Our Favorite Releases | February 2024

As we make our way further into the year, more and more new releases are hitting the shelves, offering us lots to dig into before things really get cranking in the Spring/Summer. Here are some of our favorite new releases from February 2024.


 

ARN4L2, Caribe (Colombian Singles Series Vol. 3) (Galletas Calientes)

ARN4L2 (pronouced arn-al-dos) is a producer and DJ from Cartagena, Colombia, and this toe-tapping selection of singles is guaranteed to get you moving in all the right ways. Every track demonstrates his adept work as an electronic musician and producer, and seamlessly incorporates Afro-Caribbean style through a number of Colombian musical traditions, including bullerengue, chalup, and tombar. Some of the best that global music has to offer right now!


 

Aziza Brahim, Mawja (Glitterbeat)

Sahrawi singer and actress Aziza Brahim brings her impressive vocal stylings to this exciting new release, highlighting the intoxicating Saharan blues tradition.

 

 


 

Carlos Niño, Idris Ackamoor, Nate Mercereau, Free, Dancing… (International Anthem)

recommended by Mark Flanagan

Carlos Niño, Nate Mercereau, and Idris Ackamoor’s genre-defying album, Free, Dancing brings listeners on a transcendent sonic journey, a fluid improvisational masterpiece woven by three virtuosic musicians. Prolific multi-instrumentalist and visionary producer, Niño lays the foundation with lush layers of percussion; master guitarist Mercereau weaves in tonal textures and melodies that throughout invoke something otherworldly; and, atop it all, spiritual jazz luminary Ackamoor explodes free jazz melodies from saxophones and flutes that are at once ecstatic and soulful.

Bass drums rumble like distant thunder, bells tinkle, and cymbals trill, and Niño verbally mimes Ackamoor’s horn bursts as weather patterns erupt from Mercereau’s guitar. There is perhaps an ethereal audience cheering, birdsong mingling with the music, and the rhythmic dip of an oar in and out of water — all of this just a fraction of what you may or may not hear during the more than one-and-a-half-hours of this generous album.

Free, Dancing defies categorization, embracing free jazz, electronic, and world music as it delivers an unpredictable and immersive experience unlike anything listeners have encountered before. It is a boundless exploration at the frontier of experimentation.


 

DJ Harrison, Shades of Yesterday (Stones Throw)

Underground producer and multi-instrumentalist DJ Harrison is at it again, this time with a delightful selection of covers. There’s something that’s sure to whet just about every type of listener’s whistle, all featuring DJ Harrison’s expert and unique production skills.

 


 

Eesah, Deep Medz (King I-Vier Music / Loud City)

recommended by BloodPreshah

Deep Medz is the debut album from one of Jamaica’s Brightest Stars – Eesah ! His organic approach and modern mix of roots reggae is such a natural combination, one could say he was born for this.

 


 

Frontier Ruckus, On The Northline (Loose Music)

recommended by Doug Gertner

For their sixth album, the Michigan trio Frontier Ruckus made us wait for seven years. The Americana-meets-indie-folk stalwarts deliver their usual lyrically dense images of the upper midwest with the maturity that comes after life moves forward – jobs, houses, kids – and still leader Matthew Milia remains true to his mission statement, “Celebrate the Minutiae,” delivering songs about the mall where his mom worked, his Catholic grade school, and the soccer field where he “first experienced the holy human emotion of humiliation.” Fans of Craig Finn, Elliott Smith, and Okkervill River will take note of Milia’s writing, guitar and singing, joined by founding bandmates David Jones on banjo and multi-instrumentalist Zachary Nichols, whose saw is still singing, and horns blowing like the wind off Lake Michigan. Recommended cuts: Swore I Had a Friend, Magdalene (That’s Not Your Name), Mercury Sable, The Machines of Summer


 

Ghost Funk Orchestra, A Trip To The Moon (Colemine)

recommended by Iris Berkeley

Is Ghost Funk Orchestra an orchestra? Album number four (five, if you count the demos-and-outtakes anthology “Night Walker/Death Waltz”) finds Seth Applebaum and crew veering ever closer to full-tilt cinematic soundscape, so the answer might be trending toward yes … but either way, the effect is brilliant. “A Trip To The Moon” does, indeed, feel like a trip to the moon — its 15 tracks are stitched together with excerpts from the Apollo moon mission transmissions — and even if you don’t go down the concept-album rabbit hole (it’s ostensibly about a woman left behind on Earth by her astronaut partner), you’ll definitely get strong space vibes along with a hefty helping of exotica feels, lush instrumentation, psychedelic funk, and reverb galore. The orchestra is coming into its own, and we all reap the rewards.


 

Gulfer, Third Wind (Topshelf)

recommended by Hannah Taub

Excellent emo rock out of Montreal. Good for indie rockers who don’t self-identify as emo lovers. A very tight album – each track is distinct, yet all the tracks snugly fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. We have a range of heavier, faster tracks like ‘Too Slow,’ and softer, slower ones like ‘Motive.’ Intricate guitar work and interesting lyrics underlay the whole album.


 

Gustavo Gimeno, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Marc-André Hamelin & Nathalie Forget, Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphony (Harmonia Mundi)

recommended by Sanford Baran

This is a brand new recording of a work of epic proportions that doesn’t get performed very often.

“Song of love, hymn to joy, time, movement, rhythm, life and death.” So Messiaen described his Turangalîla-symphonie his only symphony, an extravagant, ecstatic piece that seeks and celebrates humanity’s place in the natural and the spiritual realms

Musically, this work is characterized by its rich textures, complex rhythms (drawing from Messiaen’s interest in Indian rhythms), and its use of color, often achieved through a large and diverse orchestra. Notably, it includes parts for the ‘ondes Martenot’, an early electronic instrument, adding an otherworldly dimension to its sound palette.

The difficulties of performing Turangalîla are almost matched by the challenges of recording its every detail. “One wants to capture the grandeur, its massive moments, big, colorful orchestration,” says conductor Gustavo Gimeno, “but there are many layers here, and you also want to bring those layers out as much as possible—but not at the expense of the music’s grandiosity.” These are challenges that the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and its recording engineers rise to with impressive skill, enabling Messiaen’s score to be heard in a strikingly bright light.

As in much of Messiaen’s music, this piece exudes a kind of spiritual ecstasy. “I am convinced that joy exists,” he once said, “convinced that the invisible exists more than the visible, and that joy is beyond sorrow, and beauty is beyond horror.””


 

Helado Negro, Phasor (4AD)

In Helado Negro’s most personal-sounding album to date, Roberto Carlos Lange stretches his writing skills across a variety of genres, moods, and soundscapes. While every track explores a different edge of current indie sensibilities and trends, the album feels fluid from beginning to end.

 



 

 

The Last Dinner Party, Prelude to Ecstasy (Island/Def Jam)

recommended by Damon Haley

The Last Dinner Party’s debut album isn’t just a perfect after dinner record; it’s a reflection of our times, hinting at the impending doom but also excitement lurking in this election year. Tracks like “Nothing Matters” stand as anthems for the moment, but the opening track sounds like one of Johnny Greenwood’s film scores with a great dynamic range throughout. The songwriting is also top-notch, so so I think this UK band will have no trouble producing an equally great second album very soon. For fans of Wet Leg and Kate Bush.


 

IDLES, TANGK (Partisan)

recommended by Sandman

It’s déjà vu all over again: a powerhouse record from a UK (or close to it) punk band with impassioned vocals, skronking guitars, penetrating and insightful lyrics? Last month it was SPRINTS (in all caps) from Dublin, this month it’s IDLES (all caps) from Bristol. Their fifth album Tangk (named for their electric guitar sound) is a similarly fantastic collection of catchy tunes delivered with a forceful intensity that draws the listener in and invites you to hang on. The track sequencing by producer Nigel Godrich is well paced, alternating sonically between all out bangers and brooding slow burners as singer Joe Talbot – tough, streetwise, vulnerable – offers tender, yearning odes to love and then furiously vicious defenses of it. This isn’t angry music; it’s intensely, passionately human.


 

Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Perry (False Idols)

recommended by Damon Haley

“King Perry,” the posthumous album from the legendary Lee Scratch Perry, is a worthy addition to Perry’s catalog and a good gateway drug for newcomers. Overseen by Trip-Hop icon Tricky on the ‘False Idols’ label, this record seamlessly blends Perry’s dub roots with modern electronica production. Highlights include “”Green Banana,”” featuring Shaun Ryder’s unmistakable vocals and Perry himself on the soulful “Jesus Life”. Produced during the COVID-19 pandemic when we lost Perry, the album is a testament to Perry’s creative spirit and his desire to push boundaries even in his final days. For fans of Massive Attack and Lee ‘scratch’ Perry.”


 

Liam Bailey, Zero Grace (Big Crown)

UK-based Liam Bailey cites Bob Marley, Dillinger, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix as some of his early influences, and that couldn’t be more evident in his most recent release. He expertly explores how reggae can fit into a variety of contexts, including soul, doo-wop, straight-ahead rock, and more. Liam Bailey is easily one of the most exciting artists on the scene today.

 


 

Little Kid, A Million Easy Payments (Orindal)

recommended by Aaaron Benko

This was something that after putting it on on a bike ride, I couldn’t tell what I thought at first. Then I listened a second time, and a third, and a fourth; still it’s a little hard to write about because it’s a hard album to pin down its meaning. At it’s base, it’s a somber, indie-folk album that’s clearly informed by years of songwriting (it’s Little Kids seventh release), and has that quiet poetic story-telling that’s not quick to decipher. But it is quick to work into your emotional space and start to feel in your core, and reflect on.

Little Kid is from Toronto and has the same Great Lakes feel as early Sufjan Stevens albums with much more subdued instrumentation but still beautiful. There’s this quiet catchy-ness that stands out on Eggshell, something hearkening back to the folly-pop of the late 90s on Somewhere in Between, has a jangly big sound to start off on Something to Say, and manages to fit two songs longer than seven minutes that flow by just as quick as a 3:00 tune. This is an album that feels quietly personal, strangely listenable, and one that is sure to grow in my unconscious with and without continued listening.

FFO: Clem Snide, early Sufjan Stevens and Pedro the Lion


 

Molly Lewis, On The Lips (Jagjaguwar)

Just like the human voice cannot be truly replicated by an instrument, whistling is a unique form of expression that cannot be reproduced. Molly Lewis has found a way to bring this unlikely musical art form and turn it into something beautiful, approachable, and above all, nice to listen to. Her whistling ties in seamlessly to every dreamy track on this album.

 


 

Nadine Shah, Filthy Undernearth (EMI)

recommended by Jessica Numbers

Nadine Shah’s fifth full-length is intense, powerful, and eclectic. It could easily be called art-pop, but it is really more of a genre-less album that switches seamlessly between unique and varying soundscapes, between singing and spoken-word, all the while staying true to themes of ego, grief, destruction, and resilience in the face of grave darkness. Yet, for all its dark concepts, this is an extraordinarily listenable album and incredibly interesting – one that can be put on repeat and you’ll find something new every listen, or find the album to be so very engaging you’d hardly notice it was on repeat at all. Nadine’s vocals are powerful and intoxicating, there is epic drama, and the darkness throughout is lightened just enough by its danceable beats, particularly on its most accessible track: ‘Greatest Dancer’. Other exceptional standouts: ‘You Drive, I Shoot’, ‘Sad Lads Anonymous’, ‘See My Girl’, ‘Twenty Things’, and ‘French Exit’- but the entire album by this force-to-be-reckoned with British singer-songwriter is one not to be missed.


 

Nathalie Joachim, Ki moun ou ye (New Amsterdam)

In a world when it feels like almost everything “has been done before,” it’s really exciting to find something that sounds completely different. While “eclectic” really feels like the right non-genre for this album, this album could easily fit into classical, jazz, modern, and international music bins. As the name of the album suggests – it translates to “Which person are you?” in Haitian Creole – a lack of identity can often be the best thing for music, and that is certainly the case on this album.-


 

Paranoid London, Arseholes, Liars, and Electronic Pioneers (Paranoid London)

recommended by Damon Haley

“Alright, you dirty old ravers or “”gravers””, strap yourselves in for Paranoid London’s latest slab of wax, “”Arseholes, Liars, and Electronic Pioneers.”” Gerardo Delgado and Quinn Whalley are back to remind us why we fell in love with acid house in the first place. Reminiscent of the late-great Andrew Weatherall and drawing inspiration from ‘90s British prog house, the album exudes a Hi-Fi quality while retaining the anarchic spirit, for which Paranoid London is known.

So, grab your glow sticks and let’s get fcking weird, because as long as there’s music to make us forget about the shtshow outside, we’ll keep on dancing like there’s no tomorrow.”


 

Revival Season, Golden Age Of Self Snitching (Heavenly)

Rapper Brandon “BEZ” (B Easy) Evans and beatmaker/producer Jonah Swilley join forces on this fresh and eclectic album. Evans’ fast, urgent, monotone and oddly infectious rapping style is the throughline on this diverse set of songs, offering something a little different than your typical hip-hop album.

 


 

Rosie Frater-Taylor, Featherweight (Cooking Vinyl)

Musician Rosie Frater-Taylor is one to watch. A rare artist who chooses to stay true to her principles as a musician just trying to make good music, as a teen she also produced her first album completely by herself, and after that got picked up, she’s evolved her sound and made impressive waves in an extremely male-dominated part of the music industry (she is, first and foremost, a jazz guitarist). This album brings so many delightful ideas and genres together into something that’s so fresh and unique sounding, you’ll just have to listen to determine what you think it is.


 

Vibronics, Woman On A Mission 2 (Scoops)

recommended by The Groove Thief

With Woman On A Mission 2, veteran UK producer Vibronics continues a concept began back in 2018: lifting up an all-too-often overlooked aspect of dub music. Yes, dub is (and has long been) a male-dominated genre, yet there are countless female singers, producers, and other performers with tremendous talent.

By sharing his platform, Vibronics gives well-regarded artists like Marina P, Sista Habesha, and Sandra Cross as well as lesser-knowns including Koko Vega, SoulSteppa, and Empress Shema the chance to reach new listeners and supporters of dubwise sounds. Dub is ultimately a small global scene, despite the potency of its pulsating basslines and its often-fierce lyrics. Check “”Safe Space Bubble”” with Marina P as a prime example!

Vibronics will be on his debut USA tour in March, with four dates across the United States. One is here: Sunday, March 10 in Aurora, Colorado, at Pomegranate HQ. For info/RSVP, please contact [email protected].

Peace & Dubs.


 

Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey, Compassion (ECM)

The bounds of jazz are endless, and it can be hard to find avant jazz that feels relatable and straight up pleasurable to listen to. Pianist-composer Vijay Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey bring a series of recordings that showcase the best that avant jazz has to offer, through risk-taking but approachable sessions that invite the listener in, versus alienating them, which so often happens in this genre.

 

Check out more GNU Music recommendations here.

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