Květy and more...
This Prague foursome has had a tendency to overthink things in the past. Here, they go back to basics: no guest stars or supporting musicians, nothing but frontman Martin E. Kyšperský’s effortlessly beautiful songs and the band’s formidable talent. Once they were done, they defied their own orders by letting producer Ondřej Ježek deconstruct them all over again. This tension lends a spooky air to tracks like “Lesní Duch”, which completely falls apart about two minutes in only to come roaring back in a style I’m calling ghostwave. “A. Kurosawa”, built around a backwards track, is a very cute poppy little thing seeded with noises and edits that scare the crap out of me. By the time I get to the banjo-flavored swamp rock stomp of “Marko Polo”, so close to my beloved Circulatory System, I realize that I don’t want to ever NOT listen to Květy. Matt Cibula
Iranian-born Tarkian is a multi-instrumentalist and composer whose day job as one-third of Niyaz has earned him accolades among world music aficionados. With Mehraab, he leaves behind his usual collaborators and pairs up with Persian singer Khosro Ansari, whose husky voice and plaintive delivery provide a perfect counter to the delicately woven instrumental beds of these songs. Opener “The Wild Deer” sets the template—lots of percussion, lots of plucking and strumming, lots of feeling—but it’s the second track, “Through the Veil”, that really gets things moving. Ansari and Tarkian prove to be a talented duo, and one hopes that they will collaborate more in the future. David Maine
O Que Você Quer Saber De Verdade
There has never been any question about the size of Marisa Monte’s talent or ambition. For the last few solo albums, it has seemed like she’s been just trying SO HARD to be the new Caetano Veloso that she had forgotten how to be honest and real with her audience. On this album, however, she happily destroyed every wall she ever built, tossing off big-hearted truths and indelible pop hooks with equal aplomb. On “O Que Se Quer”, she creates a new forró classic without even trying; “Seja Feliz” is a hip-shaker like Gil and Jorge and, yes, Caetano used to make. But it is on the title track where she hits the hardest, instructing us to run free and pay attention “To What You Really Want to Know”—and making the track sound EXACTLY like that. A stunner. Matt Cibula
I spent a chunk of this year listening to good albums that went floppy around track seven and this is one of them. But everything up to about that point is so worthwhile that I’m putting it in this end-of-year list, wondering as I do if I shouldn’t have gone for something more solid—but the tone is so unusually deep and loose and tense, and Hope Masike’s voice goes so indescribably and uniquely well with the mbira she plays, a calmness above a tumbled plink. And then there’s the rest of this Norwegian jazz ensemble, a saxophone played by Hallvard Godal, who formed the group after a sabbatical in Mozambique. The music belongs to that region, very Zimbabwean actually—Masike’s from Zim—with that curling rhythm, the water always going slowly down a plughole, eternally down and down. Deanne Sole
Most West-based bands mining foreign territory tend to head for Africa, but the Southeast Asian-inspired are more likely to sound puckish and bitey, as if the less-popular choice invigorates them. Neung Phak starts off singing, “Thank you, thank you,” and almost goes out on one song that seems to be about a screaming cat. Dengue Fever has already staked out territory in Cambodia, but Neung Phak has the Sublime Frequencies people involved, so you know they’re going to be looking further north to Thai/Laos. As they roam, they go southern too, they make it to Indonesia, then they glance up at North Korea. I’m favouriting this one for its extreme rumpus qualities, the hardness of its unforgiving pop, the absence of softness or coddling smoodge, the good chorus, and the recalcitrance of the Southeast Asia enthusiast. Deanne Sole