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Album Reviews Intimately crafted and strangely beautiful

This week IAN SINCLAIR reviews albums by Hilary Woods, Father John Misty, and Jakob Bro

Hilary Woods
Colt
(Sacred Bones)
★★★★

 

PREVIOUSLY the bassist in the now defunct Irish alternative rock band JJ72, Hilary Woods spent her twenties juggling motherhood with art school. Music slowly crept back into her life, resulting in the deeply impressive Colt, her debut solo album.

 

Written and recorded in an abandoned flat in north Dublin, Woods’s intricately crafted and minimalist songs include synths, layered piano, beats, strings and field recordings, with her ethereal vocals floating on top.

 

There is a spooky, late-night feel to the record, with poetic references about loss, romantic dissonance and broken relationships coursing through the tracks. “I am kept up at night/Thinking of things we did together,” she ruminates on Sever, while on the stand-out Black Rainbow she sings:

“I just want you to put your arms around me” over a spine-tingling piano riff and ominous synths.

 

Haunting, sparse and strangely beautiful.

Father John Misty
God’s Favourite Customer
(Bella Union)
★★★★

A COLOSSAL exploration of late capitalist ennui, US singer-songwriter Josh Tillman’s Pure Comedy album propelled him last year to indie superstar status, marking him as the voice of the millennial generation.

 

His fourth record as alter ego Father John Misty is a far more personal set, apparently written during a two-month stay in a New York hotel caused by marital heartbreak.

 

Chronicled in painful detail in a series of mid-tempo ballads, it sounds like one long Lost Weekend. Tillmann hits rock bottom, buying “a bag of speed from Jamie the PhD” and contemplating suicide. “I’m in over my head”, he admits on the vulnerable piano-led The Palace, while the Beatles-sounding Mr Tillmann is sung from the point of view of a concerned hotel concierge.

 

No-one, absolutely no-one, does rambling pretentiousness, navel-gazing and self-mythologising as brilliantly as Tillman.

 

Jakob Bro
Returnings
(ECM Records)
★★★

RETURNINGS is composed of the kind of quiet, restrained and introspective instrumental jazz that the German label ECM Records excels at producing.

 

It’s Jakob Bro’s third album for ECM as band leader and the Danish guitarist is joined by a stellar cast of American Thomas Morgan on double bass and living legends Jon Christensen on drums and fellow Dane Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and flugelhorn.

 

On cuts such as opener Oktober and the In A Silent Way-sounding Lyskaster, Mikkelborg’s trumpet playing is lonesome and melancholic, while Christensen’s drumming seems to almost float above the other players and the lovely guitar and bass duet Hamsun is a tribute to the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun.

 

Two tracks move away from the carefully created relaxed atmosphere — the eight minute-plus dissonant and freeform View and the jagged guitar and strained horns of the title track.

 

An intimate record of exemplary mood music.

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