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Barbarossa: Bloodlines

Barbarossa review, Barbarossa, Bloodlines, Bloodlines review, album reviewBarbarossa– Bloodlines


Released: Aug. 6
Our Rating: 3/5
Spec Recs: “Paggliacio,” “Butterfly Plague,” “Battles”
In One Word: Smooth


For his sophomore release under the stage name Barbarossa, Londoner James Mathé puts on a new outfit.

Chemical Campfires, his debut that released in 2008 on Fence Records, showcased a stripped-down sound in which Barbarossa paired organic instrumentals with gentle vocals. The result was a largely acoustic release that was well-received by the public. Still, Mathé chose to make a change for his second album, “I loved the acoustic scene but knew it was not all I was about” he says.

In Bloodlines, Mathé accessorizes with drum machines, analogue synths and a Casiotone keyboard to make a well-dressed album. It’s shiny enough to grab your attention with tracks like “Turbin,” “Paggliacio,” and “The Load” but with a subdued smoothness that is seen in opening track “Bloodline,” as well as “Battles” and “Savious Self.” Mathé struts through the ten tracks, which blend elements of hip-hop, R & B and electronic styles, with certainty and confidence.

The work never feels overcomplicated. His instrumental compilations are clearly a nod to cited influences, such as Sufjan StevensDirty ProjectorsStevie WonderD’Angelo and Levon Helm. His vocals are rangy  and led by instrospective lyrics — “We walk alone to the grave,” he sings in “Butterfly Plague,” and “These people they can’t turn us upside down,” he says in “S.I.H.F.F.Y.” Bloodlines is easy to absorb and commercial ready.

There’s no question that Mathé is a talent. In fact, his musical resumé includes being a member of José Gonzales‘ live band and more recently signing to London label Memphis Industries. Barbarossa is not afraid to step in and out of different styles, which is exciting to see from a rising act.

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