In the latest edition of our Album Club, Getintothis’ writers offer a round up of their favourite new long playing releases from the last month.
As the year races by before our eyes, the end of yet another month can mean only one thing: the latest edition of the Getintothis Album Club.
This month we offer something a bit different. With more of our pool of willing writers having clamoured for their choices to be admitted to the club, edition number five presents our most diverse and varied collection yet. With selections encompassing everything from the ethereally ambient to confrontationally hardcore hip-hop (with much else in between) we’re sure that there is something for everyone.
Of course we can’t include everything that has hit the shelves, that would be a task too far for writer and reader alike. If we’ve overlooked your favourite, please let us know either on Twitter, Facebook or in the comment box below.
Julianna Barwick: Will
If Julianna Barwick‘s previous release, the stately Nepenthe, caused people’s heads to turn then Will must surely force people to sit up and take notice. For her majestic new album introduces her as not only a unique talent, but also one willing to push and progress rather than stand still and rest on prior achievements.
For sure, Will builds on the successes of Nepenthe and The Magic Place but, in so doing makes subtle sonic advances. At its core it remains constructed around Barwick‘s voice, all freeform and expansive in its range emphasising its sound and texture rather than a vehicle to convey a lyrical message. If it is usually little more than cliche to suggest that her voice is used as an instrument in its own right, in Barwick‘s case it is undeniable.
The looping and seductive vocal melodies remain present, weaving and soaring in an enchantingly never-ending echo, yet this work offers more than its predecessors. It is based on a broader range of instrumentation than before introducing synth and piano that serve to elevate the overall sonic effect. In addition, the inclusion of more conventional singing adds additional meaning and purpose without undermining the feel of her work.
The overall impression retains the characteristic hazy and delicate ambience lending the whole recording a dreamlike quality. It has that rare almost indefinable quality of being carefully arranged while also meandering in a near aimless fashion. A record that insists on wrapping itself around you and enveloping you, it exists in space it floats and surrounds you filling available gaps with its mellifluous and amorphous echoes.
Undeniably beautiful and utterly enchanting it is as captivating a record that you will hear all year. A work of precise imprecision and a masterful piece of art. Paul Higham
James Blake: The Colour In Anything
James Blake released his third album, The Colour In Anything, with little fanfare on May 6. Word spread of its impending release just a couple of days prior, as well as admiration for the stunning artwork created by illustrator Quentin Blake. The two Blakes, we should add, are not related.
The album was written and produced over a two year period and the track list is pretty much in chronological order. The themes centre around the breakdown of a relationship, its aftermath and the beginnings of a new one. It has already been heralded by critics as Blake’s coming of age album. Although the ‘sad boy’ or ‘blubstep’ is still very much evident, The Colour In Anything, shows Blake’s sound maturing as he grows into his craft.
Blake’s career has reached stratospheric heights since the release of his Mercury Prize winning album Overgrown in 2013. He has garnered much attention from industry superstars such as Kanye West, whom he was supposed to collaborate with on Colour, but circumstances meant that plans didn’t materialise. He was also invited to work co-write a couple of tracks on Beyoncé’s landmark Lemonade, released two weeks prior to The Colour In Anything. The world is his oyster, or so it seems.
Regardless of industry praise and commercial success, Blake’s sound is still very much his own. This is made clear from the outset. On the first track Radio Silence, Blake’s haunting vocals are ushered in by his ever present piano and accompanied by lagging beats. Synths drive the song to distraction, which then descends into a Blakean club banger. Points, also, repeats this dark bub type pattern, extorting some of the filthiest bass lines that we have heard in a long time. There are other tracks on the album that are arresting in their complexities and not for the faint hearted.
It is reassuring to hear that, although Blake is now the musicians’ musician, he has not detached himself from his roots. His style has always focused on dub step or 2 step electronica, gospel and hip hop. Apart from his more stripped back songs, his style has yet to be fully embraced by the mainstream and it is nice to see that he is not up for sanitising his music, as is often the case when artists experience his level of success.
This is music you pore over. Song so meticulously layered that the casual listen does not do it justice. It is consumed best at an exceptional volume or through headphones. Every track feels like a mini album within itself and at 17 tracks long (running over an hour), it takes a while to digest. The progession of theme is subtle, starting out with the heavy breakdown of his relationship and towards the end picking up a more sunny tone in songs like Two Men Down and Always, where he finally concedes “it’s a sweet world”.
We could go on and on and on about this album. It may seem sickly to those non fans, but every now and then an artist arises that has a deep and lasting influence on the industry. Blake’s position as one such artist, whether you like it or not, cannot be denied. Janaya Pickett
Oliver Coates: Upstepping
It is fair to say that Oliver Coates is not your run-of-the-mill classical musician. Neither is Upstepping your standard album of cello recitals. Indeed such is the breadth of the ideas at play and the willingness to chop, change and convert the everyday into something new, you’d be forgiven for not, on first listen, hearing a cello at all.
In its essence Upstepping is an album of minimal electronica that offers only the merest hint of its creator’s background in classical music. It is a strikingly experimental album that steals and borrows from the likes of Four Tet while creating something so unusual in both construct and sound that it feels unique and quite unlike anything we’ve heard before.
As if concocted in a melting pot of mind altering alchemy, his cello is twisted, mangled and rearranged in wilful dissections of pitch and timbre. This is against a backdrop of glitchy electronica that at is at times jittery and edgy and elsewhere carries the abandon of house music. If Bambi 2046 presents the sound at its most full-on, a riotous cavalcade of jerk and confusion before descending into heavy doom, Memorial to Hitchens is altogether more regal revealing more of the composers background in the classical world. Elsewhere vocal arrangements are utilised to discombobulating effect.
Despite an at times an unclear direction and a lack of sonic cohesion, the album is a guarded success. Amid the sparseness and the unfamiliarly perplexing array of sounds there are frissons of energy, a vibrancy of momentum and an air of unpredictability that do not fail to command your attention. PH
Death Grips: Bottomless Pit
Death Grips…Eh. We know their routine by now. The endless outrageous moves, fake breakups, leaking their own album to get out of a contract with Epic Records (they managed to get on a major!), the countless no shows and cancelled tours. This is their first album after their “breakup”, so we know now we live in a world where whatever bullshit they pull, Death Grips are here to stay.
What does that mean? Well luckily Death Grips‘ most outrageous aspect has always been the music they make. Confrontational, genre defying, innovative, and visceral, they tap into the cro-magnon part of your brain the same way a brutal hardcore punk band does. Their sound is established, so what’s left for them now but to refine it. Bottomless Pit is the best combination of all of their sounds Death Grips have ever put to record, perhaps not their best album but their most comprehensive. They have mastered making abrasive music that’s as catchy as any chart pop. The sonic palette here contains synth sounds not heard since The Money Store, yet also includes the furious walls of guitar from Jenny Death.
There isn’t a bad track on the record. Giving Bad People Good Ideas‘ uber infectious female vocal refrain and intense blastbeats opens the record at a phenomenal level. Spikes is the catchiest they’ve been since The Fever. Ring a Bell slaps so hard it’ll leave a mark. Zach Hill and Flatlander are on phenomenal form production wise, and MC Ride effortlessly embodies all of the seediest parts of society, with a conviction in his delivery that’s astounding. When he says “I’ll fuck you in half” on the closing track, by God you believe him. This album might not win them any new fans, but the ones they have will leave extremely satisfied. Michael Edward
Imarhan’s self-titled debut album is one of the year’s best so far. A fierce, blistering sextet who draw on the traditional music of their native North African Tuareg culture – rich percussion and drones of swirling string instruments – with an injection of emphatic desert rock, when in full flow their self-titled debut album is an unstoppable storm of a listen.
There’s plenty of pining, downtempo beauty to Imarhan’s music, such as the longing opener Tarha Tadagh and the hypnotic, hazy spin of Assossamagh, frontman Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane, aka Sadam, boasting a sublime low vocal as at ease with a gentle intimacy as in a detached, evocative drift.
Fantastic as they are in their slower moments, it’s when the band bolt into a faster gear that the record is nothing short of euphoric. A rich vein of groove runs throughout the record, lending the more sombre tracks a vital edge, but when second track Tahabort takes an irresistible, choppy riff and runs with the polyrhythm to a headier pace the record hits searing new heights.
Title track Imarhan is even wilder, the now familiar phenomenal twists of guitar distorted to a blistering desert haze that kicks quickly to a relentless, inexorable powerhouse of a drive. At other times, too, the band will drift effortlessly in to a longer, middle-ground groove
Whatever their guise, Imarhan’s debut is like nothing released this year. Though Tuareg music has long been accessible on these shores thanks to groups like the brilliant Tinariwen, whom Sadam joined on tour when the conflict in northern Mali prevented some members’ travel, Imarhan have an eye for progression, seizing all manner of influence for a truly magnificent melting pot of a record. Patrick Clarke
Kate Jackson: British Road Movies
Since her much adored band The Long Blondes split way back in 2008, Kate Jackson has been neither here nor there on the music scene, taking an indefinite break to move to Rome and take up painting as a hobby. If you step back and look at the scale of that break and then place her debut solo record British Road Movies in your ears, you better make sure there’s a soft landing beneath you.
This is not only a return but a reinvention that has the music world frantically re-charting their album of the year contenders at speed. Yet most importantly of all, the idea that seemed for so long as if it’d never come. That half-finished solo album alongside the formidable artistic expertise and sheer guitar gold of Bernard Butler, is now a finished spectacle of beauty.
British Road Movies feels like it has no boundaries, no one to please by design. Nothing rushed, nothing forced. Countless styles are explored and many overlap and interchange, it’s as riff-heavy as it is synth-filled, eclectic by the sum of its parts. Emotive and statement worthy; summery and infectious. All brought to life by the instinctive talents of two musicians at the peak of both their individual and cohesive musical powers. Butler whose musical prowess and golden production fingers have benefited Liverpool’s own Natalie McCool, Catherine AD (now The Anchoress), Teleman, Frankie and The Heartstrings and many more in recent years, has saved some of his finest work for this album. That coupled with Jackson‘s seemingly timeless vocal chords makes British Road Movies the stirring delight it is.
Album opener The End Of Reason, a stark warning of our over reliance on social media, is driving electronica at its finest, while Homeward Bound possesses a Suede like riff pattern and swagger and Stranded is irradiated by Butler‘s glorious guitar work alongside the personal depth provided by the warm lyrical struts of Jackson.
Perhaps the standout however is evocative drifter, 16 Years, potentially a companion to the opening sequence of Pulp‘s F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. Ambient and hushed, Jackson‘s narrating of what might have been in a relationship almost acts as closure to Cocker‘s bedroom anxiety on the aforementioned Pulp track.
As an album, British Road Movies is a far superior record to what you may imagine would come from an eight year break from music. There’s diversity at every turn, something new to grab you at every listen, parts you appreciate more and more. One things for certain – the music world is a better place with Kate Jackson in it and long may that continue. Jake Marley
LUH: Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing
Ellery James Roberts‘ band WU LYF felt like the real deal. A colossal debut album, an equally impressive live set up (their Kazimier show highlighted such potential) and a cultivated mystique which drew as many sneers as supporters meant – whether you liked them or not – they warranted your attention. So it was surprising when they self-combusted in the centre of their own hype machine in November 2012.
Roberts returns alongside his girlfriend and co-vocalist Ebony Hoorn on LUH (Lost Under Heaven, duh!) and it’s remarkable how he’s honed some of WU LYF‘s central ideas – MASSIVE hooks, CATACLYSMIC percussive beats and BLOCKBUSTING choruses and aligned it with his characteristic roar – if you’ve yet to hear it consider a wolf gargling razors after downing a bottle of bourbon with a nasty throat infection (it’s not for everyone). The result is stadium size bombastic brilliance.
And it’s there from the off as the refrain, “If you’re not ready forget it,” sounds a warning klaxon as a cavalcade of breezeblock-sized synths build into malevolent belters. What the duo’s sledgehammer anthems lack in subtlety they double up in quite remarkably memorable melodies – near every one of the ten tracks could be a single and simultaneously soundtrack a heavy-weight champion’s walk to the ring.
Unites marries echo-laden guitar dynamics with the chant of “are you ready, ready, ready?“, the title track is a rampaging cinematic rocker while $ORO combines monstrously amped up vocoder and juggernaut beats a la Yeezus. Yep, seriously.
Even the softer moments are comedown anthems; Future Blues glides along undulating cosmic ambience before quietly detonating into glassy fractures, Here Our Moment Ends is an oceanic slice of mournful bliss and the stabbing cello on Loyalty combines with a breathy vocal into one of the most beautiful tracks of 2016 so far.
LUH may not be a complete reinvention for Roberts but it is a near revelation. Peter Guy
Marissa Nadler: Strangers
In confounding expectations Strangers, the latest album by Marissa Nadler, neatly sidesteps any lazy attempts to categorise or to pigeonhole. Indeed in lesser hands this collection of songs could easily be presented as a well-honed if formulaic slice of folky Americana. Yet there is so much more to Marissa Nadler than that. Much more.
While the record, like much of her work, sets its stall out in atmospheric fashion it trades as much in dream pop stylings as it does in the standard gothic folk commonly associated with the genre. Her voice, rich, layered and evocative, is laced with reverb that creates a sense of both space and mystery that is heightened by the lyrical ambiguities and the sense of intimacy and fragility that it conveys.
Musically the album is full of surprises. Dense soundscapes rich in droning feedback never overpower, yet in their near ubiquity they serve to build the suffocatingly uneasy atmosphere that pervades throughout. It is against this backdrop that gorgeous melodies are effortlessly weaved that not only offer subtle and welcome contrast but also provide a platform for Nadler‘s greatest weapon: her voice. At times blissful and hazy, always rich in warmth and emotion, it is a thing of beauty that sets her apart from her peers.
Yet as Strangers amply proves, Nadler is more than just an astonishing voice. This is a deeply fulfilling record that rewards repeated listening. A record that, with the passage of time, will only surely improve. PH
Proto Idiot: For Dummies
The Hipshakes’ Andrew Anderson is as prolific as they come, releasing three albums under the Proto Idiot side project moniker, via labels Trouble in Mind, Slovenly and OddBox. With For Dummies, the new release out this week, it’s Bad Paintings’ turn. Recorded for the price of a cuppa tea and a bun, For Dummies sees Anderson alongside Michael Floyd Seal (bass) and Callum Trent D’Arley (drums) dive headlong into punk, and Nuggets garage rock. It’s glorious. The album never lets up, and nor do we want it to.
Add it Up, “Tell me…what does it all add up to?“, carries a real sense of fatalism, but in the single Better Version of Me, Anderson reflects “I finally found out what I wanted to be…reaching out for a better version of me”. The song’s video has the trio diving into a dress up box and playing cowboy, spaceman and pirate, going on a treasure hunt for their true selves. That’s deep.
The mischievous album title misleads. Rather than trail down a road of stupid, as they claim, with For Dummies Proto Idiot launch us into a strange world of beautiful chaos. The trio dodge the 1960s Carnaby Street uniform of ruffled paisley shirts and brocade waistcoats, and are instead splendid in jodhpurs and capes, dedicated followers of a very different fashion. This album is 35 minutes of bloody good fun. We need some of that, and look forward to the band supporting LOVE at Leaf on June 25. Cath Bore
There was a point, a few years back, when grime burst out into the musical spectrum before being swiftly brought to a shuddering halt, thanks to the likes of Robbie Williams and co trying their hand at the latest scene to be given a break.
Thankfully that time has long since gone. Questionably, the main player in the second coming of grime is London MC and Drake’s new best mate, Skepta. This month the MC released his fourth album Konnichiwa and with it, possibly an album that will define a generation.
With Konnichiwa, Skepta not only manages to prove that the appeal of grime is now global, but also that the hype surrounding the release of the album is more than justified. Menacing, ferocious rhymes are spelled out with breath taking effect on tracks like That’s Not Me and Lyrics. He delivers well aimed, direct blows to his rivals throughout, but on Text Me Back, he proves that grime is more than just rude boys running through the streets.
Yes, he could now probably get Kanye, Drake and Pharrell together for a Nandos, but he still maintains a tone of Britain that flows throughout. On Konnichiwa, Skepta stays true to his roots and although he has now taken grime back to the mainstream, you feel that this time it’s for the right reasons. Craig MacDonald
Whitney: Light Upon The Lake
It’s a common contemplation in contemporary pop culture to moan about the relentlessness at which we quite literally consume real life. Are we living life or merely being eaten up by the machinations of our very existence? I dunno. It certainly seemed easier when adventures involving Panda Shandy and dicking about down the back field were genuine childhood escapism options.
Whitney, a Chicago outfit shaped around singing drummer Julian Ehrlich and former Smith Westerns guitarist Max Kakacek, seem to hark back to world where time didn’t just leisurely pass you by, but near stood still; a time when looking out the train window meant taking in the passing fields not thinking what administrative computer chores you had to attend to upon arriving home. Here is a band who seem transported from gentler times, they capture a changing of Spring to Summer, breezy and fresh with a mournful whiff of wistfulness. They’re cool and almost carefree.
What makes No Woman such a wonderful debut collection is not just its seeming simplicity and considered brevity but a sequence of magnificent musical motifs; the sweeping strings of Golden Days, the bottleneck bluesy stomp of Dave’s Song, Red Moon‘s 90 seconds of tootling trumpet and the title track’s burst of brass which decorates the album like early morning sunshine.
“I left drinking on the city train, to spend some time on the road,” sings Ehrlich on the album’s opener – this is an album to dream the days away, think of simpler times and escape. And it sounds simply divine. PG