1st June 2020
Trying to sum up last month is quite the task. It seems that in a matter of weeks, the world has been turned on his head, with everyone understandably worrying about COVID-19, being stuck in their homes, all while the sun has made a very poorly timed appearance. It’s a truly unforgettable and frightening time.
But, in all this misery, it does serve as a reminder of how freeing music can be. Sticking on an album to pass the time, or simply to distract yourself can honestly make a day during this situation, not to mention bring people together for a moment of simply appreciating an artist’s sound. So, here’s the LGSM music team’s picks for new releases of the month, to ensure that even in isolation, you’re kept up to date.
Ashnikko is the upcoming it-girl of 2020. Her critically acclaimed single ‘Stupid’ recently hit over 300 million streams worldwide, and made quite the impact on social media sites like Twitter and TikTok, making her quite the internet icon over the last few months. However, the London based artist has proven that she’s not just a one hit wonder, with the release of her latest single ‘Tantrum’, which dropped in early March.
The most noticeable thing you hear when listening to the single, is how the artist’s liberating persona shines through. The track is littered with clever tongue and cheek lyrics, which perfectly line up with the artists message of female and sexual empowerment, all while being backed by synths that start fairly minimalistic, before exploding during the chorus. It’s unapologetic pop-futurism at it’s finest, and seems to be a sound that the young artist feels really settled in. As a shameless Ashnikko fan already, this fun track has provided even more curiosity for her debut album, which fans are already excited for, despite the fact that it’s yet to be announced. But, whether you’re a superfan, or just discovering the young rapper, track proves that the hype around Ashnikko is well deserved.
Nonesuch Records have been doing a fantastic job over the last few years of giving a larger platform to musicians in and around the jazz, contemporary classical and folk scenes who have been well established as major voices in niche communities, but have never had access to a broad audience. Newly added to this list of musicians that includes Gabriel Kahane, Gaby Moreno and Caroline Shaw, is saxophonist Sam Gendel.
Gendel has been notable as an instrumentalist for quite some time, having done significant work with folk singer Sam Amidon and jazz/funk eccentric Louis Cole. Gendel’s brilliant debut record for Nonesuch is a series of electronics-heavy reworkings of jazz standards named for its title track, Satin Doll.
Gendel’s tone on the alto saxophone is notoriously smooth and spongy, and the saxophonist manages to maintain that sound here, despite his playing being augmented by a thick layer of effects. Accompaniment is sparse, but seriously aesthetically unified. Drunken, robotic basslines and synthetic drumbeats are artfully employed to give these old, classic tunes a totally new feel and meaning. Highlights include the light and airy rendition of Eddie Harris’ ‘Cold Duck Time’, which slowly devolves into an entropic ball of sound, and the soft, eerie groove of ‘The Theem’, a Gendel original with its catchy, off-kilter melody harmonic-filled bassline.
Satin Doll may be a retreading of old classics, but Gendel’s take on these tunes is entirely original, in a style that will doubtless inspire a new generation of jazz musicians.
Quarantine may have us all indoors, but it does mean we have plenty of time for music. One song I find myself playing on constant loop is a return from the Dixie Chicks with Gaslighter. Their upcoming studio album of the same name may not be released until May, but this tune definitely delivers a punch, with its foot-stomping energy, empowering you to do whatever you want, and most of all, take down all those that stand in your way. The single has been best described by The Washington Post as a ‘scathing anthem’, and it is so fitting in current times, whether it takes aim at certain presidencies, in support of recent movements, or down to the everyday manipulative people in our lives. Despite the decade hiatus and radio stations initially outlawing the Dixie Chicks, it is great to welcome them back, both through headphones and airwaves.
The Scousers are back! Fresh off touring their last album; “What’s It Like Over There?”, the four-piece, released their fourth album “Sad/Happy” on March 13th . In an unusual yet genius move the band chose to release the album in two parts, with the “Happy” side being released in early January, followed by “Sad”, in March, which is said to “represent two sides of this tech-saturated highly insecure age”.
As the title suggests, the “Happy” side is full of upbeat, charismatic tunes. Songs like “Jacqueline” and “Be Your Drug” will instantly get your feet moving and heart singing! What I have always found remarkable about Circa Waves’ work is their ability to release something different every time, and “Sad/Happy” is no exception. In a departure from the bands rock-heavy sound from their previous album, Sad/Happy is a lot groovier with deeper sounds and dreamy vocals, courtesy of lead singer Kieran Shudall. The “Sad” side of the album is a lot more melancholy and reflective. This side definitely still maintains the deeper sounds of the Happy side, but with a much lighter tone and acoustic elements. This side features the title track “Sad/Happy”, which definitely showcases Shudall’s vocals in a different light, they are softer and oh-so delicious especially when paired with the delicate synth sounds.
All in all, this is the perfect summer album which will instantly transport you back to festival-season from the comfort of your bedroom! Lucky for us, Circa Waves are scheduled to play at our very own Mountford Hall September 12th 2020!
Feature Image Credit: Melanie Lehmann