Best new records to listen to this autumn
by Tori Amos
To know Tori Amos is to fall under the spell of her inimitable voice. Sultry and dynamic, it’s at the heart of everything she does. While the warm rasp seduces you with its alluring femininity, the histrionic pitch-shifts make your stomach drop like a roller coaster ride. On her 15th studio album, Native Invader, Amos uses the magic of these vocals to channel Mother Nature and her ability to heal and renew through the cycles of death and rebirth.
Sonically, the record mimics this subject matter beautifully: the soundscapes are mossy, echoic and buzzing with electronic loops, recalling crinkly forest floors and foggy mountain roads. But it wouldn’t be Tori Amos without the piano taking the spotlight; rich in hard-hitting, moody chords, it elevates the vocals to ecstatic heights. Together, they form a loving tryst, which makes the basis for such wistful ballads as “Breakaway” and “Bang”. The stuff of dreams, no less.
I Tell A Fly
by Benjamin Clementine
With his unusual sense of style, mesmerising stage presence and an incredible story of success (from homeless busker to Mercury Prize-winning musician) Benjamin Clementine is one intriguing individual. And then there’s the music. Listening to his genre-bending sophomore album, you can’t help but wonder if this man’s been genuinely touched by some kind of higher force.
The visceral tenor seems to come out of him like some unbridled, primal urge he has no power to control. Put on “God Save the Jungle” for a taste of his grandiose approach to melody and limitless musical ambition, or give “Phantom of Aleppoville” a spin to witness how a feverish harpsichord-driven night terror blossoms into a tender, mournful ballad. I Tell a Fly is his magnum opus so far—half rock opera, half religious experience, it may well be one of the best albums of 2017.
Schumann Symphonies Nos. 1–4
by Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony
For further soul-cleansing, cathartic action, you might want to venture almost a couple of centuries back and revisit Robert Schumann’s riveting symphonies 1–4. Densely textured, grand and complex, they cover a whole spectrum of emotion, reflecting the composer’s turbulent life plagued by darkness. It immerses itself in states of obsession, depression, and exhaustion, yet always re-emerges triumphant and uplifting in the end.
Here, the complete symphonies are performed by the Grammy Award-winning team of Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony in a passionate live recording, produced by the Symphony’s in-house record label SFS Media in the highest quality audio, and packaged in a stunning deluxe 82-page hard-bound book, which makes it a perfect gift for any fan of one of the most stirring composers of the Romantic era.
Out on November 10
Low in High-School
The latest album by British icon and the country’s number one provocateur, Morrissey, is, well, the most Morrissey thing imaginable. You could fill a book with things the former Smiths frontman doesn’t approve of, and he rips into them all—from monarchy to mainstream media—yet again. But once you get past all the banner-waving, you’ll find a beautifully arranged and versatile record that announces itself with the riveting blatancy of “My Love I’d Do Anything For You”. This roaring rock prelude catapults you straight into Morrissey’s strangling croon, triggering angsty teenage nostalgia.
The lyrics are as sharp and carefully orchestrated as ever. Each word hits its beat as if measured by a metronome, without a wasted syllable in sight. Big issues are tackled in miniature vignettes, in a tone between self-righteous mockery and discerning self-deprecation. It’s everything we love about Moz.
Out on November 17
Ah, Queen. The cornerstone of any rock music education and authors of some of the most massive rock anthems in the history of music. Two of them, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”, appeared on their landmark 1977 album News of the World. The stomp-stomp-clap rhythm and Brian May’s singing guitar solos are so deeply embedded in our collective music psyche that it’s hard to imagine those songs with a single note changed. Yet that’s exactly what you get on the upcoming deluxe edition of News of the World and it’s mind-bogglingly cool.
Included in this special box set are hard-to-find versions of the songs, unearthed outtakes, and rarities from the band’s archives, including a newly created “alternative” version of the record, Raw Sessions. Here you'll find a never-before-heard version of “All Dead, All Dead” with Freddie Mercury on the vocals instead of May, an almost unrecognisably jazzy early version of “Get Down, Make Love” and the occasional little jokes and exchanges between the band members. It’s a fascinating collection for casual and hard-core Queen fans alike, and an unmistakable reminder of the band’s incredible stylistic flexibility and all-embracing musical confidence.
Out on November 17