Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 15 May 2020.
Kamasi Washington has released his original score for Becoming, the new Netflix documentary profiling First Lady Michelle Obama. Director Nadia Hallgren asked Washington to join the project very early in its development. The score features new original music Washington composed for the film as well as selections from his catalogue. “Working with Kamasi Washington on the musical score for Becoming was a dream come true,” says Hallgren. “Not only is Kamasi a masterful musician, he also has a unique sensitivity that he pours into his music. His music reaches deeply into your soul. Mrs. Obama loves music, and when I read the line in her book ‘And heaven, as I envisioned it, had to be a place full of jazz,’ I knew immediately Kamasi was the artist that could interpret her experience musically. His sound is contemporary and timeless, a magical fit to her story.”
Set My Heart On Fire is the new album from Perfume Genius (Mike Hadreas). Produced by GRAMMY-winning producer Blake Mills, the record features contributions from Jim Keltner, Pino Palladino, Matt Chamberlin and Rob Moose. It was recorded in Los Angeles, where Perfume Genius settled in 2017 with longtime partner and musical collaborator Alan Wyffels. The album explores and subverts concepts of masculinity and traditional roles, and introduces decidedly American musical influences. “I wanted to feel more open, more free and spiritually wild,” says Hadreas, “and I’m in a place now where those feelings are very close – but it can border on being unhinged. I wrote these songs as a way to be more patient, more considered — to pull at all these chaotic threads hovering around me and weave them in to something warm, thoughtful and comforting”
Chuck Prophet’s new album The Land That Time Forgot is a weather vane picking up signals from outer space – or maybe it’s the Heartland. Prophet had crafted a record that’s as much a 21st century exorcism as it is Americana. The songs inhabit a world where a “Fast Kid” might be on the run from the truant officer or a handsy boss…or the Immigration Service. These are love songs that turn political on a dime (“Love Doesn’t Come from the Barrel of a Gun”), and melodic hallucinations about kicking back in the Oval Office after hours “talking to my baby, saying baby, let’s not fight.” His songs take the listener from San Francisco to England with a stopover in “Nixonland”. And he brings special appearances by Willie Wonka, the ghost of Johnny Thunders, John the Baptist and the train that brought Abraham Lincoln home one last time.
Scrim, better known as one half of G59’s underground super-duo, $uicideBoy$ has released his debut solo album. A Man Rose From the Dead is a 20-track amalgamation of melodically auto-tuned expressions and dark bass-boosted tunes that fans of $uicideBoy$ have grown accustomed to hearing. The album was produced by Scrim’s alter-ego, Budd Dwyer during recent months whilst self-isolating in a Palm Desert studio. The album chronicles Scrim’s path to sobriety – a journey from being completely reliant, to in his own words, “a man rising from the grave.”
In her debut album on Warner Classics, Enchantée, Marie Oppert embraces both the classics of Broadway repertoire and treasured songs of French origin, in order to represent her own musical upbringing and passion. The program explores the idea of this celebrated magical place “where it’s possible for dreams to come true”, tracing it from Anastasia’s “Journey to the Past”, through a bilingual version of the title song of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, through Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination”, to George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”.
Cinder Well (a.k.a. Amelia Baker) is at the vanguard of a different kind of transatlantic folk revival, one forged amid the uncertainty of a global pandemic. No Summer is her newly released album. The Irish-based American songwriter’s music strips traditional forms to their bones, creating a meditative space. A member of anarchist folk project Blackbird Raum, Baker’s time on the circuit with Irish trad-punk group LANKUM eventually led her to a small settlement in County Clare, and to the rich dissonance of her music as Cinder Well, a dissonance caught between worlds and histories. Recorded by Nich Wilbur (Black Belt Eagle Scout, Angel Olsen), the original songs on No Summer boldly rub shoulders with careful reworkings of traditional Appalachian sources. Baker’s songs parse these transatlantic traditions, and her voice cuts through like some ghostly ballad singer bound to sing these words from here to eternity.
Bossarenova Trio are vocalist Paula Morelenbaum, trumpeter Joo Krausthat and pianist-arranger Ralf Schmid. The trio investigate the ‘song’ from a German, Brazilian, European and South American point of view. Frederic Chopin, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Schumann, Villa-Lobos, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell, Franz Schubert and Marcos Valle – artists from very different continents and epochs – provide the essence and family tree behind the group’s mutual inspiration. The trio came together on the occasion of the Bossarenova big-band project with the German SWR Bigband in 2009. Their new album is appropriately titled Transatlanico. Bossarenova Trio seek to take the musical language of bossa nova into a conjunction with with jazz and classical music.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television