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Music Album reviews with Ian Sinclair: June 11, 2024

New releases from The Decemberists, Paul Weller and Ahmed Malek

The Decemberists
As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again
(Thirty Tigers)

★★★★

 

 

SINCE forming in 2000, The Decemberists have become known for being one of the more intellectual bands on the US indie-rock scene.

How intellectual, you ask? Well they are named after the 1825 insurrection that took place in tsarist Russia, and their most celebrated album, 2006’s The Crane’s Wife, was inspired by a Japanese folk tale and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with songs about the Shankill Butchers and the siege of Leningrad in World War II.

Produced by Tucker Martine, their ninth record is another triumph, fusing narrative songwriting with Colin Meloy’s emotive vocals, melodic tunes and some big band sounds, leaning into folk and country, including some added tuba.

Track topics cover the 16th century British diplomat William Fitzwilliam, patriotism and the 20-minute proggy closer about Jules Bastien-Lepage’s famous 1879 painting of Joan of Arc.

 

Paul Weller
66
(Polydor)

★★★★

 

 

RELEASED the day before Paul Weller’s 66th birthday, 66 is the latest record in an exceptional career resurgence that stretches back to at least 2008’s 22 Dreams album.

Assisted by many friends including Noel Gallagher, Bobby Gillespie and Suggs, he sounds in rude health, the set full of classic-sounding songs.

The single Rise Up Singing and the synth-based Flying Fish — both underpinned by Hannah Peel’s magical string arrangements — are gorgeous soul bangers.

Elsewhere, Soul Wanderings is full of hard-edged guitars, while I Woke Up is a Beatlesy-acoustic number. Has Weller’s more melancholic vocals always sounded like Damon Albarn, or is this a new thing? 

Is there any other older British musician making new music as vital, as energised, and of such high quality as that Woking’s favourite son has been putting out in recent years? I don’t think so.

 

Ahmed Malek
Musique Originale De Films: Volume 2
(Habibi Funk)

★★★

 

 

AFTER discovering Ahmed Malek on YouTube in 2012, Berlin record label Habibi Funk did some digging around and ended up releasing their first album of the Algerian composer’s music in 2016 — the marvellous Musique Originale De Films.

Made up of sophisticated instrumental soundtrack work from movies, TV shows and documentaries, Volume 2 shows just how much good music Malek created over his life (he died in 2008).

Apparently he was at his musical peak in the ’70s, with the press release noting he is “often compared to Italian heavyweight Ennio Morricone.”

There is a wonderful classic vibe to many of the tracks, with Malek seamlessly melding jazz, Latin grooves and north African sounds.

With its purposeful strings and trumpet, Aller Simple could be the theme to a Spaghetti Western, while Casbah and La La La add some fantastic funk.

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