Monday, July 8, 2019

Best Album of 2019: "Wargirl"

I have to start this review with a baseball analogy.  Kansas City baseball legend Buck O'Neil often told the story of hearing a crack of the bat like no other.  The first time he heard it, it was Babe Ruth.  The second time, it was Negro League mega-slugger Josh Gibson, who once reportedly hit a baseball 800 feet.  It took 50 years for Buck to hear that sound again.  The third and last time was off the bat of Kansas City Royal Bo Jackson.  The power generated from the bats of these athletes created an unforgettable, unmistakable sound, very rare but one that embedded into Buck's memory.

I recall this story because of the sensation I got when I clicked "play" for the first time on Wargirl's self-titled debut album.  It took all of four seconds of "Poison", the opening track, for me to be absolutely hooked.  My attention and focus immediately shifted from whatever else I was doing to this amazing sound coming from my headphones.  I have rarely been completely astounded by a song or performer - Oscar Peterson's "Get Happy" and Madeleine Peyroux's "Dance Me To the End of Love" are two such times.  Now, add the entire "Wargirl" album to the list.

Wargirl is fronted by Samantha Parks, daughter of James Lafayette Parks of the '70s funk band Bull and the Matadors.  Band founder and guitarist Matt Wignall, bassist Tamara Raye, keyboardist Enya Preston, and percussionists Erick Diego Nieto and Jeff Suri complete the band.  Long Beach, CA is the bands home turf.

"Wargirl" has been in heavy rotation for me since its release.  The first few times listening, I heard different (possible) influences.  I've heard Talking Heads.  I've heard Blondie.  I've even heard the jazz-fusion atmosphere of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew".  I can hear Ronnie Spector.  I don't know who the band's actual influences are, but I imagine that they are many.  Funk, new wave rock, jazz, latin, R&B are all perfectly blended in this blast of musical energy.

There is not a weak song on the album.  "Poison" opens, followed by the amazing "Sass Girl" and "Mess Around".  "How You Feel", "Streets", "I Know I" are all busting the seams with energy.  This is a superb album from the opening note to the last.

There is just something about the Wargirl sound.  The dual percussion blends with the organ, which blends with the bass, which exists in a state of perfection with Wignall's guitar, all elevating Parks' vocals.  Listening to Wargirl is absolutely like hearing one of the best jazz ensembles in the world (ahem, the Anat Cohen Tentet) when the musicians peak together.  The sound is of a single six-part musical organism, rather than a collection of individuals.  There is genius in the arrangements, production, and performances of "Wargirl".

And man oh man, what this band must be like live.  Being a tad too young and 2000 miles away, I never experienced CBGB at its peak when the Ramones, Television, and the aforementioned Talking Heads and Blondie were emerging.  But I can imagine Wargirl as a CBGB band, packing the house each night. 

"Wargirl" gets my nod as best album of 2019.  There is half the year left, but no one's gonna top this one...

Wargirl website
Wargirl Facebook page
"Wargirl" on Amazon

You can also find Wargirl on Spotify and all your favorite streaming services.

Summertime at Merry & Bright!

Hello and Happy Summer to all of you dear readers!  I wanted to share a quick update from Der Bingle's place.

No Christmas in July this year.  Since I only boarded that train once, and didn't really get any momentum going, I'm not contributing this year.  There are plenty of others, though, as I'm sure most of you know.  Ernie at Ernie (Not Bert) is doing his amazing Christmas in July sharing again this year, giving us scads of Christmas/holiday songs from non-holiday albums.  Over 500 to be shared this year, per Mr. Not Bert.  And you'd better hurry over to Stubby's place for a mammoth (Not Necessarily) The Best of Stubby's collection - 4 CDs worth, plus a bonus CD of songs that almost made the cut.  Go get 'em!

Over here, I'm going to go down a non-Christmas path for a few summer posts.  If all goes as planned, you'll be able to read about Wargirl and their self-titled album, released in May and is (in my opinion) the best album of 2019 (and top 5 of the 20-Teens).  You'll learn about my friend and Kansas City musician Jason Beers, who set out to release 10 (ten!) CDs this year, and is on track to do so.  You'll get to hear about getting to meet the wonderful Sofia Talvik at a springtime show in nearby Olathe, KS.  And hopefully a few other things.  I want to get the writing motor going again, and really want to share my thoughts about these great musicians.  So, (again, if all goes well) there will be a few new posts here in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned, and go visit Ernie and Stubby!