With his debut as Barbarossa, songwriter James Mathé sublimates his resume as a forward-thinking folkie into a cloud of icy-white synthetic soul. Mathé places his faith squarely in the skeletal power of his voice set adrift in space, surrounded by a distant scaffolding of analog electronics, drum machines and pinging guitars. High and tremulous, his vocals pack a sensuality, as on “The Endgame,” that often skews sad George Michael. From the Tricky trip-hop groove and church organ of the title track, to the Kraftwerkian sound of “Pagliaccio,” there are signifiers to spare, but Mathé has talent enough to bind his affections into a vision of his own.
‘Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon’
Don’t expect another “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” from KT Tunstall’s latest album, “Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon.” Rather, the new album reflects a year of sadness in the Scottish singer-songwriter’s life — the first half recorded in spring 2012, the second in November, following the death of her father and her divorce. Tunstall brings a slower, melodic and acoustic tone to these tracks, accented with a bit of country twang. Though soulful and intimate, the record lacks the upbeat attitude that made Tunstall’s previous efforts so catchy.