Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews: October

Tycho — Epoch

As a quick release with little hype or fanfare, there were just two weeks between the release of the first single and the LP hitting the shelves, the follow up to 2014’s Awake faced scant public second guessing. That’s for the best considering the acclaim the previous release received, allowing Epoch’s instrumental Electronica to shine without the help or hindrance of extraneous spotlights. Epoch is less grand than you’d be forgiven for assuming, given its title, instead feeling more concise yet retaining a robust sense of texture, both contrasting and complementary. The title track captures the spirit of the album; catch it here.

Julia Jacklin — Don't Let The Kids Win

While Country music is at times stereotyped as frenetic, banjo-fuelled frivolity for a barn dance knees up, it is a genre rich with wistful, considered, and emotionally resonant storytellers like no other. Falling into the Indie or Alt-Country end of the spectrum, Julia Jacklin’s debut evokes a heartfelt pull towards indulging mixed emotions and slowin’ it all down. With ‘50s touches in tracks like ‘Small Talk’, and a rockier bent in ‘Coming of Age’ there’s instrumental range and variation ensuring the thoughtful lyrics have room to roam and breathe. The highlight comes with the slow and uncanny crawl of ‘LA Dream’. Start with the video for lead single ‘Pool Party’ here.

Goat — Requiem

Starting out minimally with bird song and distant vocals, Requiem doesn’t take long to reveal its true maximalist colours when, midway through the opening track, percussion and woodwind pitch up. From there on out things only continue to expand in a rush of Psychedelia, Afro-Beat percussion, and far out Funk. Requiem, though those opening words may not suggest it, is an impressively structured album however, with the tone shifting from horn and pipe led tracks towards looping multi-tracked guitar rhythms as the album progresses. The highlight comes, perhaps unsurprisingly, towards the end in the shape of ‘Goatfuzz’, an accurately descriptive title for a track that encompasses the many elements of a deep, warm, and interconnected album. Dive deep into the whole album here.

C Duncan — The Midnight Sun

If you missed Architect, the Mercury-nominated debut by the classically trained C Duncan just barely a year ago, then this follow up will likely act as impetus to pay it a visit. Of course, if Duncan had a 30 album back catalogue you’d probably want to visit those releases too, thanks to the way his compositions tends to mesmerize. Across the board there are gorgeous vocals, poised melodies, and subtle beats crafted into tantalisingly nuanced vignettes. Whether in the uncanny ‘Edelweiss’ referencing ‘Last to Leave’ or the layered vocals in ‘Wanted To Want It Too’, The Midnight Sun leaves a sense of yearning that’s hard to shake off. Taste the album here to see if you want more.

Jamie Lidell — Building a Beginning

Sticking closer to tradition than on previous outings where he’s ventured more towards electronic productions, most notably on his previous eponymous release, Building a Beginning feels like a careful about-face for Lidell. Filled with warm and optimistic Soul and R&B, Lidell’s voice leads each track as he considers life, love, and future paths with a spring in his step. Lidell may well subscribe to the notion that variety is the spice of life as he takes in Reggae and Funk while still leaving room for the Disco-infused ‘Julian’, named for his son. Our highlight, ‘I Live to Make You Smile’ is classic piano-based Soul complete with group backing vocals and can be heard here.

Regina Spektor — Remember Us To Life

Few artists are able to strip back their sound by adding a full orchestra yet the ever adventurous Regina Spektor succeeds in doing just that with Remember Us To Life. By relying on piano melodies to lead and the careful use of the great range of that orchestra to provide depth, Spektor’s vocal bounce sounds more intriguing than ever. Those vocals are vivacious at times, though overall this is a carefully crafted set of heartfelt Pop. The melancholy ‘Obsolete’ highlights the astute balance of these elements though ‘Small Bill$’ is likely to be the track that will stick out for most. Start with it here then dig deeper.

Crystal Fighters — Everything Is My Family

Diversity is key to Everything Is My Family, with Electro, Psychedelia, and Folk taking turns to pull Crystal Fighters’ familiar Indie guitar rhythms into new and interesting tributaries. This wide ranging nature provides a sense of freedom that is warm and ingratiating, resulting in an album that displays a considerable sense of joy and well being. The standout track, ‘Living the Dream’, is a perfectly upbeat, inspiring Pop song that doesn’t need to be an ‘anthem’ to capture the imagination. Instead it relies on simple mantra-like vocal and fleet footed percussion to tell its tale. Sample the album here.

How To Dress Well — Care

While previous release What Is This Heart? was both influenced by, and went on to influence, contemporary R&B, this new release takes a less genre-based approach. That’s not to say that How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell has ever really stuck to genre conventions before now, however. Instead he has taken a singular approach to song craft that accentuates intimacy and unadorned emotion in each and every song. Even when referencing his “Twitter mentions” in an upbeat bounce, Care is an invitingly accessible package that will poke, prod, and entice but never feel manipulating. Ask yourself ‘What’s Up?’ then listen to the song of that name here.

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