Album review overview: Colin Blunstone, Sjako, Amy Winehouse and more

Photo (c) Jorge Fakhouri Filho

Dozens of new albums arrive at Maxazine’s editorial staff every week. Way too many to listen to them all, let alone review them. It ensures that too many albums are left behind. And that’s a shame. That is why today we post an overview of albums that arrive at the editors in short reviews.

Colin Blunstone – Less is More

Colin Blunstone, known for his breathy, controlled vocals as frontman of the Zombies, returns with his new EP “Less is More”. More a stroke of a pen on canvas than a fully fleshed-out work, this EP offers a collection of demos that make an intriguing addition to the singer’s repertoire. Despite being demos, the beauty of Blunstone’s voice still shines through without losing an ounce of its power. The simplicity of songs consisting only of voice and guitar is stunning, showcasing Blunstone’s signature edge. “Less is More” deserves praise for its intimacy and emotional depth. The highlight of the EP, “The Sun Will Rise”, excels with beautiful lyrics and calls for further elaboration. For fans of Blunstone and quality pop music, this EP is an absolute must. With his timeless voice and subdued arrangements, “Less is More” deserves a solid 8 out of 10. This EP proves that even in its most minimal form, Bluestone’s music continues to shine like a true work of art. (Jan Vranken) (8/10) (Colin Blunstone)

Nia Archives – Silence is Loud

Nia Archives, a creative force who seamlessly blends jungle and neo-soul in what she calls ‘future classic’, delivers a stunning performance with her debut album “Silence is Loud”. This 13-track album is a rollercoaster of fun and craftsmanship, with Archives drawing inspiration from the classic jungle period between 1992 and 1996. The album opens with power and remains consistently engaging from there. Tracks such as “Cards on the Table” and “Out of Options” demonstrate not only the Archives’ artistic versatility but also its ability to maintain commercial appeal without sacrificing artistic integrity. Inspired by pioneers such as Burial and Maya Angelou, it’s remarkable how Archives puts a fresh and modern spin on jungle, a genre traditionally associated with the early ’90s. Her voice, often compared to the jazzy sounds of Erykah Badu and Nina Simone, is an instrument in itself, with a soulful sound infused with the sunshine of reggae music. “Silence is Loud” not only marks Nia Archives’ personal growth as an artist but also her impact on the music scene as a whole. Her ability to deliver both raw energy and deep emotional resonance makes her an undeniable talent to keep an eye on. With this album, Nia Archives proves that she is not only a striking, charismatic figure in a genre that traditionally lacks such personalities but also that she plays a leading role in the renewal of drum and bass after 2020. “Silence is Loud” is one of the best albums so far this year. (Elodie Renard) (9/10) (Universal Music Operations)

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (Soundtrack)

At first hearing, the soundtrack of the biopic “Back to Black”, about the too-short life of Amy Winehouse, may not add much to the singer’s well-known songs. Fans won’t discover anything new on the soundtrack. However, what is interesting for fans of Amy and people who will see the film, is that the soundtrack places Winehouse’s music in a historical and cultural context. Songs by The Shangri-La’s and Minnie Riperton also appear on this soundtrack, amongst others Sarah Vaughan, which gets right to the heart of the matter. Winehouse naturally belongs on that list. The most beautiful track on the album remains of course the live version of “Back to Black” from the BBC radio performance. That bassline is wonderful. That voice is heavenly. Amy is in top form. So it was possible. (Jan Vranken) (7/10) (Universal Music)

Sjako! – Megaliths

Sjako! returns with their latest album “Megaliths”, showing they are still relevant in the Dutch music scene. With nine new songs and a surprising cover of Frank Zappa’s “I’m The Slime”, the band brings fresh air to the genre. Recorded in French Burgundy, the album exudes a relaxed and energetic atmosphere, with enchanting guitar riffs, groovy basslines and tight drumming. The varied tracks, from heavy rock to laid-back melodies, are strong and well thought out, with poetic lyrics and a touch of humour. Shako! manages to attract a new audience with the new album, for example, “The Last Pacifist”, which could easily have come from the pen of Les Claypool of Primus. And “The Only Way to Clap Your Hands” also seems inspired by the Americans’ “Sailing The Seas of Cheese”. Strong, but Primus’, far too short. And with “Exactly nothing” the men dare to go even more American, a bit like Sly or George Clinton. Surprising, daring but strong! “Megaliths” is a successful comeback for Sjako! and is eligible for the list of best albums of 2024! Already! (Norman van den Wildenberg) (9/10) (Sounds Haarlem Likes Vinyl)

Leyla McCalla – Sun Without the Heat

Leyla McCalla’s latest album, “Sun Without the Heat”, is a masterpiece of ten beautiful musical tracks, brilliantly produced by Maryam Qudus, formerly of the band Spacemamoth. The sound is undeniably modern, yet embraces original Haitian influences, making this album extremely interesting to listen to. An example of this symbiosis can be found in “Scaled to Survive”, in which McCalla’s flawless and lived-in vocals merge with a simple but extremely effective arrangement, enriched with wonderful instrumentation. The result is an enchanting composition that takes the listener to the world as McCalla imagined it. The album takes you through different musical landscapes, as can be heard in the danceable and organic “Love We Had”. This song is even reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, thanks to McCalla’s seamless blending of various styles and idioms in a completely logical and free manner. “Sun Without the Heat” is a beautiful album that showcases McCalla’s versatility as a singer-songwriter and does not seem to emphasize hers as a cellist. Her ability to combine the most beautiful melodies with infectious rhythms makes this album a real pleasure to listen to. (Jan Vranken) (9/10) (Anti)

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