Yes, we know you’ve already downloaded Madonna’s Madame X and weighed in on social whether it’s a pop masterwork or a canny move to embrace world music. But… what are you gonna play to make you feel Proud?
We have the latest: Queer singer-songwriter Jonny Pierce bounces back after a breakup; Marina explores human extremes and Chaka Khan says hello to happiness.
Hello Happiness (Diary Records / Island Records)
The Queen of Funk’s newest effort provides another notch in her long list of achievements. Hello Happiness marks her first full-length offering in nearly a dozen years. It is by turns sultry, spirited and soothing. While its awash with contemporary, cutting-edge production, it still sparkles with her signature pipes soaring over her disco-inspired melodies. Hello Happiness should appeal to longtime fans and many curious millennials and Gen Z-ers less familiar with her work. Highlights include the catchy title track, and the towering “Like a Lady,” which manages to sound both like a lost ‘70s gem and a current Top 40 radio jam. The similarly-titled album closer “Ladylike” takes a more minimalist approach: It employs a slower, R&B groove as its backdrop to set the stage for Chaka to take her vocals stratospheric. Clocking in at under half an hour over the course of just seven tracks, my only criticism is that there’s not much more to digest, dance to, and delight in! Regardless, Hello Happiness is a much-welcome return.
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On their fifth record, The Drums — formed and fronted by queer singer/songwriter Jonny Pierce — explore self-soothing in the wake of a painful divorce and a challenging stint living alone in Los Angeles. Deciding it was time to face his demons head-on and begin therapy, Jonny explains: “I was exhausted, depleted and sabotaging myself; partying so much, but in reality running away from pain. It was a downward spiral… It was do or die.” His introspection gave rise to what might well be The Drums’ most honest, relatable and straightforward music yet. As Pierce sees it, “In order to take care of yourself, you have to ask questions. Those are the things I needed to confront. It’s interesting talking about the past, dealing with things that are long overdue.” While its brimming with growth and transformation, Brutalism remains at its core a pop record. Working with Chris Coady (revered for his work with Beach House, Future Islands and a host of other indie artists), the album retains an emotional rawness but its layers are delicate intricate and warm. Fans of early Depeche Mode, New Order and The Smiths will likely be … smitten.
Love + Fear (Atlantic Records)
The fourth album by Marina (formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds) is a double release that finds the chanteuse offering material tailored to fit each half of its two-word title. Love deals with a yearning to enjoy life and a plea for unity. Conversely, Fear addresses such topics as gender inequality, systematic misogyny, insecurity and the search for self-actualization. Her mission: to showcase and explore dualities inherent in the human condition. Marina explains: “The psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross believed that there are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love; all negative emotions from fear. I can trace a lot of my behavior back to these two emotions, particularly in relationships.” In summary, she says her work “has always been inspired and shaped by traditional storytelling and social shifts in the culture. As a society we have experienced such major social change in the past three years — politically, digitally and psychologically. Love + Fear reflects this.” Predictably, the bulk of Love is florid and pretty (see “Handmade Heaven”) while the majority of Fear is considerably darker (see “Life is Strange”). Marina will bring these to life on an extensive North America tour this fall.
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Last modified: July 30, 2019