Stumpwork is the much anticipated sophomore album by singular London post punk outfit Dry Cleaning. Mirroring the chaos of the modern world through vocalist Florence Shaw’s lucid storytelling and almost-speaking stream of consciousness delivery, the band twist and turn through different musical references, creating a cerebral, bordering on psychedelic, listening experience. Bold in its shrewd directness yet abstract simultaneously, Dry Cleaning’s discordant, angular guitar work is pushed into new territories for their second record, creating a woozy and cinematic backdrop to Shaw’s wry proclamations, which were often spontaneously recorded directly onto the album. With fragmented references to grief, archives and the surreal happenings of everyday life, Stumpwork is a masterful capture of the bewildering world around us.
Building Something Beautiful For Me is the poignant, moving record and homage by London electronic experimentalist Loraine James. The record pays tribute to and explores the life and work of American composer Julius Eastman. Active from the 1970’s and 80’s, Julius Eastman drew from minimalism, avant-garde classical and jazz, had original methods for composing music and was a creative pianist, vocalist and performance artist. His legacy as a highly inventive Black queer composer was a source of deep inspiration for Loraine James, a fellow young, gay, Black, independent artist. Loraine James samples from a .zip file of Eastman’s original recordings, given to her by Eastman’s brother. Alongside these recordings, James drew from his biography as well as transcribed MIDI stems of his minimal yet deeply political and personal compositions. Deconstructing and splicing samples of Eastman alongside her own heartwrenching electronic arrangements utilising voice and piano, Loraine James interprets and responds to Julius Eastman’s work from a deep emotional place through her singular production style. Building Something Beautiful For Me continues to carry the torch for one of the 20th century’s most significant Black composers.
Spend All Day Drawing A Circle, the fourth record from e4444e, is like a slowly approaching storm – unfolding steadily with purpose, stirring up a sense of all-enveloping magic. This talent for intricate and evocative, auditory world-building is one that the Awabakal Country/Newcastle-based artist has developed a strong reputation for and I Spend All Day Drawing A Circle sees e4444e painting from a more vivid palette than ever before. Collages of field recordings, organic guitar-led instrumentation, feedback drones and hushed vocals pass over the record like oscillating sheets of rain; leaving a fresh and earthly sheen on each of the album’s thoughtfully crafted tracks.
Fossora is the tenth studio album by Icelandic visionary Björk. Emotionally and conceptually complex, Björk continues to experiment on Fossora, traversing earthly orchestral tones alongside what she describes as “biological techno”. Maintaining her trademark unabashed experimentalism whilst still being grounded in an earnest vulnerability, Fossora sees Björk meditate on mortality, the ritualistic cycles of grief and the different manifestations of love across thirteen terrestrial songs. Björk’s unequaled vocals ascend over a mycelium network of beguiling choirs, swells of strings and primal gabber kicks. Fertile collaborations with Indonesian instrumentalists, a bass clarinet sixtet and even vocal appearances from her own children help shape a powerful sense of world-building that Björk is unparalleled in creating in her music. Fossora is a macrocosm of Björk’s inner world, showcasing an artist who continues to push the boundaries of sound after an almost 5 decade-long career.
Beloved Philadelphia singer-songwriter and producer Alex G returns with his ninth studio album, God Save The Animals. Celebrated for his astute songwriting and emotive lo-fi production across over a decade of released music that has amassed both a cult and mainstream following, Alex G decides to deviate from the script on God Save The Animals. Favoring a hi-fidelity studio environment for the first time in his career, what results is Alex G at his most forthright, with auto-tuned vocals and crystal-clear guitar melodies no longer shrouded in the fuzzy noise of his previous work. Despite this newfound sonic clarity, Alex G’s signature songwriting is as esoteric as ever, making abstract references to spirituality and existential themes. What is still maintained is the personal and affective nature of his lyrics, captured by the occasional whisper of his voice that was inspired by listening back to quiet, late-night voice memos. God Save The Animals sees Alex G at his most hopeful across thirteen polished and masterfully composed songs that shift between folk balladry, auto-tuned almost-hyperpop and an idiosyncratic sound that is undeniably Alex G.
As Above, So Below is the much-anticipated second album from visionary rapper and songwriter Sampa The Great. Following on from The Return – her contemplative debut – As Above, So Below is an unbridled celebration, reflecting on Sampa’s return to Africa. What results is an album that is triumphant and powerful, both in sound and in Sampa’s incisive yet poetic lyricism. Sampa’s personal journey towards radical self-acceptance, and her deep feeling of connection to her Zambian heritage, was strengthened by her return to her home countries of Zambia and Botswana.This multifaceted journey is reflected in the sound of As Above, So Below, which sees Sampa The Great reference a variety of regional African sounds like amapiano, Kwaito hip hop and Zamrock. Sampa collaborates with a broad range of artists that help express the empowering themes on the record including influential artist and activist Angélique Kidjo, Sampa’s own sister Mwanje and Zambian musical legends like producer Mag44, rapper Chef 187 and Zamrock band WITCH. High-profile rap heavyweights Denzel Curry, Joey Bada$$ and Kojey Radical also contribute verses that compliment Sampa’s own confident spoken word prowess. As Above, So Below is a momentous record that showcases an artist who has truly found herself. In Sampa’s own words – “This is my freest project to date. It feels like the journey of ‘my return’ has been completed, and a new chapter begins”.
Partly Cloudy is Flowertruck’s first full length record since 2018, released just in time for the turn of the season. An optimistic and sunny album, it serves as a poignant reminder of appreciating the everyday beauty of life as it passes by, and sees Flowertruck musing on life as a band after their successful debut album. The record also explores the messy experiences that come with being an adult; heartbreak and self-preservation, hopeless wanderlust, graduating from institutions and social circles and moving forward with self-assurance are all explored in Flowertruck’s usual lively and tongue-in-cheek style. With twangy guitars and a characteristically buoyant rhythm section, the band’s unique take on classic guitar balladry is terrifically framed by singer Charles Rushforth’s signature animated vocal delivery. Partly Cloudy is a romantic and bright-eyed tribute to the microcosmic and everyday moments of chasing dreams and forging relationships, tinged by a sweet sense of innocence and longing.
For the first time in her musical career, Julia Jacklin stepped away from the guitar, and wrote at her keyboard. There she created her new album PRE PLEASURE, nestled in an apartment in Montreal with walls covered in butcher paper, sprawling with lyrics and ideas. PRE PLEASURE is a quintessential Julia Jacklin album; it is at once starkly intimate, and completely universal. Drawing on the generational gap between mothers and daughters, rekindling friendships and navigating the meaning of true love – there’s always been a sense of knowing and quiet observation in the music of Julia Jacklin. Set to delicate arrangements – at times sparse and at other times playful – PRE PLEASURE is a generous and welcoming collection of songs that marks a confident metamorphosis for one of the country’s most beloved songwriters.
Irish experimental pop artist Elaine Howley’s intimate debut record The Distance Between Heart And Mouth is a masterclass in exploratory soundscapes. The record is the product of an audio diary kept by Elaine Howley across two years; capturing murmurs of sounds and textures that were later developed into nine spontaneously self-produced songs. The Distance Between Heart And Mouth’s warm, hazy atmospherics are conjured using synths reminiscent of foundational electronic music from the 70’s and 80’s, sonics from Elaine Howley’s beloved tape machine as well as her own delicate vocals that express an earnestness throughout the record. Using her music as a means of communicating to the outside world, and extricating emotions that were once buried, The Distance Between Heart And Mouth is a kaleidoscopic yet vulnerable portrait of an artist who is allowing us into her inner world.