New Music Reviews: Kamasi Washington and Dua Lipa

Two solo artists are back from unusually long hiatuses this week. Kamasi Washington’s tenor saxophone-driven jazz fusion is back for his first solo album since 2018’s Heaven and Earth. Husky-voiced British pop vocalist Dua Lipa is also back. Enjoy!

Dua Lipa

Radical Optimism

2024, 6.5/10
Four years is a long time in pop music. In 2020, Dua Lipa made some great pop music, gaining wide appeal in an increasingly fragmented market. Songs like ‘Levitating’ and ‘Don’t Start Now’ were irresistibly tuneful and upbeat. In 2024, the husky-voiced singer with Kosovan heritage doesn’t seem as impactful. She’s made a record that’s too similar to the last one and doesn’t reach the same high standards.

Radical Optimism starts off well. ‘End of An Era’ is fast-paced and exciting, with some nice spoken word parts. ‘Houdini’ is a strong single, and I like the nagging hook of ‘Training Season’. But the rest of the record doesn’t add many ideas, although the stripped-back ‘Anything for Love’ is effective.

It’s tough following a great record, and Radical Optimism is merely good.

Kamasi Washington

Fearless Movement

2024, 9/10
Kamasi Washington has enjoyed a high-profile career as a jazz musician in the 21st century. He attracted attention with his guest appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and his lengthy triple album The Epic. He’s back with his fifth studio album, a 90-minute record loaded with guest stars. He’s accompanied by luminaries like P Funk’s George Clinton, Outkast’s Andre 3000, and jazz bassist Thundercat. His jazz fusion is often intense, with his tenor saxophone providing a charismatic focal point.

Thundercat’s lightning-fast bass runs punctuate ‘Asha the First’, an early highlight. He also covers ‘Computer Love’, a 1986 hit for funk band Zapp. In his 80s, George Clinton adds charisma to ‘Get Lit’.

In the second half, ‘Interstellar Peace’ is gorgeous, although, like most songs on the disc, it reaches an intense crescendo. ‘Lines in the Sand’ could have come from a Sault record. The most accessible piece is pushed to the end of the record, the misleadingly titled ‘Prologue’.

Free-spirited and wide-ranging, Fearless Movement is an impressive feat.

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    • It’s cool your family are into him. I’ve heard The Epic before, but haven’t delved into his other work.

      • It’s a lot of music to digest. I hear so many influences coming through. A dense ride but worth the time. Great listening. Earl catches lots of bands coming by. Glad you received my comment. I was thinking it wasn’t going through. Later.

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