Friday 6th May will be a date to remember, for no other reason than the influx of incredible music that has landed on our plates, ready to devour. There’s clearly something in the air, as some of the industry’s most exciting names have just dropped bombs in the form of new singles, debut LPs, and one much-awaited follow up album. To make life a little easier, we’ve chosen a handful of releases from the pool of new material, featuring names that are both well-established and up-and-coming, but all of which harbouring a sound that will have you reaching for the ‘repeat’ button. This isn’t just music to soundtrack your weekend – your entire month is covered, too.
The Colour In Anything by James Blake
If you speak to a handful of current singers, musicians, songwriters or producers, chances are most would cite James Blake as an influence somewhere along the line. Even if they don’t, his music is likely to have made an impact without them even knowing it, such is his power. Luckily for us, the mastermind behind his self-titled debut and the Mercury Prize-winning follow up, Overgrown, is back with 17 tracks of pure bliss.
His third full album, The Colour In Anything, arrived at midnight last night, only hours after its announcement on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 session on Thursday evening. The show also saw the premiere of two tracks, one of which, ‘Radio Silence’, serving as the album’s opening track. Gospel tones merge with swelling electronic elements in a way that Blake has come to be known for, serving as the perfect familiar starting point for an album that explores more varied music references that ever before. ‘Timeless’ is a prime example of this, the cutting, almost aggressive nature of the track coming through in the 1-2-1 jab of the synth and growling bass. Yet swiftly after, Blake welcomes you back with ‘f.o.r.e.v.e.r’, a gentle track that centres on his heavenly voice and a smattering of beautifully constructed chord patterns unleashed on the piano, the quiet sound of the pedal completing the subtle dynamic of the song.
In James Blake’s world, there’s a sound for every emotion, and he dips back and forth between moods throughout the album. From the delicate nature of title track to the swelling ecstasy of ‘Modern Soul’, he explores it all. Meanwhile ‘Meet You In The Maze’ is built around stripped back, choral vocals, reminiscent of the mechanical voice that opens would-be collaborator Kanye West’s ‘Lost In The World’ featuring Bon Iver. Talent clearly moves in the same circles, for Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon crops up on Blake’s own album too, lending his trembling voice to ‘I Need A Forest Fire’. The addition of Vernon offers new layers of musical goodness to an already stunning track that somehow straddles melancholia and euphoria in a way that only Blake knows how to execute.
This is just one of several James Blake collaborations as of late: one of music’s most mysterious figures, Frank Ocean, is credited as a co-writer for The Colour In Anything, he also worked with Rick Rubin on the album, and of course, his featuring on Beyoncé’s new visual album Lemonade caused waves across the music industry far and wide. Music aside, one of his most exciting recent partnerships is perhaps the one with Quentin Blake, who provides his fuzzy, washed-out illustration style for the album cover art.
The music world can breathe a sigh of relief once more. Blake is back.
‘Talk To Me’ by Jordan Rakei
It’s nigh on impossible to put Jordan Rakei‘s music in a box. One minute he might be delving into R&B, the next he’s throwing you into a jazz-laden territory, always topped off with a soulful voice that cuts to the core. What makes him special is ability to make you think that all of these genres belong together, and always have done.
Having worked with the likes of Tom Misch and Barney Artist, as well as having co-written on Disclosure’s latest album Caracal, the man from down under obviously has something worth chasing. Listening to his new track ‘Talk To Me’ – which is out today – it becomes clear just what that is. The song opens as a smooth piece of jazz, with trickling piano chords and an energetic percussion support weaving in with Rakei’s pure vocals. Yet mid-way through, we take a diversion. “Waiting for disaster to strike me once I fall”, he chants, leading us head first into a twisted tunnel where inflating electronic effects tumble into the mixture, before bursting into full-blown jazz euphoria.
The song is a testament to his genre-straddling tendencies, and thankfully it comes with more welcome news from Rakei. ‘Talk To Me’ is the first release from his upcoming debut album Cloak (due out on June 3rd), a body of work which demonstrates not only his enviable talents as a composer and writer, but shows his multi-instrumental abilities and, of course, that beautiful voice of his. Jordan Rakei is a name to remember, though with the music he’s creating right now, we suspect you wouldn’t be able to forget him anyway.
99.9% by Kaytranada
Kaytranada has been on the up ever since he started banging out quality remixes for some of music’s biggest names, and has truly come into his own as of late. Following his incredibly open interview with The Fader, his audience has never felt more connected to the Canadian beat maker, which he’s seemingly rewarding with his debut album, 99.9%. As expected, the LP sees him team up with all kinds of talent – from AlunaGeorge to Craig David – all while keeping a firm hand on his own brand of genre-hopping, energetic music.
‘TRACK UNO’ opens us into Kaytranada’s world, where disco melodies are met with a heavy beat that takes his music far beyond a 70s dance floor. ‘BUS RIDE’ – featuring Karriem Riggins and River Tiber – immediately steps down the pace, leading us into a blissful place that seems more suited to an aeroplane ride rather than the average bus journey. River Tiber crops up elsewhere on the album, joining Kay on the electro-inflected ‘VIVID DREAMS’. Vic Mensa also appears, arriving on the scene of ‘DRIVE ME CRAZY’ to deliver dizzying bars over the top of Kay’s blend of heavy bass and scattered, otherworldly electronic melodies. Meanwhile Phonte features on ‘ONE TOO MANY’, a track that meshes old-school R&B vibes with dance undertones. Then of course, we have ‘GLOWED UP’, the quirky number featuring Anderson .Paak’s smooth, distinctive vocals, which effectively comes with two parts for the price of one.
While his collaborators stretch far and wide, Kay’s own influence is set to go even further if it hasn’t already done so. His references and genres are endlessly shifting, just as we suspect your body will be shifting while listening to 99.9%. If he knows how to do one thing, it’s how to make you dance.