Albums: new music from Dermot Kennedy, Nas, Richard Dawson and First Aid Kit
DERMOT KENNEDY – SONDER
DERMOT Kennedy struck gold on his debut album, 2019's Without Fear which propelled him to number one in both the UK and his home nation.
His mix of folk, hip hop and pop was potent and the 30-year-old's follow-up, Sonder, doesn't stray far from the same path. If anything, it cleaves more closely to the pop template of peers such as Ed Sheeran to the detriment of his other influences.
Something To Someone and Kiss Me, which both come early in the album, tend towards the middle of the road, lacking the raw energy and sparser production of his breakout hit Power Over Me.
Album opener Any Love and Dreamer are standout moments of quiet where his voice really shines.
The songwriting here is solid and the emotion pure, but Kennedy has opted to refine his pop prowess at the expense of pushing forward.
NAS – KING'S DISEASE III
AFTER scooping his first Grammy with the first album in the King's Disease series, the Brooklyn native once more delivers a gritty and grounded sound that shows an artist invested in his project.
The record is characterised by the consistency of its punchy beats which act as anchors from which the artist hangs his vocals, with near-perfect synergy between notes and lyrics.
There is also a typically savvy display of linguistic versatility with a storytelling focus always at the forefront.
That's not to say that Nas doesn't experiment – several mid-songs switches are executed effortlessly while he plays around with different pitches that add gravity to his words.
While the 17-strong track list does feel slightly bloated, the album embodies a purer form of East Coast hip-hop that is released in increasingly smaller quantities nowadays.
This certainly boosts the enjoyment.
RICHARD DAWSON – THE RUBY CORD
WITH The Ruby Cord, avant-folk musician Richard Dawson travels 500 years into the future to a time when human society has collapsed.
The album completes a loose trilogy following 2017's pre-Medieval set Peasant and 2019's present-day rooted 2020.
Forty-one minute long opener The Hermit is an unsettling soundscape, the vocals starting after 11 minutes with Dawson singing about the chiffchaff, the harvest, a four-poster bed, shadows of leaves and chivalric oaths.
After 29 minutes, a chorus of other voices kicks in, and from there via scratchy violin and what sounds like a glockenspiel, the track slowly fades into silence.
The other six tracks develop the bucolic lyrical and musical themes, apart from the instrumental No-one, 142 seconds of static and dissonance.
The Fool is more free jazz than folk, the prog-rocky The Tip Of An Arrow features galloping drums and final track Horse And Rider is an almost joyous end to this long, strange and hugely ambitious journey.
FIRST AID KIT – PALOMINO
THE fifth album from Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg is a leap forwards.
Over the last 15 years, the pair have produced an admirable catalogue of Americana and folk, but never managed to alchemise something truly novel.
That changes on Palomino, the title of which conjures images of a white and gold stallion in full gallop.
This is a full-blooded album that takes in the likes of Fleetwood Mac and glam rock alongside the sisters' usual inspirations.
It is also their most optimistic yet. There is little heartbreak and fun is the dominant theme here.
Tracks like The Last One celebrate love in its purest form, while A Feeling That Never Came incorporates hints of disco to great effect.
Palomino may lose momentum in its quieter moments. But this is more than made up for by its bigger, anthemic tracks.
Like its namesake, this is an album born to run.