This north-east duo’s debut captivates from beginning to end
This is a little gem of an album: simple, modest and, as far as I can tell, perfect. Jo Harrop sings, Jamie McCredie plays guitar, and the songs date from between the late 1920s and the early 2000s, from Billy Rose to Tom Waits. Nothing unusual there, you might think. However, what sets Weathering the Storm apart from similar offerings is that the duo get everything right, and that’s quite rare.
Harrop has a soft contralto voice which, particularly on lower notes, is wonderfully warm and intimate. Mostly, she trusts the song to tell its own story, occasionally altering or adding a phrase. The guitar accompaniment is light, almost skeletal at times, but always cannily fitting. There’s always space around the music, and this holds the listener’s attention – well, mine anyway.Continue reading...
Former members of Minor Threat, Fugazi and the Evens deliver a bracing blast of moral, melodic US punk
It’s difficult to overstate the significance of Fugazi. An American art-rock institution, they provided a slinky, authoritative moral racket from the late 80s until the early 00s. Ever since this totemic post-hardcore band went on indefinite hiatus back in 2003, there have been calls for them to reform. They show no signs of doing that.
Analogues exist. Contemporary punk outfits such as Bristol punk heroes Idles are, consciously or not, made in Fugazi’s image: aggressive in sound, but communitarian in ethos, and constantly querying the testosterone lunacy that comes with the punk tag. Now, there is Coriky, a band made up of Fugazi’s singing guitarist Ian MacKaye and bassist Joe Lally, with the addition of singing drummer Amy Farina. (Before Coriky, MacKaye and Farina, who are married, released three albums as the Evens.)Continue reading...
Ohlsson joins the Takács Quartet to delve deep into Elgar’s intimate 1918 work, alongside restless Amy Beach
“Wood magic, so elusive and delicate,” was Lady Elgar’s description of her husband’s new composition for piano and string quartet, written in West Sussex in the summer of 1918 after a period of mental and physical collapse. One of three immortal chamber works dating from that time – the others being the string quartet and violin sonata – the Piano Quintet in A minor is at once ghostly and expansive, tender and passionate. It shows a side of Elgar, at times hesitant, intimate, only hinted at in his better known works.
The first movement also has one of Elgar’s most rhapsodic tunes, which recurs later in the piece. The Takács Quartet and pianist Garrick Ohlsson, without excess or hysterics, plumb every emotional possibility. Geraldine Walther’s glowing viola-playing shines in the lyrical slow movement, with violins, cello and piano equal in reply to her yearning melody.Continue reading...
Returning to the sound of her maximalist electro-pop heyday, Gaga explores buried trauma, mental illness and the complexities of fame on this return to form
A criticism often levelled at Lady Gaga is that the fantastical imagery she constructs around her albums eclipses the music itself. But it’s a sliding scale – and one that certainly mattered less when she was knocking out undeniable dance-pop party starters like Poker Face and Just Dance, or cementing her status as pop’s freaky outlier on the twisted Bad Romance. That she appeared in alien-like form in that song’s video made perfect sense: here was a chameleonic pop superstar in the vein of Bowie, Prince and Madonna opening a portal to an escapist dimension. Later, it made sense that she would lean into the imagery of hair metal on 2011’s gloriously OTT, Springsteen-referencing Born This Way. Yet on 2013’s bloated Artpop – billed as an exploration of the “reverse Warholian” phenomenon in pop culture, whatever that may be, and featuring at least one performance in which she employed a “vomit artist” to puke green paint on her chest – the aesthetic felt more like desperate distraction tactics.Continue reading...
(Haus of Pins)
Full of girl-group vocals and earwormy melodies, Pins tread a fine line between energetic reboot and mannered synth-pop tribute
Manchester trio Pins spent the first half of the 2010s as a four-piece who made drone-heavy indie-pop. Their second album, Wild Nights, was cooked up in Joshua Tree National Park, and stretched their hazy melodies out over landscapes of reverb. That was back in 2015; in the time since, they’ve changed their lineup, collaborated with Iggy Pop, taken on the production skills of the Kills’ Jamie Hince, and leaned heavily into disco and post-punk influences. The result is Hot Slick, a self-released album of 10 airy songs that hinge on earworm 1960s girl-group melodies and a new surge of bright-eyed synths.Continue reading...
Drummer Dickey, saxophonist Rob Brown and bassist Brandon Lopez entwine in tidal ebbs and flows
A post-Coltrane coterie of American free jazz players, including the late sax radical David S Ware and eclectic composer/bassist William Parker, have kept the flame of the 1960s avant garde burning. Drummer Whit Dickey, a former student of free percussion legend Milford Graves and a frequent associate of both Ware and Parker, is a key contributor, too, as this scorching set by his trio confirms. Dickey engagingly calls much of this music “full-bore yang” (he calls it “free-grunge” too) for the yin-yang energies unleashed in its collision of the known and the unknown.Continue reading...
(Orfeo, three CDs)
Strauss’s fairytale epic is full of magnificent detail in the hands of Christian Thielemann, while Camilla Nylund’s Empress is supple and intense
Die Frau ohne Schatten, The Woman Without a Shadow, may be the piece that marks out the real Richard Strauss fans from the mere admirers. To fully paid-up Straussians, his longest stage work is the summit of his achievements as an opera composer, a score of sumptuous invention married to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal of satisfying intricacy, while to non-believers it’s the most overblown and overlong of fairytale operas, a concoction of faux orientalism that’s hopelessly overloaded with symbolism. The magnificence of much of the score is undeniable, even if in the end it’s a work that after three-and-a-half hours of music sometimes fails to repay the investment by audiences and, especially, by singers whose vocal resources are pushed to the limit by the demands Strauss makes of them.Continue reading...
Crushed by the weight of expectation after being tipped for big things, Garratt seizes control on a mature second album laced with trauma and disappointment
Assuming such things carry on as normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in a few months’ time, denizens of the music industry will be asked to cast their votes for the BBC’s Sound of … poll and the 2021 Brits rising star award (formerly known as critics’ choice). For new artists, topping these polls is generally assumed to make success a foregone conclusion. But heaping accolades on any artist at the start of their career can have unpredictable effects: just ask Jack Garratt, who won both polls in 2016 – a feat, as it was customary to point out, that had previously been achieved by Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding, multi-platinum transatlantic success stories all.Continue reading...
On his latest project, the Brooklyn rapper realizes his vision. His forceful and focused bars are just one aspect of the highly skilled emcee’s community-focused and spiritually rewarding music.
The Charlatans frontman comes full circle with effortless assurance
A chameleon of the times, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess has manoeuvred smooth transitions from baggy psychedelicist to pugnacious belter of Britpop crowd-pleasers to peroxide-pudding-bowled priest of esoteric influences. Which is not to say he’s superficial: his tastes are deep and wide, and both his “virtual coffee shop”, Tim Peaks, and more recent lockdown listening parties on Twitter have brought listeners together with sincere, infectious enthusiasm.Continue reading...
The boxing, rapping British YouTube star enters hip-hop’s major league
Dissimulation is the pugnacious solo debut LP of UK rapper KSI. Straight outta Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, Olajide Olatunji first found renown as a YouTuber, leveraging his gaming and comedy videos into 21st-century fame. Best known for defeating YouTuber Logan Paul in a 2019 boxing match, KSI has run a legit musical side-gig since 2015, when he released Lamborghini, a nagging tune aimed squarely at his young male fanbase (21.3 million YouTube subscribers, social media “reach” of 50 million).
Related: KSI: ‘Money gravitates towards me’Continue reading...
Earle commemorates a fatal explosion 10 years ago – and reaches out to the blue-collar communities affected
A longstanding supporter of green and leftwing causes, Steve Earle describes his 20th studio album as “a record that speaks to and for people who didn’t vote the way I did”. He means working-class Trump voters, though The Ghosts of West Virginia doesn’t delve far into the psyche of the president’s “base”, being principally a salute to the coal-mining communities of the mountain state, specifically those affected by a 2010 explosion that left 29 miners dead. That event and its aftermath are the subject of a new play, Coal Country, first performed in March, during which Earle delivered onstage commentary as “a Greek chorus with a guitar”.
The songs offer a powerful testimony to the tragedy, and are here delivered with Earle’s full band in a deft blend of Appalachian bluegrass and guitar twang on numbers such as Devil Put the Coal in the Ground, fronted by Earle’s gravelly vocals. There are more reflective moments, like Time Is Never on Our Side and If I Could See Your Face Again, where fiddler Eleanor Whitmore sings a widow’s part. Numbers such as Black Lung complete the evocation of thankless blue-collar toil, though Earle has done as much before on 1999’s The Mountain, when no one was voting for Trump.Continue reading...
The mysterious psalm settings and hymns of Estonia’s Cyrillus Kreek find full expression in this atmospheric recording
The 15-strong Estonian choir Vox Clamantis, conspicuously full-toned and subtly expressive, is perhaps best known for singing music by their fellow countryman Arvo Pärt. On their latest album on ECM, directed by Jaan-Eik Tulve, they introduce a composer from the previous generation: Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962). Though largely forgotten by the world beyond, he had a lasting influence on Estonian choral music. He was a pioneering collector of folk songs out in the field, recording thousands of them on a phonograph, many being absorbed into his own compositions.
In psalms and hymns, his music is tonal, sensuous yet pure, direct but almost introspective. His setting of Psalm 104, Bless the Lord, my soul, opens with deep basses underpinning all, growing in radiance then retreating into haunting stillness. These lowest of low voices make a resonant appearance, too, in the ethereal Lord, I cry unto Thee (Psalm 141). Marco Ambrosini has written interludes for performance on the kannel, a traditional Estonian zither, and on the delicate nyckelharpa – a bowed instrument with frets and keys and sometimes called a “keyed fiddle”. This mysterious instrumental cocktail of drones and high overtones gives definition to the a cappella choral singing. It’s music of another place and time, beautifully done.Continue reading...
Nídia shines in her new, more meditative album, showcasing a breadth of dance genres with a keen eye for emotion and turmoil
Conceived almost a decade ago, the Príncipe label burst out of Lisbon’s poorer outskirts and onto an international scene enriched by burgeoning global sounds. While the song Danza Kuduro and acts such as Buraka Som Sistema took kuduro to car sound-systems and festival tents worldwide, Príncipe were keen to expand on the genre’s potential and break down racist, sexist and classist barriers holding it back locally. There are hints of house, techno and hip-hop in their music but the African-diaspora sound of Príncipe primarily incorporates Angolan kizomba’s intoxicating rhythms, melodic tarraxinha and the more skeletal, hard-hitting tarraxo. Few on the roster capture the sheer breadth of these styles as well as Lisbon-via-Bordeaux producer Nídia, whose repertoire shines across party-starters and darker tracks. Following a joyous debut EP, her first album for the label landed in 2017, pulling no punches with its heady, high-octane batida.Continue reading...
(Free Dirt Records)
This debut album by uses limber banjo and fiddle to delve into subversive stories of violence and survival
Jake Blount is a brilliant banjoist, fiddle player and singer based in Rhode Island in the US, his fingering thrilling and pacy, his voice charismatic and limber. His debut album arrives with a clear objective running through Blount’s choices of songs: to unknot the gnarly roots of where they come from, and the emotional stories they tell.Continue reading...
Franck: Le Chasseur Maudit; Psyché; Les Éolides review I Andrew Clements's classical album of the week
RSC Voices/Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Tingaud
Franck has a decent claim to being the most influential French composer of the 19th century – this is a reminder of the clarity of his orchestral vision
Though he was born in Belgium, César Franck was based in Paris for almost all of his adult life. His pupils included Duparc, Chausson and d’Indy, while both Debussy and Ravel built on his fusion of the French and Austro-German traditions, and so Franck has a good claim to have been the most influential French composer of the 19th century. Yet these days his reputation rests on a handful of pieces and, outside France at least, only his single symphony is part of the regular orchestral repertoire. Certainly, performances of any of his five symphonic poems are rare, but Jean-Luc Tingaud’s selection of three of them is a reminder of what a vivid and effective orchestral composer Franck could be, even if there are moments in these performances when you sense that a genuinely top-class orchestra might make the music dance and sparkle even more than the RSNO manages to.Continue reading...
Piling on genres and themes, the unwieldy NOACF smartly interprets contemporary chaos yet seriously lacks quality control
Notes on a Conditional Form is an album that seems to have mushroomed out of all proportion. Initially intended as a swiftly-released companion piece to its predecessor, 2018’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, it apparently ended up taking the 1975 19 months in 15 studios in four countries to complete. You can tell as much, just from a cursory spin – if it is possible to give a cursory spin to something that’s 22 tracks long and lasts 80 minutes.Continue reading...
The Brooklyn rapper’s soulful new single has the glow of nostalgia without the rose tint.
Mike Hadreas’ fifth album glides between sublime melodies and grimy, guttural dissonance, embracing the joys and burdens of the human body and its innumerable, intangible yearnings.
Unlike most of their chart peers, Sleaford Mods’ route to success has been a slow one, the Nottingham duo gathering momentum since their 2007 debut album, as their unvarnished anger at austerity Britain started to ring true with ever more people. As a result, their sprawling back catalogue encompasses long-out-of-print singles, appearances on little-known compilations and super-rare albums. All That Glue is an attempt to tidy up some of those loose ends.
As a concept it’s slightly confused, falling somewhere between an exploration of their hinterland and a best of: while it includes nine previously unreleased songs, the two tracks from last year’s Top 10 album Eton Alive are hardly unknown outside crate-digging circles. It’s far more satisfying musically, however, working as a good showcase for Jason Williamson’s stream-of-consciousness rants and Andrew Fearn’s unshowy but effective beats, from the frantic spleen-venting of 2014’s Jolly Fucker to the menace of last year’s OBCT.Continue reading...