Sublime vocal jazz, pulsating pop, the best of baroque and more—here are our favourite new records
Musica Barocca by Il Giordino Armonico
A new baroque release always puts a smile on my face. The dainty, metal string plucks of the harpsichord, the ornate harmonies, the virtuosic audacity of solo instrument parts—and all this dreamed up and written down over four long centuries ago! Thankfully, groups such as the pioneering period instrument ensemble, Il Giordino Armonico, make it their mission to bridge that time gap and bring the baroque opulence to the 21st century.
Musica Barocca is their lavish collection of recordings drawn from existing albums, that highlights some of the most lustrous gems of the 17th and 18th centuries. Carefully curated, the record offers great emotional depth and variety, bringing together different composers, countries, styles and formats.
There’s the playful flautino (a humble sopranino recorder) concerto by Antonio Vivaldi which belies the devilishly complex nature of the piece; the regal brio of Bach’s famous Suite No. 3, strikingly sung by oboes at the top of their woody lungs; the jovial and jumpy Pachelbel’s Canon whose iconic harmony has made its way into pop songs, films, and adverts across the world—and a number of other, equally excellent pieces by composers like Telemann, Purcell and Albinoni—whose Adagio for solo violin must be Saint Peter’s soundtrack of choice at the pearly gates.
Lots of great composers came after baroque. But could Mozart or Haydn match the sheer pathos and unreserved drama of their predecessors? Not to this listener.
If My Wife New, I’d Be Dead by CMAT
Let’s jump back into the 21st century by way of the freshly-baked pop sensation from Dublin that is Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, or CMAT. Her astonishingly good debut album is a masterclass in song-writing, a compendium of funny, sad and weird life stories, and a solid case for her being one of the most accomplished young vocalists out there at the moment.
But most of all it’s just a really moreish, hooky record that makes you want to sing along and giggle at song titles like “Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend)”. CMAT’svocals are a blend of raspy warmth, girlish charm and Nashville-tinted belts that she deploys with great confidence and verve. This is how you make your first record.
I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me by King Hannah
You know that scene in Fight Club, where Helena Bonham-Carter’s Marla lies spread out on the bed, talking on the phone, a stomachful of Xanax and a black hole of morbid self-deprecation and nonchalance? Translate that vibe into music, and you have yourself King Hannah’s balls-to-the-wall debut album, I’m Sorry, I Was Just Being Me (the title itself says it all).
You heard us right, debut. King Hannah is a Liverpool duo consisting of Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle, whose sound and style is so meticulously distilled, it’s hard to believe it’s the band’s very first record. An agony of wailing guitars, drones, heavy-hitting bass and Merrick’s gloomy, Portishead-esque vocals, the music follows in the angsty footsteps of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, with a bit of its own unique, sleepy, septic twist in the mix. We’re big fans, to say the least.
Islands by Josef Salvat
And when you're ready to take a break from the doom and gloom, Josef Salvat will be waiting for you with a kick of sleek and addictive electro pop, that is his delectable new record, Islands. It’s the artist’s third studio album, that sees him released from the shackles of a major label, embracing his new-found independence and creative control, which manifests itself through the exploration of daring subjects and equally audacious grooves.
The catchy 12 numbers on this album navigate the rocky waters of love, lust, relationships, heartbreak and disappointment, all wrapped in bouncy, shimmering beats and instantly likeable melodies. It's a first-rate, elegantly stylised record filled with tracks you won't get enough of—Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber have nothing on Salvat.
Ghost Song by Cécile McLorin Salvant
Cécile McLorin Salvant is a classically trained jazz vocalist and composer with three Grammys—among numerous other awards—under her belt. Ghost Song is her debut with the Nonesuch label and it is so thoroughly wonderful, we’re really at loss as to where to begin praising it. Chronological order it is then.
The opening Kate Bush cover of “Wuthering Heights” is hands down one of our favourite music covers in the recent years. What starts off as a beautifully austere sacred chant, bursts boldly into life with a few gutsy bass notes halfway through, Salvant’s vocals assured but at ease, reaching for elated, ethereal folk.
Then there’s Salvant’s titular “Ghost Song”—a fantastically arranged, solemn R‘n’B number full of showstopping harmonies; and the musical theatre-inspired “Obligation”—a clever, biting musing on relationship dynamics; plus nine other tirelessly creative, sophisticated tracks.
Salvant’s own words perfectly capture the essence of this album: “It’s unlike anything I’ve done before—it’s getting closer to reflecting my personality as an eclectic curator." She's already there, if you ask us. Ghost Song is a wildly versatile collection of songs, that somehow sit together comfortably, suprising and bewitching you at every corner.
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