Bicep – Bicep (album, released on 1 Sep)
Northern Irish duo Bicep kicked off September with an explosive debut record. Their self-titled album is the offspring of their much-acclaimed music blog Feelmybicep, the result of a nine-year journey. Bicep pays homage to the illuminating melodies of ‘90s trance, while also incorporating the best of what progressive house and techno can offer today. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific genre to describe the sound of Bicep; from the psychedelic opening bangers “Orca” and “Glue,” to melancholic sunrise anthem “Rain,” its 12 tracks take a diverse and retrospective look at the history of dance music. By the time you reach the cathartic final track “Aura,” you will want to get tickets to their live show in Glasgow on 30 November.
Rhye – “Summer Days” (Roosevelt Remix) (single, released on 1 Sep)
A radio-friendly rework of Rhye’s first song in four years, this version of “Summer Days” evokes just as much bittersweet nostalgia as its title would suggest.
Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives (album, released on 8 Sep)
Mount Kimbie’s third LP is a confident experimentation with rhythm, featuring memorable vocal performances from King Krule, Micachu, and James Blake. King Krule’s roaring “Blue Train Lines” provides an empowering listen, while Micachu (none other than Under the Skin’s composer Mica Levi) turns the tables with her subtle contribution on “Marilyn.” As the melancholic synth piece “Poison” comes to an end, church organs make a welcome guest appearance on “We Go Home Together,” while James Blake mourns a lost love. The album soars on drum-heavy, inventive instrumental tracks like the opener “Four Years and One Day,” while “Delta” should convince you to see Mount Kimbie live in Glasgow on 30 October.
Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe (album, released on 8 Sep)
In a way, Destiny Frasqueri’s new mixtape is both a conclusion and a new chapter in her seven-year career. Early on in the decade, she rose to fame with “Destiny” and “YAYA,” which tackled her journey as an Afro-American tomboy growing up in New York, and also expressed her support for feminism and the LGBT community. In Princess Nokia, she found an alias that can reach out to a wider audience while also remaining heavily autobiographical. 1992 Deluxe is a showcase of her talent both as a singer and rapper; bangers like “Kitana,” “Tomboy,” “Goth Kid,” and “G.O.A.T.” are exciting anthems of female empowerment.
Twin Peaks: Limited Event Series Soundtrack & Twin Peaks: Music from the Limited Event Series (released on 8 Sep)
Whether you loved or hated David Lynch’s divisive continuation of the cult classic, its soundtrack is now available in stores and on streaming platforms. It may come as a surprise how little composer Angelo Badalamenti is featured on the score, and the few songs credited to him are even bleaker and more ambient than his work on the first two seasons (see the disheartening “Dark Space Low,” the concluding track during the finale’s end credits). However, the retrospective appearances of well-known themes are irresistible: “Dark Mood Woods / The Red Room” are still bone-chilling and eerie, and the nearly six-minute rendition of “Audrey’s Dance” steals the show as the penultimate track. As a reminder of the avantgarde atomic bomb explosion scene, Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s disturbing “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” finds a place here as well. On the other hand, the compilation album of the Bang Bang Bar performances is a vibrant mixture of genres: starting off with Chromatics’ mellow dream-pop piece “Shadow,” you eventually wind up at Nine Inch Nails’ metallic “She’s Gone Away,” only to be immersed in Eddie Vedder’s soothing “Out of Sand” before the album ends. There’s 20 tracks to choose from, and Julee Cruise’s nostalgic conclusion “The World Spins” makes it a worthy ride.
St. Vincent – “Los Ageless” (single, released on 8 Sep)
Ignore the “Cara Delevingne brought me here” jokes and instead focus on the social critique in Annie Clark’s new single. As the title suggests, she sheds light on the frivolity in seeking eternal beauty, and dedicates an ode in the chorus to what gets lost in the process: human contact. Avoid the radio edit, which cuts off the emotional and introspective conclusion, “I guess that’s just me, honey, I guess that’s how I’m built / I try to write you a love song but it comes out in a melt.” For the first time, Clark takes a drastic spin on St. Vincent’s essential quirkiness, and puts a pure pop song on the table. Rest assured, it’s great.
Susanne Sundfør – Music for People in Trouble (album, released on 8 Sep)
Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør’s fifth album is a return to her musical roots: as a departure from Ten Love Songs’ dance pop, Music for People in Trouble is a collection of intimate folk songs. Travelling the world as a photographer, Sundfør found inspiration in the contrast that arose from her pictures. Besides the social anxieties she tackles in her lyrics, she frequently confronts the listener with thought-provokingly personal questions. “Reincarnation” addresses faith, “Mantra” provides a mirror to how insignificant human life is compared to the vast emptiness of the universe, while “The Sound of War” explores violence in meticulous detail, fading into the nightmarish noise of air raid sirens. Music for People in Trouble is an outstanding example of beautiful, meditative lyricism.
Zola Jesus – Okovi (album, released on 8 Sep)
On Okovi, Zola Jesus sings stories of pain and death coated in explosive pop beats and the uncanny tone of early 19th-century gothic horror. “Soak,” “Exhumed,” and “Veka” are prime examples of the gloomy aesthetic she’s going for, but the optimistic uproars of “Wiseblood” and “Remains” reflect some rays of hope.
Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (album, released on 15 Sep)
Based on the life story of musician Bobby Jameson, Ariel Pink’s new album after a three-year hiatus details the misadventures of an artist failing to find his audience. Having learnt of Jameson’s Youtube channel, Pink did extensive research to pay homage to the misunderstood singer as he highly empathised with him and his struggles. The result is a heartfelt nod to Jameson, with endearing psychedelic indie pieces like “Time to Live,” “Feels Like Heaven,” and “Another Weekend.”
Björk – “the gate” (single, released on 15 Sep)
The first single from her upcoming project Utopia, “the gate” is the result of Björk’s first experience featuring a collaborator on an entire album. Co-produced by Venezuelan glitch pop icon Arca (whose self-titled release from April remains one of the year’s unquestionable highlights), the song lists the themes Björk aspires to approach on the album: an escape from delusion and a refuge from the deranged world we live in. “I care for you”, she repeats, reassuring us of the promises she holds in her Utopia.
Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (album, released on 15 Sep)
Another intimate project from September, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is an autobiographical concept album about the Chicago hip-hop artist’s childhood in the Robert Taylor Homes. The high-rises counted thousands of African-American residents and were largely neglected by the public due to high crime rates. Open Mike Eagle’s approach attempts to break down the buildings’ negative reputation by depicting them through his own eyes as a youngster; the result is an emotionally driven, unapologetic reflection on looking up to childhood heroes. If the touching opening track “Legendary Iron Hood” (featuring a child as an aspiring Marvel super-villain) doesn’t get to you, make your way to “Daydreaming in the Projects,” which acknowledges the many possible fates for people sharing Mike’s roots with hummable 8-bit instrumentals.
Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Deadly Valentine” (single, released on 21 Sep)
Whether you know her for her bold turn in Lars von Trier’s Depression trilogy, or her dreamy vocals on the unforgettable 5:55, Charlotte Gainsbourg has proven herself as a versatile actress and singer. Her fifth album Rest is out in November, and “Deadly Valentine” should be enough reason to anticipate it. Produced by one of the most prominent figures of the French electronic music scene, SebastiAn’s influence is clear from the start: an irresistible beat breathes life into every second of the song, while Gainsbourg’s performance is as reliable as always. Before your first listen, watch the uplifting music video which features R&B artist Blood Orange growing up in love with Gainsbourg.
Badbadnotgood – “Confessions Pt. III” (single, released on 22 Sep)
Before September was over, electronic jazz group Badbadnotgood released a surprise sequel to their “Confessions” saga, which is every bit as experimental and transcendental as its predecessors. An unmissable seven-minute feat.
Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom (album, released on 22 Sep)
Marlanna Evans’ second studio album explores a number of themes from the power of artistry to body images to childhood traumas. What unifies the broadness of the subjects addressed here is Rapsody’s powerful lyrics and the wide palette of guest artists including Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, and Busta Rhymes. In a particularly powerful turn on the song “Black & Ugly,” Rapsody shares her views on what it means to have confidence in her body as a black woman, “So concerned wit weight I’m mo’ Chucky than I am chubby / Confidence of a porn star the day I cut the horns off / Took all my demons threw ‘em downhill in a buggy.” Laila’s Wisdom is indeed wisdom, a worthwhile listen to everyone struggling to conform to societal expectations.
Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly (album, released on 29 Sep)
Clementine’s follow-up to his Mercury Prize-winning debut At Least for Now is a meditation on the Syrian Civil War. Inspired by a surprising line in his American visa (“an alien with extraordinary abilities,” also the first statement in his song “Jupiter,”) he explores what it means to be deprived of one’s home, to roam unknown lands and live as an outcast in every society one encounters. Initially, I Tell a Fly may leave a baffling first impression: it’s as far from radio-friendly as it can be, consisting of songs with unorthodox structures and jumping from one generic trait to the other. However, there’s a stunning narrative that unfolds on its 11-piece tracklist, meandering between a wide array of metaphors including wildlife (in the operatic “God Save the Jungle,”) bullied children (the epic “Phantom of Aleppoville,”) and a Noah’s arc-like fable in “By the Ports of Europe,” I Tell a Fly invites listeners to close their eyes and forget the search for coherence: Clementine proves himself as an avantgarde storyteller. His versatile, theatrical performance is an appropriate fit for the difficult subject matter.
Four Tet – New Energy (album, released on 29 Sep)
New Energy is an intriguing choice of title to Four Tet’s ninth album: the album is a flux of genres from electronica through trance to jazz, rendering it both a proper soundtrack to a night out and a mellow 6 am recovery. As an example, begin your night with “Lush,” tone it down with the meditative “You Are Loved,” seek revival in “SW9 9SL,” then watch the sun rise with “Daughter.”
Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life (album, released on 29 Sep)
Many have declared Wolf Alice the most relevant band in the contemporary UK rock scene. Indeed, they set the bar quite high with My Love Is Cool, and the appearance of “Silk” in Danny Boyle’s sequel to Trainspotting gained them immense popularity. Whether or not they have managed to overcome their success with their much-anticipated sophomore work remains an open question; for a Wolf Alice fan’s opinion, see Rhodri Lavan’s review on thesaint-online.com/arts-culture.