British duo Slow Club have made something out of changing genres with every album, and on One Day All of This Won’t Matter Anymore they shift sounds again – this time to a more country-flavored one, with assistance from Matthew E. White and his house band. It all sounds just right, the seeming dread and sorrow lurking underneath their lyrics – although the songs led by Rebecca Taylor are considerably of a darker hue than those by Charles Watson – getting some needed gravitas. And yet you feel like the tactic they took for this record is just a stop in some long journey to whatever destination it is. Considering the band’s track record, you can’t help but feel a bit restless. What’s at the end of this road? No suggestions, and rightfully so – the record stands on its own two feet – and yet, you can’t help but wonder what they’re going at. Or maybe it’s just me. [NB] | 4/5
And so we head to Blonde, the proper new album from Frank Ocean, the one we’ve waited all these years for. If you came in on the strength of his previous two records, well, this didn’t follow the same tack. The clues were in Endless, the visual album slash prelude: a focus on mood, a blurring of boundaries, a humming, introspective feel. Only Blonde feels much more moodier. He really did strip the glitz away, and the result is an album that lacks the obvious signposts for a hit, but feels very much fully-formed. Blonde is restless and pacey. The song lengths run the gamut from a minute to nine. The long-teased guest spots are mostly blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affairs. The themes come and go. It’s an album that’s not supposed to work, considering what came before – and yet it does. [NB] | 4/5
Let’s begin with the teaser, although by now Endless – the visual album that served as a long prelude to what would eventually be Blonde – is a week old and has essentially taken a life of its own, whatever that means here. Amidst images of Frank Ocean doing some construction we get a decidedly hodge-podge, definitely blurred, set of tracks that start and end at the same place and offer fans a reminder of just how long it’s been since Channel Orange was released. How long? Long enough for him to be able to squeeze in a quite good Isley Brothers cover and a weirdly pulsing track extolling the virtues of Samsung phones – on an Apple exclusive! In between, a varied, still blurred, clearly futuristic… something. Getting the glitz out of the way? I can’t quite make sense of it. And that’s perhaps the point. [NB] | 4/5
First, an admission: this month’s column was at risk of not going live because of, um, demons in my head. I hate romanticizing it like that, but there you go. Thing was, I’ve long decided on a list of artists to feature this month – at the beginning of August, to be exact – and yet it took me until two days ago (err, now, in my time frame) to write a word and make sense of everything. Yes, that’s the reveal: this column is not as deliberate as it seems. Sometimes I stumble on acts. Sometimes I re-stumble upon them. Sometimes they’re topical. Sometimes they just have interesting names. This month’s collection fit that criteria in one way or another. Or something.
“Dahan-dahan” by Francis’ Playground | Now, something from the inbox… from Iloilo. Local music! On my inbox! It’s both thrilling… and scary, because, well, you know, exposure. Anyway, I have long encountered Francis’ Playground on Twitter – it’s one of those things that happen when you start flirting around with local music acts, telling them who you are. Of course, chances are you’ve heard previous single “Lakbay” before – I haven’t – so you probably know what I’m going to say next: it’s funky but not aggressively so, and Bobet Solinep’s vocals remind me of early Kala in a good way: down-to-earth yet filled with gravitas and a touch of mischief. “Dahan-dahan”, the new release which somehow found its way to my inbox, is, dare I say, is a feel-good song. We won’t have it any other way. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)