New album reviews


MartyrLoserKing, Saul Williams’ sixth full length release in 15 years, is more of a statement of intent than an exploration of new ideas. Track 1 Groundwork starts affairs with a sample that scared me into thinking I’d stumbled onto an R.Kelly compilation. The false start was soon kicked away, along with the cobwebs, thanks to Saul’s trademark surrealism and juxtaposed phrasing.

The album is a fine showcase of his talents… Activist, composer, poet, rapper. Timely (if coincidental) nods to Bowie’s vocal stylings on track 2 Horn Of The Clock-Bike (above) and unabashed use of At The Drive-In’s lyrics from Invalid Litter Dept show he’s not here to merely preach. Even though the album sometimes falls into pastiche, such as the Nicki Minaj B-side-styled Roach Eggs, there is enough creativity to give the album weight as a complete concept too.

Fans of Saul Williams will remember his support slots on Nine Inch Nail’s 2005 With Teeth European tour. Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor also produced Saul Williams’ 2007 LP The Inevitable Rise… This industrial electronic-pioneering sound comes through strongly on this album, which essentially turns the disparate collection of jarring, bold and disjointed rant-of a-protest-song into a enjoyable experience for a wider audience. It does miss a few of the strong single-worthy tracks that his self-titled 2004 breakthrough album contained, but a good listen nonetheless.


In what is a slightly unusual move, I’ve decided to review a single among all these albums. The Wheel is the first single to be released ahead of PJ Harvey’s 11th studio album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, which is set for an April 2016 release. The video (above) was filmed in various locations, including Kosova, between 2011 and 2014.

The album (and therefore this single) were recorded in “open house” style recording sessions in the summer of 2015 at Somerset House, London. Essentially, the whole recording took place in a sealed room behind one-way mirrors, giving people a never before seen insight into the process. I was lucky enough to visit one of the sessions, and was extremely excited to hear the results.

What I was expecting was a constricted and traditional structure, with very carefully composed verse-chorus-verse. What we have been treated to is something entirely different. The song kicks off with a fun and energetic premise, reminiscent of some of her early recordings. It’s presented here with maturity however, and this really developed the song. In my opinion the track would sound more at home on her 2000 classic Stories from the City, Stories from the Searather than her most recent release, 2011’s Let England Shake. As both albums won the coveted Mercury Music Prize, comparing it to either release is a compliment indeed.

The horns add a great depth to the sound. These are likely to feature heavily, given the press release surrounding the recording process last summer. A welcome addition. The song revolves along and builds momentum, much like the proverbial wheel spinning away down hill, until it more or less falls apart in a sudden fashion. In essence, this track stands strong without being an all time classic. What it has done, however, is whet our appetites for the forthcoming album.


blog_recommendedThe first thing to do is watch the video above. The next is to go out and buy this album.

The concept of Hélène Grimaud’s Water is to “explore the power and beauty of water in an evocative, experimental and deeply personal new Deutsche Grammophon recording”. The result is as much a beautiful and moving art piece as it is a classical record. Interweaving original soundscapes and organic piano pieces with her renditions of musical pieces by Ravel and Franz Liszt (to name but two), this album is a joy to behold. Completed as a collaboration with Nitin Sawhney, the album true is a triumph of experimental, evocative music. At times playful, other times downright intimidating. Simply fantastic stuff.


Everything about Fat White Family seems to provoke. Their debut came out in 2013 to great reviews, yet featured a very NSFW album cover. Their live shows are filled with unpredictability. Their Wikipedia page is quite possibly the shortest entry on the site.

With all the commotion surrounding FWF since their breakthrough, Songs For Our Mothers struck me as both disappointing and confusing. The opening track Whitest Boy On The Beach (above) is a stunning opener. Bold, brash, layered, cathartic. It’s such a shame the album doesn’t progress in a similar fashion.

Walls of noise never really take a meaningful structure, and the ongoing cacophony only seems to develop more grandiose aspirations than actual reward. Idiosyncratic influences (the Country twang, the Mark E.Smith Fall-drawl) that created such a great debut now seem contrived. It’s such a shame they seem to have lost everything that made them such an exciting proposition. Don’t give up on them. It’s not a terrible album. After all we are comparing it to their debut, one of the albums of 2013. Just pray they can wade through the muddiness and summon up a few more belters before they get bored and move on to other things.