Albums Of The Month
1. JOANNA NEWSOM – DIVERS
If music is a time machine, able to transport listeners to different places and eras as well as deep into memories, then Joanna Newsom steers Divers as deftly as Jules Verne. She flits to and from 18th century chamber music, 19th century American folk music, ’70s singer/songwriter pop, and other sounds and eras with the lightness of a bird. While Divers is musically dense, it may be even more packed with ideas and vivid imagery; its lyrics sheet reads like a libretto (and is a necessary reference while listening). The bird calls that bookend the album — and the way its final word (“trans-”) flows into its first (“sending”) — hint at the album’s looping, eternal yet fleeting nature. Newsom can make her audience work almost as hard as she does, but the rewards are worth it: Dazzling, profound, and affecting, Divers’ explorations of time only grow richer the more time listeners spend with them.
2. SEAHAWKS – DEEP HAUL
Seahawks have inadvertently created the perfect summer album in “Deep Haul” and in typically obtuse style, released it in October. Then again, it’s as the nights draw in that you need those summer vibes most. That’s not to say the music here is all bright and breezy, as the title suggests this is a deep trip. Some tracks, like Cassini Division’s “Sea Caves”, are narcotic to the point of collapse. Opening with two long lost mastercuts from Ruf Dug and Begin the album continues into uncharted territory with an epic re-work of “Electric Water Falls” by Secret Circuit and a beautifully melancholic version of “Moon Turn Tides” by post dubstep maestro Mokadem which lays bare Maria Minerva’s mournful vocals before we’re transported on a wild ride to the cosmic frontier by Japan’s Sapphire Slows who take Peaking Lights Indra ‘Drifting’ into an avant wonderland. There’s also extreme goodness from the ever wonderful Prins Thomas, Foreversound, Pye Corner Audio, Captain Sunshine, Rune Lindbaek and Seahawks themselves. This a great album for sitting on the beach, taking DMT or doing the washing up.
3. DEXTER STORY – WONDEM
The album was inspired by East African, North African, and Caribbean music, all sifted through modern L.A. soul, funk, and jazz. Story is everywhere, singing, playing keyboards, percussion, guitars, basses, etc. His arrangements are easy on the ears; they cordially invite the listener into his brand of global fusion on their own terms. Wondem offers pleasure, subtlety, grace, and groove in virtually every track. As a solo artist, Story has been hitting his stride in L.A. for a few years now; it’s time that we caught up with him and this album is an excellent opportunity.
4.FAT FREDDYS DROP – BAYS
Sixteen years into their career and the genre-mashing masters still avoid resting on their laurels: Bays sees the seven-piece outfit more focused and dynamic than ever. Fat Freddy’s Drop haven’t abandoned their famous fusion of reggae, dub, soul, funk, jazz (with a topping of studio-enhanced electronics), but Bays finds them reaching out to new ways of doing things with an eclectic set of tunes. It’s the first time they’ve worked up a fresh batch in the studio without any road testing, and the experiment works wonders, pushing Dallas Tamaira out of his vocal comfort zone and allowing for the development of harmonically and compositionally more sophisticated material.
5. BLITZEN TRAPPER – ALL ACROSS THIS LAND
With a kaleidoscopic style that keeps their music seamlessly flowing from one style and tempo to the next, listening to a Blitzen Trapper album can make for adventurous listening. Fifteen years in, this Portland-based collective continue to churn out well-crafted country-influenced rock numbers with effortless ease. All Across This Land is valuable as a testament to the workmanlike efficiency the band brings forth every couple of years. This is a trustworthy and worthy addition to one’s album collection.
6. LV – ANCIENT MECHANISM
L.V.’s first album on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings, finds the South London duo branching out a bit from the garage/dubstep scene that spawned them. Ancient Mechanisms is certainly a bit of a left-field turn for L.V., but it finds them comfortably, enthusiastically embracing new territory while keeping in line with the creative spirit that drove previous albums such as Routes and Sebenza.
7. ALELA DIANE + RYAN FRANCESCONI – COLD MOON
Her words are obsessed with weather and seasons, all fading light and changing tides; they’re frequently bleak, ruminating on death and loss and the passage of time, but they are never singularly so, never a grey cloud without a ray of light. Mostly Francesconi’s instrumentation is deliberately unobtrusive, doing just enough to underpin and never overshadow Diane’s voice. Cold Moon is a winter morning. Not a dark, brittle winter morning, but a happily futile winter Sunday morning, where the a few snatched hours of watercolour sunlight feel all the more precious for their scarcity.
8. ROOTS MANUVA – BLEEDS
It’s good to find that Roots Manuva’s rhyming skills and wayward worldview remain largely unchanged on Bleeds, despite his relocation from inner-city London to suburban Surrey. There’s the same penchant for itchy, unusual beats from the likes of 4Tet and Fred; the same provocative, philosophical flow; and the same undertow of paranoid wariness.
9. RYAN ADAMS – 1989
By re-recording the whole of Taylor Swift’s 1989, the maverick alt country star has turned a world beating chart smash album into a tender masterpiece of bruised Americana, in the process emphasising the perfect songcraft and exposing the dark heart of emotion beating beneath Swift’s gleaming surfaces.
10. MATTHEW HALSALL – INTO FOREVER
Matthew Halsall eloquently blends the tranquil tone-poetry of Alice Coltrane and the jazz intensity of her husband, John. His jazz sensibilities constantly lead him to energise the gentlest passages with contrastingly prodding bass hooks, tough drum patterns and rimshot snaps.
FULL LIST OF OUR TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2014 CLICK HERE. ALSO CHECK OUT UNDER AOTY2014 FOR OUR TOP 20 REISSUES, COMPILATION AND STAFF LISTS.
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