There’s plenty to listen to in November. All this and more. But mainly this.
JULIA HOLTER – AVIARY
Domino | October 26th
I’ve never been quite sure whether Julia Holter is first and foremost an experimental musician with a preternatural gift for melody or a more traditional songwriter operating with a weird set of tools. Aviary certainly lands on the more ‘out there’ end of the spectrum, but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t stay there for long.
‘I Shall Love 2’ – the album’s lead single, and the only real candidate for the role – puts Holter’s poignant melodic gifts on display to their fullest, but the rest of Aviary prioritises atmosphere over accessibility, presenting over an hour and a half of mini epics of strings, piano and ghostly vocals to get lost in or tell to get lost, depending on your stomach for this sort of thing. Thomas Hannan
NAO – SATURN
RCA/Little Tokyo | October 26th
“Saturn is the planet of karma,” a woman says over a crackly radio transmitter on ‘Love Supreme’, the centrepiece of Nao’s new album. “You will find yourself with spiritual realisations you couldn’t have even contemplated in earlier stages of your life.”
It’s one of several references on the record to ‘Saturn Returns’, the concept that significant changes happen in one’s life after Saturn completes its 29-year orbit. Nao, now 30, certainly aligns with the trajectory: “I’d hit my late twenties and everything was in flux…I genuinely had to ask, ‘how do you make it out of here?’”
The answer lies in the follow-up to her brilliant 2016 debut For All We Know. On Saturn, the east Londoner retains the hallmarks of her soulful ‘wonky funk’ but propels new sounds into orbit. There’s warped rumba rhythms on ‘Love Supreme’ and loungey ‘60s girl group-influenced ballads (‘Don’t Change’). Elsewhere, ‘If You Ever’ renovates the tiresome dancehall pop zeitgeist with opulent strings and peppy beats while Nao appeals for a brush with love.
Subdued tracks such as the piano duet with Kwabs on ‘Saturn’ and the skulking ‘Orbit’ may fall short of the rousing, gravitational pull in Nao’s existential contemplations, but the propulsive Afrobeat of ‘Drive and Disconnect’, with its sunny guitar lick, is the perfect soundtrack for the escape the singer seeks.
Nao’s command of a throughline on Saturn is impressive, as is the broadening of her musical palette. The sky’s the limit. Charlotte Krol
YOSHINORI HAYASHI – AMBIVALENCE
Smalltown Supersound | October 26th
Blurring lines between organic and synthetic (try stopping yourself playing “Sample or Not?” as you listen), Tokyo producer Yoshinori Hayashi’s debut album Ambivalenc is a heady journey through jazz and club music. Playing and producing everything, Hayashi ties an eclectic record together through a red thread of jazz piano (Cecil Taylor is an influence) and echoing percussion that shifts from 4/4 house to narcotic dub.
Highlights are the loose keys, woodwind and watery handclaps to be found on ‘Overflow’, the metronomic murk of ‘Bit of Garden’ and the hypnotic brilliance of thirteen-minute centrepiece ‘0208’. Ambivalence is an unpredictable listen that serves to highlight Hayashi’s class as a DJ, but also more than hints at a musician capable of turning in coherent and fascinating albums. Andrew Hannah
MR MITCH – PRIMARY PROGRESSIVE EP
Gobstopper Records | October 26th
Holding hands, a father and son walk away from the camera in the artwork for Mr. Mitch’s latest EP. The palette is rich, but the colours are blurring. It’s an ode to the strength of his relationship with his father, wavering in the face of him suffering from the rarest form of multiple sclerosis, from which the name of the EP – Primary Progressive – is taken. “Even though you’re here I still miss you”, Mitch sings in pensive cut ‘Show Me’. Inspired by the emotions surrounding his father’s illness, there’s hope, sadness, gratitude and reflection to be found across these five tracks: take the aching strings of opener ‘Restart’ and the melancholic high-pitched vocal loop on ‘Settle’, a sample from Brownstone’s ‘If You Love Me’. With elegant progressions and rumbling basslines, Primary Progressive cements Mr. Mitch’s position as the producer of softly aesthetic grime instrumentals. Katie Thomas
MIYA FOLICK – PREMONITIONS
Terrible Records/Interscope Records | October 26th
Clearing your mind of the bad stuff and living your best life lies at the heart of Premonitions, the debut album of Los Angeles- based Miya Folick; her candid world-view and polished indie-pop sensibilities set to capture the hearts and minds of many. Opener ‘Thingamajig’ clears the mental slate, as a call to take ownership and move forward from one’s past mistakes; ‘Leave the Party’, with its brassy, bold and infectious chorus sets the album’s blissfully cathartic mid-section between pre-release singles ‘Stock Image’ and ‘Stop Talking’ respectively; finally, ‘Baby Girl’, with its dreamy 90s tinge, and ‘What We’ve Made’ pair up for a rapturous conclusion. Ultimately, Premonitions implores you to be happy, loved, and to pay it back in like kindnesses – and is that so much to ask? Harriet Taylor
LAURA GIBSON – GONERS
City Slang | October 26th
Grief can be messy and confusing to say the least, and with Laura Gibson tackling loss head-on with her fifth album, Goners, it’s naturally a teary affair. Gibson has always made music for time spent alone, and with her songs here offering a certain space for contemplation, the sounds are vivid and tinged with sadness, while tracks like ‘Slow Joke Grin’ and ‘Marjory’ showcase her technical language and song- writing ability.
Despite the album’s gentle fragility, Laura manages to perfectly capture the spontaneity behind sadness as the listener surfs through bouts of her personal process in this album: you’re very much working through the murky times with Gibson here as her thoughts fall onto the page. Nothing short of an astounding songwriter, she’s proven once again just how masterful she is when it comes to excavating the beauty in life (and death). Rhys Buchanan
BOYGENIUS – BOYGENIUS EP
Matador Records | November 9th
When an image of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus sat together on a sofa appeared online, the rumours seemed to good to be true; could three of the most accomplished new singer-songwriters on the planet really be collaborating? The answer an emphatic yes in the shape of Boygenius, a flawless self-titled, six-track EP. Consisting of one original from each of the three artists – Dacus power on ‘Bite The Hand’, epic Baker emotion on ‘Stay Down’ and arguably Bridgers’ most complete effort to date in the form of ‘Me & My Dog’ – and three immaculate collaborations, which showcase how the trio’s work sits so perfectly together. They each sing on ‘Souvenir’, while the timeless, live-sounding acoustic closer sees them join in three-part harmony beautifully together. Genius, indeed. George O’Brien
OBJEKT – COCOON CRUSH
PAN | November 9th
Cocoon Crush could be the name of a gimmicky new energy drink. But thankfully there’s nothing sickly sweet about the second album from English DJ and producer TJ Hertz. Since his PAN debut Flatland in 2014, he’s been perfecting his quixotic DJ sets in his adopted home of Berlin. His love of the unpredictable is on display here as he masterfully bounces between obtuse sound collages (‘Silica’) to dialled-in funky basslines (‘Deadlock’). Across its 11 tracks and 47 minutes, it’s painstakingly stitched together around a haunting central theme. Repeated spins reveal its tricked-out geekery, with moments of harsh distortion or woozy keys both charming in equal measure. It may be born on the dancefloor but offers a far more sophisticated and cerebral adventure. Geoff Cowart
GORGEOUS BULLY – CLOSURE
Breakfast Records | November 9th
Ever since the release of The Young Obese back in 2012, Gorgeous Bully’s Thomas Crang has been the ever-prolific auteur behind some of the UK’s most underrated and honest songs. Now returning with Closure, Crang decants the most personal and succinct characteristics of his songwriting into his best record yet.
The album is a forthright and tender affirmation on the anxiety of growing up, watching the world and its inhabitants turn as if you’re frozen to the spot. ‘Tripping’ lingers with sullen self-depreciation, while ‘Can’t Give You Up’ offers a glimmer of fight, Crang resolute and unflinching as he mutters “I know you don’t want me”.
While the record’s title may hint at finality, Crang continues to blossom into one of the most relatable of songwriters. Ross Jones
TOMMY GENESIS – TOMMY GENESIS
Downtown/Kobalt | November 9th
“I have always gone where other people don’t. It’s not to shock you, it’s just who I am,” Tommy Genesis proclaimed in her recent London in Stereo cover feature. After scrapped tracks and delayed releases, feverish anticipation surrounds Tommy Genesis, and it’s a remarkable snapshot of one of the most fascinating artists operating today. From the bubblegum pop of ‘You Know Me’ to the abrasive ‘Tommy’ and closer ‘Miami’’s effortless groove, it’s a breathtakingly multi-faceted listen. Production-wise too, Tommy Genesis sounds phenomenal, crisp beats and sleek rumbles of bass impeccably arranged to land Genesis’ lyricism with genuine explosiveness. Undoubtedly a phenomenal addition to the landslide of blistering pop records we’ve been blessed with in recent years, Tommy Genesis should reign somewhere near the top. Lee Wakefield
BAS JAN – INSTANT NOSTALGIA EP
Lost Map | November 23rd
Post-punk meets art-pop on Instant Nostalgia, as Bas Jan suggests we frequently knacker our own well-being and relationships. We waste time, then say we’ve ‘No Time’. Sentient and sedentary isn’t a good mix, as ‘I Am Animal’ indicates. ‘Profile Picture’ satirises ‘life’-lacking Twitfacers, lusting for likes. And nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. That’s not even a crap play on words anymore. It’s true. We can have ‘Instant Nostalgia’, as the title track states. We record and recall things via digital, not mental images.
Hopefully, you’re reading this in print, but you may read this via a phone. If so – Do you need that phone beside you? Find you’re unable to concentrate? Are you frequently with others, but not really present? Answered ‘yes’ to all three? You need Bas Jan. Jon Kean
ART BRUT – WHAM! BANG! POW! LET’S ROCK OUT!
Alcopop! Records | November 23rd
It’s been a bazillion years since we last heard Eddie Argos shout his diary over some blistering guitar pop, but HOORAY! Art Brut are back and there’s so much to catch up on. There’s been a break-up, documented with brilliantly bitter optimism on ‘I Hope You’re Very Happy Together’ (“and if you’re not, that’s even better”), an ill-advised one-night stand (‘Awkward Breakfast’), parties crashed, and a brand-new love that our hero Eddie is so excited to see, he can’t even wait for the ticket queue to dissipate in order to purchase a ticket. Chuck sweaty guitars, a bit of brass, and even some twee-less glockenspiel, and count the number of times you grin as you listen; I dare you. Simone Scott Warren