Map Search

0.1 km
Search

Album reviews – June 2021

Album reviews – June 2021
Album reviews

Blank Gloss: Melt review | John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month

by John Lewis on 2nd July 2021 at 8:00 am (Kompakt)The Sacramento duo have moved towards the ruminative on their debut album, the latest in a developing, diverting genreThe music magazine Uncut recently featured a cover-mounted CD and an accompanying article celebrating “Ambient Americana”, subtitled “a road trip across psychic state lines”, while the Guardian surveyed the “ambient country” scene in 2020. Also known as “post-country”, “cosmic pastoral” or “bootgaze”, it’s a micro-genre that has been percolating for decades. Think of Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas; BJ Cole’s collaborations with Guy Jackson or Øyvind Skarbø, Brian Eno’s work with Daniel Lanois, the avant garde primitivism of John Fahey, or even The KLF’s Chill Out album. In recent years it has been taken in new directions by the likes of Chuck Johnson, Mike Cooper, Marielle Jakobsons and the Nashville duo Hammock.The latest development in the genre comes from Blank Gloss, a duo from Sacramento, California, comprising Patrick Hills and Morgan Fox. The pair have a history in thrashy punk and experimental bands but, since signing to the Cologne-based electronic label Kompakt, they’ve moved in a more ruminative, improvisational direction. Their debut album Melt is a futuristic journey through the US desert, one that dismantles the defining sonic tropes of American roots music (woozy pedal steel flourishes, slurring fiddles, brushed drums, the twang of a reverb-drenched electric guitar) and reassembles them as disembodied sounds, put through an ambient filter. Where so much electronica conjures up concrete brutalism, spacious warehouses and neon-lit motorways, Melt suggests wide open spaces, huge skies, endless horizons and dust-dry roads. Continue reading…

Cosha: Mt Pleasant review – confident and carefree come-to-bed beats

by Alim Kheraj on 2nd July 2021 at 7:30 am (Ashtown Lane)The Irish singer seizes artistic control in an album charged with heated possibilities, sensual new love and sexual self-beliefOn the opener of Mt Pleasant, her debut album as Cosha, the Irish pop singer Cassia O’Reilly sings about our spinning planet with contentment and resignation. “Leave it, let it turn,” she coos over the cushioned synths and come-to-bed beats of Berlin Air .This fulfilment has been hard won. Previously releasing a frenetic blend of rave-inflected R&B and elasticated pop under the name Bonzai, she scored herself a major label record deal that soured, leaving her artistic vision compromised. Striking out alone, she changed her name and started from scratch. The result is Mt Pleasant, a luscious, confident and carefree record that could only have been crafted by someone in control of their artistic intentions. Continue reading…

Vince Staples: Vince Staples review – inventive rapper still walks own path

by Alexis Petridis on 1st July 2021 at 3:00 pm (Blacksmith Recordings/Motown Records/EMI Records)The Long Beach MC has repeatedly shunned fame – and this spectral take on his region’s G-funk, paired with conversational lyrics, deepens his outsider appealVince Staples currently occupies an intriguing and almost unique space within hip-hop. He’s become successful – big enough to get an endorsement deal with Sprite, to be asked for his grooming tips by GQ magazine, and that his fourth album comes bound up with the announcement of his own Netflix show – without actually having had a major hit. His most successful album, 2017’s Big Fish Theory, briefly scraped the lower reaches of the US Top 20; his 2015 single Norf Norf went gold without making the charts.Perhaps that’s part of his plan. In a genre usually obsessed with success and the status it brings, he’s claimed to be uninterested in either: “Don’t go diamond [sell 10m copies] and you’ll be fine,” he told an interviewer who asked about his ambitions early on in his career. “You’ll have a regular life.” Related: From Portishead to Scarface: Vince Staples on his favourite songwriters Continue reading…

Nielsen: Flute and Clarinet Concertos review | Andrew Clements’s classical album of the week

by Andrew Clements on 1st July 2021 at 2:00 pm Joséphine Olech/Blaž Šparovec/Odense SO/Anna Skryleva(Orchid Classics, two CDs)The Carl Nielsen International Competition winners get the personality of the Danish composer’s last large-scale orchestral pieces spot onIn 1921, Carl Nielsen heard the Copenhagen Wind Quintet for the first time and was bowled over by the sheer musicality of their playing. The following year he composed a wind quintet for the group, which ends with a set of variations that depict the characters of the members in turn, and announced that he planned to write a solo concerto for each of them, too. But he only managed to complete two of those concertos, the work for flute in 1926 and for clarinet two years later, before his death in 1931. They were his last large-scale orchestral pieces, and continue to show the influences of modernism that had already appeared in his final symphony, the Sixth. Continue reading…

Hiatus Kaiyote: Mood Valiant review – their most coherent work yet

by Damien Morris on 27th June 2021 at 2:00 pm (Brainfeeder)After a fraught 2020, things fall into place on the Australian band’s buoyant third albumIf you were trying to write the words for a sexy comeback song about the candied pleasures of the flesh, you’d probably avoid the mating rituals of the leopard slug. You are not, in that case, Hiatus Kaiyote. The Australian quartet kick off the track Chivalry Is Not Dead with some seductive musings about our mucus-dripping friends, then move on to seahorse sex, hummingbirds and batteries. Singer-lyricist Nai Palm (real name Naomi Saalfield) might not be taking her responsibilities entirely seriously – this is a band that have been long lauded for their inventive, chameleon-like R&B, rather than radio bait – but even without an obvious hit, there’s much to like about their third album. Related: Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm: ‘Last year I lost a breast and then my bird. But loss isn’t new to me’ Continue reading…

Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: Utopian Ashes review – a welcome surprise

by Phil Mongredien on 27th June 2021 at 12:00 pm (Sony)The Primal Scream frontman trades brashness for contemplation in this rewarding collaboration with the former Savages singerDuring the course of a 35-year career, “sensitive” and “mature” are not adjectives that have often been wheeled out to describe Bobby Gillespie’s lyrics. Indeed, the Primal Scream lead singer’s canon of work has generally favoured MC5-lite rebel posturing over insight and depth. All of which makes this collaboration with former Savages frontwoman Jehnny Beth such a welcome surprise. The pair have written a set of songs located within the wreckage of a marriage that is falling apart, with both parties torn between looking back with remorse and nostalgia on what’s been lost, and moving on and making a new start alone. We’ve come a long way from Bomb the Pentagon.Recorded with Gillespie’s Scream bandmates, as well as Beth’s regular foil Johnny Hostile, as much care has gone into the arrangements as the lyrics. Opener Chase It Down is a gorgeous slice of southern soul, made all the more powerful for its devastating “I don’t even love you any more” line. Grievances are aired in the despairing Living a Lie. Your Heart Will Always Be Broken, meanwhile, recalls Gram Parsons’s work with Emmylou Harris. Throughout, there are echoes of the rootsier moments from Give Out But Don’t Give Up, but with the earlier swagger replaced by vulnerability. It’s as pleasing as it is unexpected. Continue reading…

Lucy Dacus: Home Video review – forthright vignettes of a Virginia girlhood

by Kitty Empire on 27th June 2021 at 8:00 am The Boygenius member sets a homicidal fantasy to intense indie rock on her otherwise gentle third albumLucy Dacus doesn’t seem like the homicidal type. Wielding nothing more threatening than a guitar and a level gaze, this seemingly mild-mannered Virginia songwriter is probably best known as one third of Boygenius, a supergroup that also includes Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. Home Video is Dacus’s own third album of closely observed songwriting, most of which plays out at a gentle indie-rock chug or strummed lo-fi.On the quietly devastating Thumbs, though, Dacus details how she would kill someone. “Quick and easy” is her claim, but the method she outlines is anything but: pushing her thumbs into a man’s eyes until they burst. Continue reading…

Mike Gibbs: Revisiting Tanglewood 63: The Early Tapes review – jazz genius caught live

by Dave Gelly on 26th June 2021 at 3:00 pm (Jazz in Britain)These 1970 radio sessions capture some of the era’s best players at their most creativeMichael Gibbs is one of the great jazz composers of our time, and has been for the past half-century and more. To prove it, just listen to these seven tracks, recorded in 1970. Born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Gibbs studied in the US and came to London in the late 1960s, landing in the middle of a jazz scene boiling over with youthful creativity. The music here comes from two BBC broadcasts by a handpicked band. The programmes were recorded six months apart and there’s a noticeable difference between them, revealing dynamic changes in the young composer’s approach in this short time.The first set includes the wonderfully melodic and catchy Tanglewood 63 and June the 15th 1967, featuring Mick Pyne (piano), Chris Spedding (guitar) and Frank Ricotti (vibraphone), three leading young players of the day. Both pieces are lifted by irresistibly light and springy rock rhythms. From the second session come Five For England and Fanfare, heavier and more dissonant, with the emphasis on the lower brass instruments, and the remarkable Canticle, 12 minutes of total abstraction, first performed at Canterbury Cathedral and utterly mesmerising in its strangeness. Continue reading…

Tyler, the Creator: Call Me If You Get Lost review – the most glorious mess

by Alexis Petridis on 25th June 2021 at 4:17 pm (Columbia)Bursts of kaleidoscopic synth-pop, soul balladry and jazz sweep you through the latest offering in the artist’s eclectic, controversial and – against the odds – enduring careerEarlier this week, Billie Eilish was obliged to issue an apology, after an eight-year-old video of the singer emerged, featuring her mouthing along to a racial slur in Tyler, the Creator’s Fish, in a lyric that is also about date rape. It had provoked the kind of bad-faith performative outrage in which certain corners of the internet specialise, but, if nothing else, it functioned as a reminder of different era, in which the Odd Future collective were held to be The World’s Most Notorious Rap Group – a broiling mass of wilful controversy thanks to their lyrics – and Tyler, their de facto leader, was quaintly thought such a threat to public morals that the then-home secretary, Theresa May, successfully petitioned to have him barred from entering the UK.For all the column inches expended on them, you would have been forgiven for thinking that this was not a career built to last: the succès de scandale tends to burn bright, but not long; dissenting voices wondered if it were possible to translate infamy and a willingness to give their music away for free online into a career. Occasionally, those voices belonged to Odd Future themselves. “I could fail tomorrow. A year from now no one will give a fuck about this interview,” Tyler told the Guardian in 2012. “That’s always in the back of my head. But I have to keep doing what I’m doing.” Continue reading…

Arushi Jain: Under the Lilac Sky review | Ammar Kalia’s global album of the month

by Ammar Kalia on 25th June 2021 at 8:00 am (Leaving Records)The composer blends classical Indian vocals and modular synth drones into harmonic textures full of warming solaceFor every raga there is a time. Traditionally, the Indian classical form is composed with a specific time of day in mind, and only then is each raga meant to reveal the height of its melodic beauty to the listener.Indian American composer Arushi Jain weaves her diasporic identity into this notion of timely ragas in her debut album, Under the Lilac Sky. Composed for the sunset, it blends Jain’s training as an Indian classical vocalist with modular synth work inspired by the likes of American composers Suzanne Ciani and Terry Riley into six ambient arrangements that reflect the transition from day to night. Continue reading…

Hiss Golden Messenger: Quietly Blowing It review – a gentle kind of protest music

by Dave Simpson on 25th June 2021 at 7:30 am (Merge)MC Taylor offers up soulful Dylan-esque country rockers about the impact of the system on ordinary livesAt the start of the pandemic, MC Taylor, AKA Hiss Golden Messenger, sat in his North Carolina basement studio and began several months’ of pouring out songs about “life as I felt it”. There was a lot going on outside – protests after the murder of George Floyd, the presidential election, and fires burning across the US – but his thoughts turned to some of the deeper issues underpinning it all, from class and inequality to the climate crisis. Continue reading…

Randall Goosby: Roots review | Erica Jeal’s classical album of the week

by Erica Jeal on 24th June 2021 at 2:00 pm Goosby/Wang/Foley(Decca)The American violinist’s debut album unearths the jewels of black US classical musicRoots is the debut solo disc from the young American violinist Randall Goosby. It takes a brief but affirmative glance at black US classical music, turning up a few slender but worthwhile gems.What it’s not is a programme dedicated to composers of colour. Instead, it’s partly a celebration of the fact that when there began to be an American sound in classical music, that sound came from black music. Four numbers from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, in Heifetz’s showy yet lyrical arrangements, are an obvious but apt inclusion. Dvořák’s Sonatina in G, written during the Czech composer’s time in New York, has spiritual and Native American music running through it. Continue reading…

Doja Cat: Planet Her review – pop-rap queen is in a world of her own

by Alexis Petridis on 24th June 2021 at 10:30 am (RCA)With her unerring ability to kickstart TikTok crazes, Doja Cat’s sci-fi concept album – with guest turns from Ariana Grande and SZA – shines as a paragon of 2021 popIt’s something of a surprise that Planet Her comes heralded as a concept album, “based on a fictional planet self-originated by Doja Cat on which all species and races of space exist in harmony”. Concept albums are traditionally signifiers of great portent and seriousness, the point at which even a band as avowedly populist as Coldplay start metaphorically furrowing their brows, thoughtfully sucking on their pens and writing about dystopian future worlds in which music has been banned, called – yes – Silencia. Related: ‘We do what we want, for ourselves’: why it’s a golden age for women in rap Continue reading…

Dean Blunt: Black Metal 2 review – instantly familiar yet utterly unknowable

by Damien Morris on 20th June 2021 at 2:00 pm (Rough Trade)The former Hype Williams frontman has polished his rap-alt-rock aesthetic to the point of perfectionDean Blunt’s first band stole the name of celebrated rap video director Hype Williams and became infamous for playing the sort of gig where no one present was entirely sure it was really happening. They peaked with 2010’s The Throning, a deranged Sade cover. Since Blunt’s 2013 solo album, The Redeemer, the prolific Londoner has made music that finds surprising concord between rap and alt-rock. He samples anyone from the Pastels to A$AP Rocky, swaddles strings with defiantly lo-fi beats and adds vocals with winning vulnerability. He is often longing for something he can’t quite get, thwarted by the twin sirens of drugs and sex.The cover art of Black Metal 2 reprises 2014’s Black Metal, just using a graphic figure “2” from Dr Dre’s 2001 cover, while the songs similarly build nests of references to Blunt and his rapper peers. It’ll never be for everyone, but Blunt has polished his fragmentary, magpie aesthetic to the point of perfection. Mugu is a lovely, scattered thing, then Semtex travels the wilder edges of trip-hop. Last track The Rot is almost as delicately discombobulated as his masterpiece The Narcissist. Songs instantly familiar yet utterly unknowable. Continue reading…

Cola Boyy: Prosthetic Boombox review – a joyously defiant sugar rush

by Kate Hutchinson on 20th June 2021 at 12:00 pm (Record Makers/MGMT)The California musician addresses his disability head-on with this delirious blast of disco, funk, house and psychedeliaOn the cover of his superb debut, Cola Boyy sits strumming a guitar surrounded by various cartoon versions of himself, a jukebox in the corner of the room and his prosthetic leg on a table, next to a gun. “I wanted to take my disability and put it on blast,” the southern California musician, real name Matthew Urango, who was born with spina bifida and scoliosis, has said. His music has a similar playfulness – it’s hard to beat his publicity team’s apt description of it as “a time-travelling Delorean with Prince in the passenger seat” – though fuelling it all are prescient themes of unity and kicking back against the system.Opener Don’t Forget Your Neighbourhood, with guest production from sampladelic team the Avalanches, is a deliriously upbeat paean to fighting for your town and belonging. Song for the Mister, dedicated to struggling single fathers, channels late-night minicab pop and pulls off the tricky balance of being irresistibly catchy and yet wonderfully moving. Air’s Nicolas Godin, MGMT and LA keysman-to-watch John Carroll Kirby crop up too amid the sugar rushes of disco, funk, house and psychedelia. Continue reading…

Berwyn: Tape 2/ Fomalhaut review – a compelling work of uncertainty

by Kitty Empire on 20th June 2021 at 8:00 am (Columbia)Written in the shadow of his disputed immigration status, this charismatic rapper is unafraid to show his vulnerable sideBorn in Trinidad, raised in east London, this rapper and singer’s eventful autobiography was laid out on his moving debut, Demotape/Vega (2020). Berwyn’s mum’s struggles included spells in prison; her son sometimes found himself homeless. Like its predecessor, Tape 2/Fomalhaut is partly named after a star and charts the internal weather of its mournful, charismatic protagonist.Berwyn – full name Berwyn Du Bois – might have enjoyed even more success last year, were it not for his hazy immigration status – Vega didn’t qualify for the Brit awards. Here, I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported – a stark piano affair peppered with trap percussion – and Full Moon Freestyle detail this anxious limbo. Continue reading…

Katherine Priddy: The Eternal Rocks Beneath review – a class act

by Neil Spencer on 19th June 2021 at 3:00 pm (Navigator)The folk prodigy delivers an elegant debut, infused with soaring vocals and nimble guitar-pickingFeted as a folk prodigy as a teenager, Katherine Priddy has wisely taken several years to reach this debut, an accomplished set of original songs delivered in a breathtaking voice and launched on a reputation as a great live act. Her nimble guitar-picking helps. Not that this is a strictly solo album; producer Simon Weaver has supplied a rhythm section and a parade of accordion, fiddle and string quartet, but in judicious measure. The star turn remains Priddy’s voice and its soaring, lark-like turns, meaning a song such as Wolf, the title track of her 2018 EP, can suddenly take unexpected flight.That several numbers were written when she was young perhaps accounts for their unevenness; the banjo-backed Letters from a Travelling Man doesn’t pass muster with a poetic piece such as Icarus – a fond farewell to a lover seen as “a radiant stain falling like rain” – or with her funny homage to a boozy night on the Hebridean isle of Eigg. The rocks of the title is a verb, not a noun, testament to a belief that life’s fundamentals don’t change, a notion resolved elegantly in opener Indigo and closer The Summer Has Flown. A classy arrival. Continue reading…

Griff: One Foot in Front of the Other – we’ve heard nothing yet

by Kitty Empire on 19th June 2021 at 1:00 pm (Warner)The Brits show-stealing 20-year-old has earworms and wise words to burn on this tantalising mini-albumThe rise of Griff feels like a silver lining around the thundercloud that was 2020. While all around the 20-year-old pop powerhouse careers stalled, tours evaporated and sound engineers peed in bottles while driving delivery vans, this singer went from buzzy obscurity in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, locked down with her family and foster siblings, to a Top 20 hit and a Brits rising star award.Along the way, there have been fistfuls of great, under-the-radar tunes, Taylor Swift endorsements and an ever-growing bubble ponytail, Griff’s visual signature, a sculptural riff on Ariana Grande’s own swishy hair extension. There was also a Disney Christmas ad, of which the best that can be said is that it was a Trojan horse, delivering Griff’s elastic, emotive voice into greater public consciousness. As @wiffygriffy, this holder of a textiles A-level, AKA Sarah Griffiths, does good work on TikTok, posing craft challenges.You can hear Griff’s Taylor Swift fandom often here, but that is no criticism Continue reading…

Classical home listening: Pekka Kuusisto, Il Giardino Armonico and more

by Fiona Maddocks on 19th June 2021 at 11:00 am Kuusisto plays Muhly, Glass and Mozart, while Giovanni Antonini and co pass the time of day with Haydn• First Light (Pentatone), the first collaboration on disc between the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, of which he is artistic director, presents works by Nico Muhly and Philip Glass: two New York composers of different generations united in friendship. Muhly’s Shrink (2019), a glittering, jittery, mischievous violin concerto written for Kuusisto, is here given its world premiere recording. The work reflects its title, contracting and intensifying as it progresses, a perfect mirror of the word “shrink” and a platform for Kuusisto in hyperactive, virtuosic mode.Glass’s The Orchard (from The Screens), in comparison, is a work of slow, long-breathed elegy. Muhly is the pianist, with Kuusisto beautifully lyrical and tender – a track you immediately want to share. The violinist has arranged Glass’s String Quartet No 3 “Mishima” for string orchestra, played here with energy and finesse, bringing alive those mid-1980s surging symmetries that first made Glass a cult figure. Continue reading…

Kings of Convenience: Peace or Love review – a beautifully simple return

by Ben Beaumont-Thomas on 18th June 2021 at 8:00 am (EMI)For their first album since 2009, the Norwegian duo keep things pared back to explore the complexity of love and desireLove, and how it makes you throw in all your chips before you’ve even seen your cards, is the subject of this beautiful return from the Norwegian indie-folk duo. Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye emerged at the turn of the century and were quickly lumped in with the likes of Turin Brakes and the dull “new acoustic” movement, but the purity of their Balearic-sunlight melodies, infused with the elegance of bossa nova, have consistently set them apart even if their body of work remains small: this is only their fourth album in 20 years, and the first since 2009.Songwriting this unadorned requires melodic strength and confidence, but the pair never waver from their acoustic guitars and occasional violin. Fever is the only song with a drum beat; Catholic Country – featuring Feist, and one of KOC’s best ever songs – and others play up the percussive quality of their stringed instruments to add urgency and even a little funk. Continue reading…

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather