With so much good music coming through thick and fast, it’s easy for albums to drop online and go overlooked. To help prevent this, we select five albums from across the musical soundscape, that require your attention — stream music from Myshiuno, Mr Raoul K, MinaeMinae, Helado Negro and Sessa. If you like what you hear, hit the links and support the artists.
Myshiuno – Chinatown, San Francisco
Bay Area filmmaker and composer Emmanuel Burton aka Myshiuno dropped this dazzling concept album early last year about “getting caught up in a turf war and making a great attempt to escape it”. Exploring themes such as isolation, addiction, survival, violence, and aggression, his musical story is an evocative and exciting ride. On this brilliant recording, Myshiuno nicely blends together pop melodies, with free improvisational jazz grooves, atmospheric ambient textures, beats, and electronics. The overall effect is incredibly unique and fresh and what’s even more impressive is that everything you hear is 100% original content with no samples. Essential!
Mr Raoul K – African Paradigm
After releases on Mule Musiq and his Baobab Music/Baobab Secret labels, Mr Raoul K lands on Compost Records. His latest album African Paradigm took more than three years to make, and across the project, he shows all the musical influences he came across during his time in Ivory Coast. The album features Mr Raoul K using only analogue instruments with various flutes, Kenyan Mbira, Senegalese talking drums and the vocals of Ahmed Sosso, Lady Parul and Sona Diabate. There’s also a political message, he wants people to hear of a beautiful continent, torn apart by foreign powers, independent by law but still suffering from the burden of being colonised for cheap labour and raw materials and suffering from inner conflicts and civil wars. I can’t recommend this LP highly enough.
MinaeMinae – Variante
Stuttgart-based multimedia artist and producer MinaeMinae delivers his debut release of colourful polyrhythmic explorations with ‘Variante’. Born out of an inspiring first trip to India, ‘Variante’ is an attempt to interpret the subjective impressions of his first visit outside of the western world. Weaving a musical story from his far-flung adventure, MinaeMinae doesn’t lazily copy and paste Indian music or culture, rather he took a childlike perception creating what he sees with an ‘innocent eye’. The resulting project is a simmering pot of ambient electronic soup – I was hooked at the very first listen.
Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile
The great thing about all the end of year lists floating around is that you get put on to albums previously overlooked. One such album is Helado Negro’s ‘This Is How You Smile’. The New York-based singer, songwriter, producer, and visual artist released his sixth LP back in March last year, and as the saying goes “better late than never”. A more subdued affair than his last one, this slow-paced soundtrack to Latin American identity unfolds effortlessly as your greeted by timeless melodies, soul-bearing ballads, gentle vocals and ear-pleasing electronic flourishes. Sung in both Spanish and English, tracks such as ‘Please Won’t Please’, ‘Pais Nublado’, ‘Seen My Aura’ and ‘Sabana de luz’ highlight his knack for combining listenability with lyricism. It’s easy to hear why this is on so many Best Of 2019 lists!
Sessa – Grandeza
Brazilian artist Sessa has been making a name for himself as a founding member of psych-rockers Garotas Suecas and from his collaborations with New York-based experimental guitarist Yontan Gat. On his debut solo album, Grandeza he marries contemporary Brazilian pop, with ’60s and early ’70s tropicalia, psychedelia, and cosmic jazz producing stunning results. The ten original compositions recalls the bareness of Leonard Cohen and has touches of Brazilian greats such as Caetano Veloso, Tom Jobim and Arthur Verocai. Featuring lyrics in Portuguese, this superb album takes Brazilian music in a new, minimalist direction and we can’t wait to hear what Sessa comes up with next!