Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Since this is a new Thom Yorke album it was of course released with little lead up, and via a vaguely unconventional manner (as a paid for BitTorrent bundle) that really isn’t very unusual at all. Musically it’s a similarly familiar progression. The downtempo Electronica is both abstract and minimalist, yet less energised than was evident on Yorke’s last solo outing The Eraser, and with his vocals buried deep in the mix throughout. Further, the groove of last year’s Atoms For Peace album is largely missing. Instead the feel is closer to Radiohead’s Amnesiac, and just as it was clearly influenced by the previous decade of Warp records, this album owes a debt to the last ten years of Hyperdub. Check it out here.
Prince – Plectrum Electrum/Art Official Age
Given his extensive back catalogue it should come as no real surprise that Prince has released two albums in one go. The first, Plectrum Electrum alongside his current band 3RDEYEGIRL has a rockier outlook than its sister album Art Official Age, which tends more towards Prince’s now-classic R&B sound. Between the two it’s fair to say that his voice no longer drips with intimate passion, yet it’s no less lascivious when he wants it to be. The title track of the former album is a fantastic Funk Rock monster proving that his guitar chops are as good as ever, while ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ on the latter album showcases those warm, relaxed, fluid basslines that have long been essential to Prince’s sound. Check out ‘Fixurlifeup’ here.
Prince Fatty Meets Nostalgia 77 – In The Kingdom of Dub
Taking the classic sound of Nostalgia 77, think light Jazz with hints of Blues and Soul, and giving them a Dub makeover is Prince Fatty on this collection of tracks, the sources of which span the last ten years. Nostalgia 77 have long been a Tru Thoughts staple, and their carefully crafted brand of jazzy Electronica was bound to get the remix treatment sooner or later. That it’s been twisted with Dub, as all Dub should, whilst retaining its character is to the credit of Prince Fatty. His biggest rework is the Alice Russell fronted cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’, now with Dennis Alcapone’s vocal support. Check it out here.
Hackney Colliery Band – A Bit of Common Decency
(Wah Wah 45s)
We don’t often feature 9-piece brass bands, but when they’re filled with as much gusto as this lot, then we’ve got to make an exception. Playing a broad mix of Jazz, Rock, Funk and Balkan Beat influenced swingers, it’s near impossible to keep your feet, hands, and hips still for long while your ears soak up the fun. Having worked with the likes of Bonobo, The Cinematic Orchestra, and Amy Winehouse these guys are no local marching band either, putting out layered compositions that demonstrate a sense of musical inventiveness not often associated with their style. Check out ‘A Bit of Common Decency’ here.
Gregory Porter – Issues of Life: Features and Remixes
As a collection of tracks by other artists on which Porter has featured, alongside other artists remixes of his own tracks, there’s the risk of a disjointed affair. Thankfully those classic Soul vocals are simply too cosseting to be distracted from for long. That said, there’s a great deal going on in some of these tracks, particularly the free Jazz of ‘Army of the Faithful’ and the excitable piano and Porter’s Scat singing on ‘Moanin’’. Elsewhere, ‘She’s Gone’ is a slow crawling Soul jam with a wonderful guitar groove that would be the highlight of many an album. Check it out here.
Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
Now at 80 years old, it should be impressive enough that Cohen is still touring, that he’s managed to release his best album in 20 years is more impressive still. That touring seems to have done him some good, as his voice remains rich, though softly spoken yet capable of the occasional growl. Whilst mainly an intimate, narrative driven Folk album, there’s the Downtempo electronic pulse of ‘Nevermind’ to mix things up. It’s a lascivious creeper of a track, with light hand drums with a sense of Africa about them that makes it a close runner up to key track ‘Samson in New Orleans’ with its affecting post-Katrina narrative. Check out ‘Nevermind’ here.
Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Moving away from the more delicate work that has proceeded it, Too Bright showcases flashes of energy in tracks like ‘Queen’ and ‘Grid’ while retaining the melancholic fragility that has so strongly characterised Mike Hadreas’ music thus far. Despite those flashes, this latest begins with a measured pace in ‘I Decline’ and continues, for the most part, with soft key driven songwriting. Highlight track ‘All Along’ oozes with an intimate warmth before the final forlorn line resolutely declares “I want you to listen”. It’s a reasonable request, as the subtle nature of this characterful album demands keen ears, and rewards them repeatedly. Check out first single ‘Queen’ here.
Alt-J – This Is All Yours
After debut album An Awesome Wave won the Mercury Music Prize it’s perhaps no surprise that this new release has gone straight to the top of the album charts. Those buyers won’t have been disappointed either, as there is no second album syndrome to be seen here. Instead, this is a solid Indie album that manages to sound of itself, rather than imitative, whilst retaining a comforting familiarity. There are hints of Electronica throughout, most clearly in the propulsive groove-beat of ‘Hunger of the Pine’, while elsewhere there are hints of Beck in ‘Left Hand Free’. The latter is perhaps the standout track, with a subtle Southern Rock feel that sets it apart from the crowd. Check it out here.