Actress, Katy B and Halls make the cut for this month's top ten
Young Fathers – Dead
Anticon alt-hip hop trio Young Fathers make a musical tornado sucking in hip hop, electronica, pop, soul, R&B and more, flinging out sprays of familiar sonic colour drawn from Europe, America and Africa. The force of Young Fathers’ artistic conviction a current alive in every note, each intonation. As a work it feels victorious, perhaps as an album this consistently strong is becoming more of a rarity, perhaps as it’s such a trip to hear something so different. Whatever it is you should check it out.
Illum Sphere – Ghosts of Then and Now
These ghosts from Ninja Tune's Illum Sphere (aka Ryan Hunn) sound firmly contemporary, and make very fitting companions for nocturnal prowls along deserted streets. Delicate pools of luminescence are cast through tenderly-cut guest vocal lines and sparse synth fabrics, at times grounded by bass, but often left to expand into the night air. Illum Sphere provided his take on “Codex” for Radiohead’s King of Limbs remix LP, and this debut introduces him as an intelligent, conscientious producer with a trapdoor to those atemporal, ambient planes that Flying Lotus often zooms across.
CYMBALS – The Age of Fracture
The debut album from this London four piece proves that angular, catchy pop songs can serve as the perfect medium for expounding upon the woes of our splintering contemporary existences. But all is not lost – The Age of Fracture is as enjoyable a listen as it is a thought-provoking proposition.
Jaako Eino Kalevi – Dreamzone Remixes EP
Jaako Eino Kalevi’s sumptuous debut EP was inspired by his own dreams and those of strangers, made manifest in his swathes of trippy synth, frisky drum patterns and langurous soulful melodies. These fine tracks now find themselves awakened into fresh dynamics by four new collaborators: Berlin producer Heatsick, New York disco maestro Tom Noble, fellow Finn synth virtuoso Vezurro and his Weird World label mates Peaking Lights.
Halls – Love To Give
Halls (aka Sam Howard) further stretches his talents for lustrous, heart-shattering melancholia on second album Love To Give, which envelopes the listener in earnest human feels. This brave, outpouring of a record proves Howard triumphant in achieving his ambition of fully exposing his inner life to the audience. His magnificent voice as dazzling and eloquent here amidst newly added brass, wind and percussive elements as it was cloaked in the predominantly electronic chill of his debut Ark. Stream Love To Give in full here.
Tarka & Friends – Life
A celebration of the life of Tarka Cordell who tragically took his own in 2008. The innately gifted Tarka, son of lauded producer Denny Cordell, was raised amidst the many musical legends his father worked with – JJ Cale, Joe Cocker and Tom Petty – before finding a mentor in Keith Richards. Sadly only one album of his saw release during his lifetime, but Tarka left behind this trove of material that has been recorded by friends and fans in a tribute that seeks to raise funds for suicide prevention charity Calm. Lily Allen, Evan Dando, Ruby Friedman and Imani Coppola are just a few of the artists who have reinterpreted these beautiful compositions. An evocative compilation with the most profound purpose.
Katy B – Little Red
The most popular girl in pop releases her second album, and if you liked her first record – just try to find a soul that didn’t – you won’t be disappointed. There aren't quite any massive artistic leaps forward, and you can pretty much guess what it’s going to sound like before hitting play, but the fact Miss B's still here dropping tales of night time escapades, flirts, heartaches and newfound celebrity niggles on Little Red, with Geeneus remaining at the desk controls, is somehow very reassuring. Solid, sweet, honest dancefloor filler from start to finish.
Actress – Ghettoville
For some reason this record evokes the sullen, morally-destitute set of Lars Von Trier’s Manderlay for me. Actress' ghetto seems to firmly be one of the mind, like an abandoned city suffocating its inhabitants through unrelenting brutality. They could all leave if they weren’t so beaten down by it, so they stay and cower. It’s that bleak. Not to say that Ghettoville isn't smart, with intriguing interplay of sonics and beats, but it can edge on the verge of being humourless.
Holly Herndon – Chorus EP
Electronic explorer Holly Herndon investigates the potential of quotidian online communication methods to become raw audio materials on this two track release. The boldly simple “Solo Voice” is seemingly a direct plea for attention from a lonely device – and it grows into a mesmerising piece of experimental electronica. It makes for a neat contrast to the whole web trip that is opener “Chorus”, a track replete with the incessant, global interactions between humans and their machines, but fundamentally also a song that ignites a warm, euphoric glow.
Planningtorock – All Love’s Legal
Rousing string arrangements, jagged synths and staccato beats form the bed for P2R (aka Jam Rostron)’s pitched down vocal intonations on All Love’s Legal, which often sounds constructed specifically to come from an anonymous, non-space. Perhaps the most positive creation to see release this year, Rostron’s musical entreaties to dispel antiquated prejudices form another bittersweet, but vital reminder that somehow not everyone on earth thinks and feels one way.