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April 2019 album releases

April 2019 album releases
Album reviews

Aldous Harding: Designer review – a true original

by Kitty Empire on 28th April 2019 at 8:00 am (4AD)Had Aldous Harding remained preserved in aspic, with just two mesmeric, folk-adjacent albums to her name, she would still be numbered among this generation’s true originals.Renown and greater budgets have allowed this New Zealander to trade up to a more generous band sound and ever-lusher production, still courtesy of John Parish who did Party, her tour de force of 2015. Harding’s rhythmic decisions have started tending towards Spain; now there’s a Welsh lilt to add to her zoo of voices. Where once she used to resemble Kate Bush singing the songs of Will Oldham – a dramatic stylist operating out of spectral folk – now she shimmies. Continue reading… […]

Kevin Morby: Oh My God review – a master songwriter at work

by Phil Mongredien on 28th April 2019 at 7:00 am (Dead Oceans)In contrast to the bucolic sounds of Singing Saw (2016), Kevin Morby’s 2017 follow-up, City Music, was a love letter to New York City. While the irresistible scuzzy momentum of the Velvets’ I’m Waiting for the Man is evoked again on OMG Rock n Roll here, lyrically Morby shifts his focus to more spiritual matters. If not quite a concept album, then there are certainly religious themes running through Oh My God, as Morby muses on the all-pervasive influence of faith.These lyrical concerns are reflected in the music. But while there’s a newfound gospel sensibility at play, most notably in the handclaps embellishing No Halo and the female backing vocals of Piss River and the Dylan-esque O Behold, it’s refracted through a prism of agnosticism. Continue reading… […]

Minyo Crusaders: Echoes of Japan review – unlikely fusion’s great grooves

by Neil Spencer on 28th April 2019 at 7:00 am (Mais Um)Japan’s min’yo is an example of how vibrant folk music can ossify into formal ritual, transformed from its original role as workers’ songs, there for distraction and complaint, into art music performed mainly by divas in fancy kimonos. It’s as if Scarborough Fair and Seven Gypsies were reserved for operatic soloists. The mission of the Minyo Crusaders, a 10-piece big band, is to rescue min’yo from its highbrow status and return it to everyday life by setting its songs to assorted world styles. This debut opens with a blast of loping Colombian cumbia before moving on to Afrobeat, reggae, salsa and more. It’s an unlikely fusion, but the Crusaders come armed with a precision horn section drawn from assorted ska and jazz bands, and the often wistful melodies are skilfully woven into upbeat moods. Akita Nikata Bushi, a slow lament, is wound into a sinuous Ethiopian rhythm, with added surf guitar from group founder Katsumi Tanaka, who came to min’yo after discovering 20th-century hybrids such as the Tokyo Cuban Boys. The vocals are unwaveringly authentic, as a brace of untreated songs prove, but the focus is on great grooves and fine playing. A festival band to seek out. Continue reading… […]

Ezra Collective: You Can’t Steal My Joy review – celebration of jazz’s diversity

by Ammar Kalia on 28th April 2019 at 7:00 am (Enter the Jungle)Joy is a term readily associated with London jazz quintet Ezra Collective. Establishing themselves in recent years as central to the burgeoning London jazz scene through energetic live sets led by powerhouse band-leader Femi Koleoso, their self-released EPs – 2016’s Chapter 7 and 2017’s Juan Pablo: The Philosopher – have opened the genre up to younger and more diverse audiences attracted by their blend of afrobeat, hip-hop and soul improvisations.The release of their long-awaited debut LP continues this jazz-fusion narrative, opening with spiritual jazz classic Space Is the Place before moving on to the meditative piano of Philosopher II and neo-soul inflected rap of Loyle Carner-feature What Am I To Do?While this generic meandering might seem jarring, Ezra Collective make it part of their ethos – a patchwork celebration of jazz’s enduring diversity. The collective’s strengths come in its longstanding telepathic musicianship with highlights on jazz-leaning instrumentals such as King of the Jungle and Shakara, featuring Kokoroko. The record is a joyous listen, which will only be enhanced on their forthcoming tour, and a confident assertion of Ezra Collective breaking out of the once-restrictive jazz enclave. Continue reading… […]

Home listening: a feast of late Beethoven piano sonatas

by Fiona Maddocks on 28th April 2019 at 6:59 am Steven Osborne, Yevgeny Sudbin and Jonathan Biss underline the composer’s humanity. Plus: the life of Michael Tippett on Radio 3• The cover of Steven Osborne’s recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, Op 109 in E major, Op 110 in A flat major and Op 111 in C minor (Hyperion), shows a detail of Rodin’s The Hand of God in marble. Smoothly sculpted fingers clasp a rough clod of earth. It’s an apt simile for these three late works, a summation of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, and written between 1820-22, around the time of the Missa Solemnis.As in that great choral masterpiece, storm and perdition unite with heaven and serenity. Keys closely linked, moods contrasting, these three sonatas seem to express everything in music, including wit and generosity. Osborne, always a player in absolute service to the composer, captures Beethoven’s humanity, tumult and crazed fervour. This revered Scottish pianist has a special capacity for the ethereal. Check out the opening of the last movement (andante) of Op 109, in the Adagio of Op 110, in the Arietta: Adagio of Op 111. Continue reading… […]

Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons review – deliciously detailed indie rock

by Michael Hann on 26th April 2019 at 9:30 am (Merge) The extraordinary career of John Darnielle – not just an astoundingly prolific musician, but also a podcaster, a novelist and a metal fan so devoted he wrote the 33⅓ book about Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality – continues with the 17th Mountain Goats album. It began life as a concept disc about “a besieged seaside community called Riversend, ruled by a benevolent wizard”, but – thankfully, perhaps – evolved into something rather different. Continue reading… […]

The Cranberries: In the End review – moving swan songs of Dolores O’Riordan

by Dave Simpson on 26th April 2019 at 9:00 am (BMG)Dolores O’Riordan’s 2018 death casts a long shadow over her band’s final album, completed posthumously. Many of the titles – Lost, All Over Now and such – seem to unwittingly allude to it. Then there is the chilling poignancy of her opening line: “Remember the night in a hotel in London …”, which conjures up a tragic reminder of the location of her passing. However, such unfortunate coincidences shouldn’t detract from what – pieced together with loving care by her surviving bandmates – is a wonderful epitaph. Continue reading… […]

Soak: Grim Town review – familiar yet life-affirmingly raw pop

by Rachel Aroesti on 26th April 2019 at 8:30 am (Rough Trade)Before Bridie Monds-Watson’s second album properly gets under way, it is anxious to police its potential listenership. Opening with an ominous train announcement welcoming passengers on board a service to the titular locale, it warns that those who are “unmedicated and have salaries or pension plans should vacate the carriage immediately”. This is a journey for the “the lonely, the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, the lost”. Continue reading… […]

Pink: Hurts 2B Human review – grown-up Pink is as underdog as ever

by Aimee Cliff on 26th April 2019 at 8:00 am (RCA)Pink has made a career of soundtracking a generation’s growing pains. In the video for her 2001 breakthrough single Don’t Let Me Get Me, she was the pink-haired, tattooed misfit in the high-school changing rooms, positioned in opposition to Britney Spears. In all of her releases, through to 2017’s heart-wrenching Beautiful Trauma, she’s made it her trademark to make anthemic pop songs about subjects – such as divorce, depression, or drugs – that don’t necessarily lend themselves to an uplifting chorus. Continue reading… […]

Ishmael Ensemble: A State of Flow review | John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month

by John Lewis on 26th April 2019 at 7:30 am (Severn Songs)Combining genres from jazz to minimalism with a great city’s musical heritage, without resorting to pastiche, is no mean featIshmael is a saxophonist, DJ, producer and bandleader, known to his friends as Pete Cunningham. Over the past few years, he’s conducted some madly varied DJ sets, created stately remixes of tracks by Detroit techno legend Carl Craig and performed a whole album’s worth of songs by the Yellow Magic Orchestra. He’s also brought his studio-bound inventions to life with the help of a band, the Ishmael Ensemble, making music that’s pitched somewhere between astral jazz, burbling electronica, trippy minimalism, psychedelic dub and 20 years of club culture. Continue reading… […]

Elgar: String Quartet; Piano Quintet  review | Andrew Clements’ classical album of the week

by Andrew Clements on 25th April 2019 at 2:00 pm Roscoe/Brodsky Quartet(Chandos)A century after the composer’s String Quartet and Piano Quintet were premiered, the Brodsky Quartet return them to the spotlightIn May 1919, the first public performances of Elgar’s String Quartet and Piano Quintet were given in a concert at the Wigmore Hall in London. The programme also included Elgar’s Violin Sonata, which had already received its premiere, but all three works had been composed the previous year, when he was also finishing his Cello Concerto. They were the only mature chamber works that Elgar ever wrote. He had made a couple of attempts over the previous two decades to complete the work he had promised to the original Brodsky Quartet, but finally wrote the three-movement score as the first world war was coming to an end. Though he dedicated it to the Brodskys, another group, led by the violinist Albert Sammons, gave the Wigmore performance. Continue reading… […]

Aldous Harding: Designer review – cryptic charm and shimmering pop | Alexis Petridis’s album of the week

by Alexis Petridis on 25th April 2019 at 11:00 am Her lyrics are inscrutable and her vocal and visual stylings eccentric, but Harding’s third album is a thing of beauty(4AD)Comebacks come no more enigmatic than The Barrel, the first single to be taken from Aldous Harding’s third album, and its accompanying video. It featured the New Zealand-born singer-songwriter performing stylised dance moves and giving knowing looks to camera while variously wearing a tall white hat, a white ruff and enormous platform boots; a grotesque blue mask and a T-shirt and white underpants accessorised with a pair of maracas. The lyrics were as puzzling as the video: “I know you have the dove, I’m not getting wet … show the ferret to the egg, I’m not getting led along.” Related: Sign up for the Sleeve Notes email: music news, bold reviews and unexpected extras Continue reading… […]

Kelsey Lu: Blood review – absorbing, astonishing debut album

by Tara Joshi on 21st April 2019 at 7:00 am (Columbia)Intricate and sculptural, North Carolina singer-songwriter-producer Kelsey Lu deals in music where the unifying genre is, essentially, beauty. Having previously collaborated with the likes of Sampha, Solange and Florence Welch, the Los Angeles-based artist’s sublime debut album arrives, delving between everything from absorbing dream-pop, twangy blues, left-field electronics, serene ambient and even delicate classical (Lu is a trained cellist). Blood is meditative, surreal and deeply imaginative – be that in the lush, cryptic cover of 10cc’s I’m Not in Love, the rapturous gliding disco of Poor Fake, or the birdsong that intermingles with harp over Kindred parts one and two.Crafted with producers as far afield as Skrillex, Jamie xx and Rodaidh McDonald, the album ekes out a warm, naturalistic yet experimental space, all topped with her powerful, disarming voice that implores light in the darkness – “History taught us hope is the answer / yes it is”, she sings on the title track, as the record draws to a close. Lu seems intent to immerse us fully, deeply, intimately into her gossamer creative vision – and she succeeds. An astonishing first album. Continue reading… […]

Fat White Family: Serfs up! review – a giant leap forward

by Phil Mongredien on 21st April 2019 at 7:00 am (Domino)A band always seemingly more interested in notoriety than grand musical statements, Fat White Family’s creative core appeared to have split in two after 2016’s controversy-craving (Goebbels! Shipman! Auschwitz!) but underwhelming Songs for Our Mothers, with guitarist Saul Adamczewski forming Insecure Men and frontman Lias Saoudi reappearing in Moonlandingz. So Serfs Up! represents a double surprise: first that it exists at all and second that it’s unrecognisably good.Whereas their past excursions into lo-fi art-rock were all too in thrall to Throbbing Gristle, there’s a hitherto unheard melodic nous to the likes of recent single Feet and I Believe in Something Better, the former a skyscraping epic meticulously and irresistibly built up layer by layer, the latter redolent of early-80s Sheffield synthpop. Elsewhere, they boldly meld genres: Fringe Runner is White Lines engulfed in drones; Tastes Good With the Money segues from Gregorian chanting to T Rex glam-boogie, complete with Baxter Dury matter-of-factly warning of “a mushroom cloud for the middle classes”. Not everything comes off, however. Kim’s Sunsets, despite its provocative angle – empathy for Kim Jong-un, having all that firepower but doomed to never get to use it – fails to transcend its anaesthetised reggae backing. That aside, Serfs Up! feels like a giant leap forward. Continue reading… […]

Herlin Riley: Perpetual Optimism review – good-natured ease, brilliantly done

by Dave Gelly on 21st April 2019 at 7:00 am (Mack Avenue)When Herlin Riley came to Britain with Wynton Marsalis’s band some years ago, his serene smile behind the drums radiated what Ira Gershwin might have called his sunny disposish. This album does the same. It has the kind of good-natured ease that could seem casual if it weren’t so brilliantly done. The tunes are lucid, the rhythms catchy, and the bright ideas keep on coming. Riley’s band are the young quintet who made their debut album, New Direction, in 2016.The basic sound is quite distinctive, particularly the blend of trumpet (Bruce Harris) and alto saxophone (Godwin Louis), each with his own felicitous solo style. Five of the 10 pieces are Riley compositions, and the title track sums up the attractions of the whole set. You can tell by the clipped phrasing that this is the work of a drummer, and there are some tricky little turns to keep us on our toes, but it’s so rhythmically elegant – as befits a New Orleans-born percussionist. Other numbers range from the sparsely voiced, almost abstract Touched to a joyously unbuttoned excursion into the old Willie Dixon favourite Wang Dang Doodle. Continue reading… […]

Lizzo: Cuz I Love You review – on the bright side of history

by Kitty Empire on 20th April 2019 at 1:00 pm (Nice Life/Atlantic)Colourful, positive and shamelessly retro, US singer and rapper Melissa Jefferson’s third album is the biggest, most focused set of her career thus farLizzo is a dab hand at getting people’s attention. Her third album, Cuz I Love You, opens with a holler that instantly pushes all the dials far into the red. “I’m crying…. cuz I love you!” she bellows, a cappella, on the title track before the band tumble in. On anyone else’s set, this dazzling outburst might be held back – the peak posture of the album’s most climactic tune.For Lizzo, it’s just the opening gambit of a record that is unapologetically loud, bold and full-on, simultaneously old-fashioned (soul, doo-wop and romance figure) but immensely fresh in the bargain. Such saturated levels of volume and colour land as downright audacious when so much contemporary music, let alone hip-hop, currently comes in greige, narcotised hues. Or as Lizzo puts it mischievously on Tempo, her banging collaboration with obvious forebear Missy Elliott: “Slow songs, they for skinny hoes… I’m a thick bitch, I need tempo.” Continue reading… […]

03 Greedo: Still Summer in the Projects – inside man’s breakout moment?

by Ben Beaumont-Thomas on 19th April 2019 at 9:30 am (Alamo/Interscope/10 Summers)Following a string of short prison sentences in his 20s, for drugs, firearms and burglary, in May 2018 Los Angeles rapper 03 Greedo broke his last straw: he was sentenced to 20 years after methamphetamine and stolen pistols were found in his car. This poignant, irrepressible album is his first release since being inside, and his idiosyncrasies ensure that his career should sustain at least until his parole comes up in 2020. Continue reading… […]

Loyle Carner: Not Waving, But Drowning review – heartfelt hip-hop

by Rachel Aroesti on 19th April 2019 at 8:30 am AMF RecordsLoyle Carner’s second album opens with a love letter. Titled Dear Jean, it’s addressed to the musician’s mother, reassuring her over tinkling piano and the gentle tapping together of drumsticks that, despite his decision to move out of the family home and in with his girlfriend, he is not abandoning her. It is, like the majority of the south Londoner’s output, utterly heartfelt and startlingly intimate – delivering his lyrics in a wistful mutter, the 24-year-old sounds moved to the point of tears by the tenderness of his own relationships.Carner, whose real name is Benjamin Coyle-Larner, is cut from a different cloth to most rappers. Not because he’s a dyed-in-the-wool mummy’s boy – maternal affection is a well-established trope of the genre – but because he extends this mawkishness to the rest of the world. When he’s not waxing lyrical about his girlfriend’s loveliness, Carner is earnestly mourning a longstanding friendship (Krispy), or a recently deceased celebrity chef (Antonio Carluccio). The Stevie Smith poem this album is named after is about a man whose jovial character masks inner turbulence, yet its relevance is never clarified: Carner is an artist who seems quite happy to wear his heart on his sleeve. His 2017 debut, Yesterday’s Gone, included a track in which he fantasised about caring for a fictional little sister, and both albums feature his mother reading out self-penned poems about how special her son is – a gesture that would cause most people to break out in a cold sweat were it directed at them, and with good reason: the device feels both cloying and slightly smug. Continue reading… […]

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