CT Rating: 6/10
After an impressive series of collaborations spanning over five years, it is safe to say that Sampha’s debut LP is long overdue. The quality of Progress has made it worth the wait. The combination of Sampha’s foggy register and the interminable range of noises on this record make this well worth every second of your time.
The atmospheric opener ‘Plastic 100˚C’ is a glimpse into Sampha’s mind – you can hear the fragility seeping from his words. There is sadness and a paranoia at different points of this record and a sense of urgency is present on almost every track. A strikingly intimate moment is Sampha’s poignant tribute to his late mother ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’.
Although the densely layered production makes the album lean towards being convoluted, it never goes far enough to a have detrimental effect. ‘Reverse Faults’ is fuelled by flickering synths and rhythmic shifts while the bass-heavy ‘Under’ boasts bouncing echoes and accordion notes.
There are just so many avenues to explore in Progress, making it the best album of 2017 so far.
CT Rating: 5/10
2016 was a bumper year for breakout female RnB artists with NAO, NoName and Jamila Woods coming to the fore. America’s Got Talent graduate Kehlani looks to follow suit with her first studio album. She takes on the multiple personas evoked in the title here, shifting between badass and bellicose, hip-hop style tunes and fluffy, poppy ballads.
There is no shortage of ambition here and you can’t help feel Kehlani would take her place amongst her contemporaries with some tweaks. SweetSexySavage contains too many irksome hooks and basic lyrics to develop into an interesting listen. It is when Kehlani takes her hand at hard-hitting tracks that she falls flat. The gentler moments are the more memorable (‘Advice’, ‘Piece of Mind’).
She sings ‘I’m still way too young’ on ‘Do U Dirty’. At age 21, Kehlani is still just beginning. Therefore, SweetSexySavage is less a fully realised triumph and more a showcase of potential.
Elbow, ‘Little Fictions’
CT Rating: 7/10
There were those who were growing tired of Elbow’s formula, but Elbow’s latest release Little Fictions feels like an attempt to reconcile with those who doubted them. It’s bright, buoyant and a touch optimistic.
Two clear highlights come early on the track list – ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ where Guy Garvey’s crew sound upbeat and achingly beautiful – and the subtler, shuffling ‘Trust the Sun’ which is an archetypal Elbow number.
Adam Bielenberg | Music Writer