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2021 Year's Favourites SunNeverSetsOnMusic

2021 Year's Favourites SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Year's Favourites|2021

Lady Blackbird - Black Acid Soul

Black Acid Soul

by Lady Blackbird

Released 3 September 2021

Foundation Music Productions

*****

It has been nearly 18 months since LA-based Lady Blackbird dropped her debut single and signature song "Blackbird", an impassioned new interpretation of the 1966 Nina Simone classic. It was an astonishing appetiser for a promised debut album and was followed by a string of singles and remixes to further whet the appetite - all the while cheered along by no other than WorlwideFM & BBC6 Music's jazz tastemaker Gilles Peterson. 

Titled "Black Acid Soul", the debut album does not disappoint. It opens (unsurprisingly) with "Blackbird" - an appropriate choice, not only because of the fine quality of the performance by the artist formerly known as Marley Monroe. The song has allowed her, after many decades spent around the New York and LA scenes without ever breaking through to mainstream commercial success, to adopt an entirely new persona from which to steer her career in a dynamic new direction.

The album mines the potent legacy of 60's and 70's songwriting for half of it's material but its success derives not only from these strong song choices: the other half of the material is new songs penned by her producer Chris Seefried and they hold up well. But the ultimate value that elevates this album above the "covers album" status is the voice of Lady Blackbird, supported by expert technical production, and inspiredinstrumental performances (including the magnificent Voices Of East Harlem choir on "Beware the Stranger"). 

The previously-released opening track is followed by a slow blues "It's Not That Easy" - a 1967 song originally recorded by by Reuben Bell with his backing group The Casanovas, then the first pair of the Lady Blackbird / Seegfried originals, a tenderly-delivered "Fix It" and the sultry "Nobody's Sweetheart", which features an elegant trumpet solo from the great New Orleans virtuoso Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

A string of covers follow: Irma Thomas' "Ruler of My Heart" (1963); "Collage" (a Joe Walsh/James' Brothers 1973 composition previously covered by Three Degrees, Golden Earring and the Breeders); a slow-burning blues of Sam Cooke's "Lost and Looking", and a definitive cover of Tim Hardin's "It'll Never Happen Again" (1966). Sitting among this group  an original "Five Feet Tall", features vocal homage to Billie Holiday, and holds up well in strong company.

"Blackbird" aside, the other candidate for the most memorable song on this album is its final vocal track "Beware the Stranger" which Blackbird describes as "a re-rub of "Wanted Dead or Alive", a rare groove classic recorded by funk/gospel collective Voices of East Harlem in 1973 and co-produced by Curtis Mayfield. “It’s a version of a version!” she laughs.  “We changed the title, the gender, everything!

The album closes out with the searing instrumental "Black Acid Soul" from which the album takes its name. It speaks of both the “Jackson Pollock jams” Seefried describes in the studio and the mantric soul evocative of hot buttered soul-era Isaac Hayes. Explaining how the song became the title and then, again, the vibe, Lady Blackbird says: “We used to hashtag #blackacidsoul, as our sub-genre of music. It just encompassed everything we were doing.  It cemented all those ideas and genres in this made-up shit! “and because ‘ Blackbird’ is a great start to the album, because it gets dark and violent and goes somewhere spiritual, we wanted to tail the album with another expression of acid soul.  So that became the title track at the end".

Lady Blackbird is suppored throughout by a cracking group of musicians, particularly:

Deron Johnson playing Steinway Baby Grand, Mellotron, Casio Synth;
Jon Flaugher playing Double Bass;
Jimmy Paxson playing Drums, Percussion.

Source: Lady Blackbird

SAULT - NINE

NINE

by SAULT

Released 25 June 2021

Forever Living Originals

*****

The semi-anonymous collective SAULT took the world by storm over the past two years with a string of albums that were perfectly attuned to tihe times, musically and politically. 

(For those who were away, SAULT released "Five" and "Seven" in 2019 and Untitled (Black Is)" and "Untitled (Rise)" in 2020)

The early albums were remarkable for their fresh soulful sound, production and creativity."Untitled (Black Is)" released on Juneteenth, perfectly capured the rage of the Black Lives Matter movement especially following the spate of police brutality, including the public murder of George Floyd, in America."Nine"s predecessor,

"Untitled (Rise)" maintained the rage, but was more dance-oriented and celabratory of black pride.

"Nine"'s lyrical content is often lighthearted and filled with child-like chanting, and more overtly British, with "London Gangs" setting the tone as track two, "Mike's Story and the humorous "You From London" taking a swipe at Americans' view of Brits. 

Buiut there's a raw, lmost threatening edge to songs like "Fear" (three and a half minute chanted repettition of "The realest pain/
Pain is/ the pain is real"and "Bitter Streets" - a sweetly-sung, but dark warning tha will resonatw with minorities worldwide (Bitter streets/These roads ain't for the weak/Bitter streets/Don't fall asleep") and "Alcohol"Oh-oh, alcohol (Alcohol)/ Look what I've done (Alcohol)/ Oh-oh, alcohol (Alcohol)/ Look what I've done (Alcohol)/ Battle of the pain when I take/ One step forwrd, two steps back/ Oh-oh, alcohol/ This time, you won/ Oh-oh, alcohol/ Only supposed to be once"​."Nine"'s finale "Light In Your Hands" is perhaps SAULT's most surprising song of the entire repertoire - certainly their most inspirational and optimistic.

The song begins with Cleo Sol's soaring vocal, singing "Without love it's hard for you to give it a try/ So many promises that turn into lies/ Don't wanna start again and give someone a chance/ Can't you see the light's in your hands?/ Without love it's hard for you to give it a try/ So many promises that turn into lies/Don't wanna start again and give someone a chance/Can't you see the light's in your hands?" which gives way to a male voiced monologue relating a you man's personal ordeal: "When you think about it, I never really had a childhood/ I was constantly on the edge, constantly on edge/ Throughout my whole childhood / But, we just, we grew accustomed to it/ To the point now we're adults and we got thick skin/ You shouldn't have to have skin as sick as ours, you shouldn't/ We shouldn't have had to grow up with that".

As SAULT's fifth five-star in just two years"Nine" is nothing short of astonishing, placing the group among the greats of popular music, perhaps unrivalled since Stevie Wonder's classic run of albums for Motown from "Music of My Mind" (March 1972) and "Talking Book" (October 1972) through "Innervisions" (1973) to "Fulfillingness First Finale" (1974), "Talking Book" (1975) and "Songs In The Key Of Life"(1976).

‘Nine’ will only be available to stream and purchase for 99 days, i.e. until Saturday, 2 October 2021m however a YouTube stream remains accessible

Sun Sever Sets On Music

Pharoah Sanders, Floating Points, LSO - Promises

Promises

by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, London Symphony Orchestra

Released 27 March 2021

Luaka Bop Records

*****

"Promises" is the astonishing across-the-generations collaboration between young, Manchester, UK producer Floating Points (known to his mother as Sam Shepard), veteran US Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders (best known for his work with John and Alice Coltrane) and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO).

It is a seamless, timeless work of collasboration, five years in the making; 46 minutes of bliss in the form of a suite of nine connected Movements.

Floating Points surpassses all expectations (notwithstanding the quality of his previous releases (particularly 2019's Crush, one of sunneversetsonmusic's 2019 Highlights). He is the central figure, whose gorgeous keyboards and electronica are the binding elements throughout. But, rarely has free jazz, electronic and symphonic music been combied so delicately and seamlessly.

The session opens with the tones of what sounds like a vibrophone, but is in fact a harpsicord, with piano and celeste tracked on top, then slowed down 25%). This is soon joined by Sanders' mellow saxophone - the full-force blowing for which he is so famous does not feature here.

The harpisicord arpeggio is used repeatedly throughout the work, particularly at the opening of each Movement. This grounds the entire set by always allowing the music to return to and emerge from a common point.

The early four Movements seem to grow progressively quieter, until they achieve a calm that might have been borrowed from Max Richter's "Sleep". But near the middle of Movement 4, Sanders saxaphone stirs in a sustained duet with the harpsicord that is sustained until near the end of the following Movement.

The music resets for Movement 6, but soon a brief reprise of sax gives way to the LSO's strings which transform the soundscape to cinematic levels, providing the first of two outstanding centrepiece tracks.

Movement 7, the second highlight, again builds from the familiar harpsicord arpeggio to which Sanders adds floating saxophone melodies, as he did in the opening three Movements. However, for a few minutes, by application of  a combination of free-jazz sax and celestial electronic effects, Shephard and Sanders conjure an almost mystical, transcendent sound.

It is hard to imagine another release that will surpass Promises in 2021, for album of the year

Sun Sever Sets On Music

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - CARNAGE

CARNAGE

by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Released 25 February 2021

AWAL Recordings

*****

Carnage, the new album from Nick Cave & Warren Ellis follows Cave's  2019 masterpiece Ghosteen, but this time atound he has recorded without the full Black Seeds line-up, only his long-trusted sideman Ellis.This is only the second time in their storied careers, that Ellis ands Cave have shared the billing in this way, first having been the 2015 soundtrack for the motion picture"Far From Men / Loin Des Hommes" Like it's predecessor, Carnage is another immersive journey into Cave's apocalyptical twilight universe. And although the album's title suggests that the pandemic might be the subject, it does not appear to be Cave's sole inspiration or focus here: the influence of the US  presidential election, the death of George Floyd and other externalities are evident and for the large part, personal and universal perspectives elevate the work.

In the album opener "Hand of God", the singer throws himself into a river, inviting the mercy of God's saving hand, singing: "There are some people who aren't trying to find anything / But that kingdom in the sky". It is a quest that he returns to repeatedly in these songs.

The steady pulse of Cave's piano and the soaring, arabesques of Ellis's guitars interweave for "Old Time", a road-movie-in-song that recalls a glorious past relationship, perhaps with someone who is now deceased. Cave sings" "Wherever you are, darling, I'm not that far behind".

Surprisingly too, even the title track refers not to the pandemic but to the Cave's childhood witness to the casual violence of a backyard chicken slaughter, and other autobiographical memories.

"White Elephant", the centrepiece of this set, is an allegory of the Trump Predicency, begining with grotesque descriptions of an obscene political nightmare in which white supremecy is dominant. Cave warns that even though the menace has been rendered impotent, the threat remains: "I'm an ice sculpture melting in the sun / With the memory of an elephant / Evaporating before your eyes / And becoming a great grey cloud of wrath / Roaring my salt upon the earth / I will shoot you all for free if you so much as look at me".The music turns from foreboding to euphoric as the narrative of "White Elephent" shifts, and this mood is maintained, elevating the remainder of the album to a devotional mood.
Dirge-like,"Albuquerque" refers as much to the futile plight of emigree as it does to travel limitations imposed by the pandemic: “And we won’t get to anywhere, anytime this year, darling, unless I dream you there … unless you take me there".

"Lavender Fields" is sung to the backing of sombre church-organ, a song of mystical journeys through life and beyond, with lavender a metaphor for life itself: "Once I was running with my friends/ All of them busy with their pens / But the lavender grew rare, what happened to them?"

Cave reintroduces the opening lines of the opening song, "Hand of God": "We don't ask who / We don't ask why / There is a kingdom in the sky."

"Shattered Ground"is a song of goodbye to a lost love, delightfully represented by the moon, a traditional font of madness: “There’s a madness in her and a madness in me,” Cave sings, “And together it forms a kind of sanity.”

The album concludes with "Balcony Man" ("two hundred ponds of packed ice, or blood and bone, leaking in the morning sun") declaring "This morning is amazing and so are you / You are languid and lovely and lazy / And what doesn't kill you just makes you crazier."

And so, as witnesses to the Old Testement-infused nighmares of Nick Cave's imagination, perhaps we too become crazier with time. 

Sun Sever Sets On Music

Emma-Jean Thackray - Yellow

Yellow

by Emma-Jean Thackray

Released 9 July 2021

Movementt

*****

Bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Emma-Jean Thackray was born and raised in Yorkshire but is today a resident of Catford, south-east London. Her 2020 EPs Um Yang 음 양 and Rain Dance marked Thackray out as standard-bearer of a spiritually-minded, dancefloor-angled take on jazz that stood at a slight remove from the broader UK scene.

Pitchfork describes her debut album Yellow, as "a fascinating blend of spiritual jazz and brass band that can sound full-on psychedelic while staying grounded in its clever arrangements".

Their review continues: "In a world of musical utility, it is incredibly satisfying to come across an album as supremely impractical as Yellow, the full-length debut from English bandleader and producer Emma-Jean Thackray. It’s so deliciously circuitous that it develops its own gravitational pull. The album takes inspiration from a number of modish sources, including Flying Lotus’ wonky beat sorcery, the mystic jazz of Alice Coltrane, Roy Ayers’ sunshine-soaked funk, and Sun Ra’s cosmic overload. At times, the result is not that far from Kendrick’s towering To Pimp a Butterfly or the jazzier shade of Tyler, the Creator, as witnessed on Flower Boy.

But Yellow splits off into its own lane thanks in part to Thackray’s overarching lysergic bliss. She says she approached the record “by trying to simulate a life-changing psychedelic experience,” which explains a lot: Yellow is fascinating and profoundly befuddling, a voyage deep into nowhere in particular. Just when you think you’ve got your bearings—when you’ve got “Sun” pegged as a kind of disco number, for example—Thackray throws in an impetuous chord progression or rhythmical stutter to pull the ground from under your feet.

The album’s other distinguishing characteristic comes in its use of low-end brass and, in particular, the liberal employment of the sousaphone. Its sonorous parp comes across like a trad jazz send-up of modern producers’ obsession with electronic sub-bass. As a teenager in Yorkshire, Thackray was the principal trumpeter in her local brass band, a musical tradition often associated with the North of England. The use of brass here, with the sousaphone joined by the trombone, trumpet, and saxophone, seems to call back to that era, giving her cosmic jazz a fascinating Northern English (and New Orleans) tint. Thackray has previously wondered whether “some Yorkshire white girl” should participate in the Black American musical tradition of jazz. This, perhaps, is her answer, with the tremble of brass making Yellow something more than a straight copy of someone else’s musical innovation".

Source: Pitchfork

Nala Sinephro - Space 1.8

Space 1.8

by Nala Sinephro

Released 3 September 2021

Warp Records

*****

Space 1.8 is the outstanding debut album from UK-based composer and harpist Nala Sinephro, yet another prodigous new talent to emerge from the creative melting pot of the UK's  contemporary jazz scene. Sinephro is supported throughout the record by Dwayne Kilvington (aka Wonky Logic) on Bass and Sons of Kemet's Eddie Hick on drums. But the substance that underpins the album's eight enumerated soundscapes (platonically named from "Space 1" to "Space 8") is produced from the multi-layering of Sinehro's harp and modular synths. The music is evocative but restrained, demonstrating an unexpected level of creative self-control othat reveals an artist who seems to have emerged fully formed on debut.

Other artists credited as lending support on the album include: percussionist Jake Long; guitarist Shirley Tetteh; keyboardist Lyle Barton; saxophonists Nubya Garcia, James Mollison and Ahnanse; and bassists Rudi Creswick and TWM Dylan

Comparisons will inevitably be made with the ever more influential mother of the jazz harp, Alice Coltrane, who is undoubtably an inspiration and influence. These are appropriate, because Sinephro's work is similar in its approach - and overall, possibly more accessible to many listeners.

Sinephro's Bandcamp entry describes her as "fus(ing) meditative sounds, jazz sensibilities, folk and field recordings. Her musical practice is rooted in the study of frequency and geometry and guided by the premise that sound moves matter."

And in it's review of the album The Guardian noted that "Sinephro grew up in between the birdsong of Belgium and the humid tropical soundscapes of Martinique. In her early 20s she saw off a tumour, informing her interest in music as medicine."

Sinephro conjures a world of her own, with compositions that are a healing balm troubled times. 

Sun Sever Sets On Music

James Brandon Lewis - Jesup Wagon

Jessup Wagon

by James Brandon Lewis

Released 7 May 2021

TAO Forms

*****

James Brandon Lewis does not take the easy road. Having forged a singular sound on the tenor saxophone, he could simply devise settings that showcase his brawny tone. Instead, he has rooted his recent music in extramusical research. The harmonic structures of last year’s quartet date, Molecular, arose from his studies of the DNA helix.

If Molecular dealt with the influence of nature, then Jesup Wagon deals with nurture. Since childhood, George Washington Carver’s combination of scientific and creative inquiries has been a template for the saxophonist’s own multidisciplinary pursuits. Each of the album’s seven pieces refers to an aspect of the dedicatee’s legacy, which extended beyond the practical application of scientific, musical and painting skills to visionary proposals to transform society.

But while the record’s narrative presents a series of teaching points, the music is anything but pedantic. Lewis’ vibrato-laden, solitary introduction to the title track sets the listener up for tragedy, only to have his band march jubilantly in, banishing his blues like a New Orleans parade. The interlocking gimbri (Moroccan bass lute), cello and cowbell groove of “Lowlands Of Sorrow” covers ground in a hurry, bucking and loping while Lewis and cornetist Kirk Knuffke float ragged, soulful cries over the top. And “Arachis,” which is named for Carver’s most famous research subject, the peanut, builds from ballad to blowout in classic Albert Ayler-esque fashion.

Source: Downbeat

Cleo Sol - Mother

Mother

by Cleo Sol

Released 19 August 2021

Forever Living Originals

*****

Cleo Sol has arguably been among the most interesting and prolific artists during the recent period, as the world has been assaulted by pandemic and shaken by resurgent racism, each giving rise to unprecedented social disruption: and all occurring in an era when the technologies and ownership of communication and media are changing constantly. The social and political outcomes of this era are likely to take generations to unravel and Cleo Sol's contribution to consciousness-raising as a member of the enigmatic UK soul ensemble SAULT will be an important piece of this period's musical heritage.

On the other hand, her solo albums are entirely different creations, reflecting personal relationships and influences.

Her sophomore new release"Mother"is an emotional and thoughtful response to the birth to her first child, in June 2021, which was reflected in a post to Instagram in which she wrote: “I became a mother this year and it’s been the most transformative, uplifting, heart-melting, strength giving experience thus far that led me to write this album. We worked with a small team of hand-picked individuals, who helped make this music so special and whose intentions were aligned with the honesty I was looking for and who trusted that vision.”

Working again with producer Inflo (whose work with the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, SAULT, Little Simz, Jungle has made him legend), the album is like a collection of tenderly sung diary entries, prayers and lullabies. However, the lyrics don't sugar coat the pain within; these songs deal with personal relationships, especially of the mother-daughter kind.

Opening track "Don't Let Me Fall"is sung daughter-to-mother: “We were kids under the sheets / In this hoarded house / There’s no hope in these rooms of looped dreams / All these pictures looking at me / Mothers don’t leave.” The song's extended  instrumental passage fuses seamlessly with "Promises" revealing a sad breakdown in the relationship: "We get closer, but not close enough / Why'd you have to leave? / Why'd you have to go?", she sings.

After this bleak start, some hope is restored in "Heart Full of Love", where Sol prays "Thankyou for sending me an angel straight from Heaven / When my hope was gone, you made me strong". 

"Build Me Up", the first of the two eight minutes long centrepieces among this collection, is a painful plea for a partner's selfless attention.

However, the songs for the remainder of the album, are affirming.

"Sunshine" ("You make me feel alive")  offers optimism, even in a foreign land.

"We Need You", "Don't Let It Go To Your Head" ("love is stronger than fear") and "Music" ("But life is yours / Dont let them take that away") each offer the encouragement of a parent. 

Even the gently sung lyrics of "23" belie it's subject matter, a mother who won't grow up and take responsibility. 

The second of the eight minute set pieces, "One Day" brings joy with the lyric "And it feels as if I was born to be free / Flyin' higher just you and me" and the penultimate song,"Know That You Are Loved" extends a heart-warming sentiment: ("Know that you are loved / Even if you don't love yourself"). Finally, "Spirit" closes out the album triumphantly, building from minimalist piano and sofly sung lyrics at the opening, to fully-voiced vocals and and exhuberant horn-filled backing.

Stylistically, the album sits close to the five SAULT productions however Sol's restrained gospel vocals are the standout element here, at times evoking Dione Warwick and Roberta Flack, she invites the audience to fully appreciate the lyrical content. If there is a criticism, it is that although the lyrics to the majority of the songs are positive, a melancholy unnecesarily permeates the entire project. The production might have benefited from a more lively sound pallate, as one world imaging Burt Bacharach and Hal David, for example, achieving in previous times.  

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding release that, SAULT's overt socio-political references are left alone, so that Cleo Sol is clearly and magnificently heard, as a solo artist once again. 

Sun Sever Sets On Music

Anthony Joseph - The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives

The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives

by Anthony Joseph

Released 7 May 2021

New Amsterdam

*****

British-Trinidadian poet/musician/author Anthony Joseph’s latest album contains multitudes. Operating as a dedication to poetic ancestors and a coming together of musical generations, The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for their Lives is also an almighty jam. Recorded live last August, it shows off the prowess of a team of master musicians (Shabaka Hutchings among others) from Paris and London. Jason Yarde, who also produced Joseph’s 2018 album is credited as producer/composer/arranger – to startling, albeit intimate, effect.

Running throughout the release are inter-connected themes: memory, place, belonging and acts of homage. Opener, “Kamau” pays respect to the lauded Barbadian poet, Kamau Brathwaite who passed away in February last year. Brathwaite was an important influence on Joseph – the two writers met several times. On “Kamau” Joseph compellingly conveys not only the nature of Brathwaite’s aesthetic, but the full potential of a Black surrealist poetics, in an urgent, clipped diction against a rousing musical soundtrack which features Hutchings on bass clarinet.
When asked to convey the essence of Brathwaite’s “energy” in a 2018 interview, Joseph used the words “audacious … muscular,” while also noting the late poet’s capacity to “give voice to the voiceless.” A similar description might be used for Joseph’s new album, in its evocation of the post Windrush generations’ search for belonging — a story that soon becomes Joseph’s own (“Calling England Home”), in the recounting of familial grief (“The Gift”) and in the expansive grooves and storytelling on “Maka Dimweh”, a poem/song that universalises the tale of a Guyanese soldier.
One of the album’s most striking cuts, “Language (Poem for Anthony McNeill) once more memorialises another key figure in the Caribbean literary landscape: McNeill, a Jamaican poet known for his radical modernist aesthetic, deeply influenced by jazz, who died before his time in 1996. The 10-minute plus groove shows the band to full effect, as Joseph compellingly conjures something of McNeill’s gift and the potential of “language rooted in the drums…the cry of the horn.”

In fact, the entire album might be understood as part of Joseph’s engagement with his Caribbean musical and literary roots; the somewhat mysterious album title, for instance, comes from the Trinidadian writer, philosopher, historian and socialist activist, C.L.R James’ book on the Haitian revolution, The Black Jacobins (1938).

To Yarde and Joseph’s credit the musicianship never falters, even when conjuring deeply contrasting moods. See, for instance, the foregrounding of a formidable horn section of top-level saxophonists of very different aesthetic stripes (Hutchings, Yarde, Colin Webster – a longstanding Joseph collaborator and Denys Baptiste, whose credits include McCoy Tyner and Billy Higgins). “Calling England Home,” for example, is carried along by a sleepily evocative 60s horn-driven dancehall ambience, entirely in keeping with the song’s lyrical focus.
Note too, Rod Youngs’ sensitive drum parts, which coalesces to great effect with Andrew John’s bass throughout the album. Youngs is a previous Gil Scott-Heron collaborator, while London-based bassist and composer John has played on six of Joseph’s previous albums. Guitarist Thibaut Remy, who composed ‘Calling England Home’, performs with the Awalé Jant Band. There are the fragile interruptions of French jazz pianist, Florian Pellissier, while contributions from veteran percussionists Roger Raspail and Crispin Robinson provide further grit, delicacy and depth. 
credits
released May 7, 2021

Anthony Joseph - Vocals
Andrew John - Bass
Thibaut Remy - Guitar
Rod Youngs - Drums
Florian Pellissier - Piano/Moog/Organ/Rhodes Piano
Jason Yarde - Alto & Baritone Saxophone
Shabaka Hutchings - Tenor Saxophone on ‘Swing Praxis’/Bass clarinet on ‘Kamau’
Denys Baptiste - Tenor Saxophone & Bass Clarinet on ‘Language’, Tenor Sax on ‘Maka Dimweh’ & ‘The Gift’
Colin Webster - Tenor Saxophone on ‘Kamau’ & Swing Praxis’, Baritone Sax on ‘Language’
Crispin Robinson - Bata Drums and Percussion
Roger Raspail - Percussion on ‘Maka Dimweh’
 

Source: Bandcamp

Haiatus Koyote - Mood Valiant

Mood Valiant

by Haiatus Kaiyote

Released 14 May 2021

Brainfeeder

*****

Eschewing Melbourne's pandemic lockdowns and having overcome breast cancer (the disease that took her mother a a young woman), Haiatus Koyote's lead singer Nai Palm (Naiomi Saalfield) took it apon herself to contact Brazillian Legend Arthur Verocai, whose 1972 eponymous debut album had been doing the rounds of the cognoscenti in Melb. and had impressed the band.He agreed to work with them and with no clear plan in mind, other than to work with him, she convinced the band to fly to Rio to record. The result is further musical progression forthe band, adding unique colour and depth to their music.

Whereas previous albums were so brimful of ideas that at times it was as if each band member had started in a different place in each song. For the first time, Mood Valiant presents a set that is still complex but begins to find comfort in letting a little cohesion break out! 

The album opens with a 35 scond orchestral prelude and overdubs, suitable for an Avalanches album and a short track "Sip Into Something Soft" with Nai Plam's woozy vocal soon dominating. "Chivilry Is Not Dead" follows, a tongue in cheek send up of sexy songs everywhere with over-the-top erotic descriptions applied to plants and insects: "If I were a hummingbird/Your wings would beat like thunder/Orbit in a flight display/As if to gently say/Kiss the flowers ultraviolet/We could get lost or we could find it alive with'.

Many of the best moments are provided courtesy of Verocai, who to the surprise of the band had invided some cracking Brazilian string and brass musicians to the studio. According to Mai Palm, the Brass Section had a big party as theyrecorded and the strings brought the studio to tears. Listening to the recordings, its's easiy to understand.

Nai Palm delivers the vocals with sultry grace, arcing attitude and good humor.

The Brazilian influences are strong in the body of the album with Arthur Verocai's intrumental contributions in evidence through "And We Go Gentle", "Get Sun" and the instrumental interlude "Hush Rattle".

Nai Plam's passion and range are displayed spectacularly during "All The Words We Don't Say" and "Rose Water", cutting through the complex rhytms od drums and guitars.

Propelled by funky guitar and kick drum, Red Room is sultry, soulful and evocative highlight. "I got a red room/It is the red hour when the sun sets in my bedroom/It feels like I'm inside a flower/Feels like I'm inside my eyelids/And I don't wnna be anywhere but here").

"Sparkle Tape Break Up" is denser and less melodic that most other tracks on the album, and falls flat in this conxt. It is possible a more suitable song for live performance.

"Stone of Lavender", the penultimate track, once again marries Nai Palm's emotional vocals and Verocai's masterful orchestration asnshe sings "Take me far away from myself
Rest, don't rest like everyone else/I don't wanna be small, I wanna be full of life/We can weave all things together and be alright, ooh/Please believe me, please believe me when I say/I know that I know we could get over, only if we wanna"

The album closes with the playful "Blood and Marrow" which is unfortunatly spoiled by a high pitched "Yip!" that repeats intermittently during the song.

All in all, Mood Valiant is a bit of a flawed masterpiece by a renowned live band that remarkably may only be beginning to find it's place as a recording artist. 

Sun Sever Sets On Music

Mon Laferte - 1940 Carmen

1940 Carmen

by Mon Laferte

Released 29 October 2021

UMG Mexico

*****

Since releasing Desechable, her 2011 debut album, Chilean singer/songwriter Mon Laferte has created an ever-evolving pattern across popular music. She has traversed the worlds of pop, Rock en Español, indie rock, cumbia, ranchera, mambo, salsa, psych, and bolero. 1940 Carmen follows her Latin Grammy-nominated Seis by a mere five months (which was reviewed in SunNeverSetsOnMusic's May 2021 playlist). Written and recorded in Los Angeles from March to July 2021, the ten-song set is titled after the address of the Airbnb where Laferte was staying while she wrote and cut the album, half of it in English.

Laferte plays all of the music here along with her band's musical director Sebastian Aracena.

The songs seemingly journal her four-month stay in L.A. during which time her goal was to become pregnant. While 1940 Carmen is mostly uptempo and optimistic, it nonetheless reflects Laferte's particular gifts as a songwriter capable of juxtaposing conflicting, even contradictory emotions and psychological states as well as imbuing physical landscapes and personal interactions, no matter how brief and/or casual, with profound implications.

Though a 180-degree turn from the Mexican regional music employed on Seis, 1940 Carmen is every bit its equal in creativity, emotional depth, and execution.

Source: AllMusic

GuedraGuedra - Vexillology

Vexillology

by Guedra Guedra

Released 12 March 2021

On The Corner

*****

From the spiritual polyrhythms of gnawa to the looping vocalisations of Sufism and the percussive tessellations of Berber folk, the world of north African cultures meet in the music of Morocco. Producer Abdellah M Hassak, AKA Guedra Guedra, has taken these rhythms as the core of his work. His name comes from the Berber dance music performed on the guedra drum; his debut EP, 2020’s Son of Sun, explored these diffuse roots through a dancefloor filter, with added field recordings and electronic Midi sequencing, a junglist collage that straddles tradition and contemporary dance musics.

Guedra Guedra: Vexillology album cover
Guedra Guedra: Vexillology album cover
Hassak’s debut album, Vexillology, extends this idea over the course of 13 propulsive and complex tracks. Seven Poets samples a group chant over birdsong and snappy hi-hats that evoke footwork’s stacked rhythms – encompassing the dancefloors of Chicago and the desert-scape of Berber song. The Chicago sound also leaves its mark on the bouncy Stampede Step with its shrill flute melody and growling bassline, and Aura samples the chants of the Zayane mountain community: chopping their circular incantations over rumbling sub-bass, the effect renders them as verse and a kind of crowd sound.

Instead of simply pasting decontextualised field recordings over bright electronics, Hassak integrates these folk elements into the mix and allows them to breathe. He incorporates the clatter of the bendir drum on the rollicking Aura, a smattering of hand claps over the house piano of Cercococcyx, and the shrill arpeggios of the taghanimt flute on the drum machine-heavy 40’ Feet. In this way, Hassak weaves tradition into his own interpretations of dance, allowing space for the acoustic to interact with the electronic, not remixing the former beyond the point of recognition (a common pitfall in this type of work). On Vexillology, Hassak extrapolates the underlying rhythms of the north African diaspora to present a new realisation of this enticing, pervasive pulse.

Source: The Guardian

MidnightRoba - Golden Seams

Golden Seams

by Midnight Roba

Released 29 January 2021

Sonder

*****

MidnightRoba's solo debut album, Golden Seams, marks the return to music, after many years away from the scene, of the artist who made her reputation as the voice of UK trip-hop trio Attica Blues,

So-named for the seminal 1972 Archie Shep album) Attica Blues released two albums, the first on Mo Wax in '98, the second, Test, Don't Test in 2000 on Columbia.

Roba has also worked with King Britt on Moksha Black 09 and As It Should Be and with Ben Marc on his upcoming release "Breathe Suite".

Golden Seams is a collection of 9 original compositions by Roba, who contributes vocals, keyboards, drum programming and drums throughout the album, but is accompanied by various other artists on individual tracks including American jazz pianist Jason Moran on "Bitter Boy".

Mixing and production is credited to former Attica Blues member Tony Nwachukwa..

Opening track "Self Doubt" is a beautifully constructed blend of intertwined vocal and instrumental lines, in a song that describes self-doubt: "In the dark of night, you creep inside / Plant your seed inside my head / Cycling thoughts, they twist within my cells I can't free myself ... Overthinking I / Why can't I let it lie? / Why?"

The mellow mood continues with "Reminded" whose smooth, low-range vocals invoke Sade, Joan Armatrading or K.D. Lang, recalling  a past relationship and asks "How does it feel to you now?", and admitting "Although we didn't stand the test of time ... So grateful for all the love we shared ... Remembered, not with bitterness, but joy".

Close relationships also dominate the succeeding songs: "Don't Let This Change" ("Always you that comes to mind when I need insight"); "Shelter Within" (""Be my shelter from the storm / Hold me tight in your warmth") and "Safe With Me" ("Feel these arms around you close / Shield your heart / I won't let go").

The pace and focus of the set shifts to an entirely more urgent setting for "Bitter Boy", which is described as a song in two parts; a Mother's Plea and a Mother's Lament. Part I- a cry of the loss of innocence and the truths faced by parents of black children; the conversations that need to be had to protect them and the helplessness of not knowing if it will be enough.

The instrumental "If Time Heals" provides a gentle interlude release after the tension of "Bitter Boy" but when Roba;s vocals return for "Be Still" we find her at the top of her register singing "Be still, my beating heart / Pray you don't betray this cooled exterior".

Title track "Golden Seams" concludes Roba's triumphant return and speaks of "The rebuilding of a soul ... Don't be shy to show with pride / The mark of what you have repaired / Golden seams will trace the dreams".

If this song is a reference to her own return to performance, then dhr should indeed be proud, as golden seams are all that is in evidence.

Sun Sever Sets On Music

Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince

Vulture Prince

by Arooj Aftab

Released 23 April 2021

New Amsterdam

*****

Brooklyn based artist Arooj Aftab, who is of Pakistani family heritage,  envisioned an “edgier” and “more fun” update on the fragile soundscapes of her second record, she recently told NPR. But while she was still in the middle of writing, Aftab’s world was buffeted by tragedy. At home, she lost her younger brother Maher, to whom the new album is dedicated. Outside, a world already embattled with a rising tide of hate and conflict was now struggling to grapple with a global pandemic.

To cope, Aftab reached for the familiar Urdu ghazals and poetry that populated her genre-defying 2015 debut Bird Under Water. The closest thing South Asia has to the blues, the ghazal is a musical form steeped in loss and longing—a subcontinental language of love both mortal and divine. On Vulture Prince, Aftab fuses the ghazal’s existential yearning with minimal compositions that draw from jazz, Hindustani classical, folk and—on one song—reggae to create a heartbreaking, exquisite document of the journey from grief to acceptance.

Intended as a second chapter to her debut album, Vulture Prince takes the airy minimalism and virtuosity of Bird Under Water and strips it down even further. Five of the seven songs here lack any form of percussion, propelled instead by the soft intensity of Aftab’s voice and the delicate cadence of strings and keys. Gone too is the traditional Pakistani instrumentation, replaced by a filigree of gentle violin, harp, double bass, and synths. At the center of it all is Aftab’s powerful voice, suffused in a sorrow so deep that it seeps into your bones.

Source: Pitchfork

Fatima Al Qadiri - Medieval Femme

Medieval Femme

by Fatima Al Qadiri

Released 14 May 2021

Hyperdub

*****

Fatima Al Qadiri returns to Hyperdub, with a suite inspired by the classical poems of Arab women.

Medieval Femme invokes a simulated daydream through the metaphor of an Islamic garden, at the border between depression and desire, where the present temporarily dissolves, leaving only past and future.

Since "Shaneera" her last release for Hyperdub - a homage to hometown friends and a celebration of regional queer influences - Fatima recorded the soundtrack for French Senegalese director Mati Diop’s Cannes 2019 Grand Prix winning feature Atlantics. The restrained soundtrack to Diop's supernatural storytelling, sympathetically mixes neon drones and the faint outlines of Arabesque melody, intensifying Diop’s journey between worlds, rendering the complex emotions of the film.

Medieval Femme expands on ideas instilled from Atlantics to capture a fully realised, dreamlike setting, shaded with colour and subtle friction. The theme of the album is the state of melancholic longing exemplified in the poetry of Arab women from the medieval period. Fatima seeks to transport the listener to a place of reverie and desolation, to question the line between two seemingly opposite states and rejoice in celestial sorrow.

Source: Bandcamp

Kutch Edwards - Circling Time

Circling Time

by Kutcha Edwards

Released 9 July 2021

Wantok Music

*****

'Circling Time' is the fifth studio album from singer, songwriter and Mutti Mutti man Kutcha Edwards. The country, blues, roots, jazz and soul infused album is a powerful showcase of Kutcha's singular voice. Lyrics reflect on the singer’s past and his inspirations in the present.

‘’In telling my story, I believe I’m telling my family’s story. Within the structure of family there are members whose role it is to protect country. For others it’s to protect the memories such as photos. I believe I have been given the responsibility to protect my family’s Songline,’’ Kutcha says in an album statement. ‘’Justice, heritage, forgiveness – all are words that resonate with me deeply. It’s my role to give songs meaning so that they can continue to connect my family and all my clans to country. This album is filled with spirit. It’s this spirit that I need to share and pass on so we can begin to heal and understand what our ancestors have passed on to us… the true meaning of ‘Circling Time.’’

At the heart of the album is the single 'We Sing', featuring a chorus of nearly one hundred voices, including Archie Roach, Paul Kelly, Judith Durham, Emily Wurramarra and Emma Donovan. Each singer was recorded remotely from across the globe during 2020, but brought together in the recording, a reflection of the spirit and connection central to 'Circling Time'.

'Excuse Me Mrs. Edwards' is an equally moving moment, a musical celebration of Kutcha's mother. And the recently released single 'Singing Up Country' is a soaring ballad that celebrates Kutcha’s connection to family, his ancestors and the land

Source: 3rrr

Pat Jaffe - Eldorado

Eldorado

by Pat Jaffe

Released 20 March 2021

Patrick Jaffe

*****

Recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, this is a highly impressive debut album from a thoughtful and sensitive musician. Melbourne pianist Pat Jaffe, 22, has nine of his compositions here, two of them accompanied by a string quartet. To describe the album, terms such as refinement and understatement come to mind. The music is peaceful and ruminative but, under an apparently seamless surface, there are substantial nuances which are very subtle and exquisite. In the two pieces which include the Siggi String Quartet, the strings are skilfully employed to effectively amplify the pianist’s most expressive moments. Jaffe is obviously an accomplished jazz pianist and arranger, but there are few signs of conventional jazz references, such as the blues, which some consider to be essential to jazz. Instead the flavour of the music suggests the twilight zone between jazz and contemporary classical music.

Source: Weekend Australian 20 March 2021

Nat Barsch - Hope

Hope

by Nat Bartsch

Released 14 May 2021

ABC Music

****-

Melbourne pianist Nat Bartsch wrote most of the music on her new album during one of the most challenging years in living memory, encompassing the Black Summer bushfires, a global pandemic, multiple lockdowns and intense socio-political division.

Bartsch called the album Hope, and she says, spent much of 2020 navigating the space between hopefulness and hopelessness. But while the compositions may have been born out of sadness, frustration and uncertainty, the music itself exudes an air of quiet optimism.

In many ways, the new tunes are an extension of those found on Bartsch’s lullaby albums, with simple but affecting melodies pinned to gentle ostinatos. This time, though, the composer has employed strings and subtle electronics to enhance the music’s textural and emotional resonance. Listening to Bartsch’s music is akin to feeling a reassuring hand resting on one’s shoulder. It’s music that invites contemplation, and that radiates tenderness, empathy - and yes, hope.

Source: Melbourne Age 17 May 2021

Ausecuma Beats - Musso

Musso

by Ausecuma Beats

Released 5 November 2021

Music In Exile

*****

When you mix Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Cuba and Australia, you find yourself with many cultures. We represent Africa, sure, but also we represent diversity. That is the essence of Ausecuma Beats. We want to come together, to bring all people together to share the knowledge of what we have learnt.

We all see the hard work that lies ahead in the future. It’s not easy, and we all have different ways of thinking. But there is also something we all share, and that is humanity, and family. We have to teach our children, to help them on their journey.

This album can be defined by the song Tombo. It’s about giving respect to your teacher. All the knowledge we bring to this album has come from someone who in their turn gave it to us. If you like the music, you hear it, you dance, great! But remember, someone created this, they gave it to us, and now Ausecuma Beats are giving it to you. So we dedicate this album to our teachers.

The name of this album is Musso; it means woman. We want to dedicate this album to those who gave us life. It doesn’t matter how strong we are, how tough we are, or how lucky we are in the chances we have been given. There is always someone who is worrying about us; there is no-one who can be thinking about us more than our own mother. So this album especially is dedicated to the women in our lives, and is sending respect to all women around the world.
 

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Source: Bandcamp

Australian Art Orchestra - Hand To Earth

Hand To Earth

by Australian Art Orchestra, Daniel Wilfred, David Wilfred, Sunny Kim, Peter Knight, Aviva Endean

Released 8 October 2021

Forever Living Originals

*****

With an emphasis on improvisation, the AAO explores the meeting points between disciplines and cultures, and imagines new musical forms to reflect the energy and diversity of 21st century Australia. Led by trumpeter/composer Peter Knight, the AAO explores the interstices between the avant-garde and the traditional, between art and popular music, and between electronic and acoustic approaches.

Hand to Earth is a call to open ears: eluding genre, traversing continents and fusing ancient and contemporary. At its heart are Yolgnu manikay (song cycles), a 40,000+ year-old oral tradition from South East Arnhem Land, northern Australia. These songs exist to cross vast time and space, to continuously make the continuous – known as raki, the spirit that pulls all together, all performers all listeners.

Hand to Earth developed during an Australia Art Orchestra (AAO) residency in the remote highlands of Tasmania. Yolgnu songman, Daniel Wilfred, and Korean vocalist, Sunny Kim, formed an effortless rapport; their combined vocal approaches expressing a deeply human commonality whilst also invoking raw elemental forces. Trumpeter and composer, Peter Knight draws upon his minimalist influence to create a bed of electronic atmospheres that meld beautifully with these contrasting voices. The combination of Aviva Endean and David Wilfred’s evocative sounds transport the listener to previously unimagined sonic plains. Together the ensemble wields these mystical elements with a masterful improvisational touch that AAO is famous for.

Source: Bandcamp

Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp - We're OK. But We're Lost Anyway.

We're OK. But We're Lost Anyway.

by Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp

Released 2 July 2021

Bongo Joe

*****

Founded in 2006 by Vincent Bertholet (Hyperculte), the Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp is a large-scale project. Designed as a real orchestra, the size of the ensemble has varied over time. Now with 12 members, 14 in the past or 6 at the beginning, the ensemble has scoured the stages of Europe to demonstrate that the formula "the more the merrier" has never been more true than on stage.

Whether in prestigious festivals (Paléo Festival de Nyon, Fusion Festival, Incubate, Womad, Bad Bonn Kilbi, Jazz à la Vilette) or on the four albums released since its launch, Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp a mischievous title in homage to traditional African groups - Orchestre Tout Puissant Konono n°1, Orchestre Tout Puissant Polyrytmo etc... - and to one of the greatest dynamizers of 20th century art) shows an incredible fluidity. The band embraces the forms of its musicians while pushing them to their limits. The result is a powerful, experimental, unstable and terribly alive, organic sound.

These characteristics can be found on We're OK. But We're Lost Anyway, fifth opus of the band. Built around twelve musicians, extirpated from their respective biotope, it develops a repetitive musicality which, deployed in successive waves, creates a feeling of trance. Mixing free jazz, post punk, high life, brass band, symphonic mixtures and kraut rock, their sound only goes beyond the limits of genre. Transcendental, almost ritualistic, the music is coupled with powerful lyrics, declaimed in rage against a world that is falling apart. Adorcist, hypnotic and post-syncratic, the Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, far from Tzara's manifesto, is somewhere between Hugo Ball's phonetic psalms, a Sufi procession that turns into a brawl and a voodoo ritual, but always with a precision proper to the monomania of an asperger

Source: Bandcamp

Joseph Tawadros - Hope In An Empty City

Hope In An Empty City

by Joseph Tawadros

Released July 2021

Joseph Tawadros

*****

Born in Cairo (1984) and a  resident of Sydney since he was 3 years old, Joseph Tawadros is established as one of the world’s leading oud performers and composers. A virtuoso of diversity and sensitivity, Joseph performs in concert halls worldwide and is known for his brilliant technique, deep musicianship and joyous style of performance.

His drive to push musical boundaries has led to many collaborations with significant performers and a solid repertoire of innovative, original music.

He has recorded 14 albums, hass been nominated for Young Australian of the Year (2014) and received the NSW Premier’s medal for Arts and Culture, an Order of Australia Medal (AM) for his services to music and composition (2016) and 12 nominations and achieved four ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards (2012, 2013 and 2014) for Best World Music Album, and as a contributor to the Ali’s Wedding soundtrack album in 2017.

Joseph is acknowledged for expanding the oud’s notoriety and acceptance  in mainstream western culture and has also been recognised in the Arab world, appearing on the judging panel of the Damascus International Oud competition in 2009, and taking part in Istanbul’s first Oud festival in 2010.

Joseph has been based in London through the COVID pandemic period but the majority of "Hope In An Empty City" was recorded in New York in June 2017 with an exceptional ensemble consisting of Jordanian Layth Sidiq (violin), Scott Colley (double bass), Dan Weiss (drums) and David ‘Fuze’ Fiuczynski (fretless guitar).

This release sees Joseph broaden the parameters of traditional Arabic music by inviting a crack Jazz players in to join the oud. The result is sheer delight - an album that will be ranked among the best of East-West musical fusion music. 

Three beautiful, melancholy solo tracks "Everything Is You", "Von Brady" and final cut "Ya Lel (The Night)" were recorded in London in May 2021, during lockdown. In interview with Andrew Ford (ABC The Music Show 17 July 2021), Tawadros explained that these tracks feature longer oud solos than the artist has previously allowed himself, a direct result of changes to his playing style that have occured in isolation.

The songs and album title derive from the conditions of the pandemic, and has what Tawdros describes as “a distinctive individual energy from each player as they come together creating a new sound for Joseph’s compositions, with a cinematic breadth that will take listeners on an evocative and emotional musical adventure.”

Source: Joseph Tawadros Official Site

Bob Weatherall, William Barton, Halfway - Restless Dream

Restless Dream

by Bob Weatherall & Halfway, William Barton

Released 27 August 2021

ABC Records

*****

Restless Dream is a collaboration between Brisbane band Halfway and Kamileroi (Northern NSW) elder Bob Weatherall, with legendary Australian yiḏaki (didgeridoo) player, William Barton.

In 2015, they began to work on the writing and recording of an album of song-stories.

Aboriginal ancestral remains and secret, sacred objects are scattered across the globe, in museums both overseas and in Australia. In Aboriginal religious law, there will be no spiritual peace until the dead have been returned to the place of their birth and received their last rites in accordance with their traditions.

This album tells the story of the Repatriation of Aboriginal Ancestral Remains. Restless Dream is a very personal story, yet it touches all Aboriginal Nations as they grapple with the task of repatriation and reburial, just as it acknowledges those who have taken on the task of uncovering the past and advocating for the Rights of the Dead.

Bob and William are both friends of Halfway.

John Willsteed of Halfway says “Bob used to come to band practices, to listen to us play, and to share the summer nights and his stories. My ears sought out Bob’s words in the dark, the stories of his work: travelling to the other side of the earth; the arrogance and thievery of scientists and protectors; the overwhelming emotion of this job. A job which chose him. A tricky job, full of negotiation, responsibility, righteous successes and disheartening failures. And he was burdened with an overwhelming question: Who is going to carry this work on?”

Writer and performer Bob Weatherall adds, “We have a responsibility to uphold the fundamental rights of the dead to return to the lands of their birth, and to be given customary last rites in accordance with their culture and beliefs. Restless Dream will help to put an end to the injustices of the past in the true spirit of reconciliation and justice.”

The album was recorded at QUT in Brisbane in 2016, by Yanto Browning (Kate Miller-Heidke, Art of Sleeping) and mixed in South Carolina by Mark Nevers (Yo La Tengo, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Lambchop, Jason Isbell).

It is a blend of songs, stories and instrumentals; like a Halfway album and then some. Restless Dream has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council and supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Source: Halfway

Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales

Heaux Tales

by Jazmine Sullivan

Released 8 January 2021

RCA Records

*****

Jazmine Sullivan appeared to be nearing the release of a follow-up to Reality Show in August 2020 with the arrival of "Lost One," a welcomed disturbance in a post-Reality Show string of featured appearances, songwriting commissions, and compilation contributions. The bare and forlorn ballad was trailed three months later by the sneering and swaggering "Pick Up Your Feelings," another lean and efficient number with lyrics that read like straight talk and vocals that raise goose bumps. Heaux Tales, classified by Sullivan as an EP, landed the following January. The first two singles fall into the sequence with preceding spoken segments that relate to the lyrics in frank, uninhibited style. Almost all of the five other proper songs are similarly introduced with women discussing matters such as sexual and materialistic desire, power dynamics, rejection, and negative body image. Sullivan and her fellow writers likewise approach each of them from the perspective related in the interludes. Heaux Tales accordingly contains some of the singer's boldest verses. Ari Lennox's poetic revelation seems to impel her through "Put It Down," a sleek and tongue-twisting ode to a partner's bedroom prowess, and "On It," a Lennox-assisted soul-blues duet in which the curse words aren't half as strong as the threats and instructions. Talk about financial insecurity leads to the downcast and aspirational "The Other Side"; just when Sullivan couldn't sound more despondent, she turns on the subtle humor with "Soccer mom gettin' wasted/Hermès tennis bracelet/Bora Bora for vacation/I'll be anything but basic," sung like the thoughts of a suburbanite who escapes her unfulfilling life by listening obsessively to Rick Ross. Sullivan also throws an unapologetic pity party with H.E.R. on "Girl Like Me," a cathartic if down way to finish it off. The one male role is filled by Anderson .Paak, who in the low-key Southern funk of "Pricetags" can't resist getting played (a scenario rather different from the tryst illustrated on .Paak's Sullivan-supported Ventura track "Good Heels").

Given the brevity and makeup -- just over half an hour, with only 27 minutes of music -- Heaux Tales doesn't have the heft of her previous releases - 2008's Fearless, 2010's Love Me Back or 2015's Reality Show - but few contemporary R&B LPs twice its length are as substantive.

Source: AllMusic

Self Esteem - Prioritise Pleasure

Prioritise Pleasure

by Self Esteem

Released 22 October 2021

Universal Music

*****

Throughout Prioritise Pleasure, her second album as Self Esteem, Rebecca Taylor searches for a feeling she can rely on. Her stomach and heart seldom align. A callous lover makes her doubt herself. “Casual” texts from an ex evidently conceal ulterior motives. She has to check out emotionally in order to climax from a zipless fuck. Marriage and babies don’t appeal, yet other people’s still make her insecure. Even the nostalgia induced by a warm summer’s day can trick her into self-sabotage.

Pacing these shifting sands is exhausting. But simply by defining them, and acknowledging how normal it is for these contradictory states to coexist (especially in the lives of women, contorted by diet culture and dating), Taylor establishes a sturdy sense of common ground – one on which the makings of a stellar pop second act are taking shape.

Prioritise Pleasure (is) an album totally confident in its strange, brilliant vision: if there is a counterforce to all that instability, Taylor implies, it is in nothing but full-throated expression.(It) is a rare big pop album after 18 months of comparatively diminutive offerings from headline female pop acts.

On the title track, Taylor breathlessly lists her shortcomings over a choppy, earthy beat: “I shrunk, moved and changed,” she sings, a state of affairs that she immediately defies with a dizzying, moving chorus, It all comes together best on I Do This All The Time, which, improbably, melds the influence of Arab Strap, Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) and Lisa Stansfield into song-of-the-year material.

Self-Esteem’s second album shows that it is never as easy as all that. It’s a powerfully intense record that some may recoil from; confrontational and liable to catch you off-guard as Taylor crisply extracts gutting truths from the general murk of self-loathing, never sugarcoating grimness nor over-egging her attempts at self-affirmation. Despite the imperative contained in the title, the album doesn’t preach but invites you in, suggesting pleasure as a collective vision born of shared confidences. It’s remarkable.

Source: The Guardian (Laura Snapes)