February in departure: Lianne La Havas, Moses Sumney, Car Seat Headrest and others departing from the sound that formed their artistry

February may be the shortest month of the year but it thrived with the comeback of many artists who developed their signature sound. Here, we have six artists who brought something new with their February releases.

Lianne La Havas – Bittersweet (Feb 25, 2020)

Lianne La Havas returns after five years with her new single, “Bittersweet”. A mid-tempo electro-funk track, Lianne brings back belting vocals after a long hiatus exploring other musical realms. “I’d forgotten how much I love singing,” she said in a press release. It’s a new direction for her, she continues, but it’s a “reality and it’s driven by emotion.”

While her 2015 record Blood at times takes a poignant acoustic touch akin to her debut sound, and is other times doo-wop and upbeat, her new work gravitates towards boundaries of soul. We can expect to see more of this in her upcoming album coming later this year.

Tom Misch – What Kinda Music (Feb 12, 2020)

Quite a departure from his previous funk sound, Tom Misch brings experimental dark jazz-hop with his latest single, “What Kinda Music.” Featuring UK drummer and producer, Yussef Dayes, the new single invites a middle ground of Tom’s pop music formulae and Yussef’s experimentalism.

For Tom, it seems radical to him as much as to his listeners who have long known him for funky guitar tracks. But with Yussef’s more experimental background, Tom streamlines his new music into an accessible form of trip-hop. The collaborative album is due to come April 24th.

Alfa Mist – Withered (Feb 28, 2020)

After two critically acclaimed EP’s released in succession since 2018, Alfa Mist is becoming increasingly prolific and versatile with his latest album, On My Ones. “Withered” is a four-minute piano track that concludes On My Ones, a meditative and unstructured improvisation in which Alfa focuses on his self-taught talent of the piano.

Coming from a grime and hip-hop background, the new record finds Alfa uncharacteristically exploring the minimalistic aesthetic of repeated motifs with flourishes meandering the middle register of the piano.

Though often found in jazz playlists, especially with his 2019 record Structuralism, perhaps we can start to find Alfa in unprecedented areas of music, places often dedicated to piano soloists and ambient composers.

Moses Sumney – Polly (Feb 21, 2020)

Moses Sumney came to prominence in 2017 with his first full-length album Aromanticism. Self-described as “lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape” that “seeks to interrogate the idea that romance is normative and necessary,” Moses brings these ideas to life with celestial synths and ethereal falsetto.

While Sumney was set back by the absence of his lower register in previous releases, “Polly,” the concluding track of one of two parts of his latest EP (the latter due in December), brings his lower register in tandem with his characteristic falsetto, brought about by an idyllic guitar accompaniment played in polyphony with his wavering vocal harmonies. It playfully adapts to the intertwining nature of the lyrics’ theme, which seem to depict a relationship between monogamous and polyamorous: “If I split my body into two men / Would you then love me better?”

Though his subject matter has always dealt with ideas of love (or lack thereof), Moses begins to subtly play with ideas of the complexity of love, which brings beautiful sonic and lyrical worlds to Moses’ new release.

Expect the second half of his second studio album græ in December 2020.

Car Seat Headrest – Can’t Cool Me Down (Feb 26, 2020)

Originally known for their DIY punk rock sound recorded in offbeat makeshift studios i.e. cars and bedrooms, Car Seat Headrest have returned with a new record marking a stylistic drift from their decade-long catalogue. With the release of “Can’t Cool Me Down,” the four-piece indie rock band introduce elements of “EDM, hip hop, futurism, doo-wop, soul, and of course rock and roll.”

Synths take place of distorted guitars and drum machines supersede drum kits, however their shrill crooning is nonetheless characteristic of their previous material.

Ten years in, a band is sure to come to new beginnings and new sounds, marking a new era for Car Seat Headrest. It’s “newness and strangeness” as Will Toledo calls it, but it’s something that “accompanies any and all meaningful encounters with music.” 

Nick Murphy / Chet Faker – Goodnight (Feb 14, 2020)

Under the name Chet Faker, sounds of electronica and downtempo were brought to the mainstream with tracks like “Talk is Cheap” and “1998.” After a process of intense self-reflection, the artist re-emerged with music released under his own name, Nick Murphy. An evolution, he called it, though Chet Faker will “always be a part of the music.”

A simple song of vocals and keyboard flourished by bass and background vocals, “Goodnight” is a combination of “sketches and thoughts…messy and half thought out” as Nick says they should be in relation to ourselves – fickle-minded and adaptive.

Perhaps it pays homage to some of his acoustic sets as Chet Faker which involved just himself and a keyboard. It is sombre and reflective, a note written as a “goodbye” to a former lover, released on Valentine’s Day. 

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