Spanish flamenco meets R&B; cinematic French pop; sunlit American country.
Rosalía – El Mal Querer
Another find from last year’s Best Of lists, Rosalía is a twentysomething Catalan singer who blends the melodrama of traditional flamenco with modern pop/R&B. The result, a crisp 30-minute collection, is rather more off-kilter and experimental than the opening track, catchy and fairly conventional Malamente, would lead you to believe. Rosalía’s dynamic vocals are always front and centre, but quite often they’re backed with nothing more than sparse bass/electronic arrangements or hand-clapping, with no obvious melodies to latch onto. There are still poptastic moments scattered throughout, like a totally unexpected reworking of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River, and though flamenco rhythms can take some time to get used to, the overall result is very exciting and invigorating.
I was a bit proud of the fact that I haven’t yet completely forgotten my Spanish lessons from eons ago, and could translate the album’s name as The Bad Desire.
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
I’ve previously known Charlotte Gainsbourg as an actress, most notably for her memorable turn in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, but now I’ve decided to check out her musical output, and I like what I’ve found. Rest is her latest album from 2017, sung mostly in French, which of course makes everything sound more alluring, whatever the actual lyrics are. Paired with breathy and expressive vocals, the music has a dark dreamy vibe and cinematic sweep to it, with lush orchestral touches and dramatic synths. Perhaps reminiscent of Air, Gainsbourg’s fellow Frenchmen.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
I’m not the biggest fan of modern country/pop, but sometimes an album comes along that just clicks. If I could describe Golden Hour with one word, it would be “effortless”. There’s some sort of beautiful clarity to Musgraves’ pristine voice, accessible lyrics about life and love that are simple but never trite, and music that often has the hazy 70s feel reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, but sounds fresh and never swallows the artists to the point where all you hear are influences. There are many moments where the record could have come off as too gushy and saccharine, but instead it’s just simply lovely.