Staff Picks – The Best Of 2019: CDs Part 1

While we are looking forward to presenting a larger collection of AV material at our next Pop-up Library, here are some of our Library Staff’s favourite picks from lat year – all of which can be found at our Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.


Neil J’s Picks:
Songs from the bardo / Anderson, Laurie
A deeply Meditative and gorgeous album with Laurie Anderson reading excepts from The Tibetan Book of the Dead over minimalism musical backgrounds some of which are provided by Patti Smith’s daughter Jesse Paris Smith .

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
On lots of peoples best of 2019 list and rightly so. This is their / his most personal album subtle , carefully crafted and in some aspects experimental without the joyous veneer of drama found in some of the bands previous albums.

Anima. / Yorke, Thom
His third solo album Anima is another interior electro acoustic work. It is one of his most fully realised works one in which he has totally escaped the long shadow of his Radiohead work. Ever since Radiohead’s giant leap into new musical territory with Kid A, Yorke has been exploring the world of what is loosely described as electro acoustic music Anima continues this trend. This album feels like he has fully found his solo voice free from any Radiohead influences.

Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
This album has a lot of everything guest musicians, styles, approaches to the sound. And in some cases this could sound confused and muddled. Where it really comes together is its creative free formed explosion of sounds it is so immersed in pushing the contributor’s creative boundaries that it is impossible to leave out of any best of 2010 list.

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
U Sound’s the legendary dub outfit are behind the latest release from maverick reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. Rainford contains all of Lee Perry’s unique stylings his wonderful iconic unmistakable vocal drawl and his trade mark free form lyrical style superbly combined with U Sounds musical production. The later dub remixed version Heavy rain is also worth a mention it is weirder and warmer and arguably an even better version of the material in Rainford.

Shinji’s Picks:
Jaime. / Howard, Brittany
Dedicated to her sister Jaime, who taught her piano and poetry but died young, Alabama Shakes’ lead singer Brittany Howard’s solo effort is a triumph. She presents a very personal, deeply emotional world, touching complex subjects such as mixed-race, sexual minority and religion. However, her remarkable voice and the edgy arrangements make it standout pop music of today.

The gospel according to water. / Henry, Joe
Joe Henry found out that he had stage 4 Prostate cancer late 2018, but only a year down the line, he released this marvellous album. This intimate and compelling collection of songs show that he still has a lot of stories to tell, and will be remembered as his masterpiece. Sublime.

Love will find a way. / Bailey, Philip
What a pleasant surprise! One of the founders of Earth, Wind and Fire, Philip Baily’s first solo release in 17 years is a superb jazz soul album. Employing accomplished jazz musicians on the scene, including Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, seems to rejuvenate him and he is leading the charge with his signature falsetto voice. Younger than yesterday.

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
In his music, there are a lot of retro feelings and the shadows of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Terry Callier, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan and above all Bill Withers. The London soul singer excellently updates the musical essences of these legends and makes it organic yet emotional modern music.

Characters on a wall. / Sclavis, Louis
French clarinetist Louis Sclavis has a long association with ECM records, which celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. His 13th album for the label is inspired by the paintings of urban artist Ernest Pignon-Eenest. It’s one of the ESM’s most low-key albums in 2019 but exquisitely executed chamber jazz and gets better with every listen, which is very ECM.

Circuits. / Potter, Chris
One of the most prominent jazz musicians of today, the saxophonist Chris Potter’s new album is not from ECM, where he made his home for last few albums, but a brilliant one. Infusing funk, electronica etc., the album abounds in ample creative energy and features vibrant grooves and intense improvisations. Superb.

The undivided five / Winged Victory for the Sullen
Moving to Ninja Tune was surprising but this ambient duo deepened their well-established cinematic, dream-like music world. From the simple yet intricate compositions, they create the soundscape of shimmering beauty, somewhere between post-classical, drone and ambient.

All encores. / Frahm, Nils
German post-classical, electronica artist Nils Frahm nicely compiles his three EP releases; ‘Encores 1’ (featuring solo piano and harmonium),’Encores 2’ (ambient) and ‘Encores 3’ (dub, house-ish). It makes a great pair with the brilliant 2018 album ‘All Melody’, and showcases his exceptional talent as a sound creator.

Drift series 1 : sampler edition. / Underworld
In November 2018, Underworld set out on a project called ‘Drift’ and released music, videos, essays etc. every week for a year. Now this ambitious project has been completed and published in various mediums. This sampler shows that this veteran duo is still in a top form and offers a joyous listen.

Losst and founnd. / Nilsson, Harry
The wait is over. Harry Nilsson died in 1994 at the age of 52 just after finishing recording new materials, which was never released. This lost gem has finally come out thanks to producer Mark Hudson who did a great job to make it a complete album. The result is a wonderful pop album showcasing ‘classic’ Nilsson world; strong melodies and unique humour. Wish you were here, Harry!

Jonathan’s Picks:
Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
All mirrors. / Olsen, Angel
Designer. / Harding, Aldous
Magdalene. / FKA twigs
Anima. / Yorke, Thom

Exciting New Arrival CDs

New arrival CDs feature fantastic new albums by some of the biggest names of the industry such as Nick Cave and Coldplay as well as our very own super band Six60. Amazing box-sets also keep coming. They include Freddie Mercury’s Never Boring, which brings together his solo performances for the first time, and 1982 by Fall. Check them out!

New Albums

Six60 [2019]. / Six60
“As they continue making history, award-winning New Zealand sensation SIX60 releases their third self-titled album featuring the hit single ‘The Greatest’, and the two new tracks ‘Please Don’t Go’ & ‘Raining’.” (adapted from mightyape.co.nz)

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
“Two CDs. ‘The songs on the first album are the children. The songs on the second album are their parents. ‘Ghosteen’ is a migrating spirit.’ – Nick Cave. The album was recorded in 2018 and early 2019 at Woodshed in Malibu, Nightbird in Los Angeles, Retreat in Brighton and Candybomber in Berlin.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
“‘KIWANUKA’ is the follow-up to Michael’s number 1 album, ‘Love & Hate’, released back in July 2016, that resonated broadly both critically and in the public’s affections, netting the British musician his second Mercury Prize nomination and his second and third BRIT nominations too. ‘KIWANUKA’ finds a new assuredness in Michael’s writing, and takes the basic sonic blueprint of that last record to a dizzying new realm.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Once upon a mind. / Blunt, James
“After flirting with electronica on his last album (2017’s ‘The Afterlove’), Blunt returns to what he does best on ‘Once Upon a Mind’, writing classic songs that touch both the heart and the head. ‘Once Upon A Mind’ sees Blunt collaborating with a variety of producers such as Steve Robson, Jimmy Hogarth and TMS.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Magdalene. / FKA twigs
“Created in a period where her confidence was knocked following heartbreak and laparoscopic surgery, ‘MAGDALENE’ is the sound of twigs reconfiguring, emotionally and physically. As she sings on ‘Mary Magdalene’, the MAGDALENE album track that opened her highly-praised, sold-out live shows earlier in the year, “A woman’s time / A woman’s work / A woman’s time to embrace / She must put herself first”.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Everyday life. / Coldplay
“‘Everyday Life’ is the eighth studio album by the British rock band, and is an album presented in two halves: ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’, featuring a stunning array of music, that is sure to surprise and delight their global fanbase.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets/ Reissues

Never boring. / Mercury, Freddie
“The “Never Boring” box set brings together for the first time a specially-curated selection of Freddie Mercury’s music, visuals and written and spoken words. The set reminds us that Freddie was an exceptional singer, songwriter, performer and human being whose special kind of magic is captured in this exceptional collection of his solo work.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The complete RCA albums collection. / Simone, Nina
“9CD BOX SET / The Clamshell box contains a 34 page booklet with the story about Nina Simone, beautiful pictures and all the information about the nine CD’s, all from the RCA collection.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Travelin’ thru : the bootleg series vol. 15, 1967-1969 / Dylan, Bob
“The latest chapter in Columbia/Legacy’s highly acclaimed Bob Dylan Bootleg Series revisits Dylan’s pivotal musical journeys to Nashville, from 1967 to 1969 focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait sessions Bob Dylan (featuring Johnny Cash) Travelin Thru.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Monster [deluxe]. / R. E. M
“‘Monster’ is indeed R.E.M.’s long-promised “rock” album; it just doesn’t rock in the way one might expect. Instead of R.E.M.’s trademark anthemic bashers, ‘Monster’ offers a set of murky sludge, powered by the heavily distorted and delayed guitar of Peter Buck. Michael Stipe’s vocals have been pushed to the back of the mix, along with Bill Berry’s drums, which accentuates the muscular pulse of Buck’s chords.” (Catalogue)

Every move you make : the studio recordings. / Police (Musical group)
“Following the 40th anniversary vinyl box, we present a limited edition 6-CD box set edition, featuring all five studio albums + a bonus disc. Includes an exclusive bonus 12-track disc – ‘Flexible Strategies’ comprised of non-album b-sides (including very rare remix of ‘Truth Hits Everybody’) and remastered at Abbey Road Studios. The collection features 14 top-20 singles, including five number ones! Four of the albums reached number one and went on to sell millions of copies around the world.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

[1982] / Fall (Musical group)
“1982 was a decisive year for The Fall. Their critically acclaimed album “Hex Enduction Hour” was released in March on Kamera Records, closely followed by “Room To Live” in September. This six-disc boxset brings together those two classic albums alongside a host of John Peel sessions, Kamera singles, live performances and the group’s live album “In A Hole”, recorded during their tour of New Zealand and originally released on Flying Nun Records.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Hunting high and low [4CD]. / a-ha
“Anyone who dismissed a-ha as a one-hit wonder must have missed out on the band’s fine debut, ‘Hunting High and Low’. Though the band spawned many further hits across the rest of the world, “Take on Me” exploded in the States and the group never cracked the top of the charts again. It’s a shame, because the album contains a handful of songs that nearly match the manic energy and emotional crack of its big hit. Further, it’s a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener’s need for a synth pop fix.” (Catalogue)

No other. / Clark, Gene
“Upon its 1974 release, Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’ was rejected by most critics as an exercise in bloated studio excess. It was also ignored by Asylum, that had invested $100,000 in recording it. A considerable sum at the time, it was intended as a double album, but the label refused to release it as such. Ultimately, it proved a commercial failure that literally devastated Clark; he never recovered. Though Clark didn’t live to see it, ‘No Other’ has attained cult status as a visionary recording that employs every available studio means to illustrate the power in Clark’s mercurial songwriting. Clark’s unlikely classic, ‘No Other’ is continually continued rediscovered by succeeding generations.” (Catalogue)

New CDs @ Arapaki

Check out some of these new arrival CDs, including new albums by our very own Drax Project and Algel Olsen which received rave reviews. The highly anticipated The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ 50th anniversary editions (2CDs and 3CDs+Blu-ray) have also arrived. Come down to Arapaki Manners Library and get them.

New Albums

Drax Project [album]. / Drax Project
“Drax Project unveiled a new single “Catching Feelings” featuring fellow New Zealanders SIX60 off of their self-titled debut album. The jazz-inspired pop group has vamped up the track with infectious harmonies, relatable lyricism, and wistful, hypnotic vocals. With the new body of work underway, Drax Project is gearing up to take the world by storm.” (adapted from mightyape.co.nz) Check out also our Wellington Music Blog and Facebook to find out more about the Wellington music and musicians.

All mirrors. / Olsen, Angel
“The descent into darkness is a trope we find time again across history, literature and film. But there’s also an abyss above. There’s a winding white staircase that goes ever upward into the great unknown — each step, each turn, requiring a greater boldness and confidence than the one before. This is the journey on which we find Angel Olsen. But all along, Olsen was more concerned with a different kind of path, and on her vulnerable, Big Mood new album, ‘All Mirrors’, we can see her taking an introspective deep dive towards internal destinations and revelations. In the process of making this album, she found a new sound and voice, a blast of fury mixed with hard won self-acceptance.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Ode to joy. / Wilco
” The album follows on from 2016’s, rather sombre ‘Schmilco’. ‘Ode to Joy’ is everything the title suggests, according to frontman Jeff Tweedy in a press release, the record’s, ‘full of really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on’.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Lost girls. / Bat For Lashes
“Lost Girls is another brilliant full-length in Khan’s incredible, acclaimed discography, mixing sounds she’s always loved – heavy bass lines, synth arpeggios, Iranian pop beats, cascading choruses – with some of her finest songwriting to date. It’s an album full of romance, an homage to Los Angeles, to being a kid in the 80’s, to films that touched and changed her life.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

No home record. / Gordon, Kim
“A co-founder of the legendary Sonic Youth, Gordon has performed all over the world, collaborating with many of music’s most exciting figures. Despite the exhaustive nature of her résumé, the most reliable aspect of Gordon’s music may be its resistance to formula. Songs discover themselves as they unspool, each one performing a test of the medium’s possibilities and limits. Her command is astonishing, but Gordon’s artistic curiosity remains the guiding force behind her music. ‘No Home Record’ is an expert operation in the uncanny. You don’t simply listen to Gordon’s music; you experience it.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The Highwomen. / Highwomen
“The Highwomen is a new collaborative movement formed by Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires. The collective’s highly anticipated self-titled debut album, produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb. Continually demonstrating the importance of inclusion and collaboration, The Highwomen are joined by several guest musicians, vocalists and songwriters across the album. The project features Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell and many more.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Juice B crypts. / Battles (Musical group)
“On their first album without bassist/guitarist Dave Konopka, Battles reinvent themselves once again with a tight set of songs that nevertheless push their musical boundaries. Their ability to simultaneously streamline and elaborate on their music isn’t exactly new; after all, Tyondai Braxton’s exit after ‘Mirrored’ prompted them to create ‘Gloss Drop”s exhilarating mix of experiments and hooks. On ‘Juice B Crypts’, there’s a similar feeling of rebirth.” (Catalogue)

Three chords & the truth. / Morrison, Van
“His sixth album in just four years, ‘Three Chords & The Truth’ is further proof that Van Morrison is one of the greatest recording artists of all time and a creative force to be reckoned with. The album was produced and written by Van Morrison (except for ‘If We Wait for Mountains’ which was co-written with Don Black).” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Why me? Why not. / Gallagher, Liam
“‘Why Me? Why Not’ is subsequently a clear upgrade on ‘As You Were’, but not a radical departure, which will come as a relief to Liam’s loyal fans. Highlights include the soulful One Of Us, which includes Liam’s son Gene Gallagher’s debut on bongos (“he nailed it!”), the aching balladry of Once (“got a bit of Pink Floyd’s The Wall about it”), the raw guitar bounce of Be Still, and the title track, Why Me? Why not, which Liam describes as “having a Beatles on Come Together vibe.”. Liam Gallagher: both eyes firmly fixed on the horizon, as ever. Because he knows, the best is still come.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Reissues/ Box-sets
Abbey Road : 3CD anniversary edition. / Beatles
Abbey Road : 2CD anniversary edition. / Beatles
“In many ways, Abbey Road stands apart from the rest of the Beatles’ catalog, an album that gains considerable strength from its lush, enveloping production — a recording so luxuriant, it glosses over aesthetic differences between the group’s main three songwriters and ties together a series of disconnected unfinished songs into a complete suite. Where Sgt. Pepper pioneered such mind-bending aural techniques, Abbey Road truly seized the possibilities of the studio and, in doing so, pointed the way forward to the album rock era of the 1970s.” (Catalogue)

Country music : a film by Ken Burns : the soundtrack.
“”If you write the truth and you’re writing about your life, it’s going to be country.” Loretta Lynn COUNTRY MUSIC, the eight-part, 16-hour film by Ken Burns, chronicles the creation of a truly American genre of music through the songs and stories of its greatest trailblazers. ‘Country Music A Film By Ken Burns (The Soundtrack)’ includes more than 100 timeless classics as heard in the film, including songs by The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and many more. This deluxe 5CD set includes 68 pages of liner notes and rarely seen archival photos, documents and memorabilia.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Exciting new arrival CDs

It’s very good news that more music is available at Arapaki Manners Library. New arrival CDs feature exciting Aotearoa talents, including fantastic new albums by our very own Mermaidens and the veteran David Kilgour. Also, check out Waiata: anthems in which leading NZ artists perform their hit songs in Te Reo. Come down to Arapaki and get them.

New albums

Look me in the eye. / Mermaidens
“Dancing in the lively afterglow of Perfect Body, Mermaiden’s internationally acclaimed Flying Nun debut, a new flame burns. The Wellington-based trio now approach 2019 with an eagerly awaited follow up. Enter the depths of their new album, Look Me In The Eye. Exploring power and control in a confronting new lens, the trio are focused on the gatekeepers and dominators of the world; dissecting their power, one song at a time.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Bobbie’s a girl / Kilgour, David
“It’s moody – as in low, subdued,’ says David Kilgour of his new album, Bobbie’s a girl. David Kilgour’s 11th solo album, Bobbie’s a girl is a quieter affair than fans may associate with the pioneer of New Zealand indie rock. ‘I tended to shy away from too much guitar playing for a point of difference and to mix things up for myself a little,’ Kilgour continues. Largely missing the jangly distortion of Kilgour’s other work, the album’s ten songs exude a hazy warmth, with a light psychedelia that recalls ’60s outfits like The Byrds and The Velvet Underground.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Waiata : anthems.
“WAIATA / ANTHEMS was released to celebrate Māori Language Week / Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2019 (Sep 9-13) and to coincide with the 20-year anniversary of Hinewehi Mohi first performing the New Zealand National Anthem in Te Reo Māori at an All Blacks game. 20 years on, she has decided to mark that anniversary not by remembering the controversy, but by celebrating how far we’ve come. The result – 11 of New Zealand’s best loved artists performing their hit songs in Te Reo Māori, as well as an acknowledgement of ‘Aotearoa’ with a vibrant rendition by the renowned Hātea Kapa Haka.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

I, I. / Bon Iver
“‘i,i’ is Bon Iver’s most expansive, joyful and generous album to date. If ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter; ‘Bon Iver’ the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring; and ‘22, A Million’, a blistering, “crazy energy” Summer record, ‘i,i’ completes the cycle: a fall record; Autumn colored, ruminative, steeped. The autumn of Bon Iver is a celebration of self acceptance and gratitude, bolstered by community and delivering the bounty of an infinite American music.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The center won’t hold. / Sleater-Kinney
“‘The Center Won’t Hold’ is the tenth studio album by Sleater-Kinney. It addresses transformation as it relates to the corrosion and decomposition of forms. Fractured and frayed by age or by loss, by internecine politics, by trauma or depression, these eleven songs ask what remains of a body, a human spirit, a relationship, a city, a country.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Threads. / Crow, Sheryl
“Sheryl Crow’s album of collaborations. Threads includes ‘Still The Good Old Days’ featuring Joe Walsh. Other tracks include “Redemption Day” featuring Johnny Cash, “Live Wire” featuring Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples and “Prove You Wrong” featuring Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris. Elaborating on the project, Crow reflected, “I became inspired to record an album of musical experiences with the legacy artists who inspired me.” (adapted from realgroovy.co.nz)

Fear inoculum. / Tool
“Fear Inoculum is the long awaited new album from TOOL, and the band’s first new album in 13 years. The album will be available digitally, and in a special Limited Edition physical package that includes a CD in a tri-fold Soft Pack Video Brochure featuring a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, a USB charging cable, a 2 watt speaker and a 30 page insert book and MP3 download card.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Beneath the eyrie. / Pixies (Musical group)
“Seventh full-length album from the iconic alternative band. Sessions for the album took place at Dreamland Recordings near Woodstock, New York and unusually the band documented every minute of the process, which makes up a 12-part podcast.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Days of the Bagnold summer
“Days of the Bagnold Summer began life as a 2012 award-winning graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, was turned into a feature film and the directorial debut of Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner), and is now a wonderful, rich, bittersweet, and warmly welcoming original soundtrack album by Belle and Sebastian. The album features eleven brand new Belle and Sebastian songs, as well as re-recorded versions of classics ‘Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying’, originally appearing on 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and ‘I Know Where The Summer Goes’, from 1998’s This Is Just a Modern Rock Song EP.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Rubberband. / Davis, Miles
“The legendary ‘Lost’ Miles Davis album recorded after signing with Warner Bros. has now been completed by the original producers Randy Hall and Zane Giles, and Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn Jr.. Miles Davis shocked the music world in 1985 when he left Columbia Records after 30 years to join Warner Bros. Records. In October of that year, he began recording the album Rubberband in Los Angeles. The musical direction Davis was taking during the sessions marked a radical departure, with the inclusion of funk and soul grooves; with plans to feature guest vocalists Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan. Eventually, the album was shelved and Davis went on to record Tutu, leaving the Rubberband songs unheard and untouched for over 30 years.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets

Ágaetis byrjun : a new beginning. / Sigur Rós
“In 1999 Sigur Rós released ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ (‘A Good Start’), which Q magazine deemed ‘the last great record of the 20th century’. By the end of the year, it had won the inaugural US Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music. This 20th Anniversary edition of the album features demo and archive versions of the songs, plus never-before-heard newly-unearthed material from the time, rare b-sides and the full 95-minute concert played in Reykjavík on the day the record was released.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kankyō ongaku : Japanese ambient, environmental & new age music 1980-1990.
“Double CD edition in custom 7″ x 7″ hardbound book. Light In The Attic’s Japan Archival Series continues with Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990, an unprecedented overview of the country’s vital minimal, ambient, avant-garde, and New Age music – what can collectively be described as kankyo ongaku, or environmental music. The collection features internationally acclaimed artists such as Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi, as well as other pioneers like Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima and Satoshi Ashikawa, who deserve a place alongside the indisputable giants of these genres.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Afrofuturism in the world of music

Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. ‘I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,’ says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist.”

― Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

One of the most exciting genres emerging in science fiction, film, art and music at the moment is Afrofuturism. But whilst this dynamic and rather fabulous genre is having a real explosion of creativity, it’s by no means new. Indeed especially in the world of music Afrofuturism has a long and distinguished past, commonly accepted as emerging in the music world in the 1950s. This blog is a very brief look at some of Afrofuturism’s key musical proponents both old and new.

One of the first musical explorers in this universe was the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra. In the late 1950s Sun Ra created his own new synthesis of jazz, designed to reflect and link both the leading edge of the space age and African culture–especially that of African Egypt.

His ideas were taken up in the 1970s in the funk world by George Clinton’s funk outfits Parliament and Funkadelic. Reggae and hip hop also embraced these ideas, with artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Scientist and Afrika Bambaataa. And in the world of rock, Jimi Hendrix was also regarded by some reviewers as an Afrofuturist.

In the 21st century artists as diverse as Solange, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and the Wu-Tang Clan have been influenced by this movement, with perhaps  Janelle Monáe the best known for embracing the genre. Enjoy!


Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
“Fire’s positive and negative associations are referenced by many of Ellison’s other collaborators here. While the album begins with a crackle and ends with a poetic epilogue about its lasting effects, fire’s role in the album elsewhere is either nonexistent or negligible.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Dirty computer. / Monae, Janelle
“Monáe and her Wondaland partners twist and flip new wave-leaning pop with booming bass drums and rattling percussion. They transmit defiant jubilance in response to those ‘from the traphouse to the White House who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard.’ Almost every track is densely packed with quotables delivered in approaches that shift from easygoing elegance to hard-fought, triumphant conviction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
“‘Inclues Cricket on the moon’, ‘Run evil spirit’, ‘Let it rain’, ‘House of angels’, ‘Makumba rock’, ‘African starship’, ‘Kill them dreams money worshippers’, ‘Children of the light’ and ‘Autobiography of the upsetter’.” (Adapted from catalogue)

New CDs at Arapaki

Check out some of these newly catalogued CDs, including new albums by Thom Yorke and Bruce Springsteen. A couple of box-sets; the 50th anniversary version of Woodstock and the Scottish independent music story is simply fantastic. Come on down to Arapaki at 12 Manners Street and to check them out!

Woodstock : back to the garden : 50th anniversary collection.
“Summer 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the defining event of a generation and one of the most iconic moments in popular music history. Between August 15-18, 1969, more than 400,000 people converged on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in upstate New York for Woodstock. This box set features 42 tracks performed during the legendary festival.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Big gold dreams : a story of Scottish independent music 1977-1989.
“BIG GOLD DREAMS documents the vibrant independent music scene to emerge in Scotland across the late 70s and 80s. Initially ignited by punk, labels sprang up in Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere to give a voice to the explosion of new acts across the country.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Western stars. / Springsteen, Bruce
“Bruce Springsteen’s first new studio album in five years takes his music to a new place, drawing inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late ’60s and early ’70s. The 13 tracks on ‘Western Stars’ encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Let’s rock. / Black Keys
“Lighter and leaner than Turn Blue — and, ironically, considerably more colorful, too — Let’s Rock doesn’t so much find the Black Keys trying new recipes as revisiting old favorites with fresh, elevated ingredients. Blues, garage, and old soul remain at the foundation of the group’s sound, but they’ve swapped jammy excesses for over-saturated fuzz guitars and stacked vocal overdubs.” (Catalogue)

Anima. / Yorke, Thom
“Third solo album from the Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke. Produced alongside Nigel Godrich, ‘Anima’, sees Yorke experimenting with electronic sounds once again.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The book of traps and lessons. / Tempest, Kate
“Third studio album by the acclaimed British poet and rapper. The album was crafted with Rick Rubin and Dan Carey over the course of the previous five years. Since her emergence in 2011, Tempest has redefined what it means to be a wordsmith in the Modern Age and, to date, has published three poetry collections and staged three plays.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Years to burn / Calexico
“Calexico and Iron & Wine first made an artistic connection with ‘In the Reins’, the 2005 EP that brought Sam Beam, Joey Burns and John Convertino together. The acclaimed collaboration introduced both acts to wider audiences and broadened Beam’s artistic horizons, but it was the shared experience of touring together in the tradition of Bob Dylan’s ‘Rolling Thunder Revue’ that cemented the bond. Their metaphorical roads diverged in the years that followed, but they kept in touch and cross-pollinated where they could.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Shepherd in a sheepskin vest. / Callahan, Bill
“Eighth solo studio album by the American singer-songwriter. Bill’s gentle, spacey take on folk and roots music is like no other; scraps of imagery, melody and instrumentation tumble suddenly together in moments of true human encounter.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Staff Pick CDs: July

Here are some Staff Picks CDs from our collection at our new Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.

Anoyo. / Hecker, Tim
If you read Carlo Rovelli’s incredible book, ‘The Order of Time’, you will learn that the force that drives the universe is not energy but entropy, and ‘Konoyo’, the ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker, is a sublimely beautiful work that could be heard as a soundtrack to that ever inexorable process of decay. Like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, this grand, complex and absorbing music is quite unlike anything else, including previous Tim Hecker records. The source material is provided by a Japanese Gagaku ensemble playing some of the most ancient instruments known, and it’s highly appropriate that this was recorded in Japan, as, if one closes one’s eyes, it is almost possible to see the cherry blossoms drifting away on the spring breeze. A few months later he released the accompanying ‘Anoyo’. Konoyo translates as ‘this world’ and anoyo as ‘the other world’ and the second release reflects that meaning, featuring six spacious and ambient pieces titled “That World”, “Is But A Simulated Blur”, “Step Away From Konoyo”, “Into the Void”, “Not Alone”, “You Never Were” if you get the drift. (John)

>>>. / Beak>
This is the third record from the krautrock project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow (the first was ‘>’ and the second ‘>>’) and features music quite unlike any other. Metronomic drumming, ominous synths, glitchy electronics, deep vocals, throbbing basslines, processed strings, sci-fi keyboards and much more all feature in various combinations across ten tracks to create something otherworldly and quite engrossing. (John)

Coltrane ’58 : the Prestige recordings. / Coltrane, John
This release features all 37 tracks (across 5-discs) that saxophonist John Coltrane recorded as a leader or co-leader for the independent Prestige Records label in the twelve months of the year 1958 – which when released would comprise 8 albums in his discography. After finally cleaning up his drug & alcohol addiction in 1957, the period that followed saw him working and recording with pianist Thelonious Monk, whose unique compositions were an influence on Coltrane. Spilling over with new musical ideas and possibilities, Coltrane choose a series of old ballads & standards to see how far his new style and improvisational techniques could push against the traditional structure of existing tunes. The Prestige years are one of the distinctive periods in his career in which he honed a beautifully full & rich style, fast and slashing, yet tender and poignant, which Jazz journalist Ira Gitler would famously dub “sheets of sound”. These tracks are all remastered from the original analog tapes and the box includes extensive liner notes by Grammy-winning American music historian Ashley Kahn. A great box containing some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums. (Mark)

Bitter sweet / Ferry, Bryan
Bryan Ferry is a clever chap and a genuine artist and here he recreates a selection of tunes from his extensive back catalogue in the big band style of the 1920’s. What could too easily be regarded as a gimmick turns out to be anything but as these tunes take on a strange and mysterious new lustre when interpreted via Duke Ellington style trumpets, Sidney Bechet style clarinet and the Kurt Weill homage of the title track that even includes a line in German. Bryan Ferry’s voice has matured into that of a classic crooner and carries this project off perfectly. As the cover notes state: “This art recognises that the past was once our present, even our future, and this moment too shall melt away into the past”. (John)

Double negative. / Low
This really should have made it to the library ‘2018 Best of’ as it featured on pretty much every other best of list, and rightly so. After maintaining cult status for 25 years, the US indie trio appear to have now become famous on the strength of this, their 12th album. Ironically, this is the record on which they have taken things a step beyond, slowing their famous minimalist ‘slowcore’ sound down a notch even further and incorporating glitched out dissonant electronics and loops to produce the distorted, frazzled edges of things dissipating into the ether – an approach that has been recognised by both critics and audiences as highly appropriate for our current times. There are still lovely songs here to be found though within a superb, audacious, and deeply atmospheric contemporary indie record. (John)

Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? / Deerhunter
Bradford Cox leads his band through their eighth album with a collection of thoughtful and confident songs, building on the radio-rock direction of their previous release ‘Fading Frontier’. Co-produced by Cate Le Bon, who contributes some guest vocals and instrumentation, this album finds an excellent balance between the experimental sounds of their early releases and the slightly more user friendly approach of the later albums. The result is an excellent take on, for want of a better word, pop, but a distinctive and mature version of that genre, incorporating all of the elements one may expect from this highly creative band. (John)

Some rap songs. / Sweatshirt, Earl
Among the Tswana people of South Africa, the composition of the “praise poem” in honour of chiefs and important figures has traditionally been a part of the ritual initiation of boys. On Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt reflects on his recently deceased father, the South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. In many ways, this album constitutes the 25 year old Earl’s praise poem to his father. The album is a sprawling journey through Earl’s psyche as he grapples with his recent grief and also his past experiences with anxiety and depression, seemingly finding cathartic closure. Earl’s voice is magnetic and mesmerising with its often simple cadence and bouncing syncopation. The album is built around tightly-looped soul and jazz samples by the likes of Curtis Mayfield. Far from its ironically self-effacing title, Some Rap Songs is an innovative masterwork. (Joseph)

DJ-kicks : Robert Hood.
The Detroit techno veteran, a founding member of Underground Resistance and who pretty much laid down the template for minimal techno with his 1994 release ‘Minimal Nation’, finally gets around to a DJ Kicks entry. Discretely acknowledging that interest in the minimal sub-genre is on the wane, here the sound is bigger and more banging than may be expected as he seamlessly mixes from one well curated driving floor filler to the next, including Berghain favorites such as Truncate and Marcel Fengler, in addition to U.K. techno mainstays like Slam and Mark Broom. Listeners either enjoy techno or they don’t, and for fans this is a solid, focused and satisfying mix, while for the curious this would be a good introduction. (John)

Future ruins. / Swervedriver
The UK band that sat on the rockier edge of the early ‘90’s shoegaze movement made a welcome return in 2015 after an 18 year hiatus, receiving favourable reviews for their fifth album, “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”. “Future Ruins” is their sixth and the second of their ‘comeback’ albums and finds them in an assured mode, forging their warm, driving, melodic rock with great confidence. Its great hearing a band regaining their stride after such a long break and with this record they could very well find a fresh audience for their lovely harmonies, propulsive rhythms and vast guitar swathes. (John)

Echoes in blue. / City Calm Down
For some odd reason OZ bands rarely bridge the Tasman very well, which is unfortunate because, well, everyone misses out. City Calm Down are pretty big in OZ, headlining festivals and selling out tours, and this, their second album, is a great introduction. They are an obviously ‘80’s influenced band, which is not necessarily a bad thing, paying homage to Ian McCullough’s heartfelt vocals for Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order’s upper register bass lines and brooding synths. Their songs are suitably morose reflections on 21st Century life that potentially offer similar comfort that the early ‘80’s indie bands offered the first wave of indie rockers. (John)

You’re the man. / Gaye, Marvin
Marvin Gaye’s ‘lost album’ between two mega hit masterpieces ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) and ‘Let’s Get It On’ (1973) should excite a lot of music fans. Although some of the songs here have made it out in various forms before, the full album (plus some extra tracks) appears for the first time. He was at his peak after the success of ‘What’s Going On’ but very apprehensive at the same time, and a lack of the cohesion on this CD may show it. However, the quality of the songs and his distinguished vocal style are nothing short of brilliant and timeless. 47 years down the line, “You’re The Man’ can only emphasise how great Marvin Gaye is. (Shinji)

A tree with roots : Fairport Convention & friends and the songs of Bob Dylan. / Fairport Convention
An interesting compilation that gathers all of the cover versions UK folk rockers Fairport Convention performed of Bob Dylan songs. Including live recordings, John Peel Sessions and studio recordings, the songs are all from the ‘70’s and most feature Sandy Denny. The cover notes are comprehensive and clearly illustrate what a surprising influence Bob Dylan had on the UK folk revival. The performances are great and it is fascinating to hear these songs, firmly placed as they are in Americana, performed by a band that were central to the UK folk revival. This not only shows that cultural boundaries are far more fluid than often perceived but is also a keen reminder that the distant roots of Americana were actually folk songs taken to the USA by early settlers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What goes around truly does come around. Track 7, “Percy’s Song” is a great illustration of this. (John)
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New Popular Music CDs at Arapaki

It’s very good news that physical CDs are back on our shelves. Our first pop-up library Arapaki offers a small but varied range of music including new releases by our very own Aldous Harding and Vampire Weekend. Come on down to Arapaki at 12 Manners Street and check them out!

Designer. / Harding, Aldous
“An artist of rare calibre, Aldous Harding does more than sing; she conjures a singular intensity. Her body and face a weapon of theatre, Harding dances with steeled fervor, baring her teeth like a Bunraku puppet’s gnashing grin. Her debut release with 4AD, 2017’s Party (produced with the award-winning John Parish) introduced a new pulse to the stark and unpopulated dramatic realm where the likes of Kate Bush and Scott Walker reside. In April, Aldous Harding returns with Designer less than two years after the breakthrough album.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

I am easy to find / National (Musical group)
I Am Easy To Find is the band’s eighth studio album and the follow-up to 2017’s GRAMMY-award winning release Sleep Well Beast. A companion short film with the same name will also be released. The film was directed by Mike Mills (20th Century Women, Beginners), and starring Alicia Vikander. Mills, along with the band, is credited as co-producer of the album, and the album features vocal contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle and more.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

U.F.O.F. / Big Thief
“U.F.O.F., F standing for ‘Friend’, is the name of the highly anticipated third record by Big Thief. Their songs represent an emotional bravery and realness that weaves intimate relationships with the listener, a phenomenon that has made them one of the most widely-respected bands of the current era.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Father of the bride. / Vampire Weekend
“Father of the Bride is the highly anticipated new album from Vampire Weekend, and is the band’s fourth full length release. It is the follow up to 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, which won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014. Father of the Bride is produced by founding band member Ezra Koenig, and Ariel Rechtshaid (Adele, Madonna etc.). The album features 18 songs, including “Harmony Hall,” “Big Blue,” “2021,” and “Sunflower.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? / Deerhunter
“What they spend their time doing instead is reinventing their approach to microphones, the drum kit, the harpsichord, the electromechanical and synthetic sounds of keyboards. Whatever guitars are left are pure chrome, plugged straight into the mixing desk with no amplifier or vintage warmth. The result is as thrilling, haunting, and unpredictable as anything in their roughly 15 year career.” (adapted from amazon.com)

On the line. / Lewis, Jenny
“Jenny Lewis’ fourth solo album, featuring 11 original songs written by Lewis and recorded at Capitol Records’ Studio B. Lewis is joined on the album by such legendary artists as Beck, Benmont Tench, Don Was, Jim Keltner and Ringo Starr.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Ripples. / Brown, Ian
“2019 release from the former Stone Roses vocalist. Ripples is Brown’s first solo album in 10 years and serves as the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s My Way. Brown self-produced and wrote a majority of Ripples, as well as created the artwork and played most of the instruments heard throughout the record. His sons have co-writing credits on three songs and provided additional instrumental contributions.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

From Auckland to Mississippi: Check out these CDs

Voices of Mississippi

Check out some of these newly catalogued CDs, including new albums by Tiny Ruins and James Blake. Legendary artists such as Bryan Ferry and Mark Knopfler also released the wonderful new albums. And finally, don’t miss the Grammy winner, Voice of Mississippi, which is a historically significant and amazing document of the American south.

Olympic girls. / Tiny Ruins
“A rare blend of eloquent lyrical craft and explorative musicianship, the songs of Tiny Ruins are etched into the memories of crowds and critics worldwide. Traversing influences that cross-genre and era, the artistry of Hollie Fullbrook and her band spans delicate folk, lustrous dream pop. Production by David Lynch, Olympic Girls bring ebullient psychedelia to the album.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Assume form. / Blake, James
“James Blake’s arrival in the early 2010s was exciting, in no small part because no one sounded quite like him. His collision of ghostly, dubstep-informed production and quiveringly sad piano balladry should have been jarring and awkward, but it worked so well it catapulted Blake into near-iconic status. Fourth album Assume Form finds Blake shedding much of his older self, leaving behind distant melancholy and spacious production and offering his most emotionally open, hopeful, and at times almost cheerful work.~ Fred Thomas” (Catalogue)

Rich kid blues. / Faithfull, Marianne
“Produced by Mike Leander, who had produced and arranged much of Faithfull’s Decca material, Rich Kid Blues is an intriguing album of spare, largely acoustic readings of folk/rock songs, including several Bob Dylan covers, as well as songs by Phil Ochs, George Harrison, Cat Stevens, Tim Hardin, James Taylor and Sandy Denny.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Springsteen on Broadway. / Springsteen, Bruce
Springsteen on Broadway is the new album of music and stories by Bruce Springsteen, and the soundtrack to the Netflix film of the same name. The album is the complete live performance of the show. Springsteen on Broadway is the solo acoustic performance written and performed by Tony Award, Academy Award, and 20-time Grammy Award winner Bruce Springsteen. Based on his worldwide best-selling autobiography Born to RunSpringsteen on Broadway is a unique evening with Bruce.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Down the road wherever. / Knopfler, Mark
“Mark Knopfler’s ninth solo studio album Down The Road Wherever features unhurriedly elegant new songs inspired by a wide range of subjects, including his early days in Deptford with Dire Straits, a stray football fan lost in a strange town, and the compulsion of a musician hitching home through the snow.” (adapted from realgroovy.co.nz)

Bitter sweet / Ferry, Bryan
Bitter Sweet, the latest record from Bryan Ferry, is inspired by his work on the Sky Atlantic/Netflix television series Babylon Berlin a German period drama based on the books by Volker Kutscher set in the 1920s. It takes the musical stylings from that era and puts a new twist on well-loved Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry tracks including While My Heart is Still Beating, Sign of the Times and Dance Away. The record breathes new life into songs that fans have been enjoying for over 20 years.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Red rose speedway / McCartney, Paul
“Consequently, Red Rose Speedway winds up being a really strange record, one that veers toward the schmaltzy Aor Mor (especially on the hit single “My Love”), yet is thoroughly twisted in its own desire toward domestic art. As a result, this is every bit as insular as the lo-fi records of the early ’90s, but considerably more artful, since it was, after all, designed by one of the great pop composers of the century.~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine” (Catalogue)

The Chic organization 1977-1979. / Chic
“Produced with the involvement of Nile Rodgers and approval from the estate of partner Bernard Edwards, this box set remasters and recirculates Chic’s first three albums and the contemporaneous We Are Family, in essence a Chic LP fronted by labelmates Sister Sledge. Another disc compiles edits and mixes of Chic-headlined singles of the same era. During this period, the band surfaced and instantly reigned in clubs and on the Billboard dance chart, and with ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times,’ took their slick and funky disco-soul hybrid to the top of the Hot 100. ~ Andy Kellman” (Catalogue)

Voices of Mississippi: artists and musicians documented by William Ferris.
“This watershed release represents the life s work of William Ferris, an audio recordist, filmmaker, folklorist, and teacher with an unwavering commitment to establish and to expand the study of the American South. William Ferris was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1942. Growing up on a working farm, Ferris began at a young age documenting the artwork, music, and lives of the people on the farm and in his local community. The archive of recordings that he created and the documentary films that he had a hand in producing have served as powerful tools in institutions of higher learning for decades.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

To the outside of everything: a story of UK post-punk 1977-1981.
“Named after a lyric from Magazine’s ground-breaking hit, ‘Shot By Both Sides’, To the Outside of Everything tells a musical story of how the UK’s post-punk scene evolved from the spirit of 1977 and the arrival of key labels such as Fast, Rough Trade, Zoo, Factory and Cherry Red. It includes landmark singles by Joy Division, PiL, Wire, Gang Of Four, The Slits, Killing Joke, Echo And The Bunnymen, Scritti Politti, The Pop Group, Human League, The Fall and many more.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Monochrome Masterpieces

In this post we take a look at some of the iconic albums and hidden gems in our CD and vinyl collection. All of these titles have black and white photographs as album art. Check out these excellent and eclectic albums.

Nite flights by the Walker Brothers (1978)
The Walker Brothers were the three non-biologically-related kings of baroque pop in the 1960s, best known for their moody hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make it Easy on Yourself. In the late 60s, Scott Walker, the group’s most acclaimed member, went solo and released a series of heavily orchestrated albums filled with ennui and references to art-house movies. Scott is cited as one of David Bowie’s foremost influences, and it shows. On this 1978 album The Walker Brothers explored uncharted territory. This project was apparently inspired by Bowie’s Heroes, and that also shows.

The album’s opening track Shutout is a masterpiece: the hauntingly avant garde vocal harmonies pare well with the raw propulsion of the incandescent guitar solo. The song is distinguished by a driving baseline that sounds like it came from an alternate universe where disco was a dark and nihilistic genre. Then the Electrician turns the dread up to unprecedented heights before breaking into an overture of blissful strings. The first four songs are effectively a Scott Walker solo EP and stand together as a monumental statement. The production on the other tracks is certainly worth perusing, but those first four songs ShutoutFat Mama KickNite Flights and The Electrician are incomparable. This album can also be considered somewhat rare, and it isn’t available on Spotify, so make sure to pick it up next time you come into the library!

TA1300 by Denzel Curry (2018)
Denzel Curry’s most ambitious project to date is full of aggressive SoundCloud anthems, including Sumo and Clout Cobain. On this album Curry has clearly carved out his own corner of the hip-hop world. Curry generally raps forcefully on lo-fi trap influenced beats, but still leaves some space for r&b tinged instrumentation whether of the soulful or synth-pop variety on tracks Black Balloons and Cash Maniac respectively. Standout track, Vengeance, is a terrifying vision featuring an extremely malicious verse from avant-garde rapper JPEGMAFIA and a visceral shouted feature from trap-metal rapper Zillakami.

If you still need convincing of Denzel Curry’s merit and skill, check out his pumping cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade.

Party by Aldous Harding (2017)
Gothic tones and the misty port hills linger over Harding’s spellbinding sophomore effort. Harding’s lyrical subject matter is every bit as entrancing as her folk guitar. Unique song titles like What if Birds Aren’t Singing, They’re Screaming punctuate a superb New Zealand album. Another underrated highlight is the album closer, Swell Does the Skull. Harding’s distinctive voice is memorable, cohesive and enchanting. With Harding’s upcoming Designer album due for release shortly, now’s the perfect time to catch up with her discography.

Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale (1990)
Upon the death of Andy Warhol, two illustrious alumni of the Velvet Underground reunited to produce this sublime record amidst a temporary detente in their relationship. The production is excellent, the biographical subject matter is engaging and the album stands up as a testament to two incandescent chemistry of two of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century. Recommended tracks include Open House and Style it Takes.

Rest by Charlotte Gainsbourg (2017)
Gainsbourg weaves together traditional French pop sounds with contemporary palettes to create a grand statement. The drums, pianos and synthesizers summon dark and foreboding dirges on tracks like Lying With You and Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses. Federico Garcia Lorca once wrote “I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.” Similarly, Rest appears to be an immense product of Gainsbourg’s own grief, as Pitchfork writer Olivia Horn notes. The album highlight is Deadly Valentine, a dreamy pop song punctuated by a funky baseline and a richly arranged chorus.