Editors’ Notes MJ Cole notched one of UK garage’s defining anthems with his 1998 single “Sincere.” But Madrugada, released 17 years after his last album, 2003’s Cut to the Chase, is a world away from the bubbly 2-step that made Cole a cornerstone of British dance music. The title translates loosely as “dawn,” but this isn’t the sound of coming home from the club at daybreak: Instead, Cole has traded beats for contemplative piano etudes gently fleshed out with ambient synths and neoclassical strings. What hasn’t changed is his ear for melody; neither has his knack for gracefully delivering substantial emotional payoffs. Songs like “A Visit to Lolita” and “Far Closer” convey vast depths of feeling in the subtlest grace notes; Cole has a soundtrack composer’s instinct for the way that the smallest pause before a chord change can convey widescreen passion. And he has a sound designer’s ear for the fusion of acoustic and electronic textures: The fluttering synths of “Reimagination” sound almost like an amniotic club hit in the making. For now, at least, no beats are necessary; Cole’s vision of a world just before sunup—fragile, hesitant, full of wonder—is complete as is.

SONG
A Visit To Lolita
1
2:44
 
Far Closer
2
3:10
 
Cathedral
3
5:40
 
Knocking
4
4:47
 
Sonoran
5
4:09
 
90 Miles
6
3:43
 
Solo Waltzer
7
2:07
 
Strings For Jodie
8
3:30
 
Reimagination
9
4:37
 
Psalm 892
10
3:44
 
Dizzy New Heights
11
4:16
 
Resolution
12
2:58
 

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