"As the band name suggests, there was a breakneck, YOLO verve to everything Branch did that goes double here. Wolf-like howls punctuate these tracks, vying for primacy with scything, bowed strings. Rhythms drive, tumble and sashay" - the Guardian writes reviewing the posthumous album by jazz trumpeter Jaimie Branch and her bend Fly or Die (5 of 5 stars is the verdict). Pitchfork points out that "'((world war))' provides a precious document of her artistry... and a reminder that the struggle for a better world is a beautiful and worthwhile endeavor" (tagged in Best New Music, with grade 8.5). Treblezine likes how borderless and non-final it is: "These nine songs burst about with full-throttle, hellion-rowdy, freaky consciousness-expanding shaman type verve... If anything, it’s a lovely bouillabaisse of branch’s way of gathering the tribes and bringing folks together".

"For the fourth year in a row, they’ve outdone themselves. The epic songs are more epic, the pop songs poppier, the country-fried desolation more potent and immersive" - Stereogum argues in favor of their latest Album of the week, 'Rat Saw God' by Wednesday. Rolling Stone writes lovingly that "the North Carolina band thrives on a huge guitar sound and the great songwriting of Karly Hartzman," whereas Consequence sees a beginning of something really big - "call it country-gaze, bubble-grunge, or skip the genre classifications altogether, the project is 10 tracks of immaculate songwriting, big ideas, and sheer character". Pitchfork tagged it Best New Music, because "their outstanding new album is why they’re one of the best indie rock bands around".

Darkest hour
April 05, 2023

Heartworms - "the next great cult act"

"There’s a real depth to Heartworms’ music that matches the image, and proves her to be a true and powerful outlier of her time" - NME is delighted with the debut EP by Heartworms, London goth/post-punk band. Fronted by musician and poet Jojo Orme, formed in 2020, their 4-song introductory release ‘A Comforting Notion’ feels "urgent and important, brimming with all the promise of the next great cult act." DIY Mag feels similar about her: "a Seriously Fucking Cool new artist with vision and formidable talent to her name."

Letter to everyone
March 31, 2023

Boygenius share their debut 'The Record'

"Every song on 'The Record' might not knock you on your ass, but the cumulative effect is really something" - Stereogum points out in their Premature Evaluation of Boygenius' debut album. They probably don't like being called a "supergroup", and certainly, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus "sound less like three individual solo artists working together, more like one cohesive whole." Pitchfork gave it 8.2 grade, tagged it Best new music saying how each author "amplifies the other’s songwriting, enriches the detail, and heightens the emotion."

"Smart but chaotic, funny but disturbing – 'Scaring the Hoes' is a confounding victory" - Alexis Petridis points out about the collaborative album by New York’s Jpegmafia and Detroit’s Danny Brown. "The end result is the dictionary definition of not for everybody... It’s music that you don’t listen to so much as allow yourself to be overwhelmed by. Once you do, it becomes curiously addictive." Pitchfork says the album is "a vehicle for the duo’s irreverent humor and energy that captures a pair of spitballing pranksters who nevertheless maintain perfect GPAs."

Pakistani American singer Arooj Aftab is rejoined by her collaborators - jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and synth player Shahzad Ismaily - on her new album 'Love In Exile', a "sort of beautiful, strange sonic landscape made from strings, keys, and breath," as Rolling Stone puts it. Guardian hears tenderness, calling the album "the sound of a trio playing in gentle harmony... Aftab, Iyer and Ismaily reveal the beauty in quietude".

"The cybergrind renaissance is happening in a big way, and young duo Bejalvin have blown its doors off the fucking hinges. From dubstep to deathcore and every maximalist, heavy, catchy niche in between, 'Bejible' is the most fun I’ve had listening to music in years. This is truly next level shit" - Heavy Shit Is Heavy blog notes about the second album by the Minneapolis duo. It's essentially hyper-pop from a metal perspective. Interesting stuff.

"If you were to put together a perfect black metal book, one that captures that essential complexity while also providing historical and personal insights, it would be 'Black Metal Rainbows', a sprawling collection of essays, interviews, band and label profiles, and all kinds of art for both the true kvlt and the curious. It sets the new standard for how we should think about this music” - The Creative Independent reviews the new book which shows the true colors - antiracist and pro-diversity - of black metal.

Where is my hive?
March 22, 2023

New TV series 'Swarm' - when a fan goes mad

'Swarm', created by Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, is a "bizarre new... thriller" about a young woman's obsession with a pop star that takes a dark turn which "serves as a spikey admonishment of celebrity worship." "It expresses a discomfort with and cynical attitude toward social media and fame to sometimes frustrating results" - NPR expresses in awe of the new Prime TV series. It is "at its best when it leans into the absurdities of social media and the ease of slippage between internet selves and 'real' selves". There are some interesting cameos as well - Paris Jackson plays a stripper who claims to be Black on her dad's side, whereas Billie Eilish shows up in a commune made up of woo-woo influencer types.

"On 'Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)', they share some of their catchiest and most openly introspective songwriting yet" - Guardian reviews the new album by Yves Tumor. Pitchfork highly recommends the "ecstatic fusion of alt-rock and R&B, seeking the mysterious nexus where 'Loveless' meets 'Purple Rain'" (tagged it Best new music, rated 8.4). Consequence insists "they’ve turned themselves into a ravenous rock deity, a masterful songwriter", whereas NME hears as "evidence of how brilliant rock can be when ambition and talent are met with a creative who isn’t afraid to be strange".

"Uniquely memorable record, encapsulating its creator’s restless spirit" - Mojo reviews the new album 'Oh Me Oh My' by the avant-garde jazz/electro artist Lonnie Holley. Uncut points out it's "his most substantial and accessible album yet," as well as an "act of spontaneous divination, revisiting past traumas with pained understanding, yet also hopeful and celebrating the wonder of life." Pitchfork argues it's Holley's "most ambitious and approachable album: an extraordinary aural memoir that tells a cosmic story of survival" (rated 8.5, tagged Best new music), whereas Treblezine is confident that the album "will be deeply treasured". "This album is a report of loss, deep and personal and historic, yes, but most importantly, tangible and true" - Sputnik music writes enthused.

"'Radical Romantics' is essentially a collection of notes on love. Love—whether sexy, overwhelming, or vengeful—links together the recurring motivations of the Fever Ray catalog: curiosity and exploration, family born and chosen, sexual freedom and pleasure" - Pitchfork reviews the new album by Swedish artist (score 8.4, tagged Best new music). Guardian describes songs as "witty, inquisitive about physical and psychological relationships", whereas DIY Magazine points out that the album "posits the idea of love as an imperative condition for human function, and probes into both its darkest corners as well as the simple, mortal desire for affection, producing a fascinating study of electro-pop in the meantime. NME, similarly, hears "a collection of exhilarating pop vignettes examining love as a preoccupation, an unconstrained struggle and most importantly, a myth". "Even in the face of apprehension, Fever Ray has never surveyed their own future with this much conviction" - Paste Magazine insists.

"Big, queasy guitars, bloated bass, drums that hit like a medicine ball to the forehead—the album exudes a sense of both revulsion by and fascination with bodies and the things they do" - Bandcamp goes presenting their recent Album of the Day, 'Dogsbody' by the New York industrial/post-punk band Model/Actriz. Flood Magazine lists a number of references it can detect on the album, whereas Pitchfork declares it Best New Music (grade 8.2), saying "the band’s expertly contained noise-rock din is the perfect foil to frontman Cole Haden’s white-hot charisma".

Byron Wallen

London studio and music venue Total Refreshment Centre has just released compilation 'Transmissions From Total Refreshment Centre', produced in collaboration with Blue Note. Pitchfork hears a modern type of fusion here, with a nod to the points in the past: "What’s striking about each of the compilation’s featured artists is how thoroughly they integrate adventurous improvisation to the skittish rhythms. Groove and vibe are present but they’re not the key to the music; exploration is". Guardian says it "captures a complex, thrilling moment in a fast-expanding musical community", whereas The Quietus announces "you’ll hear genres such as jazz, hip-hop, soul, funk and drill combined, putting together an incredible gumbo of sounds that connects avant-garde jazz to the more modern sonics of contemporary London".

"It is not about who’s the best; it’s about doing something to the best of your ability because it improves your life, and if you can watch it without wanting to run out and practise a thing that brings you joy, I will be very surprised" - Joel Snape writes reviewing 'The Piano'. The reality show arranges for some of Britain’s best amateur pianists to play on the country’s busiest concourses. Guardian calls it "utter delight". One of the performers was Lucy, a 13-year-old who is blind and neurodiverse, who played a highly-complex Chopin piece.

"On this album, Algiers wants it all: righteousness and humility, dignity and disgust, hurting and joy, cynicism and hope... Algiers lashes out at injustice, exults in its sonic mastery and insists on the life forces of solidarity and physical impact. But it refuses to promise any consolation" - New York Times reviews the fourth album by the Atlanta, Georgia band. The Line of Best Fit looks into the poetry and its meaning - "the record is largely knit together by a series of spoken-word passages and recordings, splitting the distance between poetry, confessionals, and sermons." Stereogum heard an album of the week - "The music is provocative, but it’s pleasurable, too. In 'Shook', I hear some of the grand catharsis of rap and punk and MC5-style bomb-throwing garage-rock. Parts of 'Shook 'feel freaked-out and terrified, and parts of it feel triumphant. Sometimes, those are the same parts". The Quietus believes both the band, and this record are deeply unique: "Here, they sound like a band.. utterly revitalised, and now only reaching their peak, through a record loaded with collaborations that are never perfunctory or box-ticking exercise, but joyous and celebratory... 'Shook' is a record that exudes zeal, sweat and effort – heart, mind and body music of the highest order".

"There is melancholy here but wonder too. Love, death, family, home, religion, and even the enormity of the universe... appear more personally realized, revealing vulnerabilities and emotionality that are at once recognizable, stirring, and occasionally profound" - PopMatters reviews 'All Of This Is Chance' by singer-songwriter Lisa O'Neill, adding - "raw yet arresting, it can pull at the heart and transport one to different worlds, sounding both timeless yet contemporary and unmistakably Irish, not only by accent but by power and depth of feeling". Uncut highly recommends these "songs of love, loss, wonder and despair", whereas Hot Press describes it as "a breathtaking and incredible record". Guardian is equally decisive: "transcendent and original – a triumph."

Dancing with myself
February 14, 2023

Critics really like the new Kelela album 'Raven'

"'Raven' isn’t a magpie record, and the shifts between sounds are never jarring or overwhelming. Kelela has too much command over her own sound for that... Tracks flow into and out of each other, speeding up or slowing down at their conclusions" - Stereogum goes reviewing the newest album by the American singer (tagged it their Album of the Week). Pitchfork hears a "masterful display of tension and release, centering queer Black womanhood through blasts of heated dance music and ambient comedowns" (tagged it best Best new music, score 8.4). Telegraph says the "Ethiopian-American artist Kelela Mizanekristos has blessed us with a sexy, sultry masterclass in RnB".

Edinburgh threesome Youing Fathers have released their fourth album 'Heavy Heavy' - "a project that still manages to be equal parts anthemic and infectious... a passionate, soulful and often mesmerising work that will stick around long past the first listen" - NME points out. The Quietus is in awe of how "they’ve managed to create something more massive, more explosive and more earnest than ever before". Stereogum picks it out for their latest Album of the Week - "this is eminently welcoming, empathetic music that rewards engagement on levels both deep and superficial". In a Guardian interview, the band defines their sound - “We don’t think our music is weird. It’s just the context it exists within makes it seem weird. We love choruses, hooks. This is the pop music that we want to listen to.”

"The glacial post-punk that first launched the band to greatness remains, but this time it’s augmented by a host of different aspects. These fresh angles have pulled the band out of the increasingly overdone genre and have seen them start to carve out a space that they can truly call their own" - Far Out magazine reviews the second album by the Dublin quintet. Guardian argues in a five-star review that it "extends their post-punk palette brilliantly beyond the monochrome grief and pain of their 2019 debut. Piercing the gothic gloom are new textures that broaden and deepen their sound", whereas Louder Than War hears duality in its lyrics - "self-discovery full of uplifting highs clash with moments where self-doubt threatens to crucify an uncertain and wavering mind. Gigi is a metaphor for one of us or all of us."

The tention mounts
January 26, 2023

Give Kali Malone a chance!

Kali Malone’s new album 'Does Spring Hide Its Joy' lasts three hours consisting solely of Malone on sine-wave oscillators, Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) on guitar and Lucy Railton on cello. The critics insist the album is powerful and demands total surrender. Pitchfork connects it to the pandemic and the future: "There’s something utopian about music driven by an attention to understanding those around you, music that pushes listeners to expand their understanding of how time is experienced and demarcated. In a period of upheaval, letting go of expectations of how things should be, beginning with how music should move or present itself, can be a powerful step toward reimagining the future."

"Truculent, technically gifted rapper who appears ambivalent about his chosen career... Spends most of these 90 minutes poring over his bad behaviour with much wit, if little humour... The chill, sparse productions foreground Clavish’s economical delivery beautifully, as he flirts with imploring vulnerability and vicious querulousness without ever committing to either" - Guardian's Damien Morris points out about Clavish's mixtape 'Rap Game Awful'. Alexis Petridis hears a voice of the generation - "his worldview is strikingly drawn and bleak, devoid of politicking, expressions of anger at societal injustice or indeed optimism: this is just what it’s like, he seems to say, and it’s unlikely to change. Life on the streets is an endless, numbing round of cheffings and nittys and opps getting splashed".

"'Bone Music' is a history of technical ingenuity, censorship, courage, tragedy, and a profound love of music" - Dan Fox highly recommends the "fascinating new illustrated book" by the British musician Stephen Coates and photographer Paul Heartfield. It tells the history of "bone records", music pressed on X-ray during the communist regimes which banned western music. Since 2013, Coates and Heartfield have produced a touring exhibition, an online archive, a documentary film, and a BBC radio programme. 'Bone Music' brings to light new material about the origins of bone records in 1930s Hungary.

"This surprise 10-track collection is a clear-headed riposte to the fame game and the industry hangers-on trying to take a slice" - NME reviews the new Little Simz album 'No Thank You', adding that this "quiet, understated release" has a "certain looseness and freedom to the tracks, and... a clear-headed Simz has something to say urgently". Alexis Petridis points out the sonic element - "There’s no doubt that No Thank You’s impact is vastly potentiated by the work of producer Inflo... whose approach to his project Sault – no promotion, no live performances, no interviews, music apparently released as and when he feels like it, even if that means putting out five albums on the same day – seems to reflect the manifesto outlined on 'Angel': 'Fuck rules and everything that’s traditional.'”

"'And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow' gently bombards you with one fantastic tune after another" - Guardian's Alexis Petridis writes in praise of Weyes Blood's new album (it's Petridis' Album of the Week). Pitchfork finds "a dispatch from the center of catastrophe—an idiosyncratic set of love songs and secular hymns with lushly orchestral arrangements" (tagged it Best New Music). The Line of Best Fit hears "a timeless classic, this record is one that you can revisit whenever you want to hear the comforting sounds of another soul trying to figure it all out". NME goes beyond the album itself: "By being pliable, open and more tender, Mering seems to suggest, perhaps we can save ourselves from the doom that this stunning record finds itself gripped within".

"A tribute to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s extraordinary life and career, Madison Thomas’s 'Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On' is as captivating and vital as its legendary subject, the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar" - Tiff reviews the new documentary about the Canadian activist and musician. "Her spirit shines, her wit and warmth blast through the screen and her many talents inspire" - What She Said insists.

"Dream Unending sounds very much like what they are: two gifted, experienced metal musicians trying to capture a colossal and elusive feeling that goes beyond subcultural identification or, indeed, earthly limits. It’s bewildering, and it’s beautiful" - Stereogum writes highly of the new album by dream-doom band Dream Unending. Pitchfork states that DU's "monuments to melancholy have never felt so crushing or beautiful", (tagged it Best New Music, grade 8.5). 

"It would take the second comings of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver and Lee Morgan to threaten to dislodge it" - All About Jazz says reviewing the London drummer's debut album. Tom Skinner is the co-founder of Sons of Kemet, and the Smile, whereas on 'Voices...' he is accompanied by bassist Tom Herbert of the influential Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland, tenor saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings of SOK and The Comet Is Coming, as well as Nubya Garcia and cellist Kareem Dayes. "As jazz supergroups go, this is the coyote's cojones", AAZ points out, calling the album "exalted jazz... by turns tumultuous... and meditative".

"It’s easy to downplay the courage it takes for celebrities to let down their guard and acknowledge their frailties or fallibility, revealing a side of herself the public doesn’t always see. That alone makes the message significant" - CNN writes in a review of Selena Gomez new doc 'My Mind & Me'. Guardian appreciates the singer revealing herself: "'My Mind & Me' captures her terror and ultimate relief in coming forward with her bipolar diagnosis and documents her genuinely remarkable efforts to destigmatize mental illness".

"Invigorating and intimidating, an album that crackles with the tension of a city where money and power collide with people just trying to get by" - Stereogum writes in review of NY punks' Show Me The Body album 'Trouble The Water', which they describe as "a blend of scrappy punk and dirt-blasted electronics that adopts the cadence of hip-hop and incorporates a whole lot of banjo". Guardian hears "an exciting and urgent call to come together and kick off – at once a reflection of, and a cathartic release from, volatile times". whereas Pitchfork says they populate "a swamp of chugs with weird creatures of electronica and sudden clearings of melodic, galloping punk".

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