Muziek

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Soul of a Woman review – songs of love, woe and overcoming

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 hours 49 min ago
(Daptone)
The late-blooming soul star’s posthumous album is righteous, dramatic and rooted in the past

It is tempting to overpraise the recently departed. But the late – and, arguably, great – Sharon Jones was not discovered via a TV talent show or hothoused at a fame school. Her voice clawed its way out of obscurity through sheer force of will.

Before she had a late-life recording career, Jones sang in church and worked in jobs that risked life and limb – as an armoured van guard and as a prison officer at the notorious Rikers Island. It was only at the age of 40 that the erstwhile wedding singer began paying in serious cheques in exchange for belting out songs of love, woe and overcoming.

The first half of Soul of a Woman skews hard towards upbeat songs

Related: Sharon Jones obituary

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Categories: Muziek

Johnny Griffin and Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis Quintet: At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall review – full-on, sweaty stuff

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 48 min ago
(Jazzline)

Johnny “Little Giant” Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis: a pair of alpha-male tenor saxophonists intent on blowing each other off the stage. That was the act, anyway. When this double CD was recorded in 1975 they’d been doing it, on and off, for 15 years and were the best of friends. Their styles are easily distinguishable: Griffin fast, sharp and witty, Davis gustily rhetorical. It’s full-on, sweaty stuff – intense, swinging and spiced with outrageous quotes. Such robust self-assurance is rare in jazz today, which makes this newly released souvenir of a night at Onkel Pö’s interestingly named Hamburg jazz club something to savour.

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Categories: Muziek

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest review – bags of style, not enough substance

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 48 min ago
(Because)

Previous albums have enlisted lyric-writing help from Jarvis Cocker, Air and Beck, but Gainsbourg’s fourth is notable for being largely self-penned (with a little help from Paul McCartney on Songbird in a Cage). French DJ SebastiAn’s slick production makes for a very polished sound that’s easy on the ear, helped by Gainsbourg’s whispered, breathy vocals which alternate between French and English. The opener, Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses, sounds far more sophisticated than a song using a a nursery rhyme as its refrain has any right to, and Deadly Valentine also engages. Too often, though, style triumphs over substance, and too many songs flail in their own restrained elegance. Worse, the hidden track featuring a child mangling the alphabet is painfully self-indulgent rather than cute.

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Categories: Muziek

Paloma Faith: The Architect review – once more with issues

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 48 min ago
(RCA)

After perfecting her mildly kooky retro-soul sound across three albums, The Architect messes with the Paloma Faith formula, lyrics-wise at least. Gently pulsating lead single Crybaby, for example, is about fragile masculinity; the title track is a typically dramatic ballad sung from the perspective of planet Earth addressing humanity, while the doo-wop stylings of WW3 deal with impending catastrophe. For the most part these more outward-looking conceits are housed in familiar musical settings – the Bond theme-lite Guilty feels like a song she’s released five times already – but there’s fun to be had in Til I’m Done’s plastic disco shimmy and the skipping, featherlight pop of Kings and Queens.

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Categories: Muziek

T-Pain: Oblivion review – tasteless rap ballads

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 48 min ago
(Nappy Boy/RCA)

It’s been 30 years since LL Cool J was widely side-eyed for writing hip-hop’s first pop crossover ballad, I Need Love. Yet its gauche, wordy earnestness is Shelleyan compared to T-Pain’s feeble seduction raps. Slack lyrics can work with a little leavening humour, but when your main feature is the loathsome assaulter Chris Brown you need to do better than threatening your “bitch” that your technique is so good “the neighbours gon’ think I’m a wifebeater” (Pu$$y on the Phone). Except for the failed jazz ’n’ bass experiment May I, the music is just as tasteless and tired, the sound of a migraine struggling to maintain an erection.

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Categories: Muziek

Tove Lo: Blue Lips review – clubwise and candid

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 48 min ago
(Island)

Known for her nihilistic, drug-fuelled bangers, Swedish singer Tove Lo’s last album explored sexual gratification of the intense and immensely candid kind. Blue Lips – presumably a female equivalent to the frustration of “blue balls” – is a continuation, undulating with clubland heat, raw desire and forthright lyrics. “Nipples are hard, ready to go,” Lo refrains in robotic yet sensual tones on lead single Disco Tits. The rest of the album follows in this vein, even the slower songs swirling with mesmerising rave euphoria. Solid if formulaic, Blue Lips peaks with unfaltering vocals and the kind of humid, polished production that would make Jack Antonoff jealous.

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Categories: Muziek

Mavis Staples: If All I Was Was Black review – inspirational work

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 48 min ago
(Anti-)

Related: Mavis Staples: ‘I often think what would have happened if I’d married Dylan’

With gospel legends the Staple Singers, Mavis Staples was wailing anthems of pride and defiance back in the civil rights era. For her third collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Staples eschews standards and revivals in favour of 10 new songs by Tweedy that form a state of the nation address. It’s no angry rant, however. Love is Staples’s weapon of choice, and “We go high when they go low” its credo. Musically it’s a fascinating, low-key meld of 70s funk, gospel choruses and wonky rock guitar. Build a Bridge swells with Prince-like melody, No Time for Crying is stark and serious, and Peaceful Dream a gospel singalong. Inspirational work.

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Categories: Muziek

Morrissey: Low in High School review – mixed messages and misfires

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 hours 49 min ago
(Etienne)

Morrissey’s 11th solo album finds him on his own label, squelching with newfound keys on songs like Spent the Day in Bed, and riffing on favoured themes: loneliness and world affairs. As ever, the messages are mixed, on many levels. Bodily pleas for comfort – “I just want my face in your lap” runs In Your Lap – vie with come-ons. “Wrap your legs around my face”, invites Home Is a Question Mark. It all goes south, however, on the orchestral mariachi of When You Open Your Legs. Morrissey’s broadsides – against police violence, for example – are let down by misfiring attempts at electronic rock and a less-than-compassionate worldview that undermines the moral authority he once had.

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Categories: Muziek

Shostakovich: The Gadfly (Original Score) CD review – a lively curiosity

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 18 hours 24 min ago

Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Fitz-Gerald
(Naxos)

This is a real novelty, celebrating Shostakovich’s life-long devotion to writing film music. His orchestral concert work The Gadfly Suite, Op 97a, from his score of the 1955 film, was assembled by fellow Soviet composer Levon Atovmyan. Much was cut and forgotten. The full, eclectic soundtrack has now been reconstructed, with a fantastic display of serious scholarship, passion and practical musicianship by Mark Fitz-Gerald: all 29 sections, complete with a snatch of Bach’s B minor Mass, either from Shostakovich’s original manuscript or taken down by ear from the film (which sold more than 39m tickets and was based on the novel by Ethel Voynich). A lively curiosity, to be sure.

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Categories: Muziek

Brahms, Duvernoy, Koechlin, Kahn: Horn Trios CD review – an engaging set

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 18 hours 28 min ago

Felix Klieser (horn) Andrej Bielow (violin), Herbert Schuch (piano)
(Berlin Classics)

The combination of horn, violin and piano is so unusual that only Brahms’s masterpiece is a familiar repertory piece. But the enterprising horn soloist Felix Klieser has sought out some companion works and created an engaging sequence. Frédéric Nicolas Duvernoy’s two amiable, flowing trios from the earlier 19th century are not going to change the world, but Charles Koechlin’s quirkily inventive Four Small Pieces from the turn of the century are a delightful find, really characterful, and Robert Kahn’s single-movement 1923 Serenade is an attractive novelty. You could not possibly tell that the remarkable Klieser, who was born without arms, instead plays the horn using his toes. In the Brahms trio he is gloriously eloquent.

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Joy Ellis: Life on Land review – poetic jazz voyages into city life

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 17 November, 2017 - 13:00

(F-IRE Records)

Lyrics are often things that jazz musicians add as an afterthought, a functional vehicle for melody. But, for the singer, songwriter and pianist Joy Ellis, they are poetic, impressionistic voyages, often told in the third person and often interrogating the very act of making music. The Jazzman reads like a novel (“With every note he builds a tower / Intricate and flawless, sublime / Weaving stories out of space and time”), before an incendiary tenor sax solo by Binker Golding brings the narration to life; on Ellington Said she takes the Duke’s “music is my mistress” quote and transforms it into a Shakespearean sonnet. Elsewhere, there are romantic ballads set to spiky, M-Base-inspired grooves, adventurous chord sequences that borrow from Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and some fiery improvisations from guitarist Rob Luft and from Ellis herself, who provides well-structured hard-bop solos on piano and Fender Rhodes. But crucially, this musicianship rarely overwhelms the songs.

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Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest

Pitchfork - Best new Albums - 17 November, 2017 - 01:00

Sung mostly in French, Gainsbourg’s gripping new album finds her in the tangles of grief. It is at once scorchingly intimate and fantastically oversized.

Categories: Muziek

Paloma Faith: The Architect review – big-voiced pop trounces small ‘p’ politics

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 17:30

(RCA)

If Paloma Faith hadn’t trumpeted The Architect as her “political with a small ‘p’” album, it might sound just like another big, brassy retro soul collection about love and heartache. It’s far from obvious that the swaggering Guilty apparently expresses the thoughts of a regretful Brexit voter (“I’m living in my worst fears / Begging you back through tears”). Samuel L Jackson’s opening monologue about revolution is far more direct than the subsequent title track’s oblique apparent references to domestic violence. Owen Jones’s rousing speech about the politics of hope leads only to the wishy-washy Kings and Queens.

However, there’s plenty of the big-voiced, Amy Winehouse/Lisa Stansfield-type pop that saw Faith’s first three albums go double platinum. The John Legend duet I’ll Be Gentle is trademark classy schmaltz and the Sia-penned Warrior addresses refugees on the vaguest terms. Nobody will storm parliament after hearing this, but Faith’s heart’s in the right place.

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Categories: Muziek

Mavis Staples: If All I Was Was Black review – powerful, stirring protest songs

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 17:10

(Anti-Records)

Unlike many protest songs birthed by the political situation in the US, the title track of Mavis Staples’s 16th solo album is bereft of rage. Instead – as with all of the songs on If All I Was Was Black – it replaces mockery and fury with a warm, calm clarity that is soothing and stirring. Staples explains how it feels to be judged by the colour of your skin (and, on other tracks, the effects of police brutality and internalised oppression) with a patience and simplicity that is heartrending. That the songs on the record, which largely deals with race and oppression, were written by a white man could have undercut the emotional heft. (That man being Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, a longtime collaborator of Staples, who soundtracks his words with a weighty marriage of gospel and blues rock.) But Staples has had decades of practice delivering truths as part of the Staple Sisters – who were celebrated for their gospel “message songs” – and her performance here is so utterly convincing it feels like a moot point.

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Categories: Muziek

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest review – musical chameleon finds her voice

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 17:00

(Because Music)

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s new album is the first she’s written the lyrics for, and, perhaps as a result, gives her voice its broadest palette yet as she tries on different roles: child, ingenue, diarist, diva. There’s creepy nursery rhyme on Ring-a-Ring O’Roses, classic French chanson on Lying With You, trippy sprechgesang on Songbird in a Cage (guest-written by Paul McCartney in full acid mode: “flying through the sky, all our senses reeling”), and disco on Deadly Valentine and Sylvia Says. A few of the melodies that she and producer SebastiAn alight on resolve too neatly, running their course as predictably as a romcom. Equally, it is this firm resolution that makes Les Oxalis and the title track so satisfying – and the latter is the best thing she’s ever done. With a funk bassline muffled as if by goosedown, she finds the heretofore untapped erotic potential of Aled Jones’s Walking in the Air, whose lyrics she quotes in an ASMR-triggering whisper.

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Sia: Everyday Is Christmas review – seasonal bombast pop chimes of cynicism

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 16:45

(Atlantic Records & Monkey Puzzle)

Sia has always been a churn-’em-out kind of songwriter – on occasion, taking less than 15 minutes to pen a track. Continuing down the path of least resistance, the Australian musician has made an album of Christmas songs.

“It’s not like you have to have an original idea to begin with,” she explained in a recent interview. “It’s like, Christmas, mistletoe, ho-ho-ho, Santa Claus, Christmas list, elves.” It’s not the most encouraging approach to songwriting, and the resulting album, a grab-bag of seasonal tropes that takes in snowflakes, puppies and candy canes, sounds suitably dashed off. Even if it sometimes amuses – Snowman is a love letter to a melting beau – there’s a tendency towards repetition that seems lazy (Snowflake covers practically the same topic as Snowman; there is a bombastic ballad called Underneath the Mistletoe – and another called Underneath the Christmas Lights). That carelessness, combined with Sia’s mewling, monotonous and oddly Scandi-accented vocal, means Everyday Is Christmas is unlikely to win over any nonbelievers.

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Categories: Muziek

radio.string.quartet: In Between review – rich colours and seductive grooves

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 14:00

(Jazzland)

Vienna’s charismatic radio.string.quartet have shown how much they understand about jazz spontaneity and urban groovemaking as well as classical perfectionism on covers of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and the music of the late Joe Zawinul in recent years. Now at Norway’s Jazzland label, with that imaginative operation’s pop-jazz and electronica-savvy founder Bugge Wesseltoft co-producing, matters have taken a more ambient turn – with live sampling, Wesseltoft’s and electronicist Henrik Schwarz’s instrumental skills, and their own vaporous singing voices now in the mix. Arching high violin sounds whisper above cello motifs that are sometimes bowed, sometimes plucked like a jazz bass. Women’s voices exhale hymnal strains, or lullabies that reflect the members’ inspirations in newborn babies. Rougher-hewn hoedown-like dances spring up, solemn pop-tinged songs drift by, and The World According to Hugo and Jun powers along over an infectious vamp in which the strings snap as crisply as a tabla. It’s a session glowing with rich colours and seductive grooves, though with less spontaneous bite than its popular predecessors.

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Django Bates Belovèd: The Study of Touch review – tender, impulsive, graceful

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 13:45

(ECM)

Over time, gifted player/composers sometimes sideline the first skill in favour of the second – but not Django Bates. He shines still more brightly as a piano improviser in his 50s, as he confirms on this ECM debut of the Belovèd trio he originally formed to play Charlie Parker’s music. The boppish Passport is the only Parker tune here, all the others are the leader’s. Often unfamiliarly tender and contemplative by Bates’s wayward standards, the session continues to foreground this close-knit threesome’s fondness for letting spontaneous ideas go where they will, rather than sustaining one dominant mood. The mixed-tempo dance of Giorgiantics is full of one-touch dialogues with bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun; We Are Not Lost, We Are Simply Finding Our Way imparts jolting Batesian disruptions to a sometimes Bill Evans-like grace; Peonies As Promised suggests a Broadway standard in its lilting unison piano/bass theme, but nobody but Django Bates in its impulsive scurries toward resolutions. A session by a master improvising composer, and in ideal company.

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Karine Polwart: A Pocket of Wind Resistance review – stunning, re-created stage work on nature and human pain

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 13:30

(Hudson Records)

Last summer, Karine Polwart staged her first Edinburgh festival show, weaving an ambitious story about the majesties and brutalities of nature with projections of a dank, webby world behind her. It featured the migration of geese (inspired by an annual event close to Polwart’s home near Edinburgh), the survival of love during war and the fathomless cruelties of sudden loss. A Pocket of Wind Resistance is that show turned into an album and, miraculously, it works. Off stage, Polwart remains a magical storyteller, lacing spoken-word diary entries between original compositions, adaptations of Robert Burns poems and medieval ballads. The sound design throughout, by composer Pippa Murphy, is impressive and immersive too, particularly in its use of electronic drones, marimbas and sansulas. The tale’s central tragedy is obvious early on, but the account of childbirth on this record is incredibly vivid and sad, pulling no punches. This record is an epic, emotional endeavour, and a stunning one, too.

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Categories: Muziek

Maya Youssef: Syrian Dreams review – powerful homage twists Arabic music cliches

The Guardian - Albumreviews - 16 November, 2017 - 13:15

(Harmonia Mundi)

Born in Damascus, Maya Youssef is a virtuoso performer on the qanun, the traditional Middle Eastern plucked zither. She moved to London under the Arts Council’s “exceptional talent” scheme, and has played at the Proms and alongside Damon Albarn. Here she demonstrates the range and power of her 78-stringed instrument on a “personal journey through the six years of war in Syria”. It’s an often exquisite, emotional set that constantly changes mood, from sorrow to hope, on compositions that range from the “prayer for peace” of the title track to the lengthy The Seven Gates of Damascus, in which she pays tribute to her battered homeland. Her music may be based on the scales and modes of the traditional Arabic maqam, but there are echoes of everything from jazz to flamenco here, and the backing is equally inventive, with thoughtful cello work from Barney Morse-Brown matched against incisive oud and hand percussion.

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