R&B legend Usher has recorded a special set for Tiny Desk.
The NPR Music staple is a simple but enormous effective proposition – one live act, plus band, squeezed into the corner of their office.
Usher steps into the NPR office for the latest Tiny Desk, part of their Black History Month celebrations. Breezing through a selection of classics and new cuts, it’s a fantastic performance, one that reminds you of the depth those classic tracks can carry.
Working with a full live band, it’s a remarkable performance, somehow bringing arena-level energy into the Tiny Desk office space.
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It’s part of a three-city European event…
Pitchfork Festival will return to London this November.
The multi-venue event will take place between November 9th – 13th at points around the city, with over 100 artists due to contribute.
Pitchfork London is part of a three-pronged live event series, with Pitchfork Berlin and Pitchfork Paris also taking place in the same month.
The first wave of acts confirmed for Pitchfork London is typically broad, including Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett, seminal American group Animal Collective, Jenny Hval, Cate Le Bon, left-field composer William Basinski, and vital UK outfit Big Joanie.
Influential UK producer Lil Silva releases his debut album this summer, and he’ll also perform at Pitchfork London, joining a bill that includes They Hate Change, Coby Sey, Guerilla Toss, Spirit Of The Beehive, and more.
Ticket pre-sale is open now.
Puja Patel, Editor-in-Chief, Pitchfork comments: “Following the celebratory return of Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago last year, along with the sold out debut of Pitchfork London and the success of Pitchfork Paris, it feels exhilarating to launch our first-ever festival in Berlin – a city that has long served as a global focal point of culture and creativity. It’s heartwarming to see Pitchfork resonate with music fans around the world and grow our community in new cities.”
Pitchfork London runs between November 9th – 13th.
Following on from 2018’s bewitching ‘Le Kov’, Welsh songwriter Gwenno has returned with her third solo album and second predominantly in Cornish. Once more marrying aspects of psychedelic, baroque pop, and the ethereal, ‘Tresor’ on the whole takes the listener on an entirely personal journey, a nearly lost language leading us on a journey of self. Except for two electronic led numbers that become more of a slog than a celebration, Gwenno has once again married the otherworldly with the primal with supreme effect. Another contemporary Cornish treat.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
Dig It? Dig Deeper: Stereolab, Björk, William Basinski
If the measure of an artist’s creative depth is their ability to craft evocative lyrics, James Bay is indeed a most accomplished sculptor. Eloquently routing through a surplus of nuanced feelings, ‘Leap’ is a warm hug to those hankering to see the silver lining amidst the storms of life.
Whilst the guitar centred melodies of ‘Save Your Love’ and ‘Everybody Needs Someone’ are delightfully reminiscent of ‘The Chaos And The Calm’ era, the album also created room for deviation from Bay’s alternative/indie roots in favour of pop leaning mid-tempo mood boosters.
Emboldened by the support of those he holds dear, ‘Leap’ exhibits a more unguarded side of Bay than seen previously as a successful attempt to augment his artistic palette.
Words: Ray Sang
Dig This? Dig Deeper: Brandon Flowers, Elton John, Hozier
Amal Fashanu has shared her new single ‘Lean On Me’.
The tropical-flavoured track is dosed in colour, mirroring her pop instincts against something a little deeper, and more soulful. Blessed with a rare immediacy, Amal has an eclectic music palette, but with ‘Lean On Me’ aims for something dynamic and up-front.
Brought up around a family stereo that resonated with the likes of Sade and Alicia Keys, she’s also been socially aware from a young age. Founding the Justin Fashanu Foundation, she also created the Black Heart Label, promoting activism through fashion.
As such, the message of unity that runs through ‘Lean On Me’ has a clear social purpose, as well as a personal one. Sliky smooth, Amal is able to make her point in the most subtle, yet also striking manner.
A multi-lingual treat, you can check out ‘Lean On Me’ tomorrow.
Amal’s debut EP ‘New Beginnings’ will be released in September.
Dan Snaith returns to his Daphni moniker for new album ‘Cherry’.
The producer also operates as Caribou, with Daphni representing the more club-focussed, overtly electronic elements of his creative practice. His first album under the name since 2017, ‘Cherry’ will be released on October 7th.
Recorded over a lengthy period of time, the album seems to be bound more by Daphni’s questing spirit, than by any one theme. “There isn’t anything obvious that unifies it or makes it hang together” Snaith says, “I think it was good that it was made without worrying about any of that. I just made it.”
Ahead of the new album the producer has shared inspired electronic workout ‘Cloudy’, all billowing digital frequencies and elements of heavenly light. The producer explains: “The essence of this one is keeping it aloft – like occasionally nudging a balloon that’s only just heavier than air to keep it afloat. For something so buoyant, I’m surprised how much it bangs in a club.”
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3. Always There
5. Arp Blocks
8. Take Two
14. Fly Away
From their inception, to the release of their Welsh Music Prize winning debut ‘Melyn’ in 2018, and all that has followed for them since, Adwaith (Hollie Singer, Gwenllian Anthony, Heledd Owen) have proved themselves to be a monumental force coming out of the burgeoning Welsh language music scene. Close to four years since the first record, a period defined by the strengths of their musical prowess, and the drawbacks of isolation, the band have returned with their much-anticipated sophomore effort ‘Bato Mato’.
Taking its name from their trusty guide while aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, the album possesses a seemingly cosmic connection to their journey across the frozen outer-reaches of Russia; an allegory for the sonic character of its material, while foreshadowing the glimpses of isolation upon their return home. Despite an initial handful of songs, written off the back of Melyn, the band decided to ditch prior efforts in favour of a sound that would better reflect their experiences across Siberia, and the stark reality of an impending adulthood.
Toying with an arsenal of vibrant themes and bold motifs, Bato Mato sets out on an ambitious trip across a visceral, oft-psychedelic landscape, each track a mesmerising stop on the way to its cathartic destination.
Setting a defiant tone from the get-go, ‘Cuddio’ (Hiding) sweeps across heavy dream pop sensibilities, grounded by the immense thump of Anthony’s driven bass line, while ethereal vocals from Singer settle satisfyingly atop fuzz-laden foundations. The album is full to the brim with electric stompers of a similar ilk; the light and shade of recent single ‘Nid Aur’ (Not Gold) sporting frenetic drums from Owen and a punk energy akin to The Breeders, while album highlight ‘Sudd’ (Juice) unleashes a psychedelic beast onto an infinite horizon, at times reminiscent of Krautrock.
On the one hand, the production value spanning ‘Bato Mato’ is bold and particularly well-polished, lending the aforementioned tracks an immense sonic platform. On the other, the album highlights delicate arrangements in steadier moments, which in turn allow its characteristically contemplative lyrics to shine. ‘Amser Codi Lan’ (Time To Get Up) presents a heartfelt introspection surrounding depression and recovery, its lush progression adding poignancy, while its occasional helter skelter chromatisms introduce an off-kilter trepidation. Meanwhile tracks like ‘Bywyd Syml’ (Simple Life) and ‘Anialwch’ (Desert) incorporate whispered hints of noire, flavours of grunge and dream pop, and an overarching bluesy angst.
Upon reaching its destination with the anthemic ‘ETO’ (Again), the album brings to light its true cathartic vision in full harmony. ‘Bato Mato’ is in many ways a post-coming of age story, beautifully grounded by a poignancy reminiscent of the band’s journey aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, and the gradual easing of isolation. The record triumphantly situates Adwaith amongst pop heavyweights, proving the vitality of Welsh language music on an international stage, and calling the musical authority of the English language into long overdue question.
Words: Kieran Macdonald-Brown
Dance production team Bicep have shared new track ‘Meli (II)’.
The duo took their live show to Glastonbury at the weekend, and emerged as one of the heroes from a headline-strewn festival. Upping the ante still further, Bicep pulled out all the stops for an incredible performance, leaving a huge impression on Worthy Farm.
‘Meli’ first appeared in ambient instrumental form on the deluxe edition of ‘Isles’, but has been re-tooled as a peak-time club weapon. The aptly titled ‘Meli (II)’ underlines the flexibility of Bicep’s working methods, and embodies the triumphant energy that made their Glastonbury show such a colossal success.
Looking ahead, Bicep’s ambitions are set to take them to the next step – the pair will play their biggest ever headline show at London’s Alexandra Palace on December 3rd.
Tickets go on sale from Friday (July 1st), full information can be found online.
Check out ‘Meli (II)’ below.
Photo Credit: Dan Medhurst
House music figure jackLNDN has shared new single ‘iluvit’.
Now based out in Colorado, jackLNDN has made waves across North America, including two full continental tours. He’s performed live across Europe, China, South Korea, and more, carving out an international reputation in the process.
He remains a London club kid at heart, however, and his latest release taps back into his roots, while presenting something a little darker, and more dynamic.
Set to become a fan favourite – pre-order it now – ‘iluvit’ builds on his previous work, displaying serious muscle in the way he approaches studio endeavours.
Building to that frantic finale, ‘iluvit’ is about throwing away inhibitions, and accepting life for all it can offer. jackLNDN comments:
“This follows logically from the previous single. It’s a sexually charged record, despite having no lyrics. Full of a darker energy with harsher sonics, a consequence of making bad decisions. This is the sonic representation of intimacy that is void of connection, empty, confusing and likely emotionally destructive.”
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New York songwriter Blake Morgan shares new album ‘Violent Delights’.
Out now, the 10 track album displays his gift for pop-rock hooks, but also his use of literary allusions. Just check the title – it’s actually a Shakespeare phrase, lifted from Romeo & Juliet; “These violent delights have violent ends…”
Opening with ‘Down Below Or Up Above’, the new album deals with matters of the heart, which – as he freely admits – is something of a departure. Blake comments: “I’ve written breakup records before, but never a ‘love’ record. I’ve never even used the words ‘love’ or ‘heart’ in a song before. Perhaps it helped to be in love, finally, for me to use those words convincingly.”
Stylistically, he’s aiming for big, bold songwriting, tapping into the 80s greats he grew up listening to – just check out the bold chorus that closes final track ‘Refuse To Love You’. He adds:
“I wanted to make a new record that would evoke a time in music when melodic rock ’n’ roll hooks weren’t a vice, when optimistic, triumphant love songs with bite poured out of the car stereo. If The Police’s album ‘Ghost In The Machine’ and AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ had a kid together, that ‘kid’ would be my new record.”
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Photo Credit: Taylor Ballantyne