Irish Independent music critic John Meagher has all the records you need to hear this month.
The second album from the Zambia-born, Australia-based musician is a thrilling sonic rollercoaster that defies easy categorisation. There are all manner of African influences and there’s room for dancehall, R&B and pop too. If the arrangements tend to be on the maximalist side, Sampa’s strident vocals are pleasingly direct. On the excellent Lane, featuring Denzel Curry, she chides someone who thought they had her sussed: “You say, ‘Stay in your lane’, thinking I had one.” The album is full of banging tunes, including Never Forget — a love letter to Africa.
Following solo albums from Jamie xx and Romy Madley Croft, the bassist and vocalist Oliver Sim is the final member of the xx to go it alone. The album’s lead single, Hideous, was released earlier this year and is an astonishingly frank statement of intent. Featuring Jimmy Somerville on backing vocals, it finds Sim revealing he has been HIV-positive since 17. Elsewhere, this uneven album features several tracks that tackle the pleasures and pains of the modern queer existence. The music is often muted and Sim’s vocals intimate and confiding.
Polyvinyl Record Co
The third album from the Australian singer-songwriter finds Julia Jacklin more assured than ever. “Ever since I was 13, I’ve been pulled in every direction,” she explains on Ignore Tenderness, a song exploring the problematic sexual advice she’s been subjected to by women’s media since her pre-teens. There’s a fair amount of Catholic guilt on display in the single Lydia Wears a Cross, a slow-burn indie track that explores the lure of religion. This is a confident display of vulnerability by one of modern indie rock’s most interesting artists. (Andrea Cleary)
Ben Gibbard and friends have been in action for a quarter of a century and, although staleness crept in a little over recent releases, this 10th album feel like a return to form. As ever, an existential anxiety informs the frontman’s worldview — there are few songsmiths who capture the shifting sands of middle age as well as Gibbard — but there are plentiful pop hooks among the classic indie stylings. Hereto Forever might sound like a festival favourite, but the upbeat sonic arrangements can’t hide the helplessness of the lyrics. A weighty album thematically, but one that draws you in.
The Clareman’s latest album reveals his electronica and production smarts, but it’s at its best when others contribute. The lovely opening track, Sunset, features the vocals of Ailbhe Reddy; Polypoly is a percussive delight with singing from Dublin outfit Tandem Felix, while Keep It for the Next One is an eerie, disembodied track elevated by Neil Dexter. To Daithí’s credit, several tracks are radio playlist friendly, but there’s plenty of mystery here too. The artfully textured title track pays homage to his late grandfather, renowned concertina player Chris Droney.
Little Jerk Records
Weighing in at just over half an hour, the Philadelphian’s first album in six years may be short, but it is enriching. Ancient folk, Afrobeat, glitchy electronica and alt-rock all find a place in the genre-hopping artist’s songs, hewn during the disorientating period of the pandemic. Ain’t Ready and Fall First are gutsy, attitude-heavy tracks that have long been Santigold’s stock-in-trade, while No Paradise finds her channelling her rage into punchy, sloganeering lyrics. A handful of tracks would have been better if fleshed out more, but Spirituals rarely fails to engage.