Let's be honest: May wasn't the happiest of months.
The COVID-19 lockdown took its toll on most of us - with a few exceptions to the rule - while the political climate veered closer and closer to a real-life dystopia.
And then George Floyd. The death of an unarmed African-American man during an attempted arrest in Minneapolis set the United States, sparking global protests and international condemnation.
May gave us a lot to think about, placing some long-standing issues in frank, unblinking context.
Here's the best album releases May had to offer (and one EP, too...)
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Freddie Gibbs + The Alchemist - 'Alfredo' // REVIEW
‘Alfredo’ excels on every front, a record that fuses a thirst for fresh innovation with a depth of love for hip-hop and rap music that is almost unparalleled. Pretty much an instant classic, it’s the sound of Freddie Gibbs finally bursting free, working with tour de force production to surge past expectations and claim his place at the absolute pinnacle.
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Tim Burgess - 'I Love The New Sky' // REVIEW
Perhaps his strongest solo collection in some time, ‘I Love The New Sky’ holds true to an innate but rarely explicit sense of optimism. Softly uplifting in a very English way, it feels like a slow exhalation, a record that gently tugs at your sleeve. A low-key marvel.
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India Jordan - 'For You' EP // REVIEW
An ode to the transformative impact of rave culture released at a time when clubs aren’t able to open their doors, ‘For You’ somehow taps into both the promise of personal redemption dance music can offer, and the widespread sense of loss at being shut out from these experiences. By accidentally tapping into our contradictory lockdown energies, India Jordan may well have produced their finest work yet.
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A.O. Gerber - 'Another Place To Need' // REVIEW
A multi-instrumentalist, Gerber plays guitar, piano, bass and synth on the record. A whole range of tones are heard throughout, horns, guitar and synth combine in a display of delicacy. Like the feeling of a soft breeze cutting through the humidity on a hot summer day. Trumpet, saxophone and light percussion prove to be suitable replacements for the senses, beautiful arrangements designed for escape, your sense of time enters a temporary stasis.
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Moses Sumney - 'græ' // REVIEW
This closing suite of songs concludes with a swirling mixture of gentle instrumentation and sampled spoken word to seamlessly bridge the intricate patchwork identity of 'græ'.
‘before you go’ is a theatrical art rock finale layering vocals sampled from Nigerian-Ghanaian author Taiye Selas, actor Ezra Miller, and Ghanaian British poet and playwright Michaela Coel against a tide of strings and Sumney’s sombre background harmonies. It’s a creatively considered ending to an emotionally ambitious 20-track built on pain, vulnerability and self-identity.
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Charli XCX - 'how i'm feelin now' // REVIEW
‘how i’m feeling now’ is essentially a series of android love letters; to her relationship (and how it has grown throughout lockdown), to her fans (whom she has involved every step of the way), her friends and contributors, and to herself, as she has opened up about mental health during the lockdown, and the fear of how to continue once it is over, with lyrics pondering whether she is deserving of love. This directly contrasts with boasting her rarity as a ‘pink diamond’ in the first track.
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Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - 'The Mosaic Of Transformation' // REVIEW
Even at surface level, it’s not hard to listen to the nine tracks and attempt to visualise them as a body’s movement. At the risk of hypocritically dwelling on the hardware, the Buchla is loved because of the organic sense of its sound, but that merely plays into something that Smith has always sought after. On something like the swelling string sounds of 'Remembering', or the mix of 'Carrying Gravity’s soft, drawn out notes and its pattering melodies, things couldn’t sound further from being strapped to the rails of a machine.
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Perfume Genius - 'Set My Heart On Fire Immediately' // REVIEW
Perfume Genius, (aka multi-disciplinary artist/musician Mike Hadreas) is notorious for his experimental ingenuity and whip-smart wit. But on ‘Set My Heart on Fire Immediately’, his fifth studio album, he’s turned in the most confident, compelling songs of his career.
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Kehlani - 'It Was Good Until It Wasn't' // REVIEW
With Kehlani, it’s clear that the music comes first and always will. ‘It Was Good Until It Wasn’t’ feels like her way of paying homage to her former self by burying any pain and love lost she’s experienced since ‘SweetSexySavage’.
The result of an exhausting breakup and the pressures of motherhood has worked in her favour. The album's arrangement of serenading beats and jazzy undertones has genuinely proven that Kehlani is a force to be reckoned with.
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Lady Gaga - 'Chromatica' // REVIEW
More than ten years after she burst onto the scene with her Madonna-worshipping, take-no-prisoners maximalist dance-pop, Gaga has finally made a worthy follow-up to the album that made us fall in love with her in the first place.
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