Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 4 June 2021.
Chris Thile’s Laysongs is his first truly solo album: It’s just Thile, his voice, and his mandolin, on a set of nine new tracks, combining original songs with three wisely chosen covers that contextualize and banter with his ideas. At the heart of the album is a three-part piece, “Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth,” that Thile premiered during a fall 2018 composer’s residency at Carnegie Hall. It was, he’s noted, “the first (and so far only) music I’ve made specifically to perform alone, which felt like an opportunity to sing some words that it wouldn’t necessarily be fair to put in a collaborator’s mouth.” Little did Thile know he was merely at the start of what would become a solitary adventure, professionally and, lord knows, philosophically.
Reflection is Loraine James’ second album for Hyperdub, made in the summer of 2020. The album is a turbulent expression of inner-space, laid out in unflinching honesty, that offers gentle empathy and bitter-sweet hope. 2020 was tough for Loraine; unable to tour and build on the success of For You And I, Loraine was prolific in the studio, self releasing, plus releasing the well received stepping-stone Nothing EP, which realised a unique pop sensibility she develops more here. Her 2020 listening habits – Drill and R&B seep through into Reflection too. In contrast to the brash splashes of For You And I and the grimy anger of Nothing, Reflection is pared down and confident, taking the listener through how the year felt as a young Black queer woman and her acolytes in a world that has suddenly stopped moving.
Maestro Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig continue their integral Brahms symphonies project with a recording of the composer’s Second Symphony in D Major, alongside his Academic Festival Overture. Although idyllic and pastoral at first sight, Brahms himself remarked that he had “never written anything so sad”. Blomstedt and the orchestra bring out all the different moods and colours of this exceptional work, while the Academic Festival Overture provides a jubilant, glorious conclusion.
From the shores of Boulogne-sur-mer, Pastel Coast are looking toward the sea. Quentin Isidore and his band surf the indiepop wave, taking influences from bands like Phoenix, Air , with their own fresh “à la française” sound. After their debut album, Hovercraft, the band was nominated in the TOP 10 emerging French artists for the Paris’ Ricard price foundation and for the auditions of the “Inouïs du Printemps de Bourges”, Pastel Coast are back with their new opus entitled Sun, available now.
Marina Allen glides on angelic highs, surfing the husky deep; she is one of the great new voices of her generation. Writing songs that carry notes from other realms; these are kitchen table tales about love and fear, the capturing of the wild heart, sketching the breaking of dawn, bringing real life back to life. Every song on her debut album Candlepower is a tick box of influences, asides, inspirations, quickfire theories, storylines and melodic progressions that galvanise a chemical reaction for each dramatic scene that unfolds on this genre-traversing seven song epic.
It took more than 25 years of joint work for Sébastien Texier & Christophe Marguet to decide to found this quartet and unite their two respective universes. After a first disc For Travelers Only (2018), they decided to extend their adventure by composing this new program: We Celebrate Freedom Fighters! This repertoire pays tribute to strong personalities such as Aimé Césaire, James Baldwin, Olympe de Gouges, Sitting Bull, Rosa Parks, the unknown from Tian’anmen, Simone Weil… Resistance fighters who are committed against slavery, for the freedom of expression, women’s rights, the right to abortion… These worthy and courageous “Freedom Fighters”, true heroes of the history of our humanity will have fought throughout their existence against all forms of obscurantism , discrimination, exclusion and injustice. Faced with our agitated and disturbed contemporary times, it is more than necessary to pay homage to them and to keep in memory their commitment which is an example for us all.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television