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MUSIC Album reviews with Ian Sinclair: April 7, 2020

Latest releases from Thundercat, Baxter Dury and Mapache

Thundercat
It Is What It Is
(Brainfeeder Records)

★★★

MUCH like 2017 breakthrough Drunk, the new album from Los Angeles bassist and singer Stephen Lee Bruner, aka Thundercat, is a delicious sprawling smorgasbord of styles, taking in jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop and soft rock.

And, like Drunk, it's co-produced by Flying Lotus, with a who’s who of gifted artists guesting on the record.

I’m guessing it’s jazz pioneer Kamasi Washington blowing his horn on Interstellar Love, while the furious drum and bass assault of I Love Louis Cole — featuring Cole himself — is reminiscent of Outkast’s hit single B.O.B.

Childish Gambino, guitarist Steve Lacy and funk veteran Steve Arrington all guest onThe Black Qualls, which has shades of the neo-soul of Frank Ocean.

Inventive and often overblown, there is no denying Thundercat’s raw talent and ambition, though I suspect some may find proceedings a little unfocussed.

Baxter Dury
The Night Chancers
(Heavenly Recordings)
★★★★

WHILE the cover image shows Baxter Dury with a New York City subway train roaring by, the contents of his sixth album feel very English.

No, that’s too general — it’s a very London set, full of characters traversing the darker, seedier side of life. Inevitably one thinks about the work of his father, Blockheads leader Ian Dury.

“I’m not your fucking friend,” are the unfriendly first words on opener I’m Not Your Dog, the propulsive synth-pop creating a nocturnal mood that threads through many of the record’s short-story songs.

Elsewhere, Dury’s gruff spoken-word vocals describe looking up an ex’s new squeeze on Instagram on Carla’s Got a Boyfriend — “He’s got horrible trousers/And a small car” — while the astonishing strings-laden break-up tune Daylight sounds like Dry Your Eyes’s older brother.

Night-time economy poetry to rival The Streets.

Mapache
From Liberty Street
(Yep Roc)
★★★★

WHAT a delightful find this is.

Having met in high school and played in various musical outfits, Sam Blassucci and Clay Finish formed the soulful country-rock band Mapache in 2016, with From Liberty Street their second album.

The record comes out of living and recording in the same communal house on Liberty Street, in a Mexican-American part of Los Angeles. This cultural melting pot points to the record’s wonderful contents, with several songs sung in Spanish.

Most noticeable, though, is the band’s popular-music influences. Blassucci’s gorgeous lead vocals shift from sounding like Stephen Stills on Cowboy, Roy Orbison on Face Is Blue and Gram Parsons on the yearning opener Life on the Road. And their close harmonies on Read Between the Lines have a real Flying Burritos Brothers vibe.

Easy on the ear, Americana fans will love Mapache.

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