Yuna – Nocturnal
Malaysian folk-pop singer Yuna Zarai has been steadily rising in international fame since 2011, thanks to the strength of her super popular MySpace page, two lauded indie label releases and an appearance at last year’s Lollapalooza. Here is her debut for American jazz label Verve, where she continues her line of catchy, easy-going tunes that live somewhere between the worlds of Norah Jones and Feist. Her talent clearly lies mostly in her vocal abilities, but it’s the instrumental variety and compelling arrangements that help set Yuna apart. The album has a tasteful worldbeat-lite feel, touches of contemporary R&B, and a winning ability to be sweet and mellow but never cloying. If her new singles “Falling” and “Rescue” continue to catch on, don’t be surprised to hear acoustic covers at your nearest beer garden in the coming year.
William Onyeabor – World
Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 5:
Who Is William Onyeabor?
With only a handful of his songs previously available to listeners outside of Nigeria, this new collection from David Byrne’s world music label Luaka Bop is a great introduction to the amazingly funky work of William Onyeabor. Each of the songs was recorded between 1977 and 1985, before he became a born-again Christian and denounced his past work (bummer). Like a lot of Afrobeat, most of the songs here go past the seven-minute mark and feature repetitive yet complex rhythm sections. But instead of being horn-driven like Fela Kuti’s bands, Onyeabor’s ensemble leans heavily on keyboards. Super dirty synth and organ lines stand out front, while effects-laden guitars and bass support laconic vocals about world peace and love. While not directly related to the ganja-soaked dub coming out of Jamaica at that time, it will certainly put you in that same headspace. Recommended tracks: “Body and Soul” and “Why Go to War.”
Public Service Broadcasting –
Inform – Educate – Entertain
This debut album from the British duo is a real roller coaster of a listen that could serve as the soundtrack to your next drive up to Pai. Mult-instrumentalist J. Willgoose Esq. and drummer Wrigglesworth make up PSB, and judging from their stage names, one might imagine that their music comes a bit out of left field. Filled with clips from old British propaganda films, New Order-like dance beats, and occasional banjo rolls, the odd mix somehow works. The quiet moments recall the work of folktronica group The Books, with the more upbeat parts like a slicker version of The Avalanches’ classic album Since I Left You, and then overdrive kicks in with racing guitars and double-time drums that wouldn’t sound out of place in a sports car commercial. It’s a record best listened to at full-length, and after its brief 43 minutes, you’ll want another ride.