Erasure "The Neon (Mute)"
From Mute Records:
The Neon is a place that lives in the imagination, that we – you and me – put in the real world. It could be a night club, a shop, a city, a cafe, a country, a bedroom, a restaurant, any place at all. It’s a place of possibility in warm, glowing light and this is music that takes you there.
Written and produced by Erasure, the album’s initial sessions saw the Vince and Andy reunited to work on the follow up to 2017’s World Be Gone with a fresh optimism and energy, in part born from their own recent personal projects. Vince goes on to explain, “Our music is always a reflection of how we’re feeling. He was in a good place spiritually, and so was I – really good places in our minds. You can hear that.”
Taking inspiration from pop music through the decades, from bands Andy loved as a child through to the present day, he explains, “It was about refreshing my love – hopefully our love – of great pop. I want kids now to hear these songs! I wanted to recharge that feeling that pop can come from anyone.”
The album’s vocals were recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, with Vince joining Andy at the studio sessions, and the mixing was done by the band in London earlier this year. Photographs were shot at that time in the unique environs of Gods Own Junkyard, a gallery housing a huge collection of vintage neon. Andy enthuses, “I felt like it was being inside a virtual reality game. I loved that it felt like being in a different world. That’s what I want our new album to convey.”
The Neon offers us warmth and a brilliant brightness in our strange, silent times. It connects us to our pasts and our futures as it glistens with hope. It creates beautiful places where our imaginations can roam, bringing us together, twinkling and beaming. The Neon puts you and me in the real world again, now and forever, lit up and alive.
Johnny Iguana "Johnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular! (Delmark)"
From Delmark Records:
Growing up up in Philadelphia, Johnny Iguana really zeroed in on Junior Wells and Otis Spann after becoming obsessed with Chicago blues at age 15. In his later teens, armed with a fake ID and a sport coat, he played countless all-night blues gigs at Philly bars— largely songs plucked off Junior’s records. A few years later, Johnny met Junior at a NY show and was thrilled when Junior hired him after live auditions in Boston and Rhode Island. Johnny packed his bags and spent three years touring and recording with Junior. Decades later, Johnny still calls Chicago home and has emerged as one of the premier blues piano players in the United States. Since his days with Junior, he has toured or recorded with a who’s who of Chicago blues greats: Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Billy Boy Arnold, James Cotton, Lil’ Ed, Carey Bell, Eddy Clearwater, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Billy Branch and more. He has learned from the best, a lifelong immersion and dedication.
This is Johnny’s first blues album as a leader, and it’s not your typical blues album. That’s because, as you’ll hear, Johnny is not your typical blues piano player. At a time when bold originality is less welcomed in blues than it is in other music, Johnny stands out as an artist who has reached the apex of his craft but who has not allowed a strict definition of blues to limit his expression. A feat of this album and of Johnny’s artistry is how his original compositions flow naturally and organically out of the classic Chicago blues piano repertoire. His chordal creativity is as much on display as his blues-language fluency. It all makes sense and fully delights, as vintage blues and boogie morph into something new, intoxicating, witty, wild—yet still anchored in the blues.
This is a blues album from top to bottom. It is traditional. It is contemporary and audacious. It is the story of Johnny Iguana, a one-of-a-kind piano man exalting his Chicago blues heroes while making his own mark. In the bigger picture, it’s compelling evidence that blues today is vital, and still evolving (full notes by Larry Skoller included).
Sneaks "Happy Birthday (Merge)"
From Merge Records:
Continuing the collaborative relationships from 2019’s Highway Hypnosis with mixing engineer Carlos Hernandez and legendary producer Jacknife Lee, Sneaks’ Eva Moolchan felt free to turn up the energy and explore more elaborate melodies than ever before.
With astrological assertions alongside poetry filtered through a riot grrl spirit and set to thumping bass lines and infectious beats, Moolchan asks all of the questions but invites the listener to divine their own answers. Put on your headphones and let Sneaks lead you on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery that will keep you humming for days.
Roots & Tings "All of This (Rough Trade Publishing)"
A collaboration between artists, Lateef, Jah Yzer and Winstrong based in the Bay Area.