Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 17 December 2021.
Nils Frahm’s double album Old Friends New Friends gathers together 23 solo piano tracks recorded between 2009 and 2021, almost all previously unreleased but, for one reason or another, omitted from other projects. The album offers “an anatomy of all my ways of thinking musically and playing,” Frahm says, adding with a smile, “Maybe I could say it’s an album I worked on for twelve years, and finally I have enough material?” Old Friends New Friends was pieced together during the pandemic as Frahm used the time to arrange his archives, conscious of the sheer number of recordings he’d accumulated. Having selected his favourites, he realised how, when he listened to them together, they offered “a different spectrum of freedom for me”.
Things Take Time, Take Time is an assured leap forward for Courtney Barnett; a breakthrough really. This is Barnett at her most relaxed, creative and joyful. An exquisite look at the intimate, private world created by Barnett and drummer/producer Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint, Cate le Bon, Kurt Vile). It’s consequently her most beautiful and intimate record to date.
Cuba: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana: Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85 Vol. 2 is the new album compiled by Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz Records) that takes off in exactly the same vein as the much-acclaimed Vol. 1 – exploring the many styles that came out of Cuba in the 1970s as Latin and Salsa mixed with heavy doses of Jazz, Funk, and Disco to create some of the most dance floor-friendly music every made! Much of the music on this album is featured in the deluxe large format book ‘Cuba: Music and Revolution: Original Cover Art of Cuban Music: Record Sleeve Designs of Revolutionary Cuba 1959-90’, released by Soul Jazz Books and also compiled by Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz Records), featuring the music and record designs of Cuba, made in the 30-year period following the Cuban Revolution.
Tom Savage is what one might refer to as a triple-threat. One part truth-telling troubadour, one part death-defying guitar slinger, and one part Country Blues howler. Each facet of his formidable on-stage persona carefully crafted over a 20+ year devotion to the composition and performance of song. Tom is a true believer. A disciple of melody and harmony and tempo and timbre. His new album with the Tom Savage Trio (also featuring Geoff Chown, Sandy Mackenzie and Vanessa Longul) is called The County Line, and it’s out now.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: An Oxford Christmas focusses on arrangements made by Vaughan Williams for The Oxford Book of Carols (1928), coupled with two later carols published by OUP. Many of the tunes are far from well-known and deserve a new audience. Around 10 of the 22 tracks are first recordings, but one or two may have been overlooked amidst the vast but very mixed heritage of recorded carols. The record features Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital, Joshua Ryan and William Vann performing Vaughan Williams’ music.
Mfasis (pronounced “Emphasis”) returns from his 4 year hiatus with his 4th project Inner Thoughts. The original concept of this project was to make it a project full of short stories, skits and engaging topics that people argue over (like in a Barbershop setting or while sitting on a stoop on a chill summer day). As time went on, Mfasis decided to change that due to the fact that all of these debates/conversations were only being had in his head, by himself. Which is why the album cover has been changed to him looking into the mirror, talking to himself. Some of the themes talked about in this album are being on the brink of quitting your passion, being apart of a generation that doesn’t have much (or the right type of) guidance, commentary on the Gossip Culture that dominates our society and much more.
Robin Pecknold brings light to the bleakest of winters with Fleet Foxes’ A Very Lonely Solstice, a 13-track career spanning collection recorded in December 2020, at Brooklyn, NY’s St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church. A Very Lonely Solstice is out digitally now. Much of A Very Lonely Solstice showcases a solo focus on Pecknold who offers up acoustic arrangements of fan-favorite songs spanning Fleet Foxes’ catalogue. Selections cover all four of the band’s studio albums, including their 2008 self-titled debut album (“Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”) to 2011’s Helplessness Blues (“Blue Spotted Tail”) and 2017’s Crack-Up (“If You Need To, Keep Time On Me”), all the way to their latest GRAMMY nominated release, Shore. Resistance Revival Chorus joins Pecknold on Shore tracks “Wading In Waist-High Water” and “Can I Believe You.” Also featured: a cover of Nina Simone’s “In The Morning” and a rearrangement of the traditional “Silver Dagger.”
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television