Laura Marling – Semper Femina
The title borrows a line from the poet Virgil which translates from Latin as: “woman is ever a fickle and changeable thing”. But Marling’s sliced selection is closer to: “always a woman”. This is a record about women, about friendships, about creativity and doubt. It’s tastefully produced by Blake Mills (tasteful production being a major hurdle in most modern folk music) and Marling channels elements of Joni Mitchell and elements of some primal, eternal feminine goddess power – there’s a timelessness here that all the great folk albums have. Possibly the finest release of the year so far.
Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice
Freddie knows the value of saying just enough. This one barely runs over half an hour but it’s full of fire and purpose. You don’t have to worry about technical ability with Gibbsy, he’s come up the hard way and honed his craft at every stage. Fresh outta some legal issues in Europe of which he was cleared now Freddie’s ready to start his life again, with fresh perspective and inflection. Still packs a punch, still turns a phrase without hesitation.
Nadia Reid – Preservation
Call this a month for folkstresses but only one of them hails from the mighty Aotearoa. Here’s a record that wears its otherworldliness on its sleeve. Slow moving rhythms, sparkly guitar plucking and enough depth to drown a philistine. You know how sometimes you hear a song and without knowing exactly why it sorta makes you feel like tearing up just at the sound of it? Yeah, that’s what Nadia Reid does all the way through this album. And she’s from Dunedin.
Miles Okazaki – Trickster
Beware the trickster gods that revel in their mocking mischief. A horned salesman, a laughing stranger, an origami fox and crow in conversation. Beware too the jazz guitarist who beguiles with his composition, who entraps with his rhythm, who teases with his virtuosity. Okazaki and his quartet keep an intricate sound that’s every bit as rewarding as it is complex. Now that’s a trickster’s feat if ever there was one.
Pontiak – Dialectic Of Ignorance
Prepare yourself for this one, it’s hitting heavy on the speakers. Thumping grooves and some abrasive fuzz, guitars in riot against the empty silence. Psychedelic rhythms with just enough proto-metal-sabbath in there to keep things crunchy. No quick bites here though, every song is stretched out to its rightful size and there’s plenty of fire in the lyrics too.
J.I.D - The Never Story
Fresh out of Atlanta, J.I.D steers clear of the musical trends and delivers a thumping little project that also serves as his Dreamville debut. Whether spitting rapid-fire bars or dropping funky movie references, J.I.D instantly transports the listener to Atlanta where his introspective mind offers a different perspective on life in the south.
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness
What a sad, empathetic album this is. Largely acoustic and ever so slow and wistful. But it’s Aimee Mann so that’s kinda the album you expect from her and of course it’s sprinkled with moments of grace and beauty and wonderment. Mann sings about the everyday blues. You got ‘em, she got ‘em, we all got ‘em. Lovely stuff.
Bob Dylan – Triplicate
Look, you might’ve though the Bob Dylan Does Sinatra phase was a gimmick but Bobby never did. He’s done two records of old classics and now here’s a third presented as a triple album with three 30 minute sides and you know what? It’s really quite good. He’s got a debatable voice, especially at this age and for these songs, but the wear and tear seems to lend the tunes a raggedness that elevates them. And the arrangements and musicianship from the hands are magnificent, naturally.
SACRED PAWS – Strike A Match
Rachel Aggs is a known champ within the London indie underground. Her punky guitar stylings have graved plenty of projects in the past, this one with Glaswegian drummer Eilidh Rogers might be the catchiest. Somewhere in the realms of post-punk/new-wave/indie-rock/art-noise/riot-grrrl with a healthy dose of inspiration from African beats lies Strike A Match, a joyous but purposeful romp of an album full of grooves and wildness.
Christian Scott – Ruler Rebel
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah to give the man his full name. It’s another one for the jazz heads but another one that transcends the typical genre boundaries. On the centenary of the first jazz recordings, CSAA has dropped the first of his trilogy celebrating the course of jazz history. Yet while there’s plenty of tradition in the trumpeter’s arrangements, there’s also plenty of futuristic creativity. African rhythms, hip hop beats, even the odd electronic influence. Scott doesn’t call what he does ‘jazz’. He calls it ‘stretch music’. Let’s just say it’s worth the ambition.