The festive season is nearly upon us, but before we crank up the obligatory Christmas mega mix here in the Clash office, we’ve taken a look back at the last month’s album output.
It’s been a great month, with jazz, pop, rap and metal artists really upping their games. Here are our top picks for November, and what makes them essential listens.
For Clash’s official verdict on the albums of the entire year, you'll just have to come back in December…
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Jon Spencer - ‘Spencer Sings The Hits!’
“Spencer still sounding like the over-amped subway beat poet preacher that you don’t know whether to listen to intently or change trains to avoid; the fuzzed-up, fucked-up guitar chaos is still there in all its infectious, riff-laden glory. And the energy, that fiery, unstoppable, compelling energy that Spencer has always generated is just as prominent as it ever was.
“Playing this way takes a shitload of practice, and these songs are as focussed, refined and honed as anything Spencer has ever done, yielding some of his most infectious guitar lines and arguably some of the finest tracks of his lengthy career.”
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Sarathy Korwar and The UPAJ Collective - ‘My East Is Your West’
“A lengthy, heady experience, ‘My East Is Your West’ could so easily stray from the tracks it has laid down for itself – after all, at three slabs of vinyl there’s a lot of potential for musical wayfaring. It’s testament to Sarathy’s leadership, then, and the full band itself, that the album remains such an intense, incisive listen.
“Making you reconsider totemic moments in jazz, this feels like an important record, one that opens up a conversation that has largely been excluded from the mainstream for much too long. Above all this, though, is the sheer marvel of the musicianship, the endless innovation, the continual improvisation that makes ‘My East Is Your West’ such a surprising, and truly enjoyable listen.”
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Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs And Alchemist - ‘Fetti’
“When artists collaborate on albums it can be difficult to find a space where it doesn’t sound like it’s one of the individual’s projects that is featuring the other individual on every track, but throughout the 24 minutes that Fetti runs, there are numerous moments that are perfectly suited to fit both Curren$y and Gibbs.
“The producer provides a selection of instrumentals that range from the moody, ambient style that is akin to the beats heard on ‘Covert Coup’ to the soul sample led sound that Curren$y and Gibbs have also been accustomed to rhyming over. The peak of the former style is perhaps ‘Saturday Night Special’, where Spitta and Gibbs seamlessly trade verses over the enchanting instrumental. Meanwhile, the highlight of the latter variety of sound is on ‘New Thangs’, a brilliant interpretation of soulful hip-hop.”
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Rita Ora - ‘Phoenix’
“The album plays to her strengths - as her vocals and lyricism shine - without straying too far from her signature pop and R&B sound.
“Honest, polished and with tracks that are varied enough to keep you on your toes, ‘Phoenix’ has been four years in the making, waiting in the wings to see the light. And now that it’s finally here, 'Phoenix' is definitely worth checking out.”
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Architects - ‘Holy Hell’
“The grooves dig deeper, while the instrumentation is techier – just check out the complexity of ‘Damnation’ and ever shifting patterns on ‘Hereafter’. The band have played around with space, melody and classical instrumentation on closer ‘A Wasted Hymn’ and two-minute neck-snapper ‘The Seventh Circle’ is up there with the heaviest thing they’ve ever done.
“There’s no doubt that grief hangs over this record, ugly, uncomfortable and overwhelming, but healing waits at the end of the tunnel. Tom’s legacy [band founder, songwriter and guitarist Tom Searle tragically died in 2016, aged just 28 after a battle with cancer] has been treated with fierce, fierce love and in doing so Architects have been able to draw strength from their sadness and ultimately triumph from tragedy.”
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