Review: The evolution of Justin Vernon from the broken-hearted, falsetto-voiced troubadour who emerged from his cabin to deliver his debut eight years ago to the here and now may seem downright implausible, yet the facts of the matter are this - '22, A Million' is proof positive that he is one of the most multi-faceted and enigmatic and inscrutable artists we have at our disposal, still capable of delivering heart-rending beauty in song form yet also of marrying it to wilful abstraction in a way that not only offers emotional resonance yet reflects and refracts its surrounding era to offer succour and salvation. Sing it from the rooftops, this is little short of a complicated modern masterpiece.
Review: Unsurprisingly, Aromanticism - meaning to have little or no romantic attraction to others - is exactly the idea Moses Sumney explores on this stunning debut. Having written the majority of this album's lyrics in the solitude of remote north American cabins, Sumney's songs about loneliness and distance feel natural and sincere. Throughout 'Aromanticism' Sumney shows off his affinity with vocal acrobatics, leaping from his rasping lower register to achingly dulcet falsetto. Both in his instrumentation and as a vocalist, Sumney strikes a pitch-perfect balance between acoustic and digital, exhibiting his ability to blend the two. Sumney blends passages of spoken word, neo-soul, broken-beat, and the vocal harmonies and movements, cascading with gospel precision, that shone on his 2016 EP. 'Aromanticism' is a powerful and heartfelt opening statement from an artist well worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Review: Crusading Rocker Sharon Van Etten returns from five years away releasing any long player, and, like her latest album attests, she's the come-back-kid. Full of jovial generation X angst and time-passing motifs - "I used to be 17..." sings the phrase in "Seventeen" - Van Etten has here successfully painted themes of '80s Americana & Nostalgia into a new kind or realism. There are heavier, more emotionally-laden ballads like "Jupiter 4", invoking a Melancholia-feel, of Lars Von Trier-esque persuasion, and with electronic production techniques entering her music more than heard before, alongside a bevy of warming but also haunting vocals, Van Etten's script for 2019 is here.