Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 10 July 2020.
Don’t Waste Your Anger, the fifth studio album from Melbourne six piece The Smith Street Band is out now. The album was set in motion a little over two years ago when the band, with the help of a handful of family and friends, set about building their own solar powered recording studio on the edge of the Wombat State Forest in regional Victoria. Over a couple of months an empty tin shed that was once a motorbike garage would be turned into a multi room recording studio designed specifically around the way the band like to record, and all running entirely off grid. The resulting 10 tracks that make up Don’t Waste Your Anger are home to all The Smith Street Band characteristics: relatable, authentic lyrics and a raw emotionally charged performance.
On Dream or Don’t Dream, Kestrels live out a guitar freak’s wildest fantasies. The supercharged shoegaze rockers’ fourth full-length album not only features soaring solos from Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, but mixing from John Agnello (Sonic Youth) and mastering engineer Greg Calbi (Lou Reed). Together, they constructed a towering devotional to tone with blazing riffs, powerhouse drums, and swooning hooks emerging from an enveloping haze. Since 2008, Kestrels has been the primary project of singer/guitarist Chad Peck, who spends his time offstage as a high school English teacher. For this album he is joined by drummer Michael Catano, the driving force between math-rock bands North of America, The Plan, and The Holy Shroud. Peck’s lulling vocals flash back to influences from My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, or Built to Spill, while Norma MacDonald’s spectral harmonies conjure the sound of a Cocteau Twins/Beach Boys fantasy jam.
The members of the original Joshua Redman Quartet — Redman (saxophone), Brad Mehldau (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and Brian Blade (drums) — reunite with Nonesuch Records’ release of RoundAgain, the group’s first recording since 1994’s MoodSwing. The album features seven newly composed songs: three from Redman, two from Mehldau, and one each from McBride and Blade. Redman says of his first group as a bandleader, which was together for approximately a year and a half: “I realized almost immediately that this band wouldn’t stay together for very long. They were without a doubt, for our generation, among the most accomplished and innovative on their respective instruments. They were already all in such high demand—everyone wanted to play with them! And they all had such strong and charismatic musical personalities—destined to start soon pursuing their own independent visions. I knew better than anyone else just how incredibly lucky I was to have even that short time with them.” In the intervening decades, each has played with one or more of the others on various occasions, but all four had never properly reunited. “I knew it would happen, but I didn’t know when,” Redman admits.
Rebel Yell returns with her sophomore album Fall From Grace. Described by The Music as “an experience rather than an album”, Fall From Grace unpacks the complications and divisions between personal vs creative personas, and stability vs exploration. Speaking to Blunt Magazine, Grace Stevenson explains “I almost thought about stopping music… and then I went into the studio and recorded this album and it sort of brought back my reasoning for doing it again. The whole album is this thought process of how I balance these two lives.” From “stealth electro-punk anthem” lead single ‘Anti-Club Music’, to the sexy, body positive & celebratory collaboration with Marcus Whale, ‘Pump’, to biting diss track ‘Retribution’, this is a record dedicated to exploring the divisions between body, beat & groove – a powerful cry to the overthinker.
The Owl of Fives goes further into the strangely minimal, wayward world inhabited by The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden. The Owl of Fives is weird and earthy. The Owl Of Fives is skewed folk music from a country that never existed. As a member of the U.K.’s Volcano the Bear since 1995, Daniel Padden has been involved in the creation of some of the most compelling and challenging music in recent memory. Drawing on the work of Robert Wyatt, Faust, This Heat, and the like, Volcano the Bear quickly developed a strong and devoted following and released record on such notable labels as United Dairies, Misra, Beta-Lactam Ring. All of this, however, cannot prepare one for the revelation that is Padden’s other project, The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden. While there are obvious connections with his Volcano the Bear work (and VTB members make appearances from time to time), The Owl of Fives is really in a universe all its own, strange and beautiful and unique.
Roberto Sierra’s refined compositional voice is subtly combined with contemporary musical techniques and his Puerto Rican heritage in the three works recorded on a new collection of his music from Naxos Records. Cantares, commissioned by the Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club to celebrate the university’s sesquicentennial anniversary, evokes ancient Peruvian, Aztec and Afro Caribbean voices lost in time. The virtuoso Triple Concierto transforms the popular Caribbean rhythms of salsa, bolero and merengue into complex contemporary expressions, while the polyrhythmic layers of Loíza conjure a Puerto Rican town known for its strong African traditions.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television