Atlanta-based R&B artist Mariah the Scientist completely blew me – and lots of other people – away with her 2018 album MASTER, especially the song Reminders which I maintain is one of the most underrated tracks of that year. Released today is the follow up RY RY WORLD which on the first couple of listens at least sounds even better than its predecessor, and All For Me – with its delicate pads, retro drums and gorgeous chord changes – is an instant classic.
Not only are Nation of Language touring Europe next year (tickets on sale tomorrow for all you synth-pop devotees), but they’ve also just announced a new album A Way Forward which lands 05 November, so today has been a Very Good Day for me. Wounds Of Love is the lead single and continues in a similarly evocative, happysad vein as their previous output. I bloody love these guys!
Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine. Credit: Daniel Anum Jasper
I’m pretty convinced at this stage that Sufjan barely sleeps. Following two albums in 2020 and Convocations from earlier this year, announced today was A Beginner’s Mind, a collaborative album alongside Angelo De Augustine and written during a month-long sabbatical in upstate New York staying in a friend’s cabin. A 14 track album “(loosely) based on (mostly) popular films”, single Olympus explores the mythical deities and monsters created by Ray Harryhausen for films such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, and is an evocative, folky delight.
Ben McCarthy is an electronic musician and sound artist from Toronto, who blends layers of re-purposed, processed and archival sound into some pretty unique music. Here he’s teamed up with Irish artist Lighght and together they’ve created a staggeringly beautiful, disquieting slice of experimental electronica that at times sounds like a gorgeous celestial improvisation straight from the heavens, and at others like whales being crushed to death by patient but deadly blue-white blocks of shifting ice. Don’t let that last part put you off though: it’s great.
I’ve listened to Days Like These maybe a dozen times now, and I’m still not even sure if I like the first half of it. Alan Sparhawk’s vocal is more prominent than perhaps ever before, accompanied by Mimi Parker’s harmonies and very little else and it’s almost wilfully OTT and (whisper it) a bit cheesy? Maybe that’s the point, and there’s a good chance that later this year after sitting with it for longer and reading more into the meaning behind it I’ll realise just how wrong I am, but that’s where I am right now. What isn’t in doubt however, is the second half, which is one of the best things they’ve ever made.
Produced again by BJ Burton who worked with them on 2018’s incredible Double Negative, it descends into warped static, freewheeling, ethereal harmonies and an atmosphere so thick with longing it takes a good few minutes to pull yourself out of it. It’s also the lead single from their forthcoming new LP Hey What, out 10 September on Sub Pop. Bring on the heartache.
Produced by Platnume and DJ Jaden, the intention behind Romans was to make a fun but still impactful rap cut without the use of profanity: an admirable aim, and one that pays off. The Queens duo have cited artists like Kid N Play and Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, the influence of whom aren’t immediately obvious as Romans is significantly moodier than the vast majority of these 90s icons’ output. However, there is A LOT of autotune rap out there and this definitely cuts through the crowd, so they must be doing something right.
Jenn Wasner’s voice is just completely enthralling. Not to do any disservice to Andy Stack alongside whom she records at Wye Oak, but its the irresistible radiance of her vocal that elevates Its Way With Me from perfectly lovely indie-pop jangler to hit-me-in-the-feels-so-hard-it-hurts anthem. This is the second single of the year following last month’s TNT, and while there’s no official news of a new album yet, fingers crossed.
I hadn’t thought about the video game Alex Kid in Miracle World for probably around 20 years, until the other day I saw it was getting a re-release: a fancy, updated version for modern hardware, and one of those games where you look at the new footage and think “Yeah, that’s how I remember it looking” until you go back and look at original Master System / Megadrive footage and realise that actually what it looked like was a few dozen pixels thrown on a screen seemingly at random with barely any discernible detail and ordered to jump frantically around, the kind of thing that if you were forced to play now you wouldn’t last five minutes. I’m not going to play the remake, as I don’t want to be reminded of a) how old I am and b) how jaded I am, but knowing that it exists and is scratching a few people’s itching nostalgia is comfort enough. In my head, the soundtrack is exactly like this new track from fivepaw which is taken from his latest album, and if it’s not, I don’t want to know.
Magic is the new single from producer, singer and songwriter Kat Kitka, an utterly engrossing, haunting beautiful piece of music that pretty much completely defies description (but here goes). Folk, spoken word, ambient and ethereal pop are are dissected and reassembled alongside hugely evocative field recordings, resulting in a five minute track unlike anything else I’ve heard this year. The Kate Bush vibes are strong with this, which isn’t something I say lightly. Highly recommended.
German producer TIBSLC – short for “The International Billionaire’s Secret Love Child” – released his latest LP Delusive Tongue Shifts – Situation Based Compositions a couple of weeks back, and after just a couple of listens it’s firmly under my skin. I often find this kind of glitchy, experimental electronica a bit too hectic and sketchy to properly enjoy. It’s clearly good, and I admire it, but don’t find myself going back to them very often, if at all. There’s a warmth to Delusive Tongue Shifts, though, that makes it a really lovely album to spend lots of time with.