New releases and reissues: February 14
This week’s new releases and reissues span entries from the biggest psychedelic star on the planet, a husband-and-wife duo, and a band who’ve been going 41 years…
First, the bad news. Kevin Parker hasn’t made the same sonic leap forward that he did between Innerspeaker and Lonerism, and then from Lonerism to Currents. That would have been pretty much impossible, given that Currents was one of the defining classic genre-mashing albums of the past decade, and it turns out Parker is but a mere mortal – a theme that recurs throughout The Slow Rush. The good news is, like Currents, Tame Impala’s first LP with a multi-word title is another fantastic album that, if you had to categorise it, is pop music at its core.
It’s been five years since Currents, but thankfully The Slow Rush doesn’t feel like an album that’s been overthought. That’s not to overlook the complexities in Parker’s production – it’s a marvel that only one person created the mixture of whomping bass and delicate keys in Is It True, the anthem that most obviously plays out Parker’s Daft Punk fantasies. But, mostly, these 12 songs sound like carefree, blistering pop music. Many other musicians claim they love a bit of everything, but few other than Parker are as adept at blending every modern technique and veteran craftsmanship into something as light and infectious as Lost In Yesterday.
Parker has long said he likes to think of people listening to his albums on headphones, and he’s become a festival headliner by doing so; it’s easy to picture the communal euphoria that a song as big and, in the best way, obvious as Instant Destiny will have at Tame Impala’s laser-strewn live shows for the album. This doesn’t mean Tame Impala has abandoned its stoner-rock roots altogether: Breathe Deeper may have a slick R&B sheen that Rihanna would kill for when she’s finally back in the studio, but there’s a sense of mischief to its wriggling topline that harks back to early singles such as Lucidity.
Where Currents was generally escapist hedonism, The Slow Rush is lyrically more thoughtful. Parker has got married in between the two records, and his own maturity appears a loose theme: the opening One More Year, Parker’s usually empathetic falsetto distorted into a forbidding warning of mortality, sets the tone for a rough narrative of time passing. There’s joy at what we’re allowed from life pretty soon – Instant Destiny is the second song – so that, by the final One More Hour, Tame Impala are back to celebration and filling your headphones with succour.
The middle of The Slow Rush sags a little, with Tomorrow’s Dust an anti-climactic way to end the first side. Unusually fussy, it seems to be Parker bolting four ill-matched ballads together. Side Two doesn’t pick up at first, On Track an echoey by-numbers woozy drawl, before Lost In Yesterday’s attack on nostalgia fetishism kicks The Slow Rush back into gear. If Parker’s first three albums were about absorbing everything around him, The Slow Rush could only be Tame Impala. It’s a reminder that, after five years away, no-one has caught up with his vision.
Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
In the collective spirit of jazz, percussionist Moses Boyd has lent his talent to a raft of collaborations, both live and in the studio. A double MOBO and Jazz FM Award winner, he drummed on the Sons Of Kemet Your Queen Is A Reptile album and produced Zara McFarlane‘s Arise for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. Boyd has also released albums as one part of the sax ’n’ drums duo Binker & Moses.
Now on his thrilling solo debut, Dark Matter, he’s called in the favours to assemble a fine cast of players, including guitarist Artie Zaitz, double bassist Gary Zaitz and tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia. The results are vividly thrilling, and his intricate London jazz grooves summon up diverse echoes of Afrobeat, electronica and ambient jazz. First solo album in and Boyd has concocted an inspired mix.
The Saxophones – Eternity Bay
The latest release from husband and wife duo Alexi Erenkov and Alison Alderdice pretty much picks up where they left off on their previous album: minimal folk rock meets dream pop that closely recalls the likes of Timber Timbre. Recorded by Cameron Spies, the analogue 16-track-tape recording method complemented the band’s preferred minimalism.
Perhaps the biggest evolution on Eternity Bay is the role of jazz, not so much present in pace or rhythms but more via the smooth, unwinding blasts of saxophone that glide through the record. The result is an album that feels strangely lounge-esque, straddling the line between jazz-inflected indie and bare-bones singer-songwriter offerings. There are plenty of nice moments here that feel warm and sincere, never straying towards affected tonality.
Huey Lewis & The News – Weather
You wouldn’t know Huey Lewis has gone deaf from that good-natured voice, as agreeably hoarse as when his band started and as appealing as his craggy looks. Nonetheless, this 10th album, his first in almost 20 years, sounds as though he’s not heard anything new in a while.
Weather’s his most musically imaginative in a long time, where he stands before a foggy grey skyline, but if Her Love Is Killin’ Me is predictably bluesy, full of familiar imagery, guitar solos and soulful brass, it’s nonetheless well executed, and Hurry Back Baby showcases classy guitar licks as well as good-time grooves. While We’re Young playfully admits, “We’re not as good as we once were” but sounds classically American, and a cover of Eugene Church’s Pretty Girls Everywhere exercises the band’s righteous doo-wop skills.
Various Artists – AJX500
Despite containing funk, disco, ska, Afrobeat, progressive rock and psychedelic pop, this 10-track compilation is actually a pretty seamless listen from beginning to end. Perhaps because of being named after a transient musical genre, Eddie Piller’s now 33-year-old label has never seemed dated.
Far from sounding like a tired nod back to the 90s, Brand New Heavies’ The Funk Is Back remix could be a fresh track played by Craig Charles on 6 Music or a late-70s, Keb Darge crate-dig discovery. With some previously unreleased vintage tracks, such as Graham Dee’s utterly superb bossa nova Sampaguita or the Benin funk of Orchestre Picoby Band D’Abomey, a new remix from underrated pop geniuses Corduroy and an exclusive track from Matt Berry, this is a near-essential collection.
Ben Wardle, Wyndham Wallace, Daniel Dylan Wray, John Earls, Gary Tipp