Albums Of The Month
1. TAYLOR McFERRIN – EASY RISER
Taylor Mcferrin, eldest son of soul legend Bobby Mcferrin, has signed to Brainfeeder, and it’s an excellent fit; more to do with his carefully slack beat-work than his family pedigree. On Early Riser, he takes a stab at reinventing classic 60s/70s soul for the la beat scene and beyond, downplaying the genre’s heart-on-sleeve emoting, and emphasising its more psychedelic sonic features. The results are breathtaking.
The drifting keys, guitar and echoing vocals of postpartum lead into the stripped instrumental degrees of light, in its own way a quintissential brainfeeder beat. The antidote, featuring nai palm, is worthy of early Jill Scott, with her vocals breaking into tightly-laced raps. Mcferrin repeats the trick on the gorgeous decision, featuring Emily King. Stepps, another instrumental, melds pitch-bent, fx-laden synths with a stuttering electronic beats. Jazz vibes infiltrate already there (with thundercat), and invisible/visible, which features his father. There’s also such concentrated brilliance in individual tracks to push Early Riser over and above just being another brainfeeder release. What excites most is that we’re only getting a slither of what Taylor Mcferrin has to offer with this album. The album was not created lightly, and by no means deserves to be skimmed, but there’s a diversity and thirst within this album that stands to keep Early Riser remembered for some time, and will no doubt lead Mcferrin to achieve the same. A gorgeous record, likely to be seen as a touchstone in years to come.
2. LONE – REALITY TESTING
The Nottingham-based artist is a master of indulgence, jamming his tracks with jagged, aggressive rhythms and glistening melodies. Cutler draws heavily from rave music’s more explicitly colourful side, embracing the all-out intensity of breakbeat techno and hardcore’s effervescent steamroll. Reality Testing also finds Cutler shifting his focus to the dusty hip-hop grooves of auteurs like J Dilla and Madlib, two artists regularly name-checked by European dance producers as formative influences. It might take a few listens to get on Cutler’s current wavelength, but approaching Reality Testing with an open mind yields great rewards. It’s one of his most assured and confident efforts and it provides a perfect gateway into the Lone sound. “Restless City” is all tumbling claps and record-skipping sounds, with a few needle-drop effects to add a sense of halting texture; “2 Is 8” sounds deliciously retro, with vocal samples occasionally intruding on the track’s knocking drums and steam-pipe melody that resembles an alternate take on the “Sesame Street” theme. “Meeker Warm Energy” oozes West Coast lackadaisical vibes, with honeyed static slathering a Dilla-aping beat; early single “Airglow Fires” takes the hat-tipping a step further by calling back to the vocal sample from Dilla’s Donuts neck-whipper “The Twister (Huh, What)”, speeding up the easygoing tempo and covering the thing in chunky chords reminiscent of Detroit techno. Reality Testing stands as one of the year’s best, most luxuriant, and accomplished electronic albums, more proof that when it comes to forging a new future out of what’s already taken place, Cutler remains at the top of his game.
3. JACK WHITE – LAZARETTO
Lazaretto, literally a house of blues (the title is Italian for a lepers’ hospital), has each room outfitted according to White’s mood and trials: the hip-hop seizure and hog-squeal guitar in “Lazaretto”; the bleak piano and deathangel voices in “Would You Fight for My Love?” as if Queen came from antebellum Mississippi; the crushing voodoo of “That Black Bat Liquorice,” lined with nervous mandolin and scalding fiddle. “Every single bone in my brain is electric,” White crows in “Lazaretto,” acknowledging the slim line between craft and crazy in his finely wrought swerves and choruses. He knows how to make pure fun. “Just One Drink” is a thumping hybrid of Tommy Ramone-like pulse and the Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed.” But there’s challenge even there. “Put a fork in the road/With me,” White sings – his gentleman’s way of saying, “My way or the highway.” There is much to admire about a collection of songs which look to 1968 and 2014 for inspiration. White’s abilities as a producer have been honed by his many extra-curricular activities: the drums, pianos and guitars hum and crackle with excitement. And while Lazaretto occasionally hints at some of the excesses of the producer/songwriter genre, what’s undeniable is the talent on display. White has compressed as many ideas into 11 songs as most songwriters manage over a career and manages to merge them into a brilliant and coherent record.
4. FIRST AID KIT – STAY GOLD
5. ETHAN JOHNS – THE RECKONING
6. AMY LAVERE – RUNAWAY’S DIARY
7. HOW TO DRESS WELL – WHAT IS THIS HEART
8. MARTYN – THE AIR BETWEEN WORDS
9. MATTHEWDAVID – IN MY WORLD
10. MASTODON – ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN
*****CHECK OUT OUR ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2013!*****
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