lifestyle have helped move albums, it’s also left fans desiring more from him. He has proven that he’s quite capable when it comes to recordings duets; his releases with Cardi B, Halsey, and Bebe Rexha have all done well and demonstrated that he’s not just a rapper. His latest release, features new tracks with Lil Wayne and Demi Lovato and we find him experimenting with different styles across all 29 tracks.
Bob Dylan: Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16/1980-1985
(Release Date: 09/17/2021, Columbia)
Raise your hand if you had Bob Dylan embarking on a 2-year live tour starting in Milwaukee that will end sometime in 2024 on your 2021 Bingo Card? Bob Dylan’s decision to convert from Judaism to Christianity in the 1980s and 3 subsequent albums that were a mixed bag certainly divided his fanbase. It takes a lot of confidence (or arrogance) to think that the music that made one a legend in the music world could be completely discarded for a series of albums like Shot of Love and Infidels; fans and the music press dragged Dylan and he quickly returned to making music that the public wanted.
Springtime in New York chronicles that experimental period and while some of the styles, tempo changes, and covers are definitely misses, Bob Dylan proves that he’s more than capable of delivering some real gems if you have the patience to listen through all of it.
Alessia Cara: In The Meantime
(Release Date: 09/24/2021, Def Jam)
The Juno and Grammy-Award winning pop star has only been a signed artist for 6 years, but she’s certainly made the most of her climb to stardom. The Toronto-native picked up the guitar at the age of ten and admits that the late-Amy Winehouse inspired her to become a musician. Def Jam signed her at the age of 18 and her pop debut “Here” went platinum opening up a lot of doors and created the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians including Zedd and and Logic.
Her latest release is her third studio album and it’s rather apparent that she’s learned just how unforgiving fame and the music industry can be. Cara has clearly had to grow up a lot since she became a star and she sings about heartbreak, betrayal, growing pains, and loss throughout. It’s definitely not a happy album; “Middle Ground” with CHIKA is the most accessible track and possibly the most mainstream song on the album. Alessia Cara has come a very long way in a short period of time and it’s clear that her music is a reflection of both some healthy cynicism and maturation on her part.
Mac Miller: Faces
(Release Date: 09/15/2021, Warner Records)
The Pittsburgh-based rapper died in 2018 just as his star was starting to reach the heavens in the music world and all of the posthumous releases have climbed into the top 5 on the charts. Miller displayed a throwback style that paid tremendous respect to the acts that came before him; Beastie Boys, OutKast, Lauryn Hill, and A Tribe Called Quest. Miller crafted beautiful rhymes and was a creative producer who knew how to blend hypnotic beats and layers of sound that was definitely old school. “Colors and Shapes” is part of a much larger album that was never released; there was a video released on YouTube for the track but fans have waited a very long time for this material to come out.
Sufjan Stevens: A Beginner’s Mind
(Release Date: 09/24/2021, Asthmatic Kitty)
Singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens loves a good concept album and this collaboration with songwriter Angelo De Augustine (who is also on the Asthmatic Kitty label) comes during a global pandemic that we all believed would be over by now. Stevens has already waxed poetically about Illinois, Michigan, his parents, and other pop culture topics in a series of albums that have earned him praise for his unique blend of sounds and his prowess as a multi-instrumentalist.
Not everyone can make a song about John Wayne Gacy palatable but Stevens demonstrated the songwriting skills and sensitivity to the material and he’s seemingly only scratched the surface of his talents. A Beginner’s Mind tackles a century of cinema with some creative takes on All About Eve, Point Break, and even Clash of the Titans — the album cover art makes a lot more sense now.