We’ve not heard much from silky-voiced alternative R&B singer Kelela Mizanekristos since her acclaimed 2013 mixtape, Cut 4 Me. This week, Kelela returned with a brooding new track taken from her forthcoming EP, Hallucinogen. The EP is described as a “six-song cycle that explores the light and darkness of love and sexuality”. Alejandro Ghersi, better known as Arca, produced the EP after the singer struck up a friendship with the Venezuelan producer in 2012.
Earlier this month, the genre-bending queen of pop for the discerning music fan, Janelle Monáe, revealed plans to unleash her Wondaland Art Society, the fellow artists and songwriters she’s collaborated with on her first two studio albums (which are among the finest records of the current decade), upon the Earth. Through a partnership with Epic, Wondaland Records is fostering and releasing music from Monáe’s close-knit inner circle. A compilation is due in May featuring music from all five of Wondaland’s current roster, including Monáe herself, who will debut ‘Yoga’.
As if news of Gorillaz return in 2016 wasn’t enough already. Yesterday, Blur announced their first new album as four-piece in 16 years. Should the rumoured The Good, the Bad & the Queen follow-up somehow be in the mix, I’ll be doing back flips down the street. Blur’s new album, titled The Magic Whip, started from jam sessions in the “claustrophobic and hot” confides of a Hong Kong studio, following a cancelled show in Japan. Guitarist Graham Coxon and long-time Blur producer Stephen Street developed these sessions until, as drummer Dave Rowntree put it, “we all realised we’d done something quite special there”.
It’s a stirring rallying call to hear music representing your town or your neighbourhood especially. Unlike the US, however, we tend to be reserved when it comes to bigging up our roots, humble or not, here in the UK. It’s often dissenting voices – be it the rebellious words of The Clash’s Joe Strummer or Lewisham grime artist Stormzy – who are the first to shout about their home turf, why they love it and why others should respect it.
Yet this is nothing new to punk-ska group The Skints, whose roots lie amid the bustle of the multicultural marketplaces and marshlands of London’s east end. ‘This Town’, the lead single from their forthcoming third album, FM, is a stupendous celebration of London’s vibrancy and people, and of the suburban neighbourhoods at opposite ends of the Victoria line.
Having a tattoo or three isn’t enough to automatically make you part of the hip counterculture crowd nowadays. But one look at Purple Ferdinand (aka Vanessa Ferdinand), a 24-year-old self-taught tattoo and body artist, whose inked herself a number of times and even has Studio Ghibli-inspired tats on her, and you know this lady is for real. She’s been writing and performing for a good few years now, and released her first EP, Dragonfly, a collection of acoustic ukulele-led songs, in 2014.
“Vintage astral funk, colourful world music, and dusted-out hip hop/R&B” is how Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl describe their sound. Co-founded by writer and producer Elbee Thrie and keyboardist Aja Grant, the six-piece band recently released their first, true full-length album, Yesterday’s Tomorrow. And new single ‘Baby, Meet My Lover’ is captivating taster.
Django Django are a band many folks missed in the packed Olympic year of 2012. Their self-titled debut album was a curious drift through quartet choruses fit for a sweltering summer in a beachside bar and wonky, electronic-rock evoking the chill of midnight deserts. The whole thing was a surreal, sonic safari. (Kind of like boarding a rocket and swinging around the Earth in low orbit, I imagine.) It also earned them a 2012 Mercury Prize nomination.