Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews | November

Romare — Love Songs Pt. II

When we featured ‘Projections’, the full length predecessor to ‘Love Songs Pt. II’, in our end of year wrap up of the best releases of 2015 we were already hotly anticipating this album. Now that it’s here we find that it is as luscious and rich as we could possibly have hoped. The focus has shifted a little more towards late night House, with a greater prominence to the beats that surround the fertile veins of Blues and Jazz riffing on horns, piano, and keys. The highlight comes in the shape of ‘Je T’aime’, a progressive build leading to big House chords before abruptly taking a sharp leftfield turn and diving in to a patchwork of Jazz inflected vocals, piano, and horns. The finale of 4/4 bars are gorgeous. You may want to hear it. (Ninja Tune)

A Tribe Called Quest — We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service

Eighteen years after their last release, it’s a surprise that this latest and final release by the great A Tribe Called Quest is here at all. That it’s a focused, cohesive, and resolutely distinctive album that exudes the freewheeling style A Tribe Called Quest are known for is heart-warming for fans such as us. Lyrically ‘We Got It From Here…’ fits perfectly into the lineage of …Quest albums, where bonding over ramen noodles (on ‘We The People’) is a legitimate way of capturing a wider cultural and societal zeitgeist. Sure, there are big name collaborators such as Andre 3000, Jack White, and Kendrick Lamar here, but we dare you to notice it above the sheer pleasure of having Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Jarobi White back one final time. Catch ‘We The People’ here. (Epic)

Solange — A Seat At The Table

This third album should be the point where Solange eventually escapes the pigeon holes of Pop and R&B forever. Bristling with incisive social commentary played out through intimate and personal narratives, ‘A Seat At The Table’ takes a varied musical path. Featuring a number of guests a range of musical visions, Solange paints a picture that articulates a broader voice than the sum of her collaborative ensemble. The best tracks come in ‘Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)’ alongside Q-Tip, falling somewhere between a crooning ode of love and a classic R&B anthem for respect. and in lead single ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ featuring Sampha. Listen to it here. (Columbia)

iZem — Hafa

Eclecticism shines through on this soothing collection of organic beats and rhythms. iZem (In Ze Early Morning) ventures through Jazz, World Beat, and hints at Deep House while weaving a resolutely Balearic package. ‘Kulala’ is a warm, downtempo Balearic sunset, while ‘Water’ mixes light bongos into its heady percussive loops, drives forward with a looping vocal chorus demanding “give me water drink”, before ending on lounging electric piano Jazz patterns. It’s a lightly disorientating confluence of contrasts that seem to encapsulate the entire vibe of this leftfield gem. There’s a sense of adventure here, both musically and emotively, that’s irresistible. Catch ‘Agua Viva’ here. (Soundway)

Lee Fields & The Expressions — Special Night

Rarely does a title track capture an album so completely, yet ‘Special Night’ leads from the get-go as this impressive Soul album majestically unwinds. What makes ‘Special Night’ [the track] so damn special is not the elegant vocal delivery, fine as it is, but instead the breakdown where the track peels back to just Hammond organ and staccato percussion. Details such as this are rarely found in modern interpretations of Soul, even those we so regularly label as having captured that now ‘classic’ feel. Yet Lee Fields, with a long history of recording sharp Soul and Funk, has refined his craft to cater to modern audiences with the foregrounding of his vocals, while remaining true to his roots in expertly produced Soul. Catch the title track here, then go seek out the album right away. (Big Crown)

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions — Until The Hunter

Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Colm O’Coisaig of My Bloody Valentine here combine to become, the world’s smallest supergroup, at least for fans of Dream Pop. ‘Until the Hunter’ is their third release in sixteen years, and both members have taken part in reformations of their original bands since their last release together. Filled with Sandoval’s gentle, lilting vocals and minimal, acoustic instrumentation there’s an organic feel to the compositions that suggests musicians working on instinct rather than falling into old habits. As Sandoval croons in duet with guest Kurt Vile on ‘Let Me Get There’, “It’s all in the groove…”. You can join in here. (Tendril Tales)

Lambchop — FLOTUS

With a title that appears to reference US politics but instead stands for ‘For Love Often Turns Us Still’, Kurt Wagner and Lambchop are back. Once known as “Nashville’s most fucked up Country band”, it surprises us to say… Lambchop have gone electronic. Now that’s not to say they’ve gone that electronic, rather there are touches, flavours and a greater reliance on looping rhythms than previously, but this still feels like Lambchop. ‘FLOTUS’ is a deep, contemplative, weighty album that’s as slow and chilled as ever. In essence it’s Lambchop deconstructed and re-synthesized a step closer to the leftfield. Kurt Wagner’s vocoder heavy vocals take an adjustment, sure, but everything else seems to just fit. It’s Lambchop at their best. Catch ‘NIV’ here. (Merge)

Joan As Police Woman — Let It Be You

After meeting acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Lazar Davis and swapping stories of their individual travels through Africa, Joan Wasser found not only a new collaborator but a heavy influence on this, her latest album. Taking the rhythm patterns of the Central African Republic and using them to add flavour to her guitar and keys led Indie, Joan As Police Woman offers up an beguiling and unified collection of songs. The highlight comes in ‘Let It Be You’ with its handclaps giving way to layer after reverb-laden layer, leaving a highly textured sound. Yet, Joan’s vocals cut through the mix and never leave any doubt they’re the star of the show. Catch opening track ‘Broke Me In Two’ here. (Reveal)

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