14 New Albums I'm Recommending Right Now
Here's a taste of everything from rare Ottoman grooves to singing Finnish lawyers
Lately I’ve been listening to 3 or 4 new albums every day—it’s part of my early morning and late night routine. And most of them are from totally unknown (at least to me) artists.
This approach has its ups and downs. Just the other day, I listened to a piano album by Lana Del Rey’s dad, a 69-year-old real estate agent and former advertising copywriter. The nepotism is so thick here that the record is actually getting sold on the www.nepodaddy.com website.
Now there’s 40 minutes I’ll never have back.
But every week I hear at least a few recordings that tug at my heart and earn my praise. Below are 14 of my recent favorites.
The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, media & culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
Michalis Kouloumis, Tristan Driessens & Miriam Encinas: Music for Shepherds and Sultans
Retro Ottoman Empire Grooves
Heard any good retro Ottoman tracks lately? I’m not talking interior decorating—I’ve got another kind of Ottoman in mind for putting up my feet and relaxing, maybe even falling into a trance. This is music for sultans and shepherds, as the album title declares, and it evokes both rural dances and palatial festivities. Record labels call this folk music, but it artfully draws on both classical and vernacular traditions in a way that blurs the dividing line between old and new. The band is a cross-cultural trio, consisting of oud player Tristan Driessens from Belgium, Cypriot violinist Michalis Kouloumis, and Catalan Miriam Encinas on frame drums and flute. If modal jazz had flourished under the Ottoman Empire, it might have sounded like this.
Novelty Island: Wallsend Weekend Television
Beatles-esque Surreal Pop
This is the lost Beatles album, created between Sgt. Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour, but locked in a vault inside a bunker far below Abbey Road Studios. Now it can finally be heard!
Okay, I’m joking. Nobody is more fab than the Fab Four. But this record actually was made at Abbey Road, and captures some of that Beatles mojo, especially the unpredictability and quasi-surrealism—an expansive aesthetic that somehow pressed an ever-expanding palette of sounds on to the surface of a circular vinyl slab without falling into pastiche or dilettantism.
There’s also a bit of Monty Python here, along with BBC news-speak, and claymation cartoons. But I especially like the Beatles-ish vocal harmonies and chord changes. This breed of maximalist pop is an endangered species nowadays.
By the way, the visionary behind this record is songwriter and producer Tom McConnell, and he actually comes from Liverpool. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Maybe all that reminds you of the past. But I’m listening to this without the slightest dose of nostalgia—because I’d like to hear more risk-taking like this in the future. Perhaps it’s time for a new Liverpool invasion.
Bernard Herrmann: Suite from Wuthering Heights
Suite Drawn from a Failed Opera by an Esteemed Hollywood Composer
This is NOT a movie score by the esteemed film composer. Instead, it's his failed opera—which he labored over for eight years. He never saw Wuthering Heights produced live, but this new recording by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (with singers Keri Fuge and Roderick Williams) testifies to his vision. The Suite is drawn from his score, and is surprisingly heartfelt music from a composer many associate with horror and suspense films. I'm not sure the world was ready for this in the mid-1960s, maybe not even today. But I do sense the first stirrings of a Romanticism revival on the horizon, and this would be an emblematic project for anyone in alignment with that coming shift. This is one of Herrmann's finest works, by any measure.
Lain Huuto: Valoon!
A Cappella Pop Sung by a Choir of Finnish Lawyers
I have no idea what they’re singing about—it might be a cease-and-desist order, for all I can tell. But from the opening track, I had no intention of ceasing nor desisting. This choir of Finnish attorneys sealed the deal from the get-go. The director of the ensemble is Paavo Hyökki, tenor and choir master—and definitely not a man to mess with in Finnish court. I imagine there’s an interesting back story to this ensemble, but I don’t know it—there’s hardly anything written in English about Lain Huuto. But the music is far more sophisticated than I’d expect from part timers taking a break from the bar. Maybe this trend can spread to other countries and vocations.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Honest Broker to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.