With so many releases flying at you, here are recommended vetted listens from Nialler9 for you this week, as collated in the Nialler9 New Releases Spotify playlist, updated weekly.
Lost & Found
21-year-old R&B artist Jorja Smiths’s debut release Lost & Found is a stunning collection of material which covers the artist’s transition from adolescence into adulthood. Smith originally hailed from Walsall but traveled to London at 18 to soak in the city life. It’s no small wonder that the ultra smooth brand of R&B on Lost & Found can hold its own against its slickest New York contemporaries, especially considering how young and relatively inexperienced the artist is. Smith has already featured on tracks from heavyweights like Stormzy, Drake, Khalid and Kali Uchis and was featured on the excellent Black Panther soundtrack earlier this year.
Indeed, the tracklist finds much charm in how youthful the material on it is. ‘Teenage Fantasy’ is dark and sweet R&B at it’s finest. The throbbing bass is the perfect counter to Smith’s melancholic musings on first time heartbreak “When we are young / We all want someone / Who we think is the one”. The album is Smith sharing the experiences she’s had over the past few years, hearts broken and lessons learned. Her sharp lyricism brings these stories to life, the scintillating production is the cherry atop the cake.
So Sad So Sexy
Lykke Li’s fourth album is the Swedish artist’s best work to date. So Sad So Sexy is a neon-drenched breakup album. As the title suggests, the tone of the album flips between lust and despair, often within the space of the same song. Album opener ‘Hard Rain’ sets the precedent with its haunting mantra. “If you like the feeling of a hard rain falling/ I have a seafull, I can give you an ocean.” Performed over layers of heavily autotuned vocal harmonies and the suggestion of a bass drum, this line is typical is of the sexually-charged project as a whole.
The album is packed with a minimalist electronic instrumentation that gives the entire thing an underlying sense of intensity. ‘Two Nights’ is manic, depicting Li smoking cigarettes, waiting the night out for a lover to return. The stripped back drum sounds and delayed vocals give the track a sense of paranoia and illustrate Li’s brand of pop music at its very best. At its worst, Li’s musical vision verges on bland, as in ‘Bad Woman’, but the artist sticks the landing far more often than not on So Sad So Sexy.
Lindsey Jordan has been performing under the moniker of Snail Mail since the age of 15. Venue hopping around Baltimore’s live music scene gave her indie rock sound the time and space to grow as well as providing her with like-minded musicians to form a band with.
Jordan came to public attention with the release of ‘Pristine’, a track highly representative of her overall musical appeal. Full of youthful exuberance, the track finds Jordan in the midst of a tumultuous relationship, questioning herself and her lover. “And if you do find someone better /I’ll still see you in everything / For always, tomorrow, and all the time.” Lush is intelligently produced, with open mixes that allow for the best parts of Snail Mail’s music, namely Jordan’s lyrics and guitar, to remain the focus of the listener’s attention.
Look closely at the cover of Serpentwithfeet’s Soil and you’ll spot Josiah Wise stood in the daylight. Look closer still and you’ll spot the pentagram tattoo on his forehead, you may also spot the two moons that appear in the morning sky above Wise’s shoulder. This is Soil in a nutshell. Serpentwithfeet has taken something otherwise familiar and subtly warped it into something very much his own.
Musically, the album blends elements of new R&B with a brand of orchestral pop usually associated with artists like Bjork, who featured Serpentwithfeet on a recent version of ‘Blissing Me’. Take ‘Fragrant’, which addresses an absentee lover. The vocals on which track are disorientating, pouring onto the instrumental and layering over one another. Wise’s stint as a choirboy is obvious, with vocals that range from guttural to angelic and clear.
“With you I can empty myself of all my rivers, and become a remarkable sky,” Wise sings on recent single Bless Ur Heart in an operatic quavering voice that could, on the right day, open the heavens. A picture emerges of a songwriter who performs with tenderness and fanaticism over songs produced by Katie Gately, that match his monumental sentiments.
Signed to Tri Angle records, with distribution being handed by Secretly Canadian, Soil is a superbly dark art-pop album.
Another fellow of the current British wave of reflective indie guitar artists, Matt Maltese has earned his major deal with Atlantic Records UK with his debut album Bad Contestant. The first thing that will strike the listener, apart from Maltese’s ear for a killer melody, is just how funny an album Bad Contestant is. While much of the subject matter on the album is morose, Maltese never sheds his self awareness. Take the album’s namesake, on which Maltese admits “I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself,” and states “If you want rock&roll I’ll stop playing my slow songs”.
Humour aside, Bad Contestant is an album which has plenty to say. Maltese comes across as the perpetual outsider on the record, enjoying the moment but never quite enough to take him out of his own head. It’s a perspective which enjoyably juxtaposes with the slick indie-rock vibe throughout the instrumentation and production on the album. This is an album which will resonate with indie heads and sensitive souls everywhere.