Gorillaz – ‘The Now Now’
Arriving one year after its predecessor the sixth LP by the imaginary band of Damon Albarn takes yet another unexpected turn.
What do you do after the world ends? Well, simply going on, it appears. Gorillaz‘ 2017 album Humanz was a mixtape built around the idea of the world’s final party before an undefined apocalypse ultimately ends all this nonsense. It felt like the right album at the right time, welcoming the age of Donald Trump. Still, it somehow felt a bit crowded with the countless feature guests not actually leaving space for the actual band. The Now Now works contrary to that concept, feeling way less conceptualized and headstrong as its predecessor. It leaves Damon Albarn aka 2D all the space he needs. The result feels like a way less complex and more easy going affair, one that puts Albarn’s songs in the spotlight. Next to George Benson in the catchy opening track Humility and the inevitable Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle in Hollywood the Blur founder remains the main protagonist which is a lovely opposite to Humanz.
The quicker recording process thankfully didn’t result in a album like 2011’s mediocre The Fall which quickly followed its predecessor Plastic Beach and was entirely recorded via an iPad. It’s a ‘quick and not so dirty’ album, one that actually works great as a smooth summer record. Tracks like the very catchy Tranz and the funky dance pieces Sorcererz and Lake Zurich are finest feel good material. Moody ballads like the acoustic guitar driven Idaho and the dreamy Fire Flies are an exception to the rule. The Now Now is Gorillaz’ most easy going album so far, a lovely quick affair that shows that even Damon Albarn’s idea of pop doesn’t need to be loaded with meaning and message to unfolds its beauty. However, his 2D still got that tender melancholia in his distorted voice which simply reminds you that not everything is alright in the end. But for a brief moment we are all happily invited to ignore that and The Now Now is the perfect record for this. (Norman Fleischer)
Florence + The Machine – ‘High As Hope’
Indie-Queen Florence Welch is ready to hit the big stages with their newest release– and listeners should be prepared for some classic vibes which made the band famous almost a decade ago.
It was around 2008 and 2009, charts were filled up with danceable pop and Lady Gaga was on her way to become the biggest pop star on earth. Then suddenly something happened: video channels and music TV stations started screening videos starring a young red-haired songstress. One woman shots for songs like Kiss With A Fist and Dog Days Are Over turned into a dreamy moon-ride for an epic cover of Candi Staton’s You’ve Got The Love. In Rabbit Heart we saw the named singer embracing life and death straight out of a renaissance painting. Styled in bohemian-chic, Florence + The Machine made a twist into the electronic-dominated music field and people fell for it immediately. The project’s debut album, Between Two Lungs (2009), presented a celebration of indie-inspired anthems with rock and folk elements. On Ceremonials (2011) they went big with an orchestral sound on hits like Only If For A Night or Shake It Out. For their third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015), everything went back to guitars and drums. Now the time has come for round four with Florence Welch, and it seems like her band is going through their whole musical journey, calming everything down for a while.
High As Hope starts out with a nostalgic-filled moment on June, a song which could be included on the debut album – die-hard fans should be melting. South London Forever gives the same vibe and it feels good. Pieces like Grace and 100 Years contain elements of both second and third album, while most of the songs from High As Hope sound like a stripped down session from a private studio. Those tracks are representing strong moments of the album, with The End Of Love being perhaps one of the band’s most beautiful songs to date. High As Hope deals with love, failure, life and desire – topics which are well known from Florence + The Machine. The big anthems are missed a bit through their newest chapter (besides Hunger), but the singer is definitely finding her more and more after experimenting with various musical fields in the past. They did not lose any of their indie-folk touched charm but are also not interested to fall for cheap mainstream pop tricks yet which continues Mrs. Welch’s stubborn past in the most beautiful way. Let’s get ready for the festival season then, shall we? (Kai Hermann)
Let’s Eat Grandma – ‘I’m All Ears’
The Norwich teenagers grow into their already oversized boots.
The small East-Anglian city of Norwich rarely gets to celebrate its local musical heroes. There has been the odd success story here and there (and yes, I’m well aware Ed Sheeran cut his teeth here) but despite being something of a cultural hub for the area, generally speaking, the region often gets overlooked due to it’s proximity to London and… well, not a lot else. But then, just over two years ago along came Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingsworth, collectively known as Let’s Eat Grandma, just 17 at the time of their debut album release I, Gemini, to put Norwich’s small-yet-burgeoning music scene on the map.
Many commented at the time about how Let’s Eat Grandma‘s inventive, dreamy-pop seemed like it was in a world of its own at the time, but as a Norwich native myself, their music actually does speak to the cavalier nature of the city and wider Norfolk countryside. Yes, their young, pixie-pitched vocals were unlike much else going at the time, this is partly what made them stand out, but given how cut-off the city is from the rest of the country, the commonly used expression ‘Normal for Norfolk’ is one that can apply even to magical expressions such as LEG. And make no mistake, sophomore record I’m All Ears expands on everything that made I, Gemini great and then some, from the brilliantly SOPHIE-produced Hot Pink to the album’s stunning final run of Cool and Collected, Ava and ‘Donnie Darko’, this is a majestic album from the ‘still teenage’ maestros. (Adam Turner-Heffer)
Tropics – ‘Nocturnal Souls’
An album like a lonesome ride home in the middle of the night – The British songwriter created the perfect late night soundtrack and an impressive album as well.
When Hampshire-born, London-based songwriter Chris Ward first showed up on the musical map around seven years ago he could have been easily mistaken as another one of those British guys jumping on the James Blake bandwagon, mixing a soulful R&B notion with contemporary electronic sounds. But his alter ego Tropics continued to walk its own way, changed and adapted its sound and over the years Ward slowly but steady found his own sound. His third full-length, Nocturnal Souls, marks the peak of that evolution. It’s his most confident and self-contained album so far. Inspired by 90s downbeat electronica, trip-hop, jazz and even older movie soundtracks, Ward created his own late night vibe with this album. The great thing about Nocturnal Souls is its cohesive character which shows how Ward really understood the idea and narrative potential of an album.
Opening track Never Letting Go puts us straight into the right mood with his soulful notion. Keep Turning Me Back and its jazzy vibes continue to take us further into the twilight. His ex-label bandmates and friends Badbadnotgood did a great job on this one. This is music for the after hour, long walks home at night and that one final drink at the bar around the corner you’re not supposed to take in the first place. Tropics‘ latest album got that tempting retro vibe without sounding too olds-fashioned. Ward still finds enough space to include his effects and electronic twists and turns into the music. Sometimes he dives deeper into jazz-territory like in the instrumental Restless with its fascinating jungle-like beat; sometimes he just delivers the perfect soundtrack for a warm and sensual summer night (The Heat). Nocturnal Souls is an incredible testament of Tropics‘ increased skills and profound musical understanding on many levels. We should finally stop labelling him ‘best kept secret’ and embrace him as one of contemporary music most exciting talents. (Norman Fleischer)
Song to get you started: Keep Me Turning Back
Stream it now: ► Spotify / ► Apple Music / ► TIDAL
J Colleran – ‘Gardenia’
After freeing himself from his old artist moniker MMOTHS the young composer dives deeper into hauntingly beautiful ambient music territory.
What’s in a name anyway? Well, sometimes changing it can help you to start anew, make a clear cut and work without pressure. After years of delivering truly beautiful electronic tenderness with his alias MMOTHS Irish producer Jack Colleran decided to close this chapter and start a new one under his real name. In the end the ambitious sound of J. Colleran‘s debut album Gardenia does indeed feel like the next logical step for those who’ve been following his work from early on like I did. Over the past six, seven years MMOTHS slowly but steady moved away from the lush ‘chillwave’ territory towards something more profound and substantial like his ‘only’ album Luneworks in 2016. Gardenia takes this notion even further and sees the composer heading for neo-classical territory that feels like a way more mature environment for his musical skills.
Tender string patterns and a playful piano dominate the opening songs Sun line and bERA, placing him way closer to artists like Ólafur Arnalds, Hauschka or the late great Jóhann Jóhansson. But Colleran‘s roots remain undeniable as tracks like Joye 1:12 and the two-parted Freesia show a more electronic side of his experimental and cinematic sound. Sounds and ideas pop around like playful raindrops in the mesmerizing and the sky cracked for the first time. J. Colleran frees itself from any remaining structures, creating mesmerizing little sketches that want to move the listener at the very core of everything, it seems. It’s hard to define, it’s a sound you need to feel and give a bit time to fully unfold its potential. Gardenia is an impressive rebirth that’ll hopefully take the music of the critically underrated artist to new heights. (Norman Fleischer)