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Best Albums of April 2024 Playlist

Best Albums of April 2024 Playlist

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Niecy Blues - Exit Simulation

Exit Simulation

NIECY BLUES

Released 10 November 2023

kranky

*****

Although it escaped our attention upon release late last year, the gentle aesthetic of Neicy Blues' "Exit Simulation" opens new territory in the world of spiritual jazz and pairs beautifully with the much-anticipated new flute-based work by British composer and bandleader Shabaka, released this month.

 

South Carolina singer and producer Niecy Blues describes her songwriting process like an undertow: “I feel a strange pull, and let it carry me, following swirling leaves… whole days roll by, forgetting about the body.” Their full-length debut, Exit Simulation, captures this sense of deep-rooted
divination, cycling between simmering ballads, ghosted R&B, downtempo gospel, and looped vocal improvisations – often within the same track. The title is taken from a science fiction novel she read during the purgatory of the pandemic, alluding to a dimensional ideation of departure – “the permission to imagine leaving.”

Recorded in her current home of Charleston, she characterizes the album’s mood in terms both reflective and raw: an exploration of things suppressed, foundations beginning to crack, “talking myself off a ledge.” The music of Niecy Blues transposes reverie and reckoning into emotive devotionals of keys, guitar, bass, synth, and bewitched voice, steeped in sacred atmospheres gleaned from a youth spent in a religious Oklahoma household: “My first experience with ambient music was church – slow
songs of worship, with delay on the guitar… even if you don’t believe, you feel something.”

Read more ... Bandcamp

Shabaka - Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace

Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace

SHABAKA

Released 12 April 2024

Impulse Records

*****

There isn't anything incendiary or fiery about Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace. Its gentle, warm production and unhurried playing are deceptive: These tunes, as rendered, are far more complex in arrangement and presentation than they appear. Combined, they reveal the artist's pursuit of creative excellence as an aesthetic practice with a spiritual dimension.

 

In 2023, jazzman Shabaka Hutchings announced he would be shelving his saxophone for the foreseeable future. A consequential decision, it meant the end of Sons of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming, two of the three groups that established his reputation.

In November 2022, he foreshadowed that assertion with Afrikan Culture, recorded mostly solo on shakuhachi, flute, and clarinet. He followed it in 2023 with the mysterious jazz/hip-hop offering Flowers in the Dark by Kofi Flexxx on Native Rebel Recordings.

Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace was recorded by Maureen Sickler at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey in 2022. Unlike anything he's released yet, Shabaka uses wits and intuition to summon this music up from his unconscious. He's assisted by a studio cast that includes pianists Nduduzo Makhathini and Jason Moran, drummers Nasheet Waits and Marcus Gilmore, flutist Andre 3000, percussionist Carlos Nino, harpists Brandee Younger and Charles Overton, bassists Esperanza Spalding and Tom Herbert, multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Floating Points, and vocalists.

Read more ... AllMusic

Lizz Wright - Shadow_edited.jpg

Shadow

LIZZ WRIGHT

Released 12 April 2024

Blues & Greens Records

*****

“Shadow is the result of patiently feeling and exploring grief while also celebrating the kind of love that becomes more apparent and powerful in the presence of loss and uncertainty."

 

Acclaimed vocalist Lizz Wright embraces her newfound freedom with a classic recording that encapsulates an illustrious 20-year career since the release of her debut album, Salt (Verve, 2003).

Wright’s studio debut on her label Blues & Greens Records (with licensing/distribution through Lightyear Entertainment/Virgin Music), the forthcoming album, Shadow, solidifies Wright as one of the great modern American singers. Wright celebrates intimacy, loss, community, and healing.  

On Shadow Wright pens five originals including “Root of Mercy,” “Circling,” “This Way,” “Sparrow” which features Angelique Kidjo and “Your Love” with Meshell Ndegeocello. She showcases along with her own works singular renditions of songs by Cole Porter, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Sandy Denny, Candi Staton, Toshi Reagon, and Caitlin Canty.

Wright invited her musical family to Chicago to record with renowned engineer Ryan Freeland (he recorded her latest studio album, Grace) – who recently engineered Bonnie Raitt’s GRAMMY Award-winner, Just Like That. Shadow was produced by longtime collaborator/music director Chris Bruce (Seal, Bettye LaVette, Sheryl Crow) and was executive produced by Lizz Wright. Other performers and collaborators include Adam Levy, Lynne Earls, Justin Hicks, Morley Kamen, Jack DeBoe, Ben Zwerin, Kenny Banks Sr., Glenn Patscha, Deantoni Parks, and Rashaan Carter. Featured contributions also include violinist Trina Basu and Carnatic violinist Arun Ramamurthy, harpist Brandee Younger, composer Hanna Benn, and Chicago-based string players.

 

Read more ... Lizz Wright

Vampire Weekend - Only God Was Above Us

Only God Was Above Us

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

Released 5 April 2024

Columbia Records

*****

Only God Was Above Us isn't just a great album in its own right -- it's one that enriches the understanding of Vampire Weekend's entire history.

 

Father of the Bride (2019) showed that Vampire Weekend's willingness to challenge assumptions about their music was as important as their willingness to examine memories and history. They continue to do both brilliantly on Only God Was Above Us, albeit in radically different ways.

Where Father's leisurely sprawl reflected the band's adopted home of Los Angeles, God uses pre-9/11 New York City as a framework for ten urgent musings on how history happens. Its songs are packed with thoughts and allusions that go as deep as subways and are piled as high as skyscrapers. taking its name from a 1996 New York article, "Prep School Gangsters" combines school day memories and generational cycles of poverty and prosperity with surprising joy.

Though the band twines and unpacks cultural narratives more overtly than ever before, it never feels simplistic.

Ezra Koenig's wordplay remains dazzling, resulting in pearls like "A staircase up to nothingness/Inside your DNA" on "Classical"'s melancholy study of how history is written by the winners. When he combines his deceptively simple rhymes and complex ideas with Father of the Bride's emotional openness on "Capricorn," which extends compassion to the generations "sifting through the centuries for moments of your own," it makes for some of Vampire Weekend's most moving music.

 

Read more ... The Quietus

Nick Cave, Warren Ellis - Back To Black (Original Motion Picture Score)

Back To Black

(Original Motion Picture Score)

NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS

Released 12 April 2024

Back Lot Music / Focus Features

*****

Back to Black is essentially a gentle, forgiving film and there are other, tougher, bleaker ways to put Winehouse’s life on screen – but Abela conveys her tenderness, and perhaps most poignantly of all her youth, so tellingly at odds with that tough image and eerily mature voice". The Guardian 

 

The film has received mixed reviews, most of which focus on its not attempting to provide the definitive biography or delve forensically into story of her tragic deterioration and ending, nor to deliver the definitive musical bibliography.

Instead, the film explores relationships that surrounded Amy, while remaining more generously sympathetic to the characters surrounding her than earlier documentaries following her death had conceded.

In press materials for her film, director Taylor-Johnson said  of Cave and Ellis’ musical contributions: “Nick and Warren were the only musicians in my mind to score Back to Black. Over the years I’ve listened to everything they’ve composed and longed to realize the dream of working together.  Their sensibility as well as understanding of this story has led to a profoundly deep and moving film score.”

SunNeverSetsOnMusic

Four Tet - Three

Three

FOUR TET

Released 15 March 2024

Text Records

*****

The twelfth Four Tet record offers up a rich sonic collage, club-friendly hi-hat patterns, and plenty of plinky-plonky pleasantness – in short, everything you would expect from the 12th Four Tet record

Despite recent public bromances and reports of dropping Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ into sets to please his daughter, Three, Hebden’s twelfth as Four Tet, rarely goes off-piste from what we’ve come to expect. Opener ‘Loved’ could have fitted neatly into almost any album from the last twenty years or so, while ‘Storm Crystals’ exemplifies the patchwork layering of sound that is his stock in trade. Only ‘Daydream Repeat’ hints at this pacier, dance-oriented iteration of Hebben, with its skittering, fizzing hi-hats and tubular swathes of feedback, which then transmogrify into some ice cream van–like pinky-plonkiness. Its arrival as fourth track brings a welcome levity to proceedings and you sort of wish there was more of it.

Nevertheless, if Three is predictable in its lack of surprises, in Hebden’s case, that can only mean what’s on offer is sturdy and assured. As a producer, he’s a master craftsman, working with his head to delicately manipulate the listener’s heart. Everything is pristine and spiritually uplifting.

For any fans who like consistency in their Four Tet albums, Three will be the magic number. What anybody else thinks will unlikely concern him.

Read more ... The Quietus

Emma Donovan - Til My Song Is Done

Til My Song Is Done

EMMA DONOVAN

Released 19 April 2024

Jindahood / Cooking Vinyl Australia

*****

"I know this album is just the start of continuing to stand strong not only for my daughters but for all the other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women working in the Australian music industry today".

Faced with an opportunity to record her first solo album since the 2004 EP project titled Changes, and her first album after eight years without The Putbacks ensemble, Donovan says she was propelled into some deep introspection.

“I wanted to approach the album as a clean slate, but looking back at what makes me who I am,” Donovan explains. “I began by asking myself, who am I? Who is Emma Donovan? And what do I want to do? I want to be the deadly granddaughter, niece and daughter. I want to make my family proud.

Til My Song is Done is honouring that legacy of our family country music ways.

“That's exactly what this album is for me, like if they're proud and they're happy, if the family is honoured, that's all I need to know. And mum would be proud.

Read more ... Emma Donovan

Jessica Mauboy - Yours Forever

Yours Forever

JESSICA MAUBOY

Released 9 February 2024

Jamally / Warner Music Australia

****-

Long established as one of Australia's foremost performers in pop music, television, film and celebrity, Jessica Mauboy's fifth solo album finds her at a new label with broadened musical ambitions.

She jumps between gospel-inspired soul (Give You Love), fierce funk (Flashback), effortless mainstream, vibey pop (The Loneliest I Ever Was, Whitney), trap (Tell ‘Em), and acoustic balladry (Goodbye).
Mauboy has bravely decided to simplify her melodies and instrumentation – going for less is more and succeeding in the results. She’s also accepted that her voice has changed over time, with her vocals now packed with an at-times perfectly dirty rock and roll rasp.

She’s not just the girl next door R&B singer you’ve come to know (or still expect). She’s so much more.

Read more ... The Music,

Audrey Powne - From The Fire

From The Fire

AUDREY POWNE

Released 26 April 2024

BBE Music

*****

Audrey Powne's stunning debut album is set to be one of those must have LPs in any music lover's collection. Something of an auteur release it features nine tracks all composed by Audrey, with all string arrangements and all produced by her.

UK-based Naarm/Melbourne artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist Audrey Powne is a creative force carving out a distinctive path in the future jazz and soul world.

Having honed her craft in the vibrant Melbourne music scene Powne can now be found performing in some of the most visionary musical circles globally. 

Audrey's decision to produce the whole album herself came from a desire to take creative control of her music and apply techniques developed from the influences of the producers she had previously worked with.

If all of the above were not enough Audrey also wrote the lyrics for those tracks on which she sings, and as a multi-instrumentalist contributes piano, Rhodes and organ. She also features as a trumpeter with dextrous and soaring solos,

Read more ... Bandcamp

Thom Yorke - Confidenza (Original Soundtrack)

Confidenza

(Original Soundtrack)

THOM YORKE

Released 26 April 2024

Unsustainabubble / XL Recordings

*****

Enigmatic, claustrophobic and intense – amplified by Thom Yorke’s score – Confidenza is an exquisite thriller and a deep analysis of human behaviour.

 

Pietro is a revered teacher, Teresa his brilliant and precocious student. Their affair is both illicit and tempestuous. After one fight, Teresa suggests that each tell the other a secret, one so shameful or shocking that were it to be made public, it would destroy that person’s life.

Time passes, Pietro’s stature as a writer grows and his family settles into the comfort of a bourgeois life. But he is haunted by the possibility that Teresa may one day reappear and tear apart his world with the secret she knows.

Daniele Luchetti’s first collaboration with Elio Germano, Mio fratello è figlio unico (2007), established the actor’s reputation. With Confidenza, both the filmmaker and the star profit from a partnership that has grown creatively richer.

Confidenza follows Yorke’s previous full-length score and original soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 Suspiria remake, receiving a Grammy-nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

Produced by Sam Petts-Davies (Suspiria, The Smile, Wall Of Eyes), Confidenza sees Petts-Davies and Yorke working again with the London Contemporary Orchestra alongside a jazz ensemble which included Robert Stillman and fellow The Smile bandmate Tom Skinner.

In 2019 Yorke contributed music to Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn and in 2022 he wrote two original tracks for the series finale of Peaky Blinders

 

Read more ... IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam)Happy Valley Shop

Baby Rose, BADBADNOTGOOD - Slow Burn (EP)

Slow Burn (EP)

BABY ROSE, BADBADNOTGOOD

Released 12 April 2024

Secretly Canadian

****-

Less than a year after her album Through and Through, Baby Rose returns with Slow Burn, a collection of songs that explode her sonic palette from progressive R&B into a rawer, richer and more spraw ling lens of American music. Here, Rose asserts herself as not only a once-in-ten-lifetimes vocalist, but as a formidable songwriter connecting the dots where Muscle Shoals meets psych, psych meets jazz, jazz meets Americana, and the right players bring it all together.

Baby Rose was already a powerful position player — she can share the stage with Robert Glasper without breaking a sweat, or close an epic film like Creed III, for which she performed the closing credit song, with steely confidence. When Rose first met with BADBADNOTGOOD the idea was to say hello, get acquainted, see what a collaboration could, over time, potentially become. But the connection was instant, and together they put down lead single “One Last Dance” in just that first meeting. It was Rose’s first freestyle vocal, and it snapped crucial pieces of her vision into focus. “I’ve known deep down there were new spaces and sounds that I could rise to,” Rose explains. “I’ve always been into different sounds that bring in those rawer textures.” And so while the speed of their collaboration thrilled and surprised Rose, the potential and the end results did not. “We moved quickly,” she says, “and it really was a faucet. Once we got ‘One Last Dance’, it became clear everything was going to flow.”

Read more ... Bandcamp

Red Hot Org, Meshell Ndegeocello - Red Hot & Ra The Magic City

Red Hot & Ra : The Magic City

RED HOT ORG, MERSHELL NDEGEOCELLO

Released 12 April 2024

Red Hot Organisation

****-

Now, some 34 years and 23 albums since the release of Red Hot + Blue, the newest curator of the series is the GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist and all-around musical maestro Meshell NdegeocelloHere the focus (as it has been for a previous compilation) is your favorite jazz musician’s favorite jazz musician, Sun Ra.

Red Hot Org, is a non-profit 50(c)(3) organization that fundraises for health pandemics by financing organizations on the front lines of global health epidemics, epidemics and health crises.

Through music and film, Red Hot works to lay the foundations of lasting change. Challenging stigma, highlighting resources and uplifting communities are important steps to dealing with wide spread diseases. 

In 1990, the Red Hot Organization launched with Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter, with his songs interpreted by prominent musical artists of the time (Neneh Cherry, The Neville Brothers, Sinead O'Connor, Salif Keita, Fine Young Cannibals, Debby Harry & Iggy Pop, Kirsty McColl & The Pogues, Tom Waits, Annie Lennox, U2, Les Negresses Vertes, k.d. lang., Thompson Twins, Erasure, Jungle Brothers, Lisa Stansfield, Jimmy Somerville, Jody Watley, Aztec Camera). The aim of the project (other than the musical one) was to raise awareness and funds for the HIV/Aids crisis.

Read more ...Bandcamp, Albumism

Ngaiire, Sydney Symphony Orchestra - Live at The Sydney Opera House

Live at The Sydney Opera House

NGAIIRE

AND THE SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Released 26 April 2024

Dot Dash Recordings

****-

It is an extraordinary performance, heaving with her trademark energy and rhythmic drive but now coupled with the power and textural richness of the Sydney Symphony. Even after all this time, Ngaiire is still pinching herself that it ever happened.

 

Hailing from the Eastern Highlands & New Ireland provinces of Papua New Guinea, Sydney-based Ngaiire has a career that crosses genre and artform.

Recipient of 4 National Live Music Awards & the inaugural Australian Women in Music Award for Artistic Excellence, Ngaiire’s music is celebrated around the world & seen her grace the stages of Glastonbury to to tours with Sufjan Stevens & Alicia Keys.

In 2022, Ngaiire and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra gave a sold-out performance on the Forecourt of the Sydney Opera House as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, with thousands of people captivated by this extraordinary performer. 

The concert feature many of the songs from Ngaiire's exceptional 2021 break-out album "3".

 

Read more ... Bandcamp, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Itamar Erez, Hamin Hanori - Migrant Voices (EP)

Migrant Voices (EP)

ITMAR EREZ & HAMIN HANORI

Released 26 April 2024

Itmar Erez

****-

“Migrant Voices” is a testament to the power of music to transcend cultural boundaries and unite people from different backgrounds. Itamar Erez and Hamin Honari have crafted a beautiful and thought-provoking album that speaks to the universal language of music.

 

"Migrant Voices" is the delightful product of a musical collaboration between two Vancouver-based artists - Israeli-Canadian guitarist, composer, pianist Itamar Erez and Iranian-Canadian percussionist-educator Hamin Honari, who has specialized in the Persian hand drums tombak and daf.

Erez blends the delicateness of Middle Eastern music, the freedom found in jazz and the passion of flamenco in his work. Hanori is known for his ongoing work with local heroes guitarist-oud player Gordon Grdina and clarinetist François Houle.

This album documents a short, free improvised meeting of Erez and Honari that most likely would not be possible in the present-day Middle East. It was the first time that Erez recorded free improvised music and he concluded that it was an «amazing experience». The album mixes their diverse cultural influences and highlights the spontaneous interplay between guitar and percussion and the profound and immediate rapport of these gifted musicians.

 

Read more ... salt peanuts

Oceanvs Orientalis - Portrait of the Obscure

Portrait of the Obscure

OCEANVS ORIENTALIS

Released 25 April 2024

Crosstown Rebels

****-

‘Portrait of the Obscure’ is a magnificent snapshot of the unique musical mind of Oceanvs Orientalis, that speaks to the universal language of music.

 

Safak Oz Kutle, known as Oceanvs Orientalis, is a producer and live performer based in Istanbul. His musical style intricately weaves together diverse sonic tapestries of wide-spanning genres and cultures, and through his creative fusion of these influences, he crafts an immersive world that takes you far away from the usual club music references. His music serves as a celebration of his musical heritage, and this has never been truer than on his superb new album ‘Portrait of the Obscure’, which again pushes traditional boundaries within the electronic sphere. The nine-track LP project features a showcase of solo and collaborative material alongside close friends such as Tooker, Idil Mese and Tilahun Gessesse, delivering a journey into the creative mind of one of the scene’s most intriguing talents

 

Read more ... phonica records

Mari Samuelsen - LOVE (EP)

LOVE

MARI SAMUELSEN

Released 19 April 2024

UMG Recordings

****-

Samuelsen pairs celebrated guest artists with compositions by contemporary composers, focusing on the theme of Love

Violinist Mari Samuelsen first came to prominence for her duo albums and performances with her brother Håkon, but broke out as a global artist in 2019 with her debut solo album for Deutsche Grammophon, which brought her classical training and audience to minimalist pieces by Philip Glass, Max Richter, Jon Hopkins. Brian Eno, Johann Johannsson alongside others by JS Bach. 

She followed this in 2022 with Lys (which means light in her native Norwegian language) with pieces on this theme by female composers or artists.

Her latest release, which perhaps reflects her recently having given birth, continues the approach pairing various guest artists (including Brian Eno, Olafur Arnalds, Hanna Peel, Jon Hopkins and Hakon Samuelsen) around compositions focusing on the theme of Love by contemporary composers Olafur Arnalds (Iceland), Meredi (Armenia/Germany) Ludovico Einaudi (Italy), Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Germany), Hannah Peel (Ireland) and Brian Eno (UK).

In a period of rising climatic and political tensions, we have witnessed a proliferation of Jazz musicians such as Andre 300, Shabaka and Alabaster DePlume reaching for flutes and softened expression ("Ambient Jazz"?), Samuelsen moves on a parallel trajectory influenced by (neo) classical and contemporary and electronic music.

Helena Basilova - Homage to Ryuichi Sakamoto

Homage to Ryuichi Sakamoto

HELENA BASILOVA

Released 19 April 2024

Doorway Music

****-

The twelfth Four Tet record offers up a rich sonic collage, club-friendly hi-hat patterns, and plenty of plinky-plonky pleasantness – in short, everything you would expect from the 12th Four Tet record

Amsterdam pianist Helena Basilova presents a beautiful album of works by the groundbreaking composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, (best known for the soundtrack for Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 epic The Last Emperor), who passed away last year.
Basilova's album which was recorded in Nils Frahm's studio.is a tribute to Sakamoto's .musical legacy. A must for fans of ambient and minimal music! 

The discovery of Sakamoto's music was a great inspiration for Helena to reimagine the possibilities of piano sounds. It opened doors to experiment with electronic music and pushed boundaries to write music and work on large-scale audiovisual productions. Carefully selected from Helena's favorite Sakamoto albums: Async, Out of noise, 12, Insen and Playing the Piano, she brings a new anthology with a fresh sound. Played in her own way, timing and with alternative electronic soundscapes. 

Read more ... Visit Nijmegen

Bill Frisell - Orchestras (Live)

Orchestras (Live)

BILL FRISELL

Released 19 April 2024

Blue Note Records

*****

A rare recording in which a sprawling symphonic ensemble moves as if by intuition, urging one of jazz’s best small groups toward their next spontaneous discovery.

In the trio format he’s favored throughout his career, the guitarist and composer Bill Frisell has always projected an orchestral scope through his remarkably complete sense of harmony, a unique gift for melodies that remain with you long after a performance, and a keen feel for how dynamic range can be used to convey emotion.

But on his new double album Orchestras, he makes those symphonic evocations a reality.

Produced by Lee Townsend, Orchestras documents two inspired concert hall engagements arranged by Michael Gibbs for Frisell’s trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston:

LP1 featuring the nearly 60-piece Brussels Philharmonic, conducted by Alexander Hanson;

and LP2 with the 11-piece Umbria Jazz Orchestra, under the musical direction of Manuele Morbidini.

“The idea is that we’re always going to be on the edge of what we know,” Frisell says, “or hopefully off the edge of what we know, into some sort of uncharted territory. We were still playing whatever comes into our imagination.”

Read more ... Blue Note

Makez - Midnight Time (EP)

Midnight Time (EP)

MAKEZ

Released 15 March 2024

Heist Recordings

****-

Amsterdam based duo Makèz is known for their ability to smoothly blend the wide range of music that has always inspired them -soul, jazz, disco- with classic house sounds from the genre's early days

Makèz deliver the perfect follow up to their 2023 hit ‘Downstream’ with L.A. artist Life on Planets, blending the intricate, soulful songs and punchy club tracks we’ve come to love from Makèz.

Opening track ‘Closer’ is laidback, full of textures and rich musical elements and a perfect mood-setter for the EP.

‘Running from the noise’ (with Life on Planets on vocals) follow's - just as breezy and effortless as the duo’s previous hit, but goes even deeper and minimalistic. There’s definitely something in the air when these artists get together in the studio; The music is warm, fuzzy, and inviting, but most importantly, just about as sexy as can be.
‘Midnight time’ is another collaboration with AVA LAVÁ, and takes the EP into the club realm, while still keeping things jazzy. Everything about this track is infectious and you can just feel this go off in a club.
And that club is exactly where we end up on the B-side, with ‘The Answer’ and ‘Gratitude’. Both have their own direction; ‘The Answer’ is a Chicago-inspired jam with acid licks, a powerful male vocal and clean 909 drums, where ‘Gratitude’ goes deeper with its haunting strings, clever vocal chops and loops and synths that somehow resemble static noise from an old radio.

With their ‘Midnight Time’ EP, Makèz treat us to a gorgeous journey through their sonic world, a place we’re happy to hang out for a long, long time.

Read more ... Bandcamp

Fred Hersch, Esperanza Spalding - Alive at the Village Vanguard

Alive at the Village Vanguard

FRED HERSCH, ESPERANZA SPALDING

Released 16 January 2023

Palmetto Records

****-
Alive at the Village Vanguard showcases the astonishing chemistry shared by these two master musicians, who bring out distinctive aspects in each other’s playing.

Pianist/composer Fred Hersch and vocalist/bassist/songwriter esperanza spalding can both be counted among the most acclaimed and inventive artists in modern jazz.

The Village Vanguard is the music’s most revered venue, having played host to countless legendary musicians and beloved live recordings.

Alive at the Village Vanguard, a rare opportunity for listeners to enjoy the singular and thrilling collaboration between two marquee jazz artists at the top of their game.

The duo and the club converge for a magical performance on Hersch and spalding have convened for only a handful of New York City performances since their first meeting in 2013 during the pianist’s annual duo series at the Jazz Standard. In that limited time the pair has developed a wholly personal approach, not only in the annals of piano-voice duets but in their own already highly individual practices. Taking the stage with no set arrangements and only a vague sense of the repertoire they’ll explore, the dauntless pair delights in playing without a safety net.

Alive at the Village Vanguard marks Hersch’s sixth recording from the storied club, where he’s been invited to headline three weeks annually for many years. The album also vividly spotlights Hersch’s stunning sensitivity and engagement as a duo partner; in recent years he’s worked in a similar setting with such incredible musicians as guitarists Julian Lage and Bill Frisell, clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and trumpet maestro Enrico Rava.

Read more ... Palmetto Records

Gilad Hekselman - Life, at the Village Vanguard

Life, at the Village Vanguard

GILAD HEKSELMAN

Released 5 April 2024

La Reserve Records

****-

Gilad Hekselman is one of today's most prominent jazz guitar players. The winner of Downbeat's 2017 Rising Star Guitarist and producer of 10 award-winning albums under his own name, he tours extensively world-wide with his own band and is the sideman of choice for many top artists on the New York jazz scene.

The Israeli-born Hekselman, leads an elite quartet, with pianist Shai Maestro and drummer Eric Harland from the guitarist’s stellar 2002 Far Star (Edition) along with esteemed bassist Larry Grenadier.

The guitarist is already in the same conversation with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Pat Matheny in terms of his crystalline, warm tone, clear articulation, and far-ranging improvisational ideas.

This marks his eleventh album as a leader, and many of the greats of comparable ilk as these three have graced his albums. (Only the best gets a week-long residency at The Village Vanguard).

Two of the tracks are from Hekselman's 2022 masterpiece, Far Star, with a cover of John Coltrane’s “Equinox” and Matt Dennis’ “Everything Happens to Me.”

The other two are originals.

Shortly after inking the agreement for the five-night Village Vanguard booking for the recording of this album, the guitarist and his wife found out she was pregnant and expecting that same week. Long story short, they prepared for the birth at home with a midwife and less than two hours before the guitarist was due onstage for his fifth show, his wife delivered their baby girl.

With everyone safe and resting, and with his wife’s approval, Hekselman rushed to the gig, arriving to a giant ovation from the crowd who had been alerted to what was happening. On the unedited recording of the moment, you can hear the beaming guitarist, saying to his band, “I just want to make music now.”

Read more ... Palmetto Records

Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Adrian Younge - Sugar Season 1 Apple TV+ Original Series Soundtrack

Sugar Season 1

Apple TV+

Original Series Soundtrack

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD, ADRIAN YOUNGE

Released 5 April 2024

Apple Video Programming

****-

While unfolding the investigative endeavors of its titular character, Sugar also features several background scores and tracks that perfectly complement its drama.

Sugar on Apple TV+ expertly blends classic noir elements with a contemporary twist, keeping viewers intrigued with diverse tracks and story twists.

Music plays a crucial role in enhancing the impact of Sugar's mystery drama, adding heft to story beats and intensifying the overall experience.

The impact of its story is further intensified by a diverse set of songs meticulously placed to add more heft to every scene they play in.
Sugar's episodes 1 and 2 give a glimpse of the titular characters' motivations and moral inclinations while setting the stage for the central mystery.
The opening theme is Kamasi Washington's "Street Fighter Mas" and the first couple of episodes alone feature songs by a stellar array of progressive artists Arve Henriksen, Shirley Horn, Mdou Moctar, Julian Lage, UFO, Alabaster Deplume, Bob Marley & The Wailers and Rosalia in addition to much more incidental music by Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge.

Read more ... Screen Rant

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - Challengers (Original Score)

Challengers (Original Score)

TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS

Released 26 April 2024

MGM Pictures / Sony Music

****-

A collection of rapid-fire instrumentals that throb and gallop like a ball being whizzed across the court. “It allows the audience to feel this fire between these characters that never goes away”

Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers” is sweaty, sexy and full of angst. The film, which hits theaters April 26, centers on a love triangle between three tennis players with deeply competitive spirits both in the game and off the court.

A pivotal device in the film is the score itself, composed by two-time Oscar winners (and former Nine Inch Nails members) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Inspired by Berlin techno and ‘90s rave music, the score amplifies the stress and strain of the scenes at hand, lending an urgency to the film that already teeters on the precipice of anxiety. “‘Challengers’ had two elements that were very powerful in terms of sound,” says Guadanigno in a clip premiering exclusively on Variety. “One was the erotic crunchy pulse of tennis. The racket swinging, the ball hitting, bones crushing. And on the other hand, the pulse and energy of the score.”

Once the film wrapped, they received an email from the director mentioning his next project. “The way he described ‘Challengers’ was on a one-sentence email,” recalls Ross. “‘Do you want to be on my next film? It’s going to be super sexy.’ Two x’s.” 

“Luca said, ‘What if all the music was driving, thumping techno, like a heartbeat that makes the movie fun?’” adds Reznor.

 

Read more ... Variety

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Boys Noize - Challengers [MIXED]

Challengers [MIXED]

TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS, BOYZNOIZE

Released 12 April 2024

MGM Pictures / Sony Music

****-

Not only is it a compelling, danceable way to listen to the music from the movie, but taken on its own, it is one of the year’s best electronic records.

A few weeks ago Alexander Ridha, a German DJ, producer and performer better known as his stage name Boys Noize, got a phone call. It was Trent Reznor, the mind behind pioneering industrial band Nine Inch Nails and now, with his partner Atticus Ross, one of the most in-demand film composers working today. Reznor and Ridha had flirted with collaboration before; Ridha made a veiled reference to a secret project from a few years go that fell apart. But Reznor had a new proposition for Ridha: would he remix their score for director Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming tennis movie “Challengers?”

“He explained to me that they’ve scored the movie, it’s great. But they don’t want to release the music as it is. Because it makes more sense in the movie raw, like they have it. But he didn’t feel like it’s the right way,” Ridha said. “I think they wanted to try out new things and experiment. They had the idea of making it this this type of continuous mix.”

Thus, “Challengers [MIXED]” was born.

 

Read more ... The Wrap

El Michels Affair - Boy Kills World (Songs from the Original Motion Picture)

Boy Kills World

(Songs from the Original Motion Picture)

EL MICHELS AFFAIR

Released 26 April 2024

Lakeshore Records

*****

Alongside the movie's dark humor, El Michels Affairs' excellent songs punctuate and animate the most violent film of 2024.

 

El Michel's Affairs is a New York based instrumental group led by Leon Michaels, whose music has been described as "cinematic soul" - a legacy of Michaels' career working with scores of artists ranging from Wu-Tang Clan to Beyoncé and Jay Z to Mavis Staples, The Black Keys and Black Thought!⁠ and an impressive catalogue of outstanding original albums in collaboration with others, especially in recent years.

Once again, Michaels' songs for "Boy Kills World" draw from a wide range of influences (an attractive feature of all his work) to create a loose, somewhat shambolic atmosphere. The songs set in sharp contrast to Ludvig Fossell's score, which is dark and foreboding, though not overwhelming.

This juxtaposition is the musical equivalent of the dark humor that permeates this ultra-violent film.

As a stand-alone album, without access to the movie and/or the score, the martial aspects of the movie are invisible, except that the titular "BK Theme" which concludes the album is a haunting dirge worthy of a Morricone western, perhaps subtly ominous and evocative of the carnage ahead.

El Michels Affair songs, which draw from disparate influences (polka, mariachi, eastern european, ragtime, trip-hop), are totally original, yet seemingly familiar. The drums and harpsichord of "Strings and Hammers" recall "Paint It Black", while the woosey "Butterflies" would fit nicely into a "Twin Peaks" episode. "Arping" adopts the rolling rhythm of Mezzanine-era Massive Attack and "I Get Mine" pairs Annabella Lwin/Bow Wow Wow vocals with marching-band drumming.

The conventional approach (the popular heavy-metal or punk-rock path) would have surprised nobody, so this is an inspired piece of work that will surely attain cult-status, even if the movie itself does not.

SunNeverSetsOnMusic

Ludvig Forssell - Boy Kills World (Original Motion Picture Score)

Boy Kills World

(Original Motion Picture Score)

LUDVIG FORSSELL

Released 26 April 2024

Lakeshore Records

***--

 

Accompanying the most violent film of 2024, the score is an intense listening experience - perhaps even darker than the movie itself, which is relieved by dark humor and El Michels Affairs' excellent songs.

“Boy Kills World” will go down as the most violent film of 2024, maybe the decade, as the cartoonish mayhem involves severed limbs, smashed faces, shootings, stabbings, and a grueling-to-watch anti-Olive Garden cheese grater scene heightened by Boy’s inability to suggest “Tell me when to stop.”

The Ludvig Forssell score is dark and brooding, as might be expected for such a movie, in contrast to El Michels Affairs' lively songs, which aninate the in-cinema experience of the film.

Extensively relying on Hans Zimmer-like swells of reverberating, massed strings to represent tension and danger and with most tracks running less than two minutes, the music supports the narrative of the film, without the opportunity to develop an independant musical narrative. 

There is no escaping that the dominant impression left by this movie is of it's violence. Unsurprisingly, the score is an intense experience. Arguably, as a stand-alone piece of music, the score may even be darker-themed than the movie, as it is released here without the relief of the film's black humor and El Michels Affairs' excellent songs.

Incongruously and jarringly, the score finishes with a ridiculous jingle for "Frosty Puffs" cereal (the sponsor of The Culling - an annual televised rounding-up and execution event).

Read more ... Variety

Brian Eno - Eno (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Eno

(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

BRIAN ENO

Released 26 April 2024

Universal Music

****-

Eno has been one of the icons of British music for over 50 years, in a career that started out with Roxy Music, includes collaborations with Bowie, Byrne, U2 (and many more) as musician and producer, and the popularisation (if not the invention) of Ambient Music .

Eno (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), as the title suggests, is the official soundtrack to the 2024 Gary Hustwit documentary Eno. Brian Eno has been making music since his debut with Roxy Music in 1971, after leaving Roxy Music he embarked on a stellar solo career that not only involved many brilliant albums, but included incredible production credits, art installations, art, using technology to create new forms of art, and so much more. A documentary is long overdue, and this soundtrack serves as a tidy sampler of his vast discography. So far, in his career, Eno has released 30 studio albums and a further 22 collaborative albums. Quite an incredible career, and this does not take into account his work with Roxy Music or as a producer.Eno is not even a best of or a collection of rarities. This is a soundtrack. It is interesting that the majority of the album features his collaborations and focuses on more recent music than diving into his early 1970s music.

Read more ... SPILL Magazine

GoGo Penguin - From The North GoGo Penguin Live In Manchester

From The North

GoGo Penguin Live In Manchester

GOGO PENGUIN

Released 5 April 2024

XXIM Records

****-

From delicate ditties to epic swells and cascading melodies, their music has been of such exceptional quality across their lifespan, that their status is almost unparalleled.

The modern jazz trio GoGo Penguin have been wowing audiences for years with their piano, double bass and drum set-up.

Band members have rotated over the years but their sound is still laser precise. It takes a lot to provide a cohesive musical experience with new bandmates but GoGo Penguin have made it work.

‘From The North’ is a new 7-track live recording of tracks which focus on their 2023 album ‘Everything is Going To Be OK’.

Not only does the songwriting showcase melodies and emotional waves that get right under your skin, but the release showcases a live one-take setting.

Each note, pluck and beat is in tempo. It portrays a trio utterly in sync with each other and thankfully this full release was captured on video too.

Whilst the EP is out now to purchase, you can also enjoy the full performance on YouTube.

Get the lights down low, a drink in hand and enjoy musicianship at its finest.

Read more ... Higher Plane Music

Enji - The Trio Session (EP)

The Trio Session (EP)

ENJI

Released 19 April 2024

Squama

****-

Whether evoking dreams, capturing breathtaking views, or recounting village visits, her storytelling unfolds through rhythmic Mongolian melodies, highlighting her growth as a vocalist and bandleader.

Enji is a Mongolian singer currently based in Munich. Her third album Ulaan released July 28, 2023 was reviewed in our February 2024 playlist.

With this abbreviated release, Enji returns with captivating live trio versions of three songs from her last two records. With guitarist and co-composer Paul Brändle and River Adomeit on bass, Enji is embarking on her first tour through Europe in May, leaving behind memorable moments of quietude and strength.

Read more ... Bandcamp

Jonah Yano, Le Ren - the little italy demos (EP)

the little italy demos (EP)

JONAH YANO, LE REN

Released 5 April 2024

Innovative Leisure

****-

 I think these demos are a window into the short and special moment when we were on exactly the same page and wanted to make the same thing.

On the heels of an album with BADBADNOTGOOD and working with the likes of Clairo & Mustafa, Jonah Yano returns with another collaboration. This time with fellow Canadian and next door neighbor Le Ren.

Lauren and I met in summer of 2021 when I was first living in montreal. We were introduced over text by a mutual friend of ours. A few weeks after we first met we decided to get together and try working on music together - I had just finished recording Portrait of a Dog. The first day we wrote together it went so well that we got together again the next day, and the next, and the next. I think over 2 weeks we must've spent at least 10 days writing songs together and recording onto my 4 track and computer. We've been friends ever since and are now next door neighbours. We live in Little Italy(hence the EP name) and our apartments share the same wall. The 3 demos on this are definitely the best summary of what we wrote together. And actually even though we live so close to each other, we haven't really gotten back together to write much since.

Read more ... Bandcamp

Sam Anning - Earthen

EARTHEN

SAM ANNING

Released 5 April 2024

Earshift Music

****-

Sam Anning’ earthen draws on the resilience of spirit in a dedication to music icon Uncle Archie Roach.

Melbourne bassist-composer Sam Anning’s third septet album Earthen, is dedicated to the indomitable spirit of Indigenous Australian music icon, Uncle Archie Roach. Featuring an ensemble of long-time collaborators, Andrea Keller, Kyrie Anderson, Mat Jodrell, Carl Mackey, Julien Wilson, and Theo Carbo, the album draws on the deep well of Roach’s wisdom, connection to the moment, resilience of spirit, and the medicinal power of music. 

Anning’s experience as bassist for three years with Roach before his passing in 2022 was a profound and musically enriching journey. Roach was an award-winning singer-songwriter, musician and respected elder, known for his songs that often told powerful, poignant stories about Indigenous Australian experiences, particularly the pain and trauma of the Stolen Generations. The experience offered Anning a unique opportunity to contribute to a powerful legacy of social activism and healing through music, providing a profound connection with his music and his audiences, reflecting on the themes of loss, resilience and hope.

“We were gathered around Archie’s bed in the ICU, Stephen Magnusson and I had taken our instruments and were playing softly as he greeted and farewelled family.

He then gestured toward my bass “This is earthenware”, then at Stephen’s guitar “and this is earthenware. They are made from the earth, music comes from the earth and these instruments carry it, and it goes back to the earth”. 

In these final words to us he had distilled the entire experience we had had playing with, and marveling at, this great story-teller and songman.

Read more ... Earshift Music

Firetail - Undertow

Undertow

FIRETAIL

Released 4 April 2024

Firetail

****-

While unfolding the investigative endeavors of its titular character, Sugar also features several background scores and tracks that perfectly complement its drama.

Firetails music spans from 70’s jazz-fusion, South Indian Carnatic music and Melbourne's own brand of jazz-tronica. Formed in 2018 as a collaborative recording project the band has developed an ambient approach that mixes bass heavy rhythms with evocative melodies and driving percussion

Firetail describes this album as "a deep dive down the whirlpool of space-jazz-funk".

“Truly a musical journey that moves in and out of jazz and neo soul textures to progressive experimental post rock with heavy doses of psychedelia all smacked with a wet sloppy kiss of jazztronica flavors”......American Pancake

'Dadaistic nu jazz, by one of the best emerging acts from Australia' Last Day Deaf

"I love this uninhibited band not only for their absolute commitment to creating this whacky music, but because they have a distinctly Melbourne sound that never fails to bring me back to the dark, sticky bars of my hometown."ABC Jazz

“This is how musical cognition may sound” Grotesqualizer

Read more ... Firetail</