Albums

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Folk/Americana - Released February 15, 2019 | Verve Forecast

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Qobuzissime
The American dream is an inexhaustible subject. It is approached head-on, sideways, from behind, above and below. It is the ultimate fuel for hordes of songwriters; even when they weren’t even born in America. As is the case for J.S. Ondara. This young Kenyan, who his label calls "the link between Tracy Chapman and Michael Kiwanuka" (an easy claim but not wrong), went there to try his luck. In 2013, Ondara dropped anchor at his aunt's house in Minneapolis. Having only previously known his native Nairobi, the musician took his songs into bars, clubs and even out onto the street, equipped with only his voice and a simple acoustic guitar, perhaps in the hope of becoming a third millennium Bob Dylan. The Dylan of The Freewheelin', his favourite record; Springsteen's Nebraska also being one of his top picks... But to limit himself to cloning those giants wouldn’t be very interesting. And Tales of America avoids that. First of all, J.S. Ondara has his own voice. His plaintive tone is a little androgynous and makes him truly unique. On the instrumental side, he adds some more daring flavours with the help of the great Andrew Bird, Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes and Joey Ryan from the Milk Carton Kids duo. In a divided America and a crisis-riddled world, J. S. Ondara's songs are more than just bandages, they’re powerful balms that penetrate the skin and warm the heart. This is a Qobuzissime that we needed... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Blues - Released January 25, 2019 | Blue Note

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Her hoarse, unique voice is gripping from the start. A voice like a descendant of Nina Simone wrapped up in a coat sewn in New Orleans. Following in the footsteps of her illustrious elder, Sarah McCoy is like a fairground attraction. A soul diva with blond mane, inhabited by the most poisonous ghosts of jazz, blues, folk and rock'n' roll. A strong personality burdened by the torments of life. Like a second cousin of Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse, Tom Waits or Janis Joplin, or even good old Dr. John... After singles and concerts where the intense McCoy revealed her raging side, her album Blood Siren, produced by Chilly Gonzales and Renaud Letang, is contrastingly calm. A calm facade of course. A rage that’s controlled on the outside but still very real on the inside. Sometimes, the American woman's playing has the naivety and sincerity of pieces played on a toy piano. Perhaps a way to highlight the childish despair of her songs. The Death Of A Blackbird, a superb instrumental that testifies to her classical training, reveals a certain solitude. The shamanic Devil's Prospects feels like a New Orleans voodoo tale, with all the stickiness of the night and flavors of gin woven in... Take your time to understand Blood Siren. Soak up its melodies and lyrics. This lady easily could have played her larger than life card. She could have belted down the microphone to attract onlookers. Sarah McCoy proves with this record that her art is deeper and will last longer than an evening spent at the circus... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released January 25, 2019 | B Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released January 18, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
A new aesthetic calls for new forms: such is the challenge the composer set for himself in the two works presented here. In Les Nuits d’été, Berlioz pioneered, well before Mahler and Ravel, a song cycle for voice and orchestra. In Harold in Italy, scored for large orchestra and solo viola, he experimented with the symphonic genre. These period-instrument performances by Les Siècles, led by François-Xavier Roth, with violist Tabea Zimmermann, also feature Stéphane Degout in the vocal cycle, heard here in the composer’s own version for baritone. File under: out of the ordinary. © harmonia mundi
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Electronic/Dance - Released January 18, 2019 | Polydor Records

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James Blake has come a long way! Things have changed a lot since the beginning of the decade when he was playing around with post-dubstep beats. Although he’s now one of the most popular producers of mainstream music (having worked with Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak), the sound of James Blake is still unmistakeable both for the magnificent melancholy of each one of his songs and his ability to express emotion through music. This new album is certainly no exception. It starts off simply with piano arabesques and the vocals from the title track and then come two tracks with Metro Boomin, the most highly rated producer of US hip-hop who is also a songwriter and DJ. Travis Scott on the mic is a hit on Mile High, while Moses Sumney proves why there’s so much hype around his name on Tell Them, which is proof of the saying less is more. Another great track is Barefoot in the Park featuring the Catalan Rosalía, the singer and songwriter behind the hit Malamente. Her vocals are as delicate as ever as she sings in unison with Blake for this lovely chorus with the faint sound of velvety-smooth piano chords playing in the back. But the real highlight of the album is the feature with Andre 3000 from Outkast who bursts in with all guns blazing on Where’s the Catch?, a track with instrumentals that are both heavy and delicate at the same time, a musical oxymoron that only James Blake would be capable of. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz

Jazz - Released January 11, 2019 | JMS Productions

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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91 years old and still loves... to play? On his album Improvised Stories (Words and Music), Martial Solal shows us the rules of the game, the rules of his game: "I improvised about twenty pieces, rather short ones, each one inspired by a name or a few words written on 52 small squares of paper picked out of a hat. All I had to do was close my eyes and pick one, and that would be my starting point. The whole thing was recorded in a single take, which explains why there are some repetitions and some wild, unexpected pieces... I played the same way I would at home in the morning, just wandering around on the keyboard." The result shows how Solal is a modest master of jazz piano, or just the piano full stop. Each piece lasting from one to five minutes, these delicious sequences don’t only tell the story of a musician, a city, an instrument, a track or whatever, but most of all the story of Solal himself. And as usual with his recordings, some of his younger colleagues would be wise to listen to these wonderfully fresh and incredibly intelligent improvisations. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Classical - Released January 11, 2019 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Symphonic Music - Released November 30, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The four Nations by François Couperin (also known as "Couperin the Great") consist of France, Spain, the Empire and Piedmont (Italy, therefore), though it would be rather futile to look for any truly national characteristics in each of the movements of these four suites. And all the more so due to the fact that many of the pieces had already been composed well before the collection’s publication in 1726, and they were simply renamed... Yes, throughout the thirty-six movements of the work we do hear the French style on the one hand and the more Italianising style on the other, but the many interpolations make it, in fact, a kind of mixed European collection. At most, Spain is entitled to a few rare and truly Iberian turns of phrase, even though they are only visible under a microscope. Christophe Rousset and his musical ensemble Les Talens Lyriques approach these "trios" with joy and respect, knowing that the term "trio" does not necessarily imply three musicians; in fact, the melodic parts are entrusted to two oboes, two flutes and two violins, both together and alternately, while the continuo is played by the bassoon, harpsichord, gamba and theorbo, again either together or in various combinations depending on the musical texture. In this way, the thirty-six movements demonstrate the immense musical richness of these various nations, with all the diversity and contrasts that Couperin has assigned to them. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released November 30, 2018 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Looking at the program here, you may not have been aware that Robert Schumann contributed so many works to the cello repertory. He didn't; the two central works were originally written for other instruments and are presented here in versions for cello and piano. Nevertheless, there is no hint of the program being scraped together. This is because Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta has assembled a group of mostly late Schumann works (the Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, might be called transitional) that aren't terribly common, probably have never been heard together before, and offer all kinds of insight into the late Schumann style that heavily influenced the young Brahms. The contrapuntally dense Konzertstück für Cello und Orchester, Op. 129, generally rendered as Cello concerto in English, was one such work; it's a thorny work that Schumann's contemporaries wouldn't touch, but Brahms would later write concertos that would similarly be accused of not favoring the soloist enough, but that continued to rethink the concerto form. The work gets a fine performance here, influenced by historical-instrument readings, from Gabetta and the Kammerorchester Basel under Gabetta's frequent collaborator Giovanni Antonini. Sample the first movement for an idea of the clarity they bring to Schumann's gnarly textures. Of course, another periodic aspect of the Brahms style was an interest in folk-like melodies, and here that's anticipated by a very rarely heard Schumann work, the Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102 (Five Pieces in Folk Style). This one is worth the price on its own; the five works move progressively away from folk models, and really the work is unlike anything else in the repertory. The two middle works are played well enough by the cello, and all in all this is a fine, even revelatory Schumann recital even if the cello concerto, recorded two years earlier than the other pieces, seems to inhabit a different sonic world.
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Classical - Released November 23, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 19, 2018 | Communion Group Ltd

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Qobuzissime
It wouldn't be right to reduce Tamino-Amir Moharam Fouad simply to an heir of Jeff Buckley with hints of Radiohead from their earlier years. The Belgian songwriter, only 21 years old, offers much more than that on his first album, even if Colin Greenwood, the bassist from Radiohead, does feature on the album... Tamino, an Antwerp-native and John Lennon-admirer, has always kept his Egyptian origins preserved in a corner of his head, under his jet-black mane. The Arabic music that his mother played at home must have been all the more influential when it was the work of Muharram Fouad, his singer-actor grandfather, a star in Cairo in the sixties... This eclecticism is at the heart of Tamino's music, which owes as much to Buckley folk music as it does to Beatles pop and even to the nonchalant melancholy of Leonard Cohen, another one of his idols. To fuse these disparate influences, the mysterious young man possesses a deadly weapon: his voice. It’s an equally versatile organ, capable of stretching slowly and transforming itself into a stunning falsetto, an impressive technique that he never abuses. It is this voice that transforms Amir into a long and poignant novel. A coming-of-age story that alternates between the dreamer (the pure folk on Verses) and the lyrical poet as on So It Goes, Each Time and Intervals, conceived around a section of Arabic strings. A Qobuzissime album that’s oozing with original and touching poetry. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Rock - Released October 12, 2018 | Concord Records

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
From the release of his debut album, My Aim Is True, in 1977, Elvis Costello expressed his musical gluttony by mixing explosive pub rock, reggae tones, almost country-like ballads and pop songs sculpted with crystalline arpeggios. It was this eclecticism that allowed him to work with people as diverse as George Jones (the godfather of country music), Burt Bacharach (the master of pop lounge), the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, the jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and even the rappers from The Roots, just to name a few… Forty years later, the elusive spectacled Brit (having always been fond of concept albums), releases Look Now with the Imposters, featuring Steve Nieve on keyboards, Davey Faragher on bass and Pete Thomas (already the drummer of his group Attractions). This group, with whom he recorded Momofuku in 2008, give him the chance to get his writing pen out once again… and it’s as sharp as ever. Here he has shared the writing responsibilities with the great Carole King on Burnt Sugar Is so Bitter, co-written 25 years earlier, as well as with Bacharach on Photographs Can Lie and Don't Look Now. Once again, it feels like Costello is searching for the perfect pop song. He takes an approach that screams 1960s. However, the timelessness of the album anchors the songwriter well in his time, in 2018. Costello succeeds in writing melodies and lyrics that stick in his listeners’ heads. A good song, as we all know, is ageless and Elvis Costello certainly reminds us of that here... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Classical - Released October 12, 2018 | Ramée

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The present recording constitutes more than just a new version of the Vespers. It is the first recording of the Vespers in the alternative version proposed by the composer, without concertato instruments. It reveals the underlying matrix of the work we all know, the ‘original version’ to which Monteverdi added concertato instruments for use in large-scale performances. Respecting the structure of the Office of Vespers, Ludus Modalis has chosen to frame the psalms with the antiphons corresponding to a Marian ceremony. The interpretation proposed here is one influenced by the Renaissance tradition. It places the work in perspective in a musical world at the point of equilibrium between prima and seconda prattica, between the achievements of tradition and the contributions of modernity. © Alpha/Outhere
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Solo Piano - Released October 5, 2018 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Pianist Igor Levit moved from Russia to Germany when he was eight, but there's still a lot of Russian in his outlook: an attraction to the pure virtuoso tradition, and a tendency toward big statements and the big questions. Nowhere has this been more true than on Life, an album that succeeds both thematically and as a thrilling embodiment of late-Romantic pianism at its best. The title, and the contents, refer to the album's memorial function: Levit chose the program to honor a close artist friend who died in an accident. The music is monumental enough to live up to its death-haunted theme, rising out of silence in the Fantasia after J.S. Bach of Busoni and continuing with a remarkably sustained mood of soberness and dignity, punctuated by frenetic outbursts. Busoni is one major presence on the program; the other is Liszt, and the two come together in the Busoni transcription of the Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale Ad nos, ad salutarem undam of Liszt, originally for organ and an impressive virtuoso task on the piano. So the program works well also as a revival of pure late-Romantic pianism: you can easily imagine that Liszt would have loved this, and loved to play it. A third theme interweaving the works on the program is that of reinterpretation, as in the Brahms transcription of the Chaconne from the Bach Partita for solo violin in D minor, BWV 1004; the fact that Levit has played these works in different orderings in recital testifies to the program's remarkable cohesiveness. There is music by Frederic Rzewski in a memorial vein, and Bill Evans' serene Peace Piece is a lovely conclusion. Bravo!

Reggae - Released October 5, 2018 | Yotanka Records

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 28, 2018 | BMG Rights Management GmbH

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Eight years have passed since the Californians of Cypress Hill’s last album yet the band are still all over the scene, both with solo projects and collaborations. Cypress Hill’s energy on stage is unparalleled, which guarantees them a place at most festivals around the world. The promise of this new album, “Elephants on Acid”, is primarily based on the return of DJ Muggs, their brilliant producer, who is picking up right where he left off, between sixties psychedelics, blazing breakbeats and smoky mysticism. Just like on the very detailed gothic album cover, Muggs unearths a monster buried deep underground and resurrects the legend of “Temple of Boom”, the band’s labyrinth album released in 1995. Between drugs and spirituality, B-Real, the main rapper, reinterprets Cypress Hill’s rather dark repertoire, halfway between Los Angeles Latino culture and hallucinating fantasy à la H.P. Lovecraft. With a few more recreational tracks like “Crazy” or “Oh Na Na”, which make the group sound like a mutant gypsy marching band, Cypress Hill are revitalised, though slightly removed from the saturated guitars of their earlier releases. Ending on “Stairway To Heaven” which is reminiscent of the ethereal soul of Portishead or Massive Attack, “Elephants on Acid” is a multi-layered journey around the mind, in which listeners can both lose and find themselves. © Aurélien Chapuis/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 28, 2018 | Cracki Records

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R&B/Soul - Released September 21, 2018 | Warner Bros.

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Two years after his premature death, Prince’s Ali Baba cave has offered up its first treasure. With the aptly named album Piano & A Microphone 1983, it’s with the simplest devices that his art is heard. At only 25 years old, Prince had already released five albums (For You, Prince, Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999) and was just about to release the album that would turn him into a global star, Purple Rain. The multi-instrumentalist spent his days and nights in the studio and we find him here alone at the piano for a medley of personal compositions and two covers: Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You and the gospel song Mary Don’t You Weep. The intimate context of this recording only amplifies the intensity of this unpublished work. Just close your eyes and you’ll find yourself alone with Prince… With his elastic voice and skilled playing, the musician from Minneapolis proves to those who doubted him that he was a true artist; both entertainer and composer, showman and improviser. His stripped back version of Purple Rain touches on the sublime and the track Strange Relationship gives an insight into the evolution of his productions, as four years later the track appeared, more muscular this time, on the album Sign o’ the Times. While Piano & A Microphone 1983 may be primarily aimed at Prince fans, novices – if there are any left – will no doubt enjoy discovering this impressive artist. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Symphonic Music - Released September 14, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - 5 étoiles de Classica
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Solo Piano - Released September 14, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica