Cate Le Bon’s Pompeii is one of the finest albums of 2022 so far, and Typical Love is the first new material the Welsh artist has put out since its release. Following in a similarly idiosyncratic vein as her previous work, it’s another low-key, art-pop gem, and is the product of “a rare jam session with dearest genius friend, Stella Mozgawa”. Sparse and restrained with haunting brass, it’s reminiscent of Talking Heads in some of their odder moments.
Lafawndah is such an outrageously talented individual that it was always going to be interesting to see how she musically followed 2019’s breakthrough debut Ancestor Boy. I’m not sure many expected an album inspired by a trilogy of fantasy novels, but here we are. I haven’t read the Broken Earth books but research suggests they are almost unremittingly bleak. That would certainly explain Don’t Despair, which I assume is an ironic title as the entire track seems to be doing its level best to make you do just that. Lafawndah’s crystalline vocal is the focus, with skeletal percussion and screeching synths adding to the paranoid landscape.
“Art pop, Nigerian highlife, worldbeat, and other lesser-known genres” are all identified as key components of Art Feynman (aka accomplished recording artist and producer Luke Temple)’s music in his own bio, and honestly I can’t come up with a better way of describing China Be Better than by just directly quoting this. “Halfway between Arthur Russell and Pearl City” is my best effort, but the former is so massively broad and influential and the latter so woefully under-appreciated that this is a pretty redundant comparison. So just listen to it, as it’s really good.