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Rock - Released November 8, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Best New Reissue
Though wildly misunderstood when first released (like most art that’s ahead of its time), Gene Clark's third solo album—his most focused and intricately-produced shot at musical immortality—is now revered as something of a lost masterpiece. Expectations were high for the former Byrd, who had signed a solo deal after he’d been the bright spot in the band’s abortive 1973 reunion. Clark seemed poised to write and record a blockbuster that could power his solo career; the studio was filled with choice players like Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, percussionist Joe Lala, ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on mandolin, Steve Bruton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar on guitars and Claudia Lennear on vocals. Instead, No Other busted its recording budget, disappointed its label and perplexed fans—an expensive commercial flop that hung over Clark’s career until his death at 46 in 1991. Remastered with a brighter, more multidimensional sound for its 45th anniversary reissue, the original eight tracks are supplemented by twenty extra takes from sessions that show the songs’ evolutions, including a slow, loopy version of Clark's earlier hit, "Train Leaves Here This Morning," co-written by Bernie Leadon and later recorded by The Eagles. Producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye (aka Tommy Kontos) grew close to Clark during the sessions and came to share his vision for the project. Their collaboration proved to be the doubled-edged sword at the heart of No Other, one that fashioned a mystical, multi-layered, intricately-arranged singer/songwriter album with forward looking psychedelic and R&B touches. The strongest tracks, the menacing synth-backed folk of "The Silver Raven" (written about his wife's shoes), the fragile melody of the seemingly anti-drug themed "From A Silver Phial" (which speaks of "a mind that sleeps inside tomorrow,") and the glorious title track, with its sinuous changes and low keyboard line doubling the vocal choruses, are among the best of Clark's short career. And his singing throughout is extremely moving. He clearly believed in this project. And yet the overdubbed production confounded many. Slow ballads and mid-tempo songs predominate, and as Chris Hillman points out in the liner notes, Clark refused to tour, do interviews or participate in any promotional efforts, essentially dooming an ambitious project to failure. Original label Asylum refused to employ any marketing muscle and the album was deleted from the label's catalog within two years. Genius or a colossal miscalculation? This confounding prism continues to turn. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Rock - Released November 8, 2019 | 4AD

Though wildly misunderstood when first released (like most art that’s ahead of its time), Gene Clark's third solo album—his most focused and intricately-produced shot at musical immortality—is now revered as something of a lost masterpiece. Expectations were high for the former Byrd, who had signed a solo deal after he’d been the bright spot in the band’s abortive 1973 reunion. Clark seemed poised to write and record a blockbuster that could power his solo career; the studio was filled with choice players like Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, percussionist Joe Lala, ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on mandolin, Steve Bruton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar on guitars and Claudia Lennear on vocals. Instead, No Other busted its recording budget, disappointed its label and perplexed fans—an expensive commercial flop that hung over Clark’s career until his death at 46 in 1991. Remastered with a brighter, more multidimensional sound for its 45th anniversary reissue, the original eight tracks are supplemented by twenty extra takes from sessions that show the songs’ evolutions, including a slow, loopy version of Clark's earlier hit, "Train Leaves Here This Morning," co-written by Bernie Leadon and later recorded by The Eagles. Producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye (aka Tommy Kontos) grew close to Clark during the sessions and came to share his vision for the project. Their collaboration proved to be the doubled-edged sword at the heart of No Other, one that fashioned a mystical, multi-layered, intricately-arranged singer/songwriter album with forward looking psychedelic and R&B touches. The strongest tracks, the menacing synth-backed folk of "The Silver Raven" (written about his wife's shoes), the fragile melody of the seemingly anti-drug themed "From A Silver Phial" (which speaks of "a mind that sleeps inside tomorrow,") and the glorious title track, with its sinuous changes and low keyboard line doubling the vocal choruses, are among the best of Clark's short career. And his singing throughout is extremely moving. He clearly believed in this project. And yet the overdubbed production confounded many. Slow ballads and mid-tempo songs predominate, and as Chris Hillman points out in the liner notes, Clark refused to tour, do interviews or participate in any promotional efforts, essentially dooming an ambitious project to failure. Original label Asylum refused to employ any marketing muscle and the album was deleted from the label's catalog within two years. Genius or a colossal miscalculation? This confounding prism continues to turn. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 13, 2006 | 4AD

Even if it had been available only in a steel box stuffed with thousands of Styrofoam peanuts, Lullabies to Violaine would be a welcomed and indispensable part of Cocteau Twins' discography. In just about every way imaginable, the compilation outdoes the title-less ten-disc singles box released by 4AD in the early '90s. It certainly looks and feels different: the sturdy flip-top box of old housed the singles in individual jewel cases, while this set squishes most of the old contents, and then some, into four discs that are wrapped in a foldout package that seems to be made of an exotic wintertime plant, which is then encased in a rice-paper-like sheath. You'd be wise not to handle the thing more than a couple times. In fact, just to be cautious, you probably shouldn't stare at it too long. Completists might be miffed to discover that it is missing a few things that the old box did contain, such as the 12" mixes of "Peppermint Pig" and "Pearly Dewdrops' Drops," and the four tracks that appeared on a bonus disc. Robin Guthrie also substituted a couple alternate mixes, but as he argued on his weblog, it's not a big deal: "It's a singles and EPs record, all the singles are there, where is the f*cking problem?" (Well, here's one problem: "Millimillenary," a gorgeous track left to languish on the out-of-print The Pink Opaque, shouldn't have been excluded.) The old box covered the 4AD years and therefore held the singles through Heaven or Las Vegas. This one covers the same ground on the first two discs; discs three and four cover the remaining A-sides, B-sides, and EP tracks through Milk & Kisses (secretly the band's third or fourth best album). Since the Cocteaus typically put the same amount of energy into their singles and EPs as their albums, Lullabies to Violaine features a prolific sum of prime material. The sheer breadth of content is a major factor, but the set is, by a wide margin, the best way to hear how this band consistently developed and constantly switched tacks, from punishing and stark, to elegant and dense, and many places between. It also doesn't hurt that the sound is pristine, improving upon whatever murkiness was audible in the initial round of CD issues. You might call all of the content amorphous goop, but the Cocteaus covered a wide range of emotions with a large set of colors, no matter how blurred they were at times. In fact, "The Spangle Maker," with its tidal structure and mixture of dread and bliss, indicates this in less than five minutes. There are 59 tracks in all, and they're not all overflowing with dreamy exotic genius, but they do form the equivalent of six good-to-tremendous stand-alone albums. For the fans who didn't go any deeper than the studio albums, this will be almost exactly like falling in love with the band for the first time. [4AD also split this into two separate volumes.] © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Electronic/Dance - Released May 28, 2012 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2020 | 4AD

The shoegaze revival is upon us, so a revisit of the classics can only do a world of good. The first Pale Saints album, which came out in February 1990, is precisely a milestone record in the dream pop and shoegaze movement. For its 30th anniversary, it is being rereleased in a remastered deluxe version, in 24-Bit Hi-Res quality, adorned with never-before-heard demos. At the time, the 4AD label was living a sort of golden age with the establishment of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, This Mortal Coil and of course Pixies. The record label headed by Ivo Watts-Russell kept their roster fresh by signing bands such as Belly, Lush and Pale Saints. The Leeds-based group, formed in the late-1980s, based the originality of their sound in the duality of singer Ian Masters’ delicate voice and the wall of sound created by the guitars carrying fairly pop melodies. Evanescent fury, raging daydreaming… in a way, this is the dichotomy of shoegaze. Gil Norton, who made a name for himself by producing Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen and Doolittle by Pixies, is in the mixing booth for five of the tracks, with John Fryer from This Mortal Coil covering the other half of the album. Once the album starts, the sound of this first Pale Saints opus is unmistakably Cocteau Twins or Jesus & Mary Chain. Some may even draw comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, despite their iconic Loveless coming out only a year and a half after Comforts of Madness in November 1991. More of a cult figure than he is given credit for, Ian Masters is more than just a run of the mill shoegaze singer: he knows how to orchestrate different rhythms and especially how to compose often-perfect pop songs, stringing them together so that the project as a whole feels like one single composition. This feeling is amplified by the absence of any gaps between the eleven tracks. Thirty years later, this masterpiece has not only not aged a bit, but stands out amongst its contemporaries. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 16, 2009 | 4AD

The 20th Red Hot compilation Dark Was the Night also arrives during the AIDS charity's 20th anniversary. Curated by the National's Bryce and Aaron Dessner and John Carlin, this double-disc set plays like a who's who of late 2000s indie rock, especially of the mellow and/or folky variety: Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Ben Gibbard, and Jose Gonzalez all contribute tracks. Though Carlin and the Dessners didn't specify a particular theme for the project outside of updating traditional themes, Dark Was the Night's first disc is remarkably cohesive. Bon Iver's "Brackett, WI," the Decemberists' "Sleepless," the National's "So Far Around the Bend," and Iron & Wine's "Stolen Houses (Die)" are quintessential examples of what these artists are all about. Many of the brightest moments have a spooky, strangely antique feel, particularly the Kronos Quartet's update of Blind Willie Johnson's title track, which keeps the ruminative soulfulness and grit of the original while transporting it to a very different setting. Antony Hegarty and Bryce Dessner's take on Bob Dylan's "I Left Home When I Was Young" is similarly lonely and haunting, but the real standouts is My Brightest Diamond's ambitious cover of "Feelin' Good," which nods to Nina Simone's classic version while staying true to Shana Worden's chilly yet intimate musical vision. Likewise, Feist's collaboration with Grizzly Bear on "Service Bell" brings out an unearthly, almost unrecognizable side to her voice. Dark Was the Night's second disc is more disjointed, but arguably a more interesting listen -- Spoon's brash "Well-Alright," the Arcade Fire's anthemic "Lenin," and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings' slinky cover of Shuggie Otis' "Inspiration Information" have little in common other than that they're all well-crafted. Skipping from indie hip-hop ("Blood, Pt 2," Buck 65's remix of Sufjan Stevens' cover of Castanets' "You are the Blood" featuring rapper Serengeti) to filmic Americana (Andrew Bird's take on the Handsome Family's "The Giant of Illinois") to roots rock (My Morning Jacket's "El Caporal"), there's little rhyme or reason but lots of entertainment. Other highlights include the Dirty Projects' and David Byrne's "Knotty Pine," Stuart Murdoch's simple and beautiful "Another Saturday," and Blonde Redhead and Devastations' dreamy, unsettling "When the Road Runs Out." Though some of the tracks contributed by Dark Was the Night's artists are a touch too predictable, it's uncharitable to nitpick too much when the collection offers so much music for such a good cause. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 19, 1999 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 6, 2005 | 4AD

Released as part of 4AD's mail order/Internet-only series, Underarms is an engaging and largely instrumental collection of outtakes from the ...smile's ok sessions. Though the debut consisted solely of covers, five of the seven tracks here were written by Hope Blister creator Ivo Watts-Russell, engineer John Fryer, bassist Laurence O'Keefe, and cellist Audrey Riley. The disc provides a darkly ambient companion to ...smile's ok. The gorgeous, minimalist drone to both parts of "Sweet Medicine" provides a cyclical lean, and a couple tracks are downright sinister, on par with any of Main's harrowing soundscapes. "Strings" versions of Neil Halstead's (Slowdive) "Dagger" and David Sylvian's "Let the Happiness In" fill out the disc. Underarms is a small gem -- it's a shame it didn't become more widely available. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Era

Alternative & Indie - Released June 15, 2015 | 4AD

Era should be the final word on In Camera, a post-punk act signed to 4AD on the strength of a gig for which they shared a bill with Bauhaus. While together, the short-lived band released only a two-song 7" and a four-song 12", both of which were issued in 1980, and they bowed with a posthumously issued 12" edition of their all-originals BBC session for John Peel's program, also recorded in 1980. As for previous anthologies, there was 13 (Lucky for Some) in 1992 and the limited vinyl-only IV Songs + II. Era eclipses them both by offering not only all the studio and BBC recordings, but also demos, live material, and some rehearsals. For early-4AD obsessives and other post-punk fanatics, this won't seem the least bit excessive -- though the sound quality of the live cuts is pretty rough -- and it all fits inside a tidy, sharp sleeve that could be mistaken for an artful greeting card. Among scads of other bands that specialized in hectoring vocals, droning basslines, battering drums, and scraping guitars, In Camera weren't all that distinctive, but they created quite a racket. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Rising from the darkness of the Canadian rave scene at the start of the 2010s, Grimes quickly made her way up the ladder of success. Her synthetic hit Vanessa allowed her to amass a fanbase that was obsessed with her post-teenage voice and elfish look, and at the end of the 2010s, Pitchfork named Oblivion (written following a sexual assault and taken from her 2012 album Vision) the second-best song of the entire decade. It’s this kind of distinction that reminds us that she is an artist that knows exactly how to transcribe emotions into songs, and not just the girlfriend of multi-billionaire Elon Musk. Miss Anthropocene sees Grimes morph into a climate supervillain, a ‘goddess of plastic’ that’s here to take some of the heat off climate change. Musically, Grimes has not drastically changed, with a signature synth-pop sound that borrows from rock on My Name Is Dark, drum’n’bass on the excellent 4ÆM or trip-hop on So Heavy (I Fell Through the Earth), which reminds you of Massive Attack or Transglobal Underground. Well inspired, Grimes continues to hit the mark. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz

Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Rising from the darkness of the Canadian rave scene at the start of the 2010s, Grimes quickly made her way up the ladder of success. Her synthetic hit Vanessa allowed her to amass a fanbase that was obsessed with her post-teenage voice and elfish look, and at the end of the 2010s, Pitchfork named Oblivion (written following a sexual assault and taken from her 2012 album Vision) the second-best song of the entire decade. It’s this kind of distinction that reminds us that she is an artist that knows exactly how to transcribe emotions into songs, and not just the girlfriend of multi-billionaire Elon Musk. Miss Anthropocene sees Grimes morph into a climate supervillain, a ‘goddess of plastic’ that’s here to take some of the heat off climate change. Musically, Grimes has not drastically changed, with a signature synth-pop sound that borrows from rock on My Name Is Dark, drum’n’bass on the excellent 4ÆM or trip-hop on So Heavy (I Fell Through the Earth), which reminds you of Massive Attack or Transglobal Underground. Well inspired, Grimes continues to hit the mark. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz

Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

Download not available
Rising from the darkness of the Canadian rave scene at the start of the 2010s, Grimes quickly made her way up the ladder of success. Her synthetic hit Vanessa allowed her to amass a fanbase that was obsessed with her post-teenage voice and elfish look, and at the end of the 2010s, Pitchfork named Oblivion (written following a sexual assault and taken from her 2012 album Vision) the second-best song of the entire decade. It’s this kind of distinction that reminds us that she is an artist that knows exactly how to transcribe emotions into songs, and not just the girlfriend of multi-billionaire Elon Musk. Miss Anthropocene sees Grimes morph into a climate supervillain, a ‘goddess of plastic’ that’s here to take some of the heat off climate change. Musically, Grimes has not drastically changed, with a signature synth-pop sound that borrows from rock on My Name Is Dark, drum’n’bass on the excellent 4ÆM or trip-hop on So Heavy (I Fell Through the Earth), which reminds you of Massive Attack or Transglobal Underground. Well inspired, Grimes continues to hit the mark. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 17, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
This eighth album from The National is refreshingly different, somewhat modifying the well-oiled mechanics of this American band. First and foremost, this is achieved through the presence of several female singers who support the leader Matt Berninger on most of the tracks. The most memorable are the performances of Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie’s bassist) on Had Your Soul With You, as well as the particularly poignant performances of Lisa Hannigan and Mina Tindle on So Far So East and Oblivions respectively, the latter being especially moving. Why this sudden feminine presence for an exclusively male band? It’s likely because the album was conceived after filmmaker Mike Mills asked The National to put his short film I Am Easy to Find into song form - a film which happens to be centred around a woman. It’s this relationship to images that has somewhat upended the Brooklyn band’s pop formula. There are a few references to some classics of cinema, chiefly Roman Holiday by William Wyler (1953). But apart from the new cinematic release, fans of The National will still find the legendary melancholy of the group in both the lyrics and the music. The presence of heart-wrenching strings on all the tracks (with the exception of the staccato violins on Where Is Her Head) as well as a recurring introspective piano (notably in the beautiful Light Years) will particularly be remembered. Bryan Devendorf’s singular rhythms plays on contrasts, occasionally making striking jerks (Rylan, The Pull of You) as well as adding a sensual flair (Hairpin Turns, I Am Easy to Find). © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz  
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 17, 1989 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
After the shock of Surfer Rosa, fans des Pixies found a tighter, less abrasive, but happily no better-behaved second album. The opening punch of Debaser, the saintly nonchalance on I Bleed, the enlightened surf pop of Monkey Gone To Heaven, the gag of La La Love You: Doolittle, released 1989 stored up all manner of gems, some troubling, others fascinating, others still surprising (everything that happens in the two mere minutes of Waves Of Mutilation is mind-bending), without ever looking like just another production of the times. This fusion of punk rock, surf music and pure pop achieves perfection here. After a record like this, we can have a better idea of where Pavement and Nirvana (Cobain named the Pixies as his favourite group) got their inspiration from...© Marc Zisman
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 30, 1998 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
"Seeking fans of Peter, Paul & Mary and Hüsker Dü". It was this simple small-ad that saw Frank Black, then going by "Black Francis" find his Pixies band-mates, surely the most innovative adventure in rock of the late 1980s. Teetering on an unstable bridge linking the wildest, most de-structured punk and the most joyful pop, the Boston quartet shook things up with their changes in rhythm and other bizarre dissonances. For their first recordings from 1987 and 1988, everything and anything was grist to the mill of their genius: surf music, bubblegum pop, art rock, angular post-punk – each great swerve madder than the last. Joey Santiago's guitar is wild with electric shocks; Kim Deal is bouncing off the walls, and Black Francis belches out the craziest stories. A simply spellbinding first album! © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 17, 2019 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 6, 2020 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
U.S. Girls isn't as much a band as an ever-mutating organism. Begun by experimental songwriter Meg Remy in the late 2000s as a noisy solo act backed by reel-to-reel tapes, the project grew into a monolith of larger-than-life pop. 2018's In a Poem Unlimited was one of Remy's finest moments, with her polymathic songwriting bending disco-funk, glam rock, and ambient composition into new forms. Heavy Light expands on the colorful complexities of In a Poem Unlimited, with Remy dipping her toes in different styles on almost every song but retaining the experimental intensity that has always been at the core of U.S. Girls. Album opener "Four American Dollars" juxtaposes a light, summery soul instrumental with lyrics about destitution, poverty, and the inevitability of death. It's one of several moments on the album where Remy is joined by a host of powerful backing vocalists, a technique that's been flirted with on previous albums but is utilized to its fullest on these songs. This shows up in the form of girl group melodrama on eerie, beautiful songs like "IOU" and "Denise, Don't Wait" and theatrical synth-heavy glam rock on "The Quiver to the Bomb." The brief spoken interludes that showed up a few times on In a Poem Unlimited are swapped out here with several similar pieces, this time various voices stacked on top of each other answering survey questions about childhood memories. These interludes underscore themes of nostalgia and painfully looking back that become central to Heavy Light. "Woodstock '99" mulls over a stream of melancholic younger memories over a syrupy lite rock instrumental borrowed from late-'60s AM radio hit "MacArthur Park." Looking back also takes the form of several songs revisited from the U.S. Girls back catalog being reworked to various degrees of reinvention. Album standout "Overtime" takes on new life with the dramatic emphasis of newly added backing vocals, and album closer "Red Ford Radio," originally a dark smear of distorted vocals and looped drums on 2010's Go Grey, becomes a shockingly clear statement of fear and intensity. Remy takes a personal inventory throughout Heavy Light, sometimes contemplating the present but oftentimes remembering or returning to different threads from the past. It's another huge step forward for the uncontainable U.S. Girls organism, one that skillfully combines the immediacy of personal memories with Remy's uncanny ability to inject her singular creative voice into every sound she touches. ~ Fred Thomas
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Distinctions Exceptional Sound Recording
With a regular American deal in place for the first time ever, thanks to 4AD's linkup with the WEA conglomerate, Dead Can Dance made a splash on commercial alternative radio with "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," the first single from Into the Labyrinth. Raga drones, a strange clattering beat, a haunting wind instrument, orchestral shading, and Perry's ever-grand voice make it one of the more unlikely things to be heard on the airwaves in a while. It all begins with yet another jaw-dropper from Gerrard, "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)," with keyboards and her octave-defying voice at such a deep, rich level that it sweeps all before it. Wordless as always but never without emotional heft, the song slowly slides into a slow but heavy percussion piece that sounds a bit like "Bird" from A Passage in Time, but with greater impact and memorability. As the album slowly unwinds over an hour's length, the two again create a series of often astounding numbers that sound like they should be millennia old, mixing and matching styles to create new fusions. Perhaps even more impressive is that everything was performed solely by Perry and Gerrard -- no outside guests here, and yet everything is as detailed, lush, and multifaceted as many of their past albums. New classics from the band appear almost track for track: Gerrard's a cappella work on "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," the gentle beauty of "Ariadne," the rhythmic drive and chants of the title song. The conclusion is a slightly surprising but quite successful cover -- "How Fortunate the Man With None," an adaptation of a classic Bertolt Brecht tune about the turn of fortune's wheel. Given a restrained arrangement and Perry's singing, it brings Labyrinth to a satisfying end. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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R&B - Released August 30, 2019 | 4AD

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The new pretender to the throne of experimental and indie R&B Jeremy Nutzman, a.k.a. Velvet Negroni, is the perfect representative of his time. With an ambient synth piano, downtempo percussion and a captivating voice, the African-American from Minneapolis, who was adopted by a family of white evangelical Christians, split his formative years between classical piano lessons and late night jam sessions. This duality has clearly influenced Neon Brown, a record that looks as much to contemporary urban soul as it does to indie rock. Following a tour with his friend Bon Iver and a single released on the New York label b4 in 2018, Velvet Negroni saw his work sampled by Kanye West and Kid Cudi on their joint album Kids See Ghosts. On i,i, Bon Iver invited him to sing on the track iMi and sampled from his track Waves. This time, for his debut album, Nutzman surrounds himself with producers Psymun (Young Thug, Juice WRLD, The Weeknd) and Elliott Kozel a.k.a. Tickle Torture and reveals songs that sweep away stereotypes. The harmonies of his gentle R&B blend into each other over intense rhythms. Soft dub follows electro soul. And his androgynous voice makes the tracks all the more mysterious. Merging the influence of Prince in the 80’s, The Weeknd’s futuristic R&B and Bon Iver-style electro folk, Velvet Negroni enchants us with the eclecticism of this brilliant album. © Max Dembo/Qobuz

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