The Brand New Heavies – TBNH (2019)
It’s a pleasure to hear that acid jazz is not dead. The Brand New Heavies are still able to write songs that could be considered as soul/funk classics. It’s also nice that they have brought in their previous singers N’Dea Davenport and Sideah Garrett for some tracks, although these tracks don’t quite measure up to their hits from the 90’s. As with many acid jazz albums it can be a bit monotonous with all the major 7 and minor 9-chords, but I’m glad there is also a bunch of simpler, more funky tracks. The highlights to me are the joyous opening track with Beverley Knight, the disco-ish #11 with new touring singer Angela Ricci, and the uptempo #12 which is a bit of a new direction for the band. It’s probably not a good idea to listen to the whole album in one go since the tracks are quite similar in sound and structure. But as individual songs, there is not one bad track here.
Makoto – Tomodachi Sessions (2019)
The idea of this album is Makoto collaborating with different producers or singers on every track. Since Makoto joined Hospital Records, his focus has been solely on drum’n’bass and liquid funk, which is nice, but sometimes I think it restrains his creativity a bit. When there is no clear melody and no catchy bassline it can be hard to distinguish one track from the other. Also, the problem with liquid funk overall is that there are usually lots of juicy chords, but the notes in the melody, especially the vocals, often clash with the accompaniment. Hence why I prefer the tracks with a clear tonic. Karina is awesome as usual on #2, but the best vocal track I have to say is #8, with its 80’s inspired piano and synths, and even orchestra hits! The instrumental tracks that stand out to me are the orchestral, movie-esque #3, and the atmospheric, mystical #9. #10 is a bit of a wildcard since Urbandawn’s sound is very different to Makoto’s, but I think it works well together. Overall, it’s a good album, but I miss the variation from Makoto’s pre-Hospital time, and there are no real wow experiences.