Review: Planet Mu has long been celebrated as a genuine source of musical surprises, but even by their standards John Wizards, the debut album from the South African/Rwandan duo of the same name, is a bolt from the blue. Gloriously, it is near impossible to pigeonhole (or even accurately describe), offering a kaleidoscopic, near tropical fusion of gorgeous African pop, skewed electronica, traditional African songwriting, bright juju guitars, wonky British indie-pop, tactile R&B and loads more besides. That it not only makes sense but sounds great, too, confirms that these guys are a major talent. Recommended.
Review: Lewis' gentle and bewitching L'Amour, which came complete with a bizarre backstory involving the disappearance of the blonde-haired would-be-matinee-idol on its sleeve, was one of the surprise delights of the year. Yet the release of the hitherto unsuspected follow-up Romantic Times, which was originally recorded in 1985, only adds to the mystique surrounding this off-kilter auteur. The abstract croon and expressionistic mood may remain, yet the pastel shades and beachside calm of his earlier effort are gone, replaced by brooding atmosphere and vocals that betray a troubled soul beneath the luxurious veneer. Residing somewhere between lounge lizard thrills and outsider art chills, Romantic Times is a portrait of a true one-off.
Review: Feisty female foursome Hinds impressed with their 2015 debut album Leave Me Alone, so hopes are naturally high for this follow-up. It's certainly a confident and cheery affair - musically at least - with the Spanish band flitting between fuzzy, rockier workouts, cuts that touch on classic indie-rock tropes, and eccentric guitar pop, all held together by the band's punk-influenced vocal delivery (half-sung, half-shouted, almost always involving multiple members at once) and a deliciously "do-it-yourself" production style that largely eschews modern studio trickery. The result is a fresh, thrill-a-minute set that should see their stock rise even further.