Adele is back after a lengthy hiatus and everything seems back to normal. Minus the never-ending pandemic, another Yankees playoff defeat, and the Binghamton Plague which has made everyone sick on campus.
Willow Smith came to town to start the weekend and it was sadly an embarrassing performance that made many wish they had not laid out any money to witness such a shameful debacle. Just because your parents are famous — that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly Adele, Pokey LaFarge, or Joy Crookes.
Fall has overtaken the Binghamton area and while my father was spending his time at the McIntosh factory, I was standing outside in the cold at a music festival enjoying bluegrass for the very first time. Not exactly Bela Fleck, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, or Alison Krauss — but it made me miss my banjo that sits in my bedroom back in New Jersey.
The return of Adele was a pretty big deal and it’s clear that her new album (when it is finally released) is going to be a huge seller. “Easy On Me” was streamed more than 20 million times on Spotify during the first 24 hours which is a new record for any artist and the platform.
Listening on my brand new Audeze LCD-1 planar headphones with a fancy Dongle DAC illuminated just how compressed the recording sounds. Qobuz offers “Easy On Me” at 24-bit/44.1kHz and while Adele sounds like the time away was good for her voice, the recording quality is decidedly average.
Before moving on to Pokey LaFarge, I compared Adele with the late-Amy Winehouse and I’m starting to realize just how great she was and how boring Adele’s music can become. She has a magnificent voice and can sell a song like few others but is it really that deep? Adele has become too Hollywood and hard to identify with.
Pokey LaFarge: In The Blossom Of Their Shade
(Release Date: 09/10/2021, New West Records)
Hailing from Illinois, Pokey LaFarge is definitely a unique blend of blues, country music, and folk. Jack White took LaFarge on the road with him in 2013 to support his release, Pokey LaFarge, on White’s Third Man label and he’s never looked back. LaFarge cleverly blends all three genres with some western swing and while he doesn’t sound like Buddy Holly — there’s a tinge of it in his vocals.
His latest release, In The Blossom Of Their Shade, is his 9th studio release and an album that wasn’t on the books for 2021. The pandemic forced LaFarge to cancel a scheduled tour and he used the time in isolation to write and record. The album offers a form of catharsis for LaFarge who decided to leave L.A. in 2020 for Texas (that seems to be a thing in 2021) after many years of personal issues that were starting to drag down his career. In a time of isolation, despair, and ugly politics, LaFarge has composed some beautiful ballads that are quite uplifting and full of swing.
Coldplay: Music Of The Spheres
(Release Date: 10/15/2021, Parlophone UK)
Chris Martin spent most of the pandemic lockdown watching Star Wars and other Sci-Fi because there is no other way to explain this really bizarre release from Coldplay. The reviews from fans and critics have been mixed (I’m being kind) but what stands out most is just how boring the album is. There are moments where the instrumentation is interesting but it never really comes together in anything that is truly cohesive. Disappointing and not something one is likely to listen to more than once.
Apple might want to borrow some of the guitar licks from “People Of The Pride” for a commercial but only if they don’t pull another U2 stunt where this ends up being downloaded to your iPhone automatically.
Remi Wolf: Juno
(Release Date: 10/15/2021, Island Records)
Sitting through Willow Smith’s painful performance recently, I started thinking about Remi Wolf. Neither is winning a Grammy anytime soon, but Wolf can at least stay in tune long enough to keep her funk/lo-fi pop interesting for a few minutes. She was once an American Idol contestant who didn’t go very far but she (like a number of artists who were passed over) persisted and found an audience on TikTok and other platforms.
Juno has a sense of humor to it (intentionally) and while she’s not quite tapping into the same market as Lil Nas X — there are some similarities in terms of the satire and crude nature of the lyrics that are aimed directly at the current state of pop culture. I can’t tell if this album is going to explode or die a quiet death but Remi Wolf is certainly an artist who might take off because it’s 2021 and everything is totally bonkers and unpredictable.
The Beatles: Let It Be
(Release Date: 10/15/2021)(2021 mix)(Super Deluxe Edition)
I’m not sure how John Lennon or George Harrison would have felt seeing a Beatles TikTok channel but it’s proving to be an important point of entry for younger fans and the release of the Let It Be reissue is already a huge hit on the platform.
My parents roll their eyes and start to argue over which Beatles album was superior, but “Across The Universe,” “Let It Be,” “The Long And Winding Road,” and “Don’t Let Me Down” can be heard across campus in 2021 and anything that exposes my generation to their music is a win for the music industry.
There is power and history behind this music and the era of the super group was dead and buried before any of us were born in the shadow of 9/11. A magnificent collection of remixes, rare outtakes, and some of their best music.
Joy Crookes: Skin
(Release Date: 10/15/2021, Speakerbox Recordings)
With a background that spans multiple cultures and nationalities, Joy Crookes delivers one of the most intriguing albums of 2021; she crosses over multiple genres and one can hear the influence of Andra Day, Amy Winehouse, and many others. The atmospherics and instrumentation on “19th Floor,” “Wild Jasmine,” and “Kingdom” will swirl around your listening room and the music has a beat that never lets up.
Crookes is pretty open about her personal failures and the album moves along like a well-oiled machine. It’s not quite Back To Black, but there are some flashes of glory that feel very similar.