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2023 YEAR'S BEST ALBUMS | SunNeverSetsOnMusic

2023 YEAR'S BEST ALBUMS | SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Yussef Dayes - Black Classical Music

Black Classical Music

by Yussef Dayes

Released 8 September 2023

Brownswood Music

*****

‘Black Classical Music’ is such a sprawling masterpiece and musical autobiography, it seems impossible that it is celebrated multi-instrumentalist, masterful drummer and visionary artist Yussef Dayes' debut solo studio album. In fact, it is the inevitable result of a young man's musical journey: a frontrunner for Album of The Year status that marks Dayes as a giant of contemporary British Jazz.

Having been given a drum kit at the age of 4, by his bass-playing father, Dayes formed childhood bands with his brothers and along the way, age 10, was tutored by drum legend Billy Cobham. Playing what they described as "Afro-beat stylings with forward-looking jazz and rock", the young boys' band, named United Vibrations, released their first single "Ra!" in 2009 and their debut album "Galaxies Not Ghettos" in 2011. The EP "We Never Die" followed in 2012 and "The Myth of the Golden Ratio" in 2016.

Still in his teens, Dayes teamed with keyboardist Kamaal Williams for the short-lived duo Yussef Kamaal in 2016, releasing their only studio album 'Black Focus" on Brownswood and attracting widespread attention and acclaim.

In 2020, Dayes released a "What Kinda Music" with guitarist Tom Misch on Blue Note Records.

More recently, Dayes released "Live At Joshua Tree", an EP presented by Soulection, and other solo releases including the live album "Welcome To The Hills" and "Love Is The Message", which was recorded Live at Abbey Road Studios.

His list of collaborators is ever-growing and has blossomed to include the finest talents across both music and fashion. 

For more Yussef Dayes music, link to our 20 August 2023 Blog entry "Yussef Dayes- Recent Releases and Collaborations", which anticipated the release of "Black Classical Music")

Read more... Bandcamp

Jose James - On & On

On & On

by Jose James

Released 20 January 2023

Rainbow Blonde Records

*****

Jose James has been such a perennial favourite of ours that his records have all received four and five star ratings here - even his 2021 holiday release "Merry Christmas from Jose James".

His new release  "On & On" pays homage to Erykah Badu, revisiting seven of her most outstanding songs, from all stages of her career, representing them in his very own style.

He is supported on this project by a truly exceptional young group of musicians: Big Yuki (Fender Rhodes and Hammond), Ebban Dorsey (alto), Diana Dzhabbar (flute and alto). Ben Williams (bass). 

James uses the album cover artwork to pay further homage to the great Alice Coltrane: the cover photograph and typology replicas the cover of Coltrane's increasingly influential 1967 release "Journey in Satchidananda". Whereas Coltrane credited tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders on her cover, James credits rising saxophonists Dorsey and Dzhabbar. 

All class.

 

NOTE: If you'd like to hear the Badu originals alongside Jose James' covers, (and the Alice Coltrane album that inspired the JJ cover art) there's a playlist for that: On & On - Jose James covers Erykah Badu. Played back-to-back this way, the Jose James versions really stand up well.

Dhafer Youssef - Street of Minarets

Street of Minarets

by Dhafer Youssef

Released 27 January 2023

Black Best Edition

*****

Oud master, vocalist and composer Dhafer Youssef is at the vanguard of a movement in contemporary music that brings East and West together. He is building bridges between different music. As one of the most inventive oud players, he has freed the instrument from its traditional role and brought it into jazz. And just look at the stellar lineup of players that he attracted to the cause of this amazing record:

Dhafer Youssef, oud, vocals
Herbie Hancock, piano
Marcus Miller, bass
Nguyên Lê, guitar
Rakesh Chaurasia, flute
Adriano Dos Santos Tenori, percussion
Dave Holland, double bass
Vinnie Colaiuta, drums
Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet

Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy

Heavy Heavy

by Young Fathers

Released 3 February 2023

Ninja Tune

*****

Scottish trio Young Fathers (Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham "G" Hastings) return with their first album in six years and they're once again rocking out with their patented recipe of measured abandon and meaningful lyrics, in their trademark chaotic, hybrid style that embraces rock, pop, hip-hop and soul and much. much more.

This (their fourth) album, is another classic that I am sure will feature among this website's top ten albums at the end of the year, as did their previous "Cocoa Sugar" (2018).

On Heavy Heavy, the Young Fathers' don't rely on teams of collaborators, spoken interludes, or overt studio effects: their work is contemporary development of comparatively "traditional" techniques.

Their Bandcamp entry for Heavy Heavy describes their approach: "(the) project signals a renewed back-to-basics approach, just the three of them in their basement studio, some equipment and microphones: everything always plugged in, everything always in reach."

However, the album's production is as spectacular as anything we're likely to hear this year.

The music is one of contrasts and constant mood swings, resulting is an engaging set that engages the listener, enticing them to take the album in in its entirety - and then to repeat play! It is alternately soft & loud, melodic & noisy, political & personal, calm & wild, serious & fun.

It shows that the Young Fathers have lost none of their potency during their six year hiatus and it places them at to very top of the musical pile.

Cecile McLorin Salvant - Melusine

Melusine

by Cecile McLorin Salvant

Released 24 March 2023

Nonesuch Records

*****

A serpent woman haunts Cecile McLorin Salvant's dreams on her boldly realized seventh album, 2023's Mélusine. Inspired by the European folktale most famously detailed by 14th century French writer Jean d'Arras, Mélusine tells the tale of a shapeshifting maiden, half-serpent/half-woman, whose righteous anger takes on ever-more dualistic meanings under Salvant's dynamic musical sway. Having been lavished with accolades, including several Grammy Awards for her clarion, swinging jazz and French chanson-infused albums, Salvant has increasingly leaned into the more stylistically experimental and personal aspects of her artistry. It was an approach she took to new levels with 2022's Ghost Song, performing her poetic originals alongside unexpected covers of songs by Kate Bush and Sting. Centered on the title track, which she composed during the Ghost Song sessions, Mélusine is a gorgeously realized production. Although there are some English lyrics here, the album features the most French Salvant has sung on record. Thankfully, she offers translations of each song with a sentence that also highlights how each track illuminates the story.

Source/Read More... AllMusic

Jamila Woods - Water Made Us

Water Made Us

by Jamila Woods

Released 13 October 2023

Jagjaguwar

*****

On her expansive new album Water Made Us, Chicago musician and poet Jamila Woods shines anew as she asks the question, what does it mean to fully surrender into love? Across Water Made Us, Jamila embraces new genres, playful melodies, and hypnotizing wordplay, as she wades through the exhilarating tumult of love’s wreckage and refuge.

While 2017’s HEAVN saw Jamila celebrating her community within a lineage of Black feminist movement organizing, and 2019’s Legacy! Legacy! reframed her life’s experiences through the storied personas of iconic Black and brown artists, Water Made Us is self-revelatory in an entirely new way. The album reveals a new side of Jamila never fully shared with her previous work, making this her most personal album yet.

Read more... Bandcamp

Kareem Ali - The Color of Sound

The Color of Sound

by Kareem Ali

Released 28 July 2023

CosmoPlus Records

*****

The Color of Sound is a 7 track opus that blends, in Kareem’s trademark sound, deep house, jazz and a variety of elements that are not just sound elements. As always there’s a visual and cinematic side to his work that keeps to impress, cementing his status as one of the most talented and hard-working producers in the game.
The textures on this one are beyond mesmerizing. Intended to be played with over-the-ear headphones, The Color of Sound progresses naturally, travelling all the way from Kareem’s imagination to the minds, bodies and soul of the ones willing to dive deep into the record.

The bad-ass instrumentation is softly complemented by the touch of his trumpet, echoing through the warm night outside. And there’s nothing better than this - a trumpet playing in the night, conveying a nostalgic emotion that is finally there to be appreciated and felt. Kareem Ali is releasing some of his best works on vinyl which is great news for collectors. This record is no exception and is available on vinyl and digital - playing on repeat over here.

Read more... osotao

30/70 - Art Make Love

Art Make Love

by 30/70

Released 17 February 2023

Energy Exchange Records

*****

'ART MAKE LOVE’ is the fifth album by 30/70, the mothership of the internationally acclaimed Melbourne born collective. Expanding far beyond the previous markers of nu-soul and jazz; it is inspired heavily by broken beat complexity, translating dance music into live textures and their truly unique collaborative songwriting.

‘ART MAKE LOVE’ is a statement about the very life giving, love fuelling, interconnected nature of creativity, a reclamation of art in a digital time.

Unique to their catalog, this album was created with each member of the band taking full control of the recording and producing of their own instrument only to culminate in a unified sound, their synergy palpable as a singular force.

Over the years 30/70 has become something of a supergroup, with Allysha Joy, Ziggy Zeitgeist, Josh Kelly, Finn Rees and Matthew Hayes all soaring as solo artists, band leaders and producers in their own right. Each member of the band commands their sound and musicality effortlessly - a concept that is unique in 30/70 too - there is no one leader, they make space for each member to go deep on whatever it is they’re bringing to the table, creating space for the music and one another.

Read More: Bandcamp

Kara Jackson - Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love

Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love

by Kara Jackson

Released 14 April 2023

Kara Jackson / September Recordings

*****

Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?, the debut album from musician and poet Kara Jackson, is a journey into grief, self-possession, and love—a dazzling and devastating examination of life’s unpredictability. Those weighty themes are paired with adventurous arrangements: “no fun/party” forgoes the standard verse-chorus-verse form for a more open-ended style; minor chords usher in each new section, and the hopeful country melody gives way to an elegiac bridge. The song explores the various emotions that accompany the search for love—an echo of the album’s One Big Question, which is why we undertake these searches at all. “Don’t be sorry for missing the party,” Jackson says near the song’s conclusion, “‘Cause somebody’s party is missing you, too.”

Read more... Bandcamp

Jonny Greenwood, Dudu Tassa - Jarak Qaribak

Jarak Qaribak

by Dudu Tassa, Jonny Greenwood

Released 9 June 2023

Dudu Tassa, World Circuit Limited

*****
‘Jarak Qaribak’ is the collaboration between celebrated Israeli singer, musician and producer Dudu Tassa and award-winning composer and guitarist Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead, The Smile), produced by Tassa & Greenwood and mixed by Nigel Godrich, ‘Jarak Qaribak’ brings together vocalists and musicians from throughout the Middle East for a very special album of cross-border collaborations.
Tassa and Greenwood have known each other a long time and have collaborated before. Jonny, who is married into an Israeli family hailing originally from Iraq and Egypt, remembers hearing Dudu’s music twinkling amid the prevailing gloom of mid-noughties Israeli rock when Radiohead first visited.
“Jarak Qaribak” translates, more or less, as “Your Neighbour Is Your Friend”. It’s an expansive, inclusive sentiment. The songs on the album, and the singers, are drawn from all over the Middle East – and, in keeping with the theme established by the album’s title, each singer takes a turn at a tune from a country other than their own.

Read more... Jarak Qaribak

Meshell Ndegeocello - The Omnichord Real Book

The Omnichord Real Book

by Meshell Ndegeocello

Released 16 June 2023

Blue Note

*****

Over the past 30 years, German-born American bassist and vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello has lent her unique blend of spacious melodies, rooted grooves and intricate fingerpicking to tracks by everyone from Madonna to Herbie Hancock and Robert Glasper. Across her own albums, Ndegeocello has been honing this sound to create soulful music that interpolates R&B and hip-hop as much as the virtuosity of jazz. Most recently she produced 2018’s Ventriloquism, which reinterpreted R&B tracks from the 80s. On her latest album Ndegeocello now looks forward, producing a futuristic, original soundscape of jaunty synthpop and electronic R&B.

As a whole, it’s a confident imagining of her infectious future funk sound.

Read more... The Guardian

Cleo Sol - Gold

GOLD

by Cleo Sol

Released 29 September 2023

Forever Loving Originals

*****

Cleo Sol has an excellent artistic strategy: make something great, release it, and then disappear back to her family, and – no doubt – the studio. Dipping in and dipping out when she feels ready, this sense of control pervades her work – whether it’s the intensity of Sault or the languid neo-soul of the songwriting released under her own name, every single detail is attended to.
‘Gold’ is her second album to be released in two weeks. While it’s a hopeless endeavour to compare and contrast unique artistic works, Clash endeavours to say the following: while ‘Heaven’ felt like a mood piece, ‘Gold’ is more defined, the music more sketched out, and with more evident strengths. Obviously everything Cleo Sol releases is excellent, it’s just that some projects are more excellent than others – in the Cleo Sol league table, this is challenging for a European spot.

‘Gold’ is a record that dares to be optimistic in an increasingly dark world. It’s soulful euphoria as a form of protest, a song cycle that revels in the quiet power of connection; in a catalogue replete with soaring highs, ‘Gold’ touches the clouds.

Read more... CLASH

Anohni, Antony and the Johnsons - My Way Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross

My Way Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross

by Anohni, Antony and the Johnsons

Released 6 July 2023

Rebis Music / Rough Trade

*****

Anohni stepped away from her group the Johnsons to make 2016's Hopelessness, an album that honed the activism in her music to a sharp point with bladelike electronics and lyrics delivered with the frankness of someone at her breaking point. She brings some of that directness to My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross, her first album with the Johnsons in over a decade. Emblazoned with a portrait of gay liberation activist -- and the band's namesake -- Marsha P. Johnson on its cover, the record draws on politically minded 1960s and '70s soul, an elegant strain of protest music that meets difficult times with beauty, dignity, and humility.  It often feels like she's grappling with her emotions in real time (several songs are first takes), and this spontaneity underscores that the freedom gained by giving heartache a name is just as important as calling out injustice.

A powerful return, My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross reaffirms that Anohni & the Johnsons' ability to confront the hardest issues and moments is as eloquent and relevant as ever.

Read more... AllMusic

Corinne Bailey Rae - Black Rainbows

Black Rainbows

by Corinne Bailey Rae

Released 15 September  2023

Black Rainbows Music / Thirty Tigers

*****

Anyone in the vicinity of a radio around 2006 heard “Put Your Records On,” Corinne Bailey Rae’s warm ode to feeling relaxed and fulfilled in the moment. Since then, the song has become a staple of easy listening channels and kindred playlists, even spinning off one viral cover. The commercial success of the song—alongside Rae’s self-titled debut, which stayed on the Billboard 200 for nearly a year and a half—helped solidify jazz, soul, and R&B as the foundation for her breezy pop. Seventeen years later, Rae has taken a sharp and surprising turn toward unabashed rock music with her scuzzy, guitar-powered new album, Black Rainbows. She’s not whispering but roaring.

As a 15-year-old in her home city of Leeds, Rae was in an upstart, all-girl rock group called Helen, drawing inspiration from women-led bands like L7, Belly, and Veruca Salt. The young ensemble garnered

attention from the alt-rock heavy hitter Roadrunner Records but the deal fell through, an industry heartbreak that nonetheless kept Rae pursuing music. For the first time in her solo catalog, Black Rainbows strikes directly at those formative tastes; Rae indulges the affections of her younger self without succumbing to cheap pastiche. With ferocious energy and clear-eyed confidence, it’s as though Rae is introducing herself all over again.

Read more... Pitchfork

Allison Russell - The Returner

The Returner

by Allison Russell

Released 8 September 2023

Birds of Chicago

*****

Since the release of her debut solo LP two years ago Outside Child, Russell’s often devastating, deeply moving, cathartic celebration of survivor’s joy has become one of the most acclaimed albums of the past 10 years.

Now comes the second chapter in her story, The Returner, a body-shaking, mind-expanding, soulful expression of liberation, love, and self-respect that serves as a fierce declaration of joy for all survivors that have made it to the other side. The album was written and co-produced by Allison along with dim star (her partner JT Nero and Drew Lindsay) and was recorded over Solstice week in December 2022 at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA. It features Russell’s “Rainbow Coalition” band of all female musicians - along with special guest appearances from the legendary Wendy & Lisa, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, and Hozier - who built The Returner from the bottom up with a rhythm-first, genre-fluid approach.

The improvisational energy of great female artists sparked the album’s fierce joy, and provided a wider canvas for Allison’s immense, unlimited talent. In all, the new album doesn’t just deliver on the promise of the last two years, it exceeds all reasonable (and unreasonable) expectations and affirms Allison Russell’s place among music’s most vital artists and The Returner, as one of 2023’s most essential recordings.

Read more... Bandcamp

Kamaal Williams - Stings

Stings

by Kamaal Williams

Released 27 September 2023

Black Focus Records

*****

Informed by isolation, reflection, and profound spirituality, the third full-length album from South London keyboardist and producer Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu) is a cerebral instrumental journey through jazz, classical, dub, downtempo, bossa nova, and hip-hop styles. The front half features the record’s most immediate moments, peaking with the title track and its sweet flip of Soho’s 1995 track “Hot Music,” before diving into dreamy and downright beautiful classical arrangements on the back half. Tacked onto the album’s 10-track run as a digital bonus disc are Stings’ three early singles that includes the distinctive, menacing, vocal-laced “PKKNO.”

Read more... KEXP

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily - Love In Exile

Love In Exile

by Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily

Released 24 March 2023

Verve

*****

Since 2015, Arooj Aftab has gradually distilled the essence of her work. On her debut album, Bird Under Water, the Pakistan-born, Brooklyn-based composer fused ghazal—a South Asian style focused on loss and love, both romantic and divine—with pop, jazz, and soul, finding the consonance between musical traditions from different corners of the world. On 2018’s ambient Siren Islands, she stripped away tradition, weaving her otherworldly voice between layers of synthesizer. By 2021’s Vulture Prince—her breakout record, an elegiac piece filigreed with voice, harp, and violin—she had learned to squeeze every drop of emotional resonance out of a single elongated syllable, or the vibrato of a gently pressed harp string.

Love in Exile—Aftab’s new album in collaboration with pianist and jazz composer Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily—takes that process of distillation even further: coaxing an entire album’s worth of pathos out of a handful of Urdu couplets, crafting complex emotional inner worlds through the ritualistic repetition of just a few lines of poetry. In Ismaily and Iyer, she has found the perfect partners. All three draw from a shared vocabulary that is subtle, intricate, and minimalist, yet incredibly expressive. 

Read more... Pitchfork

Beverley Glenn-Copeland - The Ones Ahead

The Ones Ahead

by Beverley Glenn-Copeland

Released 28 July 2023

Transgressive Records

*****

Though Beverly Glenn-Copeland is now a Polaris Prize winner whose wondrous music has garnered a group of dedicated fans, his early compositions, like 1986’s superb New Age experiment Keyboard Fantasies, weren’t originally heard by the masses. It’s only recently that the Canadian composer has become part of the mainstream consciousness; his resonant voice, forward-looking lyrics, and blissful instrumentals capturing a new generation of listeners and crate diggers in the past decade. But much of this conversation has surrounded albums he released years ago.

With The Ones Ahead, Glenn-Copeland shares all-new music for the first time in almost 20 years, offering the clearest thesis of his vision yet: that the future is out there for us, and we can capture it in a song.

 

Read SunNeverSetsOnMusic's December 2021 review of Glenn-Copeland's album Keyboard Fantasies here

Read more... The Guardian

Le Cri du Caire, Abdullah Miniawy, Peter Corser - Le Cri du Caire

Le Cri du Caire

by Le Cri du Caire, Abdullah Miniawy, Peter Corser

27 January 2023

Les Disque du Festival Permanent / Airfono / L'Onde & Cybele

*****

Cairo, late 2013. In a city in turmoil, where the curfew had just been lifted after a second coup d'état, where the walls were still covered in dreams and revolt, where even the clubs of the city-centre echoed with anti-Islamist and anti-army slogans, I was deeply touched by the voice of Abdullah Miniawy at the 100Copies music studio, a stone's throw from Tahrir Square. A singer, writer, poet, poetry-slammer and student from the El-Fayoum oasis, this spokesman for Egyptian youth was shaking up the music scene and social networks with his hypnotic voice and unique blend of electro, sufism and jazz music, both punk and psychedelic, secular and avant-garde. Three months later, Abdullah's first on-stage revelations took place at the La Voix est Libre festival in Cairo with the "Jimi Hendrix of oud", Mehdi Haddab, followed by his first meeting with composer and saxophonist Peter Corser at the D-CAF festival (Downtown Contemporary Art Festival), created in the aftermath of the revolution by leading figure in theater Ahmed El-Attar. After three years of administrative battles, while censorship was making a comeback in Egyptian artistic circles, Abdullah finally arrived in Paris where he recorded an initial version of Purple Feathers with Peter Corser, which was broadcast on Soundcloud.

In 2017, gripped from the very first seconds by these soaring vocal and instrumental performances, Erik Truffaz accepted our invitation to become involved with Peter's hypnotic loops and Abdullah's electric vocals, and was soon joined by the visceral strings of cellist Karsten Hochapfel.

Five years later, Le Cri du Caire is still turning heads, and often moving audiences to tears. Both free and spiritual, sensitive and elusive, their music elevates the soul to giddy heights and flies towards what may well be one of the shortest paths from zero to infinity.

Read more... Bandcamp

Acid Arab - ٣ (Trois)

٣ (Trois)

by Acid Arab

Released 3 February 2023

Crammed Dice / Shelter Studio

*****

Based in Paris, Acid Arab is a brilliant Franco-Algerian electronic / dance music collective.

The ten tracks on this eagerly-awaited record are serious dancefloor bangers, and will also be providing delightful private listening experiences, thanks to their sophisticated production and to the intriguing, diverse performances by eight guest vocalists: Sofiane Saidi (Algeria), Cem Yldiz (Turkiye), Wael Alkak (Syria), Cheb Halim (Algeria), Ghizlane Melih (Morocco), Fella Soltana, (Algeria), Khnafer Lazhar, Rachid Taha (Algeria).

Incorporating Algerian gasba, Anatolian trance, synthetic dabkeh, bionic raï, Acid Arab have incorporated and invented a spectrum of styles, breaking boundaries between genres. After spending close to ten years exploring diverse types of music through their numerous collaborations and their constant travels all around the Mediterranean and beyond, Acid Arab keep pushing the envelope and expanding their musical territories.

“We’re careful not to repeat a identical formula from album to album” says the band. “It’s the actual working relationship with the guest artists which drives us to expand the concept.”

This is cutting edge music - sampling and experimenting with the excitement and energy of the music heard in the medinas, souks, taxis and wedding parties of the Arabic speaking hemisphere and bringing it to global attention.

Long live Acid Arab.

Kelela - Raven

Raven

by Kelela

Released 10 February 2023

Warp Records

*****

Largely absent since her debut album Take Me Apart and its remixes (2017-18), US R&B outlier Kelela returns with a stunning new set.

Since her debut, the singer has delved deep, absorbing narratives of resistance to racism, misogynoir (sexism as it relates to the Black female experience) and foregrounding queer female creativity.

The result is a record that divides its time between the dancefloor and the bedroom, moving via hazy, in-between spaces filled with delicate yearning and immersive sound design.

Kelela’s choice of beats has long skewed British, with old-school drum’n’bass powering this album’s most immediate “ravin” track, Contact. But this is a record designed to penetrate cell-deep, with slow, unspooling tracks such as Holier, where beats don’t intrude, the music hanging as though in a space out of time. The standout title track builds deliciously slowly, outlining the distance travelled and – after a piano ripple, angelic backing vocals and an assertion of Kelela’s needs and desires – climaxing into a digital beat workout.

Source: The Guardian

Ryuichi Sakamoto - 12

12

by Ryuichi Sakamoto

Released 17 January 2023

Lee Ufan / Avex Entertainment

*****

As delicately beautiful as anything you're likely to hear this year, Ruichi Sakamoto's "12" comprises a dozen compositions titled only by the date that they were composed, and arranged in chronological order, from 20210310 to 20220304.

Thus, this is a diary of sorts, the beauty of which is underscored by the revelation that these pieces were written and recorded in temporary lodgings, while in convalescence after cancer surgery.

Over the years, I have often wondered whether and how the generation of musicians and pop stars of our youth would age - whether with dignity, good humor and poise, or as embarrassing, 3rd-rate self-caricatures. There are many examples of the latter, playing to audiences forever trapped in the aspic of nostalgia. Fortunately, many others, like Ryucihi Sakamoto continue to create new music that draws deeply from their lives.

The album is subtle in its gradual change of mood, presumably a reflection of the composer's recovery. The opening seven pieces, from 20210310 to 20220214, become progressively longer (from five to nine minutes) and are low in tone.

However, midway through the album on "20220302 - sarabande" (a slow, stately Spanish dance in triple time) there seems to be an awakening - the pieces now become progressively shorter (from three minutes to one) by 20220304 and more structured. 

The final track, the shortest of all, consists of only a naturalistic tinkling sound, perhaps of (wind?) chimes. It as if confinement is finished and the patient is enjoying the garden.

Meg Baird - Furling

Furling

by Meg Baird

Released 27 January 2023

Drag City

*****

California singer-songwriter Meg Baird's first album in six years (and only her fourth in sixteen) is a giant step forward for the artist best known for  Ghost Forests (2018), her new -age chart topping collaboration with American harpist Mary Lattimore. With her new release she fleshes out her post Joni Mitchell persona, built on a elite finger-picking, acoustic guitar technique, with a lot more piano, synths and drums than we've heard from her previously.

The long instrumental opening song Ashes, Ashes opens the album, but it's as if the album starts again when the second song Star Hill Song commences and having been carried along with the instrumental, we're now captivated by Baird's gorgeous vocal. 

It's an album that calls attention to the Baird's arrival among the finest contemporary performers of modern folk music such as Big Thief, Beth Orton, Cass McCombs, Alela Diane, Laura Veirs.

Lakecia Benjamin - Phoenix

Phoenix

by Lakecia Benjamin

Released 27 January 2023

Whirlwind Recordings

*****

Phoenix' is the highly-anticipated, expansive new album in the musical evolution of alto saxophonist and composer Lakecia Benjamin.

The album was produced by the multi-Grammy-award winning Terri Lyne Carrington and features a star-studded line up of specially curated guests Dianne Reeves, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis and Wayne Shorter. The band is composed of trumpeter Josh Evans, Victor Gould on keys, Orange Rodriguez on synths, drummer Enoch (EJ) Strickland, percussionist Nêgah Santos and bassist Ivan Taylor. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr, Rhodes organist Anastassiya Petrova and bassist Jahmal Nichols all join for one track each.

“When we came out from the pandemic we weren't allowed to be broken,” Lakecia shares while describing the deeply personal outing Phoenix became for her. The record presents mostly original compositions written throughout the seasons: “we had to be these beautiful absorbent birds and get to work. I wanted to highlight each month of that.”

By design, the compositions on 'Phoenix' are written around the skillsets of her triumphant guests, a handful of women in jazz who have had prominent influences on Lakecia.

Read more... Bandcamp

Lisa O'Neill - All Of This Is Chance

All Of This Is Chance

by Lisa O'Neill

Released 10 February 2023

Rough Trade

*****

A raconteur in the truest sense of the word, every story starts somewhere and O’Neill starts this extraordinary collection here on earth, on Irish soil, hands in the land. The album is full of both orchestral masterpieces like the ambitious and cinematic "Old Note" and the title track of “All of This Is Chance”, inspired by the great Monaghan writer Patrick Kavanagh's prescient meditation on The Great Hunger, as well as stirring meditations on nature, birds, berries, bees, and blood that ring out over a clacking banjo, dusting and devastating all those in its wake.

Read More... Bandcamp

Ishmael Ensemble & Rider Shafique - New Era

New Era

by Ishmael Ensemble & Rider Shafique

Released 10 February 2023

Seven Songs

*****

Fresh from receiving a standing ovation for their incredible performance at the London Jazz Festival, part of their 5 date UK tour and following comeback single ‘The Rebuke’, Ishmael Ensemble return with EP ‘New Era’, a powerful statement of intent in collaboration with poet, MC and lyricist Rider Shafique.

Shafique’s talent for razor sharp lyricism, keen observation and beautifully woven imagery deliver probing prophetic visions across Ishmael Ensemble’s strikingly emotive soundscapes on this brilliant 5 tracker, weaving jazz, dub and other electronic influences with stunning effect.
‘New Era’ is an absorbing and thought-provoking piece that highlights Ishmael Ensemble’s talent for genre-shifting and taking the sonic conversation well beyond traditional jazz. Coupled with Rider Shafique’s mastery of words, it’s easy to see why audiences have literally been on their feet to praise all concerned at live shows and why 2023 is set to be their most thrilling year yet. 

Read more... Bandcamp

Liv.e - Girl In The Half Pearl

Girl In The Half Pearl

by Liv.e

Released 10 February 2023

In Real Life Music / AWAL Recordings America

*****

“Thematically, it’s about the rebirth of myself and allowing myself to be who I am,” Liv.e has said of her second album. For the Los-Angeles-based artist, Girl in the Half Pearl represents a new era of musical expression, one that is about far more than just a progression in sound or the finessing of one’s craft. Across seventeen songs which track the complexities of love, heartbreak and womanhood, Liv.e paints a picture of liberation, depicting the maturity needed to piece together fragments that have been previously broken down by emotions like anguish and hurt. In its emphasis on reclamation and growth, Girl in the Half Pearl portrays Liv.e at her most authentic and honest, which in turn allows her the space to continue her avant-garde explorations of genre and form.

Since her 2017 EP FRANK, Liv.e has been effortlessly blending neo-soul with experimental production, eclectic R&B and chopped up jazz, thriving on the unpredictable and unexpected with each release.
Girl in the Half Pearl is a metamorphosis in many ways, encapsulating the stress, deep introspection and eventual acceptance that goes hand in hand with the desire to access a complete sense of freedom. It’s an album that is hard to categorise but its methodical beats, otherworldly production, intriguingly chaotic clashes of melody and hazy vocals all inexplicably mesh together, with Liv.e leaning further and further towards that vital point of breakthrough.

Read more... The Quietus

San of the Rambutan - The Legend of Rabona (EP)

The Legend of Rabona

by San of the Rambutan