Could 2017 be the year many of us musical lovers and tastemakers are waiting for? We are off to a cracking year and this week we drew straws on a handful of great new deliveries, three very different New Borns. Each one noted with a MEDIUM rating, does not mean an average delivery, in fact the contrary. Jesca Hoop, signed the ever evolving Sub Pop Records offers a powerful yet subtle collection of cuts, dream-pop aficionado goes back to his roots and London-born, Sudanese artist Ahmed Gallab delivers an album of uniquity and progression.
Artist: Jesca Hoop
Title: Memories Are Now
Label: Sub Pop Records
Genre: Alternative Folk
Moments Of: Agnes Obel, Laura Marling
Stand Out: Cut Connection
Sub Pop’s roster produces the goods as usual, this time with Jesca Hoop’s confident, varied new album Memories Are Now. Existing in a space inhabited by the sounds of Agnes Obel and Regina Spektor, Hoop’s record has a magical feel with strong ties to femininity and old-world mystery.
Hoop doesn’t hide behind any shred of unnecessary production. The songs to be found on Memories Are Now are percussive and stark, carried by vocals reminiscent of Florence and the Machine’s in strength and timber. The Californian songwriter’s fifth album encompasses traditional folk sounds and pop-culture infused with (like the hook on ‘Animal Kingdom Chaotic’ or the social commentary on ‘Simon Says’), plus fuzzed out guitars and mythical ballads.
It seems like a lot of ground to cover in nine tracks, but Hoop manages to pull it all together with sophistication and smarts. Collectively, the songs on Memories Are Now conjure a feeling of being by a flickering fireside, with folk emerging as the salient style thanks to production by Blake Mills (Laura Marling, Alabama Shakes). But folk is just a springboard for the album’s sound, as closing track ‘The Coming’ is driven by crunchy electric guitar while brooding ‘Cut Connection’ delves into an early Cloud Control vibe. As ex-lovers are banished by ethereal choruses and self-assured storytelling takes place over finger plucked guitars and erratic percussion, the record reaches further and further towards experimental. Memories Are Now glows with a quiet wisdom, in both the craftsmanship of the song writing and the understated production.
Artist: Teen Daze
Title: Themes for dying earth
Genre: Dream Pop
Moments Of: Tycho, Gypsy & the Cat
Stand Out: Dream City, Rising
Creating musical space and ‘feels’ is a difficult thing to master. The deep, effortless bliss of Teen Daze AKA Jamison Issak creates a masterful array of tranquil dream pop that will unplug you and begin your excursion into a different world.
The hypnotic opener ‘Cycle’ is a perfect daydream afternoon tune. The pop- friendly electronic track has something for everyone, with its intertwining synths and low-key acoustic guitars. The beautiful ‘Day Dream’ is so simple yet rich in elements of building synths that kick starts your journey into Isaak’s reclusive world. The brief but lush ‘Becoming’ builds and harmonizes like wind chimes in the gentle breeze with its soft acoustic guitars complimented by the simple ecstasy of his simple sighs and echoed vocals.
Much of these songs take a step back from the live band production that graced his previous work. Moments like ‘Cherry Blossom’ see Isaak sounding like the generic bedroom laboratory creation this genre often displays. Moments like ‘Rising’ awaken you from your trance with its upbeat rhythms and pop sensibilities that make for one of the most fun and accessible tracks on the album.
Themes for Dying Earth is enormously enjoyable. The album was recorded entirely within the Fraser Valley region. It was released on his own label, and each physical copy comes with a unique photo shot by the artist. It all makes for an exceptionally personal album from someone known for his intimate songwriting.
Title: Life & Livin’ It
Label: City Slang
Genre: Afro- rock, Jazz, Funk
Moments Of: William Oneyeabor, Petite Noir, Foxygen
Stand Out: Telephone
The work of London-born, Sudanese artist Ahmed Gallab, aka Sinkane, blends styles including sub-Saharan pop, shoegaze, and Afro-rock. More than ever, his LP is an exotic digression into the wild world we reside.
Sinkane knows well that his charm lies in his oddly structured songs and daring rhythmic turns. Album opener ‘Deadweight’ does just that with the tumble and swirl of bass and guitars. The inexplicably playful ‘Uhuh’ encompasses Sinkane’s immersive sound that mixes rich horns and pleasing melodic sensibility. Life & livin’ It is Supporting its predecessor, Mean Love an album that himself and his musicians toured 166 shows in 20 countries. Ahmed’s musical resume doesn’t stop there, the many collaborations with artists like Yeasayer and a stint as a touring drummer with acts like Caribou and Of Montreal. It’s no wonder Sinkane’s musicianship and instrumentation sounds undeniably polished and perfected.
The glitchy intro of ‘Telephone’ is very indicative of Sinkane’s song structures. Ambitious sounds and hooks but bland, conventional lyrics. Life & livin’ It finishes up with ‘The Way’ a hum-mable, funky ballad that conjures thoughts of SInkane’s native Brooklyn and the global city that never sleeps.
While highly listenable, the music of this in demand multi-instrumentalist is continually defined by his feel good, bright and soulful sound. The humanity and oneness of the album make for a very satisfying and fun listen.