D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah (RCA)
Comparisons. We could start with My Bloody Valentine and Guns ‘n’ Roses, both of whom spent a decade-plus formulating much hyped ‘future classic’ albums. Or we could draw up the names of such R&B, Soul, and Funk luminaries as Sly Stone, Prince, and Marvin Gaye. At the end of the day though, this is a singular work carried out by one man with a focus that, though it may have wavered over the decade in its making, now stands clear and strong. Whether it’s a future classic only time can tell, but initial signs suggest those hints of Hot Jazz, Doo Wop, and Flamenco have caught more imaginations than chiselled abs ever did. Check out ‘Sugah Daddy’ here.
Moby – Hotel: Ambient (Moby Gratis)
Originally released as a bonus disk to his 2006 album Hotel, Moby was recently asked by a fan how she could get hold of a copy. Upon realising that he didn’t know and that he himself didn’t own a copy, he resolved to bringing about a re-release with added tracks. So here we have a bonus of a bonus which is quite a strange feeling for something so incredibly minimalist. This is as ambient as they come, more so even that the classic Eno album Ambient 1 (Music for Airports). There are hints of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack in the slow synth chords and oscillating harmonics, but overall this is an album marking the ebb and flow of the most delicate of mood pieces. Check it out for free here.
The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club, Vol. 3
Better known as a comic actor, or perhaps as a former poet, Craig Charles is also widely recognised as a bit of an authority on Funk and Soul, hosting radio shows and compiling wonderful compilations such as this. Focusing on upbeat and often exuberant tracks, there’s a tendency towards instrumental rather than vocal tracks, and a predominance of horn sections. While that guarantees some fun, the quality and musical talent is just as high with Open Ear favourites such as Hot 8 Brass Band and Lack of Afro providing the great cuts. Check out the album high, ‘Robbin Hood’ by Extra Curricular here.
Charli XCX – Sucker (Atlantic)
There’s a school of thinking that suggests that the best Pop is that which is most infectious; the tracks that are popular, and populist, almost despite themselves being the epitome of the genre. Charli XCX is most definitely a devoted adherent on Sucker as she mixes hook after hook with a charismatic touch of grit bound to convert the cynical. Sure, there’s an unnerving sense of parody that creeps in occasionally, but that ‘Oi!’ in the punky chorus of ‘London Queen’ hints this is far more knowing than most Pop-Punk released this millennium. Check it out here, but try not to over-think it.
Edwyn Collins – The Possibilities are Endless
Edwyn Collins has a rich and beguiling back catalogue of music to his name, yet after suffering a stroke in 2005 he was left with a vocabulary of just eight words; ‘Yes’, ‘No’, his wife’s name, and ‘The Possibilities are Endless’. That he has now recorded an album of that name, to soundtrack a documentary of his fantastic recovery, would be a joy no matter how it sounded. In fact, it’s a new string in Collins’ bow as he presents tender and deeply considered pieces, with the assistance of co-artists Carwyn Ellis and Sebastian Lewsley, alongside previously released tracks such as the fantastic I’ve Got it Bad, now 20 years old. Check out the trailer for ‘The Possibilities are Endless’ here.
Nostalgia 77 and the Monster – Measures
We’re only just done reviewing Nostalgia 77’s album with Prince Fatty when they pop up in their ‘Monster’ iteration featuring the full live band. This latest, Measures, includes significant compositions both from lead Benedic Lamdin and bass player and arranger Riaan Vosloo and returns to their Jazz core, including a fantastic tale on the great Sun Ra’s ‘An Island in the Sun’. Elsewhere there are hints at Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, which makes it fair to say that this is a looser and more freeform album than last year’s ‘A Journey Too Far’. Check it out on Bandcamp.
Steelism – 615 to Fame (Single Lock)
Back when electric guitars hadn’t been played upside-down, set alight, and distorted to an inch of their life was a time when they played a remarkably prominent role. As the melodic line in Surf, Country, and Blues instrumentals in the 50s and 60s they captured many imaginations. Minds still turn to them upon hearing the trans-Atlantic duo that make up Steelism, comprised of Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum, who met while touring with Caitlin Rose. Named after the road between Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama between which their debut album was recorded, 615 to Fame is vibrant and eclectic and well worth checking out. Catch ‘Caught in a Pickle’ here.
Caitlin Canty – Reckless Skyline (Kickstarter)
Authenticity counts when you’re playing Country, and it counts even more when you’re relying on your fans to help fund the pressing of your new album through Kickstarter. Thankfully Caitlin Canty’s alto vocals express the mystery, steady pacing, and weight of the world so important to all Americana with aplomb. Backed mainly be delicate guitar, drums, and peddle-steel from a band that are tight as can be, Reckless Skyline is straight-up quality. The guitar work on album highlight ‘My Love For You Will Not Fade’ sounds like it’s bolted from Ry Cooder’s stable, only to be tamed by Canty and her band. Check out a live version here.