PASA TEM­POS

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WEYES BLOOD Front Row Seat to Earth (Mex­i­can Sum­mer) On her fourth al­bum, Natalie Mer­ing (who per­forms as Weyes Blood) takes a tremen­dous step for­ward in her song­writ­ing and pro­duc­tion, craft­ing an al­bum that is highly of the mo­ment yet rooted in 1970s folkpop tra­di­tion. Her singing voice is pure AM Gold from that era — some­where in the ball­park of Carly Si­mon — but her ar­range­ments are more in line with Bri­tish folk tra­di­tions of bands such as Pen­tan­gle and ec­centrics such as Vashti Bun­yan. Mer­ing’s songs are long, and they un­spool in a re­gal fash­ion that feels fa­mil­iar and com­fort­able yet ca­pa­ble of small sur­prises. The sub­ject mat­ter folds heart­break over the loss of love with that of a crum­bling so­ci­ety and dy­ing planet, beau­ti­fully blur­ring the lines. On “Gen­er­a­tion Why” she sings, “Go­ing to see end of days/I’ve been hang­ing on my phone all day/ And the fear goes away/I might not need to stay/On this sink­ing ship for long,” trans­form­ing rap­per Drake’s millennial catch­phrase YOLO (you only live once) from an ex­cuse for par­ty­ing into a re­signed sigh of de­spair. “Seven Words” is a breakup song that grows grad­u­ally, as if one were slowly step­ping from a dark room into warm sun­light. “Now I face tomorrow,” she sings at the com­po­si­tion’s peaks, in­fus­ing her voice with both op­ti­mism and melan­choly. It’s a needed sen­ti­ment at this mo­ment. — Robert Ker

AZ­IZA (Dare2 Records) Named for a mytho­log­i­cal wood­land crea­ture from gui­tarist Lionel Loueke’s an­ces­tral home­land, the Da­homey king­dom (now Benin) in Africa, this al­bum fea­tures two com­po­si­tions each from jazz bassist Dave Hol­land, sax­o­phon­ist Chris Pot­ter, drum­mer Eric Har­land, and Loueke. “Az­iza Dance” opens with Loueke’s syn­thy-funky gui­tar and a solid sum­mer-fes­ti­valvibe drum­beat. Af­ter a six-minute rol­lick, the gui­tarist and Pot­ter wrap it up with a stel­lar uni­son sec­tion. “Sum­mer 15” fea­tures Pot­ter’s fleet so­prano over an African-tinged polyrhythm. Here, as on most of the songs, Loueke’s fa­cil­ity with gui­tar ef­fects — such as the series of twangy cho­ral string-bends he fash­ions in a bridge sec­tion in this song — lends an ex­cit­ing, if fu­sion­is­tic, qual­ity to the pro­ceed­ings. “We all share a re­spect for the tra­di­tion but at the same time the drive to try to cre­ate some­thing per­sonal and new out of it,” Hol­land writes in al­bum ma­te­ri­als. It is a treat digging into mu­sic by one of the best jazz bassists ever, with Hol­land’s play­ing on “Walkin’ the Walk” — a tune that’s also a stand­out for Har­land, a ma­gi­cian of scat­ter­shot drum work. Pot­ter’s play­ing on “Sum­mer 15” (when the CD was recorded) is some­times light and spare, al­most ce­les­tial; his other com­po­si­tion, “Blue Sufi,” is a show­case for his more rec­og­niz­ably in­tense work on tenor. Ev­ery­one gets ex­tra ex­u­ber­ant on the closer, “Sleep­less Night,” on which Loueke adds vo­cals,with African click con­so­nants. Great al­bum. — Paul Wei­de­man

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