Bishop Briggs is my new obsession. It takes an extraordinarily impressive artist to break through the chaos of life as we now know it and lure me to listen to a full album—let alone write about it. Bishop Briggs’ new self-titled release is that album.
Bishop Briggs is the stage name of 25-year old British musician Sarah Grace McLaughlin.
Her music is truly unique. You can compare elements of her robust voice and trippy beats to Lorde, The Mynabirds, VV Brown, and Ibeyi, but there’s no one artist that sums up her complex and alluring sound.
“Wild Horses” is the album’s spectacularly multi-faceted centerpiece. Other standout tracks are “River” and “Dead Man’s Arms,” but it’s an album I’ve enjoyed listening to all the way through on repeat. Definitely one for my best of the year list.
No one so beautifully interprets heartache as Sonya Cotton. Her new album, When I Go Home, continues where her exquisite previous album, It is so, left off. Sonya’s lovely, otherworldly lilt narrates the loss of loved ones and nature over melancholy, multi-instrumental folk melodies in the classic, masterful way of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.
By the banks of the Yuba river
I received the dreaded call
that began the slow unwinding
of the life that I had known
From the mystery comes beauty
from the mystery comes strife
every moment at the mercy
of a force we cannot describe
The standout track is “Bloodroot.” Sonya says: “‘Bloodroot,’ in addition to being about a polar bear, is also about my mother’s losing fight with cancer. (As you may know, bloodroot is a plant that some claim can be used to pull tumors out of the body. Others believe there is no scientific/medical merit to this.) Though my mom never used Bloodroot, for me it was a symbol of the last strand of hope or last ditch effort in her battle with this illness.”
That kind of metaphorical depth is a trademark of Sonya’s lyrics, particularly on this album and its predecessor. Every Sonya Cotton song is like a rich, poetic book.
Other highlights are “Yuba,” “Time Shows No Care,” “Don’t Want to Say Goodbye,” and “My Heart Lives,” but the entire album is truly, extraordinarily beautiful.
Sonya was kind enough to grant Muruch an exclusive mp3 download of “Bloodroot”. If you like what you hear, please support this talented independent artist by purchasing the full album at Bandcamp.
Old Muruch readers may recall my obsession with Luminescent Orchestrii. Since their last album (which I hope wasn’t really their last), Sxip Shirley has gone solo. His new album, A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees, was just released. It’s as weird and wonderful as I’ve come to expect from any Sxip project.
The standout track is “Grandpa Charlie,” which dives into that funky churn of genres Sxip perfected with Luminescent Orchestrii.
My other favorite tracks are “Just Drive By, Firefly,” “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” and “Bach, Stevie Wonder & Janelle Monae,” all featuring the exquisite voice of Rhiannon Giddens (formerly of Carolina Chocolate Drops and currently on Nashville). If you like those songs, check out the 2010 Luminescent Orchestration/Carolina Chocolate Drops collaboration.
Some bands have made such consistently good music for so long, I sometimes take them for granted. I haven’t posted about Tegan and Sara since before the great crash of ’04 wiped out Muruch’s early archives. Their new album, Love You to Death, is a vivid reminder of what made me love the Canadian singer-songwriter twins so much in the first place. Their trademark immersion of lyrical depth in summery dream pop, such as in “Walking with a Ghost” and “Where Does the Good Go,” is alive and well in new songs “Faint of Heart,” “Boyfriend,” and “Dying to Know.”
Fantastic Negrito’s debut full-length album, The Last Days of Oakland, churns classic blues, soul, and funk with modern garage rock like somebody spun Lead Belly, Buddy Guy, Otis Redding, and Black Joe Lewis records in a blender.
Fantastic Negrito, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, first caught my attention jammin’ with Jamal in a club on Fox’s Empire. At the time they only had a couple of EPs out, so I was very excited for this album’s release. It more than lives up to the anticipation.
The entire album is a nonstop brilliant and bombastic rumination on injustice and inequality of both social and economic natures. My personal favorite tracks…
“Working Poor” has a fiercely catchy guitar riff and twisted refrain of Little Richard’s “Keep on Knockin'” with lyrics about the working class’ struggle to survive despite working as hard as we possibly can.
When I was curating Muruch.com for RAINN, I tried and failed to arrange a worthy cover of the traditional Appalachian folk song “In the Pines” (aka “Black Girl” aka Lead Belly/Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”), so my heart just about exploded when I saw the song title on The Last Days of Oakland‘s tracklist.
Fantastic Negrito not only delivers a magnificently revamped, reverberating rendition of “In the Pines,” they also composed a new, gut-punch verse envisioning the “Black Girl” as the single mother of a son shot by police. It is the most perfect cover, beyond anything I could have imagined.
Other highlights are “Hump Through the Winter,” which follows the same theme as “Working Poor,” “Rant on Rushmore,” and the song they jammed with Jamal, “Lost in a Crowd”…