New Music Reviews (1/16)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder 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 Kali Uchis, Marika Hackman, Seven Davis Jr., and more. 

Kali Uchis - Orquídeas (Geffen)
The fourth album from the Columbian-American powerhouse is transcendent. Orquídeas, her second Spanish language album, is named for Colombia’s national flower to honor her roots. Throughout this sonic journey, Uchis effortlessly spans R&B, pop, hip-hop, reggaetón, bolero, and more Latin sounds as she flexes her unmistakable talents and vibrant spirit. This rich, dynamic, and sensual album begs for many repeat listens. — CS

Marika Hackman - Big Sigh (Chrysalis)
The aptly titled fourth album from London based Marika Hackman will usher in many big sighs throughout the listen; sighs of wonder, deeply felt emotion, shared experiences and fears. Returning to her more sparse, lyrically driven arrangements, Big Sigh is all about duality, latching onto both dread and hope, while seamlessly navigating from subtle instrumentation to big, sweeping swells. Hackman co-produced the album with Sam Petts-Davies and long-term collaborator Charlie Andrew and played every instrument on the album (except for bass and strings), allowing her to control the delicate, elegant beauty of Big Sigh. Her first album in four years — and “hardest record she’s ever made” — has been worth the wait. — CS

Seven Davis Jr. - Stranger Than Fiction (Secret Angels)
The latest full-length album from Los Angeles-based DJ, producer, singer, songwriter, and vocalist Seven Davis Jr. is a stellar set of vocal-laced house grooves that revels in a modern hip-house sound akin to Moodyman, Channel Tres, and Wajatta. Featuring consistently infectious house rhythms and lyrics that talk about brushing haters off, letting go of your problems, and generally acknowledging dark times and moving away from drama towards better days, Stranger Than Fiction is a focused, funky, life-affirming record. — AR

This late 2023 album/mixtape from emerging Washington, DC-based electronic producer Villager (aka Alex Young) is a fantastic journey through diverse beats and kinetic rhythms that skillfully and swiftly bounces from infectious future funk to cerebral jazz-tinted excurious to magnetic dancefloor grooves to dreamy downtempo passages. While he’s been roaming within the underground club community for 5 years now, Villager’s latest offering and its confident touch across so many fresh and different styles prove he’s an artist worth paying closer attention to moving forward. — AR

Bill Ryder-Jones - lechyd Da (Domino) 
Bill Ryder-Jones is one of those timeless songwriters with one foot firmly planted in the present and the other rooted in the influence of the past. His first album in five years is an ambitious, intimate and triumphant return for the English musician. At times leaning into simple arrangements, and others incorporating strings, a kids choir, or a disco sample, this masterfully produced album finds Ryder-Jones more confident in his craft than ever before. The title, lechyd Da, comes from a Welsh phrase that translates to “good health” said over cheers, which feels fitting and we joyfully applaud this beautiful new album. — CS

Folly Group - Down There! (So Young/Communion)
The debut album from this London-based four-piece outfit is an adventurous set of urgent, edgy, kinetic post-punk fueled by propulsive rhythms and incisive lyrics touching upon themes of disenfranchisement, dejection, anxiety, and financial ruin. While there’s similarities to British contemporaries Black Midi and Squid, Folly Group’s injection of buzzing synths and pulsating beats into their mix glances in reverence to the early 2010s and acts like These New Puritans and Liars. — AR

freekind. - Since Always and Forever (Butter92)
The debut full-length album from this duo composed of Croatian vocalist/pianist Sara Ester Gredelj and Slovenian drummer Nina Korošak-Serčič  is an impressive blend of R&B, jazz, soul, hip-hop, and pop that’s distinguished by Sara’s uplifting, hopeful, love-fueled lyrics that tackle and confront topics revolving around depression, self-doubt, and anxiety. With reputed live performances that serve as “collective group therapy sessions with the songs sharing something that’s inside all of us, both artists and audience,” freekind. are pushing honest, vulnerable, inspirational messages through their smooth, sublime, buoyant sound. — AR

Hoorsees - Big (Kanine)
The third album album from this Parisian four-piece band is another solid set of catchy, energetic, referential pop/rock that finds them tapping into their French roots for a synth-enhanced, pop-forward, widescreen sound quickly reminiscent of Phoenix, while also nodding to the bold, anthemic, nostalgic sounds of 2000s acts such as Bloc Party, The Strokes, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Los Campesinos! — AR

Nailah Hunter - Lovegaze (Fat Possum)
Following a series of enchanting EPs and singles that tapped into hypnotic ambient and mystical folk territory, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, harpist, composer, and vocalist Nailah Hunter shares her mesmerizing debut full-length album and it further expands her palette to welcome in spellbinding R&B-pop and smoldering trip-hop. A beautiful fusion of lushly textured productions – assisted by the album’s co-producer, London’s Cicely Goulder of the duo Kaleida – and gorgeous ethereal vocals, Lovegaze is a fantastical balm from a confident, constantly evolving artist. — AR

Various Artists - DPER HYAKU (dpercussion recordings)
Glasgow’s dpercussion recordings have been quietly plugging away since launching in 2017 with a razor-sharp specialization in “nu jazz, broken beat, and future soul.” Dropping cool original singles and slick heady edits exclusively on Bandcamp from their roster of artists with deceptive fake-sounding names –Tubby Tooba, Henny Fat Mouth, Peanut Vendor, etc. – that seemingly operate in mystery without much of an online footprint, the label recently put out their 100th release and in celebration they’ve offered up this sweet 18-track label retrospective. While they’ve always felt like a well-kept secret, they’re a label worthy of a larger audience who are consistently putting out strong material at the intersection of jazz, electronic, hip-hop, and soul. — AR

44 Ardent - leo (Mammal Sounds)
Originally intended to be a secret/anonymous project, 44 Ardent has recently been revealed as an alter-ego of Australian electronic producer Callan Alexander, best known under his cln alias. His debut album as 44 Ardent is a promising set of colorful electronic grooves with a bright, bass-heavy, pop streak that leans heavily into propulsive house rhythms with rich textures. — AR

​​Apichat Pakwan & Lamaihansa - Asian Tropical Bass Vol. 1 (Animist)
The latest offering from emerging Amsterdam-based label Animist Records – purveyors of “Outernational music from the Southeast Asian diaspora” – is a cool split release between the Dutch-Thai collective Apichat Pakwan and the blossoming Thailand-based band Lamaihansa. Both acts boast a vibrant, colorful, lively cross-cultural sound that blends molam (Lao folk music) and traditional Thai music with dub, reggae, ska, funk, psych, and more. With each band offering a new original track on the first half, the back half includes two remixes of Apichat Pakwan tracks that take their sound into more electronic and dancefloor-focused territory. Hat tip to Eastern Echoes DJ Diana Ratsamee for digging this one up. — AR

Loukeman - Sd-2 (SD Music Group)
The second full-length album from enigmatic Toronto-based producer Loukeman is a captivating set of expansive, emotional, and unpredictable electronic music that wraps a multitude of influences into his crisp, catchy, confident sound. Heralded as “your favorite artist’s favorite artist” with co-signs from the likes of Aminé, Obongjayar, Mura Masa, Vegyn, 454, and Ecco2k, Loukeman’s latest statement boasts magnetic beats, enveloping rhythm tracks, and wonderfully surprising moments that ultimately feels like a breakthrough for an artist who’s been a well-kept-secret for too long. Opening track and early single “Baby You’re A Star” is a heartwarming twangy take on Mario’s 2004 R&B classic “Let Me Love You.” — AR

Steen - Memory is Hunger (Den Tapes)
The latest offering from prolific Seattle-based label Den Tapes is the charming debut from Steen, a solo alias of Seattle-based singer/songwriter Austin Dean. Boasting a winsome, melodic, and earnest indie pop/rock sound with some nice supporting vocals from Seattle’s Elena Loper, Memory is Hunger captures a solid, cozy, nostalgic PNW vibe. — AR

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