Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 15 September 2023.
A bittersweet nostalgia lies at the heart of Imaginary People, the new album from Viv & Riley, out now on Free Dirt Records. Over ten tracks, the pair applies an indie roots sheen to newly composed pop gems. Rooted originally in the folk tradition, the pair re-frame the production into experimental territory, crafting songs that speak to finding a path forward into adulthood in an uncertain world. Gifted songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno’s first album under the name Viv & Riley is a subtle masterpiece of thought and reflection. The album brings a reflectiveness to summertime jams that speak of uninhibited joy and creative camaraderie.
Dvořák’s mature string quartets are masterly, all brimming with life-enhancing music, and Op 106 is no exception. The Takács Quartet gives superlative accounts of both them on their new album. The quartet couple Dvořák’s piece with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s five Fantasiestücke. The album is out now via Hyperion.
K.Flay’s new full-length studio album MONO is officially out today via Giant Music. MONO is the fifth full-length for the multi-platinum, 2x Grammy-nominated K.Flay and her first album since going completely and suddenly deaf in her right ear at the end of last summer. Although K.Flay’s hearing loss deeply informed her songwriting on MONO, the album explores an entire spectrum of existential questions and complex matters of the heart and mind. In unraveling the narrative thread woven throughout the LP, Flaherty says that the album’s title alludes to the notion of embracing our inevitable solitude.
808s & Greatest Hits have shared their new record Our Lord in Exile via Our Golden Friend. Our Lord In Exile presents a unique and compelling narrative that explores the themes of power, corruption, and the fight for freedom. The album features narration by band member Ronnie Frew, who brings a powerful voice to the story and its characters. Starting as a three song suite that was intended for 2021’s Social Bubble, the album charts the journey of a dystopian king and the downfall of a despot through heavy prog influences and dark synths. Mixed by John Lee at Phaedra and mastered by David Walker at Stepford Audio the album was woven together from songs swapped back and forth between members Skube Burnell, Ronnie Frew, Lochy Funston and Nathan Nicholson.
Acclaimed saxophonist Joshua Redman makes his Blue Note debut with where are we, his first-ever vocal project which features vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Brian Blade plus special guests Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar, Peter Bernstein on guitar, and Joel Ross on vibraphone. At its core the album is both a celebration and critique of America—each song is about a specific geographical location in the United States—but it is also, to varying degrees, a ballads album, a standards album, an album of romantic longing, an album of social reflection, an album of melodic invention, and an album of improvisational adventure.
New Zealand born, Melbourne based multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, vocalist and visual artist Sarah Mary Chadwick has shared her eighth studio record Messages to God, out now via Kill Rock Stars. The new collection is composed of broad, brightly coloured spiritual strokes and consists of dramatic re-tellings of having your heart broken, existing, movement and growth. Chadwick is a gifted and singular songwriter, uniquely attuned to the minutiae of human emotion. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Chadwick’s songs are unsparing, brutal, and absolutely lovely. A prolific visual artist alongside her songwriting, Chadwick’s cover art of this record mirrors the slight alteration in tone; whereas previously, self-portraits of herself alone fronted her releases, now she has pictured herself amongst a group around a piano. Still not looking at peace, but surrounded by people, nonetheless.
Old Soul showcases 8x Grammy winner Stephen Marley expanding his musical horizons as a singer and songwriter with his new acoustic soul-leaning album that’s highlighted by special collaborations among its 14 tracks. “Winding Roads” features Grateful Dead legend Bob Weir with Jack Johnson, while Eric Clapton laces up a tasty lead guitar on a remake of the Bob Marley classic “I Shot the Sheriff.” Stephen enlists his brothers Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley on “Cast the First Stone” and Ziggy Marley on the classic Joe Higgs track, “There’s a Reward.” Jamaican Dancehall legend Buju Banton appears on “Thanks We Get (Do Fi Dem)”, while Kyle McDonald from Slightly Stoopid joins on the ballad “Standing In Love”. The albums’s evocatively nostalgic title track “Old Soul” chronicles Stephen’s journey as a child growing up in Reggae’s royal family, while the summer vibes of “Cool as The Breeze” evoke a sense of longing and loss with an element of hope and remembrance that permeates much of the album that also includes covers of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” and Ray Charles’s “Georgia On My Mind.”
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- New music round-up (for w/e 27 October 2023)
- New music round-up (for w/e 23 June 2023)
- New music round-up (for w/e 21 July 2023)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television