Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews: July

Bjorn Torske & Prins Thomas — Square One

Featuring two electronic masters no stranger to creating captivating Electronica, ‘Square One’ is a maze of soundscapes, textures, and minimal instrumental jams. Hinting at Neu! And Tangerine Dream, there are elements of Dub and Space Disco leading to an album that relies on steady percussion yet allows for moments of power. The measured intensity of ‘Steintongt’ easily balances with the relative breeziness of ‘On U’, with each track measuring out its constituent elements with precision. Closing with the twinkling ‘Arthur’s Return’ where low dub bass rolls under shadows of mangled keys, ‘Square One’ is an album of contrast and form well worth spending some quality time with. Check out the entire album right here.

Mura Masa — Mura Masa

Adventurous Electronica that blends seamlessly with the leading edge of Pop, the self-titled debut long-player by Mura Masa brims with lively curiosity. Despite featuring a significant list of top vocal talent including Desiigner, A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Damon Albarn, Jamie Lidell and NAO it’s strikingly clear that a single hand has been at the helm. The result is a consistent and complete album that excels where many would falter. While NAO may have the best vocal performance on ‘Firefly’, and Charli XCX hits the perfect Pop note with ‘1 Night’, it’s the rework of 2015’s ‘Lovesick Fuck’ that stands out most. Renamed as ‘Love$ick’ and featuring additional vocals by A$AP Rocky, you can catch it here.

Public Service Broadcasting — Every Valley

While the previous two releases from the highly polished Indie-Electronic duo have taken a nostalgic look at grandiose historic glories ‘Every Valley’ takes a different tack. A concept album as those before it, this time the focus is on the Welsh valleys and their coal mining past. Moving in minor keys, the duo draft in some vocal help to expand on the received pronunciation that dominated their sampled news clips. While James Dean Bradfield is instantly identifiable on ‘Turn No More’, it’s Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell that steals the show. Capturing the most definitive move beyond nostalgia on lead single ‘Progress’, Campbell calls “I believe in progress”. It’s a step towards the future for Public Service Broadcasting, and you can hear it here.

Passenger — Sunday Night Sessions

Since hitting it big with 2012’s ‘Let Her Go’, Mike Rosenberg has released three albums under the Passenger moniker. Each has showcased his quality has an Indie-Folk singer-songwriter, but none have reached the same heights as his breakthrough single. Over the last year Rosenberg has been performing covers as he tours and travels, recording them for fans. Packaged here as the Sunday Night Sessions, he provides heartfelt, and at times brooding, takes on classic ballads from the likes of Neil Young, REM, David Bowie and Sam Cooke. The highlight is a beautifully weighted rendition of the Stones’ classic ‘Angie’ that’s faithful to its source while adding a great honky-tonk style piano break. Catch it right here.

HAIM — Something To Tell You

After the massive success of their debut, HAIM are back with a Pop focused album that touches on 70s Soft Rock and hints at 80s R&B. It’s a heavily polished affair thanks to the work of Ariel Rechtshaid on production duties. Best known for his work with Adele it’s therefore unsurprising that he keeps the focus on the vocals throughout. Tracks like ‘Ready For You’ are guaranteed hits in waiting, while the strings opening ‘Found It In Silence’ are destined to fill arenas. Catch the lead single ‘Want You Back’ here.

Waxahatchee — Out In The Storm

A rocker of an Indie album that tackles the breakup of a relationship with striking honesty and introspection, while still throwing pointed barbs. Moreover, it’s a lot of fun with energy and drive from the get go even when the tempo remains steady rather than propulsive. Those moments do come, particularly on ‘No Question’ which fits into a lineage of buzzsaw guitar tracks that never fail to offer high emotion. Elsewhere the slow fuzz of ‘Hear You’ is broken by the kind of sharp guitar texture that really does sound better from a festival stage. Listen to the single ‘Silver’ here.

Toro Y Moi — Boo Boo

The constantly evolving sound of Toro Y Moi means when a new album drops it never lands where you’d expect. As is the case here with ‘Boo Boo’ which throws a curve-ball by returning to the Chillwave sounds that started the man now known as Chaz Bear’s career. That’s not to say this is an album that’s all texture, instead the overall there is laid-back, high gloss R&B. Lead single, ‘Girl Like You’ hits the balance perfectly as it blends chilled electronics, Neo-Soul piano, and love lorn R&B vocals. Elsewhere ‘Labyrinth’ is the most ambient take, while ‘Embarcadero’ goes full instrumental. Check out that lead single right here.

Marika Hackman — I'm Not Your Man

Switching out of the Indie-Folk bracket she risked being pigeon-holed in, Marika Hackman has produced an album of grungey Indie-Rock with an assuredness that’s irresistible. From the opening track ‘Boyfriend’, Hackman plays it sharp with a dark twist of mischievous fun, dropping witty one-liners while painting tantalising tales. At its finest, like on the slow creep of ‘Gina’s World’, Hackman crafts dark Pop that recalls Jarvis Cocker’s best work with Pulp. Hackman’s Indie-Folk origins aren’t completely scraped away, instead taking on a sombre delve into acoustic balladry in ‘I’d Rather Be With Them’ with a strikingly unenthused series of “Yeah’s” closing. Give the album a spin here.

Other new albums worth checking out this month:

  • Jay-Z - 4.44
  • Lucy Rose - Something’s Changing
  • Cornelius - Mellow Waves
  • Pantha Du Prince - The Triad (Ambient versions)
  • SZA - CTRL
  • Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces
  • Washed Out - Mister Mellow
  • Peaking Lights - Fifth State of Consciousness
  • Woods - Love is Love
  • Pharrell Williams - Despicable Me 3

All available via the Open Ear Player.

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