Betty Davis, "F.U.N.K." (Light in the Attic). Seattle/LA label Light in the Attic continues its Betty Davis catalog rehabilitation with the reissue of 1975's Nasty Gal (out January 12, 2018). Not as celebrated as Davis's first two LPs, Nasty Gal nonetheless possesses much of the raunchy diva's (cer)vixenish charm and gritty, clavinet-enhanced funk. "F.U.N.K." telegraphs its intention as a celebration of the titular musical genre—Betty namechecks some of her finest contemporaries, including Sly, Jimi, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, Ann Peebles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie, and "the Funkadelics"—while proving to be a tensile exemplar of it. It's a meta composition to which you can get down and dirty with abandon.
Lars Finberg, "Benevolent Panic" (In the Red). Here it is, the lead single from the Intelligence mainman Lars Finberg's debut solo LP, Moonlight Over Bakersfield, which features appearances by members of La Luz, Melvins, Big Business, and Ty Segall. "Benevolent Panic" offers the Cali-via-Seattle songwriter and 2011 Stranger Genius' patented bleak existentialism over a glam-rock chug mired in a molasses-y tempo. Mikal Cronin's haunting, Roxy Music-like sax fanfares mock any hope one might quixotically hold for a golden future. Finberg declares he's afraid of life and death, adding, "I'm petrified of sex/What if there's nothing next?/And we're both crashing bores/Dividing up household chores." Brutal.
Escape-ism, "Almost No One (Can Have My Love) " (Merge). Ian Svenonius goes Suicide! Kind of! The former Nation of Ulysses and auteur of dozens of other projects constructs a stripped-down, insistent electro pulse with wickedly distorted guitar punctuations while deadpanning a litany of things people can have (stardom, record deal, fame, etc.); but this complicated singer/conceptualist's love, you know, is very elusive. So proceed with caution. For what it's worth, "Almost No One (Can Have My Love)" is my favorite Svenonius work in a long time.
Khu.éex’, "Sunrise Song" (Cedar Plank Industries). Led by Seattle Tlingit tribe member/glass-blower/bassist Preston Singletary, the large jazz-funk ensemble Khu.éex’ just dropped a triple LP called They Forgot They Survived. It's one of the last things on which Parliament-Funkadelic keyboard legend Bernie Worrell played, and it carries a valedictory aura throughout its 13 lengthy compositions, which were recorded by Randall Dunn at Avast! They Forgot They Survived is a very atmospheric, spiritual album in the vein of Bill Laswell's Axiom projects, its funk more sublimated than in your face, but perhaps more powerful and enduring for taking that approach. "Sunrise Song" is the most uproarious tune here, but it's still somewhat muted in its ebullience. Khu.éex' conjure a hard-won, inspirational vibe that's somewhere between early-'70s Pharoah Sanders and mid-'70s Fela Kuti, but imbued with Native American chants. Stunning.
Gun Outfit, "Strange Insistence" (Paradise of Bachelors). In which the LA-via-Olympia band Gun Outfit beat Kurt Vile at his own laid-back, urban-rural-rock ramble game. Mellow fluidity is the rule of the road on "Strange Insistence," as it glides with the preternatural, pell-mell cool of JJ Cale at his breeziest. "Speed makes you a genius/Cocaine will make you rich/And LSD shows you divinity/Everything's all right, oh no BS," singer Dylan Sharp drawls, and the peaceful, easy music persuades you it is so. This wonderful song comes from Gun Outfit's new album, Out of Range (released today).
Noteworthy November 10 album releases: Hüsker Dü, Savage Young Dü box set (Numero Group); Angel Olsen, Phases (Jagjaguwar); Buffy Sainte-Marie, Medicine Songs (True North); Escape-ism, Introduction to Escape-ism (Merge); Gregg Kowalsky, L'Orange, L'Orange (Mexican Summer); Taylor Swift, Reputation (Big Machine); Yung Lean, Stranger (Year0001); Teen Daze, Themes for a Dying Earth (Flora); Sleigh Bells, Kid Kruschev (Torn Clean); Quicksand, Interiors (Epitaph); Andrew Bird, Echolocations: River (Wegawam); Aretha Franklin/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, A Brand New Me (Atlantic/Rhino); Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (Spinefarm); Dawn People, The Star Is Your Future (DFA).