This week, we’ve got albums that are now considered classics by diehard fanbases as well as sonic shifts and hot new collections from the likes of Kingswood and Spoon. Take a walk back down through the early 2000’s as Chris tells us about Anthony Hamilton‘s Comin’ From Where I’m From, while Ayden lands in the UK with The Streets‘ A Grand Don’t Come For Free.
ANTHONY HAMILTON – Comin’ From Where I’m From (2003)
By Chris Singh
Though it took him six years to release a follow-up to 1996’s relatively obscure XTC, it seemed nothing could repress Anthony Hamilton once he came back swinging in 2003. “Comin’ From Where I’m From”, both as an album and a single injected some much needed energy into R&B at a time when the genre was basically a mass-producing machine for generic chart toppers.
In the lead up to the release he started generating a major buzz from his appearances alongside the grizzly Kentucky raps of Nappy Roots as well as big name features alongside Twista, Jadakiss, and even a posthumous 2Pac. It’s safe to say he exceeded those expectations with this album, and though it didn’t garner praise from some overly critical publications (like Rolling Stone) at the time, Comin’ From Where I’m From has aged incredibly well and is still his finest project to date. Plus it was well-received enough to earn him three Grammy nods.
From the slick country swing of “Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens” (sampled recently by Ben Pearce on an overrated house record) to the raw emotion of standouts “Charlene” and “I’m a Mess”, all the way to the seductive ascension of “Float” and the dreamy atmosphere of “Since I Seen’t You”, this was and is a clear winner from head to toe. Hamilton’s voice has the warmth of southern hospitality, dynamic with it’s husky and powerful notes used to bring to life well-written scripts of pain, betrayal, poverty, longing, celebration and sex. Every bit of his incredible range is showcased on this album, a cohesive jaw-dropping collection that I have no doubt will sound just as fresh 40 years on as it does 14.
THE STREETS – A Grand Don’t Come For Free (2004)
By Ayden Measham-Pywell
A key part of growing up is flicking through the albums of your childhood. A lot are nice, but a few stand out as ones that everyone must hear. The Streets‘ A Grand Don’t Come for Free is exactly that. A narrative delivered in a distinctly British style of hip hop, it holds a sound unique to anything released today. For sure, a few tracks may have dated a bit, but the album tackles a wide range stages in personal identification, romantic and plutonic relationships in a manner that’s hard not to relate to. It’s amazing how strong it is as an album to return to when the key plot points are essentially obsolete.
Like reading a classic novel for school, there are a wealth of lessons to be learned behind an album that is simply great to listen to. The clarity of vocal work, coupled with engaging but never overwhelming production creates a blend that is easy to consume, even if it isn’t what you were expecting.
KINGSWOOD – After Hours, Close to Dawn (2017)
By Genevieve Gao
Gospel vibes, country, a bit of reggae, a salute to their Melbourne rock roots… Yeah this record has just a bit of everything. Granted, it’s definitely a shock for the die-hard fan who fell in love with the group’s much heavier 2014 debut, Microscopic Wars (fear not, glorious shades of that appear on songs such as lead single “Creepin”). Yet it’s the soul-laden vocal calibre of Kristen Rogers, Morgan Hebert and Stephenie Curry from Nashville mainstays The Woodettes which ties the album together. Take the deliciously distorted “Like Your Mother”, where Rogers joins vocalist Alex Laska on a rip-roaring chorus that’s truly a belter.
Ultimately, it’s a record which has allowed every member of Kingswood to push themselves, with Laska demonstrating a versatility not truly coming to the fore on their previous release. After Hours, Close to Dawn sounds simultaneously more atmospheric yet stripped down, also hitting home with a mix of rich vibes from Nashville’s “beautiful estates and rolling hills” (Laska), and a hint of Melbourne.
Oh, and if you’re a sucker for bass like I am, the sensual “Golden” and irresistible groove on “Alabama White” will have you salivating for more.
MUSE – Black Holes and Revelations (2006)
By Sosefina Fuamoli
The fourth studio album by Muse might be a guilty pleasure for some (hey, at least it’s not The 2nd Law…), but for me, it’s one of my favourites. “Knights of Cydonia” aside, the album came packing some serious heat and showed this band as one continuing to revel in their own outlandish soundscapes without a care. The album features some of Matt Bellamy‘s best songwriting in this new style, certainly outside of the nigh untouchable Origins of Symmetry, with “Map of the Problematique”, “Hoodoo” and “Assassin” remaining three of my favourite songs from the band’s entire catalogue. While BH&R may have been the jump off point for many Muse fans, this album came during that wave of excellent rock music coming out of the UK and, along with some of those albums, still has a beloved spot in my collection now, 11 years on.
SPOON – Hot Thoughts (2017)
By Elizabeth Ansley
Spoon have made their return with Hot Thoughts and it’s a triumphant one. After three years of relative silence, the 90s-born nimble-rock outfit have cut through the myriad offerings of guitar-based work with a release that’s as twisted as it is measured. Though the marketing around the release has at times felt a little grabby, it doesn’t take away from the superb musicianship on display here.
The sonic evolution that Spoon have undergone is both self-evident (the heavy psych-y breakdown in the album’s title track) and subtle (the tropical weird-pop minimalism of Pink Up). It’s not often a release from a band who rose to prominence decades ago will walk the line between “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff,” and “Wow, they really haven’t evolved musically at all,” so winkingly and successfully, but Spoon appear to continually best themselves with each new LP.
On Hot Thoughts, they display a commendable ability to squeeze a cornucopia of interesting ideas into a body of work without making it feel disjointed in any meaningful way. There are jarring moments, but they’re intentional – and only add to what is already an entirely rewarding, boisterous and undeniably fun listening experience.