Blood Orange – ‘Negro Swan’

Personal anthems against apathy. Dev Hynes remains restless and unstoppable.

There are different ways of coping with life in the United States of America right now. The range seems to go from furious protest to depressing resignation and way to often the line between those extremes is way too thin. Dev Hynes chose to protest the regressive politics of the Trump administration with a very personal record. Negro Swan isn’t that much of a direct protest album, it became a personal reflection of Hynes; an exploration into the various forms of black depression. And that itself might be protest in the year 2018 or as Hynes names it in Saint: ‘Your skin’s a flag now that shines for your soul.’ Over the past years the restless artist constantly moved Blood Orange away from a simple retro pop affair towards something more existential and political profound. Blood Orange is Hynes’ playground for collaborative efforts and important messages – and he invites old and new friends to join him.

Negro Swan is a continuation of 2016’s Freetown Sound album, providing an entertaining selection of soul pop that got a certain timeless approach while simultaneously being placed right here. Tracks like the gentle opener Orlando, the joyful and jazzy Nappy Wonder as well as the single Charcoal Baby deliver the familiar Blood Orange recipe in a new light. But Hynes is even better when he invites others to join him. The tender Hope features TeiShi and P. Diddy (no kidding) with the latter one delivering a surprising spoken-words outro. Negro Swan follows the ‘mixtape vibe’ of Freetown Sound but also shows Hynes from his most personal side yet. While the guitar gospel Holy Will is entirely focussed on Ian Isaiah’s stunning vocal performance the closing track Smoke sees Hynes in his purest and most fragile state. All in all this is a record that is carried by the idea of hope as a society-changing protest form. Hynes and his fellow musicians fight the hate with empathy, face the current situation with confidence, grace and dignity that are much needed. ‘N*gga, I’m feelin’ myself; I’m still in my zone’ is one of the catch phrases that instantly stick with you. If you feel good about yourself and spread that with the people around you, things will automatically change. And in times like these a record like Negro Swan was very much overdue. (Norman Fleischer)

Song to get you started: Jewelry
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Interpol – ‘Marauder’

The acclaimed New York trio reports back with its sixth studio album. One might easily call it a ‘back to the roots’ record but that would be too easy, indeed.

One thing remains for sure: Twenty years after their formation Interpol are still quite hungry which is a good thing in general. For this record the three-piece recruited producer Dave Fridmann, whose rap street includes MGMT and The Flaming Lips, and whilst these sounds seem far away from forlorn indie rockers Interpol, it works. The indie zest injection into Marauder that Fridmann provides, mixes well with their dragged out vocals, quicking guitar rhythms and punchy drums The record opens with a lingering vocal number If You Really Love Nothing and honestly it’s probably the only bad thing of the record. Not the song exactly but it’s position, the following track The Rover is an upbeat yet forlorn juxtaposition of emotions and would stand better as an opening track. After The Rover, the record goes from strength to strength. It’s poppy without being annoying, its deep without being wallowing, it’s Interpol classic with an intensity. Marauder delivers a newness that is definitely needed in a sixth record, to ward off ‘fan fatigue’.

Fan fatigue is every long serving bands worst enemy and thankfully, Marauder, does not fall victim to it. And yes, some of you might hate that! NYSMAW delicately calls back to Interpol circa 2007, in with a well received nostalgia and an indie swagger only Banks could deliver. At around the two minute mark when the vocals evolve into a crappy radio connection sound, it’s genius. Calling back to their past without getting stuck it in. Even the two, fairly lengthy, Interludes, which to for another act could be the death of, seem to work alongside the seductive vocals and indie rock drums that follow. It Probably Matters, which follows Interlude 2 and sings the record out, is an indie masterpiece. It really is the sound of millennials dissatisfaction, ‘I didn’t have the grades or the brains/and it probably matters’. This record definitely matters and so does this band. (Hannah Fahy)

Song to get you started: The Rover
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The Lemon Twigs – ‘Go To School’

On their sophomore album, The Lemon Twigs put teenage angst into a quirky musical.

Almost two years ago, in a sweaty music club during Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival, I recall The Lemon Twigs becoming the hottest new thing in the music scene, with music representatives such as the SXSW managers rumoring about their promising future. After the release of their debut Do Hollywood, the two brothers Brian D’Addario and Michael D’Addario played major festival slots at Glastonbury or Lollapalooza and toured with Phoenix. Their second album Go To School is a concept-album about a chimpanzee called Shane, who gets adopted by the actors and musicians Bill and Carol. Bill is played by Todd Rundgren, while Susan Hall – the D’Addario mother – plays Carol. It’s a musical-album about teenage angst and not fitting into the concept of high school.

The idea of a musical fits perfectly to The Lemon Twigs – there’s brillant anthems, exciting arrangements and thoughtful lyrics. There’s ballads like The Lesson or Lonely, who have beautiful harmonies, but also shaking Rock’n’Roll anthems such as Queen Of My School or This Is My Tree. Yet once more, the obvious influences of The Lemon Twigs still lie in bands such as The Beatles, The Zombies or The Beach Boys. But Go To School isn’t an album to question the young band’s originality. It’s refreshingly funny and quirky, best enjoyed by listeners who are or were once themselves high school outsiders too. (Louisa Zimmer)

Song to get you started: The Lesson
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Ólafur Arnalds – ‘re:member’

With his fourth full length the Icelandic composer shows once again that he has the magic touch for making beautiful music.

Our current neoclassical composers never stand still and keep on inventing new technologies to make their music sound more unique and special.  One of them is the Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds who releases his new album re:member today. What you don’t realize while listening to the record is that he used a brand new technology to perform and record the LP: the software Stratus which transforms pianos into new instruments.  For the album he’s got two Stratus Pianos which completely play themselves on the base of one central piano that is played by himself.

You have to image: you play a note on one instrument and two others are answering automatically in a way that you wouldn’t have expected. It is pretty likely that something very special emerges. But it’s not only the two Stratus pianos that make the album outstanding – the composer also uses strings, synths, live drums and various electronics to create an absorbing soundscape that easily casts a spell over you. Calm piano pieces with beautiful melodies like re:member and saman meet accented string pieces (unfold, inconsist) and experimental  and spheric tracks (ypsilon, partial). Ólafur Arnalds proves again that he really is a talented creative who has a great sense of beautiful music that doesn’t need any words to get into your bones. (Miriam Wallbaum)

Song to get you started: unfold (feat. SOHN)
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Her’s – ‘Invitation To Her’s’

Prepare your summer to get extended as these two gentlemen from Liverpool provide the perfect soundtrack for this season’s final days of sunshine.

Dream-Pop is blooming everywhere, be it artists like Ariel Pink or Mac DeMarco who’ve been around for many years now, or newer and younger artists such as Clairo. Another offspring are Her’s from Liverpool. After meeting at university they formed the band who was later featured by magazines such as The Guardian and played festivals such as South By Southwest. After their lengthy debut EP Songs of Her’s, which was released 2017, they now release their 10 track debut album Invitation To Her’s. It’s a weird mixture of slacker pop, retro mania and rock. The leading track Harvey feels like its beaming you back to the last century and certainly doesn’t seem as if it was recorded in rainy Merseyside. The ten tracks on the LP are all laid back and made for chilling out, making it the perfect soundtrack for a summerly roadtrip. It all isn’t certainly new now, especially songs like If You Know What’s Right and Low Beam will surely remind you of Mac DeMarco. But there’s also more melancholic moments on Invitation To Her’s like Under Wraps, the closing song of the album. While Her’s definitely don’t reinvent the genre of Dream Pop, their first album makes a worthwhile soundtrack for the end of summer. (Louisa Zimmer)

Song to get you started: Harvey
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