Review: Slingin' slangin guitars, skittering drums and synths from BRIT School graduates Black Midi deliver a sound that's semi-ironic with all matter of punk leanings. With references abound to New York's heyday of experimental new wave and art rock, this two-track 12" for Rough Trade sees the four-piece edge that bit closer to their anticipated debut album called Schlagenheim. Due for a release this June, most of Schlagenheim was said to have been laid down in five days with producer Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Bloc Party) and these two tracks go to some length in introducing the band's raw talent, their meteoric rise and vision of a gone but not forgotten CBGBs.
Review: Here's something to set the pulse racing: a must-have seven-inch containing two curiously off-kilter cuts from obscure "beat generation" bands of the early 1960s. Der Evergreens "Es Lilin" (that's "Ice Lolly" in English, apparently) is a sun-kissed rhythm and blues cover of a Sudanese love song recorded in Rotterdam in 1965. It's fairly short but very, very sweet. Arguably even better is Les Jaguars De Casablanca's 1962 cover of surf classic "Gonzales". The band was truly international - Spanish and French guitarists and a Moroccoan rhythm section - and on the resultant recording you can tell. Think of it as an "outernational" take on the Shadows, and you're close.
Review: Since launching last year, Lil Static has offered up new, lightly altered editions of classic tracks from Jeru the Damaja, Kraftwerk, Run-DMC, Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. Here they continue to serve up vital beats for break-digging DJs via classic cuts from Eric B. & Rakim and Mountain. The A side sports an edited version of 1986 cut "Eric B. Is President", a synth-bass propelled NYC hip-hop gem rich in unmistakable rap vocals and tight scratching. Over on side B there's a chance to savour Mountain's late '60s rock cut that provided the Eric B. & Rakim track (and so many others since) with its distinctive drum break, "Long Red". This edited version gives more prominence to the breaks, making it an ideal mixing tool for hip-hop DJs.
Review: There's definitely something in the water round Bristol way right now - the city currently seems to ooze punk spirit and has a habit of producing ferociously good acts, from the raw, gnarling guitars of Idles to the unfettered electronic juggernauts of Giant Swan. Those already familiar with Heavy Lungs will know this is another outfit to add to that list, with "Measure" their most complete and daring body of work to date. Opening on "Half Full", which builds atmosphere gradually, before the first ferocious chords drop the listener is already hooked, the moment of release is at once necessary and rather unexpected, setting the tone for a collection of songs that are as intelligently conceived as they are vital. From here we get "Self Worth", "T.O.T.B", and "(A Bit Of A) Birthday", spanning walls of white noise through to skudgy, loose, garage-y tones.
Review: The colourful obi strip astride the cover of this audiophile reissue boasts that Imani's "Out of The Blue" album is "the ultimate private press jazz holy grail". While that claim is debatable, copies of the Gilles Peterson championed 1983 edition, which the San Francisco based band pressed up themselves, have been known to change hands for four-figure sums. Musically, the four tracks are breezy, sunny and summery. Opener "Just Another Love Song" sets the tone, with soulful group vocals and jazz solos rising above a warm groove, while "Somebody's Love" is a slow jam smothered in spacey synthesizers. "Byrd's House" is a jazz-funk dancefloor number - this time blessed with extended, eyes-closed guitar and piano solos - while "Friendship Cover Charge" is a stomping peak-time workout that should send dancers spinning.
Review: It's always a pleasure to find another release from those well-dressed men: Interpol. That great New York band that defined an era and a sound of their own with a stretch of LPs across the 2000s; from Turn On The Bright Lights all the way to 2010's self-titled triumph. With the release of "A Fine Mess" there's seems to be a new influx of energy dedicated to their 2019 world tour, laced with the group's unique tonic of melancholia, of course. This is undeniably heard on opener "Fine Mess", and at five tracks long it's something of a mini album. Recorded during their time spent in upstate New York with acclaimed producer Dave Fridmann (think Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips and Mogwai), the resulting collection of tracks delivers something of a fiery compliment to the deep and visceral energy heard on their sixth studio album "Marauder". Long live Interpol.
Review: Turbotrax was an intermittent curio that belched out of the Bristol underground in a fit of tongue in cheek edits and samples back in the '00s. Someone's clearly rebooted the mainframe and brought this elusive collective out of hiding for another bout of cheeky lifts from more esoteric corners of culture. Library Vultures says it all - this is the work of dedicated diggers pulling forgotten bits n' pieces out of retirement, such as, on the A side here, the storming theme to a Commodore advert, and giving it a buff up more extended retro-pleasure. "Whatever Happened To The Hippies?" on the flip is a more light-hearted affair with a jaunty lilt and a message of positivity for all.
Review: Even though it appeared on his fine 1971 album "Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse" - a suitably dystopian set in which our hero rails against the ills of godless society - "Jagger The Dagger" is not one of Eugene McDaniels better known tracks. Yet as this Japanese seven-inch reissue proves, it remains a superb chunk of bizarre-but-brilliant jazz/rock/soul fusion full of delay-laden country style guitar solos, weirdo backing vocals, sumptuously laidback grooves and vocals that take aim at Mick Jagger and his "devil's dance". Flipside "Cherrystones" is a Vietnam War-era civil rights cry built around good old-fashioned fuzz-toned grooves, Chuck Berry style rock 'n' roll guitar solos and a pretty crazy lead vocal.
Review: Is this pop? Is this experimental? These are the thoughts that will have crossed many minds when encountering the kind of baffle Jai Paul offers. A guy who seems intent on creating curveball works of art, "BTSTU" in many ways is minimalist stuff, save for the concepts behind the sounds. Or at least its structures give the illusion of minimalism. From the first waterfall of synth to the way in which vocals are allowed to (quite literally) speak for themselves - a multitude of characters with one voice - it's at once bound for the charts and your bookshelf of classic works.
Review: For Sufjan Stevens, "With My Whole Heart", is said to be a self-described attempt to "write an upbeat and sincere love song without conflict, anxiety, or self-deprecation." This single arrives as a most prominent work since his album for 4AD in 2017, and the title track sees rolling toms and keys glitter alongside call-and-response choruses, and a commanding guitar solo. The 1996 demo, done entirely on acoustic guitar, carries even more melancholy and like a lot of his work from this early period, it feels fragmented, even vulnerable, but never without touch of hope and sentimentality. A voice for a new generation.
Review: Following previous outings for Los Angeles-based imprint ESP Institute such as 2016's Jaguar Mirror and 2017's Night School Of Universal Wisdom, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Oscar "Thunder" Tillman and his 'personal shaman' Pontus make the kind of music you only hear in your most vivid dreams. Incorporating kraut, prog-rock, ambient and disco at the heart of their boundless sound creations, they complete an illustrious trilogy here on their most expansive work to date. "Condor Sunflower" is a truly mesmerising psychedelic folk journey in convincing '70s fashion. On the B side, things take a more upbeat direction on the tripped-out disco funk of "Creation Discotheque".
Review: Claremont 56 continue to disregard the genre boundaries - preferring instead to give good music the attention it deserves - as their latest looker of a twelve inch presents us the sounds of Torn Sail. Fronted by Smith & Mudd vocalist Huw Costin, Torn Sail go all 60s West Coast rock on us with the gloriously rich sounds of "Birds". From its acoustic beginnings the track gradually unfurls into a delightful groove embellished by soothing vocal harmonies. It's almost a thankless task enlisting anyone to try and remix what sounds like a perfect song, but Claremont 56 obviously chose right in requesting the services of Tiago. In the Portuguese producer's hands "Birds" is transformed into a heavily psychedelic freakout which gently develops into a kraut rock behemoth filled with swathes of heavy organ vibes. Containing several shifts in momentum - including a glorious half speed finish - this is a truly stunning remix which left our jaws occupying the floor!
Review: Don't believe everything you read - the fifth Bat For Lashes album confirms this girl (or woman) found herself musically and thematically some time ago, freeing up creative energy to explore new approaches to deliver her often mournful, always heartfelt songs inspired by personal crises and private longings. On this outing there's more than a hint of 1980s pop evident in the mix. Shades of Prince ("Feel For You"), Madonna ("So Good"), Bowie's Berlin days and electro-era Gary Numan (the stunning, infectious instrumental "Vampires") cast the record in a nostalgia that suits the sense of yearning that always seems to pervade Natasha Khan's work. Simply name-checking reference points is lazy and unfair, though. This is an incredible collection of tracks moulded in the artist's own image - bold, beautiful and instantly captivating. Then again, it would be surprising if anyone had expected anything less.
Review: There's plenty of anticipation around Big Thief's third record U.F.O.F., and we can say with confidence that it delivers on every front. A solid expansion of their last record, Capacity, U.F.O.F. for the most part goes deeper into diverse sonic territories that's emotionally raw and rich, calling to mind Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and various other accomplished singer songwriters especially in songs like "Contact" and "Cattails". Elsewhere, "Strange" and "Orange" provide a backing that seems more upbeat on the surface, yet the varied vocal technique of Adrianne Lenker, ranging from a whisper to a vulnerable bellow keeps us firmly captivated. The album really shines through when it reaches for slightly louder soundscapes, best heard on "Terminal Paradise" and "Jenni" (with the latter reminding us of "Washer" by Slint). All in all, U.F.O.F. will be a record that entrances you with its subtle yet haunting charm.
Review: It's not hard to understand why people so often ignore album release blurb. Sales-y, hyperbolic, and on more than the odd occasion rather poorly written, it's hardly required reading in order to get the most out of the record. That is unless it's Big Thief's 'Two Hands', a collection of music that genuinely makes more sense when you know the back story. For one thing this long form offering is arriving just months after its predecessor, which is always either the sign of a band that don't need big ideas to facilitate rapid-fire output, or a band that have so many big ideas they literally can't stop the momentum. This is a case of the latter. Timescale aside, "Two Hands" genuinely feels as though it was born in the Badlands, epic songs that invoke endless vistas across barren settings in a way that makes you feel as small as you actually are in a global context. Like cosying up in a log cabin away from the chilly endless dark of a desert night.
Review: It's been a solid five years since the epic sounds of America's best plugged-in rock duo last electrified our ears. And be it a reference to the Rolling Stones or even Scorsese, the album turns it up from the start with "Shine A Little Light". Big time rhodes and bluesy folk mentalities are then wrapped up in a low-slung ballad that is "Walk Across The Water". Some fans may still be yearning for the raw energy that catapulted the duo into the limelight with Magic Potion, however high voltage sounds can still be found on tracks like "Under The Gun" and "Lo/Hi" - with gospel elements in this case edging to the fore. Overall there's a slight dance element protruding from this LP in comparison to previous records, begging the question: Can you dig it!
Review: The best thing since the Klaxons or Bloc Party have arrived. black midi! The student art rock band are bringing a new youthful energy and slight of malice back to the arena of post-indie inspired alternative guitar and synth music. They make this overtly known from the start with the supercharged opener that is "953", introducing an album that is said to have laid down eight of the record's nine tracks in just five days. Drums are fast and skittering, rhythms are dancey and guitars keep it Madchester jangley. "Speedway" (is that a wry Prodigy reference?) is among the album's highlights alongside the punk-funky "bmbmbm" and the short but trippy "Years Ago". With a 100 per cent backing by UK music institution Rough Trade: meet this generation's newest sensation.
Review: When it comes to plugging in mega stacks of amplified prog-rock, Vancouver-area band Black Mountain deliver a retro-futuristic sound that's as large as any Godzilla soundtrack. With Destroyer presenting a fifth LP on Bloomington label Jagjaguwar, Black Mountain go someway in delivering a bold cross reference of only the best and most legendary points of 60s, 70s and 90s rock n roll regalia. With keys and piano mixed with guitars, distortion and vocoders giving the band a futuristic, krautrock (Deutsche elektronik musik) edge, British psychedelic and raw but atmospheric arrangements give the band their own undeniable identity. With songs passing the bottle from slow dancing rock, flashy hair metal, to synthy guitars and cosmic arpeggios, the best metal of today is still way up there, on Black Mountain.
Review: Singer-songwriting wrapped up in the dusty acid wash denim of Americana doesn't really get more authentic than what Bill Callahan of Silver Spring, Maryland, can deliver. His latest LP, a mass saunter through 20 tracks of smokey spoken word and lightly sung lyrics, falls upon a picturesque bevvy of humble and acoustic instrumentation. Callahan's songs croon with romance, metaphor, and folky yarns that find their place among fingerpicked guitars and light melodies that enjoy a contrast with the darker musings of Callahan's own world of experience and storytelling. It presents the artist with his first studio in some five years, and a sound that is looser than a typical Bill Callahan missive but full of melodrama that centres around life and death. Our pick, Callahan's cover of the Carter Family's "Lonesome Valley".
Review: If this is the first time you've stumbled upon Chastity Belt we implore you to look back on their previous three albums. That should confirm how much the band have grown, although in this case rather than reaching for higher heights the development is like the roots of a tree. Here they're pushing deeper, and leaving the listener more nourished than any previous encounter. Poor analogies aside, dark undertones marry a sense of strange tranquility. The sort of feeling you get after suffering great loss and finally having a moment to reflect without that freight train of grief. There's sadness, or at least a subtle mood of lamentation to "Elena", but it also packs love at first sight melodies. "Effort" builds a tension from beneath, as though that aforementioned great oak were trying to burst from the earth itself. Alternative, detailed rock? Perhaps, but we prefer to simply say "stunning".
Review: Are you a dreamer? Swedish band Death & Vanilla ask across eight contemporary takes on German Krautrock, French Ye-ye pop and 60s psychedelic. Vocals are breezy, their moog synths fat, with guitars drenched in reverb and delay. At times the band's sound aligns with other kindred groups like Goldfrapp, Portishead or even Bjork (with "Vespertine") through their subtle take on downbeat, alternative '90s pop and this is heard most in "Let's Never Leave Here". "Are You A Dreamer?" delivers the Malmo trio a fifth studio LP following last year's conceptual soundtrack for stage and screen entitled "A Score For Roman Polanski's The Tenant", and this time around, our highlights include the spacey western riffs of "Eye Bath" and the ever-so dreamy "The Hum". Esoteric modern pop for sure.
Review: A follow up to 2017's This Old Dog, everyone's favourite slacker-rock singer songwriter is back with Here Comes The Cowboy. Mixed at DeMarco's Jizz Jazz Studios in Los Angeles, the Canadian musician delivers a swooning and laidback take on folk western blues built on acoustic guitars and the odd sombre horn. The album opens with an unmistakeable vocal drawl, before we're met with DeMarco's trademark slow-tempo groove complete with eerie synths as the album progresses. While it contains many signature traits of a Mac DeMarco record, we're loving the new 1970s and blues rock influences best heard on "Choo Choo" and the second half of closer "Baby Bye Bye". It's easy to imagine DeMarco strumming these numbers in his rocking chair on a porch during sundown in the deep west, all sung while chewing on a single straw of wheat. All in all, Here Comes The Cowboy feels like a solid evolution for the cult hero.
Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven (Shoop) (CD: live & demos)
The Steam (live)
Lamentable Ballad Of Gascony Avenue (live)
Who's Been Having You Over (demo)
Punk Buck Bonafide (live)
Travelling Tinker (live)
Paradise Is Under Your Nose (demo)
All At Sea: A Film By Roger Sargent (DVD)
Review: Infamous Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Peter Doherty returns with his latest project, Peter Doherty and the Puta Madres, formed by members of Doherty's touring band from his 2016 "Eudaimonia" tour. He brings with him, of note, Jack Jones - also a member of Trampolene - who shares vocal duties and guitar collaboration with Doherty on the LP. Expect a ragged, not entirely inharmonious, array of spangled guitars, boot-skootin' fiddles, broken down jazz and deconstructed mega blues. A good one for those smokey nights of Laphroaig when lamenting the ups & downs of one's life and times, all spent in an irreverent tone of UK punk and blues, or as the band call it: an intimate portrait of love, loss, being lost, happiness, tragedy, addiction and the power of the human soul to transcend its darker levels
Review: Combining indie rock, psychedelic rock and Eastern influences, Flamingods certainly know how to mix things up. Levitation, their 5th album and the first since 2016's Majesty opens with a disco feel via "Paradise Place", before the laid-back grooves of "Koray" provide a leeway for more eclectic and dance-centric tracks to take hold later on in the album. The second half of the record takes us into more spacey territory best heard on "Moonshine On Water", before the band's trippy, psychedelic influences come strongly to the fore on "Mantra East" and Eastern melodies shine through on "Nizwa". An eclectic, psyched-out adventure of a record, Levitation is an album that will tempt you into Flamingods' esoteric world.
Review: How in the name of all that's understandable can you follow up a Mercury Prize-nominated album that looked at the state of the world and answered all our concerns and questions about that in one fell swoop? How about by offering a heavier, louder second chapter, picking up where the last left off and yet emphasising different focal points? That seems to be the idea with "Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 2". It's Foals at their rockiest and most raucous, with the likes of (aptly-titled) "Black Bull" distorting the vocals and raising the grit on those guitars to 11. Things start off far more sparse, with "Red Desert"'s desolate synth keys invoking some dystopian wasteland. Perhaps the next destination for our civilisation. Whatever you think, from there we call at head-nodding, funk-driven rhythms, tear-inducing piano solos ("Ikaria" is pure beauty) and a finale of epic, soaring, hypnotic art-pop.
Review: Harriette "Hatchie" Pilbeam has been in the incubator of London label Heavenly for roughly two years now, with the label slowly establishing the artist before this debut with a slick run of 7" singles and promo material. Colliding breathy synth pop with reverb-drench folk, a touch of trip hop and good old-fashioned indie, Keepsake presents the debut opus from an emerging talent that's helping define what Shoegaze can be for 2019. Highlights include the Enya-like "Secret" and the melancholic two step beats of "Stay With Me". With touches of Boards Of Canada to be found in Hatchie's music too, there's a deep musical brain behind these beats and it should not be slept on. Check. It. Out.
Review: While he enjoyed a brief career as a musician in the 1960s, by the time he recorded debut album "Down On The Road By The Beach" in 1983 Steve Hiett was better known as one of the world's leading fashion photographers. In fact, it was at the suggestion of a Japanese gallery owner that he got back in the studio to record what has long been regarded as an impossible-to-find Balearic gem. Hiett's reverb and delay-laden Peter Green style guitar passages take centre stage throughout, winding in and out of languid grooves and ambient electronics to create what some have called "the ultimate desert island disc" - a record of such lazy, sun-kissed beauty that it sounds tailor made for drowsy days waking up on the beach.
Review: Hot Chip are back! The coolest dudes since Devo return like a monkey with a miniature cymbal with their seventh full length album. With vocoding effects layered over the sweet tone of Alexis Taylor's voice referencing all matter of contemporary and retro-active pop and trance sensibilities, this album once again sees Hot Chip at the front of pioneering, friendly and avant garde pop music. Produced by the late Philippe Zdar (one half of Cassius) - also responsible for applying award winning touches to albums by Phoenix and Cat Power, Domino is calling the record "a celebration of joy but recognises the struggle it can take to get to that point of happiness". Our tips: album opener "Melody Of Love" and the '80s trance-pop that is "Hungry Child".
Review: Time marches relentlessly on as does the immortal sound of iconic Manchester band Joy Division. At the heart of Unknown Pleasures was the alarming vocal talent of Ian Curtis. His alien wails, echoed expressionistic vistas of urban alienation over No Wave tribal beats and Gothic guitar impressions. And despite the breathtaking intensity of the angular acid comedown "She's Lost Control", the soaringly depraved detachment of "New Dawn Fades" and the proto-slowcore "Candidate", opening track "Disorder" remained the piece years ahead of its time and most immediately enduring. This anniversary record arrives almost forty years to the day after it was originally released, splashed out on 180g ruby red vinyl with an alternative white sleeve to resemble the original and legendary cover design. Unquestionably authentic, Unknown Pleasures was a vision so uncompromising and haunting that each track was worth its length. This commemorative reissue, then, continues the celebration of one of the most important albums of our time as well as highlighting the record as a landmark in music-design crossover history.
Review: Best band name since Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Australian group King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have been dominating Melbourne's vibrant garage, psych and surf rock scene for nearly a decade now. Fishing For Fishies presents another jovial journey through light and breezy themes of folk, blues, rock and psychedelic angles, with Violent Femmes vocoder techniques and a bevy of other surreptitious Generation X, '90s era music to boot. Quality, raw recordings full of an unique musicianship that sees the band continue to defy the terms and conditions of classically garnered genres. Get it into ya.
Review: There has been plenty said about debutants L'Epee since their single "Dreams" turned heads back in spring. Combining the talents of Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre), French artist Emmanuelle Seigner, and polished-to-a-sheen pop outfit The Liminanas, it's one of the most refreshing (and French) things you're likely to hear all year. That's more of a reference to the cinematic feeling that defines the album, owing much to the femme fatale vocal delivery, rather than the language each line is sung in. At once evoking the smoky cool of Serge Gainsbourg and the opiate moods of The Velvet Underground, "Diabolique" feels born in a time when psychedelic experimentation and chart topping music weren't mutually exclusive. At once sophisticated and hedonistic, it's a sexy, sensual and overwhelmingly seductive effort everyone should turn themselves on to.
Review: God bless Metronomy. Pioneers of a dance-indie crossover that was less garish and day-glow hued than the Nu Rave movement dominant back then. Their sixth full-length comes in the 10th anniversary year of their first, and proves the band have grown and fine-tuned, rather than got lost and forgotten why they came out to begin with. Despite clear development, though, the spirit of that inaugural effort is still here, and arguably in more generous helpings than any outing between then and now. Equal parts playful and earnest, there's plenty here to fall in love with. Single-worthy outings like the bouncy, floor-filler "Salted Caramel Ice Cream" and the appropriately titled pairing "Wedding" and "Wedding Bells" are confident and big room sounding. "The Light" veers into dubbier, more introverted directions, whereas "Upset My Girlfriend" shows them at their most heart-achingly beautiful and human. Exquisite, as usual.
Review: Shoegaze dream pop duo Molly - out of Innsbruck, Austria - deliver a deluxe alpine coloured vinyl to compliment the elemental themes of their debut album. It follows two previous singles in 2016-17, respectively, suggesting that last year was spent entirely in the studio. As it turns out their studio sits atop their native alps and laced throughout this LP are field recordings of their chosen summit which only offers more space to an already expansive, glacial and epic sound. With the 15-minute album opener "Coming Of Age" a mountain of production in itself, Molly right now are hitting their peak.
Review: When you call your band Moon Duo nobody is expecting clean lines or indeed rough edges. Meeting every one of our expectations, "Stars Are The Light" is a cosmic trip into some psychedelic hinterland where the melodies are as warm as the guitars are crooning. It's a place that's audibly inviting and, while anything but homely in the suburban 2.4 kids kind of way, more welcoming than the warm embrace of a lover. Which makes sense, when you consider it's the product of Wooden Shjips Ripley Johnson and his wife, Sanae Yamada. The title track pretty much sounds like falling in love, "Eternal Shore" dances to the otherworldly rhythms of 1960s opiate seduction, and 'The World And The Sun" grows and grooves to the very centre of your soul. Put simply, it's a pretty compelling argument for the fact that psychedelic rock still has plenty to bring to the table.
Review: When is a bonus disc not a bonus disc? How about when it's Mudhoney's not-quite-latest, a collection of forgotten moments from 2018's "Digital Garbage", new versions of rare singles and one cover version. Don't assume for a second this is a cynical filler to keep the band's name on the tip of your tongue, or a cash-driven release hastily put together after 12 months void of new ideas, though. After all, few artists or acts make any real money from recording stuff these days, and even if you're not thinking in such jaded terms what's here is an essential anthology of excellence that could serve as a solid introduction to an outfit at the top of their game, or a must-have for devotees. A masterful selection of drawly blues (opener "Vortex of Lies"), dirty guitar refrains ("Snake Oil Charmer"), and twisted, contemporary heavy metal hypnosis ("Let's Kill Yourself Live Again"). Quality, quality, quality.
Review: Rising up through the indie boom of the mid-2000s, New York's The Mystery Lights have landed once again to deliver a sound so fresh it may well just be the swinging 60s. Groovy. The raw, strummed guitars of the very indie "I'm So Tired (Of Living In The City)" harks back to a sound that bands like Manfred Mann popularised back in the day, especially when you hear the screaming howls of "Wish That She'd Come Back". It's a soundtrack for a surfer's safari trekking through the desert with a tambourine in hand, searching for that perfect wave, and with the analogue sound of space echos and reverb splashing throughout the album it's a much desired trip for the modern day.
Review: It's fair to say that when The National release an album the Cincinnati originating supergroup garner the same type of attention that Radiohead once drew. With some futuristic production techniques creeping its way into the band's engineered sound, a new expressionism in the group's sound on "I Am Easy To Find" makes its way into the open, if only subtly. With the opening passages of "You Had Your Soul With You" sounding something like Battles' "Atlas", the music breaks down into a fanfare of traditional yet supercharged folk instrumentations; with drums, spoken word, strings in all their various forms, and the familiar smokey drawl of Matt Berninger's voice sitting snugly on top of subtle drum machines and synthesisers. Super ballads and sincerity.
Review: Half journeyman, half David Lynch bar scene, all twisted crooner-dom, and at least a little tongue in cheek, Mike Patton & Jean Claude Vannier are aiming straight for the alternatives with this 12-strong collection of bizarre ballads and obscure odes that will appeal to rarer tastebuds. There's the spoken word and strummed guitars guiding us through the various parts of "A Schoolgirl's Day". The Sinatra-does-sarcasm of closer "Pink & Bleue", and the way "Hungry Ghost" aurally recalls "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen. Truly unique stuff, despite its debt of gratitude to troubadour totems, counterculture rock and The Rat Pack, it's as rooted in the 21st Century as anything you'll hear today. The production process involved two creators in two different parts of the world, Patton and band in L.A., Vannier with a full orchestra in Vienna. Not that you can tell considering how complete the record feels.
Review: Dutch indie four piece spearheaded by its singer-songwriter Pip Blom realise their debut album, Boat. Delivered by a label associated with artists like Mattiel and Amber Arcades, Plip Blom see themselves in good company to deliver a full length LP following a run of 7" & 10" singles. The album features previously heard numbers like "Daddy Issues", a riffing example of the band's quick, almost surf rock style, with other semi-ironic titles like "Bedhead" offering something sentimental. With a host of other raucous and heavy distorted numbers too, Pip Blom's music falls somewhere between The Strokes, Hole and the best of alternative but radio friendly punk and garage rock.
Review: When the end days come and it's finally time to write the complete story of American rock 'n' roll, surely Pixies will get their own chapter. Legends of the grunge world, often known for a stylistic simplicity (quiet-LOUD anyone?) but unafraid to go out on a psychedelic limb when the moment suits, they've towered above the majority of acts for 28 years and, as "Beneath The Eyrie" proves, still have plenty to say. "In The Arms of Mrs Mark Of Cain" starts proceedings on a gothic-Western hybrid tip, setting things up perfectly for any song named "Graveyard Hill". Realistically when that track does arrive it switches the mood with a nod to the band's archetypal punk-infused sound, and that's precisely the point. Apparently betting the farm on this one, it's got everything from psych-folk to Tim Burton-ish ghoulish wit, making for the band's finest hour since their 2004 reformation.
Review: In honour of Record Store Day 2019, French label Revenge has decided to offer up a fresh pressing of a set it first released back in 1977: an acclaimed live album by legendary garage rocker turned car insurance salesman Iggy Pop. The set was recorded at Paris' Hippodrome venue during the artist's "Lust For Life Tour" in September 1977 and appears here on shocking green vinyl, as it did on initial French pressings. As you'd expect, it brilliantly captures the energy and excitement of Iggy Pop's performances during the period, offering up a mixture of much-loved classics ("Lust for Life", "The Passenger", "I Wanna Be Your Dog" etc.) alongside album tracks and powerful cover versions.
Review: After years of what has seemingly been live record after live record - (not to mention their debut Broken Boy Soldiers album haunting our Juno offices for nearly a decade) Jack White's inspired troupe are back with a bang - exploding with Help Us Stranger. Think the amplified epicness of The Who. The album twists and turns through telephone amplified blues ("Help Me Stranger"), the dandy piano ballads in "Shine The Light On Me" to the rolling, western, country drums of "Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)". Regardless of the tracks, this album teems with an energy that rock music has not felt for some time and there's no denying the future classic that this will become. Rock on The Raconteurs!
Review: In honour of Record Store Day, Siobhan Fahey has decided to offer-up a special "10th Anniversary Edition" of her 2009 comeback set as Shakespears Sister, "Songs From The Red Room". Most of the set had been recorded four years earlier and mined the rich seam of electroclash/indie-dance fusion that was all the rage at the time. Listening back a decade on, the set still bristles with fuzz-tone guitars, bombastic beats, distinctive electronic motifs and stylized vocals. This expanded edition throws in a couple of bonus tracks plus a quartet of remixes. Of these, the Droyds throbbing Italo-disco style take on "Bitter Pill" and the sludgy, post-apocalyptic revision of "Cold" are the ones to check.
Review: Righteously rare recordings from the annals of UK-US music culture makes its way to disc via the legendary John Peel and the inimitable Steve Albini (and his Shellac band). Containing cuts from the late radio-jock's worshipped Peel Sessions broadcast in 2004, this archival release features a stream of previously unreleased recordings of the Chicago group's live & studio sessions for the legendary radio spot. The CDs deliver raw and seldom heard versions of "Crow" (from 1998's Terraform LP) alongside "Canada," "Disgrace" and "Spoke" from the Excellent Italian Greyhound LP (2007). Filled with stories of the BBC's "live From Maida Vale" sessions and the studio's famous 24-track console, these exhumed artifacts all make it out at a time when Albini has been quoted saying of Shellac: ""There will be more new material in the future."
Review: Reykjavik-based noise quartet, Sigur Ros - translated to Victory Rose - sublime 1999 album Agaetis Byrjun turns 20 this year and to commemorate the legendary band have assembled two luxury box sets featuring all matter of demos, rarities and live recordings. There is also the option to just rebask in the limelight of A Good Beginning (Agaetis Byrjun) repress that's worth it alone for album opener "Svefn-g-englar" - a breathy 10-minute swoon through the ether of sweet harmony. Travel the rest of the album until you get to "Avalon" - one of the deepest classical requiems you can hope to hear. A sonic fortress of bizarre digital noises, weird drones, wispy vocals and breathtakingly radiant percussion, Agaetis Byrjun is a masterpiece of revolutionary proportions.
Review: The Soft Cavalry have arrived, a new project of husband & wife duo Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell. Their debut, self-titled album has been described as falling somewhere between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and R.E.M. To put it another way; slow motion stoner surf rock meets subtle shades of folk and washed-out Shoegaze. Dancier and straight-laced drums primed with disco energy also find their way into tracks like "Bulletproof". The album finds its unique space in seemingly being able to create a new study into cosmic folkology; perfectly weighted with atmospheres that drift across and through the album's many dimensions.
Review: Beguiling, bewitching, enchanting and immersive. Sui Zhen's album draws the listener in with beauty and loveliness, while giving us something to think about. Namely human mortality, and whether or not we might all be able to live on as digital footprints. It's all very "Black Mirror", welcome to the 21st Century meditation on death, then. Despite this the record is far less conceptual than you might imagine, with tracks like "I Could Be There" conjuring images of Lykke Li or Regina Spektor's more advert-friendly offerings. "Natural Progression", "Another Life" and "Different Places" stick to more downtempo electronic scripts, perfectly contrasting the pop and jazz elements of "Being A Woman" and "Mountain Song" respectively. Hard to put a finger on without resorting to a series of name drops, your best bet is just to dive in and get lost in what's a very deep and multifaceted album that somehow still manages coherency.
Review: From humble beginnings for Parisian label Kitsune back in 2010, the sub-pop of Two Door Cinema Club has reached great heights thanks to their albums Beacon, Gameshow and most of all, their debut, Tourist History. Now with False Alarm, Alex Trimble's vocals continue to collide in sweet harmony with the band's contemporary arrangement of synths, acoustic drums and undertones of tropical instrumentation - bear in mind that TDCC never stray too far from the poppy realms of disco either. Highlights include the radical '80s charm of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (think Sting or Hall & Oates) to "Satellite" and the oddly, stylisticly French ballad that is "Break". Good times roll!
Review: "Father Of The Bride", Vampire Weekend's first album for six long years, has been receiving praise across the board from critics. It's been variously described as a "modern California pop masterpiece", a "scrapbook of brilliant ideas" and "the band's magnum opus". To our ears, it's certainly joyous and celebratory, with the acclaimed New York band wrapping their usual punchy-indie pop in subtle and not so subtle nods towards everything from Flamenco and Country music, to mournful piano ballads, excitable electronic indie-dance and 1960s baroque pop. In other words, it's a giddy collection of inventive, enjoyable songs that boasts the same eclectic, anything-goes swagger as the Beatles "White Album" or other similar wide-ranging sets.
Review: The Vanishing Twins first surfaced in 2016 with their Choose Your Own Adventure LP before taking some years away to magically re-appear like ghosts can do with The Age Of Immunology. The album brings together space pop with African spoken word and poetry, odd-ball percussion and strangely inspired UK synth pop made to fit a world of other exotic musical styles. There's no denying the unique sound that the band have conjured and it's something for those Broadcast, Pram and Stereolab fans out there in need of new, inspired material. At 10 tracks long it's a magical carpet ride for the ears and you'll never know what part of the world you'll end up.