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New music round-up (for w/e 10 May 2024)

Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 10 May 2024.

After crisscrossing the nation for the last half-decade looking for a home, Pokey LaFarge found himself in Mid-Coast Maine. Upon arriving, the Illinois-born singer/songwriter/actor pursued a major life change, working 12-hour days on a local farm—a turn of events that catalyzed an extraordinary burst of creativity and redefined his sense of purpose as an artist. Rhumba Country was initially shaped from material that emerged while LaFarge was deep in work on the farm. “I’d be pushing a plow or scattering seeds, and the songs would just come to me,” he recalls. “It was tremendously inspirational and made me realize that apart from singing, farming is perhaps the oldest human art form.” While farming, LaFarge began dreaming up a kaleidoscopic sound informed by his love of music from far-ranging eras and corners of the globe, including mambo, tropicália, rocksteady, and mid-century American rock-and-roll. “The songs that naturally come to me are upbeat and make you wanna dance or at least bop your head—they’re all very colorful,” says LaFarge. “I used to think of my music in dark blue, but now I see it in technicolor.” Co-produced along with Chris Seefried and Elliot Bergman and recorded in L.A., the resulting Rhumba Country is an invitation to come together to celebrate life and love.

Amen Dunes has always worked with an outsider’s verve, but as he approached his seventh album in 2019, it was clear to Damon McMahon that he needed to become an outsider to his own history. “I was tired of the music I’d become convinced I had to limit myself to.” Instead of embarking on a familiar project, he decided to become a beginner again, immersing himself in the fundamentals of both piano and the electronic music he’d grown up with at raves and clubs but never imagined himself able to make. Few Amen Dunes fans might have perceived the lasting effect such music had on his work, but with Death Jokes, these influences would become clear. This album also marks a change in thematic focus; through samples and lyrics, Damon is much more directly critiquing the way American culture exalts violence, coercion, and groupthink as societal inevitabilities.

Kenny Barron brings together a legendary multi-generational quintet on his new album Beyond This Place. This is Barron’s second album on Artwork Records. Following his Grammy-nominated solo album The Source (2023), he brings together a multi-generational quintet comprised of some of the most acclaimed musicians of their time, including rising jazz star Immanuel Wilkins (saxophone), but also Johnathan Blake (drums), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (double bass) and Steve Nelson (vibraphone). With ‘Beyond This Place’ and at more than 80 years old, Kenny Barron once again illustrates his genius as a composer and performer, driven by an original and singular musicality in a history of jazz that he continues to write with patience and modesty.

The Hits Keep Coming is the long-awaited new album from award-winning, modern blues legends Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. The Hits Keep Coming, the band’s sixth release, packs a powerful punch, with phenomenal musicianship and streetwise lyrics—both serious and humorous. The band consists of vocalist, harmonica master and songwriter Estrin, along with multi-instrumentalist/musical mastermind/producer Christoffer “Kid” Andersen, keyboardist/organ wizard/bassman Lorenzo Farrell and endlessly creative drummer Derrick “D’Mar” Martin.

Anyone who has seen the conductor Elim Chan on stage is familiar with the immense energy produced by her baton. With the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, of which she has been Principal Conductor since 2019, she celebrates a genre dear to her heart, ballet music, which places the emphasis on both physical movement and orchestral power. More than a century of ballet music is presented on their new album, All These Lighted Things. The record includes excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suites, oscillating between passionate love and fatal violence; Suite no.2 from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, the fruit of his first collaboration with Diaghilev in 1912, which he described as a ‘choreographic symphony’; and finally a work by Elizabeth Ogonek, All These Lighted Things, premiered in 2017. Although the title of these ‘three little dances for orchestra’ comes from a poem that evokes a soothing union with the earth at the dawn of a sunny day, the piece ends with a sort of folk dance that degenerates into an orchestral storm.

New York’s Yaya Bey has released her new album Ten Fold via Big Dada. Picking up where she left off with the powerful one-two punch of her 2022 album Remember Your North Star and 2023’s followup EP Exodus the North Star, Yaya’s new album is a free-spoken and flowing self-portrait defined by in-the-moment reflections on the past, present and future. Brimming with the nuances of Yaya’s identity and the various facets of her creative endeavors, Ten Fold turns her focus inward and meditates on her inner being while carving out spaces for the humor and cutting social commentary that’s been a defining characteristic of her work.

Disneyland In Dagenham, the eccentrically beguiling 3rd full-length album from Essex born Scott Lavene is out now through Cheersquad Records & Tapes. A born storyteller, through his records and his writing, ­Scott Lavene has long been populating a hallucinogenic world of his own creation with ne’er do wells, ragamuffins and eccentrics. From a man draining the blood of property agents in the aid of local businesses (‘Keeping It Local’) to a talking horse who travels Europe selling hash, gambling and performing covers of Talking Heads, his new album Disneyland In Dagenham is no exception.

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