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Once Upon A Time
A remarkable feature-length reimagining of the music of superstar Celine Dion by London producer Romance.
Taking vocal snippets from the Canadian ballad diva and placing them in cryogenic stark soundscapes, Once Upon A Time revels in the small moments of a very large-voiced artist.
It’s akin to William Baskinski’s Disintegration Loops or The Caretaker’s memory/dementia releases made with Celine Dion samples.
The six tracks here are rooted in ambient drawn from AOR power ballads, a truly individual release creating an ever-shifting pearlescent post-vapourwave atmospheric collection of music. Last month, the producer followed it up with a second collection – In My Hour Of Weakness, I Found A Sweetness.
The Koreatown Oddity
ISTHISFORREAL?, from Los Angeles MC / producer Dominique Purdy is a 25-minute rap album on Stones Throw pitched like a sketch show meets mockumentary concept LP based on British actors playing Black Americans in leading roles in film and TV.
Purdy has done stand up comedy so that bleeds into this surreally-pitched work, that works
I hear strains of Open Mike Eagle, Kool Keith, R.A.P. Ferreira, even Dilla in its tapestry conceptual-style construction.
LA trio Automatic make great post-punk dance music, and their second album Excess on Stones Throw, fits that category.
Excess from Izzy Glaudini (synths, lead vocals), Lola Dompé (drums, vocals) and Halle Saxon (bass, vocals) was filled with bright examples of songs that crossed the venn diagram between noise-pop, new-wave post punk music with synth and pop to the fore.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought
The Danger Mouse and Black Thought collaborative album clips along at a pace that feels like it’s got years of rap productions that was pent up on Danger Mouse’s hard-drives since the last time he made a rap album, his 2004 breakthrough the Jay Z mashup The Grey Album, and The Mouse & The Mask with MF DOOM as Danger Doom in 2005.
This is a collaboration rooted in over a decade of false starts and competing projects, but it was worth the way. The Roots MC Black Thought is a perfect foil for Danger Mouse’s beats, which crackle and pop with dusty soul, jazz and blues-indebted grooves.
Helping the feel of a time capsule of classic rap are guests like Raekwon, Michael Kiwanuka, MF DOOM (a posthumous verse), A$AP Rocky, Run The Jewels, Conway The Machine and Joey Bada$$, but it’s the interplay of the central pairing that gives this one its status.
A lot’s gonna change
The debut album from Chicago artist Claudia Ferme, AKA Claude, was one I happenstanced upon this year, due to my weekly scours for interesting new music releases every Friday.
a lot’s gonna change, features sumptuous slices of existential dream-pop music like the lounge haze lead-single ‘Twenty Something’, the gentle floral synths of ‘Roses’, the lo-fi bop of ‘what’re you on tonight’ that the artist says is “a snapshot of my early-to-mid twenties — formative, sometimes confusing years.”
The Isle Of Wight duo who arrived with fun indie-rock bops about chairs and wet dreams turned out to be much more than a couple of novelty songs.
The self-titled debut album by Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers features those singles ‘Chaise Longue’ and ‘Wet Dream’ along with more subtle songs about post-modern anxiety, the disenchantment of forced fun, relationship failure, with a run of smart guitar bops like ‘Angelica’, ‘Oh No’, ‘Loving You’ and the closing adulthood-angst of ‘Too Late Now’ that make Wet Leg one of the best indie-guitar albums of the year.
Being Funny in a Foreign Language
It took five full albums from The 1975 for me to properly hop aboard the train, but Being Funny in a Foreign Language is simply a great pop album.
Dispensing with the desire to make a big STATEMENT album, Matty Healy and co instead deliver a Jack Antonoff-produced album front-loaded with big moment songs by virtue of their deft ’80s-indebted construction like the thrills of ‘Happiness’ and ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love’) surrounded by Bon Iver-esque ‘Part Of The Band’ and the LCD Soundsystem-leaning intro song.
Among the sweet acoustic ballads (which I’m admittedly less interested in) and direct lyrical proclamations of love, is Matty Healy’s zeitgeist-capturing lines (“makin’ an aesthetic out of not doing well”), a verse about his mam (“Now Mum’s not a fan of that line about her back / She said it makes her sound frumpy and old / I said, ‘Woman, you are sixty-four years old'”), American school shootings (‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’) and admitting his fallibility (“I’m sorry that I quite liked seein’ myself on the news”).
By keeping it simple and direct, The 1975 made their sweetest album yet.
The second album from London-based duo Real Lies doubles down on what they’ve always been best at – elegiac half-spoken lyrics which glimpse modern life set to music that recalls (or samples) the memory of raves and dance music past.
Arriving seven years after their debut, Lad Ash is a nocturnal narrative, with vocalist Kev Khara recounting his first kiss, touching on friends who’ve moved on or gone, decaying nightlife, and coming of age stories in a heady mix of Patrick King’s euphoric and melancholic afterparty productions.
Khruangbin & Vieux Farka Touré
Texas trio Khruangbin met the Mali guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and made an album of covers called Ali (Dead Oceans) over the course of a week of songs fro Vieux’s legendary dad ‘s catalogue– Ali Farké Touré (“the African John Lee Hooker”) – who died in 2006.
In doing so, the alchemy of the players and its source material lifts the album from retread of simply honouring a legacy, instead finding new places informed by the dub of the former to the blues of the latter, for these songs to bloom.
A Sky Without Stars
UK R&B artist Eliza’s A Sky Without Stars album was released in September (LOG OFF / Different Recordings), and there’s a tangible simplicity and verve to these productions – a quiet confidence that draws you in.
It’s a long way from the artist that released ‘Skinny Genes’, when she was known as pop artist Eliza Doolittle.
The musical reinvention on A Sky Without Stars, produced by Finlay ‘Phairo’ Robson, follows a blueprint of live instrumentation of soulful proportions, with insistent drums and bewitching arrangements, an R&B vibe that feels like it channels the vibe of with D’Angelo live sessions, while Eliza’s cooled-down neo-soul vocals work the cracks and fill the dusky spaces on this record.