New Music Friday Vol. 8

Orchestras and shredding guitars, a sweet songbird and a couple of powerful voices, jazz and hook-heavy noise pop...This week on:


Stacey Kent - I Know I Dream: The Orchestral Sessions

I first heard a Stacey Kent recording when I was working at a record store in 2000. I was transfixed. Kent's voice is smooth and gentle. She sings with a clarity and relaxation that is strikingly intimate. Few jazz singers perform with that level of calm and grace. Her timbre and approach to singing bring to mind a jazz version of Alison Krauss.

The instrumentation of her albums (she has released one nearly every year for the past twenty) typically lies within the realm of small combos, but as the subtitle of this new one suggests, she has leapt head-first into Orchestra land. The arrangements are lush and beautiful, and she seems right at home, confidently skating along the top of them. I am thrilled to hear her sound accompanied by such full colors.

I confess I got a little confused about the release date for this record. I had it listed for Nov. 10, and I think that's technically true for the physical CD version. However, I think the digital version snuck by me a couple of weeks ago. Oh well. In some way, it's being released today, and I'm still excited to listen to it this weekend.

Seal - Standards

Apparently Seal does covers now. I listened to his album of Soul covers once when it came out in 2008, and I was not excited by it. So I definitely didn't listen to the sequel he released 3 years later. And now he's releasing an album of standards. I'll give him credit for not retiring quietly and completely into eternal cover-land, though. He's spaced those out with a couple of albums of his own music that completely flew under my radar. (I decided to go back to his newest album of originals, entitled 7, and I think Seal is single-handedly keeping the tradition of the power ballad alive. If that's what you're into, he's pretty good at it.)

That said, I saw this title and instantly asked myself... Do we need another aging pop star recording another album of standards? On the face of it, this model is getting a little tired.

Anyone who's read previous installments of this blog will begin to note that I'm a sucker for a voice. Whatever you think of his music or career, Seal undeniably has a voice. It has a light patina of grit, it’s strong, and instantly recognizable, so I thought I’d give this project at least one listen.

He's not exactly a jazz singer, but he is successfully crooning with that steely, unmistakable instrument he has. The arrangements range from good to slightly overdone, but sometimes even that is appropriate for a good ol' crooning session. I'll go ahead and admit that it makes me happy to hear this golden voice singing some time-honored golden melodies.

Sleigh Bells - Kid Kruschev

Sometimes you need to listen to music that feels like it should be accompanied by pyrotechnics. Since the debut record, this duo has owned shredding power chords with slamming guitars and ballistic drum beats. Combine that with surprisingly nuanced vocals (...and sometimes not) and a knack for catchy hooks: Sleigh Bells rocks in a big, bad way. 

Sleigh Bells has a somewhat more aggressive sound than I typically enjoy, but amongst the crunch and the bombast, there’s a simplicity and clarity that I find diametrically enjoyable. Their first couple of albums were finely-crafted hard-rocking jams, but particularly with their last album, Jessica Rabbit, they began adding keyboards and synths to their sound, embracing a punchy brand of pop to augment their aggressive, aesthetic. Jessica Rabbit is really a great album.

This new one, Kid Kruschev, is a mini-album, and from what little I've heard of it, they're moving farther from the aggressive edge and closer to fully embracing their pop side. And singer Alexis Krauss' vocals are stronger and soaring front and center in the mix, and I'm very okay with that. It's been a while since I've listened to Sleigh Bells; I'm really happy to be listening to new stuff. If any of this intrigues you, check it out. The track below has less noise, more pop.

Oh, yeah, and speaking of pop. Taylor Swift's new album comes out today, too. I'm not saying that won't be worth a listen (I generally like her), but I guess we'll hear that get played to death. You won't need me yammering on about it. 

Happy Friday!


Brian HinmanComment