Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler of '90s hip-hop crew Digable Planets) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai 'Baba' Marai are a formidable musical force. Working together as Shabazz Palaces they push themselves to be daring and inventive, and invite listeners to follow. Their debut album Black Up was bold, painting with a broad palette of abstracted electronic beats, instruments and obscured soul samples. The space and echo of their earlier work is amplified in Lese Majesty, taking the record into deeper orbits of astral jazz and hip hop. There's a great power and intrigue in the lyrics also. On the track Ishmael, Palaceer states "All of our stories told in codes". Some songs here are clear and direct, others have a meaning to be understood slowly through careful contemplation.
The awaited second album from Luluc is rich, spare, subtle and striking. It's a glorious artistic achievement from a band with a highly considered songwriting approach. It's about six years since Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett released their debut 'Dear Hamlyn', and the intervening years have seen the two refine their craft even further. Basing themselves in Brooklyn, they've worked with Aaron Dessner who helped produce the new album. Luluc's gently orchestrated folk arrangements carry great emotional weight, and their lyrics linger with a rare poignancy.
XL Recordings/Remote Control
The project of London friends and musicians Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland (aka ‘J’ and ‘T’), Jungle offer one of the more distinctive and compelling debut albums of the year with their new self-titled LP. Fusing boogie, soul, funk and pop into new and adventurous forms, it's an exciting, inventive listen throughout.
The musical force of Melbourne's Total Control return with their second album, Typical System. Bringing a formidable wealth of experience and expertise, the band have again crafted a collection of songs that span, and extend upon, the traditions of punk, post-punk, new wave, and 80s underground pop and electronic styles. Total Control provide an engaging and elusive set - subtle and explosive - that shows the band as comfortable in creating order as embracing chaos.
The evolution of White Hex has been a fascinating one. Rising from the primordial rock swamp of earlier band Slug Guts, Tara Green and Jimi Kritzler offered a distinctly dark and textured post punk sound on their White Hex debut 'Heat'. 'Gold Nights', in contrast, finds a new expression for the duo in the sonic palette of early electronic music and new wave. The result is an intriguing and impressive mix of vibrant synth pop anthems, and industrial disco dirges.
Are We There is the fourth album from Brooklyn-based artist Sharon Van Etten, and the first to be self-produced. Building on an already accomplished career in incisive and insightful songwriting, the scale and scope of Sharon Van Etten's latest work is vast and impressive. Post rock guitars, keyboards, an omnichord, and electronic and percussive elements form the compelling musical backdrop to Sharon's powerful lyrical delivery. Both intimate and universal in nature, these songs capture Van Etten in complete control of her extraordinary craft.
'Stay Gold' is the third album from sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, and another superb demonstration of their singular skill in modern folk songcraft. Their melodies are memorable, their lyrics highly affecting, and harmonies as striking, and seemingly effortless as ever. The instrumental arrangements are grand in scale, drawing on the Americana of earlier work, as well as cinematic and orchestral pop influences.
HopeStreet Recordings/Rocket Distribution
Surf-rock, disco, psychedelic, and cinematic funk are all featured styles of The Bombay Royale. Inspired by the highly inspiring soundtracks of Bollywood, the group deliver both a reverential, and revolutionary, album of original recordings. The compelling songs build on the tremendous success and singular vision of their debut, ‘You Me Bullets Love’.
Young God/Create Control
The thirteenth album by celebrated New York group Swans is every bit as vital and visceral as any from their extensive catalogue. Led by multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira, the experimental rock band are known for commanding, challenging, and rewarding works, and 'To Be Kind' showcases their unique talent for blending expansive rock instrumention, distorted blues influences, and intense industrial textures.
'Nabuma Rubberband' is the fourth album from celebrated Gothenburg quartet Little Dragon. The record begins with the slightly haunted, highly evocative soul dub of 'Mirror', and proceeds through a range of tempos and styles, including the percussive funk of 'Klapp Klapp' and soaring synth pop of 'Underbart'. Overall 'Nabuma Rubberband' is a playful and engaging exploration of the band's experimental pop interests.
Cockaigne / Fuse
The latest installment from iconic Melbourne musician (and Triple R broadcaster!) Dave Graney is as compelling and unique as ever. On this record we hear the distinctive vocals and poetically concise lyricism Dave is known for presented in new and ever more expressive sonic form. Throughout the course of the album Dave Graney and partner Clare Moore explore everything from sparse folk, jazz, to adventurous art pop, all with a richly textured ambience.
Beginning as the solo project of New Zealand artist Hollie Fullbrook, Tiny Ruins has developed into a three-piece band. 'Brightly Painted One' is the second full-length released under the name, and is a more layered work, led still by the movingly detailed narrative lyricism of Fullbrook and her compelling, distinctive vocal style.
Aarght Records/Rocket Distribution
This week's Album of the Week is the self-titled debut from Melbourne synth-punk quartet Nun. The record is an impressive, and distinctive, blend of the band's shared musical interests, including electronic, industrial, pop and punk sounds. Echos of the past linger in these vivid, retrofuturisic jams.
Canadian born, New York-based artist Mac DeMarco returns with his awaited second album, demonstrating a marked evolution in songwriting that nonetheless bears the hallmarks of his earlier wit and idiosyncratic rock stylings. The signature fuzzy guitar melodies and tape warped recordings are present on songs such as 'Brother', while 'Passing Out Pieces' and 'Chamber Of Reflection' showcase a strong new sonic palette of organ and synth sounds.
A Long Way To The Beginning is a landmark record from Seun Kuti, youngest son of legendary musician, Afrobeat pioneer, and human rights activist Fela Kuti. Seun Kuti's third album leading the iconic Egypt 80 band, the album is inspiring and incendiary in its messages, and its musical force, building upon the already towering legacy of his family. To broaden the sonic palette of this new collection of songs, Kuti collaborated with US Grammy Award winning jazz pianist and composer Robert Glasper.
The third record from Melbourne duo HTRK is an impressive distallation of, and extension on previous albums. The sparse melodies, languorous tempos, precise percussion, dub effects and Jonnine's distinctive vocals all combine to produce an entrancing collection of new material.
Avey Tare of Animal Collective has formed a new band with former Dirty Projectors member Angel Deradoorian and ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman. Their debut is inspired by a shared love of vintage horror and modern psychedelic pop music.
The third album from Philadelphia band The War On Drugs is an impressive evolution in sound and style for the rock outfit, combining experimental 70s and 80s rock rhythms and production techniques with modern psychedelic elements. The result is a sweeping epic, both outward reaching and introspective.
Dot Dash/Remote Control
Grids is the third album from Teeth & Tongue, the Melbourne-based musical project of Jess Cornelius. It follows the celebrated Tambourine LP of 2011, and offers another impressive collection of richly imaginative, atmospheric and memorable songs. Grids features regular collaborators Marc Regueiro-McKelvie and Damian Sullivan as well as production from AJ Bradford and guest appearances from Laura Jean, Peter Luscombe and Tim O’Connor.
Flightless / Remote Control
Oddments is the fourth album in 18 months from this highly productive, inventive, and brilliant band from Geelong. An eclectic but cohesive collection of new compositions, the album features reflective tape warped garage jams through to powerful percussive instrumentals, a blend of masterful craft and playful abandon.
'Blank Project' is the long anticipated return of Swedish artist Neneh Cherry, and represents her first solo recordings since 'Man' in 1996. Soulful, sombre, but celebratory, the album reflects Neneh's tremendous versatility as a singer and songwriter. Produced with Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet), also famed for working across a range of styles, the album is propelled by dynamic percussive arrangements.
The second album from Missouri-born singer-songwriter Angel Olsen is an absorbing and atmospheric record, filled with electronic folk and heavy rock compositions. The lyrical depth is of the record is matched with both hauntingly sparse and densely textured arrangements.
Emmaar is the sixth album from Malian musicians Tinariwen. Since forming in 1979 the band have developed and refined a hybrid style of traditional blues and rock music, and this record documents the extraordinary range and depth of their songcraft. Recorded in Joshua Tree, California, the album reflects the importance of space and environmental influences in their music.
Gentle, unassuming, and insistent are hallmarks of Seattle singer Damien Jurado. Across eleven albums he’s developed a loyal fanbase with his steady folk songwriting. Recent work with producer Richard Swift however has seen Jarado extend his craft and Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son is perhaps the most adventurous album of his canon to date. Jarado’s own haunted vocals are frequently matched with the whispers of a ghostly chorus, and softly fingerpicked guitars, synths and heavy percussive elements fill certain songs with a density and vibrant energy. The quieter compositions are equally compelling, drawing listeners in to Jarado’s lyrical reflections on nature and our place in it.
'Give The People What They Want' is the anticipated album from celebrated soul artist Sharon Jones and her band The Dap Kings. Sharon Jones is very happily recovering from serious illness last year and continuing treatment, and the record is a joyful expression of her unequalled power and charisma as a performer. The record builds upon past success, offering a compelling selection of funk, jazz and soulful songs.
An iconic figure of 90s indie music, Stephen Malkmus was critical to the shaping of an entire pop aesthetic. With his band Pavement, Malkmus was described as a hero of the so-called ‘slacker rock’ movement, but he was anything but lazy with an impressive level of output over the course of his career. This latest album with The Jicks builds on his legacy of wry, literate lyricism, broadranging subject matter, and distinctive pop melodies.