The ever essential NPR Tiny Desk Concert series hosted Sampha recently who played stripped-down versions of songs from his album Process – ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, ‘Blood On Me’, and ‘Plastic 100°C’. Treat yo’self.
Also, ‘No One Knows Me’ spawned the year’s best music meme:
This is only a selection of new music – dig into more.
Check out the Songs of the week playlists for more songs from London Grammar, Code Walk, Mac Demarco, M83, Fionn Regan, Future Islands, Chinah and more.
Play via Youtube, Spotify, Deezer and Soundcloud:
Syd – ‘Nothing From Somethin’
From the excellent debut album from The Internet’s Syd, who makes sensual modern R&B feel easy. ‘Nothing From Somethin’ is my current favourite.
The DPs’ forthcoming self-titled album hets its most pop and most intriguing moment yet with ‘Cool Your Heart’ a collaboration with D∆WN Richards. “An anthem against co-dependency and about feeling cool by yourself”, the song (and video) leads by example. Tyondai Braxton helped out on the production and Mauro Refosco “brings the Bahia beat.”
Soulé – ‘Good Life’
Dublin singer Soulé’s debut single ‘Love No More’ made a big enough impression locally that is was nominated for an Choice Music Prize Irish Song of the Year. And it’s easy to hear why. Soulé is one of the most promising new artists in the soul, R&B and pop sphere in Ireland and to further prove it she has dropped her follow up single ‘Good Life’, a song inspired by ’90s house, 2step and garage. More
Joshua Burnside – ‘Tunnels Pt.2’
The Northern Irish alt-folk singer-songwriter Joshua Burnside has a new album forthcoming on Quiet Arch called Ephrata on May 5th.
Ephrata‘s lead single ‘Tunnels Pt.2’ is awash with urgency, imagination and immediacy.
The long-awaited debut album from the English singer and musician. Is there a debut-releasing artist in recent years who his audience are more intimately familiar with his voice than Sampha? Thanks to collaborations with Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, Drake, Kanye and Solange, Sampha’s voice has been everywhere else and how he’s brought it back into focus on a fine solo debut of substance.
Sampha has suffered with anxiety in recent years, his mother passed away of cancer in September 2015 after a few years of fighting the disease and Process manifests those experiences on the paranoid ‘Blood On Me’ and the piano ballad to the instrument and his mother ‘No-One Knows Me (Like The Piano)’. Sampha worries about family, his health, his mortality and explores his grief.
There are moments of SBTRKT-style sonics so it’s if you were expect an album of all piano ballads, this isn’t it. Sampha’s soft voice is the kind that warms the soul and the main reason why Process is such a pleasure despite any heaviness under the surface.
Favourite tracks: ‘No-One Knows Me (Like The Piano)’ , ‘Kora Sings’.
This reissued album on Matador from the 21 year-old Memphis songwriter Baker is reminiscent of SOAK in its folky finger-plucked youthful vulnerability. The album was originally released in 2015 but is now getting a new lease of life on a larger label and a physical release on March 17th.
The debut album from The Internet’s Syd. It feels like a long time since she was behind the decks at Odd Future gigs. Continuing the intimate sensual modern R&B feel of The Internet, Fin is the beginning as opposed to a logical end. Syd steps out in front and while she’s been downplaying the album’s status in her career already (“This album is not that deep, but I feel like this is my descent into the depth I want the band to get to.”), there are few people making tender close-up R&B that swings low and stays high as this.
The first three EPs from Philadelphia independent punk rockers is rough and ready rock music that sounds like it was only slightly primed for modern ears. Refreshingly retro and a lot of fun – like Alabama Shakes letting loose and getting gritty.
‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’ is a new song from Sampha written in tribute to his mother Binty Sisay and the piano that she owned. It was in her house from the age of three and was used in much of his upcoming album Process on Young Turks on February 3rd.
Sampha says of his mother – “The more time that passes, the more I see the extent of her love for me.”
Hey, it looks like we’re finally going to get that Sampha debut album soon.
‘Blood On Me’ is a new track, co-produced with Rodaidh McDonald from Sampha’s forthcoming album Process to be released on Young Turks. The follow up to ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ is more upbeat than his usual style and lyrically, has a sense of foreboding – “I swear they smell the blood on me / I hear them coming for me.”
Sampha will be on Late Show With Stephen Colbert tonight and he recently featured on Frank Ocean’s Endless visual album.
Sampha likes to take his time huh? In the five years he’s been making music in the public, first with SBTRKT and later on his own, there’s been a slow release of tunes. His last solo material was ‘Too Much’/’Happens’ in 2013 but in the meantime, he’s featured on songs from Kanye West, Drake and Katy B.
New song ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ arrives three years after his last solo track and as ever, the honeyed tones of his voice are always emotive and welcome to these ears.
Tahliah Barnett wanted to be a dancer. After begging her mother, she finally went to dance college, where she felt nothing substantial. She danced in big pop videos for Jessie J and Ed Sheeran but she realised it was music was the source of her desire so she became the musician, twigs and later, FKA twigs, the artist formerly known as who had yet to really be discovered.
The first phases of FKA twigs were an impressive ethereal first EP in 2012 and a second EP which was trailed with the impressively visually-lead videos for ‘Water Me’ and ‘Papi Pacify’. Those videos and their hypnotic R&B electronic songs, suggested a parallel brutality and sensuality. They flirted with danger in form and were amorphous and hypnotic in sound.
twigs has showed herself in public through artwork and videos which have hyper-realised versions of herself (large eyes, elongated neck, disfigured faces), that she is interested in examining and distorting her identity, including the very name she’s persisted with – Formerly known as.” On LP1, she shares seemingly true intimate versions of herself.
The majority of her debut concerns twigs attempting to convince a lover to accept her as exactly that and she goes through different stages in order to achieve her antagonising goal. It starts with shame. “I love another, and thus I hate myself,” Twigs sings on the opening track to a draggy beat, setting the scene for an album, which on the surface sounds sensually futuristic but is filled with realism, helped by cohesive yet caustic productions by Arca, Paul Epworth, Emile Haynie, Sampha, Dev Hynes and Clams Casino.
Stage two is seduction. The lead single, ‘Two Weeks’, a monument to carnal ecstasy is the most singular highlight as its epic brooding instrumentation is perfectly matched by a flight of lyrical fantasy. “My thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in,” she sings on the song in which she hyperventilates the words climatically, sounding less in the throes of passion, more in a sort of desperation because she’s pleading her lover to choose her over another (“I can fuck you better than her”).
Stage three is distress. ‘Hours’ and ‘Pendulum’ are surface-level lascivious tracks with an uneasy stop-start musical arrangements that amp up the uncertainty – “So lonely trying to be yours / when you’re looking for so much more.”
In taking a track to address her music video past (and present), ‘Video Girl’ addresses the view others might have of her (“Is she the girl that’s from the video? / You lie, you lie, you lie”) and what she might think of herself (“I can’t recognise me.”)
Stage four is an increasing desperation. ‘Closer’ appears to offer some sort of calming plea (“closer / I’m here to be closer / closer / to you, to you, to you, to you”) while stage five is approaching uncomfortable stalker tendencies on ‘Give Up’ – “I know that sometimes you wish I’ve gone away, away / But I wish that you would know that I’m here to stay, to stay.”
Stage six and seven are clear on the album’s final track is ‘Kicks’, First, resignation, before fulfillment, with twigs getting her kicks (“I just touch myself / And say, I’ll make my own damn way” ) and removing that album long frustration.
There is no worry that the separation of the music from the visuals FKA twigs has become synonymous with has lessened the impact of LP1 or that twigs has nothing to say. A longer sustained running time means rather than snatches of character-forming opinion, we get a confidential look at the artist herself talking sex, self-image, desire, loneliness, intimacy, and state of mind, subjects normally guarded from others more vehemently, particularly for new artists.
The combination of twigs’ alien otherworldliness, her ambient often anguished electronic R&B style and her intimate and lustful portrait of herself, directly or reflected in others, makes for an iconic release and helps form a person who feels human and real. By the end of the album’s 10 tracks, twigs decides that she knows herself best, after all.
While part of me wants to hear Sampha only on SBTRKT-style electronica, the man’s sweet voice can definitely carry any kind of tune and the kind he’s been making as a solo artist, with this year’s Dual EP was largely soulful piano music. It’s a sound he continues to explore on the new double A-side Young Turks single. You may have heard ‘Too Much’, his solo version of the song from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same album last week. ‘Happens’ is on a similar tip, but no less impactful in its musicality and emotion as a result. The tracks are on iTunes now and a 7″ in January.
From SBTRKT’s LP to his Jessie Ware collaboration to teaming up with Koreless as Short Stories to providing vocals on Drake’s latest excellent track ‘The Motion’, Sampha’s voice has been making an indelible impression on other people’s records for a few years now, it’s almost surprise he hasn’t really released anything in his own name. So good news then, that Dual EP will be released on Young Turks on July 29th. ‘Without’ is the first track shared with the public from it and features Sampha’s trademark dulcet voice on a sparse marching R&B beat.
The dulcet tones of SBTRKT collaborator Sampha and the post-dubstep bleeps of Glasgow’s Koreless team up on a new 12″ as Short Stories on Young Turks. Limited to 500 copies. The video features their young doppelgangers.