Nick Mulvey – ‘New Mythology

Sounds like … survival hymns for modern humanity.

Journeys come in the most challenging forms and UK singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey knows this all too well, having stood in the midst of the torrent in the five years since his last record Wake Up Now. Whether through change of location – moving from the UK to Ibiza and back – or navigating through the pandemic and becoming a father. New Mythology is Mulvey’s charismatic response to the tests of the struggle and it is a stunning document of the musician’s powerful and overbearing craft. “I want to give people refuge. The songs aren’t meant to disperse or spread further anxiety or panic – they’re meant to be deeply introspective during these times”, the former Portico Quartet founding member remarks. “I hope the album stimulates new ideas, realizations and ambitions.”

As much as the title New Mythology hits the right note in the record’s fairly overt transcendental notions, the songs appear to flee from the demanding headline, brimming with ease and an inspiring awe of acoustic harmony. However, Mulvey doesn’t shy away from large ideas and overarching superstructures: “If there’s one word that sums up what this album is about, it’s inter-being”, the artists claims and that approach translates well in the songs. “The time of the lone wolf is done / Come in gentle fire find the sun”, he sings on single Star Nation and paints a stunning collage of the restless individual amidst his mind’s struggles and the healing forces of the natural world. The symbiosis of these two worlds is something the songwriter works towards and songs such as the initial A Prayer Of My Own or the soothing acoustic haze of Shores Of Mona, as well as the hum of Another Way To Be are a vital argument for that cause. “The album is about grounding, about this planet, my life. It’s about spiritual ideas and using them”, Mulvey states. And with New Mythology he has crafted a dynamic case to support his ideas. (Andreas Peters)

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Sinead O’Brien – ‘Time Bend And Break The Bower

Sounds like … rebirth of punk poetry.

Time is a construct and Sinead O’Brien takes apart and examines it from different angles. Time Bend and Breaks the Bower is the debut record of an artist probably best described as a punk poet. In the manner of rebellious 70s musicians and writers like Patti Smith, the Irish artist recites more than she sings. Her songs don’t have lyrics, instead her poems have instrumentation. The timing of the music originates from the intonation of the verses giving the record a distinct sense of timing.

Sinead O’Brien opens her debut on the stripped back Pain Is the Fashion of the Spirit. Her spoken words are only enhanced by the beat of a drum driving the pace of the words forward. The dynamic shifts of Holy Country reveal the singer as bender of time herself. With a dose of noisy distortion borrowed from the punks, acoustic finger-picked guitar melodies, and a voice at center stage, Sinead O’Brien manifests a record that does not stick to conventions with the confidence of a well-versed writer. Time Bend and Breaks the Bower does not just move at a different pace but reinvents time to fit the creative expression of the artist. As she howls on GIRLKIND it is true that until now “we have seen nothing yet”. (Liv Toerkell)

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Shearwater – ‘The Great Awakening

Sounds like … a soulful and intimate return.

It may just be the right amount of drastic to remark that since Shearwater’s last album in 2016, Jet Plane and Oxbow, our world was quite another one. Filled with anxieties for what the United States was becoming and what the recent election had confirmed, frontman Jonathan Meiburg felt it was time for a breath and to step away and turn to numerous other projects. “I felt hopeless, he admits. “And I didn’t want to make hopeless music.” Now, six years later, Meiburg has found his hope and his voice again, and The Great Awakening shows in which immersive atmospheres these have transformed.

Cooked up throughout most of the bleak 2020 and 2021 with Texan producer and engineer Dan Duszynski as fellow performer, The Great Awakening takes away the former rock gestures and leads it into an immersive sound landscape that more likely resembles a Nick Cave meets Elbow environment. Surely decorated with brooding tensions, such as the tempestuous leading track Highgate or the following No Reason, the eleven songs on this record have something staggering about them, coming off like a supernatural force and with a pressing urgency. After a somewhat dramatic first half, the acoustic gentleness of Everything You Touch is a warm welcome into the tender universe of Jonathan Meiburg’s vocal craft, which one also witnesses on the later Aqaba or There Goes The Sun. While The Great Awakening may have its eerie and sorrow-drenched moments, it is everything but hopeless music”. It is the artistic attempt to capture the struggle between sorrow and joy, beauty and terror, and as such, it sparks gratification and delight. (Andreas Peters)

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Olmo – ‘The Trunk’

Sounds like … a light-hearted social critique.

There’s something about Olmo which seems charmingly familiar. Listening to his music often feels like you are joking around with an old friend, after years of being apart, deprecatingly poking fun at all of your troubles. At times, there is even a sense that you are being reminded of an inside joke, where he reveals the punchline with a disarming amount of wit and charisma. However heavy the topic matter, between the sordid state of current affairs, faith, and mental health, just as examples of the conversations which arise on the 9-track-album, there is an honest and fresh perspective that somehow remains steadfast in its light-hearted approach, irrespective of the seriousness of the subject.

On Pigs, for instance, each line seems to laugh at life, fiercely refusing negativity, and finding the humour and optimism in the worst of our politics. That’s the point though, speaking about his music, the Berlin-based artist explains, “it’s a safe place where complex issues are sweetened up and turned into these little ear worms”. His sound is refreshingly unique, and the album offers evidence of his lack of fear about doing things differently. For example, all of the vocals were recorded on a 2012 Macbook Pro microphone, exacerbating the overall sense of intimacy and warmth. Two years on from the release of his well-received debut album, Hiroshima Tarantula, The Trunk is politically aware, socially invigorating, and musically sound. It is an album which engages you to think about things, or perhaps more accurately, helps you navigate through thoughts which can be tough. (Elana Shapiro)

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