Fran Slater: Ocean Wisdom – Stay Sane – Listen. When I pressed play on Stay Sane I strongly expected to tick it off my list of albums I’d given a cursory listen to, just so I could pretend to have an opinion when someone else brought it up. I knew it wouldn’t be for me. I’d spent a lot of time with Ocean Wisdom’s previous album and decided that, while he was very talented, he wasn’t an artist I could really connect to.
Stay Sane had me on first listen. This is one of those albums that smacks you in the face straight away – great lyrics, great honesty, great flow – and, most impressively of all, a real mix of Grime, Hip-Hop, and Dub and yet a really unique album at the same time. Mercury winner? Potentially.
If you’re time limited listen to ‘Drilly Rucksack’, ‘Shorty Gud’. and ‘Racists’. Tunes on toast.
Kathy Halliday: Johnny Flynn & Robert Macfarlane – ‘Gods and Monsters’ – I have been massively out of touch with new music in recent months and have taken to playing the same handful of songs on loop from sheer lack of interest. I guess the events of the past year have just worn me into disillusion. But if there is one artist out there whose music is sure to help me turn this mood around, it has to be Johnny Flynn. Folk musician turned actor, he has been largely absent for the past few years pursuing his acting career – fair play to him, although he did leave me feeling bereft. There are few artists since that have been able to fill the space left behind, as dramatic as that sounds. ‘Gods and Monsters’ written in collaboration with Robert Macfarlane (author of Edgelands and The Lost Spells – who is brilliant in his own right) is the song I have been waiting some 5+ years for. It just really resonates with me in a way I cannot fully explain. There is just so much warmth and comfort in Johnny’s tone, and with the addition of Robert’s lyrics, it has resulted in this quite beautiful, easy listening track that has really lifted me. I am super excited for the release of Lost In The Cedar Wood on May 14th which will, without a shadow of doubt, be my favorite album this year.
Discovering a new artist and then liking their music is one of the great joys of my life. I know that I’m going to be spending a lot of time with Vulture Prince. And I still haven’t heard her earlier releases yet. But I’m excited!
Sam Atkins: Little Simz – ‘Introvert’ – In news that will shock nobody in a month where Grey Area was rightfully crowned as ‘The Best of the Picky Bastards podcast’ we also saw Little Simz return in a big way.
Tom Burrows: The best new album I heard in April was New Long Leg by Dry Cleaning. I love it for all the reasons mentioned in James’ review. In the juxtaposition of the tight instrumentation and Florence Shaw’s deadpan, surreal lyrics, it is a thrilling dissection of modern life. It’s got everything I love in songwriting. It’s what I wanted and didn’t quite get from that Black Country, New Road album from earlier in the year. It reminds me of ‘Essex Dogs’, a Blur song from 1997 that I was obsessed with for a bit about a decade ago.
And for the second half of the month, I was obsessed with something else from that same year. In reading Disgusting Bliss, Lucian Randall’s biography of satirist Chris Morris, I discovered Blue Jam, his disturbing and very funny 1997 series for Radio 1. This is a music website so I’ll stick to the tunes which are the foundation of the show. The humour and horror wouldn’t work without the consistently excellent selection of early Warp releases, Serge Gainsbourg duets, and weird ambient pieces. It won’t be for everyone, but I can’t believe I’ve walked around not knowing it has existed for the last 24 years.
James Spearing: I thought Dry Cleaning’s New Long Leg was going to be the clear winner this month. That was until Fran came along with his Do Believe the Hype playlist of Bob Marley. The sun shone for nearly the whole month and it suited being reminded of the wondrous album that is Natty Dread. My personal favourite from this album, ‘Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)’, appeared on Fran’s list. I hadn’t heard it in years and I immediately put the album on. And then again. And again. And again for about a week. Natty Dread shows off just how musically accomplished Bob and The Wailers’ were. When you hear the classics over and over again, it can be easy to forget. Simple arrangements and simple production let the songs and the talent shine through perfectly. Natty Dread’s version of ‘No Woman No Cry’ is criminally underplayed compared to the famous live version.
Matt Paul: This month I have been really into 2 new singles from artists that are seemingly going from strength to strength. Both have bigger budgets and bigger sounds as they follow up hugely successful albums with some of their most exciting songs to date.
The first track is ‘John L’ by Black Midi. Intense, aggressive and disjointed. It feels like the Black Midi from their prior album, but they have turned up that controlled chaos a notch or two. Then we have the video. I can’t explain it. It’s a LOT! And I kind of love it.
The second track is ‘Introvert’ by Little Simz. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one who picks this, as their last album has just been crowned as the best of PBs podcast. It’s a more ambitious sound, as strings add an extra weight to her punchy delivery. She is shooting high and it works really well. I just hope that both these albums live up to the hype of these first singles.
Will Collins: Sometimes a track comes along that just fits the moment. The new one from Chemical Brothers, ‘The Darkness That You Fear’, is just such a song. It’s a ray of sunshine at a time when it feels like a return to some sort of normality is on the horizon. Building from an intro of keys and gentle synth notes to the kind of maximalist big beat workout these guys have been perfecting for years, this is just what the doctor ordered. Its repeated call for the listener to “let your heart see the colours all around you” is pure Hallmark greeting card cheese, but it works. Since hearing it on 6 Music, I’ve had it on near constant repeat and it hasn’t yet failed to brighten up my day. I can picture this blaring out of the stereos at more than a few barbecues as the weather gets better and restrictions relax.