There are musicians, there are pop stars, and then there is Jim.
Jim is the latest incarnation of former Klaxon, James Righton. Now working alongside David and Stephen Dewaele, better known as Soulwax, he releases this, his third solo work. It is a retro futurist, synth pop, electro shock of an album. Jim appears to be possessed by the ghost of Prince, tracks like “Pause” and “Release Party”, sound like they have been unearthed from a hidden vault at Paisley Park. Jim may just be the pop star we need.
“I’m ugly, I’m up and down right now, I’m down and bloody…”
Oliver Sim (XX) doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is on his debut solo album. A raw, and beautiful, collection of songs with grand, cinematic, orchestral, arrangements, subtle electronic beats and loops, and a vocal performance that is capable of, simultaneously, breaking your heart and piecing it back together. There are moments of such brutal honesty here that I wept openly the first time I heard it, Sim was articulating, perfectly, my own emotions.
Five albums in, nine years since their last, acres of press coverage, an iconic leader, hit records, collaborations with anyone who is anyone…and despite all of that Yeah Yeah Yeahs have, with Cool It Down, released the best work of their career. A perfect distillation, and encapsulation, of everything about them that matters. Who knows what the fuck “cool” is, sometimes its easier to avoid the word altogether, but I can think of no better way to describe YYYs. Too cool. Here there are strings, riffs, punk pop, classic rock, electronic beats, and they are all deployed with military precision, shooting a rocket into your heart. I don’t know what I’m saying.
“Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty”, is what Keats had to say about a Grecian urn. God in Heaven alone knows what he would have had to say about the work of Beth Orton. A musician who centres truth, beauty, and truth again in all of her work. “Weather Alive” is her eighth album since “Trailer Park” in 1996. She is not prolific, but those works are all terrific…and I would take terrific over prolific every time. Just like “Cool It Down” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this is a mere 8 songs long, but each one has the power to move you in ways that feel meaningful. What more do you need.
From my review of the album;
At every turn you hear an unmistakably “Broudian” melody, a flash of those ear worm melodies, the sort of songs that other, supposedly great “artists”, would give all their cigarettes and alcohol for. It all sounds so effortless for Broudie, maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise after all this time. He’s a master of his craft. It all sounds so timeless too, everything is clear, clean, and polished. Pop diamonds.
When I was thinking about which albums would, and would not, make this list, I reached out to the people of Twitter and asked if there was something they thought I may have missed, something I should give consideration to. I’m not a paid music journalist, I don’t get sent things from labels, everything I hear comes from my own efforts to discover new music. I knew that someone would have something that would touch my heart. Author Nick Quantrill sent me a message asking me to listen to this debut album from Plains…I won’t ever be able to repay him.
A gorgeous, sun kissed, heart warming, country album, the voices and the harmonies are enough to reduce the hardest of hearts to tears.
Music is a form of magic…when it is created by an artist, when its purpose is to move the listener, to shift perspectives, to alter our thinking. Emily Jane White is a magician. Weaving spells from these almost Lynchian songs. Subtle, urgent, passionate, beautiful.
When I was a boy, the first thing I did upon entering anyone’s home for the first time, was to check, carefully, their record collection. I was looking for things that would connect me to my host, something that hinted that they may be the same as me. If I spotted something by The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, The Sundays, or Orange Juice…I could stay. And here are Tallies who, despite the gulf between us geographically and in years, are the sort of people in whose home I could happily while away a rainy Sunday afternoon. Indier than thou…where indie means something sweet and tender, and not something to be chanted on the terraces of a football stadium.
The album is a joy. But nothing I say about it, or Ives, will capture the essence of what is going on as well as her Spotify biography which informs the world that she writes “short songs”, and that her doctor has her height at “5 foot 1 and three quarters”, and that she is “young”. I don’t know what else it is that you are looking for, if it isn’t in that list then I really don’t know you…and I really don’t want to. Short songs, a short artist, and youth on her side. Perfect.
“I’m really lucky to be able to make music completely on my own terms” says Neil Arthur. He is right, but he’s not entirely right…it isn’t just him who is lucky, it’s also those of us who have long held that he is one of the most important artists in British electronic music history. To be able to have a new album this good seems to be more than good luck, it feels like a blessing from some