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International Music Releases From The First Half Of July 2021- Reviewed

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The Wallflowers/ Exit Wounds, Roots Rock, New West Records

It’s been 25 years since The Wallflowers released its landmark album Bringing Down The Horse. Fronted by Jakob Dylan, son of the legendary Bob, the group essentially plays guitar-driven roots rock.

The new album Exit Wounds comes after a nine-year gap, and in terms of consistency and songwriting, is probably closest to the 1996 hit. As always, Dylan’s singing shows the influences of Bruce Springsteen and Mark Knopfler, who were both inspired by his dad.

From the smooth guitar licks of Roots And Wings to the ballad Darling Hold On, featuring co-singer Shelby Lynne, the Dire Straits-like I’ll Let You Down (But Will Not Give You Up) and the concert-friendly Who’s That Man Walking ‘Round My Garden, there are quite a few goodies.

Though the anthems are missing, and there’s nothing quite as outstanding as their popular One Headlight and 6th Avenue Heartache, this one has its moments – plenty of them.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Angelique Kidjo/ Mother Nature, Afro-World Music, Decca

Hailing from Benin in West Africa, singer Angelique Kidjo has been one of the ambassadors of African music across the world for the past 25 years. Indian audiences will know her for her collaboration with drummer Trilok Gurtu on the album African Fantasy.

On her 15th record Mother Nature, she focuses on Afro tunes blending pop and rhythm n’ blues elements. A highlight is that she teams up with a range of artists from veteran Salif Keita and rapper Sampa The Great to current favorite Burna Boy and Zimbabwe-American singer Shungudzu.

The album begins with a motivational message on Choose Love, and Dignity talks of self-respect. Naturally, there are a few songs with Africa as the theme – Africa One Of A Kind and One Africa serve the purpose, and Omon Oba bubbles with sounds from the region.

On the harmony-filled title track, Angelique talks of unity and need each other. All through, the simple folk-influenced backup chants and Afro-rhythms blend smoothly with pop melodies and relevant messages.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Laura Mvula/ Pink Noise, Pop-RnB, Atlantic

Birmingham resident Laura Mvula has grown up on a diet of rhythm n’ blues, vocal jazz, gospel, and pop. Pink Noise is only her third album after her debut eight years ago.

The songs have a definitive 1980s hangover, using melodic synthesizers and danceable, mechanical rhythms. Laura’s voice has a rich texture, but what’s missing is an individual stamp.

The stronger cuts include the opener Safe Passage, the uptempo Church Girl, where she sings, “How can you dance with the devil on your back?”, and the catchy What Matters, featuring smart vocal coordination with Scottish guest Simon Neil.

Though the album may be good while driving around, most of the songs are too routine. At best, it’s fine for a few listens before moving on.

Rating: 6/ 10

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Doja Cat/ Planet Her, Pop, Kemosabe-RCA

After building a name with her SoundCloud, TikTok, and YouTube releases, American singer Doja Cat got down to recording albums. The 25-year-old has just put out her third record, whose title is inspired by the fictitious Planet Her.

The songs are very teenage girl-friendly, and she blends pop tunes with Latino flavours, rap stretches and catchy choruses. To cater to her target audience, she even tries to sound like a teenybopper, squeaking a few words and pronouncing ‘woman’ as ‘humma’.

Doja Cat has some strong hooks on songs like Need To Know, with those gorgeous cross-vocals, Pay Day with rapper Young Thug, and You Right with Canadian star The Weekend, whose vocal part is simply soulful. Her duet with Ariana Grande, I Don’t Do Drugs, falls flat though.

Barring her sugar-pop song Kiss Me More with singer SZA, the rest of the album gets too repetitive and formula-driven. Guess it would have worked better if only half these songs were released as an EP.

Rating: 5/ 10

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Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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