Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews: June

Songhoy Blues — Resistance

After capturing international attention with their debut album, Music in Exile, Songhoy Blues return with a broadening palette of Funk, Rock, and Desert Blues. While ‘Bamako’, named for the Malian capital city, has a grand Funk, ‘Sahara’ dives into Desert Blues complete with a creeping Iggy Pop vocal. Elsewhere, the sprightly guitar and horn breaks of ‘Mali Nord’ are eclipsed by the lightning fast verse left to the Grime MC Elf Kid which is over almost as soon as it begins; a tantalising glimpse of the far our ranges of the Songhoy Blues sound yet to be fully explored. Catch it here then check out the rest of this brilliantly diverse album.

Soul Jazz Presents — BoomBox 2: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro, and Disco Rap 1979-83

After ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by The Sugarhill Gang dropped in 1979, the sound of Hip Hop was changed forever. As the first Hip Hop track widely released on vinyl, the sound soon became an archetype. Hot on its heels came a wealth of independently released Hip Hop singles featuring multiple vocalists, revised Disco beats, and a renewed focus on the groove. Fourteen of those early tracks are collected here and each one is a blast of authentic Hip Hop exuberance from a time when simply making a record was making it. The highlight is the proto-Electro of ‘Death Rap’ by Margo’s Kool Out Crew which comfortably stands beside the hits of Afrika Bambaataa. Catch a sampler right here.

Phoenix — Ti Amo

As stylish as they come, Phoenix return with a crisp Indie sound that equally weights guitar and synth lines. The overall tone takes on a little Euro-Disco vibe; very smooth, a bit 70s, surprisingly… hip. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from Phoenix; charming, astute, bright and fun. Ti Amo is a particularly rounded record, with the title track taking on a broad sense of European universalism in style and substance. With lyrics recounting the words “I Love You” in French, Italian, Spanish, and English along with references to sipping Prosecco and listening to The Buzzcocks, it’s sure to resonate across the continent. Catch it here.

Cody Chesnutt — My Love Divine Degree

One of our favourite Soul voices returns after a five year absence with a varied collection of reflective tracks in a well formed, cohesive package. Dealing in themes of personal and socially conscious reflection, My Love Divine Degree features warm tones and an optimistic, bright vibe. While ‘Image of Love’ and ‘I Stay Ready’ are modern Electro-tinged R&B tracks, ‘So Sad to See – A Lost Generation’ is a true 70s political number, complete with stumbling vocal harmonies and skittering percussion. Elsewhere, ‘Make A Better Man’ stands apart as a Ska rocker with a great Soul vibe. Check out the whole album here.

Halsey — Hopeless Fountain Kingdom

Thanks to the massive success of the Chainsmokers hit ‘Closer’ on which Halsey featured, the pressure is no doubt on this latest release to top the charts. With a who’s who of collaborators, including Sia, Cashmere Cat, and The Weeknd, there’s no doubting ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom’s’ Pop credentials. While some albums in a similar position end up little more than a collection of disjointed collaborations with little sense of the lead artist that’s not the case here. Taking Romeo & Juliet as a loose concept there’s beauty, grit and emotive depth that marks this out as a probable chart-topper worthy of the attention. Check out the single ‘Now or Never’ here.

Beach Fossils — Somersault

There’s some wonderful song writing here on the fourth release by the always laid back Beach Fossils. Having moved on from their early Lo-Fi styling yet retained their charm, the songs on ‘Somersault’ capture the imagination more than ever. Sprightly strings, flute, and piano on ‘Saint Ivy’ melt into a warm guitar line pulled straight from 1967. Rachel Goswell of Slowdive features on the expansive ‘Tangerine’. The crisp bass intro of ‘May 1st’ is a delight. ‘Somersault’ is an album of impressive detail and compositional depth that reveals Beach Fossils have an assured grip on the fundamentals of their sound and an ear for carefully crafted development. Catch the album on Bandcamp here.

J Hus — Common Sense

With last summer being marked by a series of massive Grime hits, it’s notable that the Hip Hop sound of this summer comes with a broader series of influences. Taking in Afrobeat, Dancehall, and the familiar sound of US Hip Hop, ‘Common Sense’ is a bold record caught between a great many influences. Flitting between hard-nosed rhymes driven by Hus’ impressive flow and beat-driven radio hits, it’s not an album to be pinned down or pigeon-holed. Stand outs include the slow jam of ‘Plottin’, the Dancehall vibes of ‘Good Time’ and the bold title track. Tune in right here.

London Grammar — Truth Is A Beautiful Thing

There are certain words that shouldn’t be used when writing about music. These words have become hackneyed, clichéd, or have simply been wrongly applied so many times as to have become meaningless. Yet here we are utterly failing to describe ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing’ as anything other than cinematic. We could describe the mastery of space between the grand strings, piano and the multi-tracked vocals. We could describe the way each track has weight and substance. Or we could simply say that Hannah Reid’s vocals reveal an Annie Lennox-like quality throughout this cinematic album and that makes it well worth checking out. Start with the Jon Hopkins produced ‘Big Picture’ here.

Also added this month:

  • Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar
  • Various Artists – Chill Hop Essentials
  • Various Artists – Tropical House 2017
  • The Cribs – Payola
  • Clean Cut Kid – Felt
  • Paramore – After Laughter
  • Fruko Y Sus Tesos – Tesura
  • Marc Moulin – Placebo Sessions
  • Magin Diaz – El Orisha De La Rosa
  • San Ignacio – Lugares Para Nadar

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