New Music Reviews: Westerman and Victoria Monét

Two sequels from very different artists this week, following up their 2020 records. English art-rocker Westerman releases his second record, An Inbuilt Fault. American R&B artist Victoria Monét releases the sequel to 2020’s Jaguar, titled Jaguar II. Enjoy!

Westerman

An Inbuilt Fault

2023, 8/10
Will Westerman was born in London and is now based in Athens, Greece. A lot of current pop/rock music mines the 1980s for inspiration. Westerman’s clearly drawing from the 1980s as well, specifically from the moody, arty sound of artists like Peter Gabriel and David Sylvian. I enjoyed his 2020 debut, Your Hero is Not Dead – an album that I didn’t discover early enough to feature in this column.

On his sophomore album he’s working with James Krivchenia, the drummer from acclaimed indie band Big Thief. Krivchenia produces and plays percussion. It’s maybe not quite as strong as his debut, but his music is still ornate and emotional.

I like these live versions, where his guitar is more prominent, propelling the tunes forward, even if his vocals aren’t as pretty.

The more ambitious songs are often the most enjoyable – the six-minute closer ‘Pilot Was a Dancer’ is propelled by pretty acoustic guitar. The title track is particularly epic, stacking acoustic guitars, trombone, and layers of harmonies. ‘A Lens Turning’ sounds akin to Talk Talk’s A Colour of Spring with its emotional vocals, driving bassline, and atmospheric arrangement.

Westerman is making densely fascinating music, and it’s worth taking the effort to appreciate it.


Victoria Monét

Jaguar II

2023, 7/10
Sacramento’s Victoria Monét has been around for years, but she’s still in the momentum building phase of her career. She grew up singing in church choir and featured on Nas’ Life Is Good in 2012, while she was still a teenager. She’s built up a resume as a songwriter, most notably co-writing on Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next album, but has only released a handful of EPs as a solo artist. Monét has become a mother since her last release, and she’s clearly loved up, singing “How does it make you feel/To be loved for real”.

Jaguar II is the sequel to 2020’s Jaguar – an EP or album depending on who you ask. As on Jaguar, I only connect with some of Monét’s material. I’m less excited about her attempts at edgy relevance like ‘Party Girls’ and ‘Alright’. But when Monét couples her impressive melodic sense with retro disco and soul arrangements. The best track is ‘Goodbye’, luscious layers behind a gorgeous vocal melody. Earth, Wind & Fire guest on ‘Hollywood’, Phillip Bailey serving as Monét’s vocal foil. Lucky Daye also provides vocal contrast on the pretty opener ‘Smoke’.

Monét is writing lovely tunes, and she’s unstoppable when she’s in retro mode.

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5 Comments

  1. Westerman…I like that a lot and he and his band are tight. I liked all the songs…but Familiar is the one I liked the best out of that performance because of Krivchenia.
    His guitar tone and playing is good as well.

  2. Both artists are new to me, though I believe I’ve heard of Victoria Monet before. Based on my initial impression, I’m drawn more to Westerman. The title track of his new album definitely has something. The trombone gives it a distinct touch.

    • Thanks for listening. I like how he uses lots of textures, but that live video helps illustrate how central his guitar is to his songs.

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