Playlist (Nov/Dec 2021) | Music reviews

This month’s listening picks from the Caribbean — featuring new music by Michael Boothman; Kyle Noel; Trishes; and other various artists

  • Songbook Vol. 1
  • Balance
  • Trishes the Id
  • Muriel’s Treasure Volume 8

Songbook, Vol. 1

Michael Boothman (Poui Tree Records)

Nostalgia is making a comeback: the Rolling Stones and Genesis will tour stadiums next year, and Paul McCartney and ABBA have new albums in 2021. In the Caribbean, kysofusionpioneer Michael Boothman from Trinidad is back with a bang. Boothman is an elder statesman on the regional music scene, with international standing and a professional music career spanning six decades. The appearance of a new full-length album after a gap of some years is a happy revelation that signals his creative juices are still flowing. Songbook, Vol. 1 points to the idea that this is a first step on a new journey, a fresh awakening of the Boothman oeuvre with rearrangements of classics from the 1970s like “Saying It With Music” and “Mystic Sea”, and many new songs. This album is a showcase of fine songcraft, sophisticated musical ideas, and a kind of independent production value that understands that, as audiences mature, quality never dissipates.


Kyle Noel (3230341 Records DK)

On this new album, Kyle Noel has positioned the steelpan in a conversation with electronic drums and percussion to create a musical product that evokes elements of various Caribbean musics, alongside Afropop, jazz, hip hop, and Latin music. B.A.L.A.N.C.E. is not a busy album trying to be everything to all, but a showcase for smart songwriting that recognises the beauty of the timbre of the steelpan to lead listenable songs beyond the narrow restrictions of a Trinidad pan jam. Guest instrumental soloists and rappers add context, giving the songs a familiarity in a modern popular music world — standing out tellingly is Milliraps, who raps of her carnal desires on “Doing It Right” — and enlivening the idea that steelpan music innovation is not dead. Noel is marketing this album as a sonic frequency therapy targeting the seven chakras to balance the mind and body. It does more. It also effectively broadens the role of the steelpan in contemporary music.

The Id

Trishes (Nash the Boy)

The Id is a follow-up to Trinidadian-American singer/songwriter/musician Trishes’ 2019 album, Ego, and one can begin to see a pattern. Super-ego next, anyone? This new album features her trademarks: live looping synthesis layering harmonies to create original music that jibes with musician Prince’s theory that “there’s joy in repetition,” and to ably generate a sonic presence; astute lyrics that sincerely reflect Trishes’ activist bent, in this case, the need for examining personal inner turmoil, animus, and prejudices as an essential part of affecting social change globally; and a modern electronic vibe so cool among a new influential generation. Plus great pop songs, period. “Big Sunglasses” is a hit here. Science tells us that the id is “the impulsive and unconscious part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to basic urges, needs, and desires.” Five monologues here thoughtfully address this. What The Id does is win. Gratification!

Muriel’s Treasure: Volume 8

Various Artists (Cosmic Spy Music)

The subtitle of this compilation is “Vintage Calypso of the 1950s and 1960s.” The compiler’s stated mission is “finding things on the scrapheap of history . . . and salvaging them.” When one notes that this is Volume 8, the idea that calypsos from the 1950s and 60s were consigned to the scrapheap of history comes as a shock to Caribbean sensibilities. That era, bracketing the calypso craze breakthrough in the US market offered by Belafonte’s Calypso album, was replete with satirical, socially conscious, and scandalous calypsos from all the islands. Twenty-five songs from the Bahamas, Jamaica, the US Virgin Islands, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago are collected on this album. Calypsos from icons like the Mighty Sparrow, Mighty Spoiler, and Lord Invader intermingle with ditties from Eloise Ross, the Ticklers, and Edmundo Ros. If Volume 8 is a starting point, going back to Volume 1 should be a must-do for calypso devotees.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
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