Lone - Reality Testing (R&S Records)
Taking the classic sounds of Detroit Techno and mixing them up with skittering Hip Hop beats may not be innovative but in the hands of Lone it sure makes for an entrancing sound. This latest album of mainly instrumental cuts, his sixth to date, flits between swollen grooves, entangling melodies, and rhythmic stabs which together build an absorbingly dynamic atmosphere. The exemplary ‘Meeker Warm Energy’ is almost loungey, yet its back-to-basics Hip Hop pulse keeps it focused until the static-filled ending on bare key chords. The standout for us, however, is ‘Vengeance Video’s’ slurred bassline lurking below the attention grabbing arpeggiated melody – check it out here.
Ikebe Shakedown – Stone by Stone (Ubiquity Records)
Moving in a heavier direction than on their first album, Ikebe Shakedown continue to provide Afro-Funk instrumentals with classic ‘70s style grooves. With horns right up front leading the way the tempo’s change but the warmth and soul never stop. Elsewhere, crisp guitar work sets this album apart with wonderful tones, while the entire production feels tight as can be. The highlight, ‘By Hook or By Crook’ is sorrowful and feels like the soundtrack to the gritty but touching sort of B-movie that just isn’t made anymore. Check out the whole album on Bandcamp now.
How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart? (Weird World)
Often summer releases have a distinctly upbeat and bright kind of vibe, and in some ways What is this Heart? is a perfect summer album, yet its vibe is slower and more muted than may be expected. Instead, laid back R&B vocals backed by electronic beats that hint at House yet stray towards Pop provide a sensuous musicality that feels positive and invigorating. This is bound to catch on with diverse audiences due to the sheer quality of the songs, and picking a highlight is nigh on impossible. Anyone who thought Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange was a great R&B album should hear this. Check out ‘Childhood Faith in Love’ here.
Various – Eccentric Soul: Capitol City Soul (Numero Group)
Back in the mid-to-late ‘60s Columbus, Ohio was, like so much of the Mid West and North East of the US, a hotbed of great Soul and Funk. This collection showcases a host of artists who released or recorded for the long defunct, Columbus-based, Capsoul label. Very little of these songs saw much if any release at the time making this album a cross between a time-capsule and a treasure trove of goodness. Highlights include ‘Funky Disposition’ by Dean Francis & the Soul Rockers which is James Brown-esque, and ‘Your Love Makes Me Lonely’ by The Chandlers which would have been a smash if it had been released on a certain Detroit label. Check it out, here.
Jose James - While You Were Sleeping (Blue Note)
Describing an album as ‘pop’ can be a contentious exercise; does the reviewer mean an album will sell well, is aimed at a mainstream audience, or simply that the songs have choruses that we can all sing along to? In the case of While You Were Sleeping the answer is all of these, but only in part. Instead, Jośe James presents us with a diverse album filled with R&B, Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz and Rock influences that never ceases to captivate. Perhaps the closest comparison would be a tamed and polished version of TV on the Radio, and that in itself should be enough to make this worth checking out. Hear single ‘Every Little Thing’ here.
George Ezra - Wanted On Voyage (Columbia)
With a hit single (‘Budapest’), and a place on the BBC Sound of 2014 shortlist under his belt, George Ezra is proving there’s still a voracious appetite for indie-ish male singers within the record buying (or is that ‘playlist streaming’) public. With a gritty voice beyond his years, and a Folky leaning, Ezra is in some ways the Paulo Nutini of Americana. The big budget production of Wanted on Voyage keeps that voice right up front, showcasing an uncanny vocal resonance that is already Ezra’s signature style. Check out ‘Budapest’ here.
Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything (Fiction)
Six albums in and now chart-toppers, Elbow have come a long way since Asleep in the Back was released in 2001. That said this most recent outing is much like all their other albums; full of mid-tempo Indie guitar songs with an over-arching feel of contentment. In truth, few other bands do the sound of contentment quite so well as Elbow. At times they are sorrowful, others they are jubilant, yet their overall feel is always one of comfort. There are no hits like ‘One Day Like This’ here, nor is there the challenge of older tracks like ‘Newborn’, but Guy Garvey’s doleful vocals are as much a pleasure as always. Check out ‘Fly Boy Blue/Lunette’ here.
Eno & Hyde - High Life (Warp)
Just two months on from their first (rather disappointing) release together, Brian Eno and Karl Hyde have dropped a record more befitting their rich musical histories. By taking the sort of cyclical melodies that have come to be an Eno signature, alongside the synthesised guitar sounds that were always a hallmark of Hyde’s work with Underworld, High Life is a strange kind of guitar album that few saw coming. Filled with the sort of ambiguous ‘world’ music influences that have always been a part of both protagonists works, as well as Funk, Indie and Ambient sounds, it’s a solid package for an album created in 5 days. Think of the ‘80s vibes of The Pop Group and (less surprisingly given the Eno link) Talking Heads and you’ll be pretty close. Check out ‘DBF’ here.