Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews | March

Jack White — Boarding House Reach

As a singular talent known as much for his eccentricities as for his unmistakable musical style it’s a surprise that it has taken this long for parallels between Jack White and Beck to become clear. On this latest release White steps out from the Blues Rock that has so far defined his sound to produce an album full of quirk, whimsy and, most surprisingly, Funk. ‘Hypermisophoniac’ makes the point as a barely held together jam filled with pitch shifted vocals, oscillating synths, and Honky Tonk piano undercut by squelchy deep bass. Elsewhere, ‘Respect Commander’ builds on a programmed drum shuffle and classic Electro synth stabs. Did we mention that on ‘Ice Station Zebra’ White breaks into rap? It’s a wide ranging album, though the best track is the more familiar Blues Rocker ‘Over and Over and Over’. You can hear it here.

Eko Kuango — Eko Kuango

Recorded as demos in the late 1980s, this release from Belgian artist Denis Mpunga eventually sees the light of day thanks to Libreville Records. Drawing its own connections between Funk, Jazz, and a variety of African musical styles “Eko Kuango” is a diverse and constantly shifting listening experience. While African hand drums are a near constant the lead instruments shift and change throughout taking in synths, saxophone, guitar, flute and more. The highlight, the spiraling ‘Na Mawaso’ features flute and sax alongside a repeating guitar riff. The ease and fluidity with which each takes over from the other is simply joyful. Make sure to listen to it here. https://youtu.be/4B6UsyucGfE

The Decemberists — I’ll Be Your Girl

Brighter, more upbeat, looser and yet filled with the familiar pessimism, macabre subject matter and overall darkness that has always been a primary feature of albums by The Decemberists, “I’ll Be Your Girl” is an uncanny addition to their discography. Much of this new lighter palette, if not overall tone, can be attributed to Colin Meloy’s most recent attested influences; Depeche Mode and New Order. Both acts balanced Electro Pop sensibilities with darker impulses and the same is true here though the overall style is more 90s Indie than 80s Electro. ‘Everything is Awful’ and ‘Sucker’s Prayer’ wear the influences of Britpop while ‘Starwatcher’ owes a debt to REM. Catch lead single ‘Severed’ here.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Tearing At The Seams

Unlike their debut, which was more of a Nathaniel Rateliff solo release, this sophomore effort was composed by the full band something reflected in the tight rhythms felt throughout. “Tearing At The Seams” is a wonderful mix of big band-style Rhythm & Blues and 60s Soul packed with adventurous horns, walking upright bass, sprightly piano and guitar, and a rich trap kit percussion foundation. On ‘Coolin’ Out’ Rateliff is joined by female backing vocals before a horn breakdown takes over, riffing on through to the outdo. It’s a clear highlight that may leave you wondering where you can put another dime in the jukebox. Catch the 60s Soul vibes right here.

Editors — Violence

At times a great album is marked by the lack of attention paid to the producer and their work. For others, like this sixth release from Editors, the work and influence of producer Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons and Blanck Mass is crucial to the success of the album. In this case “Violence” marks a change in direction for Editors, bringing in a more melodic sound while still retaining the dark, brooding moodiness we’re accustomed to. Power’s knack for multilayered production allows abrasive backing and a heavy weight rhythm section to support softer, brighter melodies than expected. The results are down right energetic on ‘Magazine’ while Nothingness’ has oscillating, pulsing synths that flit back and forth, before breaking into a light bass groove of sorts. Listen in here.

Bajoli — 137 Avenue Kaniama

Mixing acoustic and electronic elements, Baloji brings musical depth and variety to create a diverse and engaging album. Baloji’s Congolese Belgian heritage plays out in French rap and Afro beats that both become mainstays of the albums sound. While the album slows and darkens as it goes on there is plenty of space for excitement. ‘Soleil de Volt’ is dance floor ready, filled with Funky guitar and solid percussion while our highlight ‘L’hiver Indien’ is a bright sunshine filled track that glistens with soul. Don’t miss out on an album that won’t stop moving by tuning in here.

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