"'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".

"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".

"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".

Dawn Richard

"The New Orleans singer-songwriter’s evolution from expressly commercial pop to avant-garde experimentalism is beginning to parallel Scott Walker’s in its unexpected audacity" - Stereogum reviews the collaborative album'Pigments' by Dawn Richard who wrote the lyrics for it, and Spencer Zahn, who wrote music "at the intersection of ECM jazz, ambient, and neoclassical composition". Clash Music hears "a truly refreshing body of work, a seamless experience", whereas Flood Magazine calls it "a rousing, experimental triumph".

"'ILYSM' spends less time staring down death and unabashedly embracing life than it does in a liminal space of illness — not necessarily cancer, but some kind of sickness, whether it’s depression or COVID or even just a nasty hangover, something to live through with the promise of reentering real life at a later date" - Ian Cohen writes in the Stereogum review of Wild Pink's new album (the album was written as frontman John Ross was treated for cancer). NPR has another perspective on the album: "In lingering, in asking the listener to linger too, to pause and take stock of the softest strums, the goldfinch and nuthatch, Ross dilates the seconds into minutes, minutes into expanses to which entire records could be devoted. If one loses a moment's edges, for an instant, they can have it forever".

"The scars in Ka’s music come with lessons he feels duty-bound to pass on. For the first time, he steps fully into the role of teacher, claiming the title of griot for his era of wounded street soldiers"- Pitchfork writes in a review of Ka's 'Languish Arts' and 'Woeful Studies'. "The Brooklyn rapper’s two new albums set hard-earned wisdom to the lushest music of his career" - The P points out.

From the relics of strife and destruction, the duo of Moor Mother and DJ Haram use raw materials at hand to mend, build and redesign. The fabrics they use include fringe club music, hip hop sampling, Middle Eastern drums, slam poetry, - punk rock, jazz and noise, all coalescing in a knife-edge fashion, keenly political above all else" - Beats per Minute stresses introducing the debut album by 700 Bliss. The Line of Best Fit insists "'Nothing To Declare' is peculiar in both sound and concept... a great project bursting with genre-bending sounds and heart-wrenching lyrics that perfectly capture the times". Pitchfork called it a "noisy, thrillingly confrontational album".

"'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".

"The album is the sound of a band stretching into new shapes" - NME writes in a review of Fontaines D.C.'s 'Skinty Fia'. It's also Alexis Petridis' Album of the Week, because - "In a polarised era, there’s something cheering about Fontaines DC’s bold refusal to join in, to deal instead in shades of grey and equivocation. There’s also something bold about their disinclination to rely on the most immediate aspect of their sound". Pitchfork tries to go to the bottom of it: "The Irish post-punk band’s most demanding and musically adventurous album is also its most open-hearted,  striking a perfect balance between tough and tender".

"'Aethiopes' is a dense text full of bursts of language that demand serious thought and analysis. You could transcribe all of woods’ lyrics on the album and sell them as a poetry book, and on paper, they’d cut deeper than most of the (admittedly very little) poetry that I’ve forced myself to read over the years. But this isn’t homework. This is a rap record, and it’s a great one" - Stereogum writes reviewing billy woods' new album. "With Preservation behind the boards on every track, 'Aethiopes' skids across eras, countries, and cultures... A clear mid-career apex that shoves woods’ always outlandish style into territories further afield than ever before" - Pitchfork wrote.

"The best songs on 'Diaspora Problems' master this balance of chaotic hardcore with more approachable hooks and a wide palette of non-hardcore styles" - Consequence reviews the new album by the Philadelphia band. Exclaim believes the album makes them "one of the most important heavy bands in 2022". Ian Cohen calls it "staggering... a ticking time bomb hurled by a band tired of waiting on solutions and taking power into its own hands". The band is very political, what they emphasize in the Guardian interview: "The real political character of America is just sheer apathy and a focus on oneself, for the sake of survival”.

In the aeroplane, over the sea
February 17, 2022

Black Country, New Road - "beautifully doomed fantasies"

"Music isn’t just about fun: it can be about creating remarkable soundworlds of baroque pop fantasias, and this band are outstanding at those" - the Observer looks into the new Black Country, New Road album 'Ants from Up There'. Ian Cohen hears an emo album because "they spend every second reminding us of why we let ourselves get swept up in these beautifully doomed fantasies to begin with". Music OMH says it "sounds as though Black Country, New Road are less concerned with making a statement, more willing to let their songs unravel slowly instead of uncoiling with jack-in-the-box furore".

How to listen to Dragon?
February 11, 2022

Big Thief new album 'Dragon...' - "ambitious and unburdened"

"In 20 songs, Big Thief have rambled far beyond the bounds of their previous catalog... 'Dragon...' is as heavy in its lyrical concerns as any previous Big Thief record, and more ambitious in its musical ideas than all of them. But it also sounds unburdened, animated by a newfound sense of childlike exploration and play. Twenty times, it asks 'What should we do now?', and twenty times it finds a new answer" - Pitchfork really appreciates playful new Big Thief album (9.0 score, Best New Music tag). NME finds similar joy: "the band employ some weird methods that ultimately end up making sense; often allowing their varied surroundings to creep into the creative process". Spin calls it "an overwhelming effort, aiming for band’s magnum opus".

“The pandemic pointed me to the necessity of there being some rhythmic backbone. I had to use some drums, because you can’t be floating right now” - Earl Sweatshirt says about his latest album 'Sick!' in a Pitchfork interview. Stereogum argues "'SICK!' is still sharper and more tangible than the foggy, atmospheric doubt-trips of Earl’s last few records. Earl’s voice is higher in the mix. There’s less blurry noise around the edges of the tracks. The drums kick more. The melodic loops resolve".

"Drinking from the same ancestral well that informed earlier radical Black music is integral to Irreversible Entanglements’ approach: after all, they are passionate and angry for many of the same reasons as the aforementioned [the Last Poets, the New York Art Quartet, Archie Shepp], because far too many of the circumstances remain the same. The fight isn’t over... It’s righteous music, hopefully as a prelude to righteous action" - The Quietus writes in a review of jazz/hip-hop band's new album 'Open the Gates'. "Although this ensemble boast conservatoire rigour, their revolutionary, Afrofuturist music is imbued with punk spirit, a love of ambient spaciousness and electronics" - Guardian insists.

“Inside a song, you are neither here nor there, a liminal feeling that evokes so much of our time in life languishing in the middle. Call it meta-heartland rock” - Pitchfork writes about their lates Best New Music choice, The War on Drugs’ ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’. Mojo insists it’s a “calm space amid a world in collapse”, whereas NME points out “there’s magic everywhere you look on this triumph of an album”.

"'Geist', an album largely focused on spiritual shifts and ruptures, is a quiet, lovely, undramatic rendering of the dramatic... How ruination can lead to resurrection, and life can feel sweetest when one surrenders to change" - Pitchfork reviews the new album by Shannon Lay. Clash describes it as "the vulnerable soundtrack to a person’s self-discovery during a period of long, hard reflection", whereas Narc hears "an incredibly beautiful and delicate record". Dusted likes the comforting side of it - "it’s humble, heartening and wise".

"New York City has long been a character in rap. But 'Half God' is the story of how that character has shaped our protagonist, a young man immersed and in love with its spirit, holding on loosely to an ever-evolving community in which he sees his own reflection" - Pitchfork argues in favor of New York rapper Wiki's new album. Stereogum points out to the producer - "Wiki and Navy Blue display an easy, expansive chemistry".

"Levy’s ear for melody and flair for the dramatic makes for a prime example of how effective this sort of music can be when it’s done this well" - Stereogum argues its latest Album of the week choice. The Skinny appreciates how "its capacity to reach around the edges of an empty room, and equal ability to cut through the sound of life bustling in the background lends it a warm, encompassing quality". Exclaim likes its borderline quality: "The whole thing glows with a particular late-summer energy, its precise, golden hour arrangements hinting at the wide-open chill of fall".

Critics have a lot to say about the latest album by the Arizona rap gang. "Injury Reserve have woven together a darkly contorted tangle of sounds, a collage that hits like a barrage... a record that demands your attention and challenges your perspective released into an age defined by zone-out streaming bait" - Stereogum argue in favor of their choice for Album of the week, calling their music post rap. The New Yorker argues "this is the first of the group’s projects to sound greater than the sum of its parts, to feel singular", and "by far the best" album by the band. Pitchfork appreciates its creativity: "The songs are immediate and intuitive, brimming with personality and ideas".

"It takes her music in a somewhat more accessible direction while retaining the creativity and fervor of the rest of her work. Considerably less noisy than previous Moor Mother releases like her 2016 breakthrough 'Fetish Bones', the album flows through slippery jazz rhythms, mellow R&B vibes, and meditative ambient textures, with Ayewa's lyrics remaining forceful even as she's delivering them in a softer register" - AllMusic quite likes 'Black Encyclopedia in the Air'. Exclaim goes into the genre of it: "Mostly sticking to hip-hop beats and more traditional song structures... Ayewa decides to challenge listeners through performance and her lyrics... Moor Mother uses her genre-agnostic style to tackle to world's most popular genre and make it undoubtedly her own".

"'Hey What' refinements make it clear that they are still finding fresh angles on the same themes that have animated them since the beginning: using minimalism to express the entwined pairing of intimacy and loneliness, searching for meaning in the rubble after a departure too catastrophic to address by name" - Pitchfork says in the review of the new album by the slow-core greats. Here, Low take a slight turn into electronic terrain, although Alexis Petridis insists "the people behind 'Hey What' are redefining how a rock band can sound".

Sometimes she might be the greatest
September 03, 2021

Little Simz releases "rich, fascinating" album 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'

"It’s Simz’s most personal album yet but also her most removed, in the sense that it’s cinematic and surreal and overwhelming... 'Introvert' is heady and dense and restless — a masterwork" - Stereogum gives a verdict to London rapper's new releases (it's also Stereogum's Album of the Week). Guardian likes the leftfieldness of it - "Voraciously creative, clever and cool...  It is notably non-synthetic and twitchily alive, with Simz’s vocal presence so intense and distinctive it is able to withstand all manner of genre-fickleness". Gigwise insists Simz is at the "highest echelons of British rap".

There's also beauty there
August 29, 2021

New Sounds makes a selection of music from Afghanistan

Badieh

New Sounds produced a podcast with a selection of music from Afghanistan, putting a different light on the troubled nation. Among the selected are Homayun Sakhi and Quraishi with their rubâb music, folk poems of Afghani women, the Hazara tradition by Hamid Sakhizada, and adapted music from the Khorasan region by the duo Badieh. Much of the music comes from musicians who have fled the country to Europe or North America.

"On his debut album, 'The Long and Short of It', [Graham] Jonson, now 21, reconciles his approach to beat music with a form of bedroom pop, using two genres known for their modular simplicity to create complex psychedelic music with vast emotional horizons" - Pitchfork reviews quickly, quickly (grade it 8.1, don't call it emo-rap). Magnetic describes it as quickly, quickly's "most complex and interesting project to date".

We need all that
August 18, 2021

Ka - a philosopher among rappers

The New Yorker shares a profile on NY City underground rapper Ka, who has just released his new album 'A Martyr’s Reward' (the only official way to listen to it online is to purchase a zip of the wav files on his Web site). "Ka has preserved a certain strain of bars-first New York City rap that prioritizes its stark, ascetic music-making practice as much as its hardscrabble tone and acerbic lyricism. Ka’s voice is gruff, yet he raps discreetly, as if recounting secrets under his breath. The verses themselves are almost like incantations muttered in code; it takes intent listening to puzzle them out. His wordplay is its own sort of quicksand, shiftily multisyllabic and crowded by entendre. But he is a philosopher above all: his lyrical feats are performed in pursuit of wisdom".

'Dreams Still Inspire' by the Chicago underground rap duo Abstract Mindstate is the first album fully produced by Kanye West that was not his own since Common’s 'Be' in 2005. It is also the first release under West's new YZY SND imprint. Coming out nearly 20 years after the release of their first and only album, 2001’s 'We Paid Let Us In!', and "with lyrics and production that perfectly complement each other, Abstract Mindstate's reunion album is a masterclass in Hip-Hop fundamentals", Hot New Hip-Hop points out.

"Grit and earthiness grounds this album in its spacious atmospheres and crushingly sludgy riffs" - Metal Injection reviews new album 'Celestial Blues', a "kaleidoscopic take on doom gaze and ritualistic folk" by King Woman. Pitchfork gives the album 7.5, describing it as an "exploration of spiritual healing and survival that’s been shellacked in a veneer of grungy malaise, heavy post-rock, and blissed-out darkness". The band is fronted by the Iranian-born Kris Esfandiari who "presents herself as one of the chief proponents of metal informed by spiritual inquiry, yearning for emancipation from the habituated self, and the complex desire that exceeds convention. She’s a modern-day gnostic", Beats Per Minute argues.

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