With summer but a distant memory and autumn taking hold, Getintothis’ writers suggest some long-playing accompaniments to the shortening of the days.
As September chimes for the last time and October brings forth anticipations of shorter days and darker skies, toffee apple and bonfires, let’s gorge on a whole dozen of choice album recommendations from the Getintothis team.
We won’t spoil the surprise but we do hope we’ve covered a few bases touching on well-established stars, emerging talents and live favourites. Collectively they embody a diverse range of styles and approaches yet are unified by their collective excellence and commitment to their artistic vision, something that we can all applaud.
Daniel Woodhouse: What’s That Sound?
We almost lumped this album in with How To Dress Well, for as far as transformations go here’s another. Yet, it’d be harsh on both records to be treated fleetingly; especially this one.
Woodhouse, aka Deptford Goth, was reputable for downbeat, languid electronica not a galaxy away from the likes of James Blake. Yet he’s returned with something far grander and bold. Here he’s stripped away the cloak of cool and flings out a raft of melodic pop widescreen songs.
By abandoning the obtuse archness of some of his contemporaries he’s instead gone for the heart – and gut – with a 40 minute collection which hits hard and warrants instant repeat listens. Take These Landscapes – it’s a mid-temp luscious almost MoR electro-rock song which recalls The National at their deftness. Opener Crazy Water skirts along on a breezy wave of choral harmonies while the title track is a jazzy piano-led groovy beast crying out for Patrick Bateman to dance along to while hacking up an unsuspecting accountant.
Sure there’s still array of chest-burning torch-songs but this time the orchestration is vast and warm; Map of the Moon just one example of a neo-gospel love song which is epic and defies the listener to sing along upon first listen. Elsewhere, Graffiti recalls the electronic fuzz of 4AD’s Liima, championed on these pages for their skillful combination of soaring keyboards and stadium-sized balladry all the while never appearing saccharine or insincere.
The curveball arrives midway through with a Thom Yorke-infused acoustic strum entitled Skeleton which is beautiful in its bare simplicity. Yet perhaps herein lies the key: by adopting his own name, and in turn, completely opening up his songbook, Woodhouse has served up a treat of easy-on-the-ear winners. Peter Guy
Deap Vally: Femejism
With their new album Femejism, Deap Vally have released a record of full of sarcastic humour, real talk and genuinely interesting rock noises that will surely appeal to those who like raw, fierce music made with raw, fierce attitudes.They’ve written an album full of excellent tunes and we have fallen in love.
It’s easy to love because the music is tight and the music is loose. It is a lovely oxymoron worming its way into our confused lives and we really can’t get enough.
For a start the whole LP sounds like you’re at a Deap Vally show. They’re right in front of your face, twanging their bass and smashing their cymbals mere inches away from you. They’re in your eyes and in all of your senses when really they’re only in your ears.
Femejism starts off with ploddy track Royal Jelly. It is a slow, metronomic start to the album before it all properly kicks off. As though they’re giving you a bit of time to get your feet under the table, get comfortable before they rustle up your hair and push you over.
Gonnawanna is the lyrical embodiment of the album as a whole, with the swagger and clunk that the song-title suggests. A notable highlight is Critic. It’s dark, uncontrolled but beautifully melancholic. It’s a cool-as-you-like response to being pushed down and having your hair rustled.
As we reach the end of the album, Two Seat Bike and Grunge Bond make up a filthy, lovely finish and leave you feeling refuelled and energised and ready to restart at track one. An album ripe for arm-swinging and foot-tapping to. Excellent. Luke Chandley
Goat are the Rentaghost of rock music. A band of mystical lunatics falling into broom cupboards and making a right ol’ racket all at the same time. It’s fun and somewhat gratuitous on the senses as you never really know what’s going to happen next.
Problem is, when they burst out of Korpilombolo armed with the behemoth debut outing World Music few had heard much like it – now three albums in and there’s a slight wane on the mystery and intrigue – they’re still batshit crazy with a load of pan-pipes, bongos and freakout guitars – but we know that already, right?
That’s not to say Requiem isn’t a hoot – it hoots alright, just there’s less WTF per track. Still long time fans will find much to admire, not least on two seven-minute monsters; Goatband and Goatfuzz which could have dropped straight off that debut. Elsewhere, the latest elements added to the Goat cauldron are the African swing ofTrouble In The Streets (our favourite track, which recalls Fela Kuti) and the tabla mantra of Goodbye – while closing track Ubuntu is the nearest the band have come to ambient folk as the seven minutes unfold amid collaged vocals, loops, tapping piano and wind-swept dissonance.
If on the whole we sound in anyway dismissive that’d be unfair, for here is a band who’ve once again embraced a truly global expanse of noise and chaos; but by becoming accustomed to this riot we’d come to expect nothing less. PG
Grumbling Fur: Furfour
We have to confess to being at something of a loss to sum up this, the fourth album made collaboratively between Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan. Right from the opening refrain of Strange The Friends it carries an altogether other-worldly feel. It is remarkable in its beauty and fragility and its vulnerability as it soundtracks our almost careworn lifestyles, our dependence on technology and how we live our lives merely within an entirely illusory framework of freedom.
Undoubtedly a pop record, it is stacked full of pure melodies that resonate and bask in their perfection. Yet the instrumentation remains unnerving, uncertain and hesitant, behind the melodic perfection lies vacillating doubt and unease. Crystal clear and yearning vocals betray a latent melancholic spirit that works dramatically alongside juxtaposing disquietingly sampled vocal loops.
In constructing something fully formed yet as strikingly stark as FurFour you’re increasingly convinced that Grumbling Fur operate in a world of their own, making music that stretches any definition of popular music to the point of absurdity. FurFour works on so many levels that it feels like a piece of modern classical music, such are the perfect intricacies of its composition.
It is a record that reveals its inventive experimentalism with every turn, yet you never feel like calling on the standard touchstone references. A Syd Barrett psych-pop pastiche this is not. Indeed Grumbling Fur are worthy of far higher acclaim.
They have taken a popular art-form and, miraculously, have created something that feels very different without ever pursuing experimental blind alleys. In so doing have created possibly their best record yet; a pop masterclass that subverts so quietly you barely notice. Marvellous. Paul Higham
How To Dress Well: Care
Tom Krell‘s transformation into Michael Jackson pop is complete. While he showed distinct glimpses on 2014’s What Is This Heart, push forward two years and he’s utterly in the throws of raptures to MJ vocal ticks and chrome-plated slick-beat pop. You can almost hear the white socks being pulled on.
Care is a far cry from his introductory statement in 2010 with the gloomy, understated electro murk of the superlative Love Remains; instead his new album positively oozes Dangerous-era dance-floor shimmies – it’s illuminating and strident with big melancholic wonder.
Like Justin Timberlake, Krell is embracing MJ‘s directness while fusing his lyrics with self-doubt and tales of the night. The Ruins is like a gritty cousin of Dirty Diana, I Was Terrible a bubble-gum machine-gun which could light up multi-coloured disco floorboards, and the tremoring piano duel with sky-shattering Slash-via-Beat-It guitar solo arrives via the majestic killer Lost You / Lost Youth. They’ll Take Everything You Have, meanwhile, could be a 2016 update for Man In The Mirror.
Make no mistake though, this is far from pastiche, How To Dress Well albums are too strong for that and there’s enough tricks of musicality to keep long-time fans interested. Take Made A Lifetime with its treated funk synth line married to a cool vocal drip it’s as refreshing as cloudy lemonade on a summer’s afternoon.
Forget Corey Feldman‘s wild (and brilliantly honest US TV performance) Krell is indie-electronica’s chameleon absolutely stealing The King Of Pop‘s throne. PG
Mykki Blanco: Mykki
Having released a series of mixtapes and EPs, rapper Michael Quattlebaum Jr. aka Mykki Blanco has taken the plunge into the long player world and released her first album proper Mykki. Just a few years ago, it would seem near on impossible to think of an artist like Mykki Blanco being able to make such an impression or even being able to release an album. A black, transgender, gay and HIV positive artist would not tick many record execs boxes, yet thankfully the world has turned and here we are.
On Mykki, Blanco has written something deeply personal yet remained true to her roots. Emotive, versatile, angsty: it incorporates every fibre of Blanco’s being, both musically and personally. At times the lyrics on Mykki can be brutally raw, as Blanco gives us an insight into the troubled world which she has endured but that’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom.
On Loner, Blanco demonstrates her fun side by creating a monster of a pop song, while on For The Cunts she explores her riot grrrl wildness, with her punk-tinged bitchiness bringing out her devilish side. Throughout the album, the rapper uses her gender fluidity to exhibit progressive hip hop at its best. From subtle verses to full on rasping bravado, Blanco knows how to express herself with great effect. This is an artist who knows who they are and is proud of it. Craig MacDonald
Natalie McCool: The Great Unknown
Persistence and evolution are the keys to Natalie McCool and her new album. Despite its title The Great Unknown starts in familiar fashion with the first six songs, Pins, Cardiac Arrest, Dig It Out, Fortress, Oh Danger and Magnet having been released and performed in some guise prior to the full release.
Synths, beats, drums, keys, guitars and bass all play some part within this album’s production however McCool‘s voice remains pivotal and critical. Penetrating with every spoken word, delving deep into negative and often tragic relationships in the most honest, raw and totally up front way possible using “I know what it feels like to be dragged through the dirt” and “your love is like cardiac arrest” as two of a number of lyrics to illustrate her feelings.
Cardiac Arrest finds McCool at her brightest most pop friendly and is a real high point of the record. Another comes in the form of synth-ridden jive Magnet which sees McCool all loved up once more. This is as old school McCool as it gets on this record, at least in terms of its inner workings, if not the sound. Fuzzed up, sharp guitars bite as she weaves through telling lyrical passages.
However the real defining moment of both this record and McCool‘s songwriting career to date comes in the form of Just Let Me Go, the first of the previously unreleased bunch. Her vulnerability kills you as you stride through its minimalist pulses, keys and gentle reverb become powerful singular drum beats and synth throbs. It’s breathtakingly pure and you feel every single moment as McCool pleads “Let me bleed and leave me, just let me go.”
She further dabbles with new techniques on album closer When You Love Someone with trippy beats lining her reflective tenderness beautifully. Having heard Just Let Me Go and When You Love Someone you can’t help but long for an entire album of the progressive promise shown on the latter half of this record.
On reflection The Great Unknown is a successful outing for one of Liverpool’s diamonds in the rough and washes away any lingering doubts of McCool’s ability to churn out a killer full length. Its strong late showing proves McCool‘s latest creative endeavour is heading in a positive direction. Jake Marley
New Model Army: Winter
Attack Attack Records
Older but no less angry than in their formative years New Model Army have released Winter, which is impressively their 14th album. Recent photos show them to be craggy, long haired and aged, which, neatly enough, is also a good description of their music. They haven’t had a radical departure from their standard sound, have resisted the urge to make an album of remixed dance songs or experimental jazz, but have continued to plow familiar furrows.
This is not meant to imply that they have become boring or jaded, in truth they as committed to their music and sentiments as any young upstarts you could name. Nor have they let the quality control slip over the years. Winter has much to recommend.
Starting with the aptly named Beginning, a distorted bass starts us off, before Justin Sullivan‘s gruff voice kicks in. Those acquainted with their back catalogue will feel an instant nostalgia at this, a lot of us hit our gig going stride with NMA, and they were never shy of hitting the road to play the length and breadth of the country. Justin‘s phrasing will still sound familiar to seasoned ears.
The lyrics of the title track conjure images of a Game of Thrones type landscape with the repeated refrain “Bring me the snowfall, bring me the cold winds, bring me the winter“. Elsewhere are songs about refugees, social divides and friendships.
Those of you who have perhaps moved on from your New Model Army days can do a whole lot worse than to jump in again, with Winter or its equally recommended predecessor Between Dog and Wolf being ideal places to start. They have shown great commitment in continuing down their path and this shows in recent albums. Time and fashions may have moved on, but great music can resist this and be true to itself. Especially if it sounds as good as this. Banjo
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
Bad Seed Ltd
Much has been made of the circumstances surrounding Nick Cave’s 16th studio album, coming after the tragic death of his son Arthur. But Skeleton Tree is not a requiem, it is at once an articulate, restrained choke of grief, a determined response and a defiant stance. It is also proof, if any were needed, that its creator is a driven man. Inaction, it seems, was not an option.
Skeleton Tree takes the form of the most harrowing album of recent times. This is not an easy album to take in, it is not something that one could listen to casually. It engages the listener, stirs their emotions and places them in the epicentre of a world of confused pain.
It is easy to take the lyrics of Skeleton Tree as notes from a voluntary grief counselling session. In truth, most of the lyrics were written before what Cave refers to as ‘thetrauma’, but have an eerie prescience about them. Indeed, the first lines on the album are “You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field” and in Girl in Amber he tells us “I used to think that when you died, you kind of wandered the world, in a slumber ‘til you crumbled and were absorbed into the earth. Well, I don’t think that any more, the phone it rings no more”
Cave also improvised some stream of consciousness lyrics during the recording and it is hard not to become involved with his pain as he sings “Justbreathe, just breathe, I need you”. His vocals sound positively threadbare and suddenly aged, the lyrics half spoken, as if he has been up too late, neglecting to look after his own health in the eye of the storm. This gives the listener the feeling of eavesdropping into a person’s thoughts and gives the album a sense of real intimacy.
In many ways, Skeleton Tree is the perfect record for 2016, a decade that has been characterised by seemingly endless tragedy, by death and loss, both of friends and of heroes (the personal and impersonal). 2016 deserves a record like this as its soundtrack, an elegy for the year’s fallen.
As a replacement for the usual round of interviews and gigs normally used to promote an album, Cave released the self-financed One More Time With Feeling as the sole piece of promotional activity. As the film ends, Cave says “It’s alright. It’s not alright, but it’s alright’ as he tries to come to terms with tragedy and accept what has happened. In an echo of this, Skeleton Tree closes with him repeating the line “And it’s alright now”, showing a defiant spirit that may well be his salvation. In the film he goes on to say that “Susie and I have decided to be happy, as an act of defiance“ and again it’s hard to keep the tears in.
It is difficult to imagine Cave wanting to take these songs on the road, to repeatedly place himself in the emotional storm he was in when he recorded them. Although some might argue he has paraded his emotions before, this would seem to be several steps too far.
To find art in the midst of despair is a rare gift indeed, but it is one that Cave manages with dignity and poise. Skeleton Tree is a simply stunning album. Banjo
With the first album arriving as a fully formed concrete entity that didn’t seem bothered about inviting you inside, the second arrives trying to open its arms and drag something more human from itself. A leap for the mainstream? Possibly, perhaps.
Viet Cong as a name was in ashes, justifiably so. A mistake to name your band after a military movement they stated they knew little about. Would Preoccupations carry the same alluring coldness that extracted so much beauty across into their second full length player. Whereas the previous album wasn’t too enamoured about our love, this one cares and yearns for approval.
The line on Fever “You’re not scared, you’re not scared, carry your fever away” pulls on heartstrings with an acute melancholy that could pull in a bigger crowd and not just the initiated who were waiting for more from Matt Flegel and the band. His voice isn’t as cold, as if under ice, as on the first album but sits up front garnering more attention. This is a bold move that is made from the off with the dread that is honed from their striking single Anxiety.
The real interest peaks on the 11 minute addictive/prickly Memory, aided by Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade. It splits itself in a triptych fashion and akin to Death on their debut they do seem to wring out more when they allow themselves time and space to unravel. With titles like Memory, Monotony and Fever it’s easy to see this as a grab all, post-punk by numbers alignment, but there is more to be had from this band and maybe even this album.
It’ll take some doing for this to be rated alongside their first, but it’s sunk its hooks deep and we’ll keep going back for more. Mick Chrysalid
Shield Patterns: Mirror Breathing
Returning with their sophomore album Mirror Breathing, Manchester’s Shield Patterns have absorbed their industrial surroundings to create of fog of audio enchantment. Ambitious yet atmospheric in equal measure, Mirror Breathing has found the pair taking a leap forward in their songcraft.
Much like raindrops glistening on a spider’s web, there is shimmering light and all enclosing dark in equal measure throughout, with herculean strength in something so delicate. The tenderness of opener Dusk brings a vibrant ethereal whisper from Claire Brentnall’s stunning vocal, which twists around playfully on the electronic soundscape that Richard Knox effortlessly creates.
On their second album, Shield Patterns have evolved into something all consuming that burrows deep into the listener. An amalgamation of sounds that at times brings together folk, chamber pop and ambient cuts, while still harnessing their trip-hop routes, as heard on This Temporary Place. This could easily form the soundtrack to an Attenborough documentary, such is its emotive beauty. CM
Warpaint: Heads up
On the face of it Warpaint‘s new record Heads Up isn’t too dissimilar to either of its predecessors, although Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa‘s time away from the band has certainly influenced Heads Up‘s fresh forging path. Hazy, shadowy atmospherics and stealthy harmonies still mark the west-coast blueprint, however there’s a moody bleakness and all the vital ingredients of a thumping hip-hop or underground dance throb.
Lindberg and Mozgawa took time away from the band following 2014’s self-titled follow-up to The Fool. Lindberg pursued a 80s goth-rock solo jaunt whilst Mozgawa drummed for the likes of Kurt Vile, Cate Le Bon and Adam Green. Heady rhythms from both line this record with Lindberg‘s post-punk, goth and even underground trance-like basslines chewing up and spitting out atmosphere from all corners, locking rhythm with Mozgawa like never before, as one of the most versatile drummers around lays down lickety-split beats ranging from bass heavy, murky hip-hop on Don’t Wanna to hasty funk-born electronica on Heads Up and Above Control. Although their outright beat-thread domination on jangler Don’t Let Go is easily the pinnacle of their powers to date. When placed alongside Kokal and Wayman‘s hazy harmonies and spurting jangle pockets, Heads Up is Warpaint‘s most progressive, adventurous groove yet.
If there’s one thing they’ve mastered on this record it’s how to place their infectious, potent groove centre stage. Intertwining reverb-heavy harmonies and driving rhythms whilst also weaving in, out and around the mix, shoegazey and often warped guitars, is an art that’s been mastered to the full here.
The middle passage of this record, post-singles, is the real star. Low-key throbber The Stall, never above a whisper vocally allows Lindberg and Mozgawa to tell the story through beats while sharp distortion occasionally powers through, eventually into a quite striking guitar-funk passage, into So Good. Awash with synth and tilted ultra-reverbed vocals, into the murky world of filthy-throb Don’t Wanna, as the band repeat the lyric “don’t wanna define myself” – if nothing more, that’s Heads Up in a nut-shell.
Warpaint: constantly evolving, making styles co-exist that in many worlds wouldn’t even be in the same room together. Pushing and pulling boundaries, making the boundaries move for them if anything. Heads Up oozes Warpaint‘s eagerness to never be defined to one tone, genre or direction and shows that slowly, three albums in, they’re etching themselves into the bark of more and more genre trees… many of which haven’t even been planted yet. JM