Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews - May


Radiohead_moonshapedpoolRadiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL Recordings) Many would argue Radiohead have one poor album. Whether it’s a twenty-three year old album or a five year old one is much debated. Now that album number nine, A Moon Shaped Pool is here, the debate must begin again afresh. So is it a dud? Well, it sounds like Radiohead. More exactly, it sounds like where the band left off with In Rainbows; slow, steady paced, beautifully crafted. Thom Yorke’s lyrics are once again vulnerable yet face the future head on. There are more frequent neo-Classical elements and less electronics that previously, but A Moon Shaped Pool is evolutionary rather than revolutionary; a change these elder statesmen seem to be growing into remarkably well. The least Radiohead-like track, ‘Glass Eyes’, is the best of the bunch. Catch the animated video for first single ‘Burn the Witch’ here.


Corinne-Bailey-Rae-The-Heart-Speaks-in-WhispersCorinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers (Virgin) With a distinct California vibe, Corinne Bailey Rae’s third album might be the making of her. Rae’s nuanced, sultry voice has always been critically admired, but the bright, jazzy R&B backing on The Heart Speaks in Whispers provides a variety and depth of rhythm and instrumentation that allows the vocal performance to really breathe for the first time. From the Neo-Soul of ‘Green Aphrodisiac’ through the delicate acoustic Jazz of ‘Night’ the vocals are the star. With that in mind, prepare to hear ‘The Skies Will Break’ from drive time radio to late night lounges, all through the summer. Listen to it here.


gregory porter alleyGregory Porter – Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note) We’ve long been fans of Gregory Porter’s classic Jazz style. His rich baritone voice stands out thanks to the strength of its delivery, even on mellow, sorrowful, or stripped back cuts. That’s not to say Porter is over powering. Rather he’s robust, solid, and grounded with no room for histrionics and wild abandon. As a result, when the tempo and tone of the delivery do rise, the impact is all the more powerful. Nowhere is this more overt than on ‘Fan the Flames’ as Porter drops into a blissful moment of Scat-singing. The highlight of the package is the funky, horn and Hammond lead groove of ‘Don’t Lose Your Steam’.


james-blake-colourJames Blake – The Colour in Anything (Universal) Taking on collaborators as a solo artist can be a risky proposition. For James Blake, who has openly discussed the writer’s block he suffered, it seems to have opened new creative lines while at the same time allowed him the luxury of carrying on sounding like James Blake without the pressure of taking new directions for experimentations sake. The Colour in Anything showcases the extremes of Blake’s music; fragile instrumental minimalism on one side and multi-tracked, electronic beats on the other. Of course, both sides often occur within a single song. These moments, like ‘Put That Away and Talk to Me’ and ‘I Hope My Life’, tend to be the best of the bunch. Catch the former here.


KaytranadaKaytranada – 99.9% (XL Recordings) This record features some of the best beats of the year so far. Do we need more of a review than that to pique your interest? Jam-packed with talented collaborators, 99.9% see’s Kaytranada taking on the style of his collaborators and hitting the mark in each exploration. ‘GOT IT GOOD’ features the resurgent Craig David and nails up to the minute R&B, ‘TOGETHER’ features Aluna George and marks itself as a big summer hit, while ‘WEIGHT OFF’ with BADBADNOTGOOD makes us wish there was a little more instrumental Hip Hop on this diverse album. The standout takes the form of the slow burn of the R&B tinged Hip Hop of ‘GLOWED UP’ featuring Anderson.Paak, which comes as a tale of two enchanting halfs. Catch it here.


The RevengeThe Revenge – Intimate Connection (Roar Groove) A little more than one year on from the debut full length, Intimate Connection blurs the line between EP and LP. While there are two new versions of previously released tracks, both of which are well deserving of this outing, the six new tracks are a significant body of work that capture the feel of a cohesive album, rewarding both on record and on the dancefloor. Part of what makes Intimate Connection such a rewarding experience is the inclusion of subtle little details buried deep in the warm, Balearic beats and Deep House grooves. The breakdown in ‘No Turning Back’ is a case in point show stealer, as the bass drops out to soft synth chords before coming back in accompanied by singing hi-hats. Don’t miss it.

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