Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 17 September 2021.
Pianist/composer and 2021 Guggenheim Fellow Helen Sung celebrates the work of influential women composers on her latest album Quartet+, crafting new arrangements of tunes by Geri Allen, Carla Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, and Toshiko Akiyoshi while carrying the tradition forward with her own stunning new works. Co-produced by violin master Regina Carter, the album pairs Sung’s quartet with the strings of the GRAMMY® Award-winning Harlem Quartet in an inventive meld of jazz and classical influences.
After appearing on a quartet of very different releases, ranging from early baroque arias to orchestral songs by Alban Berg and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, British soprano Ruby Hughes has devised a song recital, together with her regular Lieder partner Joseph Middleton. The process began in 2018 when the two gave the world premiere of Helen Grime’s Bright Travellers, a set of five poems charting the interior and exterior worlds of pregnancy and motherhood. Ruby Hughes soon set about planning a program which would converge with Grime’s music and the themes of new life and of love in all its aspects. The recital is book-ended by two song cycles by Gustav Mahler which explore love, grief, loss and reconciliation through quite different lenses. In the opening cycle we experience Mahler as solitary wayfarer and hear of unrequited love. In Kindertotenlieder, the second cycle, the poet Friedrich Rückert pours out his pain as a grieving father in songs about the beauty and innocence of children. Completing the program is Charles Ives – described by Ruby Hughes as Mahler’s ‘musical kindred spirit’ – with a selection of love songs, prayers and lullabies.
During a year of separation and isolation, Cold Beat created a record about connection, loss, and hope called War Garden. The term “War Garden” is a reference to the self-sufficiency required by civilians during World War II to plant their own fruits and vegetables. The hopefulness of seeds sprouting and growing despite a conflict-laden backdrop provided Cold Beat with ample imagery and allegorical material.
New York drummer Nate Smith came to prominence as the rhythmic powerhouse behind such varied artists as bassist Dave Holland, singer Jose James and Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard. His Kinfolk trilogy, which he kicked off in 2017, “now acts as a way to introduce listeners to who I am by exploring my history and my influences,” he says. Its second installment, Kinfolk 2: See the Birds, is a continuation of him delving into the formative music of his youth, from the Living Colour references of the high-tempo “Rambo: The Vigilante” to the cinematic Sting cover “I Burn for You” and a tender tribute to his late father, “Fly (For Mike)”, featuring Howard.
In the winter of 2020, Rumer and her band come together at London’s Lafayette to perform a full length live stream concert. Here she performs songs from her most recent album Nashville Tears, and selections from her much esteemed catalogue which has now been fully remastered for digital, CD and vinyl release.
In From Dreams to Dust, their eighth and most recent studio album, The Felice Brothers’ exuberance to be together doing what they do so well is palpable. Characteristic of The Felice Brothers, the new tracks are a mixture of somber tunes with ones that are musically upbeat, all the while carrying messages that beg listeners to think deeply about the environment, humanity, legacy, and death. Many of the songs depict the passage of time, nostalgia, transience and getting older. For songwriter Ian Felice, there must also always be a current of hope in the music.
Nostalgic power pop conjurer, Tanaya Harper has released her new EP, Montreal. Covering themes of recklessness, recovery, exhaustion and elation that come with the territory of living with bipolar disorder, Montreal is a direct extension of Tanaya’s 2020 EP Slow Motion Breakup. The sister release continues to emit the same endearing elements Tanaya’s solo music has become known for, harking back to its predecessor’s moody alternative rock tropes and hazy pop melodies with brutally honest diary entry lyrics.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- New music round-up
- New music round-up (for w/e 14 May 2021)
- New music round-up (for w/e 23 July 2021)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television