Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 21 May 2021.
Fly Pan Am have composed some of their most direct, visceral and immediately satisfying for the acclaimed contemporary dance piece FRONTERA. Juxtaposing stern foreboding electronics and minimalist motorik avant-rock, the Frontera studio album superbly captures the bristling, sculpted, intensely evocative live score that Fly Pan Am developed in close conception and collaboration with Dana Gingras and her Montréal-based dance troupe Animals of Distinction.
Happy Again isn’t exactly happy. But the delightfully deadpan new album from roots mainstays Bill and the Belles is full of life, humor, and tongue-in-cheek explorations of love and loss. Out now on Ditty Boom Records (distribution and promotion by Free Dirt Service Co.), Happy Again marks a new chapter for the group by featuring eleven all-original songs penned by founding member Kris Truelsen. There’s no dancing around it: this album is about his divorce. But the group has a knack for saying sad things with a bit of an ironic smirk, pairing painful topics with a sense of release and relief. Anyone who’s been to one of their shows can attest that you leave feeling lighter and refreshed.
Following up her highly acclaimed 2018 Biophilia Records debut Magdalena, tenor saxophonist, composer and vocalist María Grand returns with a bold second outing for Biophilia, Reciprocity. It presents music that Grand wrote and recorded at a pivotal time in her life, in early 2020 when she was five and a half months pregnant with her son, Ayní. On one level, Reciprocity speaks to the mother-child bond, something Grand felt already forming as she set out with her indispensable trio mates, bassist Kanoa Mendenhall and drummer Savannah Harris.
Indigo Sparke’s debut album is Echo. Co-produced by Adrianne Lenker, the record is a deep and intimate ode to death, decay and the restless feeling of wanting to belong to something greater. Echo features contributions from James Krivchenia (drums, synth), Max Oleartchik (bass), Nick Hakim (glockenspiel), Shahzad Ismaily (guitar, synth, vocals), and Adrianne Lenker (guitar, vocals)
Ace Hashimoto is a contemporary R&B singer, songwriter, and producer whose smooth vocals, frequently applied to jazzy hip-hop inspired productions, resemble a distinctive cross between Pharrell Williams and Frank Ocean. He now shares his debut album Play.Make.Believe., released on NBN Records. The record includes previous single ‘GIRLS’, featuring Korean American rapper pH-1, and current track ‘O.M.W.’ (One Man Woman). The Chicago native has been active on the hip-hop scene, producing for Mac Miller, Chance the Rapper, Action Bronson, and SZA amongst others as brandUn DeShay, before moving to Tokyo in 2017 to hone his songwriting and singing capabilities, culminating in his new Ace Hashimoto persona.
Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony illuminate the gorgeously evocative world of Alban Berg in the newest release from the Grammy Award-winning SFS Media label. Hear the heartbreaking pathos of Berg’s Violin Concerto brought to life by brilliant violinist Gil Shaham; the soaring, multicolored Seven Early Songs performed by acclaimed soprano Susanna Phillips; and the spellbinding Three Pieces for Orchestra, in which the composer solidified his reputation as a master of spacious expression.
On his sixth solo album, Lovebirds, much-loved Melbourne musician Nick Batterham serves up a lavish feast of orchestral pop that explores love’s dizzy highs and heart-wrenching lows. As a solo artist and creative force in The Earthmen, Blindside and more recently The Bell Streets, Batterham has become a master at crafting sparkling pop songs, memorable guitar licks and irresistible melodies. On Lovebirds he builds on these foundations – and on the experience of composing an album of original classical music for Rone’s award-winning 2019 Empire project – to make a record that is at times warm and inviting, but also knows how to convey the chill of aloneness.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television