Albums Of The Month
1. CARIBOU – OUR LOVE
Our Love, his first album as Caribou in four years, is his first full-length that doesn’t come with a major shift from the sound of its predecessor. This is body music on the same general wavelength as Swim, albeit slightly warped and refined. The differences, then, are deeper: this is Snaith’s most overtly personal record to date, one that’s remarkable for its intimacy, openheartedness, and joy derived from basic human connection. Our Love is a quietly ambitious record, despite its modest title: in documenting Snaith’s personal vision of love, it seeks to render love in all of its universally complicated glory. It’s a warts-and-all depiction of a state of being that’s so often constrained to one or two facets in pop songs: obsession and disconnection, passion and jealousy, companionship and loneliness, all given equal weight. From the outside, Snaith looks the picture of domestic bliss, or at least stability—he’s been married for 13 years, and his first child was born in 2011—but many of Our Love’s lyrics hint at romantic trouble or marital discomfort. In any long-term relationship, there are moments of deadening melancholy where you feel like your organs have been put through an industrial shredder. It’s in those moments where you sniff at imagining your life completely different, or even with someone else—fantasies enabled by intense emotional pain. And then, somehow, things get better, and your heart is overflowing with love; you’re almost in disbelief, thinking, “How could I imagine a different life, even for a second?” Our Love captures the zig-zag between these two poles with an authenticity and honesty few albums manage, and the album’s excellent two singles, “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love”, focus on the latter sensation.
The kind of complex, slowly shifting relationship the album seeks to depict is mirrored by its own relationship to “dance music,” a term that’s broadly applicable to Our Love but awkward and inadequate upon closer examination. This album is glassy, warped, and largely digital where Swim was bold, bright, and decisively analog in places; there’s a warmth to it, but much of it comes from Snaith rather than his largely digital soundscapes. That said, Our Love only really glances at straightforward dance composition before choosing to shrug it off and take a different path. Most of the album is too slow and strange for the club, and its songs mutate in ways that are unexpected and offer different kind of rewards. The key attribute is ultimately confidence. Our Love is a very assured record, from its unconventional, austere arrangements to its unrelenting focus and thematic consistency. The album is a subtle cultivation of intimacy, but one that works in driving home the album’s central conceit: that the love you feel for your partner, and the life and family you can choose to shape together, can be transformative. It’s hard work, and it’s not always easy, but it pays remarkable and lasting dividends. It can change your perspective and the effect you want to have on the world, and Our Love is a worthy tribute to that messy, unbelievably powerful force.
2. KINDNESS – OTHERNESS
On Otherness, Bainbridge has intentionally, and meticulously, composed an album which revels in its own sloth. From the deep breaths of brass on the album’s opening song “World Restart (feat. Kelela & Ade)”, through the slick and slack pots-and-pans style percussion of “This Is Not About Us”, to the floating mandolin of “For The Young”. Beats lag behind the lead instrumental sections while bass lines plod cumbersomely behind refrains. But not for a minute does anything sound like it is out of place. Otherness may not surpass its predecessor in vitality, but with a handful of collaborators chipping in – including the genre-spanning Devonté Hynes and Swedish pop-songstress Robyn – it is an album which far surpasses Kindness’ debut in character. The half-decipherable verse from Ghanaian rapper M.anifest stems the surreal and sleepy flow of “8th Wonder”. Ade and Kelela lend their soulful vocals to “World Restart” while the unmistakable larynx of Robyn haunts the gloomful “Who Do You Love?”. Finally, the familiar crooning of Dev Hynes on “Why Don’t You Love Me” ties up an album which holds romantic woe deep in its heart. As on his debut, Bainbridge gives his own commendable vocal performances on Otherness, the soft fragility of which bears the singer-songwriter’s hurts and insecurities in full earshot of the listener. A refreshing thing nowadays in this time of producers who prefer to hide behind masks and alter-egos. Otherness is an album which you can’t help but feel Adam Bainbridge really put a lot of himself into. And that, more than anything, is what makes the man behind Kindness one of the most intriguing producers around at the minute. It is also what makes Otherness one of the best albums of 2014 so far.
3. ANAIS MITCHELL – XOA
Anais Mitchell really has nothing left to prove with her deeply imaginative song writing. In recent years her records have dominated the end of year lists with 2010′s “Hadestown’ in particular being close to the greatest record of that year. On this new release “Xoa” she has recorded the album that many have long desired, namely a stripped back production based largely around her voice and a acoustic guitar. Granted it is not totally original, re-visiting a number of songs from “Hadestown” and “Young Men in America”, but it allows us to listen to Mitchell and her song writing in the raw and a hugely enjoyable experience follows. There are fifteen songs on this album some of then real beauties like the new versions of the gorgeous regretful love ballad ‘If it’s true” and the superb “Namesake”. Seek them out please. The vocals of Mitchell are possibly less quirky in these settings than on previous outings although for this reviewer these solo settings seems to let her breath as a singer. As for the reworks of previous songs “Young Man in America” works equally well as a bare boned ballad as it does as the more bluesy title track on the 2012 album. Further “His kiss the riot” from Hadestown really does benefit from a much simpler crystal arrangement than Greg Brown’s dramatic accordion epic Anais is a wonderful poet who pours out her words with total conviction – yet there is a wonderful innocence in the child like tone of her beautiful voice – the diction is always sublime. This is another joyous release from an artist who should be receiving World Wide acclaim – if you love great song writing, buy it!
4. STEVE GUNN – WAY OUT WEATHER
5. JESSIE WARE – TOUGH LOVE
6. DORIAN CONCEPT – JOINED ENDS
7. VASHTI BUNYAN – HEARTLEAPING
8. DAN BODAN – SOFT
9. FLYING LOTUS – YOU’RE DEAD
10. SCOTT WALKER + SUNN O))) – SOUSED
*****CHECK OUT OUR ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2013!*****
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