james debate
james debate

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Ephemeric's Summer Music Round-Up on this beautiful Saturday afternoon (note: if by the time this post is complete it is no longer a Saturday please disregard that last sentiment).

In Part 2 of our guide to the best music of the summer 2016 we will review three of the hottest albums out right now, with the new LP releases of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Christine and the Queens, and Michael Kiwanuka.

"The Getaway - Red Hot Chili Peppers" Album Review
Genre Rock

red hot chili peppers getawayAt this stage, Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of those venerable rock bands that seem to have been around for ever, and one for which most people have a soft spot tucked away somewhere.

Still there is no denying that they  have been on the wane in the recent years of their career, perhaps most punctuated by the departure of former lead guitarist John Frusciante. Even prior to that, however, their's is definitely a sound in a rut, short on new ideas, increasingly frequently recycling riffs and melodies and sticking to the tried and tested radio-friendly sound that they settled upon around the time of By the Way.

Still with producer Danger Mouse at the helm of newest album The Getaway, I am pleased to say that they have produced their finest effort in some years.

Still heavy on the blended soft-punk and pop-rock, the melodies sound fresher than they have in a while, with more delicate guitar work and fully realised soundscapes smoothed out by excellent production. It's an all together more mature sounding work, a product of finesse, airy enough to let the music flow comfortably without losing its edge. Title track The Getaway is a great song, while Dark Necessities, Sick Love, and Goodbye Angels are also standouts.

A good return to form, and well worth listening to.

"Chaleur Humaine - Christine and the Queens" Album Review
Genre Synthpop

christine and the queens chaleur humaine ephemeric
Another of The Ephemeric's successful predictions, Christine and the Queens began the year with high expectations. I had tipped them to make a big splash in 2016 back in this year's Hot List in January, and indeed they are now well on their way to becoming a household name in the European music scene.

Debut album Chaleur Humaine, unusually, was actually originally released in 2014, but only in France. 2016 has seen the wider release in other regions, and the re-recording of several songs in English, and it hasn't taken long for them to catch on.

It's hard to describe just what makes Christine's music work. There's something intricate and meticulously composed about these tracks, which lends them a minimalist sound not entirely dissimilar to other celebrated bands like The xx. But there's also a fascinating combination of sounds, for example in No Harm is Done which blends rap with a light piano backing, or the ethereal Jonathan which comes across as both forceful and vulnerable at the same time. It's expert songwriting.

A critical and commercial success, and a promising start to a career that we will watch with interest.

"Love & Hate - Michael Kiwanuka" Album Review
Genre Folk

michael kiwanuka love&hateWhen Michael Kiwanuka's debut album Home Again released in 2012 it was something of a revelation. A collection of tracks seemingly out of nowhere that varied from light and playful to darker and more profound. In my view one of the best acoustic albums in many years.

So no pressure to follow up album Love & Hate, which additionally sees the appearance of uber-producer Danger Mouse for the second time on this list.

Fans need not have fretted, Kiwanuka has not lost any of the soul that made his simple arrangements so powerful. Far from it, Love & Hate is full of much deeper and richer compositions, with a greater variety in instrumentalisation from understated acoustic style to fuller and more complex crescendos of jazz and funk.

The sombre title track Love & Hate is the best embodiment of this album, and Kiwanuka's talent as a whole, beautiful soul music that builds into a full soaring cry for help. Really gorgeous. Many songs on the album are worthy of note, from the somewhat peppier One More Night which sounds more reminiscent of Kiwanuka's debut album, to the wonderful construction of I'll Never Love. In my view though the real pinnacle is the heavily introspective Father's Child with it's frantic strings and powerful yearning guitar in the finale.

These are excellent songs, every bit the equal in quality of his first album, and certainly of a more refined production. If there is one criticism of the album it's that it strikes such a continually morose and heavy sound that it can get a bit exhausting by the end, meaning the last few songs might simply pass a listener by on the first hearing, a true shame as the best songs are those at the end. Compare to Home Again which more effectively mixed things up tonally.

This is lush, textured music with a quality of production that lends it a truly timeless quality. It might take a few listens but it is wonderful.

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