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New Albums Out Today: Lianne La Havas, Antony and the Johnsons, Niki & the Dove and More

Posted by Billy Gil, August 7, 2012 07:14pm | Post a Comment
liane la havasLianne La HavasIs Your Love Big Enough?
 
Liane La Havas’ debut is the kind of globally appealing pop record that comes along so rarely. The title track has the funky bounce of a Meshell Ndegeocello track with a big pop vocal that could land it on radio stations across the dial, while the catchy “Forget,” with its alternately belted and cool chorus, suggests a rockier Kelis. It’s La Havas’ ballads, though, where she often shines brightest. On “Lost & Found,” her lyrics are so bleak that it’s almost shocking (“You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself,” begins the chorus), given how sprightly she sounds elsewhere. Shades of classic soul (“Au Cinema”), bossa nova (“No Room For Doubt”) and jazz (“Age”) color other tracks, while somehow it avoids becoming a mishmash of unmatched ideas — everything sounds ideally effortless and true to La Havas’ identity. It’s a dynamic and addictively listenable debut that poises the 22-year-old as one of 2012’s breakout stars and one who could deliver quality records for years to come.
 
antony johnsons cut the worldAntony and the JohnsonsCut the World
 
Antony Hegarty’s latest release consists of live performances of his work with The Danish National Chamber Orchestra. As a collection it is a consummate summation of the incredible work put forth by Hegarty and his collaborators over the course of four albums, as well as some of the messages threaded throughout Hegarty’s music. The title track, which begins the album, is a stunning piece created for The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, a theatrical representation of the life of the renowned performance artist. Hegarty then launches into a speech labeled “Future Feminism” which puts forth ideas Hegarty has represented in his music — of ecology, queer identity and feminism, exploring the idea of matriarchal forms of government being the hope for a humanity, even with the rise of Sarah Palin, as it ties to the moon, menstrual cycles and religion. It’s a fascinating, sprawling discourse that provides a setting for highlights from Hegarty’s catalog, including “Cripple and the Starfish,” “Another World” and “I Fell in Love With a Boy,” the long pause of which grows more chilling given the song’s more lush presentation. It’s by no means a greatest hits selection — no “Hope There’s Someone” or “Aeon,” for instance — but it’s a great reinterpretation of material that actually calls for such orchestration. Antony’s quivering voice soars over ballooning strings, and we’re reminded of the healing power possessed by these songs of loss and hope.
 
niki and the doveNiki & the DoveInstinct
 
Niki and the Dove create a sort of fantasy pop on Instinct. It sounds beamed in from an alternate futuristic universe of space tribes and robotic unicorns. In a more corporeal sense, the electronic pop duo drum out tribal beats electronically and unleash claustrophobic chants on “The Gentle Roar,” one of their strongest tracks. Vocalist Malin Dahlström sounds lost in the forest of metallically lush sounds created by keyboardist Gustaf Karlöf on “Mother Protect.” She comes on like one of Prince’s many protoges on the slow funk of “Last Night,” singing intoxicatingly, “last night we got married in a back seat.” Niki and the Dove share some qualities with their Swedish brethren — the warped, chirpy vocals of The Knife/Fever Ray; the space-age disco of Robyn; the alternately dark and naïve introspection of Lykke Li; and yes, the operatic drama of Welsh band Florence & the Machine. However, lyrically and vocally, Dahlström harkens back to Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks in a truer sense than some of her contemporaries — when she’s left spinning through a digital wilderness among the lovely surroundings of “Tomorrow,” you feel like you’re out there with her.
 
elle varnerElle VarnerPerfectly Imperfect
 
Glossy yet classy pop R&B with some surprises — take the fiddle (!) running throughout “Refill.” That song and its refrain (“Can I get a refill of your time?”) are a lot of fun, while other tracks leave a more lasting impression, like the incredibly soulful “Sound Proof Room,” in which Verner’s vocals sound like they could burst through any sound proof that would hold her.
 



 
redd krossRedd KrossResearching the Blues
 
Red Kross return after a 15-year absense from releasing music with Researching the Blues. The album balances its tunefulness and bite as well as on classics like Third Eye, sounding beamed in from another time as the album finds the band doing what they do best — no ill-fated electronic experiments here, just heavy melodic rock, from the garagey title track to the surprisingly delicate power pop of “Dracula’s Daughter.” Kneel before Redd Kross! 
 



jovanottiJovanottiItalia 1988-2012
 
Italian singer, songwriter and rapper Jovanotti gets the retrospective treatment on Italia 1988-2012. Producer Ian Brennan selects songs and remixes some from across Jovanotti’s 12 albums to present a modern presentation of the Italian superstar. As you might expect from such an expansive time period from someone most American audiences haven’t heard, the sounds vary quite a bit here. “Con la luce negli occhi” is a haunting, spare acoustic rap of sorts that feels removed from time — its folksiness and eerie asides make it feel like something out of a Spaghetti Western. Just a song later, we get the bouncy, Gorillaz-esque pop of “Sulla frontiera.” The wild ride across Italia’s 12 tracks gives us just a snippet of his legacy, but the glimpse they offer make the case for Jovanotti as the rare artist of another language who can connect to English-speaking audiences, given the widely appealing nature of the production and Jovanotti’s ease with meshing folk, rap and classic Italian pop.

 
janka nabayJanka Nabay & The Bubu Gang En Yay Sah
 
Sierra Leonean singer Janka Nabay teams up with a bunch of Brooklyn musicians (from Chairlift, Skeletons and other bands) to create hypnotic “bubu” music, a rare form of African music built around quick pulsing beats. The other musicians add backup vocals, throbbing bass, African-inspired guitar lines and vibrant organ and synth sounds to Nabay’s songs. Doing the research is fine and all, but you don’t have to in order to enjoy tracks like “Eh Mane Ah.” Put it on and you won’t be able to sit still.
 


 
this mortal coilThis Mortal CoilBlood, It’ll All End in Tears, and Filigree & Shadow
 
The remasters of This Mortal Coil’s excellent three albums are released on CD.
 

 

 



 
antibalasAntibalasAntibalas
 
The afrobeat ambassadors’ first album in five years is their first on Daptone Records. Read more here.
 







 
pharcydeThe PharcydeLabcabincalifornia
 
Reissue of the alternative hip-hop group’s second album. Read more here.
 







 
eraserheadEraserhead Soundtrack
 
Reissue of the soundtrack to David Lynch’s first film, including Peter Ivers’ haunting “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song).”










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Lianne La Havas (6), Niki & The Dove (1), Antony & The Johnsons (10), Eraserhead (3), Antibalas (2), This Mortal Coil (8), New Albums (127), New Releases (132)