Album review overview: King Hannah, Priest and more

Photo (c) Jorge Fakhouri Filho

Dozens of new albums arrive at Maxazine’s editorial staff every week. There are 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.

Arooj Aftab – Night Reign

Arooj Aftab’s new album “Night Reign” is an enchanting exploration of the night, filled with intimate relationships, somber dreams, and fiery fantasies. The night is her greatest source of inspiration, which is clearly evident in the melancholic and hopeful sounds. From the opening track “Aey Nehin,” Aftab creates a sense of anticipation and longing. Her voice guides us through shadowy passages, with each composition revealing new emotional layers. Her rendition of “Autumn Leaves” is haunting and innovative, with minimalist instrumentation enhancing the atmosphere. The album combines original compositions with classical texts, such as those by the 18th-century Urdu poet Mah Laqa Bai Chanda. Collaborations with musicians like James Francies and Cautious Clay add depth to the rich soundscapes. Aftab’s versatility and artistic vision are evident in the diverse musical styles and languages. Highlights like “Saaqi” and “Last Night Reprise” showcase Aftab’s ability to weave tradition and modernity. Her music is intimate and universal, with carefully thought-out production and arrangements. “Night Reign” confirms Aftab’s status as an innovative and emotionally resonant artist. This impressive work deserves a well-earned 8 out of 10. (Jan Vranken) (8/10) (Verve Label Group)

King Hannah – Big Swimmer

King Hannah’s “Big Swimmer” is an immersive listening experience that takes the listener on a musical journey from the very first track. With Sharon van Etten’s vocal contribution on the opening song, the duo sets the tone for an atmospheric and emotionally charged album. Hannah Merrick’s voice is versatile and captivating, ranging from sweet to aggressive, creating a fascinating dynamic in songs like “New York, Let’s Do Nothing.” This track evokes a vibe reminiscent of Dry Cleaning and Lou Reed, perfect for a night in the city that never sleeps. The influences of New York are clearly audible, adding an authentic and raw energy to the album. The eight-minute “Somewhere near El Paso” brings the same tension and depth as Lou Reed’s classic masterpiece without being a rip-off. It is a developed stylistic figure that King Hannah makes their own, with an intense build-up that fully engages the listener. With “Big Swimmer,” King Hannah proves their ability to create profound, atmospheric music that is both hypnotic and impressive. The album compels the listener to fully immerse and leaves a lasting impression. This album has the potential to become a timeless masterpiece and is highly recommended for fans of emotionally charged rock music. (Anton Dupont) (9/10) (City Slang)

Winnetka Bowling League – Sha La La

Winnetka Bowling League, led by the versatile Matthew Koma, releases their second album “Sha La La.” Although the band’s name immediately stands out for its originality, the album itself fails to leave a lasting impression. The sunny, reverb-rich sounds that characterize their music evoke the scenic coasts of California rather than the urban alleys of Los Angeles. The album opens nicely with the title track “Sha La La,” but is quickly overshadowed by an overabundance of reverb. This creates a swimming pool sound that sometimes obscures the authentic tones of real instruments and voices. While some tracks show potential, they get stuck in the same wall of sound, making it difficult to truly stand out. Tracks like “Slow Dances” and “CVS,” which previously received some airplay, lack the freshness and spontaneity that could make them memorable. Although a lot of love and care has undoubtedly gone into the production, the album sometimes feels too polished and lacks the raw honesty that can leave a deep impression and would better suit this music. “Sha La La” will certainly be cherished by the band’s loyal fan base, but it seems unable to captivate a broader audience. It is an enjoyable album for fans of reverb-washed pop, but fails to rise above the average. Ultimately, it is an album that will likely end up on sale quickly, despite the strong start and the promising name of the band. (Jan Vranken) (6/10) (Winnetka Bowling League)

Priest – Dark Pulse

The Swedish band Priest, better known for their mysterious image than their music, takes us once again into the neon-lit worlds of 80s sci-fi, mixed with gothic soundscapes, with “Dark Pulse.” Since their debut single in 2017, the band has built a solid fan base and previously released the albums “New Flesh” and “Cyberhead.” “Dark Pulse” stays true to Priest’s recognizable style, with dark electronic beats and atmospheric synths that evoke a futuristic atmosphere. Tracks like “Phantom Pain” and “Dead Ringer” immediately transport you to the dystopian setting of an 80s sci-fi film. The band has managed to find a unique niche, but unfortunately, this niche is not sufficiently explored to make the album truly interesting. The music on “Dark Pulse” is certainly entertaining and consistent in style, but lacks the depth and variety to remain engaging. The production is tight and the soundscapes are atmospheric, but the whole sometimes feels repetitive and predictable. Few surprises or innovative elements can truly captivate the listener. While “Dark Pulse” will undoubtedly satisfy the band’s fans, it falls short of offering a new or exciting direction for Priest. The album provides a pleasant listening experience for fans of the genre but fails to rise above the average. (Anton Dupont) (6/10) (Blue Nine)

AK3K – When I Die ; Don’t Act ; Like You Care

The new album “When I Die ; Don’t Act ; Like You Care” by AK3K is consistent with the stylistic errors in the title: quite “wrong.” AK3K, a mysterious artist claiming to be a 3000-year-old pharaoh from the underworld, has found a niche in the online music world. However, this niche is insufficiently explored in this album to become interesting. It is difficult to determine where AK3K exactly comes from, but the album sounds like an attempt by a German artist from Hamburg or Mannheim to pretend to be an American. Production-wise, it is a poverty-stricken effort: the beats mostly seem to consist of Apple loops, and both melody and tension are completely lacking. Tracks like “Drowning” and “Who Are You” try to feign some emotional depth but are undermined by amateurish production and repetitive sounds. While AK3K has developed a certain, wholly unique aesthetic and integrated influences from various genres, this album fails to impress anywhere. It lacks the authenticity and quality needed to truly captivate. “When I Die ; Don’t Act ; Like You Care” is a disappointing listening experience that will likely quickly fade into obscurity. It is an album that unfortunately has more minuses than pluses, resulting in a score of 3 out of 10, mainly for the creative attempt that sadly fails. (Elodie Renard) (3/10) (AK3K)

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