Open Ear Blog

New Music Reviews : February

Tornado Wallace — Lonely Planet

Pace, mood, texture… we could write hundreds of words on each with little trouble while considering this beautifully beguiling album of ambient Electronica and Balearic atmospheres. Instead, we’ll save space and time and say this one comes highly recommended. Across all seven tracks there’s a perfect balance between looping beats and organic percussive hits, while standout tracks ‘Today’ and ‘Voices’ are saturated in the sort of 80s organic MIDI sounds that fall somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Vangelis. This really is an album we’re happy to bask in rather than over analyse. Go out and listen for yourself!

Loyle Carner — Yesterday's Gone

With the rise and rise of Grime as the UKs major contribution to the world of Hip Hop it’s notable to find an album whose influences include Madlib and the 90s beat-driven Hip Hop scene. As a soulful and highly personal album, ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ is admirably composed for a debut, particularly one that features sound bites from the artists mum. Opener, ‘Isle of Arran’ features Gospel samples and Soul guitar riffs, while ‘Damselfly’ reminds us of the laid-back vibes of Mo Kolours. Elsewhere, the horn driven Jazz of ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ is a looping groove of nostalgia ‘til the last. Catch ‘Isle of Arran’, our highlight, right here.

Grumbling Fur — Fur Four

Quirky isn’t a word we use much, but it’s a reasonable way of describing this highly enjoyable fourth album from Grumbling Fur. Opening track ‘Strange The Friends’ features looping textures, sitar-like strings and elongated vocals, and leads as the album means to go on. Our highlight, ‘Silent Plans/Black Egg’ comes complete with warm, languorous strings underpinned by low bass before diverting off into ambient atmospheric noise and a spoken narrative. It’s an unusual, brief pause into abstraction from an album that tends to walk the line rather than dive across it head first, yet it feels more complete for it. Catch the psychedelic video for ‘Heavy Days’ here.

Elbow — Little Fictions

Never a band for dramatic stylistic shifts, Elbow have returned after a three year absence with another composed and impressively enjoyable album. You’ll still find the epic strings complimenting Guy Garvey’s personable, everyman vocals but you’ll notice there’s a spring in his step as the overall tone is uplifting and upbeat. ‘Sun To Rise’ is an immediate classic with main piano melody and looping percussion setting an unnervingly cosseting dream-like soundscape. Elsewhere, ‘K2’ takes to politics as Garvey takes on Brexit Britain accompanied by delicate slide guitar touches. Start off with the video for ‘Gentle Storms’ right here.

Thievery Corporation — The Temple of I & I

While their laid-back Electronica has tended towards a jazzier sound, ‘The Temple of I & I’ is an(almost) all-in Dub album with a focus on the funkier end of Reggae. At its rootsy best like on ‘True Sons of Zion’ we’re reminded of the tight rhythms of Sly and Robbie, while on ‘Love Has No Heart’ we’re in the same zone as Mad Professor’s classic 90s Trip Hop dub versioning. ‘The Temple of I & I’ is very much a ‘genre’ album, though Thievery Corporation have recent history with previous album ‘Saudade’ taking in Bossa Nova cool. Catch the full album here.

Jens Lekman — Life Will See You Now

Contrasting upbeat melodies with plaintive lyrical themes, Jens Lekman is back with his unique Indie sonwriting to capture the imagination once again. An inveterate storyteller who has most recently moved away from wholly personal lyrics towards characterisation, Lekman here mixes his instrumental styles to create a warm, upbeat, and wonderfully diverse album. From the funky ‘Wedding in Finistère’ through the light disco of ‘How We Met – The Long Version’ to the tropical warmth of album highlight ‘What’s That Perfume You Wear?’ variety and personality are the core to this most endearing album. Warm the cockles of your heart with this one.

Rag 'n' Bone Man — Human

Just weeks after the release of his breakthrough album Rag‘n’Bone Man walked away with the Critics’ Choice Award at this year’s Brit Awards. Fitting neatly into a lineage of soulful British singers with big voices and bigger audiences, Rag’n’Bone Man is a name you’re going to get very familiar with. His Blues and Soul-based songs hinge on his warm, emotive vocals and add a contemporary Pop twist to the classic keys and string centred instrumentation with solid, metronomic percussion. Each and every track is a potential single, and we predict a slew of radio and festival anthems to come, but the highlight comes in the shape of the Gospel-tinged title track with its hand claps and harmonising backing vocals. Catch it here.

Sinkane — Life & Livin' It

We loved Sinkane’s previous album ‘Mean Love’ for its adoption of the sound of 60s America and the way it dialled in Afro-Funk out of every track. Since then Amhed Gallab (the main man behind Sinkane) has become better known as the leader of the superstar Atomic Bomb! Band working with to bring the music of Open Ear favourite William Onyeabor to life. Yet that may change with this upbeat Afro-Funk collection of heavy hitters. ‘Favourite Song’ has a hint of Bossa Nova hidden within and would be a highpoint on many albums. Yet the propulsive Funk of ‘Telephone’ is impossible to resist and the handclaps and rolling bass of ‘Passenger’ cannot be ignored. Start here and see what we mean…

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