New Music 02/2020 – Sudan Archives, Sturgill Simpson, Nilüfer Yanya

A couple of promising debuts from young female artists; an awesome stomping rawwk record.

Sudan Archives – Athena

The name Sudan Archives doesn’t exactly conjure up appealing imagery and is more likely to make one think of dusty rooms stuffed with boring paperwork. In actual fact, the woman behind the name is Brittney Parks, a young American singer-songwriter and self-taught violinist, whose debut album is a collection of gorgeous, off-kilter R&B/neo-soul songs. While it calls to mind names like FKA Twigs, Parks’ sound is all her own, made especially distinctive by the incorporation of the violin. On some songs it’s at the forefront and on others it provides a more subtle, pleasing background texture, but the results are all-round lovely and vibrant.

Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury

I come across great new music all the time, but it’s been a while since I discovered a great album that genuinely rocks (I can also testify that it makes for a fantastic album to listen to on a long car drive). I’ve never heard of Sturgill Simpson before; apparently he’s an American country musician with three other albums under his belt who, going by this record, doesn’t give a fig about the limitations of the country music.

Technically, Sound & Fury is a soundtrack to an original Netflix anime film, created by Simpson in collaboration with a Japanese animation studio. I don’t know if the film adds much to the experience, but frankly it doesn’t feel like the album needs it as it’s hugely entertaining on its own. The best way I can describe the music is ZZ Top meets Daft Punk; old-fashioned rock-n-roll with crunching glam guitars underpinned by modern electronica and killer dance beats. Most of the songs don’t end in a traditional way, it’s more like they crash into each other as if someone is changing the radio station for you. A couple of slower ballads break up the pace here and there, but the overall feel is fierce, stomping and powerful.

Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Uinverse

Another exciting debut album, this time from a young Londoner who’s been getting airplay on Triple J recently with her single In Your Head, a catchy slice of indie rock showcasing Yanya’s strikingly low and sultry vocals. It’s a somewhat deceptive start to the album though because nothing else here matches its energy, and at 53 minutes long Miss Universe made me wish for perhaps fewer slow tracks and more of that early bounce. It’s also something of a loose concept album, with the short skits that satirise the internet wellness industry promising you support and healing. While they don’t make me want to reach out for a skip button, I didn’t feel like they added much either.

Despite these nitpicks, the album is still strong and feels like a work of a true original, with an endearing shaggy quality and an underlying streak of anxiety and unease that keeps you on your toes even during the slow-tempo tracks. While she keeps things mostly minimalist, Yanya throws in a variety of styles and elements: jagged guitars, trip-hop, soul, jazz – even smooth saxophone that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sade album.

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