John Grant – Love Is Magic
The bearded king of electronica and barbed lyrics returns with his fourth solo album, and while not quite at the peak of 2013's Pale Green Ghosts, it feels more potent than his last, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. While there are more squelches and other new sounds, the weight of emotion, and humour remains, with an opening ode to his mother (Metamorphosis) and bitchy attacks on former school bullies (Preppy Boy), and heartfelt songs about his pre-Iceland relationship on Is He strange and the title track. Throughout then, the claws come out and then withdraw, back to tenderness and melancholy. Lovely dogs too. Out on Bella Union.
John Grant – Love Is Magic
Connan Mockasin – Jassbusters
The first of this week's contestants for the most laid-back album comes with the New Zealand composer and performer who, flitting between London, Lewes, Manchester, Tokyo and Los Angeles, and touring with Radiohead, is the very embodiment of odd and eclectic, in both appearance and musical style. Beautifully slow, dry-humoured mischievous, this album foreshadows an apparent five-part melodrama titled Bostyn 'n Dobsyn starring Mockasin, with appearances on this record by James Blake, MGMT, John Cale, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Very meta, impossible to define, and strangely alluring. Out on Mexican Summer.
Con Conn Was Impatient
Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Look Now
After a worrying period of illness, this is Costello's first album of new songs since the 2013, collaboration with The Roots, Wise Up Ghost, this is an album full of belters, harking back to the heady days of Imperial Bedroom. The Imposters are partly imposters because they are also partly original Attractions (drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve join bassist Davey Faragher), and some of these songs were written with Burt Bacharach, left in the freezer for whoever might eventually sing them, before Costello decided to sing them himself - Don’t Look Now and Photographs Can Lie. Other standout tracks include Unwanted Number and Under Lime. He's back with a bang. Out on Concord.
Elvis Costello & the Imposters – Under Lime
Kurt Vile - Bottle It In
Becoming a hardened touring veteran now with eight albums in a decade, including a lovely one with Courtney Barneet last year, Vile seems anything but jaded. Perhaps his laid-back (yes another one) style is his secret, and the message of not worrying that seeps throughout his songs, or should I say, fills them up with coils stoner smoke. This is another album to relax anyone with four tracks happy enough to repeat into a woozy 10 minutes each. Wily, wry and happy wandering, Vile doesn't bottle anything in but the good stuff. Out on Matador Records.
Kurt Vile – One Trick Ponies
Jerry Paper - Like A Baby
Competing with Connan Mockasin for most offbeat, laid-back oddball this week is the creative persona of Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Lucas Nathan, here with his first album for label Stones Throw. This is jazzy, strange, offbeat electronica, with echoes of Steely Dan, Stereolab and Weyes Blood. Absorbing, strange and weirdly wonderful. Out on Stones Throw.
Jerry Paper - Your Cocoon
Anna St Louis – If Only There Was A River
Most laid-back album contestant number four comes in the form of the Kansas City singer-songwriter, who must surely be in the running with her dreamy-eyed folk-country delivery. This is her first album proper if you don't count her original cassette titled First Songs. Meandering and mesmerising. Out on Woodsist.
Anna St Louis - Understand
Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest
The US west coast trumpeter was another musician who appeared, like Kamasi Washington and Thundercat on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and like them, he has much experimentation to offer in his own right. This is another relaxed album, his fifth as leader, Ambrose ambling with a mixture of his own instrument, along with Mivos string quartet and rapper Kool AD, and videos on what looks like the streets of his native Oakland, California, eclectically merging multiple genres mixed in with skits and narratives and unusual song titles such as opener 'a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie'. It's hard to get a firm grip on this, more one to immerse in without expectations, although a little more trumpet might be welcome. Out on Blue Note.
Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest album trailer
The Aints – The Church of Simultaneous Existence
Anyone remember The Saints, that Australian postpunk/new wave band who released three albums 40 years ago, including that lauded debut of '77 Stranded? Ed Kuepper returns with a brand-new band, and something akin to those days, with short, snappy tracks. It's not exactly new, but old material that's been in storage for a long time and at last sees the light. Out on Agitated.
The Aints – Red Aces
Goatman – Rhythms
Anyone fascinated by the Swedish band Goat will find themselves herding towards this adorably odd album by a mysterious, and of course masked member under this moniker. Suitably eclectic, it includes Fela Kuti-style drums and horns jam on the track Jaam Ak Salam, to the frantic gospel-jazz of Carry the Load. Who knows what is going on here, but it's fabulously strange and fun. Out on Rocket Recordings.
Goatman – Jaam Ak Salam
A Certain Ratio - acr;set
Something of a collector's compilation edition of the Manchester post-punk pop-funk band, who have been touring extensively, with extra trimmings in the formof two new songs, Make It Happen, and Dirty Boy. The latter Dirty Boy features the voice of the late Tony Wilson preparing the band for The Fox recording session, plus vocals from Barry Adamson, who returns a favour to the band after they reworked 2017’s I Got Clothes. Out on Mute.
A Certain Ratio - Dirty Boy ft. Barry Adamson
This week's selection is by The Landlord.
New to comment? It is quick and easy. You just need to login to Disqus once. All is explained in About/FAQs ...
This is only a selection, not a catalogue of releases. Feel free to recommend more and comment below. You can also use the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.