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Year round-up Best of 2019: Albums

IT’S been a year of pleasant and rewarding surprises, with Polish outfit Trupa Trupa’s Of The Sun (Glitterbeats Records) being perhaps the most unexpected revelation.

Frontman and poet Grzegorz Kwiatkowski has described their music as “a meditative, pessimistic thing,” adding that Don Quixote is an inspiration.

Brimming with sophisticated exploratory rock arrangements, delivered with superb musicianship, overlapping voices, beautiful guitar cadences and a spellbinding syncopation of bass guitar and drums, the sense of innovation is captivating, none more so than on the pulsating Long Time Ago.

AKA Trio’s Joy (bendigedig) is just that, with the ebullient virtuosity of Antonio Forcione’s masterfully measured guitar, Seckou Keita’s effortlessly meandering vocals and Adrianio Adewale’s gentle syncopation on percussion a delight. Baracoa transports you to eastern Cuba, while The Beautiful Game longs for the lost “soul footy” played by Pele, Garrincha, Gerson or Socrates. Album of the year contender.

Scotland based Romanian Lizabett Russo’s Something-in-Movement (Self-released) — more chanson and jazz than folk — is a beguiling album throughout.

Russo’s glorious vocal range, from delicate and quivering tremolos to breathtaking, emotive bursts, is weaved into mesmerising orchestrations. Her backing band deliver perplexing chromatics and tempo and melody shifts with formidable musicianship. Superb.

Jambu e os Miticos Sons da Amazonia (Analog Africa), a 40-year-old collection of recordings of the bands which played around the hundreds of island townships outside Brazil’s Belem working-class neighbourhoods, is a phenomenon.

The polyphonic richness, audacious arrangements and individual and collective musicianship is astonishing, with a carnivalesque joie de vivre permeating every line sung, every pulsating beat and every outrageous solo on sax, trumpet or guitar. Marvellous.

Impressive vocal harmonies and intriguing, intelligent lyrics over inventive if restrained instrumentation feature on Megson’s con-tra-dic-shun (edj records). The gently flowing The New Girl is a movingly poetic and edifying story about the Irish immigration to Teeside in 1829, with a clear reference to the migrations of today.

Set to music, John Bell’s 1810 insurrectional words about “rotten boroughs, the source of our sorrows” on Voice of the Nation is a rousing hymn to participatory democracy, while Barrington Judo Club is a deliciously ingenious modern parable on austerity. Ones to watch.

In a notable debut, Una Quinn’s sotto-voce singing is embroidered with fabulous clarinet and flute interventions by Michael Quinn and Louis Bacchino on Inside Out (Una Quinn), while Boo Hewerdine’s warm, unadorned voice on Before (Reveal Records) makes every one of his songs simply beguiling.

Gustaf Ljunggren provides astounding interludes, while Hewerdine’s melancholy and poetic lyrics are gently reflective: “When you just can’t remember/How you should be/When all that you have/Is a faint memory/When shadows are your only company/Then you’re a silhouette.” Wondrous.

 

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