"'Mr Morale & the Big Steppers' is absolutely crammed with lyrical and musical ideas" - Alexis Petridis writes reviewing the new album by Kendrick Lamar. Clash Music is equally enthused: "One of his most profound, complex, revelatory statements yet, a double album fuelled by sonic ambition, the will to communicate, and Kendrick’s staunch refusal to walk the easy path". Consequence hears "another bonafide masterpiece", whereas NME says "this album is as much about struggle as it is freedom, and what a beautiful sentiment that is".

Pakistan instrumental quartet Jaubi have released their debut album 'Nafs at Peace' where they "explore eastern mysticism and the spiritual Self". The modern traditional record "starts in the Indian classical tradition and extends its tenets outwards to subtly incorporate atypical instrumentation such as the guitar, synths and drum kit", the Guardian reviews. "Across seven tracks, Jaubi effectively convey this journey of the self via shifts in musical character – from a hip-hop swing to classical ragas and ferocious jazz improvisations – and a subtle increase in pace and intensity".

"Far from impenetrable, the record carries listeners along on sandstorms of driving, infectious rock and roll" - RIFF Magazine reviews the new album by the Touareg guitarist (gave it 9 of 10 stars). Pitchfork branded it Best new music (grade 8.4), arguing it "captures the group’s easy chemistry and explosive energy". Rolling Stone goes idealistic in its review: "This is how free rock & roll should sound". Uncut is equally enthusiastic: "An exhilarating band set that mixes electric and acoustic instrumentation, it’s at once fiercely modern and as ancient as the Niger river". DJ Mag chose it as their Album of the month.

"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".

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).

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 heaviness comes from our ancestors. I am Black and Indigenous. There’s been so much that has happened to us, and I feel this. I don’t feel like I could not make heavy music” - guitarist and saxophonist Takiaya Reed says about her band Divide And Dissolve. She is of Māori descent, and Sylvie Nehill, the other half of the duo, Cherokee. Together they play really intense instrumental ambient metal which aims to "destroy white supremacy”. Their newest album 'Gas Lit' is published by Portishead's Geoff Barrow who said “It totally freaked me out with its beauty and extreme heaviness”. The Quietus speaks to the ladies, and reviews the album - "a powerful, impressively unconventional, predominantly instrumental suite, linking sludge and doom metal with a desolate reading of jazz".

"'Wooden Cave' -- easily one of the best, if not the best album of this horrifying year so far -- does what so many of the best albums do. It creates a unique artistic statement that's a pleasure to hear from start to finish but includes plenty of ugly truths and harsh realities" - PopMatters says in its rave review of singer-songwriter Thin Lear's new album (9 of 10 stars).

"It’s Haim as we haven’t quite heard them before: not just eminently proficient musicians, entertainers, and 'women in music', but full of flaws and contradictions, becoming something much greater" - Pitchfork argues in favor of the third album by the three California sisters. Other critics like it as much: "Haim take us through a dark place and they do it frankly. But they never let the momentum dip. And they never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel" - Independent; "Experimental, soothing and vulnerable; it’s a thing of great beauty" - NME; "Richly searching, explosively produced third album" - Guardian.

Fiona Apple‘s highly anticipated new album 'Fetch the Bolt Cutters' came out at midnight, and Pitchfork gave it a rare perfect 10, their first since Kanye West’s 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' ten years ago. Why? - it's "unbound, a wild symphony of the everyday" - it features handclaps, chants, echoes, whispers, screams, breathing, jokes, and at least five dogs - "an unyielding masterpiece. No music has ever sounded quite like it". Guardian, similarly, gave it five of five stars (not so rare in their case) - call it "astonishing; as if she has returned to reinvent sound... a sudden glorious eruption". Independent, five of five stars also - "the melodies are wonderful. The lyrics, too – conversational yet precise". Consequence of Sound (an "A", this is becoming a pattern) - says it's "prescient, mordant, and unyielding judgement day for the wicked world around us and a wild birth of urgent, unconventional sound all wrapped into one".

Photo by Bob Sweeney

"Like garage rock or traditionalist country, jazz in the 21st century is retro by default, a bygone sound echoing into the present from a different era. Yet this band charges its decades-old discipline with a distinctly modern perspective. They tap directly into the cacophony of these times and connect it to the tumult that has been percolating since before people were making records" - Stereogum says about 'Who Sent You?', the new album by nu-jazzers Irreversible Entanglements. The US band is fronted by poet Camae Ayewa who "spouts revolutionary rhetoric over harrowing electronic soundscapes, resulting in deeply challenging protest music that prioritizes unfiltered expression over conventional notions of accessibility".

"The skillset of Jay Electronica as both an MC and a producer is on full display... 'A Written Testimony' gives us a peek into the immense, singular possibilities of Jay Electronica" - Consequence of Sound writes in a review o New Orleans rapper's debut album (gives it A-). Plenty of Jay-Z on the album - 50-year-old billionaire still rapping with the hunger and poignancy that he did in the ’90s. Pitchfork tagged it Best new music calling it "mystical, distinctive work", coming from a "well of deep faith, he summons rap performances that seem to defy space-time".

New heroes are very much alive
February 29, 2020

Some great black-gaze - Azerbaijan Violet Cold

Violet Cold are so rich in sound on 'Kid Noir' it seems there is an orchestra behind the music, whereas it's a one-man-show - by Emin Guliyev. It's big, it's dramatic, it's rich, it's - great!!! Invisible Oranges likes the "spaced-out vocals and monstrously thick atmospherics to literally drown your ears in wet noise". On a lighter note - Guliyev charges his album $6,66 at Bandcamp :-).

Brooklyn Indian dhol player, drummer, and composer Sunny Jain mixes jazz, a multitude of Indian folk and classical traditions, cinema sounds, and surf rock on his new anti-xenophobia album 'Wild Wild East', presenting "stories that speak to the importance of human rights", PopMatters says. The music here is "phenomenal", PH says, adding that an "understanding of the stories he tells here with such musical brilliance is liable to change hearts and minds for the better".

February 15, 2020

Geez, Moses Boyd is really good!

'Dark Matter' is debut solo LP by UK jazz drummer Moses Boyd, a modern, groovy-jazz album, rich with sound and easy to listen to. Brooklyn Vegan likes how it overcomes boundaries: "'Dark Matter' completely breaks down lines between genres. It’s jazz, it’s hip hop, it’s soul, it’s psychedelia - it’s a lot of things, and whatever subgenre you wanna call it, it’s a grooving, entrancing record that hooks you in from the start and ends way too soon". Guardian praises Boyd as "a skilled producer, artfully splicing warm acoustic tones with tempestuous electronic samples".

'Loom' wasn't supposed to sound like this - Kate Gately was already making her second album when her mother got ill and died, and the electronic musician scrapped those, and made 'Loom' during the process of her mother going away. And you can hear it - there's darkness, aggression, climax, coldness. Exclaim hears it as "a swirling mix of eerie atmosphere, devastating emotion and brilliant sonic abstraction", and Paste Magazine says "her bleak soundscapes eschew linear, melodic structures in favor of atmosphere, sound design and samples". MusicOMH writes that 'Loom' "is an intense record, full of feelings of loss, confusion and angst. It’s also an early contender for best electronic album of the year".

"Great albums have come out of the most unusual circumstances, and with 'The Storm Sessions', Elkhorn proves that it's possible to take an unforeseen episode and turn into a transcendent evening of pure, unfiltered inspiration" - PopMatters writes in a review of Elkhorn's new album, made when the two members of the band, Jesse Sheppard and Drew Gardner, got snowed in with their friend Turner Williams. They had four instruments among them - a 12-string acoustic guitar, six-string electric guitar, an electric bouzouki, and shahi baaja (a type of Indian zither) - and what they made is a - "layer of sound... used to haunting effect from the very beginning". It's liberating, relaxing, mesmerizing, rich, and fulfilling.

"Swirling stretches of glassy beauty that slowly and deliberately build up to epic, souls-spiraling crescendos" - Stereogum describes, accurately and lovingly, sounds from the new album by Japanese metallic post-hardcore band Envy. The focal point of the album is its frontman, Tetsuya Fukagawa who, singing in Japanese - "is capable of moving from melodic plaint to poetic spoken-word rumination to hellbeast growl with incredible grace... He’s the struggling figure at the center of the storm, but then sometimes he becomes the storm". It's the two opposites that make for a special album - "the album’s beauty and its destructiveness only build each other up".

"A spine-tingling collection of traditional songs, artfully reinterpreted for contemporary ears and concerns" - Telegraph says in a review of Sam Lee's new album. It was produced by Suede's Bernard Butler, with guest vocals from the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser, and it's title 'Old Wow' is Lee’s phrase about the enduring power of nature. The Guardian chose it as their latest Folk album of the month - "Butler has produced Old Wow like a soul record, full of space and warmth. But this treatment fills Lee’s clear, precise diction with a stark, longing quality. Add a sleepy Sunday-morning John Martyn jazz vibe... and the effect is exquisite". The Observer likes it as much - "It’s a daring piece of chamber folk".

Post-rock maestros Caspian are "playing their hearts out and coming out with so many gorgeous melodies and suspenseful build-ups" on their latest album, Brooklyn Vegan says. 'On Circles' is "just a great collection of songs, and there’s a nice amount of diversity too" with "some of the instrumental tracks on this album... among the most devastating in Caspian’s discography". Or, as guitarist/keyboardist Philip Jamieson says - "we just made an album for the simple sake of making music".

Canadian singer-songwriter's new album is actually a concept album, standing on the shoulders of one storyline - "Our nameless protagonist meets his buddy Charlie at their neighborhood bar the Skyline, where a bartender named Rose serves them their usual drinks. Upon learning that his ex-girlfriend Judy is back in town, he flashes back to key scenes from their relationship. Eventually, he bumps into her, runs the gamut of emotions, and comes to terms with the passage of years". Stereogum says Andy Shauf's "greatest talent is as an arranger, building out his guitar and piano foundations with an array of carefully placed sounds, seasoning his folksy soft-rock with touches of jazz, country, and chamber-pop".

The third album by the Atlanta quartet was released last week, and critics like it a lot: "The music is as electrifying, unpredictable and chaotic as ever" - the Guardian said, adding how the band enriched their gothic gospel funk with the "right balance of doomy melodrama, metallic Motown and floor-pounding post-punk". AllMusic says the album is "so emotionally charged, it leaves the listener breathless and exhausted, as well as compelled and excited", and Music OMH wrote that "'There Is No Year' reveals subtleties amidst the powerful energy with each play".

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"When it comes to doom, I expect gigantic music — not just in sound or sheer weight, though, but in that more indescriptible room-filling, head-invigorating way... Also important is the element of beauty, because what’s more beautiful than tragedy?" - Invisible Oranges wrote in expectation of the new album by UK doom band Garganjua. "This is emotive, almost uplifting music for total devastation".

"They’re one of the rare groups that have no need to push their sound in dramatically new directions; what they make is already so elementally good" - Stereogum says about the new album 'See You Tomorrow' by the indie folk band The Innocence Mission. Their music is "wonderfully organic... spectral and ruminative... breathtakingly intimate and delicate".

"And while Twin Limb seem rooted in a very warm, traditional style of dream-pop... it's not so much the sound of a band at home with an old sound; rather, they're committed to a genre" - PopMatters says in a review of dream-pop's trio new album. Two qualities stand out on this album - "tuneful, […]

"It’s the same winning mix of grime bangers and radio friendly singing as last time, but, crucially, it’s better at making sure they work together on the same project" - Clash Music says in review of grime star Stormzy's new album 'Heavy is the Head'. Alexis Petridis chose it as his latest Album of the week, […]

The Quietus is in ecstasy over new album 'Girl' by the North London girl gang - "ride-or-die friendships with other women are the most violently joyful relationships I have experienced in my life. To have this celebrated in music - girl friendship as comradeship; all-hours availability for advice; binning men who try to fuck with the […]

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