Beth Orton takes beauty to middle age, Jake Blount is a revelation: the best albums of the week

Beth Orton takes beauty to middle age, Jake Blount is a revelation: the best albums of the week

Rich Territory: Beth Orton delves into her personal memories

Rich Territory: Beth Orton delves into her personal memories

Beth Orton, Weather Alive ★★★★ ☆

The chill-out rooms of rave culture would have felt empty without Beth Orton, who has been an intriguing flavor in British music since the early 1990s. Her fragile and distinctive voice provided lyrical motifs (sometimes spoken, sometimes half-sung) on ​​tunes by ambient techno pioneer William Orbit, big beat powerhouse The Chemical Brothers and acid jazz trio Red Snapper.

This evolved into an acclaimed solo career as a songwriter, whose 1996 Mercury Prize nominated debut Trailer Park and Brit Award-winning sequel in 1999 Central Reservation blended acoustic flavors with contemporary synths, rhythms and sound effects. Dubbed “folktronic,” it’s a style that has likely evolved into a mainstream digital pop format that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Taylor Swift or Billie Eilish record.

Orton, however, pushed in other directions. She was last heard on 2016’s Kidsticks, a sonic blunder that virtually eliminated the folk side of the equation, obscuring her talent for poetic lyrics and delicate melodies in glitchy electronics.

Six years later, the beautiful and strange Weather Alive is expected to restore Orton’s reputation as the queen of the comedown, but instead of recreating familiar sounds he pushes her into richer territory, suitable for her age and experience. “I made an art by believing in magic,” Orton sings in Fractals, a dreamy, easygoing mantra of gurgling bass, drawling drums and amorphous sax and synths, swimming around his delicate piano and his vocal lines. Self-producing for the first time, Orton proves that the apprentice has become her own master of study, shaping the intricate tendrils of her career in a pleasurable flurry of sound and emotion.

She’s aided by a fantastic ensemble of crossover jazz musicians, most notably an agile rhythm section composed of drummer Tom Skinner, of the collective nominated by Mercury Sons of Kemet (and Radiohead’s side project The Smile) and bassist Tom Herbert of The Invisible. I’d be tempted to call her “popular fusion” if that didn’t make her sound even more awkwardly unattractive than folktronics, or sell off her emotional heart.

At 51, something happened to Orton’s voice, which sounds battered and altered. But he uses it so well – a tonal instrument that adapts to ever-changing soundscapes – that its cracked edges become sensual. A hint of Proust’s madeleines in Friday Night’s American rhythmic groove opens a window into the album’s main concerns. “Go back in time, go back in time,” Orton cries sadly amid the swirling melancholy of Forever Young.

A bittersweet reminiscence of the easy love of youth percolates through Arms Around a Memory, while the sadness of the final erasing of memory is the basis of the album’s closing track Unwritten. During Weather Alive, Orton’s past constantly draws closer before suddenly vanishing. “When the sea comes it’s hard to believe / Will never go out again,” sings Friday Night, commemorating a young drinking buddy who was later lost to alcoholism and death.

Sometimes, Weather Alive conjures up The War On Drugs’ psychedelic ride with a battered Lucinda Williams riding a shotgun. At other times, feel the twilight tenderness of The Blue Nile, the ghostly gospel jazz of Alice Coltrane, the mystical desire of the first Van Morrison and the spatial distortion of Thom Yorke. This is company to keep, but Orton delves so deeply into his personal spaces and memories that what he finds there is unique. Middle-aged discontent has rarely seemed so adorable. Neil McCormick

Jake Blount, The New Faith, ★★★★★

Take Me To The Water, the opening track of 27-year-old Jake Blount’s second album, invites listeners through the ambient sounds of birds chirping and crashing waves. A sense of serenity in a stolen moment, just as dawn is breaking.

“Take me to the water, take me to the water, take me to the water to baa-aptised,” sings Rhode Island, Blount of Providence, her baritone full of desire and determination. And so, we started in this conceptual landscape that he created in The New Faith.

All the while, the songwriter, singer, banjo and violin player, scholar and self-described afrofuturist has been weaving together spirituals, southern black folk songs, gospel harmonies, old-time bluegrass, percussive loops and hip-hop poems (edited by rapper and North Carolina banjo player Behavior) in a lively and adventurous whiz through the deepest roots of black history through a fantasy-futuristic lens.

Blount started with the question, “How would black music sound after climate change makes most of the world uninhabitable?”

His research took him back generations in the suffering, desire and faith of African Americans during the violence of slavery and the common and resilient power of music to unite in times of despair and celebrate each other.

The Downward Road introduces a sizzling banjo base, clapping percussion and the high-pitched, slender violin beneath the melodic lines of hip-hop. Two percussion gospel heartthrob pay homage to great female talents: Didn’t It Rain (made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson) harks back to the biblical Noah and the Flood, and Once There Was No Sun (by American folk singer Bessie Jones ) begs us to respect this fragile world.

Blount is traversing similar thematic and musical territory for both Fantastic Negrito, which released rootsy-blues-funk masterpiece White Jesus Black Problems earlier this year, and Ben Harper’s soul-blues album Bloodline Maintenance.

The New Faith is a hymn, full of singing and layered organic instrumentation. It is deeply and spiritually moving, vibrant and celebratory. Detector, even. Forest of cats

Alzatetto: sports team

Alzatetto: sports team

Sports team, GULP! ★★★ ☆☆

Second albums are a notoriously complicated business. For acts whose debuts are a triumph, there is an almost unattainable expectation on the sequel. Just ask U2, The Stone Roses, Razorlight and Primal Scream.

Hence, it would always have been difficult for the Cambridge University-formed six-piece sports team to produce a second year to compete with their Mercury Prize-nominated Deep Down Happy, which has sold more copies than any other British band debut. in four years when it was released in 2020 and only narrowly dropped the No. 1 of the ranking in favor of Lady Gaga.

Filled with high-sounding riffs, self-deprecating lyrics and cynical, humorous remarks about the small British town, the indie rock record earned frontman Alex Rice and his bandmates the reputation of a bunch of mischievous boosters. Gulp !, out today, is 10 tracks of their own lively and jaunty britpop, which moves away from the mundanity of the cities of the commuter belt, instead questioning the malaise of modern existence. As Rice says, “If you are young and live in the UK, what do you intend to connect with?”

Unfortunately, this time around, the lyrics tend to be too dull to have the same impact. On R Entertainment, a reflection on social media and the overwhelming glut of storytelling that grabs our attention, Rice hums “Oh, a blinding light, Oh, the seraphs are here.” On Kool Aid, on conspiracy theories like QAnon, he sings “voices … like gravy on an overflowing plate”. It is all quite difficult to follow.

That said, there are plenty of songs that are sure to please Sports Team diehard fans, from the Bryan Ferry-inspired opening anthem The Drop, to the slower paced Cool It Kid, which is about when the band lived together in a house. by Camberwell. share (“living with you makes me sick”).

Ultimately, the sports team is best known for being brilliant live, having sold out at venues with 5,000 appearances right at the start of their careers. While these raucous songs may not excite critics, they are sure to get young audiences coming. Kathleen Johnston

Busy Mind: Oscar Jerome - Alexandra Waespi

Busy Mind: Oscar Jerome – Alexandra Waespi

Oscar Jerome, The Spoon ★★★ ☆☆

Oscar Jerome’s second album, The Spoon, begins with the sound of the shutdown. An overdubbed guitar weighs down on its own heaviness, too tired to play a chord. The percussion noise stops and begins with a sleepy frenzy, like a patient on an operating table trying to fight the anesthetic. It’s a very neat setting for an album that sounds like a busy mind trying to escape from your body.

For the past fifty years, Oscar Jerome has been touted as a forerunner of the London nu-jazz movement: a fraternity responsible for transforming one of the most deliberately intemperate musical genres into something that could be played at barbecues without pinching the ears. Jerome simplifies and adds pop to the form, without detracting from it. Barbecue music, sure, but high-end barbecue music.

The Spoon carries its West African influences on its sleeve (Jerome is also part of the London afrobeat collective Kokoroko): from Aya & Bartholomew’s Wassalou folkness to the Malinese groove of Path to Someone. Yet they are rendered with a distinctly London luster. In The Spoon, Jerome ends up playing less like Fela Kuti and more like one of his London contemporaries, like Westerman or Nilüfer Yanya.

Jerome’s voice meets somewhere between Tricky’s sexy statement and Oliver Sims’ (of the xx’s) sought-after emotional cadence, but the more buried in the mix, the better it sounds. On Feet Down South, one of the only songs on the album where his voice is at the center of the mix, he ends up sounding like a cockney Jamiroquai. Casual and on-the-nose lyrics don’t help either. “Knock, knock. Who is that? Anxiety is upon us. ”Perhaps these songs would have worked better as instruments. Emma Madden

Maya Hawke, Moss, ★★★★ ☆

Stranger Things star (and daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) Maya Hawke has grown bolder since her folk-pop debut Blush, which was a careful look at being a young adult today.. The Hawke star continues to grow as his acting and music career rises in parallel: his second album Moss comes a week after his high school comedy Do Revenge hit Netflix, and will soon star alongside his mother in the thriller. The Kill Room.

For Hawke – whose talent is clear, regardless of his family’s privilege – songwriting stems from a love of writing poetry. Moss, named after Hawke’s desire to shake off the overgrowth of life and see what lies beneath, touches and boldly explores the themes of heartbreak, family and loss.

In Driver, Hawke turns the voyeur to his parents as he sings: “I imagine my mother and father / banging their necks in the back seat of a taxi / I’d give everything I have to see them happy / Kissing just like that.” the perverted driver “, before mentioning her mother again in the song Sweet Tooth, wanting to protect her:” I told my mother that I loved her / and that I would lie to the accountant / if she wants. “The joyful track features cheerful guitars and sparkling as she sings beautifully of love and gratitude.

Hawke is a skilled storyteller and in Luna Moth she sings about an art teacher who once told her about how accidentally stepping on a Luna Moth (a rare giant silk moth) can bring bad luck. In Hiatus, Hawke combines his acting and musical worlds with the lyrics: “I Kissed My Co-Star / Anyway During Rehearsal”. With a soulful voice, delicate stories and vulnerable lyrics, Moss delivers delightful listening. Narzra Ahmed

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