Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 26 March 2021.
Tune-Yards have unleashed their fifth studio album, sketchy. The 11-track record includes the singles ‘hold yourself’. and ‘nowhere, man’. Tune-Yards’ last release i can feel you creep into my private life, was a self-reflexive question mark at the end of a decade of outspoken, polyphonic indie music. From 2009 to 2018, Tune-Yards released four critically acclaimed albums, travelled the world relentlessly to play live shows, and composed the psychedelic score to Boots Riley’s surrealist cinematic masterpiece Sorry To Bother You. Interrogating these systems and her role within them had left Merrill Garbus feeling heavy with guilt and grief and lost about how to move forward as a musician. But then she began to rediscover the joy in making music. Inspired by the Beastie Boys Book and Questlove’s Creative Quest, Merrill and Nate began jamming daily for hours in their home rehearsal studio “like athletes”. They ditched computer screens for live instruments (Merrill on drums, Nate on bass) and before long full songs started to emerge.
Mesmerised is the newest LP by The Routes, the group helmed by Scots-born, Japanese-dwelling guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Chris Jack. This also happens to be the eighth long-playing record to bear the group’s name; one that has been steadily growing in stature and stamina since their earliest outpourings more than ten years ago. Mesmerised is also one of the most powerful statements of sixties-influenced, modernistically executed garage beat rock’n’roll. On this brand new collection Chris is joined by two names familiar to Routes aficionados, drummer Bryan Styles who can be heard on 2019’s Tune Out, Switch Off, Drop In (and also on Miles To Go the exceptional solo LP Chris recorded most recently for Action Weekend) and bass player Toru Nishimuta who, aside from also appearing on Tune Out… played on the group’s 2007 debut Left My Mind.
The legendary Hammond B-3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith has recorded over thirty albums as a leader, but his favorite setting to document his creativity is live. During the 2017 celebration of his 75th birthday, basking in the glow of being named an NEA Jazz Master, Smith settled into the Jazz Standard in New York City for a live recording date. With his steady trio of guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake, the master of improvisational innovation delightfully delivered the spirited All In My Mind album, which was released in 2018. That celebratory week has now yielded a second fantastic album with Breathe, a dynamic eight-song set that includes six thrilling pieces brimming with foot-tapping grooves, sophisticated harmonic voicings, indelible melodicism, and ethereal atmospherics that were captured on the Jazz Standard stage with the trio as well as an expanded septet. Notably, the album is bookended by two remarkable studio collaborations between Smith and the legendary vocalist Iggy Pop.
Following singles ‘Fool’, ‘Destroy Everything’, ‘Dead and Gone’ and ‘Halo’, Melbourne singer-songwriter Jess Locke has released her third album Don’t Ask Yourself Why, out on Dot Dash Recordings / Remote Control Records. The album traverses themes of human behaviour, our egos and self-reflection and was recorded with bandmates James Morris and Chris Rawsthorne, and produced by Rob Muiños (Saskwatch, Julia Jacklin) in a tiny studio in the back of a guitar shop in Collingwood, before it was mastered by John Davis at Metropolis in the UK (Lana Del Ray, The Killers, Gorillaz).
Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s latest project, Reflections, was inspired by the critically acclaimed and chart-topping 2020 album Debussy – Rameau. Engaging in visionary conversations with French masters Debussy and Rameau, Ólafsson and other pioneering artists of today take a selection of scores as their starting points for a set of varied and original contemporary reworks. The new tracks feature the delicate guitar-based sounds of Texas-based duo Balmorhea, gentle vocals of Icelandic singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Helgi Jónsson and Hugar, among others. The reworks are combined with some of Ólafsson’s previously unreleased recordings of solo piano pieces by Debussy to create a dreamlike blend of past and present.
Sunny War’s new album Simple Syrup is out now. The record has a vibrant, loose feel, more focused on the interplay with the musicians than before. Sunny’s new songs touch on everything from romance to politics, jumping easily between larger concepts like the expectations for famous Black women in American art (“Like Nina”) and smaller ideas like “Kiss A Loser”, her ode to her own drunken self in relationships. One of the more powerful songs on the album, “Deployed and Destroyed” is about a friend that Sunny knew from the streets. A veteran of the Iraq Wars, she watched him fall apart from PTSD, another vet who was unable to get the care he needed and is now homeless and suffering from severe mental trauma. Watching so many friends fall apart under the pressures of COVID–losing jobs, being left behind–motivated Sunny to do more, to make change.
Early Riser’s new cello-driven, harmony-fueled pop-punk album Vocations is out now. Early Riser has emerged as one of the most distinct-sounding bands in the punk scene, blending cello riffs and soaring vocal harmonies with pop hooks and uplifting lyrics. Since the 2017 release of their debut LP, Currents, they’ve played The Fest and Montreal’s Pouzza Fest, toured with The Homeless Gospel Choir, and opened for The Hold Steady, Anti-Flag, Jonah Matranga, Chris Farren, Spanish Love Songs, and Katie Ellen. They’ve also solidified their lineup, with founding members Kiri Oliver (vocals/guitar) and Heidi Vanderlee (cello/vocals) joined by Nicole Nussbaum on bass/vocals and Mikey Erg on drums/vocals.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television