Neneh Cherry – ‘Broken Politics’
Still playing in a league of her own the Swedish icon delivers a fascinating form of protest album.
The overwhelming heaviness of the current political climate is something that can lay very heavy on your heart. Especially for an empathic and forward-thinking person the renaissance of regressive politics almost leads to a certain depression. Has the world gone mad? Why isn’t everybody seeing the bigger picture? Why are our leaders so goddamn stupid? Questions like that also inspired Neneh Cherry‘s latest record, fittingly titled Broken Politics. The second LP following her comeback release Blank Project (2014) is a more tender affair, an almost intimate confrontation with what’s going right now. The Swedish songwriter tried to break down the big debates of our time to one essential premise: We all got a name! Whether it’s refugees or angry Brexit voters – there are humans and stories behind all these events. One of the essential aspects to make this record sound as wonderful as it does is the work of Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet who produced the entire album. His distinctive tender electronic sound and love for exotic rhythms and experiments are the backbone of Broken Politics.
Right from the beginning the combination of Hebden’s on-point-electronica and Cherry‘s haunting and still very powerful voice creates a fascinating atmosphere. It’s raw, authentic and feels very intimate yet also really powerful. Kong, a track that also features work by Massive Attack’s 3D, is a fitting example here. Carried by a wave of strings Cherry‘s voice fights against the resignation. ‘I’m a member of shattered illusions’ she sings while criticizing the horrible situations in many refugee camps. She manages to do that with dignity and sensitiveness however which isn’t the easiest challenge at all. The Four Tet groove on tracks like Natural Skin Deep and Faster Than The Truth is well placed but it’s the tracks that aren’t upbeat which will stuck in your head. Synchronised Devotion is a marvellous example for that raw soul of Neneh Cherry while Deep Vein Thrombosis surprises with an unfiltered rap performance that pretty much sounds like it was recorded in one take. Broken Politics is a brilliant success on multiple levels – its lyrics, its sound, its overall character and message – everything merges into one big idea. Soldier finishes the record with marc on synthetic harp sounds; its a fitting ‘chamber pop’ call to arms that sums up this album pretty well. Political lethargy is tempting but no option anymore. (Norman Fleischer)
MØ – ‘Forever Neverland’
The Danish pop dynamite is ready to explode even bigger this time.
MØ is the kind of popstar that everyone has heard at least one song of, yet her name doesn’t ring a bell for many. Her biggest hits have been collaborations with artists such as Major Lazer or Justin Bieber, but she also worked together with female artists such as Charli XCX or Sophie, who try to put an edge to modern pop. And MØ is someone who wants to go even further, as she proves on her second album Forever Neverland. The sophomore record is about her life in Hollywood, where the Danish artist moved after the success with her first album No Mythologies To Follow from 2014.
The new LP features big names such as Diplo, Empress Of or Charli XCX. While the first tracks Way Down, I Want You and Nostalgia seem like the more obvious happy-go-lucky songs to put on a pop album, tracks as Sun In Our Eyes or Mercy are beautifully melancholic tracks. The Charli XCX feature If It’s Over is a future-pop anthem that follows the footsteps of the previous collaboration of the two superstars. With West Hollywood there’s a classic acoustic ballad that show MØ’s vulnerable side: ‘All I wanna do is just call up my mom and get my ass out of West Hollywood’. Red Wine featuring Empress Off on the other hand reminds of her previous hits such as Kamikaze or Lean On that made the Danish artist popular in the first place. The strongest track on the album is probably the last one, Purple Like the Summer Rain, another bittersweet anthem about California. Bittersweet is a term that indeed sums Forever Neverland up: It shows both ecstatic and thoughtful sides of MØ, an artist that emerges from both punk and pop roots and will probably never quite fit in into the mainstream league. But thats what makes her so powerful and bold. Forever Neverland is the soundtrack to partying in Hollywood, but also the music to listen to for coming down from its shallow reality. It shows a truly grown-up MØ, who has the potential of becoming even bigger. (Louisa Zimmer)
Kasper Bjørke Quartet – ‘The Fifty Eleven Project’
A stunning musical and emotional journey we didn’t expect from the Danish producer.
Facing death can trigger a lot of things within a person. How do you cope with the fear surrounding a cancer diagnosis, especially as an artist whose compositions are usually designed for the joy of dance? Danish producer Kasper Bjørke found a way, resulting in his most surprising and ambitious musical project yet. Two weeks before his 35th birthday doctors found a tumour during a routine scan in November 2011. Despite the positive prognosis the following five years saw the artist facing regular CT scans, x-rays and blood samples before the cancer was beaten. The Fifty Eleven Project tells the story of this journey from the discovery of the tumour, to the operation and frequent examinations; from the birth of Bjørke‘s son and the last visit of that title-giving waiting room in department 50 11. Based on a mixture of ambient textures and classical instruments it doesn’t sound like his previous productions at all. Instead of grooving beats the artist takes the listener on a two-hour(!) long journey that constantly switches between hope and despair, giving Bjørke‘s fear a fitting musical frame.
The electronic elements – analogue synths, reverbs and sequencers – crafted by Kasper Bjørke and Claus Noreen in Copenhagen are the foundation for The Fifty Eleven Project. Later Italian composer Davide Rossi (who previously worked with Ennio Morricone and Jon Hopkins) added strings while Danish musician Jakob Littauer was responsible for the piano parts. The result is a cinematic soundtrack to Bjørke‘s fears that consciously avoids structures and simple ways as most songs run longer than ten minutes. The opening Line Of Line starts as a gloomy intro that soundtracks the impending danger before a playful piano suddenly lights up the atmosphere. From the bleeps and electronic bits of CT to the floating sea of strings in Paramount – it’s really fascinating to follow Kasper’s story here, realizing all the references and being able to actually feel of what he might have been feeling during these five years. It’s not an easy album but you wouldn’t expect that with such a theme anyway, right? It requires your time and attention, it’s an epic and yet very intimate musical document that works impressively well on an emotional and musical level. It’s a musical experience you should not miss at all. (Norman Fleischer)
Farao – ‘Pure-O’
Kari Jahnsen’s new album takes her onto a whole new level with adventurous, intellectually-curious pop music.
If there was a criticism of Kari Jahnsen’s (aka Farao) debut album Till It’s All Forgotten, it was that for all the spectacular highpoints (Bodies, TIAF), both the quality and the style were a little bit too scattergun across the ten songs to make it a coherent classic. On her follow-up Pure-O however, she’s laser-focused. Pure-O is an album of relationship songs made with a spirit of didacticism, love songs that wrap big ideas and concepts into their stories. The opener, Marry Me, opens with the clinically forensic line ‘the heart is the organ of desire’ – relationships are on the table, and she’s dissecting them to get to the bottom of all this.
So here we have an album that stretches its curiosity into marriage partner as product (Marry Me), how the romantic rush holds up in real life (Cluster Of Delights) and even boutique lovers (Gabriel). And musically, she’s workshopped a style that lends the record a unique character and coherence, building its sound from Soviet synths, autoharp and vocoder vocals and incorporating its rhythms from R’n’B-influenced pop. It’s a recipe that works perfectly across the record – Puro-O sounds like luxurious avantgarde pop music, combining hooks and groove with an adventurism that can spark off in any direction at once. Its an album with a clear artistic vision stamped into every one of its songs, a vision that blooms to life on these songs. It’s Farao‘s musical Great Leap Forward, confirmation she’s an artist at the top of her game. It only remains to be seen where she’ll go next. (Austin Maloney)
Odd Beholder – ‘All Reality Is Virtual’
The Swiss synthpop band finally unveils a full-length LP that will hopefully make it into you attention span.
In a digital world where everything appears to be recorded, measured and analyzed the sense for human emotion and the actual physical appeal of something can easily be lost. An in many ways All Reality Is Virtual is an attempt by Daniela Weinmann to make sense of the modern day ambivalence. The leading lady of Swiss dream pop project Odd Beholder wrote the majority of her long awaited debut album after questioning herself about her own internet use. ‘I have never learned to feel safe in an environment consisting only of images and words,‘ she explains the realization that being an artist in the 21st century automatically requires certain digital representation. Something she wouldn’t do as a private person. Musically Weinmann clearly compensated the departure of her longtime bandmate James Varghese and continues on a quality level similar to the brilliant first two EP’s Lighting (2016) and Atlas (2017).
First track following the intro, The Likes Of You, already unfolds itself as a gentle social media love song that adds a philosophical note to the simple action of pressing the ‘like’ button. It’s followed by Loneliness, a tender ode to the contradiction of simultaneously enjoying and hating the feeling of being alone (‘Loneliness, you’re the friend that I hate the most’). Throughout all these songs Weinmann’s voice remains the voice that takes the listener through these digital clouds and hyperspeed internet heavens. There’s a rare quality in her performance that is quite addictive; she appears to be easily shifting from sensual and fragile to very clear and powerful. Distant yet quite near Weinmann is the anchor of these dreamy pop anthems that range from catchy and upbeat (Uncanny Valley, Easy Difficult) to hypnotizing (Reforesting Fire). Along with her well-placed guitar play the singer remains the physical element in the otherwise synthetic surrounding. Whether you’re an A.I. or actual human – you have to admit that this is a pretty brilliant little pop album. And this is not an algorithm talking. (Norman Fleischer)
Tamino – ‘Amir’
In spring this year, Tamino turned heads with his promising EP Habibi which is now followed by an exceptional debut that beautifully embraces Western and Arabic musical influences.
It’s not easy to be impressed these days when it comes to the vastness of music that we are surrounded by on a daily basis. However, singer-songwriter Tamino is quite an extraordinary talent whose music deserves to be heard, felt and remembered for sure. Still being in the early stages of his career, Tamino’s debut album Amir already promises that there is going to be an incredibly exciting journey lying ahead of him. Stepping into the world of Belgian-Egyptian newcomer Tamino creates an immediate feeling of inspiring depth and an urge to linger in this rich and versatile output we can experience as a listener. The songs’ pop music appeal is often so moving and graceful that his background as a classically trained musician seems to nurture the songs’ foundation until he decides to elevate it even more by remarkable textures. Easy as that.
The combination of carefully arranged music and Tamino’s incredible falsetto evoke a spine-tingling mixture of zeitgeist pop and a kind of scarred, ancient soul that is suddenly set free. All while embodying such a strong longing and emotional depth that is astonishing for a songwriter who is in his early 20s. This impression remains present throughout the whole album. The textures and fine nuances subtly draw from his Arabic heritage which add beautiful elements to the overall pop-driven music. Speaking of pop music, Amir may offer a number of romantic themes, however, these are never explored lightly or superficially. Instead, they are always accompanied by the courage to acknowledge a certain stillness and seriousness and the ability to give into the darkness rather than polishing the shiny surface. Recorded predominantly in Belgium and Holland, Amir is powerful, yet fragile and challenging at the same time. And therefore, an astonishing debut album that demands to be heard. (Annett Bonkowski)