Josh Ritter kicks off this week’s soaraway six with his 11th album, Spectral Lines, in which he finds shared experiences in songs that push beyond the bounds of his previous work. Recorded with longtime collaborator Sam Kassirer producing, it’s an album full of wonder and light as Ritter considers the ideas of love, devotion and what it means to be connected, to each other and to ourselves. “I think it’s important for us to share some of our most basic and common experiences with each other, however we can,” he says. “That’s kind of what we really, really need right now.”
Since selling out the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House in 2010, Neil Gaiman and FourPlay String Quartet have been firm friends and collaborators. Together they have toured the world together, released a New York Times best-selling book and record, sold out Carnegie Hall and, most importantly, recorded a new album, Signs of Life. Reflecting the fact that both Gaiman and FourPlay have always refused to be pigeon-holed in their creativity, together they have created something remarkable and unique. Signs of Life is a gorgeous, ground-breaking and genre-bending collaboration between an iconic author and a unique musical ensemble. Part songwriting, part poetry, part story-telling; all-encompassing, all-engaging, all beautiful.
The Orb’s pulsating discography grows ever more huge with their 18th album, Prism – the third helmed by core duo Alex Paterson and Michael Rendall. Despite the connotations of its title, here they continue to rollick freely without inhibition across ambient, house and dub, but also tangent into poetry, pop, full-blown drum ’n’ bass and actual reggae.
The Future Never Waits follows Hawkwind’s critically acclaimed 2021 album Somnia and 2022 double live album We Are Looking in on You. The band’s 35th studio album is an outstanding addition to their varied and celebrated catalogue. Opening track ‘The Future Never Waits’ delivers a ten-minute instrument-led space-age march, before progressing into the guitar-driven follow-up ‘The End’, featuring Dave Brock’s trademark vocals and chugging machine-gun riffs. Innovative additions to the Hawkwind canon such as ‘Aldous Huxley’ and ‘They Are So Easily Distracted’ introduce a gradual, almost lounge-like quality, with deliberate piano, audio samples and saxophones lamenting over a futuristic backdrop and roaming guitar solos. Other tracks like ‘Rama (The Prophecy)’ and ‘I’m Learning To Live Today’ sit tightly in the Hawkwind groove, providing old and new fans alike with the intense and concentrated fusion of musical styles they’ve come to expect and celebrate.
Let it first be said that the title track of The Hypnogogue, the first new album from The Church in six years, is one of the most breath-taking they’ve released in years, a darkly psychedelic six minutes that slowly spirals into a menacing descent. That alone is reason to keep this one on your radar. The Australian neo-psych band have been going for over 40 years, with around a half dozen classic albums and zero bad ones, yet their ability to keep evolving and uncovering new aspects to their sound and approach only serves as a reminder of how vital they remain after four decades.
Our release of the week is First Two Pages Of Frankenstein, which is anchored by evocative melodies and an enthralling lyrical narrative and signals a thrilling new chapter in the The National’s discography. The 11-song album was produced by the band at Long Pond Studios in upstate New York and features guest appearances by Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Sufjan Stevens. The follow-up to 2019’s top-5 hit album I Am Easy to Find channels the group’s revitalised chemistry into a body of work that beautifully balances elegant musicality with their more idiosyncratic impulses. It was initially stalled while lead singer Matt Berninger navigated “a very dark spot where I couldn’t come up with lyrics or melodies at all, and that period lasted for over a year. Even though we’d always been anxious and argued quite a lot whenever we were working on a record, this was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end.”
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