Album review overview: Joss Stone, Johnny Cash 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.

Scene Queen – Hot Singles In Your Area

With an abominable album cover like this, expectations are not exactly high. Looking at the tracklist does not promise any high-quality music either. “Underwhelming” is too generous a term. This second album is supposed to be about exploring her sexuality, but that is nowhere to be found lyrically. Or is there a message behind “If I had a dick, I’d be dangerous”? The songs are all over the place, but nowhere does it become a coherent whole. The only thing I can laugh about is that the album ends with “Climax,” but we’re mostly happy that the album is over. Appropriately released on the Hopeless Records label, hopeless indeed. (Rik Moors) (2/10) (Hopeless Records)

Joss Stone – 20 Years of Soul Live in Concert

“20 Years of Soul Live in Concert” is a wonderful gift for anyone who missed Joss Stone’s recent tour. The recordings are perfect, both in production and sound quality, and the album is a grand celebration, even if you weren’t there. The endless string of hits just keeps going. This live album brings the energy and magic of her concerts straight to your living room. I fell in love with Joss Stone at her concert in Tilburg, and with this album, I fell in love all over again. Joss Stone once again proves why she is one of the greatest soul singers of our time. Joss Stone rules. (Jan Vranken) (7/10) (Stoned Records)

SYML – Live at Hangar 30

“Live at Hangar 30” is a beautiful collection of seven new songs by SYML, recorded in an empty airplane hangar in Seattle, together with a string quartet. This unique setting creates the perfect conditions for his music to sound as beautiful as possible. It’s understandable that he’s taking his time to follow up his debut album, which was already exceptionally beautiful. This EP helps us through the wait, and falls into the category of “extraordinarily beautiful.” Just listen to “Sentimental”; it gives you goosebumps. SYML, the solo project of musician and producer Brian Fennell, continues to impress with his ability to convey deep emotions. The live recordings reveal an authentic and intimate side of his music. The use of a string quartet adds an extra layer of emotional depth to the already rich compositions. “Live at Hangar 30” is a must for any fan, but also a perfect introduction for people who don’t know SYML yet. An EP that proves why SYML is such a beloved and respected artist. What a beautiful EP! (Jan Vranken) (8/10) (Finn Recordings)

Johnny Cash – Songwriter

“Songwriter” is a posthumous album by Johnny Cash that was recently released and gives us an intimate look into his creative process during the early 1990s. This collection, discovered by his son John Carter Cash, contains demos recorded at the LSI Studios in Nashville, a location that was owned by his stepdaughter Rosie and her then-husband. It’s not entirely clear what Cash had in mind for these recordings, but they might have been intended to secure a new record contract. Two songs on “Songwriter,” “Drive On” and “Like a Soldier,” were previously released on the much-acclaimed “American Recordings” from 1994. These versions show a lighter side of Cash, in contrast to the somber tone of Rubin’s production. The rest of the album shows a mix of humour and sentiment, as in “I Love You Tonite,” a love letter to June Carter Cash. Although the album has some profound moments, such as in “Hello Out There,” most of the songs operate on a smaller scale with character studies and everyday situations. The posthumous production, executed by John Carter Cash and David Ferguson, takes the original demos out of their time-bound context and adds subtle new elements without losing focus on Cash. “Songwriter” shows the power of Cash’s craftsmanship and his ability to make even the simplest stories captivating. Despite the charm of these songs, it’s clear that this album wouldn’t have had the impact that “American Recordings” had. “Songwriter” is a loving tribute to the simplicity and depth of Cash’s music, but lacks the mythical grandeur of his best work. A worthy 7 out of 10. (Jan Vranken) (7/10) (UMG Recordings)

Mabe Fratti – Sentir que no Sabes

Mabe Fratti’s new album “Sentir que no Sabes” shows how she continues to develop as a unique voice in experimental music. On this record, the Mexico City-based cellist and singer moves towards more recognizable pop and rock structures, without losing her characteristic abstraction. Fratti’s music feels like a mirror reflecting every detail of the human experience, from small joys to deep uncertainties. “Oídos” starts with ominous strings and piano chords, accompanied by Fratti’s melancholic vocals. The track “Kravitz” stands out with its grungy bassline and powerful drums, where Fratti’s lyrics about paranoia perfectly match the raw energy. Despite these accessible moments, Fratti’s ability to create small dramas remains impressive, as shown in “Pantalla azul,” where she reflects on chaos and hope. Fratti’s lyrics, often introspective and self-examining, invite listeners to embrace confusion and the unknown. This makes “Sentir que no Sabes” an intriguing album that demands attention and rewards with its depth and emotional richness. Mabe Fratti delivers another masterpiece, proving that the unknown can also be beautiful. This album is among the best releases of the year so far. (Jan Vranken) (9/10) (Unheard of Hope)

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