The first of this week’s six of the best is Seven Psalms, which was recorded entirely on acoustic instruments performed predominantly by Paul Simon and showcases his craft at its finest and most captivating, simply with his voice and guitar. Intended to be listened to as one continuous piece, the 33-minute, seven-movement composition transcends the concept of the ‘album’. A stunning, intricately layered work, it’s a record that establishes an engaging and meditative, almost hymnal, soundscape, with Paul’s lyrics providing the gravitational centre for constellations of sound woven from guitar strings and other acoustic instrumentation.
SOS is the second studio album from Grammy award-winning singer SZA, the follow-up to 2017’s major-label debut album Ctrl. This genre-blending album contains elements of pop, R&B, soft rock, gospel and hip-hop, and features guest appearances from Travis Scott, Don Toliver, Phoebe Bridgers and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. SZA worked with a variety of hitmaking producers including Ctrl collaborators ThankGod4Cody and Carter Lang, along with Jeff Bhasker, Rob Bisel, Benny Blanco, Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Emile Haynie, Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins, Jay Versace and others.
Some people have commented that Tinariwen have always been a country band, albeit a North African take on that most North American of genres. That idea is magnified on new album Amatssou, which finds the Tuareg band’s trademark snaking guitar lines and hypnotic rhythms blending seamlessly with pedal steel, piano and strings from guest musicians including Daniel Lanois. These embellished arrangements lend the songs an epic, universal application. The lyrics, full of poetic allegory, call for unity and freedom. There are songs of struggle and resistance with oblique references to the recent desperate political upheavals in Mali and the increasing power of the Salafists. “Dear brothers all rest, all leisure will always be far from reach unless your homeland is liberated and all the elders can live there in dignity.”
Samantha Fish has received practically every accolade a contemporary blues singer, songwriter and guitarist could hope for, and commands her cathartic shows with her edgy vocal delivery and in-your-face slide guitar. Jesse Dayton is an American musician, actor and record producer best known for his guitar contributions to albums by country musicians including Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. For their first collaboration together, Fish and Dayton teamed up with producer Jon Spencer of the electrifying Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion for Death Wish Blues. The result is a highly enjoyable set of sharply composed songs that prominently feature searing guitar and sultry vocals, delivered with Fish’s signature blues-rock sound.
“This is a very important album for the band,” says Steve Howe, Yes’ longest-serving member, master guitarist, and producer of Mirror to the Sky, the band’s 23rd studio album. “We kept the continuity in the approach we established on The Quest, but we haven’t repeated ourselves. That was the main thing. As Yes did in the seventies from one album to another, we’re growing and moving forward. In later years, Yes often got going but then didn’t do the next thing. This album is demonstrative of us growing, and building again.”
Our release of the week comes from Khruangbin. It’s only fitting that their live releases would be albums paired with their tourmates – artists whose music they love and admire, friends who’ve become family along the way – and Live at Stubbs features performances by Kelly Doyle, Ruben Moreno, The Suffers and Robert Ellis alongside Khruangbin. This new series of live LPs traces just one small slice of the band’s flight plan through the years. It’s a taste of some of their most beloved cities, stages and nights, and ignites both sides of the band’s magic: the warm, prismatic feeling of their albums and the bewitching energy of their performances.
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