New Music Reviews (02/12)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder (joined this week by Morning Show Producer, Owen Murphy) share 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 Brittany Howard, Ducks Ltd., Dina ögon, and more. 

Brittany Howard - What Now (Island)
The second solo album from the Alabama Shakes frontwoman is POWERFUL. Grabbing, neigh DEMANDING the listener’s attention from the first track, What Now contains multitudes with smooth retro soul, woozy psychedelics, contemporary R&B, rock, funk, jazz and dance, to name a few. Yet still, the project is concentrated and cohesive, ushering in an exciting new era for Howard, with her incomparable vocals and raw, honest, unapologetic lyricism on prominent display. While we must give What Now its proper and deserved moment in the sun, it’s hard to not ask “what’s next?!” after taking a deep dive into this exceptional album. — CS

Ducks Ltd. - Harm’s Way (Carpark)
The Toronto duo of Evan Lewis and Tom McGreevy positively DELIGHT listeners with their sophomore release. Where their debut was a DIY darling, Harm’s Way is a family affair, with production from Dave Vettraino and loads of collaborators, including Ratboys’ Julia Steiner and Marcus Nuccio, Dehd’s Jason Balla and their touring drummer Jonathan Pappo. The result is a compact indie-rock album, full of jangly guitars, catchy pop melodies, and hooks for days. — CS

Dina ögon - Orion (Playground Music Scandinavia)
This Swedish outfit fronted by singer/songwriter Anna Ahnlund continue to export some of the world’s finest in dreamy, groovy, nostalgic soul-pop music on their filler-free third album Orion, yet another stellar showcase of their colorful, carefree, psych-tinted sound with a refined love for tasty drum breaks, divine chord progressions, irresistibly sweet melodies, and infectious pop nuggets. — AR

Helado Negro - Phasor (4AD)
Roberto Carlos Lange’s music has an ease to it. But as you listen closely to the layered instrumentals, lyrical depth, and subtle nuances, the complexities are undeniable. On his eighth studio album, Phasor, this is truer than ever. Lange’s signature dream pop infused with Latin rhythms, psych and Tropicália coasts us through his storytelling in both Spanish and English, as he leans on synths and atmospherics to achieve a gorgeous body of work. — CS

Lewis OfMan - Cristal Medium Blue (Virgin Records France/Profil de Face)
Do you wanna get fly? The second full length album from French-born musician, composer and producer Lewis Delhomme is a groovy long player with some enticing collaborations including Empress Of, Camile Jansen and Gabriela Richardson. Cristal Medium Blue is an adventurous listen, finding Lewis exploring many alt-pop sounds with psych, synths, funk, lively guitar, delicious hooks and inventive production. With Lewis incapable of staying in one sonic lane, the album keeps you on your toes as you eagerly wait to see where he’ll take you next. — CS

Little Simz - Drop 7 (Forever Living Originals)
London rapper Little Simz returns with this surprise 7-track collection of brilliant, triumphant, hard-hitting hip-hop that blends her upper echelon lyricism with kinetic club-oriented beats provided by esteemed UK electronic producer Jakwob. The 7th installment in Little Simz’s on-going Age 101 series that was launched back in 2014, Drop 7 adds another amazing entry in her top-tier catalog and signals an astounding and ascendent 10-year run for the groundbreaking award-winning artist. — AR

Orgone - Chimera (3 Palm)
The latest album from this veteran 8-piece LA-based outfit driven by founding members Dan Hastie and Sergio Rio is another strong set of seasoned funk music with a potent Afro-psych-soul streak. Fresh off serving as the studio band for Say She She and backing them on their wildly successful world tour, Orgone return to their raw funk roots with a set list that leans heavily into midtempo in-the-pocket grooves that reflect their deep and trusting chemistry. A few guest vocalists add their own flavor to the instrumental-heavy mix, notably Congolese artist Mermans “Mofaya” Masengo who appears on a pair of standout Afrobeat jams, “Zum Zum” and “Tula Muisi (Dance Like Them),” while Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas and Grupo Fantasma contributes to instrumental album closer “Coronado.” — AR

Pouty - Forgot About Me (Get Better)
The debut solo album from Rachel Gagliardi (of Slutever, Upset) is an impressive set of high energy, searing power pop examining desire, self-sabotage, denial, acceptance and aging. Forgot About Me is big and fuzzy with power chords, driving bass, powerful percussion and Gagliardi’s bright vocals. The California by way of Philadelphia musician began this solo endeavor as part of a song-a-day collaborative project with Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast). Now a full decade later, it’s thrilling to have Pouty come to fruition. — CS

shygirl - Club Shy EP (Because)
Our club queen is back with an infectious, sultry follow up to her outstanding 2023 debut breakout album, Nymph. Originating as an homage to East London’s vibrant nightlife scene, the Club Shy series has now culminated in an EP full of electronic bangers and top tier guests including Empress Of, Kingdom, Lolo Zouai, Boys Noize and SG Lewis. — CS

Various Artists - Hearts & Minds & Crooked Beats: Songs of The Clash (Shared Medium)
Benefiting the International Rescue Committee, and being released on International Clash Day, the compilation Hearts & Minds & Crooked Beats features artists putting their unique spin on The Only Band That Matters. Standout tracks include Teke::Teke's partial Japanese language take on "Bankrobber," Smokey Brights pop/soul inspired take on "Train in Vain," and The Gotobeds channeling pure punk fury on "I’m So Bored with the USA." Additionally Big League, Labasheeda, Julia Massey of Warren Dunes, and The Rust and The Fury share their unique takes on covers of The Clash and celebrating their music and human rights message. Importantly, proceeds from the album sales will go to the International Rescue Committee’s global fund, supporting their work in responding to humanitarian crises and helping impacted individuals rebuild their lives. — OM

Chelsea Wolfe - She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She (Loma Vista)
The otherworldly seventh studio album from Chelsea Wolfe is a dark, melancholy, genre bending adventure driven by experimental goth and industrial soundscapes achieved with distorted guitars, drum pads, electronics and Wolfe’s ethereal vocals. She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She is about cutting ties and healing, and allowing that process to take whatever shape it needs to while existing in the “in-between”. The self-described witch and recently sober artist explains: “like the dark moon, that void space can feel unpredictable and looming, but it also holds so much potential, mystery, and excitement.” — CS

Forest Ray - Windfucker (jebivjetar) (self-released)
The new album from the Seattle outfit is a solid blend of Americana, psych and indie-rock. Peter Sumic’s classic storytelling style is driven by a rich sonic tapestry of guitar, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, harmonica and percussion, making Windfucker (jebivjetar) feel like a perfect companion for a long, dusty road trip. — CS

Madi Diaz - Weird Faith (ANTI-)
The sixth album from the Nashville singer-songwriter is a soul-baring, emotional journey documenting falling into and out of love, and all of the anxiety that comes with it. The compelling collection of folk-pop songs on Weird Faith showcases traditional song structures, gorgeous crescendos, and plenty of unexpected twists and turns, with her honest lyricism and strong vocals at the forefront. — CS

Mk.gee - Two Star & The Dream Police (R&R Digital)
New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer Michael Todd Gordon (aka Mk.gee, pronounced McGee) has been cultivating a visionary pop sound over a run of solo EPs and a brilliant mixtape while simultaneously exploring progressive terrain in close collaborations with Dijon and Vegyn. Created in collaboration with Dijon and Andrew Aged (of 4AD duo inc. no world), his official debut full-length album is a magnetic journey that folds pop, folk-pop, synth-pop, and R&B through a cinematic, emotional, and nostalgic prism. Distinguished by his otherworldly guitar tones, cutting-edge production techniques, and yearning windswept vocals, Two Star & The Dream Police pays “homage to Jersey rock by infusing classic shore rock with a heavier and darker essence” and signals a pivotal chapter in this young artist’s story. — AR

TV Star & Spiral XP - TVXP EP (self-released)
The new collaborative EP from Washington outfits TV Star and Spiral XP is a true melding of the minds before the two bands hit the road together. TVXP offers up a delectable rock fusion of the indie, psych and alternative varieties. The exemplary guitar work and solid song structures leave you wanting more, as four songs just isn’t enough. — CS

Yasmin Hass - Worst of Me EP (Cool Online)
Yasmin Hass is making quite an introduction with her debut EP. On Worst of Me, the London-based singer/songwriter beautifully showcases her powerful vocals and impressive range in addition to her knack for writing emotional, soulful, gripping pop tunes. This three track amuse bouche is just enough to satiate us until she’s ready to unveil a full album. — CS

Daudi Matsiko - The King of Misery (Really Good)
The official debut full-length album from this Nottingham, UK-based, British-Ugandan singer-songwriter is a quietly powerful set of gentle folk-pop that combines his honest, confessional, cutting lyrics with sparse acoustic backdrops and light orchestral flourishes. Wish hushed vocals and a minimal sound that brings to mind Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, and Iron & Wine’s early catalog, King of Misery is a raw, fragile, beautiful record that finds Matsiko lyrically grappling with his own mental health issues while celebrating community, family, and friendship. Daudi elaborates: “The King Of Misery is essentially me wrestling with and finding hope along my journey with bipolar affective disorder. It is a bit of an existential diary entry. Exploring personal themes of racial trauma was something that I felt compelled to do whilst making the record too. The album is a snapshot of who and where I was while I was making it. Moving from guilt to gratitude. I hope I have made something genuinely life affirming.” — AR

Itasca - Imitation of War (Paradise of Bachelors)
The third album from LA-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Kayla Cohen (aka Itasca) is a nice set of lush folk and dreamy rock with a gentle, atmospheric, unhurried touch. Co-produced by Robbie Cody of LA psych band Wand, Imitation of War taps into a rich, smoky, lyrical Laurel Canyon vibe that gives the album a classic feel. — AR

Loving - Any Light (Last Gang/MNRK)
The second full-length album from this British Columbia-based duo composed of Jesse Henderson and David Parry is another welcoming set of gentle dream-pop that carries an airy, folky, AOR undercurrent. — AR

Nathalie Joachim - Ki moun ou ye (Nonesuch / New Amsterdam)
The sophomore album from the Haitian-American songstress and composer is a cinematic, ancestral journey inspired by her family’s remote Caribbean farmland. At times expansive and others minimalist, the varied sounds and textures achieved by flute, violin, viola, and drums and center Nathalie’s beautiful vocals sung in her mother tongue, Haitian Creole. “Ki moun ou ye” translates to “who are you?” which is a question one must ask (and repeatedly answer) while taking such a deep dive into their heritage. More accurately in Haitian Creole, the question literally translates to “Which person are you” reminding us of the many people, experiences and memories that make us who we are — CS

Yussef Dayes - Live From Malibu (Brownswood Recordings)
Fresh off the release of his acclaimed 2023 debut solo album Black Classical Music, British drummer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and composer Yussef Dayes shares his second live album – a follow-up to the super popular Live From Joshua Tree set from 2022 – that puts his crisp, cinematic, and effortlessly cool jazz sound, as well as his absolutely incredible drumming talents, on full display. Joined here by his longtime collaborators Rocco Palladino, Venna, Elijah Fox, and Alexander Bourt, Live From Malibu was originally shared as a live-performance video on YouTube and recently surpassed one million views. — AR

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