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Albums Of The Month

 

JANUARY

1. NATALIE PRASS – NATALIE PRASS

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Prass is 28 and Nashville-based, but must be the only musician in the city who doesn’t write country music. That’s partly due to the Virginia-born singer being old friends with Matthew E White, partly down to her influences sending her in another direction. Signed to White’s Spacebomb label, she has the advantage of calling on the house band – a Muscle Shoals, Stax-style collective arranged and conducted by White and Trey Pollard – who drench the songs on Natalie Prass in sumptuous strings, horns and woodwind, while Prass sings like a fallen angel with the rugged soul of Dusty Springfield and the high, reedy archness of Diana Ross. Combined, it makes for one of the albums of 2015 already.  Prass makes a perfect fit for Spacebomb Records, not just as someone who shares an understanding of America’s vibrant musical history, but also as White’s childhood friend and collaborator. They share a vision but have distinct ways of executing it. While Natalie Prass has more of a Dusty in Memphis sheen than Big Inner’s Randy Newman fascination, that retro sensibility still colours each of the album’s nine songs.  Despite the band’s amazing instrumental flourishes, it’s Prass who makes the album spectacular. Her simultaneously commanding and delicate voice manages to be soulful without forced affectation, ethereal without being too sweet.  The album ends on the widescreen Disney soundtrack of “It Is You”; the lushest song that Spacebomb has put their name to so far; it’s the love song to end all other songs. “There is only one thing that I need” trills Prass beautifully, “it is you / it is you / it is you / it is you”, committing to the power of love once more now she’s clear of the break-up. The most wonderful, positive ending, a paean to the power of song and the song that closes this modern classic of an album.

2. BEAT SPACEK – MODERN STREETS

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Future soul star, Steve White, makes a keenly awaited return with his first release under the Beat Spacek moniker. ‘Modern Streets’ is his finest work since the last burst of creativity which yielded the ace Africa HiTech project with Mark Pritchard and the excellent Black Pocket sounds for his brother dBridge’s Exit Recordings. In a fair reflection of the ‘Modern Streets’, it was created entirely on iPhone and iPad but it also reflects on White’s history growing up in London’s New Cross neighbourhood. Rather than a showcase of studio pressure, it’s an assortment of 13 fly, nimble cuts borrowing from Ghanaian highlife, post-punk, R&B to support his flighty falsetto, favouring quicksilver, ornate patterns and tones instead of billowing B-lines and such. In some ways this approach reminds of early grime, both in technique and effect, but where that grime was all about aggy angularity, this sound is fluidly soulful, from the vaporous Outkast styles of ‘Inflight Wave’ to the piquant tweaks to ‘I Want You’ and the fruity crush of staccato Purple drums with bubblin’ dub in ‘Stand Firm’. One for the roadwise connoisseurs.

3. POND – MAN IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN

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It is easy to forget that during the UK winter months, on the other side of the globe, Australia is basking in the blistering heat of summer. Doing their best to bring the weather with them, psychedelic rock band Pond have delivered the first summer album of the year and it couldn’t be at a more welcome time. Explosions, unearthly sound effects, trippy percussion and quintuple-tracked vocals populate the album. The synths on the title track fizzle and oomph like a less together MGMT before setting off in another direction altogether. Sitting Up On Our Crane croons mournfully to itself like UK cult band Television Personalities in their psych phase, or perhaps John Lennon in one of his more indulgent moments. Holding Out For You, meanwhile, is the sort of graceful slide through cloud-baiting childhood fantasyland and psychedelia that makes me still miss Mercury Rev so very much.  It’s not all wonderment and wigged-out head trips, though. Sometimes the indulgence becomes almost too overbearing, and you start wishing Pond would return to planet earth, if just for a moment.  Man It Feels Like Space Again is an astonishing confident record. Even though the textural palettes are familiar, especially to those who have been lapping up the psychedelic soup of Tame Impala, Pond and their Perth based contemporaries, the song writing craftsmanship and vibe of every track varies from the last. As the title suggests, this album feels like a journey into outer-space, a sci-fi record through and through where every track represents a different planet, each one richly distinct and wildly intoxicating. Planet Earth looks rather drab in comparison.

4. PANDA BEAR - MEETS THE GRIM REAPE

5. GAZ COOMBES - MATADOR

6. VIET CONG – VIET CONG
7. MR OZIO – THE CHURCH
8. THE CHARLATANS – MODERN NATURE
9. CURTIS HARDING – SOUL POWER
10. SLEATER-KINNEY – NO CITIES TO LOVE

natalie prassbeat spacekPondpanda beargaz coombesviet congmr oziocharlatanscurtis_hardingSleaterKinney

 

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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