St. Vincent, You Am I + more: our five favourite records of the week
14.05.2021

St. Vincent, You Am I + more: our five favourite records of the week

Words by Will Brewster

Plus new releases from The Black Keys, Jorja Smith and Babe Rainbow.

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.

Today, we’re wrapping our ears around St. Vincent’s glitzy homage to ’70s rock and the stirring return from Melbourne rock veterans You Am I, plus new releases from The Black Keys, Jorja Smith and Babe Rainbow. Let’s sink in!

This week’s top picks:

  • St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
  • You Am I – The Lives Of Others
  • The Black Keys – Delta Kream
  • Jorja Smith – Be Right Back
  • Babe Rainbow – Changing Colours

Read all the latest music news here.

St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home

The ever-dynamic, never-predictable Annie Clarke has released her latest full-length under the St. Vincent moniker, Daddy’s Home. It’s a record that draws heavily from the golden era of the recording industry, with Clarke leeching from psychedelic funk and bombastic glam rock stylings to drape her deceptively personal songwriting and create one of her most accessible outings to date.

Beginning with the gilded swagger of ‘Pay Your Way In Pain’, a track that pairs an electric vocal performance with a groove that’s lint-deep in the pocket, Daddy’s Home wears its influences on its sleeve, and it’s all the better for it. Artists like David Bowie, Steely Dan, Funkadelic and Shuggie Otis spring to mind at various points across the record, with ‘Down And Out Downtown’ and the title track exemplifying these cultural touchstones further through their sauntering instrumentation – think slinky bassline, Wurlitzer pianos and filter-funk guitar, and you’re landing somewhere in the ballpark.

‘Live In The Dream’ is a masterfully woozy ballad that features hypnotic vocal harmonies and Sitar interplay, while ‘The Melting Of The Sun’ explodes into an ecstatic crescendo of double-tracked vocals and pianos. Meanwhile, ‘The Laughing Man’ and ‘Down’ mark two of the record’s most abstract moments, with ‘Down’ being particularly freaky thanks to its squelching synth sequences and a sitar-line that recalls Timbaland’s production on ‘What Goes Around… Comes Around’.

With ‘My Baby Wants A Baby’, ‘…At The Holiday Party’ and ‘Candy Darling’ carrying the torch for the backend of the album, Daddy’s Home might be one of St. Vincent’s most unique projects to date. While void of some of the idiosyncratic songwriting heard on previous releases, it truly excels in showcasing Clarke’s remarkable talent for production and her unique approach to performance, and rests comfortably as another triumph in her all-too impressive back catalogue.

You Am I – The Lives Of Others

Despite being largely recorded remotely over the course of last year’s lockdown, You Am I’s eleventh album sounds just like four blokes thrashing out their instruments in a dingy Melbourne band room. The Lives Of Others is the most energetic release from the Australian rock veterans in more than a decade, with Tim Rogers’ songwriting being as emphatic as ever over the span of a dozen songs that almost seamlessly blend into one another.

Album opener ‘The Waterboy’ sets a tremendous tone for the record as Rogers’ waxes lyrical about the titular Scottish act, with the track blending into ‘The Third Level’ and ensuring the energy remains upbeat. ‘Rosedale Redux’, meanwhile, features some stellar guitar work from Davey Lane, with the flanger-heavy final half of the song ending the album’s ecstatic opening stretch before the tender ballad ‘Manliness’ ushers in a new act for The Lives Of Others. 

The jangly, hard-edged ‘DRB Hudson’ picks the pace up again to lead into the tongue-in-check stomper of ‘We All Went Deaf Overnight’ – another Davey Lane highlight – while ‘Readers’ Comments’ and ‘I’m My Whole World Tonight’ feel reminiscent of the band’s ’90s output thanks to their soaring lead vocal performances. This energy seeps further into ‘Woulda Been Mine’ and the album’s closing title track, drawing the curtains on what is surely a hot contender for the best Aussie rock album of the year. Onya boys!

The Black Keys – Delta Kream

After carrying the blues rock torch for fifteen years and attaining unfathomable commercial success with 2011’s El Camino  Ohio duo The Black Keys have released an album that pays tribute to the bands that they’ve based their career off with Delta Kream. Each track on the record sees the pair cover a range of seminal hill country tracks, with the album being tracked in only ten hours over two days at Dan Auerbach’s Nashville studio to give it a gritty, live feel that successfully conveys the supernatural magic associated with the blues.

John Lee Hooker’s ‘Crawling Kingsnake’ opens the record in style before Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ‘Louise’ shatters through thanks to some killer slide work from Auerbach, while Patrick Carney’s boogie-woogie drumming on ‘Poor Boy a Long Way from Home’ sets a steady bedrock for Auerbach’s passioned vocal performance.

‘Stay All Night’ and ‘Going Down South’ are both impressive in their own rights, with the duo’s production on the latter being particularly good, while ‘Coal Black Mattie’ and ‘Do the Romp’ see Carney and Auerbach do exactly that, lashing up two servings of drop-tuned, heavy blues rock. ‘Sad Days, Lonely Nights’ and ‘Walk with Me’ make sure that the fun stuff hangs around a little longer, while the fuzzy shuffle of ‘Mellow Peaches’ and the sprawling twelve-bar slog of ‘Come on and Go with Me’ round out what can only be considered a faithful homage to the band’s forefathers.

Jorja Smith – Be Right Back

Ascending to the mainstream over the span of five years, Jorja Smith is now poised as one of the most exciting young R&B artists to spring up from the UK. After the success of her full-length debut Lost & Found, she’s now released an eight-track ‘mini-album’ titled Be Right Back, which sees her play to her strengths over atmospheric productions while testing the waters with new vocal deliveries.

‘Addicted’ puts a sugar-sweet melody atop of a surging groove with swirling, reversed guitars, with Smith’s vocal cadence proving to be one of the project’s finest moments. ‘Gone’ retains the energy of its predecessor thanks to some intelligently programmed and produced drum loops, while ‘Bussdown’ sees Smith trade bars with Shaybo atop of a skeletal beat.

‘Time’ and ‘Home’ are both pleasantly sparse, if not slightly inconsequential, guitar-driven cuts, while ‘Burn’ is a soulful number that functions as a showcase for Smith’s husky vocals. ‘Digging’, meanwhile, layers thumping drums and rock guitars with chanting, war-like shouts, while the jazzy, breakbeat cut ‘Weekend’ ends the project on a high, wrapping up what feels like a creative watershed for Smith – now that she’s taken the time out for this, it’ll be interesting to see which way she pivots next.

Babe Rainbow – Changing Colours

This breezy Byron Bay outfit have caused quite a stir among international fans thanks to their laid-back, surfy take on chiller psych rock. Changing Colours keeps the wheel turning for Babe Rainbow, seeing them opt for blissed-out instrumentation and a surprising vocal appearance from Jaden Smith on their fourth full-length.

Songs like ‘Zeitgest’ show the band’s strengths as arrangers and instrumentalists, with ‘The Wind’ and ‘Your Imagination’ offering a more stripped-down, hallucinogenic take on the Babe Rainbow sound. ‘Ready For Tomorrow’ and ‘Rainbow Rock’ pick up the pace to provide two of the record’s most psych-rock indebted cuts, while ‘New Zealand Spinach’ is an Americana-esque cut with some sublimely sloppy guitar work.

‘Thinking Like A River’ stands out as an album highlight thanks to its washy production, while ‘Smile’ and the Steely Dan-inspired ‘Different Stages of Life’ both present as slithers of neo-psych gold. It may suffer at some points from dipping too heavily into surfy pastiche and cheesy lyrical metaphors, but for the most part, Changing Colours is another enjoyable outing from Babe Rainbow.

Catch up on all of last week’s hottest records here.