September 22, 2020

Emma Bunton – My Happy Place – BMG

By Kristi Kates | May 25, 2019

Thought of as the “cheerful one” (aka Baby Spice) of ’90s girl group The Spice Girls, Bunton was the first to break out of the band, so to speak, with three well-reviewed solo albums of neo-soul tracks. Now, 13 years after her last effort, she returns with this set, eight covers of some of her favorite tunes, plus two bubbly originals. Guest turns from Robbie Williams and Will Young help amp up the set, which is refreshingly drama/angst free and simply presents a listenable collection of pleasantly performed pop hits. ** ½

Stereolab – Transient Random-Noises Bursts with Announcements – Warp
Part of the big reissue/expansion campaign that Stereolab kicked off this month, TRNBWA is packed with bonus material, including four-track demos, previously unreleased mixes, and alternate takes on familiar Stereolab songs like “French Disco” (an early mix) and “Pause” (original) mix, plus demos of tunes including “Lock Groove Lullaby” and “I’m Going Out of My Way.” Also of note are those retro engine-tick drumbeats and the faithful employ of a vast range of analog synths. ** ½

Editors – The Blanck Mass Sessions – PIAS
This collection of reimagined versions of songs from Editors’ 2018 Violence album was executed with the help of fellow English musician Blanck Mass, who dug further into the band’s sound to unravel its original arrangements and make them even more expansive than the post-punkers’ usual offerings. “Cold” stays catchy but gets more chill via lightning-sharp drumbeats; “Hallelujah (So Low)” anchors the band’s edginess with dark bass lines; and “Barricades” pushes and pulls against its own contrast with bright synths. ***

Alfa Mist – Structuralism – Sekito
The second album from East London composer/producer Alfa Mist, ostensibly based on a conversation that Mist had with his sister about personal goals and growth as a person, is by turns contemplative and elevating. Lead tune “Retainer” blends hip-hop with jazz, morphing both genres back and forth as the mood of the track changes. Enhancing the album’s overall appeal: Ninja Tune’s Jordan Rakai’s vocals and Mist’s perfectly executed beat breaks. ***


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