Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 9 April 2021.
Merry Clayton’s legend is a formidable one: As detailed in the Oscar-and Grammy-winning 2013 documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, Merry has graced recordings and stages with legends such as Ray Charles (she became a Raelette at age 16), The Rolling Stones (“Gimme Shelter”), Carole King (Tapestry), Joe Cocker (“Feelin’ Alright”), Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”), Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, The Who, Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley and more. Now, following a tragic accident that severely altered her life but couldn’t dampen her incredible spirit, Merry Clayton — one of the most acclaimed and recognizable voices of all time — finds redemption and strength in the power of gospel music on her new album Beautiful Scars, out now on Motown Gospel/Capitol Records.
Three-time Grammy-winning violinist Hilary Hahn’s new release is Paris. The album features Poème for Violin and Orchestra by Parisian-born composer Chausson; Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1, first performed in Paris; and the world premiere recording of Rautavaara’s final score, Deux Sérénades, written for and premiered by Hahn, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and its Music Director, Mikko Franck. With this project Hahn pays tribute to the rich cultural heritage of a city that has been close to her heart throughout her career.
Merk has shared his much anticipated second album Infinite Youth out now via Humblebrag Records. Merk is the solo project of New Zealand songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Perkins, which began when Perkins recorded 2016’s Swordfish (winner of Best Debut at the Taite Music Prize). On his new album Infinite Youth Merk examines the blurry line between adolescence and adulthood, and all the clarity and mess that accompanies that blurring. This is a record that thrives on a certain simplicity of rhythm, melody, and lyric, and is compelled by contrast: pop songs influenced by art music, an album about adulthood that reflects heavily on what it is to be young, and a sonic world that is both expansive and deeply intimate. “In the past it felt like I was hiding, but now I’m trying to wear my heart on my sleeve a little more”.
Balmorhea — the duo of Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller — intentionally defies easy compartmentalization. The Texas group’s genre-spanning oeuvre has cultivated a vast worldwide listenership with music that evokes “imagery of brilliant landscapes and quiet pastoral scenes” (NPR); that’s “both restorative and disquieting” (The Atlantic); a collective soundtrack for life’s swells, silences, and anchoring in the present. In recent years, Lowe and Muller have returned to their roots, retreating to remote corners of Texas to write new music as a duo while embarking on a new chapter with the history-seeped Deutsche Grammophon label. Their new album is The Wind, and it’s available now.
World-renowned drummer/composer, and producer/beatmaker, Myele Manzanza, has proved that he’s an artist who continues to dissolve the borders between modern jazz and electronic beat production. Having released three solo albums, and racking up tours and collaborations with Jordan Rakei, Theo Parrish, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Recloose and Amp Fiddler amongst others. Myele is already developing a strong live presence in his new London base; his quartet has shared stages with the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, The Bad Plus, Alfa Mist, and drawing packed houses to top venues such as The Jazz Café and Ronnie Scott’s. Crisis & Opportunity Vol.1 – London features a top tier cast of young London based talent including Ashley Henry (piano), James Copus (trumpet), George Crowley (tenor saxophone), Benjamin Muralt (bass) and additional contributions from the legendary Mark de Clive-Lowe (synths), with Myele Manzanza (drums) captaining the ship.
From the many musical lives of artist Glenn Donaldson emerges The Reds, Pinks and Purples, a project that sifts out the purest elements of pop music and in the process chronicles the point of view of an assiduous songwriter. His new album Uncommon Weather is both an elusive portrait of San Francisco –– during one of its fluctuations as an untenable place for musicians and artists –– and also a self-portrait of a songwriter who has dispatched another treasured collection of timeless sounding DIY-pop songs. Self-recorded and mostly self-performed, the music on Uncommon Weather continuously reckons with the influence of The Television Personalities’ Dan Treacy, whose own forays into drum-machines, echo, and reverb in the early 1990s is an important reference point. Paul Weller, Robert Smith, and Sarah Records also come to mind.
Ever since Spirit of the Beehive released their self-titled debut in 2014, they’ve developed a reputation for being your favorite band’s favorite band. Theirs is the music of immersion, of confrontation, the kind that makes a listener stop and wonder, “How are they even doing that?” And as the years wear on, that sense of bafflement has made room for SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE to quietly but steadily ascend, with their most recent album, 2018’s Hypnic Jerks, leaving them poised on the precipice of wider recognition. The band have just released their fourth album, Entertainment, Death. The album signals new chapters for the band on multiple fronts, being the first to feature their new three-piece lineup, as well as the first to be entirely self-recorded and produced. Guitarist/vocalist Zack Schwartz and bassist/vocalist Rivka Ravede are now joined by a new member, multi-instrumentalist Corey Wichlin.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television