• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: Kaytranada, Aurora, King Hannah

Kaytranada – Timeless
Montreal/Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Though every album they’ve delivered has impressed us more and more, Kaytranada has managed to top themselves yet again. Evolving their art yet again with such a wide range of artists on the record, Kaytranada not only reasserts their surreal talent as a producer, but their ability to match versatility with cohesion for a sublime album. Blending Kaytranada’s usual smooth and bouncy beats with a funky kick, “Spit It Out” opens the album on airy highs and punchy lows, with Rochelle Jordan riding both sides of that coin effortlessly with him. The disco tones of the sample on “Call U Up” immediately paints a whole world in your ears to add texture to its base, and Lou Phelps vocal timbres feel right in line with that sound. Barely a month away from his album rerelease, Childish Gambino gives us even glossier magic on “Witchy,” transforming to something in a dance lane Donald Glover never normally touches. Jordan returns on the soaring “Lover/Friend” that keeps bumping while she argues with herself in a very dynamically produced back and forth that enhances the already-elegant percussion mix.

Louise Patricia Crane – Celestial Dust (Single)
Belfast, Northern Ireland

There’s a sound like a cold air flowing throughout Louise Patricia Crane’s latest single, giving you a sense of the harshness of nature, and almost making it feel sentient at the same time. Between her velvety vocal sections, flutes and roaring guitars become their own ghostly presences on the song, slowly building from solos into a magical call and response with Crane herself. While the solos themselves have a mesmerizing effect, particularly as they layer and fall into each other, it’s the way the instruments find each other in the verses that particularly dazzle the ears here. And the whole arrangement leaves you in an ethereal shock by its outro.

Aurora – What Happened to the Heart?
Stavanger, Norway

Throughout her career, Aurora has moved from hefty and spritely pop with perceivable roots to something totally unplaceable and otherworldly. On her latest record, she has truly metamorphosized her sound beyond the sum of its parts to be equally a pop powerhouse and an unpredictable art-pop crafter. Aurora lives in an elevated blend of symphonic pop and electronic dance constructions on “To Be Alright,” rising their intense harmonies in the mix until they hit an arresting and a spiritual cappella swirl around herself that knocks you off your feet. “Your Blood” blends twinkling Fleetwood Mac guitars, warped singer-pop hooks and punk-disco choruses for a triple threat of a song with the shacking vocals that morph with the song’s energy to absolutely overtake your soul. In the lightly 80s-tinged “Some Type of Skin” Aurora takes a seemingly quiet ballad and drops a wrecking ball vocal performance in every chorus with her cataclysmic shouts, turning the ending chorus into a euphoric celebration to shake your whole body to. Playing to her older work sounds, “Starvation” drips with ferocious percussion and driving beats, providing that primal art-pop that Aurora does so well, even when she’s not taking the production that much further.

WolfWolf – Totentanz
Lucerne, Switzerland

Landing somewhere between Primus, Queens of the Stone Age and even Tom Waits, WolfWolf crafts demented and grimy nightmare stompers. “Heidi Is Alive” has a wailing Frankenstein-esque scream to it, with all of its more exotic riffs matching the death dance their title refers to. With the synths always humming and building to a shriek on “The Falcon,” you always feel like the other shoe is waiting to drop, and that tension sustains it. The rollicking sense of fun and off-kilter wonder on “My Imaginary Friend” has you curious around some corners and concerned at others, and the grittier guitar tone fits the vocals tightly here. There’s a more pop-laden energy throughout “Twenty One,” with WolfWolf constantly swaying between infectious guitar-synth riffs and their chorus that begs for a call and response in live shows.

King Hannah – Big Swimmer
Liverpool, England

True to the pedigree of many of Liverpool’s non-Beatle bands, King Hannah takes a very atypical approach to their writing. Pensive and bubbling under the surface, this record has a quiet ferocity that creeps up on you. “Big Swimmer” sets off the album with a slowly combusting roll of guitars and brooding vocals, resulting in strongheaded but subdued track with just a touch of Lou Reed in its bones. The band’s charge is much more dangerous and snarkier on “New York, Let’s Do Nothing,” as they blend a bit of Dry Cleaning-style ramble vocals with a sun-baked guitar roll that is all their own and guides that experience into a smokier air of cool. This approach is twisted to a menacing degree on “Milk Boy (I Love You)” with the slow and angular guitars snowballing into a frightening finale. All their crackling tension comes to a head on the pop-infused “Davey Says,” where they’re able to swell and dissolve the track’s momentum, while knocking out a startling number of hooks in just a few minutes.