Mdou Moctar, CHAI + more: our five favourite records of the week
21.05.2021

Mdou Moctar, CHAI + more: our five favourite records of the week

Words by Will Brewster

Plus new ones from Ducks Ltd., Tyne-James Organ and Tori Forsyth.

Friday is here, which means it’s release day for a bunch of artists at home and around the world. With so many hot releases out there to tuck into, we’ve compiled some of the best to present to you for the weekend.

For this instalment, we’re travelling to Niger to check out the dazzling new project from Tuareg guitar virtuoso Mdou Moctar and then bee-lining over to Japan to hear CHAI’s jam-packed album Wink, with Ducks Ltd., Tori Forsyth and Tyne-James Organ’s latest efforts also on rotation. Dig it!

This week’s top picks:

  • Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime 
  • CHAI – Wink
  • Ducks Ltd. – Get Bleak
  • Tori Forsyth – Provlépseis
  • Tyne-James Organ – Necessary Evil 

Read all the latest music news here.

Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime

This one is essential. Mdou Moctar is a Niger-born, left-handed desert blues virtuoso who is undoubtedly one of the most exciting guitarists in the world today, and his new album Afrique Victime is exemplary in all fields. It’s musically dense, wildly psychedelic and politically sharp, with Moctar singing in his native tongue across the record to make for the year’s most quintessential guitar albums.

To hear Moctar channel the traditional West African style of Tuareg guitar into an electric context is quite simply wondrous. His picking ability is mind-blowing dextrous – one listen to the explosive solos that carve through the opening track ‘Chismiten’ is more than enough proof of this – but it’s his clever songwriting that really pulls Afrique Victim over the line.

Softer cuts like ‘Ya Habibti’ and ‘Tala Tannam’ showcase the maestro’s adept ability to transition between electric and acoustic styles with ease, while the traditional polyrhythms that drive ‘Taliat’ and ‘Asdikte Akal’ are wiry enough to keep you on your toes throughout.

However, the true highlight of this record is its title track: a groovy, upbeat cut that sees Mdou Moctar address the atrocities of colonialist violence in Africa over the top of a mind-bending guitar solo. It’s one of the year’s best guitar-driven tracks, and its message has never been more poignant today – a must-listen for any musician.

CHAI – Wink

Hailing from Nagoya in Japan, CHAI are a group of four women who deliver sugary pop hooks across a smorgasbord of rock, electronic and punk-inspired productions. Their latest effort, Wink, sees them traverse more sonic ground than ever before, with their messages of body positivity and feminism ringing louder than ever on what’s undeniably their best effort to date.

Opening tracks ‘Donuts Mind If I Do’ and ‘Maybe Chocolate Chips’ feature a chill-wave production that invokes the likes of Toro Y Moi, while the swagger funk of ‘ACTION’ and ‘It’s Vitamin C’ recall the early ’00s instrumentation of The Neptunes. ‘KARRAGE’, meanwhile, sees CHAI adopt a slinky brand of psychedelic pop, with breathy vocals and chirpy synths helping to add the cherry on top of the cake.

While record lacks the kind of abrasive, confounding electro-punk that the band explored so concisely across 2019’s PUNK, it’s clear that CHAI’s stylistic influences have evolved significantly in the time since their breakthrough, and on Wink, they seem more confident than ever before.

Ducks Ltd. – Get Bleak

Canadian jangle-rock duo Ducks Ltd., who feature a Geelong-born multi-instrumentalist in their ranks, initially rose to prominence in their local Toronto indie scene with a limited release of Get Bleak in 2019. After the record unexpectedly caught on with international listeners and the band suddenly found themselves on the Carpark Records roster, they’ve now reissued that fateful debut, adding three new tracks into the mix for good measure as well.

Title track ‘Get Bleak’ and follow-up ‘Gleaming Spires’ are equally effervescent, combining upbeat guitars and melodic basslines with subtle flourishes and honey-sweet guitars to strategic effect. ‘Annie Forever’, meanwhile, features some of the project’s finest guitar playing, with ‘Anhedonia’ ranking among the record’s spriteliest tracks thanks to its driving groove.

Wrapping things up with three new tracks in the form of ‘Oblivion’, ‘As Big As All Outside’ and ‘It’s Easy’ – each of which demonstrate significant songwriting progress from both members of the duo, in addition to some extra-crisp production – Get Bleak is textbook jangle that’s guaranteed to appeal to any Antipodean indie connoisseur.

Tori Forsyth – Provlépseis

Possessing a commanding voice and a natural knack for giddy hooks, Tori Forsyth looks set to continue her upwards artistic trajectory with her latest full-length Provlépseis. The record combines sleek production with catchy songwriting that’s not too far removed from the likes of Alanis Morissette, with surging choruses and intelligent instrumentation aiding her along the way.

Chugging singles like ‘Be Here’, with its driving, Whammy-infused chorus and the anthemic ‘All For You’ kick the record off in tremendous fashion before ‘Cosmetic Cuts’ and ‘Redundant’ keep the party rockin’ – the latter in particular features a gnarly half-time breakdown that’ll serve as moshpit ethanol in the right band room.

Elsewhere, ‘Courtney Love’ is a breezy, atmospheric cut that spotlights Forsyth’s vocal ability, while ‘Down Below’ sees her easily flex her songwriting to turn out a tune that errs between roots and hard rock. Ultimately, Provlépseis poises Forsyth as a genuine local talent who’s capable of navigating a number of styles with relative ease and grace, and we’re keen to see what comes next.

Tyne-James Organ – Necessary Evil 

On his full-length debut Necessary Evil, Wollongong heartthrob Tyne-James Organ steps out as a self-assured star with the charisma and songwriting ability to bolster his public image. It’s an album that’s rich with thoughtful sonic embellishments, catchy songwriting and a number of seriously impressive moments that set up Organ as a noteworthy name to follow as he continues to grow as an artist.

Previously released singles ‘Sunday Suit’ and ‘Not Ready For Love’ both carry the kinds of soaring songwriting and gravelly vocals that never fail to resonate with audiences, with potent live instrumentation suiting Tyne-James Organ’s husky baritone wonderfully. ‘Hold Me Back’, on the other hand, sees Organ recount an unfortunate experience with the violent treatment of a female friend on a night out, and his lyrical description of that event is compelling from start to stop, demonstrating his mature approach to songwriting in spectacular fashion.

Although there’s moments where the record falls into pastiche territory – tracks like ‘Better Than This’ and ‘Overtime’ feel far too familiar at times – at the end of the day, Necessary Evil is an exceptional debut from an artist who seems set to deliver great things as he continues to grow. Watch this space.

Read more about our favourite albums from last week here.