"A gorgeous, hazy batch of songs that are somehow both haunted and buoyant in equal measure. It’s also a perfect escape into a masterfully created world" - New Noise reviews new album by the psychedelic garage guitarist Night Beats. The Quietus hears hope on the record: "Created during global pandemic and in the midst of Californian wildfires, Outlaw R&B' is an album reflective of a staggering turbulence of pain and suffering. Written, produced, and compiled amongst a ruckus of complete chaos, the album looks ahead to the light on the other side".

"Listening to 'Blue Weekend', you’re struck by an appealing sense of everything clicking into place" - Alexis Petridis writes reviewing the third album by the London indie-rock quartet Wolf Alice (gave if 5 of 5 stars). Brooklyn Vegan writer Erin Christie says "the trance I surrendered to is directly emblematic of the power of a band like Wolf Alice: they completely take your brain hostage as you enter their world". NME hears a "stone-cold masterpiece that further cements their place at the very peak of British music", whereas Sputnik Music calls it "one of those albums that qualifies as an event". 

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".

California multi-instrumentalist and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow released her 21st album in 15 years, the largely instrumental electro/hip-hop/funky LP that she wrote and produced herself. PopMatters describes it as a "17-track clinic on creating rhythmic framework that wow you with their complexity and propel you into movement", whereas New Yorker hears it as "fidgety and animated, as if the music is longing to move out of confinement, to vibrate toward something". All Music argues "Muldrow's aim here is to provide listeners with superhero themes that facilitate emboldened movement out of doors".

"You can't pin this album down from just one song or even three; there's all kinds of different stuff all over the record, and for all the discordant, amelodic stuff, there's also some genuinely beautiful stuff on there" - Brooklyn Vegan writes, somewhat confused, about the new album by the London prog-rock band. Guardian appreciates exactly this "freakish, feverish parade of our inconceivable world and all its extremities, half-measures be damned". Pitchfork describes it as "glorious", because "the chord changes are more elaborate, the rhythms more twisted, the pretty parts prettier, the heavy parts heavier".

"He can rap absurdly well, and he could have a career on that alone, but he doesn’t seem to want it. Instead, he seems to want to exist in a lane that did not exist before him. He’s pulling it off" - Stereogum reviews Mach-Hommy's 'Pray for Haiti', declaring it one of the best rap albums of 2021. Pitchfork appreciates "his razor-sharp bars and an exceptional eye for detail" (tagged it Best new music, grade 8.8).

"The band offers us a contrasted 'Skeleton Lake' between darkness and softness, oppression and deliverance, but also heaviness and soaring sonorities that only strengthen their seizing basis made of an ageless duality" - Acta Infernalis reviews the new album by the Finnish melodic death metal/doom metal/goth band Hanging Garden. Metal Trenches argues "the beautiful and somber atmosphere is at its highest level", whereas Metal Temple hears the whole band collaborating "so finely to enrich the music of the band, from black screams to death growls to hyper clean vocals, even to whispers, a fair amount of each".

"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.

"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".

'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...

"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".

"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 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".

"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".

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".

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".

"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.

Two men and a lockdown
March 03, 2021

Critics really like new Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Cave and Ellis' new album 'Carnage' comes out as a slightly more structured jam session, and critics really appreciate it. Alexis Petridis argues that "Cave and Ellis’s musical approach is still vividly alive, the dense, constantly shifting sound complementing the richness of Cave’s writing now". Pitchfork appreciates the lyricism of if - "As ever, Cave uses overtly religious imagery in ways both subversive and devout". Guardian's Kitty Empire loves the "immense grief and vast love" of the album, whereas Clash Music hears 'Carnage' as something "both beautiful and visceral, tender and blood-thirsty, wholly terrifying and completely absorbing".

"It is rare to find an album that is so much more than just music and even rarer to find Black Metal that ventures as wide as Spire do so to be in a position whereby both happen at the same time and work so brilliantly is not only refreshing but also extremely enjoyable" - Rock N' Load writes in a review of Australian band's second full length. Grizzly Butts appreciates the sonics of the album: "Spire aren’t yet demanding hard rock hooks or hand-holding rhythmic statements to cling to but they have presented a welcoming, frightfully deep chasm of somewhat original vocal applications that characterize mildly dissonant, epic black/death metal architecture".

"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".

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