Album reviews: From Meadowlark to Fantastic Negrito
Vampire Weekend bassist Baio is back with his second — and politically-inclined — album, while newcomers Lod and Lany do their bit to inspire with their debut offerings.
MEADOWLARK — POSTCARDS
On the back of their beautiful EP Dual, Bristol-based duo Kate McGill and Dan Broadley have honed their sound.
This is a blend of captivating pop melodies and melancholy, which is only highlighted by the haunting voice of McGill, which is reminiscent of Beth Gibbons of Portishead fame.
The pair have included previously released tracks Headlights, Eyes Wide and Satellite.
However, their progression as a band can be heard in the final and title track of the album Postcards. On the first listen, it is a beautiful song. On the second, the lyrics strike home. There is something, like their music, rather simple and majestic about “finding love on a mountain top”.
The production of this album is second to none. Partnering with Spike Stent was a bold move by Meadowlark. He has brought the same feel to this release that he has with Haim and Chvrches, and what were the ultimate Bristol band, Massive Attack.
This is an album perfect for summer evenings and wouldn’t be out of place at twilight on the festival circuit.
BAIO — MAN OF THE WORLD
Although Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio’s sophomore solo album is inspired by events from 2016, from the death of David Bowie to the political upheavals of Brexit and Donald Trump, it is easy to forget the woe with this upbeat electro indie offering.
Man Of The World is a mixture of heady synths, Bowie-esque vocals and electronically experimental tracks that work their way into your soul, each one dotted with pleasingly produced euphoria. The lyrics will get you thinking, too.
Baio covers topics from climate change, in Dangeroue Anamal, to paying taxes to a government that commits violent acts, in Sensitive Guy. Woah, right? But the songs are so easy on the ear, so uplifting despite these hefty subjects. It’s a confusingly dazzling amalgamation that both long-time fans and Baio neophytes will enjoy.
Standout tracks include the ear-catching opener Vin Mariani and the title track, which appears to be a nod to both retro video games and Latin music. Honestly, it’s an album without filler.
LOD — FOLDER EP
Getting people invested in your sound in just four songs isn’t always an easy task. But Danish five-piece Lod (Sounded in English) have managed to do just that with their debut EP.
Following up on their debut single Folder was always going to be tricky. But single Sa Bla (So Blue in English) is a good, solid listen. And at just over nine minutes long, there’s time aplenty to enjoy the chilled dance track.
Fans of the more upbeat Folder will know that at 8:29, it too is the type of track that doesn’t feel its length when it’s done. Admittedly this is not an album for anyone looking for a popular sound that appeals to the masses.
If the Danish lyrics don’t intimidate you and you’re after something different and chilled, then give this a try.
LANY — LANY
Lany have the distinction of being Spotify Discover’s most-streamed group, which is a very modern route to popularity for a band with such a self-consciously retro sound.
Ever since the cult thriller Drive brought it back into the mainstream, Eighties-style synthpop has dominated the charts. Although it can’t really be said that Lany have anything new to bring to the table, it’s easy to see how the group’s blend of blissed-out keyboards and gentle but impassioned vocals has captured so many imaginations. Breakout track ILYSB’s 3.7 million downloads is proof enough of their intoxicating powers.
Although a slightly overgenerous 16 tracks does lead to the album getting a bit samey, it’s delivered with laidback charm and with enough humour to include a one-minute answerphone message from drummer Jake Clifford Goss’s mother excitedly complimenting his new tattoo.
Ideal listening for a chilled-out summer’s afternoon.
FANTASTIC NEGRITO — THE LAST DAYS OF OAKLAND
You may not have heard of US singer-songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz, who goes by the moniker Fantastic Negrito. If that’s the case, you are in for a treat.
His Grammy Award-winning The Last Days Of Oakland was released a year ago, but a re-issue, complete with a couple of new tracks, will find him a wealth of new fans eager for something weightier than what the charts currently has to offer.
The record is a head-buzzing spin through blues, R&B and soul. Each track sounds timelessly nostalgic, but somehow still blindingly fresh and current.
Exhilarating doses of twangy guitars and gutsy, emotive vocals support Dphrepaulezz’s themes of anger, politics and overcoming adversity, inspired by his recovery from the car crash that nearly killed him 18 years ago.
Scary Woman is a fun listen, but tracks like Nothing Without You, a classic old-school blues ballad, and powerful In The Pines (Oakland) give extra bite to the well-balanced collection.