The gap between the end of exams and the start of the new academic year was long. Nevertheless, it was punctuated with some stellar albums; here is our pick of the best.
Ezra Furman – Twelve Nudes
From the title you’d expect a tired pop-punk album thinking sex and drugs are still edgy. Instead, Twelve Nudes is a collection of small exposures of Ezra Furman; vulnerable and confused, as he tries to make sense of his own life and the world he now lives in. A punchy 27 minutes – most of the record delivers incredibly carefully crafted tunes, each serving their own precise purpose. It’s a whirlwind; at one point, ‘Thermometer’, a blistering punk track, lyrically scant and short in length, dives straight into ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’; a sublime song with hauntingly pained crooning on stagnation, love, and gender dysphoria, wrapped up in country inspirations. A weird yet wonderful record that distorts genre and plucks heartstrings, Furman delivers a truly brilliant seventh album.
Whitney – Forever Turned Around
Against a backdrop of golden meadows and softly lapping shores, indie-folk duo Whitney pluck at their guitars, singing mournfully for past lovers, places, friends. Reflecting in memory and the changing of the seasons, Whitney create beautiful blends of light piano notes and slow, sliding electric guitar. Though at moments a certain repetitiveness of pace begins to set in, tracks such as the instrumental ‘Rhododendron’, with its bright trumpets and sax oozing together dreamily, assuredly help ease this. It’s a comforting album; an album of the nostalgically familiar, which sustains a melancholic yet equally heartening sound in the way that Whitney have proved they do best.
Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
Del Rey’s highly anticipated sixth release sees her crooning stripped-back, sultry tunes that move away from her previously romanticised American-dream themes, and focus on a post-Americana world, reminiscing on her past and the disappointment of modern life in ‘the greatest’. Highlights include the Sublime cover ‘Doin’ Time’ alongside Plath-inspired closing song ‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it’. Co-producer Jack Antonoff’s influence is by far positive, with Norman Fucking Rockwell being Lana Del Rey’s most pure release yet, letting her individuality shine through poetic lyrics and enchanting vocals.
Bon Iver – i,i
Through re-inventions of both sound and self, Justin Vernon, illuminating voice of created identity ‘Bon Iver’, brings us yet another shift in musical direction. i,i is a vulnerable departure from the darker, muddled tones of predecessor ’22, A Million’. The experimentation is still present; the instrumental opener gives us a taste for the glitchy production that Vernon hasn’t entirely left behind. Yet Justin returns, at intervals, to his simplistic folk roots of his early work: ‘Faith’ swells dramatically into the stripped back ‘Marion’, where Vernon’s stunning vocals take front and centre stage. The layered album cover perhaps gives us the best idea of Justin’s latest project: the styles in some sense stand off against each other, yet are also blended cleverly into a, whilst not entirely coherent, rich and emotionally exposed album.