New Music Reviews (5/24)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Don Yates (joined this week by DJ Alex) shares brief insights on new and upcoming releases for KEXP's rotation. These reviews help our DJs decide on what they want to play. See what we added this week below (and on our Charts page), including new releases from Mdou Moctar, Sons of Kemet, BLK JKS, and more.

Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime (Matador)
This Agadez, Niger-based guitarist’s sixth studio album is a powerful blend of traditional Tuareg music and fiery psych-rock, combining acoustic and electric guitars (including lots of incendiary, sky-scraping solos) with call-and-response vocals, hypnotic melodies and lyrics blending the political and the personal. — DY

Sons of Kemet – Black to the Future (Impulse!)
The fourth album from this London-based group led by Shabaka Hutchings is an expansive set of groove-driven jazz inflected with hip hop, funk and various African and Caribbean influences. Featuring Hutchings on sax and clarinet, Theon Cross on tuba and dual percussionists Edward Wakili-Hick and Tom Skinner, the album also includes a few special guests including Moor Mother, Angel Bat Dawid, Lianne La Havas, Kojey Radical, D Double E and poet Joshua Idehen, with many of the album guests offering politically charged lyrics decrying racism and celebrating black culture. — DY

BLK JKS – Abantu / Before Humans (We Are Busy Bodies)
This Johannesburg, South Africa band’s second album (and first in 12 years) is an adventurous blend of prog rock, funk, mbaqanga, kwaito, dub, jazz, desert blues and other styles, with a thickly textured sound featuring electric guitars, brass and tricky, sometimes shape-shifting rhythms. Special guests include Vieux Farka Toure, Money Mark, Madala Kunene and Ali Magassa. — DY

Lord Huron – Long Lost (Whispering Pines Studios/Republic)
The fourth album from this LA-based band led by Ben Schneider is a beautifully crafted, cinematic blend of folk-rock, spaghetti western, beach-pop, country-folk, vintage rock ‘n’ roll and more, with a reverbed sound combining guitars, keyboards, lush strings, brass, woodwinds and more with yearning vocals, rich harmonies and lyrics of lost love and the passage of time. — DY

Erika de Casier – Sensational (4AD)
This Copenhagen, Denmark-based artist’s second album is a well-crafted set of moody R&B inflected with trip hop, 2-step garage and other styles, combining slinky synths, samples and pulsing rhythms with her hushed, intimate vocals and lyrics revolving around troubled relationships. — DY

Robert Finley – Sharecropper's Son (Easy Eye Sound/Concord)
This Louisiana artist’s third album is a gritty blend of soul, blues, gospel, rock and more. Produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the album combines a warm sound with his grainy, elastic vocals and personal lyrics of love and resilience. — DY

Jorja Smith – Be Right Back EP (FAMM)
This British artist follows up her 2018 debut album Lost & Found with this eight-song EP of moody R&B featuring an often-spare and atmospheric sound combining acoustic and electric guitars, twinkling keyboards and somber strings with her fluid, soulful vocals. — DY

Reigning Sound – A Little More Time With Reigning Sound (Merge)
The latest album from this Memphis band led by Greg Cartwright is a well-crafted blend of garage-rock, R&B, ‘60s girl-group pop and more, with a warm, ‘60s-steeped sound featuring stinging guitars, organ, strings, pedal steel and more. — DY

Georgia Anne Muldrow – VWETO III (Foreseen/Epistrophik Peach Sound)
This prolific LA artist’s 21st studio album is a mostly instrumental, groove-driven blend of moody, psych-tinged hip hop and funk. — DY

The Black Keys – Delta Kream (Nonesuch)
This Akron, OH-bred duo’s 10th studio album pays tribute to Mississippi hill country blues with casually effective covers of Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell and others. Influenced by Mississippi hill country blues since the beginning of their career, The Black Keys now sound like masters of the music’s hypnotic rhythms and haunting guitar drones. — DY

L’Impératrice – Tako Tsubo (microqlima)
Reminiscent of Christine & The Queens, Little Dragon, and Jessie Ware, the sophomore album from this French band is a strong set of colorful disco-tinted synth-pop that oozes with a funky, charismatic, soulful swagger. Vocalist Flore Benguigui's stylish bi-lingual vocal delivery adds a sophisticated cool to the band's addictive basslines, bright synths, and playful beats that consistently deliver. — AR

Fred again. – Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020) (Atlantic)
The debut solo album from this British producer (aka Fred Gibson) is a well-crafted set of emotive dance-pop inflected with house, UK garage and other styles, combining propulsive rhythms, moody synths and piano and sampled dialog with hope-filled lyrics celebrating life, resilience and connection. — DY

Claire George – The Land Beyond the Light (Cascine)
This LA artist’s debut full-length is a well-crafted set of brooding electro-pop inflected with house, UK garage, downtempo and other styles, combining propulsive rhythms, moody synths and atmospheric guitars with her silky vocals and lyrics of addiction, loss and mortality. — DY

Gruff Rhys – Seeking New Gods (Rough Trade)
The seventh solo album from the frontman for the Welsh band Super Furry Animals is a sharply crafted set of expansive, prog-tinged psych-pop. — DY

KUČKA – Wrestling (LuckyMe)
KUČKA is the alias of Laura Jane Lowther, a globetrotting artist currently based in the US with strong roots in the Australian music community who has previously collaborated with A$AP Rocky, Flume, and SOPHIE (RIP). Her debut full-length album is a sleek, evocative, and widescreen blend of R&B, pop, and club-oriented beats with deeply personal lyrics that yields a progressive sound reminiscent at times of FKA Twigs, Kelela, Purity Ring, and Sevdaliza. — AR

Allison Russell – Outside Child (Fantasy)
The debut solo album from this Montreal-born, Nashville-based artist (and co-founder of Our Native Daughters, Birds of Chicago, and Po’ Girl) is a well-crafted set of expansive folk-pop inflected with soul, gospel, blues, country and other styles, combining a warm sound with her rich, soulful vocals and personal lyrics of abuse, resilience, love and redemption. — DY

Paul Jacobs – Pink Dogs on the Green Grass (Blow The Fuse)
The latest solo release from the Montreal-based Pottery drummer (and acclaimed cartoonist) is a solid set of quirky psych-pop with jangly guitars, shimmering keyboards and often-surreal lyrics. — DY

Lula Wiles – Shame and Sedition (Smithsonian Folkways)
This Boston-based band’s third album is a potent set of often-politically charged folk-rock with ringing guitars, tight harmonies and barbed lyrics aimed at capitalist greed, racism, injustice, media bias and other ills, along with more personal ones depicting troubled relationships. — DY

Blue Lab Beats – We Will Rise EP (Blue Note)
This London-based duo’s latest release is a potent five-song EP blending jazz, Afrobeats and hip hop, combining propulsive beats, bright keyboards, funky guitars, buoyant horns and occasional guest vocals. — DY

Ducks Ltd. – Get Bleak EP (Carpark)
This Toronto band’s latest release is an expanded edition of their promising 2019 debut EP of melancholy jangle-pop. — DY

Lydia Ainsworth – Sparkles & Debris (Zombie Cat)
This Toronto artist’s fourth album of arty electro-pop finds her recording with a live band for the first time, combining guitar, bass and drums with her shimmering synths, electronic samples, airy vocals and lyrics of longing and desire. — DY

Holiday Ghosts – North Street Air (FatCat)
This British duo’s third album is a solid set of hook-filled indie-pop with jangly acoustic and buzzing electric guitars, bouncy rhythms, dual lead vocals and sunny melodies. — DY

Rodrigo y Gabriela – The Jazz EP (ATO)
This Mexican guitar duo’s latest release finds them recasting a range of jazz and nuevo tango songs through their impressive flamenco-influenced guitar work. — DY

Arooj Aftab – Vulture Prince (New Amsterdam)
The third album from Brooklyn-based Pakistani vocalist/composer Arooj Aftab is a transcendent record that finds Aftab honoring and re-imagining centuries-old ghazals – a melancholic religious form of South Asian poetry and music – and pairing her stunning voice with exquisite minimal orchestral backdrops that float between jazz, new age, folk, ambient, and Hindustani classical elements. Dedicated to her late younger brother Maher, Vulture Prince is a beautiful breakthrough album both delicate and powerful, ethereal yet grounding, and a stunning modern interpretation of a historical artform. — AR

Lambchop – Showtunes (Merge)
The 16th studio album from this veteran Nashville band led by Kurt Wagner is a solid set of atmospheric indie-pop with a spacious, slow-burning sound featuring spare piano lines, horns and ambient electronic textures accompanying Wagner’s gruff, gentle vocals. — DY

FACS – Present Tense (Trouble In Mind)
This Chicago trio’s fourth album is an adventurous set of experimental post-punk with an atmospheric sound featuring stormy guitars, mechanical rhythms and ominous vocals. — DY

Morcheeba – Blackest Blue (Kartel Music Group)
Now pared down to a duo, this veteran British group’s 10th album is a solid set of brooding trip hop combining mostly downtempo grooves with lyrics of loss and escape. — DY

299 – The 299 Game (PNKSLM)
299 is the solo project of Welsh producer/multi-instrumentalist Gavin Fitzjohn. His debut album under that name is an evocative set of lo-fi folk-rock inflected with ‘60s girl groups and more, combining guitars and homemade percussion with wistful melodies and often-ominous lyrics. — DY

fuvk – twentytwenty (Z Tapes)
The second album of 2021 from Austin, TX-based bedroom pop artist Shirley Zhu (aka fuvk) is another excellent set of emotional, nostalgic, folk-tinged indie pop that fuses her intimate vocals and yearning lyrics atop charming, cinematic, winsome backdrops. — AR

Lucy – The Music Industry is Poisonous (Dots Per Inch)
The latest release from this Massachusetts artist (aka Cooper Handy) is a fine set of quirky indie-pop with often-brief songs combining a beat-driven, occasionally shape-shifting sound with playful lyrics. — DY

Soul Clap – WTF (World Transformation Force) (Fool's Gold)
The third full-length album from this Boston-based DJ/production duo is another strong set of slinky vocal-laced electronic grooves that encompass house, disco, boogie, pop, funk, and R&B flavors. Released on Earth Day, WTF is "a call for radical love and radical hope" that finds Soul Clap embracing a more focused and purposeful message with inspirational lyrical touches that reflect their growing involvement in activism around climate, equality, and politics. — AR

Orions Belte – Villa Amorini (Jansen)
The second full-length album from this Norwegian trio is a fun set of instrumental-heavy grooves that tap into a sweet, welcoming, colorful psychedelic vibe reminiscent at times of Mattson 2 and El Michels Affair. Fellow Norwegian vocalist Shikoswe appears on the album's immediate highlight and early single "Conversations." — AR

Mannequin Pussy – Perfect EP (Epitaph)
This Philadelphia band’s latest release is a solid five-song EP of cathartic, hook-filled punk. — DY

Nap Eyes – When I Come Around EP (Jagjaguwar)
This Halifax, Nova Scotia band’s latest release is a solid four-song EP of jangly folk-rock comprised of two covers, one new original and an electro-pop remix of a song from their previous album. — DY

Coral Grief – Coral Grief EP (self-released)
This Seattle duo’s debut EP is a solid set of atmospheric dream-pop with gentle guitars, shimmering synths and spare drum loops accompanying Lena Farr-Morrissey's ethereal vocals. — DY

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