"Sons of Kemet have crafted a narrative that sees Black people freeing themselves from the constraints of oppression" - NME argues in favour of the fourth album by the London afro-jazz quartet (gave it 5 of 5 stars). The Skinny deems it best SOK album with "a thrillingly rich tapestry that combines passionate reflections on […]

"It’s a wonderful way to say goodbye, a celebration of Tony Allen doing the thing he loved and doing it as brilliantly and as unassailably as ever" - the Quietus wrote reviewing the posthumous album 'There Is No End', by the afrobeat drummer. It's Guardian's choice for their Global album of the month as it "plays as a cohesive record because of Allen’s capacity to slot into place behind seemingly any collaborator without diluting his innate sense of rhythmic style" (collaborators include Sampa the Great, Skepta, Ben Okri, and Danny Brown). Pitchfork argues "'There Is No End' is Allen as his most copacetic, polished self. It doesn’t feel like the finish line, but rather a passing of the baton".

Girl In Red / Dawn Richard

"‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’ has all the qualities of a blockbuster pop record - incessant hooks, A-list producer credits" - DIY Magazine writes about the pop-rock debut album by the Norwegian singer. Dawn Richard comes from the opposite side of pop music's spectrum, with critics really appreciating her R'n'B/house: "The beats are decadent, but so too are the liberties she takes as an independent artist beholden to nothing but her own satisfaction" - Pitchfork.

‘I’m Going to Break Your Heart’ is a documentary about singer-songwriters Raine Maida (of the group Our Lady Peace) and Chantal Kreviazuk, who comprise the duo Moon Vs Sun, who are trying to save their marriage by making music together, in front of the camera. Variety likes the marriage-as-a-band premise of the docu: "The two escape from L.A. for a songwriting retreat on the French island of Saint Pierre, only to be constantly rubbing each other the wrong way in the collaborative process. That Maida and Kreviazuk are also husband and wife does lend some extra stakes when they battle it out as co-writers: This might be the first marital-drama documentary that has, at its crux, irreconcilable differences over a pre-chorus".

'Vulture Prince' is the third album by Pakistan-rased and Brooklyn-based Arooj Aftab, dedicated to her younger brother who died while she was making it. The album was written as an instrument of swimming out of feelings of loss and grief. Arooj Aftab's mesmerizing voice is supported here by a team of renowned musicians. It's a subtle amalgamation of classical, South Asian music, jazz, even some trance and reggae. Full of class and a class of its own...

Lisa Rovner’s archival documentary celebrates the women whose breakthroughs in early electronic music laid the foundations of modern electronic styles. The focus falls on about nine or 10 women in the field, including experimental music pioneer Clara Rockmore, British composer and mathematician Delia Derbyshire who co-created the 'Doctor Who' theme, and Suzanne Ciani, the first woman to score a major Hollywood movie - 'The Incredible Shrinking Woman' in 1981. Guardian gave it five stars, describing it as "superb" and "electrifying". The Wall Street Journal starts with a provocative premise: "that the frontiers of electronic music were blazed by women".

"Their elaborate and very loud efforts to build tension, achieve overwhelming catharsis, and write their most memorable melodies yet feels more like a conversation with a medium they love. It doesn’t hurt that their newfound transparency makes the music feel refreshingly human and relatable" - Pitchfork reviews the new album by the elusive hipster-hardcore band The Armed (tagged it Best New Music, grade 8.2). 'Ultrapop' is also Stereogum's Album of the Week, described as "punishing, bombastic, catchy, genuinely surprising collection of songs... It sounds like everything hitting at once. It rules so hard". Treblezine appreciates the album's "juxtaposition of delicate dream pop and metal".

"There isn’t a single wasted second among its ten tracks, navigating the waters between discordant grit and lilting harmony with a steady hand" - Heavy Blog is Heavy wrote reviewing new album by the screamo/post-hardcore quintet Dreamwell. Everything is Noise insists this is "a must-listen album to anyone who enjoys emotionally heavy music as a catharsis", with Noob Heavy adding it's a "powerful, mature, and often quite moving listen". Brooklyn Vegan argues "Dreamwell's screamo can be metallic and aggressive as much as it can be soaring and post-rocky, and it feels big enough to fill stadiums".

Recorded in a matter of days in a Chicago backyard, 'NOW' joins together three essential Black American genres - jazz, gospel and hip-hop - made with the goal of getting together to commune and make art. "The feel is that of a live prayer-meets-politics meeting... The overall experience is restorative and uplifting" - All About Jazz reviews the new album by multi-talented composer, musician, educator, and visual artist Damon Locks and his impressive collective Black Monument Ensemble. Stereogum describes ''NOW' as "a sweaty, roiling piece of music, answered by vocalists who are tracing pathways from grief to ecstasy... Dense with ideas and sounds", while Pitchfork praises "grand and luminous statement" made by it.

"'Dope Game Stupid' turns his life details and a never-ending stream of metaphors into some of the most engaging raps of the year so far" - Pitchfork writes reviewing the debut album by the Detroit rapper Bruiser Wolf, adding that "compact metaphors and similes are Wolf’s weapon of choice". Producer Raphy, on the other hand, "provides a batch of pristine loops that crackle with dust and melancholy".

"'Sound of Metal' is a painful, thoughtful, sombre film that telescopes a long story into just a few months" - Guardian's critic writes reviewing a movie about a metal band drummer going deaf. Bradshaw believes the movie is trying too much, with the main actor (and musician) Riz Ahmed giving a "typically fierce and focused performance" which "clarifies the drama and delivers the meaning of Ruben’s final epiphany. He gives the film energy and point". So, worth watching thanks to the musician, right Mr. Bradshaw?

"Taking from ambient, soundtrack, harsh noise, jazz, and a host of other types of music, 夢遊病者 simply does not care about fitting into one specific mold" as they "craft something indistinguishable from anything else" - Brooklyn Vegan writes in awe of this extraordinary debut album by the anonymous international avant-garde metal trio. The band as an entity is also quite fluid - their early Bandcamp releases credit them as a Russian/ Japanese/American entity, they use Chinese characters for their name (Sleepwalker in English), the title of the album 'Noč Na Krayu Sveta' is in Slovenian, while the band members are named as PBV, NN, and KJM.

"The band’s debut album arrives fully formed, ready to evacuate the contents of your brain and replace them with the odd images, bizarre obsessions, vivid sense memories, and banal judgements that live rent-free in the mind of another" - Pitchfork writes in its review of Dry Cleaning's 'New Long Leg'. Guardian deems it a "work of a terrifically focused group... a debut to be excited about". Exclaim like the paradox of it - "record that absorbs and spits back the unending noise of the world and asks that you take a second look, every common thing somehow made brand new".

"The Alchemist creates a gorgeous soundscape that sounds like it pulls from warped jazz and soul samples, psych-rock guitar, trippy film scores, and more... woods and ELUCID have responded to that by rapping in a way that's just a little harder and more direct" - Brooklyn Vegan writes in praise of the collaborative album by New York rap duo and California producer. Stereogum goes into the metaphysics of the album: "It’s still about power and control and the way systems are rigged to continue use people as batteries".

"One of the most ​immersive novels I’ve ever read….This is a thrilling work of polyphony—a first novel, that reads like the work of an old hand” - Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about debut novel by Dawnie Walton 'The Final Revival of Opal & Nev'. It's about the meteoric rise and break-up of a fictional 1970s rock duo, which made Washington Post reviewer to write - "at times, I held my breath, wondering if the novel could sustain its tightrope act — balancing its array of voices, its fictional history with actual history". Kirkus reviews writer praises the "intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music".

"It is a statement about the beauty of slowing down, of not worrying about what you say and instead focusing on how you feel" - Pitchfork writes Lost Girls' 'Menneskekollektivet’, the debut LP from the Norvegian duo Jenny Hval and Håvard Volden. Sonically, it's "a dance record, a heady cocktail of muted drum machines and hypertrophied synthesizers", while its "inherently unfinished quality makes it feel naturalistic, deeply human". Beats Per Minute argues 'Menneskekollektivet' is "a fun time; an unorthodox album that borders on a million genres and commits to none".

Thorn / Morrison

"Women have been written out of history for centuries, their contributions to culture diminished, dismissed, or viewed solely in relation to the men in their lives. But through her entertaining, affectionate and righteous book, Thorn invites us to witness her friend in all her gobby glory" - Guardian writes in the review of 'My Rock'n'Roll Friend' by Tracey Thorn on Everything But The Girl, and her relationship with Lindy Morrison of the Go-Betweens. The G adds that "the author brings wit, candour and vividness to her storytelling... as well as providing a portrait of a mercurial and brilliant musician, the book exposes the sexism and hypocrisy of an industry, and attempts to right a terrible wrong".

Dubliner David Balfe shared an artistic punk band with a best friend who killed himself, and now says his farewell with a project For Those I Love. Alexis Petridis chose it for his Album of the Week describing it as "bedroom dance music and spoken-word vocals" and "eerie post-dubstep". NME gives it perfect 5 stars arguing it's "a testament to the power of catharsis", whereas Independent hears "a staggering album". 'For Those I Love', however, goes beyond Balfe's story of love, as the Line of Best Fit points out - "his creation of such an overt sense of nostalgia, grief, loss and mourning, whilst also making time to make statements on social justice issues is impressive".

'Promises' is a collaborative project by producer Floating Points, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra, but the one holding it together is - "Sanders, his warm tone and fluid technique undiminished even at 80 years old, listening to his surroundings and finding brilliant patterns to stitch the work together and thus elevate it", as Pitchfork hears it (tagged it Best new music also). The New York Times appreciates the unity of it: "When [Sanders] plays his final notes of the album... he does not so much disappear as become one with Shepherd’s web of humming synthesizers".

Critics really like the new Tina Turner documentary by Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, a "must see", because, as The List says - "whether you're a fan or not, it's hard not to get swept up in the sheer strength of her story". Vulture sees the broader picture: "Frames itself as the final word on this music legend, strongly implying in its closing moments that this two-hour movie is essentially Turner’s farewell to the wider world".

280 upcoming bands - including Indigo Sparke, Shannen James, Chubby and the Gang, and Black Country, New Road - performed last week at the online edition of South by Southwest. The bands performed from their living rooms and backyards. Paste Magazine was at the (web)site to witness a "smooth, yet strange virtual event that, by streamlining the festival experience, necessarily sapped it of all the chaotic energy and excitement that makes live music (let alone festivals) so irreplaceable". The New York Times says SXSW "came back with a genuine joy".

Reviews are more fun than television
March 22, 2021

"Instant thrills" on Pupil Slicer's debut 'Mirrors'

"It offers up metalcore and mathcore at its harshest, interspersed with ambient/noise interludes and flirtations with black & death metal and other heavy subgenres, and it covers a lot of ground within that realm. It's chaotic and discordant at times, bone-crushingly heavy at others, and atmospheric at others, and it remains dark and intense throughout" - Brooklyn Vegan writes in praise of London trio's debut album. The Quietus likes Kate Davies’ vocals and how "there’s an element of playfulness here too, which actually helps these bizarre, head-spinning song structures feel even more abrasive and derange... Believe the hype, this thing will tear your head clean off".

Canadian Indigenous scholar, writer, activist, poet, and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson speaks and sings of the urgency of taking care of a planet in peril on her new album 'Theory of Ice'. It is, as PopMatters explains - "a dramatic, deeply eloquent, and musically rich celebration of the Earth and one of its most precious resources: water". Although concerned about the future, Betasamosake believes "human relationships can create real change" and she makes "saving the planet... somehow seem within our grasp".

Covering the build-up to, and the aftermath of, the pop star’s accidental overdose in the summer of 2018, four-part series 'Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil' is harrowing and unflinchingly honest - Guardian writes in review on the new docu about the American pop-star. The G points out how "its central theme – that one individual shouldn’t bear the burden of other people’s expectations – is important". Lovato revealed deeply private information in the documentary, about how she was raped as a teenager, and sexually assaulted by her dealer. The docu airs on YouTube from 23 March.

"From start to finish, 'A Common Turn' takes you through Savage’s liberating highs, all whilst throwing you her turbulent lows – a raw and emotive album, to say the least" - the Quietus wrote about the debut album by English singer-songwriter Anna B Savage (30). Clash Music loves how intimate it is: "This is a gem of an album. Personal, honest and highly emotive, it tackles big questions; but most of all, it dares to be vulnerable".

“A whole lot of minds have to see something invisible. The act of making music - that could be spiritual. You’re taking something that’s not physically seen and you’re bringing it from nowhere, pulling it from thin air, so people can experience it” - folk-blues-soul singer Valerie June says beautifully in the New York Times interview about new album 'The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers', out now. The Times likes how it’s "rich, strange and mercifully free of the self-importance that infuses so much modern music", whereas RIFF declares it a "smart, adventurous and downright joyful listen".

"A gentle, reflective album that includes songs about education, poverty and righteous conduct, providing indirect commentary on Mali’s parlous political situation" - Guardian writes in praise of Anansy Cissé's new album 'Anoura'. Written after a run-in with an armed thug, Mali guitarist's album offers a positive message in these songs of love, respect and hope for better times ahead. Roots World appreciates how "in keeping with much Malian music the percussion is minimal and understated, allowing the melodic rhythmic patterns to work across each other uncluttered and for all its tonal variety there is a fine sense of space pervading this album".

Scottish duo Arab Strap released their first album in 16 years, and critics really like it. "With lyrics that encompass the reality of ageing with all its wisdom and regrets, and with music that employs the deftness of touch that can only come with long-term honing, Arab Strap have delivered their defining record" - NME argues. Guardian likes the wittiness of it: "Coming on like a union between Sleaford Mods and Leonard Cohen consummated in a Glasgow pub toilet, 'As Days Get Dark' serves up bleakness and gallows humour multiple ways: 'dejected, deserted and drunk'". PopMatters likes it the most - "This is a record as rare as hens' teeth: a comeback that not only beats expectations but has an excellent claim to be the band's crowning achievement". Band's members Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton turn back on their career for the Quietus - they chose 10 key points from their discography.

Poly Styrene was the frontwoman of influential UK band X-Ray Spex, the first woman of color to front a successful UK rock band, getting into punk which "she helped to define and energise", as Peter Bradshaw argues. A new "riveting and valuable documentary" about her life, 'Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché', co-directed by her daughter Celeste Bell, is out now. "There was something authentically heroic about Poly Styrene", Bradshaw adds (gives the docu 4 stars).

An amazing story told in Jonathan Sutak's new documentary 'Dons of Disco' about the 1980s Italian pop star Den Harrow. There was however no Den Harrow (the name itself is a joke on Italian word “denaro”, money) - the face of the singer was Stefano Zandri, charismatic young Italian, who didn't speak any English so the producers Roberto Turatti and Miki Chieregato hired a Swiss-American singer Tom Hooker to do the singing parts (without the public knowing it). When Hooker quit the act and music, the Den Harrow character continued, with other singers recording the voice. New Yorker writes in a review that "Sutak tells this amazing story with an admirable directness and simplicity; he avoids the sense of documentary convention and seems to be following the urgency of his own sense of wonder".

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