July brings us a delightful farrago of everything from Baroque to jazz, via creepy Lynchian vibes and filthy rock.
Themes for Television by Johnny Jewel
Imagine a danger-induced thrill of late-night dive bars, set to the sound of eerie cries of a lonesome saxophone, flavoured with some grimy Eighties synths—if this kind of scenario sounds up your alley, you should drop everything you’re doing and get hold of Johnny Jewel’s latest spooky little treat.
Jewel is an American record producer and a member of several bands such as Chromatics and Glass Candy, but he’s also been garnering accolades for his film collaborations with the likes of Ryan Gosling, Nicolas Winding Refn and, most importantly, David Lynch, whose recent revival of the cult show Twin Peaks features Jewel’s music.
Themes for Television is a great foray into his work and does exactly what it says on the tin: entrenches you in rich, highly-stylised soundscapes that transport you into a mysterious, Taxi Driver-like state of mind. An intriguing, downtempo compilation, it’s bound to expand your sonic frontiers.
Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album by John Coltrane
Grab your whiskey, dim your lights and get ready for a late-night jazz session like no other because you’re in for a real special treat. Recorded in 1963, Both Directions at Once is a delicious 90 minutes of previously unheard tracks found in the possession of jazz titan John Coltrane’s first wife’s Naima Coltrane’s family. The original tracks were cut in a single day by what became known as Coltrane’s “classic quartet” at the height of their musical output.
The album is everything we love about Trane: long, improv-heavy sax solos, convulsive bass lines, sizzling drums and manic unbridled energy that takes various shapes throughout the record; from the breezy, up-tempo “Impressions” to the nomadic but smoky “Nature Boy” via sunshiny vibes of “Vilia.” We’re also treated to alternate takes of some of the tracks that display the quartet’s light-footed virtuosity and ease of experimentation. However crazy the melodies get, every beat here is laid down with perfection and fluid smoothness.
No Trail and Other Unholy Paths by Jayle Jayle
In the mood for something dark and heavy but your Nick Cave records are so worn they’re falling apart? Well, you’re in for a treat with this one. Evan Paterson, the “Americana-noir” singer/guitarist working under the pithy moniker “Jayle Jayle” is a worthy connoisseur of glum, dejected sound with beats so heavy they pound down your skull like an army boot.
A sparse, minimal affair, the record doesn’t concern itself with frills and grace notes, instead relying on using just a few key elements, and using them right. Among these are Paterson’s rugged, hushed vocals, reverberant bass and the occasional deranged sax that appears out of thin air, as it does on the ridiculously cool “Low Again Street.”
It’s Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor and Josh Homme all amalgamated into one ultra-masculine, nihilistic and meaty music stew that’ll grab you and won’t let go.
Lamp Lit Prose by Dirty Projectors
However, if you’re looking for something happier and more whimsical, go 180 degrees and give the latest Dirty Projectors powerhouse of a record a spin.
Bursting with crazy vocal lines, jangly guitars and childishly joyous trumpets, it’s 40 minutes of exhilarating surprises through and through, reminiscent of the quirky, multi-layered sounds of TV on the Radio.
No, really: there’s not an idle moment here. The record feels like an attack on the senses when you first hit play, slapping you with a multitude of sounds, themes, instruments and tunes, all coming together in a symphony of chaos. It’s the kind of music that’ll take several listens before you can start dissecting the thick, rich and dense motifs that make up the tracks.
Full disclosure: the manic, non-stop energy does get a bit repetitive and overbearing after a while, but if you’re in the market for something funky and uninhibited to kick-start your day, Lamp Lit Prose might just hit the spot.
Vivaldi x2 by Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima
If Baroque music is something you’ve always planned to get into but never got past The Four Seasons, here’s your perfect opportunity. From the same brilliant pen of Antonio Vivaldi, comes a majestic, life-affirming collection of double concertos—a genre he excelled in—bursting with the glorious, uplifting tones of strings, oboes and bassoons, and adorned with the uniquely beautiful sounds of such period instruments as viola d’amore and lute.
The works are performed here by violinist Adrian Chandler—a leading interpreter of Italian Baroque music—and his period-instrument ensemble, La Serenissima. Together, they deliver these vivacious concertos with great gusto and virtuosity, emphasising their versatility and dynamism, as they alternate between impish playfulness and dignified solemnity.
Not only do these works showcase Vivaldi-the composer at the absolute top of his game, but they also reveal Vivaldi-the poet, attuned to the joys and hardships of the human condition, creating music that remains the perfect tonic for the soul centuries later.
Loading up next...