Album review overview: Laughing Stock, L’Impératrice 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.

Laughing Stock – Shelter

‘Shelter’ is the sixth album by the Norwegian band Laughing Stock. This album narrates a journey to ‘Shelter,’ a peaceful world where people live in harmony with nature alongside Shelter’s Master. The title track exudes a serene atmosphere, with mysterious lyrics and music (featuring violin) forming a cohesive whole. ‘Roots Go Deep’ blends melancholy with acoustic guitar and rock elements. The balance between high and low tones (including viola) is very well executed. Flute melodies lighten the overall austerity. Tim Bowness is one of the guest musicians, contributing vocals on the final track. His voice integrates well with the album’s vibe. Some songs feature distorted vocals, which, combined with the calm music, create a surreal ambiance. Occasionally, my attention waned slightly. The vocals and minimalist music can sometimes be sweet, interspersed with (stoner) rock elements. The transitions between these styles are often intriguing. The sound is remarkably well-distributed across headphones, and the beautiful blend of instruments consistently stands out. (Esther Kessel-Tamerus) (8/10) (Apollon Records/JMHE Productions)

And Yet Still – Oddisee

After delivering the best hip-hop album of 2023 with ‘To What End,’ Oddisee returns with a new EP, ‘And Yet Still.’ Though not a full album, this EP certainly doesn’t compromise on quality. Oddisee continues his path with his delightful flow, excellent beats, and lyrics that carry both substance and body. The vibe of this EP is fantastic, making the music a pleasure to listen to. The only downside is that it’s not a full album or even a double album. For those seeking new hip-hop comfort, Oddisee is highly recommended. The anticipation for more work from this artist grows more intense, but this EP eases the wait somewhat. Oddisee remains a name to watch in the hip-hop scene. (Elodie Renard) (8/10) (Outer Note Label)

Pulsar – L’Impératrice

Elegant and majestic, L’Impératrice is a six-member sensation. Following the success of their debut album ‘Matahari,’ two sold-out shows at the Olympia, and a world tour, the band has not slowed down. They retain their signature taste for danceable grooves, virtuosic bass lines, vintage synthesizers, and sparkling melodies. With their second album ‘Tako Tsubo,’ they explored new musical territories and were rewarded with the Grand Prix du répertoire Sacem à l’export and a nomination at the Victoires de la Musique. Their latest album, ‘Pulsar,’ is a delightful mix of vintage synths and disco beats, imbued with that unmistakable, slightly cool French flair that evokes the summer in France. For fans of Daft Punk, this album is a must. Tracks like ‘Cosmogenie’ and ‘Any Way’ are addictive and invite repeated listening. A truly fun and well-crafted album, definitely deserving an 8 out of 10! (Jan Vranken) (8/10) (Microqlima)

Nduduzo Makhathini – uNomkhubulwane

Nduduzo Makhathini, the South African pianist, composer, and spiritual healer, brings us another masterpiece with his latest album ‘uNomkhubulwane.’ Released on the prestigious Blue Note label, this album features a three-part suite inspired by the Zulu goddess ‘God’s only daughter,’ a symbolic entity of balance, harmony, and eternity. Makhathini’s musical depth is unparalleled. He subtly weaves his modern jazz sensibilities with his rich Zulu heritage, resulting in a unique and spiritual listening experience. Assisted by bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere and drummer Francisco Mela, he creates an immersive musical journey that appeals to both the mind and heart. The three parts of the suite offer a path to the qualities of ‘uNomkhubulwane’: balance, harmony, infinity, and immortality. Makhathini’s ability to bring these abstract concepts to life musically demonstrates his profound understanding of both music and spirituality. Each piece invites reflection and meditative listening, immersing the listener in a world of musical and spiritual equilibrium. In short, ‘uNomkhubulwane’ is a brilliant album that pushes the boundaries of jazz and deeply touches the soul of the listener. Makhathini once again proves why he is one of the most influential musicians of his time. This album unquestionably deserves a 9 out of 10. It is a must-have for lovers of profound and spiritual music. (Jan Vranken) (9/10) (UMG Recordings)

Bonny Light Horseman – Keep Me on Your Mind/See You Free

What they say about themselves already says a lot: “The timeless qualities of traditional tunes can carry us across oceans and centuries, connecting us with both the past and each other. It is under these eternal connections that the trio Bonny Light Horseman came together. This astral folk formation, consisting of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman, blends the ancient, mystical tradition of trans-Atlantic folk music with a contemporary, collective brushstroke.” When you write that about yourself, you should take a moment to think. Despite the seemingly artistic ambitions, the album results in a vagueness that is probably meant to be artistic but quickly becomes irritating. The pretentious singing and overly artistic approach make it hard to get past the first track ‘Keep Me On Your Mind.’ Although there are certainly people who will appreciate this, it feels like this has all been done before and better by others. The self-satisfied way the band tries to blend old folk music with modern influences comes across as forced and pretentious. Unfortunately, this attempt to connect the old with the new misses the mark. For me, this album is a missed opportunity, and I’d rather skip it. (Anton Dupont) (5/10) (Jagjaguwar)

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