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New Music: April 2024 - Curated by Sharon O'Connell

Sharon O’Connell selects four standout albums to listen to this month, including a flute-focused set from Shabaka, a sunny soul-pop release from Lucy Rose, an intriguing blend of rock from Caleb Landry Jones and an exciting debut from post punk-meets-dream pop collective English Teacher

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Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace

Shabaka Hutchings has long been a leading light in the UK’s flourishing jazz scene. Alongside co-founding Sons of Kemet and being a member of The Comet is Coming, he has played with various artists including Andre 3000, Floating Points, Sun Ra Arkestra and Melt Yourself Down, and released music with his group Shabaka and the Ancestors.

Shabaka has a playing style that tends toward the fiery and futuristic, with a strong cosmic element. His latest project sees him turn his focus from the saxophone (which he stopped playing in late 2023) to the flute – an instrument that featured in his 2022 mini LP, Afrikan Culture. 

Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace is Shabaka’s first full-length studio album. Here, he plays the Japanese bamboo flute, along with the svirel (Slavic woodwind), Western flute and clarinet. He is joined by a large international cast, which includes harpist Brandee Younger, Moses Sumner on vocals, pianist Jason Moran and André 3000, who plays the Native American drone flute and recently made his solo album debut on the instrument. 

Together, Shabaka and his collaborators make quietly powerful music which swaps muscularity for the more meditative quality of his new love. Titles such as ‘As The Planets And The Stars Collapse’ and ‘Song Of The Motherland’ speak to cosmic connectivity, tapping New Age music and blues-rooted spirituals. There’s an elegant, yet deeply soulful glow throughout, but ‘Living’, with its harp, pulse-quickening strings and sweet, Kate Bush-ish vocals from Eska, is a standout moment.

Out now. Label: Impulse!

Caleb Landry Jones

Hey Gary, Hey Dawn

Caleb Landry Jones has played significant roles in Get Out, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Florida Project, among other movies. Whilst the news of another Hollywood star chancing their hand at rock stardom might prompt eye rolls from some, making music is more than a passing whim for Jones.

This is his fifth album and it’s an intriguingly odd beast, unafraid to display its many undisguised inspirations – Bolan, early Bowie, Roxy Music, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Breeders, for starters – and equally bold in its juxtaposition of disparate styles. 

Glueing them together is a kind of creepy fairground ambience, bursts of strings and brass, plus Jones’s terrific, versatile voice. If the mish-mash of Hey Gary, Hey Dawn is an acquired taste, there’s skill and wit, not to mention pleasure in play, notably in ‘Spot A Fly’ (a Mike Patton-fronted Roxy Music), the deranged baroque metal of ‘Your Favorite Song’ and ‘The Bonzo Bargain’’s simmering, new-wave malevolence. 

Out now. Label: Sacred Bones

Lucy Rose

This Ain’t The Way You Go Out

There can be few more unabashedly direct paeans to motherhood than ‘Whatever You Want’: “A baby in my arms/Has given me more joy than I could know,” declares singer-songwriter Lucy Rose, in her dulcet and alluringly grazed voice. In the previous verse, however, a dark presence lurks: “How can something like this happen to me? A miracle, a disaster, all in one fell swoop”.

Said “disaster” is the rare, pregnancy-related osteoporosis that dominated every aspect of Rose’s existence. When making music again became possible, Rose’s experience found its way into what became her fifth album. Written in large part on piano and produced by Kwes, it’s both a record of her trauma and a quiet celebration of the slow reclamation of her life: ‘Could You Help Me?’ attests to her desperation in the face of disbelieving doctors, while the title track alludes to something a (helpful) hydrotherapist told her. 

There’s much more to the LP than its heavyweight origins, however. In fact, it has a surprisingly sunny disposition, with Rose seeing off the folkish elements of earlier records and sliding confidently into soul-pop with a faint retro feel. ‘No More’ is a sombre number with a metronomic beat and warmer pulse, whilst the Estelle-like ‘Life’s Too Short’ is positively perky. ‘The Racket’, with its bright and squelchy synth work, ends a terrific set with a satisfyingly upbeat note.

English Teacher

This Could Be Texas

Leeds quartet English Teacher have been together just four years, which makes the compositional nous, playing chops and lyrical smarts of their debut album all the more impressive. Listeners looking for a label might gravitate towards post-punk, but this is a multi-faceted project. 

The group’s wry, artfully slung guitar lines suggest an admiration of mid-period Sonic Youth, but here, these are unfolded into open breezy space, a thick swirl of dream pop, a sub-hardcore charge, perhaps, or even a small, indie-pop corner. 

The differences between English Teacher and their stylistic peers (Yard Act, Dry Cleaning, Do Nothing) are evident throughout, with songs heading in unexpected directions. In ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’, for example, Lily Fontaine’s sprechgesang is wrapped in a thick, Lush-like guitar blizzard, with urgent strings added. ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ is similarly deceptive, its stop-start momentum suddenly blooming into a giant, soft guitar motif, before the chug begins again.  

Out now. Label: Island 

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