The Apple Drop (Mute)
“I heard it all before,” chants Angus Andrew as the magnificent Acid Crop zones out, but Liars simply don’t do déjà entendu. Since starting out as dance-punk firestarters nine albums ago, they’ve shed members (the Brooklyn-based Aussie ex-pat is now the only permanent fixture) and mutated into a very different beast – one that’s not easily caged.
Tenth LP The Apple Drop finds Andrew, ever the curious studio experimentalist and intrepid sonic explorer, feeling his way into new territory – though the results are far less forbidding than that might imply. Sure, the fractured rhythms of lead single Sekwar are unsettling, as are the drilling synths and warped choir of opener The Start, and he’s still liable to lunge at you screaming “I cut your throat” (My Pulse To Ponder).
But Leisure War and the exceptional Big Appetite – the latter not the only track to channel Gary Numan – in particular ensure that Andrew manages to pull off the same tough trick as TV On The Radio, indulging his art-rock ambitions without ever sacrificing accessibility.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
Sinner Get Ready (Sargent House)
Disturbing, thought provoking and deeply theatrical, Sinner Get Ready is a dark rumination on the uncompromising Christianity of rural Pennsylvania. Kristin Hayter, a classically trained singer and instrumentalist, draws on the landscape and legends of her local area to create a harsh, multi-layered album that addresses the notion of sin and salvation through one route and one route only: the blood of Christ.
The opening songs feel more like the sort of performance art you would hear in a play with music, reminiscent of Nick Cave at his most brutal. It’s a tough listen as Hayter moves between whispering, singing and screaming her words of pain. The accompaniment cleverly weaves religious and folk backings together, organ and Appalachian instruments coming together to show how religion is an oppressive omnipresence in every aspect of the world Hayter finds herself.
Pennsylvania Furnace and The Sacred Linament Of Judgement offer beautiful melodies, while closer The Solitary Brethren Of Ephrata gives such a moving account of the words “paradise will be mine” that it’s impossible not to find some succour in these otherwise stark tales of blood and damnation.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
Exiles (Deutsche Grammophon)
David Bowie once described contemporary classical composer Max Richter’s scores as having “the power to produce tears when listened to in the right setting.” This referred to Richter’s Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works album: a score for Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works ballet, itself inspired by three Virginia Woolf novels. (Exiles’ opening track, Flowers Of Herself, was originally made for Woolf Works, though unused up to now.) Bowie was very much on point with his observation about Richter’s capacity for emotional impact, and would more than likely be just as moved by this latest release.
A ballet score inspired by the displacement and turmoil that refugees face after having to flee their country of birth. Exiles’ centrepiece is a 33-minute, eponymously titled and emotionally beautiful soundscape. Furthermore, Richter has reimagined some older beauties to fit in with the Exiles concept: The Haunted Ocean, Infra 5, Sunlight and a breathtaking new version of On The Nature Of Daylight. With Exiles, as with both of his Voices albums, Max Richter has again created a poignant masterpiece.
words DAVID NOBAKHT
The Locket (Virgin)
Mr Jukes’s 2017 debut album, God First, was a joyous blend of jazz, hip-hop, and soul. One of its highlights was the superb From Golden Stars Comes Silver Dew, featuring vocals from Lalah Hathaway and a cameo from the always-reliable Barney Artist. Now, having clearly struck upon a musical kinship, Mr Jukes and Barney have reunited for a full-length collaboration.
The results are uniformly excellent, Mr Jukes providing the slick, eclectic instrumentals over which Barney spreads his conscious, buttery flows. On a recent episode of Romesh Rangnathan’s Hip Hop Saved My Life, Mr Jukes expressed a passion for 90s rap: a clear influence throughout The Locket, especially on Blowin Steam (Open Up Your Mind) and the boom bap of Check The Pulse, which features Barney trading bars with one of the rising stars of British hip-hop, Kofi Stone.
Another highlight, Poems, has finger-snap drums that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an early Wu-Tang record and the jazzy vibrancy of A Tribe Called Quest. Part of the album’s strength comes from its concision; 10 tracks, 40 minutes and very little padding. The sound of two exciting voices finding themselves.
words JOSHUA REES
Crying On The Bathroom Floor (Cooking Vinyl)
For his eighth studio album, Will Young chose to celebrate the vibrancy of female musicians of the last few decades by reworking adored and empowering favourites from Sky Ferreira, Solange, and MUNA. His interpretation of Daniel, originally by Bat For Lashes, sets the album off onto a soaring start, a rendition less electronic than its original but arguably more emotive vocally. The title track, a haunting MUNA fan favourite, further demonstrates Young’s ability to interweave retrospection and intimacy in his work.
It’s a special record in Young’s catalogue, with standout tracks reimagining the anthemic and powerful potentials of Robyn’s Indestructible and poignancy of Clare Maguire’s Elizabeth Taylor. For those who know Young from his podcast, activism, or writing, Crying On The Bathroom Floor is a testament to his combine his knack for vulnerability and honesty with the powerful pop of his music career.
words CHLOË EDWARDS