Tag Archives: Mount Eerie

Sound Round: Orchestra Baobab / Mount Eerie

Making music whilst they still breathe

Orchestra Baobab – Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (Nonesuch)

This ain’t no typical tribute record. Though original member and album namesake Ndiouga Dieng remains with them in spirit after succumbing to an unspecified illness, his living band mates waste nary a breath on their fallen leader. They’ve been doing this for 50 years since forming at a nightclub in Senegal, making them old enough to know life goes on and wise enough to know life is worth celebrating. That realization continues to make their music — a harmonious mesh of Afro-Cuban influences — remain vital. What keeps them crazy after all these years? A deep admiration and respect for women that’d make them enemies of the state in Saudia Arabia or the White House. They dig wedding nuptials (translated lyrics, “A good marriage is beyond price”), dig parenthood even more (“Leaving your children lagging behind, that is not normal”), and express loving words with simplicity and grace (“All the beauty of a pretty woman is seen in you”). Salute to the long-tenured percussionists who provide the grooves that get you in the door, and praise be to Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis, who lean their leathered vocals into the beat and refuse to budge. With a love this immeasurable and the goal to make each day count, why should they go anywhere else? GRADE: A

Key Tracks: “Woulinewa” / “Sey” / “Foulo”

Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

Music this morbid is routinely overvalued by the literati, be it much of late-period Johnny Cash or widower Phil Elverum, who has been lauded by gatekeepers for this album centered on the death of his wife (artist Genevieve Castree) from pancreatic cancer. As empathetic creatures, our hearts should break for Elverum and his daughter — born just 18 months before her mother perished. As music consumers, however, we should remember meditations on death do not guarantee profundity, enlightenment or memorable tunes. Elverum’s goal here isn’t for collective healing. These songs are hyper-personal and written in a prose too wordy for melody or typical song structure. And while the austere production and minimalism signifies his grief, his depressive vocal delivery muddles these songs into an indistinguishable slab of sadness. But nestled in the gloominess are clues to his realization that life carries value even as we endure indescribable loss. Father and daughter move into a new house on “Ravens” because they need a new start in a death-free home, and later a task as mundane as taking out the trash becomes a quiet moment of clarity. But Elverum’s darkest line is likely the most hopeful: “We are all always so close to not existing at all.” That’s why we have to keep breathing. GRADE: B+

Key Tracks: “Seaweed” / “Swims” / “When I Take out the Garbage at Night”

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