Cate Le Bon – Reward
Magnificent return from the Welsh artist who, to write this fifth album, following 2016's Crab Day, moved from Los Angeles to live in the Lake District and turn her talents to making wooden furniture. A unique talent and voice, this is uplifting, sun-filled music of beautiful melancholy, piano-based but filled with guitars and gutsy saxophone and a dry, oddball humour, from Sad Nudes to The Light, the spiky, offbeat Magnificent Gestures, the eccentric You Don't Love Me, the lamenting Daylight Matters, or Home To You. With her piercing gaze and extraordinarily quiet but powerful presence, she's also a must for a live show. Out on Mexican Summer.
Cate Le Bon – Home To You
Mavis Staples – We Get By
Now turning 80 and more than half a century since leading the line in the 1960s civil rights movement, Staples returns with a 12th solo album, still in fine voice. Ben Harper this time takes a turn as producer, and this is no nostalgia fest. Expect uncompromising lyrics such as "Trouble in the land. We can’t trust that man." The opener, Change, hits the ground running with a bluesy, straight up point. Heavy On My Mind's slow lament is immediately followed by the more upbeat Sometime, with the album rising and falling in mood and energy from the slower, beautiful, soulful Never Needed Anyone, rising again to the gospel, bluesy Stronger. Sit down, stand up. There's no stopping Mavis. Out on Anti.
Mavis Staples - Change
Amyl and the Sniffers – Amyl and the Sniffers
The punk-rock band from Melbourne release their full LP after a couple of EPs and it's turned up to 11 throughout. They are perhaps more enjoyable live, with the sexy, charismatic persona of singer/shouter Amy Taylor making for a great show, but this is an album to blow away the cobwebs, even if each track is similar to the next, such as Punisha and Shake Ya and Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzeld). Angel is the big singalong anthem. Out on Rough Trade.
Amyl and the Sniffers – Got You
Steve Lacy – Apollo XXI
Enjoying great success already with two albums by funk band The Internet as well as a modelling career, the musician from Compton, California releases his first LP after an EP, and he's still only 21 (as per the title) and makes a good fist of it. It has elements of Prince (Guide) light, summery hip hop (Basement Jack), looped gospel (4ever) and psychedelia, Lacy is clearly trying to find his style, but has got plenty of options as he searches for those 'Like Me'. Out on 3QTR.
Steve Lacy - Like Me
Areni Agbabian – Bloom
A highbrow, pin-drop precise, sensual and serious debut for the American singer who has previously worked with Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, and with similar heritage, she offers something that's less jazz, closer to something between modern classical and Radiohead, with added piano, folk, microtonal scales, and minimal percussion instruments, bells, gongs and cymbals. Her voice is a pure, classical contralto, fully exposed and strong in work of at times abstract stillness, especially Mother and Patience. A quiet, late-night treat. Out on ECM.
Arena Agbabian – Patience
Flying Lotus – Flamagra
As much as film-maker as a rapper, Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, who has now made a feature length abstract horror film, Kuso, and his albums are equally cinematic. This sixth LP includes a short story from David Lynch and high-octane rap miniatures, such as Yellow Belly, a collaboration with R&B artist Tierra Whack. The whole album experience is like a e-number high of jazzy sugar and cartoons, very much like the Adult Swim TV channel for whom he's also worked, challenging the senses in 26 often short songs of bewildering, but sometimes brilliant mixtures of colours, funk-jazz sounds and beats. Out on Warp.
Flying Lotus – Takashi
Youssou N'Dour – History
Not so much an album of new tracks by the Senegal star, but a reworking of old ones to show of his shining talent to embrace different tracks, delving into his back catalogue to rework various songs, but singing anew with his extraordinary commanding voice. This includes Birima, a tribute to Africa, with Sweden’s Seinabo Sey, and Hello, with Congolese singer Mohombi, plus from 1989’s Set, Salimata with slinky saxophone. Out on Naive Records.
Youssou N'Dour – Confession
Faye Webster – Atlanta Millionaires Club
"I should get out more." Delightfully gentle, melancholy and humorous debut from the 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Atlanta, whose style has a steel-pedal twang, mixing country, Americana and Hawaiian, but who cites Aaliyah as a major musical influence. Slow, clever and with perky performance, remarkably mature. Out on Secretly Canadian.
Fay Webster - Room Temperature
Honeyblood – In Plain Sight
The Glasgow-formed bands' third album sounds like their best to date, with Stina Tweeddale taking things in full throttle. Indie? Punk? This is both of those, but more. Single The Third Degree has as much the feeling of a classic Motown track, something by The Shirelles. Out on Marathon Artists.
Honeyblood – The Third Degree
Frankie Lee – Stillwater
A follow-up to the acclaimed 2016 debut album American Dreamer, the country-pop-folk singer again fills his album with character's heading for tragedy, but this time the theme is more homecoming and redemption. Gentle, walking pace work that pulls you in with it's wistful storytelling, easy melodies and chord changes on piano, guitar and mouth organ. Out on Loose.
Frankie Lee – Downtown Lights
Gia Margaret – There's Always Gimmer
Shimmering fragility and glamour come in a great debut by the American singer-songwriter, who mixes folk, shoegaze and ambient electronics in an album of bubbling melancholy. There are elements and echoes of Aldous Harding, Juliana Barwick, Stina Nordenstam and Linda Perhacs here, and that's testament to the quality of this record. Out on Dalliance Recordings.
Gia Margaret – Groceries
The Claim – New Industrial Ballads
With a hybrid of styles that's less Americana, but Anglocana, this is folk (informed by Bert Jansch, Nick Drake), thoughtful, melodic pop (Michael Head, Ray Davies) and angular politically tinged pop (Paul Weller, Elvis Costello). The Claim can indeed claim their own uniquely British mixture of sounds. It is also fuelled by a love of UK multiculturalism, and making a stand against Brexit fuelled xenophobia. Decent, honest, upstanding, positive and uplifting. Out on A Turntable Friend.
The Claim – Journey
Petrol Girls – Cut And Stitch
Equally, if not more political, a different style from this multicultural punk-rock band of Liepa Kuraitė (bass), Ren Aldridge (vocals), Joe York (guitar) and Zock Astpai (drums) variously from Austria, Lithuania and Bristol, with the album packed with loud and proud messages on all kinds of social injustice issues. and the music making reference to and influence from figures such as Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex, especially Oh Bondage Up Yours! Guaranteed to kick up a fun storm on stage. Out on Hassle.
Petrol Girls – Big Mouth
This week's selection is by The Landlord.
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