New music round-up (for w/e 16 July 2021)

Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 16 July 2021.

The origins of Clairo (born Claire Cottrill) hold their own modern mythos: 2017’s lo-fi bedroom pop track “Pretty Girl” went viral, and a major-label record deal with Fader/Republic followed. Then came her debut LP, Immunity, and its sardonic indie pop punctuated by jazzy instrumentation, soft-rock harmonies and diaristic revelations. On her sophomore album, Sling, produced by Jack Antonoff in a remote and rural part of upstate New York, Clairo has mined deeper into her well of self-possessed folk. The outdoors seems to have grounded her; even moments of ornate orchestration are stripped down to their emotional core, like in the fluttery horns and xylophone of “Wade”, the herd of violins on “Just for Today” and “Management” or their psychic opposite—the heartbreaking piano ballad intro on “Harbor”, and the campfire stopper “Reaper”. Standout first single “Blouse” features backing vocals from Lorde, and borrows a familiarly devastating chord progression (think Big Star’s “Thirteen”). Everywhere you turn on Sling, there are careful, restrained and wise observations on the human condition.


Four years after laying his Chet Faker project to rest and releasing music as Nick Murphy, the New York-based Australian singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has returned to his original moniker. Dialling back the more far-flung turns of 2014’s Built on Glass and his subsequent work under his given name, Hotel Surrender concentrates on the sweet spot that made him a star in the first place. These are quiet, confiding earworms that never feel overcrowded, letting us appreciate each individual element as it slots into place.


Dave McMurray has taken a long, strange trip to arrive at his sophomore release for Blue Note Records. On Grateful Deadication, the saxophonist takes his gritty, soulful Detroit sound and reimagines the flower empowered songs of San Francisco icons the Grateful Dead with an album as vibrant as it is unexpected. For this spirited excursion into the Dead’s vast repertoire, McMurray reconvened the rhythm section that graced his 2018 Blue Note debut, Music Is Life. This time out, bassist Ibrahim Jones and drummer Jeff Canady are joined by guitarist Wayne Gerard and keyboardist Maurice O’Neal, both longtime compatriots from the Motor City scene, as well as pianist Luis Resto and percussionist Larry Fratangelo, colleagues from McMurray’s days in Was (Not Was). The album also features a special guest appearance by Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir, along with powerhouse vocalist Bettye LaVette and Weir’s Wolf Bros bandmates Don Was, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti and Greg Leisz.


Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has just released new, never-before-heard recordings from the great Bahamian guitar legend and otherworldly talent Joseph Spence (1910-1984). Recorded by renowned recording engineer, documentarian, and producer Peter Siegel in 1965 in New York City and the Bahamas, Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing offers a look at a grandmaster at work, at the height of his powers and recorded with expert equipment. The album also includes two entirely new songs that Spence had never recorded before and new settings of Spence classics! A brilliantly virtuosic guitarist who influenced everyone from Richard Thompson to The Grateful Dead, Ry Cooder, and Taj Mahal, Joseph Spence was infused with the spirit of improvisation.


Hologram is the first release from New York post-punk legends A Place To Bury Strangers on their own newly formed label, Dedstrange. Hologram is the follow up to their highly regarded fifth album, Pinned, and is a sonic return to A Place To Bury Strangers’ rawest, most unhinged sound. With songs addressing the decay of connections, friendships lost, and the trials and tribulations of these troubled times, Hologram serves as an abstract mirror to the moment we live in. Written and recorded during the on-going global pandemic and in the midst of the decline of civilization, Hologram is a sonic vaccine to the horrors of modern life.


Perhaps no other conductor has done more for Sibelius or has championed him more consistently on record than Herbert von Karajan. Celebrating Karajan’s great affinity to Sibelius, Deutsche Grammophon is reissuing his complete recordings of the composer’s works on the Yellow Label, across 5 CDs + 1 Blu-ray. The analogue recordings are newly remastered and presented on Blu-ray Audio disc in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos.


Esther Rose was in perpetual motion when she wrote How Many Times. In the span of two years, she moved three times, navigated the end of a relationship, and began touring more than ever. The New Orleans-based singer-songwriter used that momentum while she penned her third studio album. That’s why, as the album title’s nod to the cyclical nature of life implies, there’s a rush that accompanies How Many Times as if you’re experiencing an awakening, too.


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