New Music Reviews (04/04)

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 Koffee, Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee, PUP, and more.

Koffee – Gifted (Promised Land Recordings)
The debut full-length from this Jamaican artist (aka Mikayla Simpson) is an impressive blend of buoyant reggae and dancehall with Afrobeats and R&B, featuring a warm, breezy sound combining gently percolating rhythms and sunny melodies with uplifting lyrics of love, family, hope and gratitude. — DY

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee – BAMANAN (Real World)
Renowned Malian vocalist Rokia Koné (aka "Rose of Bamako," also a member of the feminist supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique) teams up with California-based Grammy Award-winning producer Jacknife Lee (U2, R.E.M., The Killers, Taylor Swift, Modest Mouse, etc.) for a captivating solo debut of soaring, soulful, striking Malian pop with Rokia's stunning voice shining bright throughout over dynamic and diverse backdrops. — AR

This Toronto band’s fourth studio album is an impressive set of energetic punk-pop that finds them expanding their sound by adding synths, piano, horns and other instrumentation to their visceral punk blend of buzzing guitars and pummeling rhythms, while the hook-filled songs remain as PUP as ever, with often self-deprecating lyrics of depression, anxiety and self-sabotage. The album also features guest backing vocals from members of Illuminati Hotties, NOBRO, Casper Skulls and Remo Drive. — DY

Confidence Man – TILT (Heavenly)
This Australian band’s second album is a fun set of bubbly, ‘90s-influenced dance-pop with propulsive disco and house rhythms, bright synths, often-playful lyrics and an abundance of buoyant song hooks. — DY

Phife Dawg – Forever (Smokin’ Needles/AWAL)
The second solo album (and first posthumous release) from the A Tribe Called Quest rapper was put together by his longtime musical collaborator/business partner Dion Liverpool from mostly unfinished demos. It’s a surprisingly cohesive and well-executed blend of warm, jazz-tinged beats and often-sunny rhymes of love, family and hope. Special guests include Q-Tip, Rapsody, Busta Rhymes, Redman, De La Soul’s Maseo and other notables. — DY

Somi – Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba (Salon Africana)
This New York-based artist of Ugandan and Rwandan heritage pays tribute to South African singing legend Miriam Makeba on her her latest album, which features her expertly interpreting 17 songs associated with Makeba ranging from gentle, atmospheric jazz and theatrical jazz-pop to rousing township music. Special guests include Angelique Kidjo, Seun Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Gregory Porter and other notables. — DY

Blushing – Possessions (Kanine)
The second album from this Austin-based four-piece band comprised of two married couples is a potent set of shoegaze, dream-pop, and noise-pop that pairs whimsical melodies within a maelstrom of guitar feedback, propulsive rhythms, and dense sonic textures. — AR

Sondre Lerche – Avatars of Love (PLZ/InGrooves)
This LA-based Norwegian artist’s latest release is an ambitious double album of expansive folk-pop inflected with bossa nova, jazz, trip hop and other styles, with often-sprawling songs combining a variety of lush instrumentation with lyrics of love and desire. Special guests include CHAI, Felicia Douglass and Mary Lattimore. — DY

Oceanator – Nothing's Ever Fine (Polyvinyl)
The second proper Oceanator album from New York artist Elise Okusami is a fine set of ‘90s-steeped indie-rock ranging from anthemic, hook-filled grunge-pop to brooding folk-tinged ballads. — DY

Fennec – a couple of good days (self-released)
The 7th album from this Austin, Texas-based electronic producer is another impressive set of fun, cheeky, and infectious electronic grooves that bounces between house, disco, downtempo, jazz, funk, and more with a carefree anything-goes sampling mentality that taps into the spirit of The Avalanches and Lemon Jelly. — AR

Pillow Queens – Leave the Light On (Royal Mountain)
This Dublin band’s second album is a potent set of indie-rock ranging from surging anthems to moody, atmospheric ballads, combining raw guitars and rousing harmonies with yearning vocals and lyrics of longing and identity. — DY

TONE – So I Can See You (Rhythm Section International)
TONE is the solo alias of South London musician and film graduate Basil Anthony Harewood, who's also a member of the CURL collective alongside Mica Levi and Coby Sey. His debut full-length album is a magnetic set of moody, nocturnal, murky R&B infused with dub, post-punk, shoegaze, synth-pop and other angular styles that recalls the distinctive noirish and at-times intense aesthetics of Dean Blunt, Tricky, and Anika. — AR

Jon Spencer & The Hitmakers – Spencer Gets It Lit! (In the Red)
This veteran New York artist’s second album with his band The Hitmakers is a solid set of groove-driven garage-rock inflected with funk, blues and other styles, combining scuzzy guitars, buzzing synths, organ and more with Spencer’s exhortatory vocals and punchy song hooks. — DY

Panoram – Acrobatic Thoughts (Running Back)
The latest solo release from versatile NYC-via-Italy musician Panoram (aka Raffaele Martirani, also a member of Amen Dunes) is a heady set of abstract synth-pop, aqueous ambient-pop, and arty experimental-pop that brings to the minds the provocative explorations of The Orb and The Art Of Noise. — AR

FRED – Creature EP (self-released)
The debut FRED EP from Seattle artist Gabriel Molinaro is a well-crafted set of reflective electro-pop with moody synths, propulsive rhythms, catchy song hooks and lyrics of loss, grief, struggle and self-acceptance. — DY

Tanika Charles – Papillon de Nuit: The Night Butterfly (Record Kicks)
This Toronto artist’s third album is a solid set of often-breezy R&B combining a warm, ‘70s-steeped sound with her dynamic, soulful vocals and lyrics of love, heartache and growth. — DY

Scrunchies – Feral Coast (Dirtnap)
This Minneapolis band’s second album is a potent set of raw garage-punk with buzzing guitars, pounding rhythms, urgent vocals and razor-sharp song hooks. — DY

Tempers – New Meaning (Dais)
This New York-based duo’s fourth album is a solid set of moody electro-pop with icy synths, propulsive rhythms, haunting vocals and lyrics of loss and regeneration. — DY

Whimsical – Melt (Shelflife)
This Dyer, IN band’s fourth album is a solid set of shoegazer dream-pop with fuzzy guitars, ethereal vocals and celestial melodies. — DY

Spike Hellis – Spike Hellis (Over-Pop)
This LA-based duo’s debut album is a potent set of dark, industrial-tinged electro-pop with haunting synths, stern rhythms and hypnotic melodies. — DY

(Various) – Lèspri Ka: New Directions in Gwoka Music from Guadeloupe 1981-2010 (Séance Centre)
Lèspri Ka is a fascinating survey of gwoka, an evolving style of music originating on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe that also signifies a way of living and thinking amongst its people. Rooted in the social, musical and ritual practices of enslaved African people and their descendants on Guadeloupe, gwoka has always sought to express the spirit of independence and resistance authentic to the island. Co-curated by Cédric Lassonde and Brandon Hocura, this 10-track compilation is the first official collection to bring the vibrant, rhythmic, and hypnotic sounds of modern gwoka to a wider audience, with many of the featured musicians still active today. — AR

Papercuts – Past Life Regression (Slumberland)
The seventh Papercuts album from San Francisco artist Jason Quever is a well-crafted set of folk-tinged psych-pop with jangly guitars, shimmering keyboards and wistful melodies. — DY

Pinder – Everything Cost (any day now)
This LA-via-Seattle artist’s latest release is a solid blend of moody hip hop and R&B combining an atmospheric sound with rhymes of struggle and survival. — DY

Mont Duamel – Sunshine EP (self-released)
The second mini-album from this solo project of Montreal-based musician Mathieu Jomphe Lepine (fka Billboard) is a strong set of evocative and expansive bedroom pop that blends his airy vocals with intricate productions that yields a sound reminiscent of Bon Iver, James Blake, Caribou, and Bibio, yet also sneaks in a couple psychedelic instrumental-heavy beats ("New Light'' + "Lessons'') that recall the adventurous dynamics of Jai Paul.  Previously working as a behind-the-scenes producer and songwriter over the past decade for some the biggest names in pop music – Dua Lipa, Madonna, Shakira, Britney Spears, to name a few – and a recipient of Grammy nominations for his work on singles with Robyn, Kehlani, and Ariana Grande, Mathieu's Mont Duamel alias was launched in 2020 fueled by a desire to explore his own honest musical expressions without external boundaries. — AR

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Rise EP (Saddle Creek)
This Toronto trio’s latest release is a well-crafted six-song EP of dynamic, folk-tinged rock ranging from anthemic, rhythm-driven rock to spare, acoustic-oriented passages. — DY

Fatima & Joe Armon-Jones – Tinted Shades EP (Aquarii)
Swedish-born, London-based vocalist Fatima Bramme Sey (aka Fatima) teams up with British producer, composer, and keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones for a stellar set of soulful R&B infused with jazz, hip-hop, and trip-hop flavors. — AR

Taylar Elizza Beth & WD4D – Ninety Three EP (self-released)
Seattle artist Taylar Elizza Beth collaborated with Seattle producer WD4D for this fine three-song EP of groove-driven R&B and moody hip hop. — DY

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