Music reviews: Best Coast, Roisin Murphy, Oddisee
Save for the odd banging club tune and an EP sung in Italian, it’s been a long and sparse eight years since we last wallowed in the effortless, husky tones of former Moloko frontwoman Roisin Murphy.
The elegant and intriguingly titled follow-up to 2007’s Overpowered sees the Irish trip-hop diva take inspiration from the LGBT cultural movement of New York’s drag balls. Shimmery lead single Gone Fishing, Murphy’s “Broadway musical” tribute to the balls, kicks things off in soulful fashion before the electro-beat of Evil Eyes brings the sensual disco funk à la Grace Jones.
Produced with musical director Eddie Jones, Murphy’s voice has lost none of its sass. Whether it’s tackling gospel pop (Unputdownable) or jazzy down-tempo electronica (Exile), it sounds both strong and as breathlessly sultry as ever. On the slow-burning deep house of Exploitation, the album highlight that Murphy says is “about selling out, manipulation”, her seductive vocals float above layers of droning synth, as the beat threatens to take it further into a pumping house track.
A most welcome return.
Roisin Murphy Hairless Toys (Play It Again Sam)
Making their major-label debut, dreamy guitar-pop duo Best Coast leave their lo-fi roots behind and head for bigger and brighter surf-rock territory on their third album.
With an intensely polished, radio-friendly sound primed for summer festival sing-alongs and a wider audience, singer Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno's garage rock is filled with melodic hooks and catchy choruses that hark back to the girl group harmonies of 1990s alt-rock.
Underneath the commercial sunny pop exterior, there are hints of a darker, foreboding nature, but most of these 12 tracks wouldn't sound out of place as soundtrack to a Jennifer Aniston movie. Things improve when Best Coast leave the beach to tread the shoegazing path, as on the glorious title track which sees Cosentino effortlessly belting out "California nights, make me feel so happy I could die".
It's a song of heartfelt sincerity - and the line "I never wanna get so high/ That I can't come back down to real life" is a poignant lament from a singer whose penchant for pot has been a little too well documented.
Best Coast California Nights (Harvest Records)
It's been a fine start to the year for fans of intelligent hip hop, with genre-defining albums from Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar. The most exciting recent news is that influential verbal gymnasts Blackalicious are poised to release their first album in a decade, Imani Vol. 1, the first of a trilogy no less, later this year.
Thankfully, until then we have the return of DC rapper/producer Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, aka Oddisee, with his seventh solo album following on from Diamond District's March on Washington released last year. Oddisee's lyrical prowess, the diverse cadence of delivery and rhythmic flow only serve to highlight the complexity of his social commentary, and accompanied by the head-nodding beats and gradiose production, it remains sonically fresh and intoxicating. Isms are still Oddisee's bread and butter on The Good Fight - hedonism, capitalism and materialism all get a good run.
Continuing to fly majestically beneath the mainstream radar, Oddisee is an inspired voice that deserves to be heard.
Oddisee The Good Fight (Mello Music Group)