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Album reviews – November – December 2021

Album reviews – November – December 2021
Album reviews

Billy Strings: Renewal review – bold and beautifully written bluegrass

by Laura Snapes on 16th December 2021 at 10:00 am (Rounder)Revelations about heartbreak, America and addiction combine with banjo workouts in this testament to complex humanity• More albums we missed in 2021 Continue reading…

Me Rex: Megabear review – a choose-your-own-adventure trip for the streaming age

by Jenessa Williams on 16th December 2021 at 10:00 am (Big Scary Monsters)A debut album with 52 tracks that can be shuffled at will offers immersive listening – and the feel of a near-religious ritual• More albums we missed in 2021 Continue reading…

Baby Keem: The Melodic Blue review – arguably the best rap album of 2021

by Ben Beaumont-Thomas on 16th December 2021 at 10:00 am (Columbia Records)The young Las Vegas rapper, a protege of Kendrick Lamar, has a gift for vocal melody that promises so much to come• More albums we missed in 2021 Continue reading…

Jerusalem in My Heart: Qalaq review – bearing witness to a manufactured apocalypse

by Tayyab Amin on 16th December 2021 at 10:00 am (Constellation)Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and avant garde peers collaborate on a defiant, vulnerable lament for Lebanon• More albums we missed in 2021 Continue reading…

Willow: Lately I Feel Everything review – a talent that eclipses the showbiz backstory

by Rachel Aroesti on 16th December 2021 at 10:00 am (Roc Nation)The 21-year-old’s fourth album is a near-perfect collision of pop-punk, emo, alternative rock and metal nu and old• More albums we missed in 2021 Continue reading…

Ichiko Aoba: Windswept Adan review – hypnotic, ghostly psych-folk

by Emily Mackay on 12th December 2021 at 3:00 pm An imaginary island and sparse instrumentation unfold together as the Japanese singer-songwriter conjures her latest alluring soundworld Continue reading…

Alicia Keys: Keys review – double album shows two faces

by Michael Cragg on 12th December 2021 at 1:00 pm (RCA) With stripped-back and beefed-up takes on each track, Keys’s eighth album should be two for the price of one – but not all songs work both ways Continue reading…

Jeff Parker: Forfolks review – a meditative gem

by Kitty Empire on 12th December 2021 at 9:00 am (International Anthem)The style-surfing guitarist deploys self-quoting loops and minimal solo work to beguiling effect Continue reading…

Kansas Smitty’s Plunderphonia review – eclectic jazz updates

by Dave Gelly on 11th December 2021 at 4:00 pm (7K!)Giacomo Smith’s band takes classics by Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke and others on a spin through the 21st century Continue reading…

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Barn review – raucous, tuneful bonhomie

by Kitty Empire on 11th December 2021 at 2:00 pm (Reprise)The veteran rocker and his powerhouse of a band let rip in a barn in Colorado on Young’s least frustrating album in a while Continue reading…

Various Artists: Tokyo Glow review – radiant homage to Japanese city pop

by Ammar Kalia on 10th December 2021 at 9:00 am (Nippon Columbia) This upbeat collection unearths artists whose glossy, disco-influenced pop contains subtle fusions and canny innovation Continue reading…

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Barn review – reliably ragged and still sounding great

by Michael Hann on 10th December 2021 at 8:30 am Their 14th album together sounds much as you’d expect – and that’s absolutely nothing to complain about Continue reading…

An Elizabethan Christmas review – a feeling of consolation you can hunker down with

by Erica Jeal on 9th December 2021 at 3:27 pm Fretwork/Charlston (Signum)Festive viol pieces and consort songs from Tudor and Stuart winter celebrations offer moments for both contemplation and rejoicing Continue reading…

Alicia Keys: Keys review | Alexis Petridis’s album of the week

by Alexis Petridis on 9th December 2021 at 11:11 am (RCA)The 65m-selling singer-songwriter is back with a uniquely conceived double album, but both its laidback and upbeat sides fall far short of extraordinary Continue reading…

No Rome: It’s All Smiles review – a hyperpop headache

by Damien Morris on 5th December 2021 at 3:00 pm (Dirty Hit)This exhausting mix of shoegaze R&B makes Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez’s debut too tricksy to be enjoyable Continue reading…

Arca: KicK iii review – a joyous sonic headrush

by Michael Cragg on 5th December 2021 at 1:00 pm (XL)Over 12 frantic songs, and a flurry of adjacent albums, the electronic innovator truly comes into her own Continue reading…

Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy: Blind Date Party review – revelatory fun with old favourites

by Kitty Empire on 5th December 2021 at 9:00 am (Drag City)The left-field giants are full of surprises on an electrifying set of covers of everyone from Steely Dan to Silver Jews Continue reading…

Spell Songs II: Let the Light In review – a magical return to nature

by Neil Spencer on 4th December 2021 at 4:00 pm (Thirty Tigers)In this captivating follow-up, the stellar folk collective give voice to more magical meditations on nature from Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris Continue reading…

Classical home listening: Philippe Jaroussky and Thibaut Garcia, Attacca Quartet and more

by Fiona Maddocks on 4th December 2021 at 12:00 pm The countertenor makes a guitar album, while the Brooklyn foursome mix madrigals and minimalism in lockdown Continue reading..

Houston Person: Live in Paris review – easy brilliance from a classic lineup

by Dave Gelly on 13th November 2021 at 4:00 pm (High Note)The saxophonist and band play with an all-round lightness of touch in this live set from 2019 Continue reading…

Juçara Marçal: Delta Estácio Blues review | Ammar Kalia’s global album of the month

by Ammar Kalia on 12th November 2021 at 9:00 am (QTV Selo/Mais Um)Melding industrial 808s with melodic softness, Marçal weaves disparate strands into a playful and powerful whole Continue reading…

Taylor Swift: Red (Taylor’s Version) review – getting back together with a classic

by Laura Snapes on 12th November 2021 at 5:00 am (Republic)Swift re-records the 2012 album on which she first embraced synth-pop, tweaking songs and adding others: a mix of saccharine fluff and superb keepers Continue reading…

Alexandre Kantorow: Brahms review | Erica Jeal’s classical album of the week

by Erica Jeal on 11th November 2021 at 3:00 pm (BIS)Kantorow’s affinity with the German Romantic sparks mercurially expressive and resonant playing in this follow-up to his 2020 Brahms disc Continue reading…

Damon Albarn: The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows review – beautifully haunting

by Alexis Petridis on 11th November 2021 at 12:00 pm (Transgressive)One of the most driven artists of the Britpop era, now unbothered by commercial success, is back with a second solo album that drifts along in a melancholy, stoned mist Continue reading…

Radiohead: Kid A Mnesia review – two classic albums, plus surprises

by Phil Mongredien on 7th November 2021 at 3:00 pm (XL)The band’s 20th-anniversary reissue of Kid A and Amnesiac along with unreleased material makes for fascinating listening Continue reading…

Snail Mail: Valentine review – engaging indie folk

by Damien Morris on 7th November 2021 at 1:00 pm (Matador) Lindsey Jordan’s second Snail Mail album is carefully measured but lacks the painful intimacy of her debut LP Continue reading…

Joan As Police Woman, Tony Allen, Dave Okumu: The Solution Is Restless review – subtle and slinky

by Kitty Empire on 7th November 2021 at 9:00 am (PIAS)This classy collaboration sounds familiar but unique at the same time, a jazzy musing on what it takes to live Continue reading…

Justin Adams and Mauro Durante: Still Moving review – a bravura performance

by Neil Spencer on 6th November 2021 at 4:00 pm (Ponderosa)From blazing rock-outs to aching love songs, this inspired duo deliver a thrilling and spontaneous set Continue reading…

Abba: Voyage review – full-on and frothy

by Kitty Empire on 6th November 2021 at 2:00 pm (Polydor)The return of the Swedish super troupers has plenty of bittersweet erudition, plus a good dollop of mass-market cheese Continue reading…

Classical home listening: Lea Desandre’s Amazone; Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle

by Fiona Maddocks on 6th November 2021 at 12:00 pm Desandre flies in a vivacious baroque programme, while a new edition of Rossini’s late work is small but perfectly formed Continue reading…

Johnathan Blake: Homeward Bound review – virtuosi jazz unit scorch and shimmer

by John Fordham on 5th November 2021 at 9:00 am (Blue Note)Drummer Blake joins with Dezon Douglas, Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross and David Virelles to create enthralling post-bop, soul jazz and Coltraneian pop Continue reading…

Abba: Voyage review – no thank you for the music

by Jude Rogers on 5th November 2021 at 12:01 am After 40 years, the makers of once-sparkling pop are back – but the glamour promised by this album’s two terrific singles goes horribly unfulfilled Continue reading…

Aldo Clementi: Canoni Circolari review – joyous polyphonies and tubular bells

by Andrew Clements on 4th November 2021 at 4:00 pm Kathryn Williams/Joe Richards/Mira Benjamin/Mark Knoop (All That Dust, binaural download only)Imitation and canon are at the heart of Clementi’s sonically gorgeous pieces featuring flute, violin, piano and percussion Continue reading…

Diana Ross: Thank You review – an anaemic comeback that should have been great

by Alexis Petridis on 4th November 2021 at 1:00 pm With disco enjoying one of its periodic moments in the sun, a supremely classy 21st-century reboot was possible. But this isn’t it Continue reading…

Theon Cross: Intra-I review – digging deep

on 31st October 2021 at 3:00 pm (New Soil)The Sons of Kemet player’s second album swings between inner-city toughness and a search for something more spiritual Continue reading…

The War on Drugs: I Don’t Live Here Anymore review – songs for cruising endless highways

by Phil Mongredien on 31st October 2021 at 1:00 pm (Atlantic)Recorded in seven studios over three years, Adam Granduciel and co’s latest is a rich, mesmerising affair Continue reading…

Ed Sheeran: Equals review – no more Mr Wild Guy

by Kitty Empire on 31st October 2021 at 9:00 am Despite keeping one foot in the club-pop groove, commitment and maturity set the tone for settled-down Sheeran’s latest outing Continue reading…

Pasquale Grasso: Pasquale Plays Duke review – boggling brilliance from the guitar virtuoso

by Dave Gelly on 30th October 2021 at 3:00 pm (Sony Music)Grasso astonishes on an album of Duke Ellington covers, with classy, unshowy support Continue reading…

Doran: Doran review | Jude Rogers’s folk album of the month

by Jude Rogers on 29th October 2021 at 8:00 am (Spinster)Elizabeth LaPrelle of Anna & Elizabeth anchors the four-piece behind this comforting, intimate album of a cappella harmonies and Appalachian ballads Continue reading…

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