Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 5 November 2021.
When you’re trying to make it through tough times, you need a little light to find your way. That light blazes brightly on the alchemical second album from Penelope Isles, an album forged amid emotional upheaval and band changes. Setting the uncertainties of twentysomething life to alt-rock and psychedelic songs brimming with life, colour and feeling, Which Way to Happy emerges as a luminous victory for Jack and Lily Wolter, the siblings whose bond holds the band tight at its core. Produced by Jack and mixed by US alt-rock legend Dave Fridmann, the result is an intoxicating leap forward for the UK-based band, following the calling-card DIY smarts of their 2019 debut, Until the Tide Creeps In. Sometimes it swoons, sometimes it soars. Sometimes it says it’s OK to not be OK.
For the first time in history, 12 of the most wonderful violins ever made by the finest violin maker of all time, Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737), have travelled across the world for a ground-breaking new project with violin superstar Janine Jansen. The resulting album, 12 Stradivari, captures the individual characters of each instrument in specially-curated music accompanied by Sir Antonio Pappano at the piano. These days Stradivari’s instruments can reach prices well over $20 million and some of the foundations and museums who own them let them out only on rare occasions. This is also why this recording is particularly special: some of these 12 Stradivari have not been played for many decades and, possibly, have never been commercially recorded before. Others belonged to legendary virtuosi including Fritz Kreisler, Nathan Milstein, Ida Haendel and Oscar Shumsky. Janine herself is widely considered to be one of the greatest violinists of our time, and this album is her first release with Decca in 6 years.
Foxx Bodies often describe themselves as an accident. Bailey Moses, Adam Bucholz, and Matt Vanek came together in their shared home when their singer Bella Vanek asked everyone to play loud music she could scream over after she began unpacking her newly-recognized childhood abuse. While each of them had been practicing musicians from a young age, none had been in a band before Foxx Bodies. Their second album, Vixen, required thousands of dollars in therapy and medication to create. What started as another album filled with harsh memories of childhood and sexual abuse quickly evolved into a present day telling of the lead singer’s battle with various mental illnesses as she was diagnosed with them. An exploration of queer identity, the permanent impact that trauma has on the brain, and an unfiltered inside perspective on psychiatric hospitalization and borderline personality disorder can be found within these 13 tracks.
Homeward Bound — the Blue Note Records debut by drummer, composer, and bandleader Johnathan Blake — signals shifting tides for a career that’s yet to crest. The album is a celebration of life and legacy featuring his quintet Pentad with alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, keyboardist David Virelles, and bassist Dezron Douglas. Heralded by NPR Music as “the ultimate modernist,” the Philadelphia-raised artist has collaborated with Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Tom Harrell, Hans Glawischnig, Avishai Cohen, Donny McCaslin, Linda May Han Oh, Jaleel Shaw, Chris Potter, Maria Schneider, Alex Sipiagin, Kris Davis and countless other distinctive voices.
Parcels have released their ambitious second album Day/Night. The highly-anticipated album comprises two whole, standalone records: Day and Night. It is a vast leap forwards in scope and sound from the Australian 5-piece’s 2018 debut album and is out now via Because Music, available to stream and download digitally and also on double vinyl. Vast and cinematic in sound and layered lyrical themes, Day/Night channels western folk and classic pop, resulting in a new sound the band describes as their new-fangled cowboy disco sound. The record tackles opposing topics of identity vs anonymity, family vs independence, belonging vs isolation and nostalgia vs projection; the self and the shadow self. The album is cyclical – a perfect loop from end to its start – echoing the albums’ theme of inner and outer self and the constant turning of the natural world.
The Solution Is Restless is a brand new collaborative album by Joan As Police Woman, Tony Allen and Dave Okumu. Joan was invited to Africa Express: The Circus in 2019, where Damon Albarn introduced her to Tony Allen for the first time and they played a version of Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”. That same year she was invited to the Africa Express in Waltham Forest, where Damon Albarn came to see her collaborate. They got on so well, that besides it being the seed where this record started to grow, it also led to Joan lending guest vocals to the Gorillaz’s track “Simplicity”, off their 2020 album Song Machine album. Dave Okumu and Joan have known each other for a few years and worked together on “Pieces Of A Man: The Gil Scott-Heron Project” in March 2016. When Joan and Tony decided to record together, she invited her longtime friend to join from London and they ended up improvising all night in a Parisian studio. Then when the world shut down, she used those recordings to write this new record The Solution Is Restless.
Richard Cuthbert’s new album Daydreaming is a direct line to the heart of his songwriting. It’s pure and unfettered in the way everyday life is framed and conveyed via his matter-of-fact and poetic lyrics. There’s also a lush simplicity to the way that guitar lines unfurl, as they do on the title-track and right across the album. The trio format is the perfect vehicle for delivering those rock ‘n’ roll essentials of rhythm and melody. Teaming up again with long-time collaborators, Joe Driver on drums (Australia the Band) and Joe Muller on bass (Richard in Your Mind) he recorded his third full-length album at Sydney’s Linear Studios with Nick Franklin recording, producing, mixing and mastering (Peking Duck, Polish Club, Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys).
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- New music round-up (for w/e 3 December 2021)
- Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? (Bleached) – music review
- New music round-up (for w/e 10 December 2021)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television