New Music Reviews (1/13)

Album Reviews
Janice Headley

Each week, KEXP’s Music Director Don Yates (joined this week by DJ Alex) shares brief insights on new and upcoming releases. See what's coming up this week below, including reviews for new releases from Stormzy, Georgia, Underworld, and more.

Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head (Atlantic)
The second album from this London artist (aka Michael Omari) is an expansive, often-powerful set ranging from hard-hitting grime to brooding, R&B-tinged hip hop and epic, gospel-infused pop-rap, with sharp-edged lyrics blending the political and the personal. — DY

Georgia – Seeking Thrills (Domino)
The second album from London vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Georgia Barnes is a well-crafted set of ‘80s-steeped dance-pop along with some New Waveish post-punk, combining mostly propulsive beats inflected with house, techno, dub reggae and more with bright synths, soaring vocals, buoyant melodies and lyrics revolving around love, dancing and community. — DY

Underworld – Drift Series 1 (Sampler Edition) (self-released)
This veteran British duo released a song per week for the past year, and their latest release (a mammoth 7-CD box set) collects all of them. This sampler edition distills the collection to 10 of its highlights, and they show the duo in top form with an expansive, hypnotic blend of throbbing techno and shimmering, atmospheric ambient. — DY

Acid Arab – Jdid (Crammed Discs)
This Paris-based group’s second album features a variety of musical guests from Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Syria and Niger, and they help flesh out the band’s intoxicating blend of electronic techno beats with traditional Arabic instrumentation and melodies. — DY

The Rare Forms – The Rare Forms (self-released)
The debut album from this Seattle/Tacoma/Portland band comprised of members of The Shivas, VHS, Marion Walker, King Dude, and Big Eyes is a potent blend of raucous garage-rock and driving post-punk with bristling guitars, urgent rhythms and fist-pumping song hooks. — DY

Hemlock Ernst & Kenny Segal – Back At The House (Ruby Yacht)
The collaborative debut album from Hemlock Ernst (aka Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands) and Los Angeles producer Kenny Segal is a strong set of introspective boom-bap hip-hop that closely mirrors the conscious underground hip-hop of Anticon's catalog in the late 1990s. Herring proves to be an impressive lyricist with gruff raps that are often balanced with his distinctive singing voice, while Segal continues to prove he's one of the best throwback underground hip-hop beat producers in the game. — AR

Of Montreal – UR FUN (Polyvinyl)
The latest Of Montreal album from Kevin Barnes is a hook-filled set of New Waveish dance-pop combining a bright, buoyant sound with personal lyrics of love and loss. — DY

Floral Tattoo – You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start (self-released)
This Seattle band’s second album is a potent set of emotive noise-pop with fuzzy guitars, atmospheric keyboards, soaring song hooks and lyrics revolving around modern-day trans lives. — DY

Afrosideral – El Olimpo de los Orishas (Wonderwheel Recordings)
Afrosideral is a new project from veteran Cuban producer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Kumar Sublevao-Beat. Their debut album is a vibrant, infectious, and colorful set of modern global grooves that mixes Afro-Cuban electronic beats with trance-inducing rhythms and joyous melodies steeped in the rich legacy of the Yoruban people. — AR

The Prom – I'll Send You The Stars: Songs of James Mendenhall (Barsuk)
James Mendenhall was the lead singer and songwriter for Seattle-via-Omaha band The Prom. He passed away from cardiac arrest on January 1, 2019 at the age of 41. This album features various Seattle, Portland and Omaha musicians coming together to pay tribute to his songwriting, ranging from Death Cab For Cutie and Telekinesis to Cursive’s Tim Kasher. It also includes a previously unreleased recording from Mendenhall. — DY

Devon Gilfillian – Black Hole Rainbow (Capitol)
This Philly-bred, Nashville-based artist’s debut album is a fine set of expansive soul ranging from propulsive, African-influenced soul-funk to an abundance of dramatic ballads. — DY

(Various) – Kearney Barton: Architect of the Northwest Sound (Light in the Attic)
This compilation features some of the recordings made by legendary Seattle recording engineer Kearney Barton, who’s best-known for his pioneering Northwest garage-rock recordings in the late 1950s and early ‘60s with groups like The Wailers, The Ventures, The Sonics and The Kingsmen, though he also recorded a wide variety of other sounds, ranging from soul, funk, doo wop, jazz and gospel to folk and psych-rock to orchestral balalaika music, steel drums, sitar music and more. — DY

Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou – Anou Malane (Sahel Sounds)
Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou is a legendary musician from Niger renowned for his trailblazing talents on the Tuareg guitar. Arguably one of the best reissues of 2019, Anou Malane collects songs he originally recorded in the mid-1990s that showcase his distinctive sound that fused Tuareg – a style best-known for minimal folk ballads performed on acoustic guitar – with an enhanced electronic sound and a groovy 90s-influenced rhythm that injected the traditional Saharan genre with a captivating pulse and lively spirit. Although these songs are well over two decades old, they sound just as fresh and relevant today. — AR

Postcards – The Good Soldier (T3)
This Beirut trio’s second album is a solid set of shoegazerish dream-pop, combining fuzzy, occasionally squalling guitars with ethereal vocals and dreamy melodies. — DY

Akasha System – Echo Earth (100% Silk)
The third album from PDX-based electronic producer Akaska System (aka Hunter P. Thompson) is a blissful set of dreamy ambient-techno and lush tech-house rich with transportive synths, hypnotic rhythms, and gauzy atmospheres. — AR

Beach Slang – The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City (Bridge Nine)
The third album from this Philly band led by James Alex leans harder than ever into Replacements worship, while also making room for some detours into glam-metal and acoustic guitar and piano ballads. — DY

GravelRoad – Crooked Nation (Knick Knack)
This Seattle band’s eighth album (and latest produced by Seattle’s Jack Endino) is a grungier, more rock-oriented approach to the band’s take on Mississippi hill country blues, combining dual scuzzy guitars, driving rhythms and occasional harmonica and sax with gritty vocals and hypnotic song hooks. — DY

Field Music – Making a New World (Memphis Industries)
This British brother duo’s seventh full-length is a concept album about the aftermath of World War I and its effects stretching into the present-day, with the music ranging from jittery New Wave, funk-inflected post-punk and off-kilter prog-pop to atmospheric ballads and mostly brief, scene-setting instrumentals. — DY

Kassi Valazza – Dear Dead Days (self-released)
This Portland-via-Arizona artist’s debut album is a solid blend of psych-tinged folk-rock, downcast country-rock, and brooding spaghetti western. — DY

Pink Lotion – Lusters (Alone In LA)
Pink Lotion is a new collaborative project between Erik Blood (Knife Knights, The Turn-Ons, so much more) and Rachael Ferguson (NighTraiN, Clutch Douglass), two longtime Seattle artists currently based in Los Angeles. Their debut release is a slinky, playful, seductive set of cosmic psychedelic synth-funk oozing with sex, swagger, and smarts. — AR

Friendship – Dreamin' (Orindal)
Reminiscent of Silver Jews and Bill Callahan, the sophomore album from this Philadelphia group fronted by Dan Wriggins is a solid set of intimate and reflective folk-pop that pairs gentle, acoustic, sepia-tinged backdrops with Wriggins' distinctive voice and vivid songwriting that beautifully depicts the minutia of love, relationships, and the little things in life. — AR

Emme – Superfluid (Very Jazzed)
Emme is an Austin-based duo comprised of Sowmya Somanath and Walter Nichols. Their debut album is an impressive set of dreamy, cinematic, romantic synth-pop that marries Sowmya's gentle magnetic vocals with the group's colorful, bouncy, winsome beatific backdrops for a sound that quickly recalls early Sylvan Esso. — AR

illvester – Messessary (self-released)
illvester is the simplified solo alias of Seattle's Mike lllvester, best known as the primary producer and beatmaker behind local duo Fly Moon Royalty. His debut solo record is a solid set of instrumental-heavy beats that blend hip-hop, funk, soul, disco, and house in a bold, cinematic style that's frequently reminiscent of RJD2. — AR

ings – Lullaby Rock (self-released)
ings is the alias of Ingrid "Inge" Chile, a Seattle-based musician, video director, and community facilitator. Her debut full-length album is a charming set of intimate indie pop that showcases her welcoming voice, winsome melodies, and endearing lyrics for a sound that's reminiscent at times of LAKE and Feist. — AR

Nardeydey – Nardeydey EP (Lucky Number Music Limited)
Sneaking in with one of the most refreshing debut EPs of the year is Nardeydey, the alias of London's Shirley Tetteh who's a founding member of the fast rising all-female jazz collective Nérija and also plays in the spiritual jazz big band Maisha. While there's a cerebral jazz undercurrent here, Nardeydey is an outlet for Shirley to explore her own addictive, soulful, dynamic left-field pop that's highlighted by early singles "Speedial" and "FreeFalling." — AR

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