Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra deliver a second album for 2018 and this instrumental missive as the title suggests, was recorded in Hanoi, Vietnam, with the help of local musician and percussion aide Minh Nguyen, who added some traditional instrumentalism and flair to the album's seven tracks. It follows this year's Sex & Food LP, with the New Zealand psych rock group taking this extension of the LP that extra-step by adding a class of exotica to their radical sound. From grungy Dirty Beaches-like tracks to fourth world experimentalism in the vein of Jon Hassell, there's a profound world of sound to be further discovered here.
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.
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: When it comes to plugging in mega stacks of amplified prog-rock, Vancouver-area band Black Mountain deliver a retro-futuristic sound that's as large as any Godzilla soundtrack. With Destroyer presenting a fifth LP on Bloomington label Jagjaguwar, Black Mountain go someway in delivering a bold cross reference of only the best and most legendary points of 60s, 70s and 90s rock n roll regalia. With keys and piano mixed with guitars, distortion and vocoders giving the band a futuristic, krautrock (Deutsche elektronik musik) edge, British psychedelic and raw but atmospheric arrangements give the band their own undeniable identity. With songs passing the bottle from slow dancing rock, flashy hair metal, to synthy guitars and cosmic arpeggios, the best metal of today is still way up there, on Black Mountain.
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: Listening to the awaited full length of The National's Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon's (Bon Iver) Big Red Machine project and it's hard not to think they've invested themselves in discovering deeper strands of electronic music, or production... if the sporadic drum machine work of "Deep Green" is anything to go by. "I Won't Run From It" however sees the pair back in their full choral beauty, presenting a song for thousands to potentially wave their hands this summer. This Big Red Machine was produced over the past two years involving many-a collaboration from New York and its artistic community, with the band themself saying: "this feels like something new-the process felt different and the outcome felt different." Check it.