At the time of the recording "Promises," Floating Points' Sam Shepherd was in his mids while famed tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders was knocking on the door of A whole lifetime of years divides them, but on "Promises," their musical connection runs so deep it feels like they've known each other through past lives.
A lush, vibrant, moody orchestral work done in collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra, the various movements of "Promises" floats along a simple harp-plucked motif that changes, shrinks, expands, and explodes, John McCormack (2) - I Hear You Calling Me (Vinyl Sanders' sax weaving in and at out at times to add dabs of texture, at other times to incite an explosion of sound.
The end result isn't too far removed from John Coltrane's landmark album "A Love Supreme," wherein this record isn't so much to be listened to as outright experienced. Few records hold such power but make no mistake: "Promises" is one of them. The former frontman of the great Welsh alt-rock outfit Super Furry Animals has filled his solo career with beautiful clutter of offbeat and downright irregular solo records, up to the point where he's about to eclipse the total studio output of his former band and already has if you count his electropop side project Neon Neon.
Yet while Gruff Rhys' albums have always been viewed as critical curiosities, "Seeking New Gods" could very well be the record that pushes him back into the spotlight. By adhering to a loose concept about the Mount Paektu volcano and tying it into some of the most crystalline pop melodies he's written in a decade, "Seeking New Gods" reaches new heights for Rhys, as it feels like he's learned how to let go and have fun in the studio again.
The rollicking piano licks of "Loan Your Loneliness" feel ageless in presentation, while the gimme-gimme guitar rock of "Hiking in Lightning" recalls the garage-revival catchiness of bands like King Tuff in their prime. Featuring one indelible pop gem after the other, Rhys was right to center his album about a volcano because this set of songs is nothing short of explosive.
An '80s pop fantasia about navigating young queer romance, the debut album from Caroline Kingsbury is without question one of the most refreshing pop albums of the year. Evoking Kim Carnes one moment and 'Til Tuesday the next, "Heaven's Just a Flight" revels in its own octagon-drum excess, as every synth pad is washed in neon and every electric guitar is given a plastic flanger echo.
Of course, a tribute to her era-specific idols would be fun by itself, but Kingsbury wraps it all up with hugely confident songwriting and arranging: the backing vocals to the title track are copied straight from the Billy Joel pop playbook, while "Hero" is an arena-rock ballad just waiting for an arena.
Yet as much as "Heaven" is here to show you a good time, the production hides a darker lyrical text about family tragedy and the pains of discovering your sexual identity and revealing it to an uncaring world. It's a dance album, a dramatic diary entry, and the kind of record you find yourself coming back to time and time again. Rhiannon Giddens is the rare kind of songwriter who is a student of her form. Throughout both her solo work and her time leading the string band revival outfit Carolina Chocolate Drops, she's scoured ancient songbooks and folk history for tunes that reek of tradition.
In digging up the past, she argues, can we learn more about our future? At times very lively and at times deathly solemn, her body of work is intensely considered, but with "They're Calling Me Home," she and longtime collaborator Francesco Turrisi pine for their homelands of America and Italy while in a Covid-directed lockdown in Ireland. Calm and filled with yearning. Revealing layers of depth despite its musical sparseness, "They're Calling Me Home" is a beautiful embodiment of folk tradition, proving that sometimes the best songs for the moment are the ones that have already been written long ago.
As straightforward Album) dance album as anything that has emerged from the PC Music scene, Danny L Harle explores contemporary club music on his own wacky terms. Avoiding obvious EDM tropes in favor of tracks that walk the line between homage and parody, Harle plays around on "Harlecore" with four distinct personas: DJ Danny with his throwback rave vibes, DJ Ocean Caroline Polachek with a more ambient take on the genre, MC Boing Lil Data with his fast-paced nerdcore raps, and DJ Mayhem Hudson Mohawke rounds things out with borderline happycore energy to intense and rapid breaks.
In splitting his musical identity out into such clearly-defined forms, "Harlecore" really does feel like a series of DJs trading off on a hot dance floor, with some songs like DJ Ocean's "On a Mountain" sounding so close to early s trance breakbeats you'd be forgiven for thinking it was beamed in directly from the era.
Modest in scale the album clocks in at less than 40 minutes but ambitious in scope, "Harlecore" is the one-stop John McCormack (2) - I Hear You Calling Me (Vinyl party you didn't know you needed to attend.
The stunning opener "Partly of My Making" mixes a Led Zeppelin-indebted sense of theatrics with an indelible alt-rock melody and frontman Paul Smith's confident-as-ever vocal histrionics. Radiating a lyrical maturity while only occasionally stopping to slow the tempo, parts of "Nature Always Wins" feel damn-near eternal, as if these songs have been radio staples for years.
Here's to upsetting expectations. Johnathon Ford's long-running instrumental rock outfit Unwed Sailor are entering their third decade of existence. Over a series of immaculately-rendered full-lengths, "instrumental rock" is a broad term that encompasses oh so very much. From heavy metal guitars to danceable drums to moody atmospherics, Unwed Sailor has done it all, so it's a pleasant surprise to find the band behind the new album "Truth or Consequences" at their most relaxed.
Sure, opener "Blitz" is a late-'80s Britpop smash simply looking for a lead vocal, but the languid bass of the album's title track unwinds at a beautiful pace, the sunlight hitting your eyelids as you awaken from a Saturday night rager into the lazy maw of a Sunday afternoon. At times joyously rocking and at times blissed-out and serene, "Truth or Consequences" feels like a triumph, as each song slowly hides in waiting upon first listen to only repeat themselves in your head weeks later -- and all without a single lyric to its name.
Montreal's Michael Silver has developed quite the name for himself with his downtempo, largely instrumental recordings under his CFCF moniker. He's tried everything from vocal slow pop songs to guitar-driven slices of mood music to full-on drum machine concoctions, and as it so happens, this has gained him a lot of followers, especially in the age of the mood-based streaming playlist. Yet 's "Liquid Colors" gave us some earlys ambient drum-n-bass textures, a style that he'd only hinted at before.
As he digs further into his electronic music past, he rediscovered a love of late-'90s techno and Big Beat artists like Basement Jaxx and Paul Oakenfold. The intimidating opus that is "memoryland" serves as a love letter to that era, and it is nothing short of an experience. With every synth sound, vocal edit, and spoken-word interlude perfectly in place, the aptly titled "memoryland" feels less like an album and more like a time machine that takes you back to the time when tracks like iiO's "Rapture" were climbing the charts and rock groups were experimenting with synth textures to varying degrees of success.
Cuts like the euphoric "Heaven" and the indistinguishable Daft Punk rip that is "Self Service " sound like they are coming out of your CD Walkman as you walk around the mall in your Sketchers shoes.
In truth, "memoryland" could've been campy or kitschy or, even worse, dripping with ironybut by wrapping a love for the genre around actual songcraft, Silver has delivered us nothing short of the best album of his career.
It's really that good. The first two albums by New York's Lightning Bug delivered some true hero worship: '80s college rock and shoegaze templates were borrowed from liberally to create a new, updated sound for the s that was euphoric, cathartic, and speaker-breaking all at once.
Yet for the stripped-down "A Color in the Sky," Audrey Kang and her crew have moved beyond their influences to create something dreamy, lush, and new. Embellishing simple guitar plucks with swarms of orchestration and earnest lyrics, the band tap into a slower sound that is yearning, striking, and at times just achingly beautiful. What makes this album work so much better than their previous two is how even in calmer surroundings, Lightning Bug has truly mastered the art of the build, as each track grows and expands out to exciting new heights, exemplified by the simple-on-its-surface opener "The Return," which takes its time to blossom into an overwhelming aural experience.
Other John McCormack (2) - I Hear You Calling Me (Vinyl like "Song of the Bell" show that they haven't abandoned rock songs entirely, but "A Color of the Sky" really feels like Lightning Bug have finally found their true artistic voice and are giddy with their new sadcore possibilities.
A lush John McCormack (2) - I Hear You Calling Me (Vinyl. You know you're doing something right when Jay-Z decides to sample you for a single. Floating around since the early s, Thomas Brenneck's cinematic soul-funk group was intended to be the in-house band Dunham Records, the soul-aimed subsidiary of the mighty Daptone Records. Having worked extensively with the late, great Charles Bradley throughout his studio career and featuring members who've played with everyone from The Avalanches to The Roots to Budos Band, "The Exciting Sounds of Featuring sepia-toned production that makes every track sound like a throwback to an earlier time, Menahan Street Band's third album can't be described as anything other than pure joy.
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