Warm and soulful on the surface but packed with a political directness in its lyrics which are, as ever, flawlessly delivered by Noname, Rainforest packs in an outrageous amount into its relatively short running time. There are so many lyrical earworms here, but “A rainforest cries / Everybody dies a little / And I just wanna dance tonight” is the one that’s stuck with me. On paper perhaps this comes across as a little cliche, but the understated delivery makes dancing seems like the most understandable – and perhaps only – reaction to one of the many approaching global calamities we’re faced with on a daily basis.
Aside from being an accomplished musician, Cam Be is also an Emmy award-winning produced for TV, director, artist and photographer, and Summer In September taken from his 2020 album of the same name. Now accompanied by a dream-like video from director Briana Clearly, there’s more than a hint of Frank Ocean in its tender, drifting melodies and hazy vocals: a pure, innocent snapshot of a burgeoning love frozen in time, looping for eternity.
Southside Chicago native Sunshine Lombre is a dancer, poet and musician set to release her debut EP in a couple of months, from which Just Verbs is taken. On the surface at least this a super sultry, warm, minimalistic piece with little more than Lombre’s closed-mic’d vocal and some gentle Rhodes-y chords playing softly in the background. So far, so relaxing: but there’s something about the ominous pad and sketchy vinyl crackles that run throughout that makes suspect a more sinister atmosphere, like this entire ballad is being whispered to a bound ex-lover as she runs a kitchen knife playfully down their chest. But maybe that’s just me.
Babeheaven are vocalist Nancy Andersen and producer-instrumentalist Jamie Travis, a duo responsible for one of my favourite songs of 2019: the monumentally fantastic Fresh Faced from their Circles EP. Honestly, if you haven’t heard it yet, go and listen to it now, it’s fucking incredible. Swimming up River is from their new album Home For Now and is a lot earthier than some of their previous work; a deep, heartfelt, soulful track that really allows Andersen’s vocal to shine.
Clocking in at under two minutes there’s not an awful not to Hey Boy, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in sultry smoothness, with both Apollo and Kali Uchis delivering their short verses in tones that can only be described as sexy AF. Hey Boy arrives at around the halfway point of Apollo’s excellent new album Apolonio and is a masterclass in modern soul-inflected R&B.
Spellbinding experimentations in rhythm and tone here from the Montreal-based singer-songwriter and violinist (and band) on one of the early stand-out’s from her new album KIND. I Forget to Drink Water (Balance) has so much going on, but it’s all hushed, subdued and innate, as if it’s music that has seeped up from the earth rather than been actively performed.
Even on an album as brilliant as SAULT’s debut Untitled (Black Is), Wildfires stands out. Like much of the LP it focusses on the theme of police oppression towards the black community, with lyrics like “Take off your badge / We all know it was murder” striking a tone somewhere between pleading and resignedly furious. It’s a remarkably affecting track, and even more remarkably they’re giving away the entire album free on their website, or if you’re really feeling it you can get a CD or double vinyl on Bandcamp.
I feel like it’s all been a bit serious on the TPW recently, so here’s a dose of carefree funk for you courtesy of Phenomenal Handclap Band, and a track that came out a couple of months ago on their album PHB via the always excellent Toy Tonics label. There’s a definite channelling of Chic, especially towards the back of the track, but that’s no bad thing, and the spoken-word bridge and semi-chanted chorus are both wonderfully retro and unashamedly positive: a beaming grin of a record and one that will be on repeat for some time to come.
I have tried hard to love græ, the new album by Moses Sumney. It’s clearly brilliant, and the scale of it is pretty staggering, but I’ve found it almost overwhelmingly impenetrable on the many occasions I’ve sat down to listen. This is a failing on my part. However, there is a three-track run at the start of the second side of the double LP that is utterly sublime, kicking off with Two Dogs. I just wish I liked the rest of the album as much as these 10 minutes or so. I’m sorry, Moses: I have tried, and been found wanting.
I absolutely love Denai Moore. Her last two albums We Used To Bloom and Elsewhere have been on heavy rotation for the last few years, and I’m very exited about her next LP, Modern Dread, which lands in July. The production on Motherless Child is a lot more electronic and stripped-down than some of her previous music, but her voice is as heartfelt and soulful as ever. She’s a true original, and if her new album is anything like as good as the last two, we’re in for a treat.