Tagged: new music

Nao That’s What I Call Music

Little bonus album for the Brothers.

This has been bubbling under on my (metaphorical) turntable in the last couple of weeks, and it’s slowly dawning on me that’s it’s a work of complete genius. Nao’s one of the brighter lights of the British neo-soul/R&B scene, and she first came to my attention via the brilliant collaboration she did with Mura Masa a couple of years back:

I liked her debut, but I didn’t love it. This is her second album and it is a GIANT leap forward. It has such a beguiling mix of classic soul tropes, great 90s R&B arrangements (of the kind Brother Joey and I used to lap up back in the day), but it also strays deliciously into Frank Ocean territory, like this gem:

Best of all, it is just JAM PACKED full of great songs and top songwriting chops. It starts off pretty slowly, but really gets into its swing mid album, and the run of songs – Saturn, Gabriel, Orbit and Love Supreme – are as good as anything I’ve heard in a very long time.

What do you reckon, Brothers? Thought I’d throw a little extra listening into them mix.

INVISIBLE MINDS – Yo Mae Leh

Had a proper WHAT IS THIS moment when I heard this on the radio today. Isn’t it BRILLIANT? It’s everything I love all rolled into one. The artist is apparently deliberately a total mystery.

All there is, rather ingeneously, is a Spotify playlist of their musical inspirations…

I am more than intrigued.

DECEMBER: We Got It From Here… – A Tribe Called Quest

Ach, so late on this one. Soooooo sorry.

I mean, there’s not much to say in a weird way, is there? After an EIGHTEEN YEAR gap, and after losing one of the group’s cornerstones and founder members, Phife Dawg, and without much of a contribution from Ali Shaheed, who would be have been surprised if ATCQ would have returned with something a bit tired, a bit old, a bit derivative.

Instead, they rock up with one of the albums of the year and add a genuine new chapter to an already glittering career. Like Bowie’s Blackstar, this album is one you’d be happy to put next to their finest like their debut or Midnight Marauders.

Let’s be clear: they’re not totally reinventing themselves, and there is something enjoyably familiar about hearing that ATCQ sound. But what makes this such a thrilling listen is to hear Q-Tip and the crew sounds so vital, so passionate, so playful and so political.

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The first four or five songs are all stone cold classics, and almost every contribution brings out the best in everyone – the tracks with Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak are all total standouts. It also rewards repeated plays, and each time I find a new track that I’ve overlooked.

If there’s a criticism, it’s maybe that with it’s a touch overlong, and with the loss of 2 or 3 tracks, it would have been flawless. But actually, there’s not really a track I dislike intensely, and I love nearly all of it.

Welcome back ATCQ. The world missed you. The world needs you.

Nadia Rose – SQWOD

I love everything single about this more than I can say. So perfectly formed. What a video. So much colour, so much life. I wonder if a UK rapper like this might blow up globally soon. Feels so much fresher and less bloated than most US counterparts (Kendrick et al notwithstanding). Dunno. Anyway, enjoy…

NOVEMBER: Susanne Sundfor – Ten Love Songs

There are periods in musical history when a certain country or part of the world suddenly has a flourishing of incredible output. British rock in the 60s, French electronica of the late 90s/early 2000s, Brazilian tropicalia of the late 60s, German krautrock of the 70s, the late 80s/early 90s golden age of hip-hop.

To add to that, I honestly think we might have to start thinking of Scandi pop of the noughties and teens (WTF are we calling this decade? Can someone please decide – we’re half way through!). The extraordinary explosion in electronic pop from the icy inlets of Northern Europe is really quite something. From Robyn to Royksopp to Annie to Fever Ray, not to mention Swedish Karl Martin Sandberg and his Norwegian cohorts who have written more pop music for American artists than anyone else in the last decade – the breadth, the quality and the standard of their output puts everyone else to shame.

What I love most about it is that there IS a unifying feel and sound, even if the bubblegum of Annie and the icy krautrock arthouse of Fever Ray couldn’t be further apart. There’s a love of melody – and – for me, this is the clincher – there’s a melancholy at the heart of it all that tugs at your hearstrings. Hell, think back to ABBA. They did just that. Perhaps that’s in the DNA of every Scandi performer somewhere!

Also notable is how female fronted this wave is. And somewhere in the midst of all this, here is Susanne Sundfor, sitting RIGHT in the sweet spot of everything I’ve described. The fact that this stunning album – there’s no other word for it – is not a million seller around the world is testament to the embarrassment of riches coming from her part of the world. But do note that in her native Norway, she is a MASSIVE star and this album sold by the truckload.

So, yes, I’m a fan of this kind of stuff, that sounds so effortless but has been toiled over so expertly. But how can this not beguile? From the chugging motorik of Accelerate to the aching pop of Kamikaze, to the grand balladeering of Silence, Sundfor has a wide palette to draw upon, and she doesn’t put a foot wrong. This is undoubtedly one of my albums of the year, and I’m so looking forward to delving into her back catalogue

Finally, one moment that makes my heart skip every time – when the fierce OTT pop madness of Accelerate slips into the chugging, bubbling beginning of Fade Away and you know you’re heading into an entirely different tune. And yes, there IS a touch of ABBA in Fade Away. Why not? You can always learn from the masters.