Music

Land of No Junction

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Melancholic ethereal vocals reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten, with wandering guitar picks and Courtney Barnett-esque bass provide an arresting balance as the Irish songwriter’s debut album opens.

The unexpected introduction of a late 60s psychedelic sound, the chord progressions with the bend of 7ths, floating flute and jagged touch of the strings over the top lifts the mood.

Themes of a woman finding herself at a crossroads in life, there is a longing for more agency, but with resigned understanding that we don’t have it.

Algiers

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Somehow it was apt that Algiers took the stage as Storm Ciara took its toll on the country. Inside, the brave, the curious and the devoted were treated to a devastating live set, which drew heavily from their new album There Is No Year.

The opening punk blast of “Void” set the tone; resplendent under the neon red strip lights, the band tore through a diverse set list with absolute command. The band acted as one supremely powerful entity, locking in and out of searing dance grooves and discordant noise sequences with consummate ease.

Power from Below

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If anyone needs extra motivation for another five years of the Tories, Motihari Brigade will put your marching boots on in Power from Below.

Named after the Indian birthplace of George Orwell, their call to action is standing up to power through their own Orwellian “thoughtcrime” music.

The album begins with the cry that everything will stay the same “until people take the power” and ends with a poignant message in “Waiting for the Revolution” that “We are on our own but we are not alone”.

Limbo

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London-based Irish poet Sinéad O’Brien ended 2019 giving us a gift of pure punk poetry darkness with her single “Limbo”, the follow-up to her release A Thing You Call Joy.

On my commute watching London go by, O’Brien’s transfixing sound lulls me with her musings on death, drugs and life. It is utterly soothing, and a great addition to her work including debut EP, A List of Normal Sins. Airy guitar riffs and solemn beats are offset by a catchy chorus and I can’t help but find myself pressing repeat again and again.

Fates Worse than Death

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Here is an album about change – a perceived uncontrollable change and the despair at seeing the world around you crumbling. Singer Sam Treber’s anger at gentrification of his hometown Pittsburgh is put in longing terms; he misses hearing a neighbour sing through the wall who has since been priced out of the area. While others complain he should write songs about lost love and friends, he can’t see past the cracks in the ceiling growing larger, nor how capitalism swallows up communities into desirable postcodes.

Bubba

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Despite the digital art form, Bubba is brimming with old-fashioned musical ability. The second full-length release from Haitian-Canadian producer Louis Kevin Celestin has an ever-evolving sound of swung, syncopated rhythms, hip hop beats and woozy house grooves.

Kaytranada’s music is constructed drums-first with complex patterns in percussion that twist and turn, layering synths and vocals with intricate brushstrokes. Each track takes the listener in a totally new direction, from the beat-switching “10%” to 80s-inspired “Midsection” to sultry house number “What You Need”.

Starts Again

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After a globetrotting decade as a backing singer, Tawiah finally releases an album of her own. Ironically titled “Starts Again”, it is the fruit of collaborations in those years with Sam Beste and Alex Reeve of Hejira. She honoured Sam by singing the standard “For All We Know” at his father’s funeral last year. Other backing musicians at its live launch last October in her native Deptford now play in Michael Kiwanuka’s band.

Waiting Game

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“Break down the walls til patriarchy falls” goes the line in “The Anthem” on Waiting Game, the new album by Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, a collaboration with Aaron Parks and Matthew Stevens. On No Justice (For Political Prisoners), the words of activists, newsreaders and prisoners echo.

Since becoming the youngest union card holder in Boston aged 10, Carrington has been politically engaged for all of her 40-year career in music, as drummer, producer and educator.

Heavy is the Head

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When word dropped that Stormzy’s new album Heavy Is The Head would be released on 13 December there were, to my mind, three possible scenarios. Firstly, it would be the perfect toast to a stunning Labour election victory. Alternatively, it would offer consolation in the wake of a devastating defeat. Finally, the “Fuck the government and fuck Boris” refrain of Vossi Bop would be the defiant slogan of the continuing struggle.

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