Our latest pick of standout albums includes new releases from Resavoir, Jeffrey Martin, Raze Regal & White Denim Inc and Marnie SternTags: Music,
Chicago’s Will Miller has served for years as a musician with cultish, mellow folk-soul band Whitney, but around seven years ago, he started leaning more heavily on his conservatory training in jazz trumpet and composition. He’s since developed a style of alluringly filmic, mostly instrumental soul jazz with a hip-hop framework, and has released two albums in his role as leader of musical collective Resavoir.
The latest Resavoir album is more sophisticated in composition than 2019’s also self-titled debut, and is richer in instrumentation, with more polished production. Miller has sacrificed nothing: overseeing an ensemble of 10 and playing multiple instruments himself, he delivers a set that is energised yet dreamy and lush, with a faintly cosmic edge.
The album nods to Jon Hassell, David Axelrod, Tortoise and Japanese ‘environmental music’ and plays best as a listen-through piece, though there are notable highlights: the irresistibly sumptuous mesh of skittering beats, synth and bluesy trumpet that is ‘Midday’, the soft-burnished ‘First Light’, with its fluttering symphony of woodwind and ‘Future’, where Akenya Seymour’s earthy scatting rides beneath electric piano and soaring saxophone all demonstrate Resavoir’s increasing auteurist clout.
Out now. Label: International Anthem
Thank God We Left The Garden
“It’s okay/Everybody feels the same way/Everybody’s too afraid to say/What they haven’t found,” declares singer/songwriter Jeffrey Martin in his warmly husky croon, on ‘Paper Crown’. It’s a candid statement born from his wrestles with emotional, existential and religious questions, and typical of his translations of the personal into the universal.
Self-produced in a backyard shack at his home in Portland, Thank God We Left The Garden is Martin’s third record, and shares the acoustic intimacy, if not the song style, of Bon Iver’s log-cabin debut. Its 11 tracks were initially intended as demos, but Martin recognised their simple strength and largely left them as they were, save for adding electric guitar on three. There are echoes of John Prine, mid-1960s Dylan and Leonard Cohen and while it’s a melancholic set, it’s never maudlin. Martin’s lyrics address others’ struggles as well as his own: he chastises himself for letting down a school friend struggling with their identity on the brooding ‘Red Station Wagon’, and reflects on the end of life on the lilting, Tex-Mex-toned ‘There Is A Treasure’–always with deep compassion.
Out now. Label: Loose
Raze Regal & White Denim Inc
Raze Regal & White Denim Inc
Though it was born out of a random meeting, this album plays like real magic. Raze Regal, guitarist/songwriter with San Francisco’s Once And Future Band and singer/guitarist James Petralli, of Austin’s White Denim first met in 2019, when the former band was touring in support of the latter. A shared love of jazz fusion, ’70s rock, new wave and ’80s R&B production sparked a solid friendship, making collaboration somewhat inevitable.
The pair’s debut, recorded with White Denim members past and present, pops with genuine enthusiasm backed up by deep musical knowledge, and is delivered via pivot-on-a-penny chops in clever yet clean arrangements. The spirits of Steely Dan, The Cars, Stevie Wonder circa Songs In The Key Of Life, ELO and the Steve Miller Band are in the air, but these songs are not pastiche, nor are they the ‘yacht rock’ of ironic appreciation. They’re interpretive, rather than retro, in a way that recalls Anderson Paak or Tame Impala. From ‘Complaining In Heaven’’s deliciously viscous soul, to the sun-struck sophisto-fusion of ‘The Hustle In You’ and ‘Dislocation’, with its keyboard workout and flute detail, they make for a buoyant and groovy celebration.
Out now. Label: Bella Union
The Comeback Kid
Marnie Stern hasn’t quite reached Shirley Collins’ record for the longest time lapse between albums (40 years), but a decade remains an aeon in the music game. Since releasing her last album, the singer, songwriter and electric guitarist has been busy raising two children and playing in the house band on TV’s The Late Show With Seth Meyers.
Her new album is a welcome reminder of her intense, vigorously unbounded and colourful artistry, which combines both experimental and math rock, prog and ’80s hair metal, with plenty of time-signature switches and shredding, while never once taking its ear off the melody or forgetting the glee factor. Stern’s kindred spirits are labelmates Deerhoof and Japanese bands such as Ruins and Tricot, but really she’s an idiosyncratic talent. The evidence is plain across all 12 songs, but notably on ‘Believing Is Seeing’, where a needling guitar motif drills through Breeders-ish art rock, ‘Nested’, which stirs melodic post-punk into the noisy pot and an unexpected makeover of Ennio Morricone’s ‘Il Girotondo Della Note’, which employs a clanging, heavily rhythmic guitar part.
Out now. Label: Joyful Noise