With the new year upon us, Getintothis‘ writers present a round up of the best of new album releases of 2017 so far.
And so it begins again. With the dust barely settled on 2016 a fresh year of album releases to be overwhelmed by gets underway. For those hoping for a quiet start to the year for time to reflect on 2016 and catch up on some of those that might have fallen under the radar, 2017 has started at a blistering pace with a wealth of heavyweight releases reflected in the list below.
It promises to be a turbulent year of uncertainty both at home and abroad. The double-barrelled terror of Trump and Brexit have left question marks over our future, threatening our economic well-being as well as our hard-fought-for human rights. Music as ever will provide a counter-cultural refuge, enhancing relationships, broadening cultural understanding and reminding us of our innate humanity.
The album remains an important vehicle to do this. Insular, narrow-minded and nationalist governments rule by oppression, oppression of our cultural freedoms and rights of expression. It has happened before and can just as easily happen again. By engaging with music, purchasing and listening to one of the below albums selected by our contributors you are making a small but vital stance of protest.
You will be taking a stand for culture and for artistic integrity. Championing the real truth while undermining the alternative truth.
In an increasingly protectionist world of jingoistic rhetoric, divisive walls and trading barriers it is vital we look beyond our own borders and stand as one with the world. In enabling the culture of others to enrich our own, music permits this to happen.
Closer to home, go to gigs and become part of the community; be part of a collective rather than an individual. Only by acting together, side-by-side can we ensure that freedoms we have long taken for granted can be preserved.
This includes the freedom to be creative and safe spaces in which to experiment and make music. These are increasingly under threat by a new world order that not only devalues the capacity of alternative culture to improve our well-being but feels actively threatened by it.
The erosion of such freedom threatens the very album format we so cherish. It might seem churlish and unimportant in the wider context but it provides, if any were needed, additional incentive to be part of the movement of protest. Paul Higham
Aseethe: Hopes of Failure
Thrill Jockey Records / Hand of Death Records
“Reach further for hopes of failure, your body is breaking down, build further the bridge we need”.
I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what type of bridge the lads in Aseethe are hoping to construct.
It could be like the Runcorn Bridge because that’s one hell of a structure which, according to Wiki, is 482m long with the main arch spanning a whopping 330m. However, I’d say it’s unlikely Iowa’s premier doom outfit are that au fait with the cantilevering steelwork constructed to bridge the gap between Runcorn and Widnes.
They could of course be referring to the Chacahoula Swamp Bridge situated in the Terrebonne Parish of Louisiana – for it would certainly fit their modus operandi of brooding concrete trestles draped across gloopy passages of sludge.
But to be honest, and while I am no bridge expert (for I have never built one, and don’t even drive so barely ever go over one – unless it’s a foot bridge, which let’s face it, are becoming less of a thing – except if you’re on a school trip and going over those cattle grid things; are they even bridges – probably not) I’d hazard a guess that Brian Barr (guitar, vocals, synth), Eric Diercks (drums, samples), and Danny Barr are hoping for something along the lines of the colossal Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China.
For Aseethe don’t dick about. Like the Danyang’s 102.4 mile expanse, Aseethe specialise in long-drawn-out monstrousness and each track on Hopes of Failure careers into the ten minute zone limitlessly descending into further levels of extreme.
Or as they put it: “The meditative component of Aseethe’s sound remains driven by an inward focus, a stare down the caverns of depression.”
Happy January, everyone. Peter Guy
Avec Le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche: Pas Pire Pop, I Love You So Much
Who’s ready for a dose of “post-modern psychedelic trance pop the likes of which we can honestly say we’ve not heard before“? This is certainly a bold claim from the record label, but the question is whether it lives up to the grand assertion or if it is just more PR bull-shit designed to sell us some derivative dirge or, else, something that’s too clever by half and knows it.
In part Pas Pire Pop, I Love You So Much justifies its label’s hype. It sounds like a collective of musicians looking to make something that is experimental, that takes prior templates and remoulds them into something new and fresh. Crucially it retains a sense of vital fun, embodying a deft euphoria that makes the fervent experimentation feel light and airy; the product of spontaneously swirling and endlessly revolving jams rather than anything carefully considered.
In that way the label is correct. The album displays many of the hooks and tropes characteristic of pop music, albeit filtered through an experimental rock lens. And of course music this good doesn’t arrive fully formed. On the contrary it is thoughtfully considered and composed, arranged with immaculate care. The skill lies in making it feel natural and that is what Avec Le Soleil Sourtant de sa Bouche can feasibly claim to have achieved here.
In evoking the adventurous spirit of krautrock, without ever sounding like its German forebears, and fusing this with afro-beat rhythms, intoxicating grooves, electronic textures and hypnotic repetitive melodies many would feel the “post-modern” description to be justified.
But then music is more than mere labels, which are the preserve of cataloguers, archivists and record shops. Music is meant to be enjoyed and there is a huge amount to enjoy here in its three largely instrumental – save for almost wordless Hookworms-esque primal howls – suites that journey with joyous effortlessness through a range of styles without ever sacrificing its own strong sense of identity. Magic. Paul Higham
William Basinski: A Shadow in Time
Beatless, shapeless and formless, Basinski‘s music is often difficult to describe let alone interpret. It meanders, changing subtly and often imperceptibly, ebbing and flowing less like a great ocean and more like an inland lake, lapping gently at your feet rather than crashing against the rocks with monumental force.
Circumstance and environment play a role in our perceptions of his work. His acclaimed 2002 release, The Disintegration Loops, has a strong association with the terrorist atrocities in New York City committed the previous September. Smoke rising in the aftermath of the collapse of the towers of the World Trade Centre form the backdrop of the album cover art, while the recording of the gradually decaying and decomposing tape is said to have taken place in the very moments that the attack took place. Any attempt to detach the work from its environment in which it was recorded thus proves difficult.
A Shadow in Time comprises two standalone compositions. With For David Robert Jones the meaning and intent seems obvious – this is a tribute and eulogy to David Bowie. Clearly this knowledge informs our perceptions causing us to pre-judge the material. It affects the way we listen to it, our senses heightened to any doffed cap in the direction of Bowie. As such when the echoing, distorted and slightly reticent saxophone makes its entry about six minutes in, our mind is inexorably drawn to Bowie‘s Low.
This is saxophone in mournful mode, fitting the elegiacally sombre and almost funereal tone of the piece. A study in melancholic atmosphere weighed down with a slow, languorous, meditative ambience that slowly builds in intensity. Like grief, layers of extra weight are added while tones similar to a church organ complete the picture of quiet reflection. The sadness remains, it does not ease. Yet as you listen it becomes part of you during its seventeen minute duration, the end fittingly coming without any real sense of resolution. One suspects the piece could go on forever and in one sense it does, as we come to terms with loss we learn to live alongside it.
The titular composition by contrast is a work of remarkable beauty. Recorded on an old Voyetra-8 Synthesiser it seems to evoke the transient qualities of early morning light, shimmering and reflecting in a dew-kissed haze. Subtlety of change remains Basinski‘s calling card. The power of the light slowly strengthens amid a continuously undulating drone. There is a hypnotic trance-like quality to the piece that is afforded the space and time to grow naturally; nothing feels rushed or forced.
As the piece progresses sonorous vibrations quiver with an almost catatonic energy, a creepy and eerie edginess supplanting the warm innocence of dawn. That’s the magic of Basinski. You know how it starts and how it ends, but you can’t quite recall the journey and can only bask contentedly in its bliss. A stunning piece of work that ranks right up there with anything he has ever done. PH
Cherry Glazerr: Apocalipstick
What better way to begin the new year than with, for me at least, a surprise new musical discovery. Cherry Glazerr is the work of nineteen year old Clementine Creevy who has previously released material through Burger Records. Apocalipstick is the follow-up to Haxel Princess and marks her first release on the Secretly Canadian imprint.
Where to start? Apocalipstick makes like an excitable whirlwind careering full-throttle through a range of issues that touch inevitably on the coming of age transition to the responsibilities of adulthood, while also covering feminism, equality and the exuberant pleasures of youth.
Indeed it is the latter that shines most brightly here. Full to the brim of sprightly vitality and swagger; disguised confidence masquerading as bravado that conceals the uncertainties and anxieties of adolescence. Album opener Told You I’d Be With The Boys‘ insistently catchy riff dovetails with an urgent synth-pop bounce and frantically yelped vocals. Nonetheless at its heart lies a vulnerability and identity crises. To be a lone-wolf, conform and go with the boys or stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her sisters. By the end it is clear that the feminist has won out in this towering slab of powerful and purposeful indie-rock.
Trash People, with its spikily lean angularity and insanely catchy riff, takes a tongue in cheek aim at unrealistic expectation placed on women. “We wear our underpants three days in a row / my room smells like an ash-tray” is a two-fingered riposte to societal norms. Sip O’ Poison revels in a thinly concealed fury behind its agitated delivery, battered drums and punched keys; its tightly coiled, garage-punk gnarl, shows that underneath the pop veneer lies a seething rage.
Apocalipstick offers little not already done before. There is an indebtedness to the DIY punk spirit and, later, to both the riot grrrl and alt-rock movements of 1990s America. Yet when it is carried off with such vibrant élan as it is here it barely matters. With just enough emotional integrity and subtle changes of pace to underpin the effortless pop energy that abounds throughout, Cherry Glazerr remind of the enfranchising power of music. PH
The Flaming Lips: Oczy Mlody
For all the joy and ecstatic ridiculousness of The Flaming Lips‘ live show, Wayne Coyne has sounded like he’s on a real downer for some time now.
While 2012’s guest-laden ..Heady Fwends was a haphazard oddball banquet, 2013’s follow up The Terror was an oppressive descent into experimental darkness and anyone expecting a Do You Realize dose of pop-art euphoria could be left downbeat themselves by their latest offering Oczy Mlody.
But that’s not to say the album itself is a bummer. It’s not, instead, the Oklahoma freaks find themselves channeling the reflective melancholy from their career-peak à la Waitin’ For A Superman. However, where those late 90s tracks clanged with percussive eruptions and splurges of gigantic rhythmic swells, their latest offering merely glides.
Bereft of drums and with Coyne at his whispery distant extreme Oczy Mlody is the band’s most ambient offering to date with even the boldest statements on the album – How and centre-piece The Castle – merely drifting in and out of focus as opposed to smashing you square in the temple like the skull-shattering delirium of Race For The Price.
Elsewhere, the band are in diazepam-overdrve; There Should Be Unicorns shuffles by with a suppressed mid-tempo swagger and Reggie Watts‘ monologue, recent Coyne muse Miley Cyrus pops up for a shimmering pop glitterball love-in on We A Famly while Sunrise (Eyes of the Young) has a childlike faery tale balladry.
Is this peak Flaming Lips? Unequivocally no.
Is it worthy of your time? Obzvxly. PG
Kid Koala & Emiliana Torrini: Music to Draw To: Satellite
Arts & Crafts
The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini: The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini
Now as any good writing course will tell you, clichés are to be avoided (you will notice I avoided saying “like the plague” at the end of that sentence). You know it and I know it, but nevertheless I am going to hurl two such c-bombs at you right now – don’t say you weren’t warned.
Cliché No 1 – they’re like busses. As we know, the meaning of this is that you wait ages for something and then two, three or more suddenly come into view. Well for fans of Icelandic ingénue Emiliana Torrini this is good news, as we have two new albums to bring light into our lives.
Cliché No 2 – opposites attract. This would certainly appear to be the case with both of these collaborations. The Colorist are an eight-piece orchestra, while Kid Koala is best known as a turntablist and artist of some repute. Emiliana meanwhile is a singer songwriter perhaps best known for singing on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and writing for Kylie.
Perhaps the first thing to note about these albums is the order in which the names appear. Emiliana seems to be playing second fiddle to her collaborators. With Kid Koala this seems fair enough, as a fair few of the tracks are instrumentals and where Torrini sings, she does appear to be the understudy. Atmosphere is all on Music to Draw To: Satellite, the songs float past, inhabiting a strange world midway between the Eraserhead soundtrack and Massive Attack.
The low billing appears less appropriate on The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini , as the songs are all hers, drawn from her back catalogue recorded and reworked live (with the added appeal of two new tracks), but are reworked by The Colorist. It is Torrini’s show however, as she effortlessly adapts her oeuvre to their new structures.
If you’re unsure of which collaboration to spend your hard earned cash on first, the answer would be The Colorist if you want something familiar and Kid Koala if you want to drift out a little further. But buying both would be a rewarding move. Banjo
Menace Beach: Lemon Memory
You know those sayings: that a band only ever has one good album; or that a debut is often an artist’s best, well Lemon Memory is one of those albums that refute those commonly-held conceptions. Sophomore albums are as good as debuts, and in this case even better.
Menace Beach first sprung out of Leeds in 2015 with their debut Ratworld, which epitomises a ‘debut‘; it has this fun, playfulness, almost carelessness about it, which portrays their youthfulness and the tiny toe dip into the music industry.
Whereas Lemon Memory is a cannon ball of an album; it tests and pushes boundaries both of their group, and of conformities of a style. This album is much more Liza Violet’s album in her role as lead vocalist, in comparison to the previous album where other head member, Ryan Needham, was the dominant. It combines kaleidoscopic psych with their usual heavier alternative rock motifs, while a simple melodic structure underpins it all.
Lead single, Maybe We’ll Drown, portrays Violet’s falsetto vocals with a synthetic, haunting background created from a duo of guitars and an organ. Keeping along the psych lines is Can’t Get a Haircut, but Violet‘s shrills are exchanged for a slowed down Needham-focused track rumbled with deep and forceful riffs.
Opener Give Me Blood, is cleverly placed at the start it grabs you with its catchy 4/4 beat and a lyrical shock. “Why do you always sing about death?” sets the sombre tone but is deceptively hidden behind an upbeat rhythm.
Further continuing this fast-paced tone is indie-rock number Suck it Out, which has feelings of Kasabian crossed with Pixies; a crowd pleasure for sure.
Upon first listen Lemon Memory may seem disorganised; sporadic maybe? But perhaps use that as a positive – there is nothing that deserves more respect than being adventurous; stepping outside your comfort zone and doing it well. Recognition is something they will gain from this big step forward. Lorna Dougherty
Moon Duo: Occult Architecture Vol. 1
Sacred Bones Records
The recent death of Can drumming legend Jaki Liebezeit was a sad reminder of krautrock’s endless quest for mind expanding musical experimentalism. Crucial to this was invention of motorik, the genre’s famed propulsive rhythmic style as perfected by Liebezeit and fellow perfectionist Thomas Dinger of Neu!
It’s this classic trope of krautrock that has served as Moon Duo‘s comfort blanket for four albums now as Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada‘s Wooden Shjips offshoot have stuck to a compelling if slightly restricted pattern of groove-based repetition.
To liven things up a bit, Occult Architecture comes as the first volume of two albums this year in which Johnson investigates the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang with this first collection dealing with the dark side.
Strangely this journey into the black has brought out a pleasing poppy side to Johnson‘s song writing with White Rose and Will Of The Devil sounding like the kind of song The Terminator guns down club goers to in Tech Noir and Creepin’ even managing to recall The Strokes if they were from Dusseldorf. Frank Courgette
Uniform: Wake in Fright
Has there ever been a release more immaculately timed and appropriately titled than the second album by New York’s industrial-metal-hardcore duo, Uniform. Released on January 20 and coinciding with the inauguration of Donald Trump, it is fair to say that we all awoke with a sense impending dread at the prospect of the elevation of the straw-haired misogynist to a position far beyond his limited talents and dubious moral character.
It is appropriate, then, that Wake in Fright conveys a sense of terror, barely contained rage and, ultimately, a fateful synopsis of the futility of life. Musically the record brings together stylistic trappings of hardcore punk, doom metal and industrial noise into an all-powerful cataclysm of exhilaratingly exhausting and punishing noise.
Yet amid the ferociously pummelling maelstrom there is heaps of variety that keep the listener engaged and interested. Tabloid is a statement of intent if ever there was beginning with an almighty roar before assaulting with thunderously meaty slabs. Dark heavy guitar riffs sit uneasily alongside pounding industrial rhythms, insistent electronica and visceral howls that, in their relentless repetition, result in a noise that is as darkly suffocating as it is thrilling.
Habit slows the pace yet raises the tension. Doom metal sludge and low-range riffs carry the power of an oppressive lead weight. The Lost transports you to a bleak industrial dance-floor, bringing a post-punk forthrightness to its bristling electronica.
Light at the End (Cause) and Light at the End (Effect) stand out as the record’s undoubted high-points (although The Killing of America is worth an award, if only for the appositeness of its title). The former is possessed of dark energy and a savagely rhythmic pace before its culmination in a whirr of white noise, spoken word samples and what feels like a dystopian electronic meltdown. The latter begins with a lengthy spoken word monologue hinting at the omnipotence of fate and the unstoppable march of age until “you start to stink and fart and all your friends will be dead“.
This bleak fatalism leads into an adventurous almost avant-garde ending that sounds quite unlike what has gone before. It feels a perfect way to end an album that is striking in the depth and power of its rage but also the breadth of its ambition. PH
Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3
Run the Jewels, Inc
Some albums just feel important the first time you listen. The feeling that it’s a record that will completely consume you for most of the year. Other boss records will be released, but this will be a constant in your life for the foreseeable future. It demands to be listened to.
Run the Jewels 3, the third studio LP by the hip hop duo made up of El-P and Killer Mike, is one of these records. It’s an absolute juggernaut of an album, and although it might only be January, we know already it’ll be a standout of 2017.
Easing you in with the more laid back vibes of opener Down (feat Joi), things are taken up a notch with the absolute wallop in your grid lead single Talk To Me. It’s colossal, and an example of Run the Jewels at their swaggering, urgent best.
It’s a record strengthened by some great collaborations, with Danny Brown, BOOTS, Tunde Adebimpe and most notably Kamasi Washington on the grooving slow burner Thursday in the Danger Room, yet it’s the interplay between El-P and Killer Mike that make this one of the great rap records of recent years.
They weave between each other without ever breaking the flow with constant furious energy. They’re real veterans of hip hop and it shows. Proof, if it was ever needed, that it doesn’t have to be a young man’s game.
RTJ3 is Run the Jewels’ defiant message of resistance in turbulent times. Their manifesto. Their finest moment yet, and in this current golden age of hip hop it has well and truly set the benchmark for the genre in 2017. Adam Lowerson
The xx: I See You
A third xx album was always going to be a worry. A band entrenched in a unique sound that has been their calling card, ephemeral vocals, hollow guitars, sleepy beats and heart-wrenching lyrics, a formula that has served them so well on their first two outings but could it stretch to a third? Thankfully, I See You changes the rules slightly to inject new life into their story but retains all the elements that you come to expect.
Album opener Dangerous comes forth with horns blaring, heralding a new start before giving way to more lively dubby beats than we are used to. This is a full-blown pop song with a genuinely catchy chorus, almost unchartered territory for The xx.
Not every track breaks the mould though, Say Something Loving and A Violent Noise slip back into the comfy slippers mode, but production feels so much more crisp this time, perhaps hinted at in their shiny silver packaging. Everything about the album feels pure and clean, but not clinical. Romy’s harmonies on Lips are heavenly and remind us why we keep coming back for more.
Album centrepiece On Hold could well be the signpost to the next album, the most significant game changer here, sounding much more like Jamie xx’s solo efforts, this would sit ably on his 2015 In Colour album. What works here is the ability to straddle the dreamy stuff and the upbeat stuff without jarring at any step.
It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Co-Exist, but you can hear the maturity that has developed in that time in tracks like I Dare You that works on a number of levels and the measured, cinematic closer Test Me. It’s a more commercial album, lacking the unique 100% chill out factor of their Mercury winning debut, but the eclectic nature of the tracks here should ensure a wider audience. Del Pike
You Me At Six: Night People
The new album from British band You Me At Six feels like it’s been coming. Not the album in the act’s timeline – we’ve known for a while that the band had been recording – but the album in the stylistic lifespan of the band. Their music has been growing. And now it’s become an adult.
Night People, the fifth album by the Surrey five-piece is an attempt at a mature rock record with the classic You Me At Six swagger, and the title track from the album kicks off proceedings with a bang. The thumping drums and the in-your-face guitar smacks of every You Me At Six single since their very first album, and for fans of the band, that’s a good thing.
What’s different here is that they’re clearly a band that has the ambition and talent to be much more than the UK’s emo/pop pin-up go-to band, much more than a throwaway boy band with guitars. Second track, Plus One, is a moody, punchy rock track that screams of evolution.
There’s still a lot for the classic YMAS fan to enjoy. The slower tracks could be hand-picked from any of their previous albums, but this isn’t a criticism. They do a slow jam better than most and it’s nice to break up the weight of other tracks with a few light, reflective songs.
Break out songs come in the form of Swear and Spell It Out. The former is set to be a staple in the YMAS live catalogue. It’s full of plucky bass and Josh Franceschi’s vocal performance growls, never quite making it to screaming, but instead perfectly aggressive for their new sound.
Spell It Out starts off slow, a trojan horse for what is to come a few minutes later. The vocals and guitar begin almost sleepily, chugging and swaying through the speakers. Once the song gets going, though, it soars into a rock crescendo, fitting of an album that brings You Me At Six from pop-punk start-ups to fully fledged, mature rock act. Luke Chandley