Strictly Discs


Our rundown of the week's new records begins with some lovely voices peaking through the wintry grey, not unlike the premature sprouts and blossoms popping up as the temperature yo-yo's about. We've been waiting months for the latest LP from CLEO SOL to arrive, and now its here; 'Heaven' sent, even! This is another exquisite modern soul art-object from Miss Cleo, with production and tempo a bit more on the hushed side, allowing ample room for her dulcet vocal tones. Relatably low-key R&B alt-rocker FAYE WEBSTER returns with another remarkably unhurried meditation on everyday life with 'Underdressed at the Symphony', in stock on limited blue vinyl with an even more limited set of decals to give away with purchase, with which you can dress or underdress Faye to your liking. Haitian-American singer, flautist and composer NATHALIE JOACHIM makes a stunning debut on Nonesuch with 'Ki Moun Ou Ye', a truly unique album of Creole soul aided by subtle electronics that lend a subversive modernity to a timeless sound. Subtle is definitely not the word to describe the latest album from diasporic supergroup LES AMAZONES D'AFRIQUE, who layer their massive-sounding voices with bombastic club-friendly production. The group's lineup on 'Musow Danse' includes founder Mamani Keita, and new members like Fafa Ruffino from Benin, Kandy Guira and Dobet Gnahoré from Cote D'Ivoire, and Nigerian singer Nneka, all superstars on their home continent.
After I saw them play live last year for the first time in awhile, I declared to nobody in particular that PISSED JEANS is the best rock band on Earth (still). Do I listen to that much rock music these days? No. Is there a new article about the death of loud guitar music published just about every day? Yes. Am I biased? Yes, Sean the drummer of PJ is one of my oldest and best friends ever, along with my dear homie Mike, who just happened to help engineer 'Half Divorced' in his DC area studio. Frontman Matt Korvette has been a source of inspiration just as long; if you think I write about a lot of records every week, check out his legendary Yellow Green Red blog, where he reliably and hilariously assesses dozens of punk, noise and techno albums at a near constant pace. Anyway, 'Half Divorced': I've been listening to parts of this album as its come together over the last year, and I can easily call it the best of the band's two decade career. PJ have long had the uncanny ability to combine the high-powered sludge-rock of bands like Karp, Jesus Lizard and the Melvins with an approachable, poppy edge that makes them stand out from an otherwise forbidding, antisocial, often humorless genre. On this album, they keep all that intact while somehow upping the tempo and chaos, making their first record that could simply pass as "punk rock", as its been defined in the States since the era of SST. Dial up album highlight "Junktime", which starts with ominous descriptions of apocalypse before flooring it into an abyss of riff and crash oblivion that sounds like ZZ Top jamming with Redd Kross, or "Monsters", their cover of a deep cut gem by Florida pop-punk lifers The Pink Lincolns. The Week In Rock (shoutout Kurt Loder) continues with promising new records from YARD ACT ('Where's My Utopia?'), MANNEQUIN PUSSY ('I Got Heaven') and DANIEL ROMANO'S OUTFIT ('Too Hot To Sleep').
Some phenomenal Global Music gems land this week, beginning with an incredible set from Brazilian pianist and arranger AMARO FREITAS. On 'Y'Y' (pronounced ee-yeh ee-yeh), he travels to the rainforest region of Manaus, gathering ideas, styles and rhythms from a number of indigenous communities there; on the album's flipside he welcomes guests like Jeff Parker, Hamid Drake, Brandee Younger, and Shabaka Hutchings, to prove that the phenomenon of his music has truly traveled far. This is an album bursting with eclectic ideas, tapped into a seemingly endless life-source. And speaking of sources; before Bombino and Mdou Moctar there was ABDALLAH OUMBADOUGOU, considered the godfather of Tuareg music and the style we call Desert Blues. An epic double LP set called 'Amghar' collects 14 tracks from his discography, along with a lengthy set of historical liner notes. Asian-American vocalist SHEHERAZAAD teams up with producer Arooj Aftab on the enchanting album 'Qasr', in which her Urdu-language singing drifts like a haunting shadow across somber, polyglot folk instrumentation. New Zealand jazz ensemble THE CIRCLING SUN debut with 'Spirits', a moody, polyrhythmic session of nocturnal groove indebted to Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders. 
Blue Note Tone Poet releases this week include a hard to find session from BOOKER ERVIN; 'Texbook Tenor' was recorded in 1968 but only released on CD several decades later, and features some truly bold solos from Ervin, and a legendary performance from pianist Kenny Barron. JACKIE MCLEAN's 1964 session 'Action' is jammed full of experimental hard bop excitement, with sidemen like Bobby Hutcherson and Charles Tolliver. The Concord Original Jazz Classics audiophile series responds with a definitive new edition of the ART BLAKEY classic 'Caravan', a 1962 session that features luminaries like Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton and Wayne Shorter earning more than their keep, and a lovely new edition of CANNONBALL ADDERLEY's pairing with BILL EVANS, 'Know What I Mean?', which features Adderley's take on "Waltz For Debby".
Thank heavens the Numero Group cranked their ECCENTRIC SOUL series back into gear. We love everything the label does, of course, but these compilations simply do not miss. 'Eccentric Soul: The Tragar and Note Labels' dives deep into a twin pair of Atlanta soul stables who cranked out hits that sadly never became household names. Beatminers Madlib and Karriem Riggins unify once more as the JAHARI MASSAMBA UNIT for a featherlight collection of funky fusion called 'Yhwh Is Love'. Southerners KEY & CLEARY relocated to New England in the late 70s and felt inspired to create a low-budget soul album called 'Love Is The Way' built on their delightfully true voices and some rudimentary synths and drum machines. This outsider classic gets a fresh edition this week, alongside an essential from another kind of outsider, the one and only PROJECT PAT. Everyone's favorite Three 6 Mafia affiliate brought nothing but heat on 2000's 'Mista Dont Play: Everythangs Workin'.
Dance pop geniuses STRFKR are back with another chance at stardom on 'Parallel Realms', a new double album of huge potential bangers that's their first time not self-producing; this time they've hired hitmaker Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TVOTR). Covid lockdown took the wind out of SQUAREPUSHER's sails but did he sit around crying about it? Nope, he put himself on 'Dostrotime', continuing his career renaissance. Post-metal sojourner Justin Broaddrick and dubwise techno producer Kevin Martin (aka The Bug) met in the middle TECHNO ANIMAL, cresting with 2001's 'The Brotherhood of the Bomb', an overwhelming combo of industrial breakbeat that is ripe for revisiting now. The eternal MINISTRY are back with 'Hopiumforthemasses'. Spacebar broken there, Al?
Upright bass and sideways vocals dominate a great new album from avant-garde composer RUTH GOLLER, who welcomes percussionists we love like Tom Skinner and Frank Rosaly on a great new record for International Anthem called 'Skyllumina'. Sofia Coppola doesn't make too many movies, but when she does, they're usually classics with *iconic* soundtracks. Hopefully that's the case with her selection of songs for the PRISCILLA biopic. Baltimore home recording legend LINDA SMITH charted her own path through the indie underground in the 80s and 90s, recording all the parts of her albums herself before dubbing them and mailing them out one at a time. Now, decades later, her beautiful folk-rock, inflected with elements of classic indie pop from Young Marble Giants and the Marine Girls, turns up on influential compilations and soundtracks to Netflix shows. Two of those precious 90s cassette releases return this week, on vinyl this time: 'I So Liked Spring' and 'Nothing Else Matters'.

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