"Surrounding her voice with saxophone and fretless bass, drum loops and field recordings, acoustic instruments and new age synth, Jenkins’ accompanists mirror the conversational tone of her writing, ensuring that the revelations aren’t limited to the lyric sheet" - Pitchfork writes in the review of Cassandra Jenkins' second album (tagged it Best New Music, grade 8.3). Brooklyn Vegan thinks highly of it as well: "Warm, '70s-style folk music is still one of the big influences here, but 'Overview' also finds Cassandra embracing a sophisti-pop/indie rock blend... The instrumentals alone on this album are gripping enough to stop you in your tracks, but sealing the deal is Cassandra's lyricism and vocal delivery, which feel casual and conversational but also poetic and quietly devastating".

The third album by East London rapper "depicts honest tales of London through the art of true lyricism, a tradition that will never die out" - NME writes about Ghetts' 'Conflict of Interest', an album rich in lyrics and collaborations (and minutes - it's over an hour long). Alexis Petridis says the album "feels like the work of an artist who’s in it for the long haul rather than short-term rewards". Clash Music puts it simple: "His strongest album to date, and one of grime’s true classic".

"With haunting serenity, there is a flitting consciousness to the these brief, nightmarish lullabies that leaves you transfixed within a realm of broken intimacy" - Secret Meeting writes in a review of debut EP by New York singer-songwriter Maria BC. They are classical training as a mezzo-soprano, but their voice, hushed in pop melodies, seems to reach only a portion of what might next from them. Promising...

"Another notch in a string of slow-rolling, ever-expanding reconsiderations of American celebrity culture, and particularly the female tabloid figures of the 90s and aughts, one facilitated by the larger #MeToo retelling of sex, power and the spectra of traumas faced by women, partly by the simple passage of time" - Guardian writes in the review of 'Framing Britney Spears', a new docu mostly about the controversial conservatorship by her father. CNN asks a "more uncomfortable, slightly meta question... whether even serious attempts to examine the star's fame and potential exploitation wind up participating in the process". Decider thought it was "entertaining to watch, but even more than that, it is shocking and hopefully motivating".

The Quietus is delighted by the new documentary about Robert Lloyd and cult Birmingham punk band The Nightingales: "You’d expect a film by the director of Brass Eye and 'Toast of London', and the comedian behind some of the most brilliant stand-up sets ever to come from these shores, to be funny and smart – but the experience of 'King Rocker' explodes those expectations. It’s not hyperbole to say this is one of the best music documentaries of all time. Hilarious and brilliantly knowing about the form of music documentaries, and caustic about the music industry and fame, at its moving heart it’s a wonderful homage to and a portrait of a true outsider artist, and an inspiring comeback story that in the already boiling maelstrom of 2021 feels profoundly necessary".

'Ignorance' is bliss
February 08, 2021

Critics really like new Weather Station

Rave reviews of new album 'Ignorance' by The Weather Station who made a u-turn from indie-rock singer-songwriter to alter synth-pop. Pitchfork tagged it Best New Music (9.0) due to "unforgettable moments of calm and beauty". Guardian gave it perfect 5 stars - "quietly revolutionises an old, familiar trope – the pop album about heartbreak, co-starring piano and strings – and makes it a rallying cry for our time". Brooklyn Vegan says "she's explicitly making the case that ignorance is not bliss, not anymore, but musically, artistically, 'Ignorance' is a thoughtful, transportive and genuinely moving call to action".

Critics from all over the spectrum are speaking highly about 'For The First Time', the debut album by the British septet Black Country, New Road. Clash Music places the band "in a paradox where so-called high and low art intersect", calling the album "a product of its time", promising "it will unsettle and confuse you". The Line of Best Fit appreciates the intensity of the band - "ferocious and endlessly intelligent, highly considered and wildly improvised, eked out with bristling tension". The Quietus likes how they sound - "it’s rare that a band this noisy, an album where chaos reigns, is recorded with this much clarity. There are so many different musical ideas, and none of them get lost along the way". Stereogum chose this debut for their Album of the Week, describing it as "a document of restless creativity and incisive minds processing an era of too much mediation and stimulation".

The 24-year old American guitarist Yasmin Williams on her first album invented a two-handed guitar-playing style, and on her second she found a new sound, deeply intertwined with nature, especially with movings in nature, which is suggested with titles such as 'After the Storm', 'Dragonfly', 'Swift Breeze', and 'Through the Woods'. Pitchfork says she "has a gift for penning melodies that feel as catchy as pop songs. but her approach to the instrument also allows her to confound expectations" with "memorable compositions that, even at their most open-ended, proceed in a loose verse-chorus structure" (gave her 8.0).

"Madlib channels a deep, intertwining lineage of Black music through 'Sound Ancestors' like folklore oration, storytelling with the sorcery of a beatmaker who knows how to make an instrumental really sing" - Guardian writes in a 5-star review of LA producer's newest album. NPR's Piotr Orlov writes Madlib is "communing with the ghosts set to vinyl discs and re-dreamed into life, making a future out of pieces of history", while the producer himself says there's higher powers here - "spirits come into play when you do a certain type of music; sometimes I'm not even doing the music, sometimes that's just sound ancestors".

Portrayal of Guilt are as much a screamo/hardcore band as a black/death metal band, and, on their newest release 'We Are Always Alone' - they've "pushed all aspects of their sound even further to the extreme - the melodic parts are catchier, the heavy parts are more callous - and yet, they blend everything together even more seamlessly" - Brooklyn Vegan argues. It's Stereogum's Album of the Week because "drumrolls explode like grenades. Guitars clang and screech and bay. Ominous clanks and whirrs and hums fill the space between songs. King screams like he’s got broken glass lodged in his throat".

The first widely critically acclaimed album of the new year is the second record by the English post-punk band Shame: "a massively ambitious and accomplished body of work driven by propulsive melodies and lyrics delivered with boundless passion" - the Quietus; "an exhilarating and inspiring listen" - Stereogum; "shadowboxing to Shame’s sonic assault is one of the more satisfying ways to cope with the ecstatic catastrophe of life" - CoS; "a surreal landscape of desperation, frustration, and consideration, and a confident second record from the South Londoners" - Clash Music.

Japanese psychedelic rock band Kikagaku Moyo is the first to release a live album in the Live at LEVITATION series, recorded at the world-renowned event in Texas. Here, the band embodies liberty and groove of folk-influenced progressive psychedelia, reaching well beyond their island. Rich and very easy to listen to...

"'BRASS' is the rare, mesmerizing album that can throw that kind of gut-punch, land it—and keep moving" - Pitchfork says in a review of the collaborate album by Moor Mother and billy woods (also a member of Armand Hammer). Pitch points out "together they treat history as a mass grave and a playground, heeding its horrors yet finding room for dark laughs and cautious hope". Tom Breihan said "it’s a work of tingling bad-feelings expressionism. To listen to 'BRASS' is to disappear into a certain headspace".

"Pure genre fare delivered by an artist with a refined, almost clinical approach to storytelling" - Pitchfork writes in review of Boldy James' fourth album of 2020. Produced by LA's Real Bad Man it is a "dope record about moving dope", CoS writes.

"The oppressed will always find a way to feel their joy" - a critic at RobertEbert.com writes about 'Lovers Rock' by Steve McQueen, about young people of first- and second-generation West Indian background in London who make house-parties listening to lovers rock (a romantic style of reggae). Vulture deemed it "a transfixing romance not just between the two characters at its center but one about the beauty of the human body, the succor of an energetic party, and the possibility in the hush of a night". Empire says it's "a woozy, musical fever dream with wit, sexiness and one unforgettable extended singalong".

"An exhaustive, highly informative, and impossible-to-put-down" - PopMatters says in a review of a book about the "strange, mysterious, obscure" album 'Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth' by the 1970s R&B and funk band 24-Carat Black. It chronicles the unfortunate fates of its many members and the delayed praise that it would eventually gain, as a sample-vault for many stars, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar.

Actor and director Alex Winter got lucky - he was the first author to get access to Frank Zappa's immense vault, and he made the first authorised documentary on Zappa based on the never-before-seen footage of the legendary rock polymath he found there. "The resulting film", Guardian says, "presents a nuanced and authoritative portrait of an artist who may have spoken prodigiously to the media during his lifetime about his music and politics but who remained oddly aloof as a person".

The Pogues were the most dangerous band in Britain and Ireland - the Quietus says in a review of the new documentary about the Irish punk band's frontman. 'Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan' tells the singer's story with the help of IRA's Gerry Adams, and goes into two directions - "it reminds the viewer what incredible talent MacGowan had during the 1980s, and also just how dangerous he was considered by the establishment".

The critics are loving the new George C. Wolfe movie 'Black Bottom' about one afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago where a band of musicians await trailblazing performer Ma Rainey. Guardian's Peter Bradshaw calls it "ferociously intelligent and violently focused, an opera of passion and pain", and "a detonation of pure acting firepower", while LA Times' Justin Chang says "it’s a feast of inspired talk that leaves an audience, in turn, with no shortage of things to talk about".

"With his damning journalism and thorough documentation of Hernandez's real-life gangster activity, Gandhi chips away at such sympathy and alters how to look at someone who wants to always be seen" - a review on RoberEbert.com says about ’69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez’, a documentary about controversial (to put it in mildest terms) New York rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine. Indie Wire says the director Vikram Gandhi "manages to deliver a thoughtful primer on the Tekashi story as it currently stands, and gives this serial troublemaker the tragic documentary he deserves". Hollywood Reporter praises the story for picturing a "funny, energetic and driven kid [being] consumed by the disease of celebrity".

Blood From The Soul is an industrial-metal/hardcore-punk supergroup featuring Napalm Death, Converge, Megadeth, Nasum members, and 'DSM-50' is their first album in 27 years. "The whole story behind this album seems almost too good to be true on paper", Brooklyn Vegan argues, adding "but once you click play you'll see that it's very true, and indeed very good". Listen to the full album on Bandcamp.

Young Welsh folk guitar virtuoso Gwenifer Raymond "tries to invent a new style: Welsh primitive infused with folk horror", Guardian writes about their latest choice for Folk Album of the Month. With a PhD in astrophysics and a day job programming video games on one side, Raymond says her folk music is influenced by the countryside, but had to record her new album 'Strange Lights over Garth Mountain' locked down in her basement during the pandemic.

You think I'm great
November 09, 2020

A simple yet great online concert by Desire Marea

South-African experimental pop artist Desire Marea performed a virtual concert with a host of first time collaborators. They performed gorgeous live renditions from Desire Marea's this year debut 'Desire', making them mesmerizing, jazzy, and atmospheric.

Elucid / The Lasso

New hip-hop project Small Bills is made of New York rapper Elucid (one half of another new hip-hop duo Armand Hammer), and Detroit multi-instrumentalist/producer The Lasso. Also on their debut album 'Don't Play it Straight' are Moor Mother, Fielded, Nosaj, .k, Koncept Jackson, and billy woods. Brooklyn Vegan compares the album to the awesome Armand Hammer debut 'Shrines', but adds "this album is also a beast of its own. It's overall more psychedelic and more chaotic. It has less warm, soulful production than 'Shrines' and more sputtering electronics".

"An absorbing modern shoegaze classic" - Louder writes in review of 'The Great Dismal', adding the new Nothing record is "an intense and unflinching album which embraces life’s chaotic absurdity and weighs heavily long after its final riffs fade to black". Dark singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and crushingly heavy sludge metal band Thou "feed off each other in a way where they create something none of them could have done on their own" - Brooklyn Vegan writes about their collaborative new album 'May Our Chambers Be Full'.

"The nearly two-hour show was part music, part comedy, part documentary, with cinematic production values that rival those of a home video release" - CoS writes about Mr. Bungle's Halloween show The Night They Came Home. "Instead of treating the camera like an audience member that isn’t there, Mr. Bungle used it like a film director, making the concert portion more like a performance video than a webcam stream", CoS adds, praising the use of guests - Josh Homme, Henry Rollins, Buzz Osborne - to bridge moments of silence between songs.

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