Review: Jazz-man Greg Foat has always been more open-minded and eclectic than many give him credit for, delivering nods to pastoral folk, movie soundtracks and library music amongst his more jazz-focused output. Even so, "Photosynthesis" is still a curveball, featuring as it does drowsy and mostly leisurely soundscapes that move from Radiophonic Workshop influenced weird-outs and mutant lounge music, to stoned horizontal grooves and post trip-hop soundscapes. Interestingly, some of the album's standout moments come laden with woozy electric pianos and the kind of hazy, slow motion guitar motifs that evoke mental images of long, drawn-out sunsets.
Review: Justin Vernon's voice has always been the people's main attraction to Bon Iver, and the fact his pseudonym even exists is certainly no coincidence. As fragile and heartbroken as it is forthright and experienced, when you're wearing a shredded heart on sleeve and confessing to all your deepest insecurities using a pen name can help immensely. Album number four perhaps proves this more than any of its predecessors. While the three previous chapters have all made his thoughts, feelings, insecurities and fears clear, this one takes honesty to new heights. Combining the frail electronics that have gradually slipped their way into his back catalogue with the acoustics of his earliest, rocket-to-fame efforts, it's a culmination of all that's been in the truest sense. Perhaps even more intimate than the breathtakingly personal "For Emma, Forever Ago", "i,i" is a striking work to say the least.
Review: Don't believe everything you read - the fifth Bat For Lashes album confirms this girl (or woman) found herself musically and thematically some time ago, freeing up creative energy to explore new approaches to deliver her often mournful, always heartfelt songs inspired by personal crises and private longings. On this outing there's more than a hint of 1980s pop evident in the mix. Shades of Prince ("Feel For You"), Madonna ("So Good"), Bowie's Berlin days and electro-era Gary Numan (the stunning, infectious instrumental "Vampires") cast the record in a nostalgia that suits the sense of yearning that always seems to pervade Natasha Khan's work. Simply name-checking reference points is lazy and unfair, though. This is an incredible collection of tracks moulded in the artist's own image - bold, beautiful and instantly captivating. Then again, it would be surprising if anyone had expected anything less.
Review: If there were still justice in the digital age, and artists really got what was owed to them exposure-wise, Alex Cameron would be a safe bet for leftfield pop sensation. A multi-faceted songwriter, his previous two albums took us through a horror show of horrible characters and their innermost thoughts, twin roads that have somehow veered onto another course altogether for "Miami Memory". Here a much friendlier face is donned. Nevertheless, opener "Stepdad" makes intentions clear, with uptempo keyboard lines invoking the emotional qualities of mid-80s Prince. "Far From Born Again" tells the story of a "her" who's making bad choices, and the potential fallout of that, set to a Bruce Springsteen-sounding chorus, the likes of which can be found again on "Divorce". Not holding back, but instead holding a light up to a different side of his personality, it's Cameron's most positive to date and his best.
Review: Talk to anyone about Stranger Things and it will only be a matter of minutes before the sensational soundtrack is mentioned. The future retro synths of Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have a huge impact on deepening the occult feelings you experience when watching the show and that continued through Series 3. Now you can grab the accompanying tracks on this mysterious CD, which features the vulnerable "You're A Fighter", celebratory 80s synth pop stomps of "Starcourt" and meditative charms of "The Ceiling Is Beautiful" amongst other nuggets of gold. The producers themselves have said this is less a score and more a series of cues, and it certainly got us thinking.
Review: Who remembers Joel Wastberg aka sir Was' 2017 LP, "Digging A Tunnel"? It was one of those albums that achieved cult status not just because of its star's unarguable talent, but its means of production. Recorded close enough to a train line to feel the locomotives shaking the studio itself, it had to be loud, daring and striking to drown out the passing carriages. "Holding On To A Dream" is an altogether quieter affair because the two years between then and now have afforded our man luxuries like a real place to refine his wares. And refine them he has. "No Giving Up" is smooth pop perfection. "The Sun Will Shine" takes us closer to soul, while "Deployed" emphasises electronics to create something closer to early-MGMT's intimate moments than MGMT seem capable of these days - Little "does-no-wrong" Dragon's guest appearance accentuating the notion that this is exquisitely crafted stuff, and far from by numbers.
Review: When bands hit album four, two things can happen - or three. Some suffer from a crisis of creativity, opting to regurgitate or, worse still, stagnate. Others opt for reinvention, with as many getting it right as going well off-piste, alienating faithful fans in the process. The lucky ones, meanwhile, hit the nail on the head with their most accomplished and complete work to date. Consider Frankie Cosmos among the lucky ones, then, not that luck had much to do with it. Recorded in their New York hometown, everything about the record feels comfortable in that there's nothing forced, and yet it engages and grabs from the off. Lilting, lo-fi rock 'n' roll odes to love, life and the genre itself, anyone who's ever wondered what Cate Le Bon might sound like having a pancake breakfast with The Orielles should grab a seat at this table.
Review: Liam Gallagher is many things to many people, and one thing to everyone - authentic. It seems unthinkable we could question the indie roller's motives, or expect anything other than the "meat and veg rock" he described his own work as during a 2018 interview with The Guardian. "Why Me? Why Not" sees him take that mantra to new heights. As an album it's as accomplished and polished as anything this pied piper of the raw and unpolished has gifted us in the years after *that band*, making for an immediately engaging collection of anthems-in-the-making that will have crowds eating out of the palm of his hand as if they'd never seen his hand before, or tasted any of the food he's been feeding them for years now. And therein lies the reason it remains impossible to criticise this undeniably upfront British songwriter. Enough said.
Review: South London pianist and composer Ashley Henry is a versatile musician who can move between all niches within his musical realm: hip hop, broken beat, jazz and fusion flows from his finger tips and all characterise his expansive and expressive new album "Beautiful Vinyl Hunter". Stellar collaborators Makaya McCraven, Judi Jackson and MC Sparkz amongst others all help enrich this album as it flows from post-bop to classic jazz to neo-soul in thrilling fashion. Rooted in tradition but with a distinctly London edge that soars to new heights, this record sets a new benchmark for the contemporary scene.
Review: Tyler, the Creator's fifth studio album was produced entirely by the Californian artist himself, but it does feature guests like Solange, Playboi Carti, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert. It immediately debuted at number one and it's easy to see why. Rich with a complex fusion of funk, rap and r&b that glides on Cali-synths and neo soul melodies, the whole thing is tethered to the ground with a hefty low end and follows the narrative of a love triangle as told by American comedian Jerrod Carmichael. Arguably his best work to date, the production is next level and storytelling wholly involving.
Review: Since first emerging 23 years ago, Turkish outfit Baba Zula has developed a distinctive take on their homeland's psych-funk and psych-rock traditions, offering up albums that combine elements of occidental musical culture with low slung psychedelic rock grooves, spacey electronics and the delay-laden hum of dub. It's this unique fusion of past, present and future sounds from Middle Eastern and Western culture that makes their latest album - their first for five years - such a rewarding and enjoyable listen. While unique and hard to pigeonhole, each of the ten tracks is undeniably impressive, wonderfully evocative, genuinely atmospheric and - as you'd expect given their roots - more psychedelic than tea with Timothy Leary on the moon.
Review: It's hard to think of many bands that manage to channel the spirit of End Days via tracks that sound so deliciously catchy and hooky. Given the current state of the world it's not hard to see, and hear, where they're coming from. The Canadian-American eight piece deliver powerhouse points with powerhouse tracks, "You'll Need A Backseat Driver" kicking things off as they mean to go on- stuck in the rear of a car driven by a petulant child. "Dreamlike And Rush On" is stadium-filling stuff, "Leather On The Seat" closes the record out with its quietest but arguably most commanding moment. By now the car theme should be pretty clear, but as titles like "Colossus Of Rhodes" and "Need Some Giants" suggest, it's less about motoring and more about the need to change, rise up and save society before it all comes crumbling down.
Review: Veteran grime star and rap giant Kano uses the hoodie as a symbolic crux throughout his sixth album. It's an item of clothing often associated with criminality and errant youths, but here he re-casts it as a form of protection for young black men who have a wide range of racial and societal pressures to deal with. It makes for a politically charged album with shiny electronica next to stark and prickly beats, melancholic pianos and minimal garage rhythms. A musically expansive work that crosses many styles and scenes, but remains united by Kano's ever impassioned deliveries.
Review: The Utopia Strong might be the most unlikely combination of musical elements imaginable. Coil's Michael J. York, Kavus Torabi of Gong note, the vocals of Miranda Sex Garden's Katharine Blake (albeit rendered almost unrecognisable), a modular synth and, snooker god Steve Davis. But those who know the cue-wielding deity's reputation as a techno, soul, funk, jazz and progressive rock aficionado will understand this one has been a long time coming. So, what do the results sound like? Well, a mixed bag, but all otherworldly and surreal. "Konta Chorus" marries the whirring of machine loops with trippy guitar reverberations, timeless string arpeggios and hypnotic wind sections. "Brainsurgeons 3", running close to 11-minutes, is an epic space-age marriage of techno and sci-fi. Meanwhile, the appropriately named "Moonchild" closes the album out on lengthy refrains of disharmony and subtle, nymph-ish lyrical whispers. A trip and a half.