Femi Kuti – No Place for My Dream
As the son of Africa’s greatest music legend, Femi Kuti has spent the years since father Fela’s death proving he’s every bit as much of an artist and international star in his own right. While his live show maintains the high energy, big band Afrobeat sound of his father’s groups, his albums have included dalliances into hip-hop, electronica and free-jazz. No Place for My Dream, however, is his first non-live album in over a decade that truly captures that concert sound, featuring all live instruments and no studio gloss. This raw production fits the overtly political content of the lyrics, which carry on the common themes of government corruption and oppression. Sinewy guitars and spacey organs on top of driving percussion keep a jittery momentum before a massive wall of horns blasts the message home. With perhaps his best vocal performance and strongest songwriting yet, Femi has added an undeniable new classic to the Afrobeat cannon.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
This long-awaited new release from everyone’s favourite French dance duo is an excellent pop album that goes short on innovation but very long on paying tribute to their influences. In fact, without the easily recognisable Daft Punk vocoder, much of the album would come off as a lost artefact from the late 70s. It even goes so far as to give Italo-disco legend Giorgio Moroder a 9-minute song just three tracks into the album, in which Moroder speaks about his music experiences over a typically synthy beat. This track and the lovely ballad ‘Within’ derail the dance party momentarily, but things pick up again and only get better from there. ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’, both featuring a perfectly fit Pharell Williams on vocals, are killer dance anthems that sound fresh and familiar at the same time, while Panda Bear’s artful singing on ‘Doin’ It Right’ makes for an interesting contrast to the elastic beats we’re used to from Daft Punk. The guys save the best (and loudest) beats for last with the roller coaster-esque ‘Contact’.
G&D – The Lighthouse
Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins bring poetry and P-Funk on their third album together as hip-hop/soul group G&D. With loads of great samples and scratching, there’s a definite old-school feel to much of their output, but they manage to up both the skill level and production value on The Lighthouse. Here, they keep the listener interested by never letting a beat overstay its welcome and maintaining a rapid-fire succession of stomping tunes. Afrocentric lyrics usually linger around the political without getting militant, pushing towards spiritual uplift for the downtrodden.