Getintothis‘ writers present their round-up of the best album releases of the past month.
Spring is in the air. The clocks have moved forwards. Evenings feel longer suddenly creating an illusory sense of additional time and space
Flowers have emerged miraculously from their mid-winter slumber, beginning to flood gardens and public spaces with their colourful exuberance.
The noise of wildlife fills the air. The sound of excitement. Of opportunity. Of new life. Of hope.
Yet there feels little to be hopeful about. This week, with the decision to exercise Article 50, we took a leap into the dark, the first step on a new course that will define our future and that of our children.
Uncertainty and fear hold seemingly equal sway as the extent of the challenges become increasingly apparent and our government’s plans unravel before even becoming fully formed. Threats and intransigence seem to exist on both sides.
The unwillingness of the EU to enter parallel trade talks while the terms of our exit are being negotiated has been met with the apparent threat to remove British support for pan-European counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing initiatives. With recent events reminding us of our continued vulnerability such rhetoric, however it was intended, leaves a sour taste.
And while our politicians play a game of brinkmanship and trot out the usual empty platitudes we are left to deal with the very real consequences: the threats to our economic security (such that it is), our livelihoods and our living standards. Investment decisions are being deferred and the impact of the weakened pound is already being felt in our pocket as inflation begins to rear its head once more.
The one blessing of all this is that it has diverted our attention away from the US and the uncomfortable reality of the Trump presidency. Yet actions Stateside look set to have a profound impact on the world in which we all live.
With an executive order Trump has rolled back Obama’s heralded Clean Power Plan putting into practice the anti-global warming rhetoric he preached on the campaign trail. With scant regard to the environmental consequences, America can burn coal to its heart’s content.
If we’re headed back to the 1950s America, it appears, is joining us. Let’s leg-it before the Daily Mail can concoct another patronisingly misogynist headline.
All told there’s been better weeks, weeks in which we’ve felt more inclined to share the optimism inherent in the rhythms of the natural world.
As ever if there’s a solace it lies in music. In its capacity to unify, to make sense of the world’s confusion and also to offer a much-needed sense of escapism.
Let’s all forget temporarily about our woes and feast your ears on a selection of the best recent album releases, as chosen by Getintothis‘ team of writers. As ever it’s a varied selection featuring new pioneering whipper-snappers; heroes of yore returning to the fray; vital articulations of rage anger and discontent; and elements of avant-garde experimentalism.
Circa Waves: Different Creatures
Circa Waves have very much undergone an evolution as a band over the last year or so. Anyone who heard their exuberant, shout it from the rooftops, fuzzing indie-rock debut album Young Chasers might be surprised at bumping into their Different Creatures reincarnation.
In many ways it’s not that different. It’s still shouty, frenetic indie-rock full of the poppiest choruses around, yet there’s a few noticeable shifts that see album two leave a very real mark. Different Creatures is an apt title as Circa Waves are a different beast on this record, whether that was the intention behind the name or not.
In parts it’s grittier, certainly darker at points too. This is a band getting in touch with real life. Their debut was fun, a nod to summer, a nod to parties and good times. Different Creatures is more real, Circa Waves have grown lyrically since Young Chasers, this is miles ahead.
In the time between album one and the record that sits before us today frontman Kieran Shudall spoke of wanting to make a record that meant something, he’s certainly ticked that box here, there’s even a sense that the music means more, changing tones throughout to represent the stories and views he’s expressing vocally.
That very shift is apparent from the get go. Different Creatures isn’t a gradual process, far from it in fact. Opener Wake Up is pretty big, a rumble of thunder, a real jab to anyone labelling them as flimsy indie boys. Following up, Fire That Burns, Goodbye and later A Night On The Broken Tiles continue the trend of grittier and darker tones, putting them very much in alt-rock territory.
It’s still anthemic, the crowds still shout it back and mosh in sweaty appreciation live, it just hits harder, you’re listening to every word Shudall utters rather than just dancing and singing along to poppy riffs and summer joy.
Stuck is as close as you’ll get if you’re looking for a Young Chasers photocopy, a jaunty, indie-pop bounce about being stuck in a time-wasting spiral of social media and shit daytime television with a chorus that’ll prick the ears up of any early Circa Waves fan.
Perhaps the most telling element of this chapter is the record’s title track, where the band’s political side reveals itself, questioning the government capping the amount of Syrian refugees this country will take in. It’s a real thought-provoker, a caring moment.
Different Creatures is a socially aware wall of massive distorted riffs and equally huge choruses. Circa Waves are stepping up, future festival headliners anyone? Jake Marley
Sarah Davachi: All My Circles Run
Students of Decay
Sometimes you discover a new artist and new music purely by chance. Sometimes you have to take a bit of a punt. Sometimes-most of the time-it doesn’t work out. It’s a bit like panning for gold. A lot of work and digging around with high hopes at the start yet all you end up with is a handful of gravel. Not even a glimmer.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you get lucky and there is a glistening nugget shining through all the worthless debris.
It can be through sheer chance that you strike it lucky. Maybe it’s a gut instinct, a bit of a hunch; but usually by luck rather than judgement.
This how it worked out with this outstanding album. Just a guess. Nothing more or less. No-one saying ‘give this a go, you’ll love it’ or some stray half-remembered thought of hearing of the artist somewhere along the line. It was a guess.
And I struck gold. And how.
All My Circles Run is the fifth album from Canadian artist Sarah Davachi. She’s a composer working with electronic and acoustic electronic music; primarily with old and obsolete synthesisers and forgotten musical instruments from a bygone age.
Her previous works have melded together old synths and woodwind, string, organs and pianos to bring echoes of the past, ghosts and dusty memories into sharp focus, making new music out of familiar patterns, layered and manipulated sounds swirling and turning into something bewitching.
This new album strips things back but is no less inventive. Five tracks; For Strings, For Voice. For Organ, Chanter and For Piano. It’s kind of self-explanatory and just reading the title sounds a little…dry.
However, this is music that’s far from dry or ethereal or chin-scratching or whatever cliché you wish to throw at it.
It’s possibly the most interesting and exciting music you may hear in 2017.
Davachi has concentrated on strings, voice, organ and piano for the self-titled tracks and a prepared piano for chanter. She’s only used one instrument on each of the tracks, yet there’s nothing one-dimensional about any of them.
It’s too simplistic to call it drone music yet there is a sort of hypnotic drone-like quality to it all. The word drone gets slapped around far too often and has been applied at random and as a lazy label to all manner of music, but this is the sort of drone music you’d want to hear. This is how drone music should sound.
Similarly, you could call it new classical music; akin to Nils Frahm, Max Richter or Olafur Arnalds. Again, that would be a tad too easy. You might want to bracket it in with the likes of Terry Riley or Steve Reich. You could, but you’d be wrong. Yes, there’s touches of all of them in this music but I think that’s more than chance than anything else.
This album deserves more than simple categorisation and pigeon-holing for the sake of it. It’s just a stunning record and one that I’ll be listening to over and over again. It is the gold at the end of the rainbow. Rick Leach
Depeche Mode: Spirit
Lifelong Depeche Mode fans are more than aware of the band’s undying mission to continue to create landmark albums beyond the golden period of the mid-80s to 1990’s Violator, a successful mission but Violator is still seen as an immovable benchmark. Each successive album has offered something of worth, with 2013’s Delta Machine seemingly promising a change of direction.
Spirit is perhaps the first album in over two decades to truly deliver this promise, this is the Depeche Mode album that presses every button. The melodies of the chart bothering 80s produce (You Move), the Godlike chorales of the 90s (Eternal) and the return to pure electro-pop that has run through their whole career (So Much Love).
What is perhaps the most interesting factor and the most enjoyable is the justifiably heavy handed political sloganeering of the first three tracks.
Going Backwards is an infectious piece of propaganda, that is easy to imagine Dave Gahan broadcasting from those red mega-phones of theirs, scolding the good people for allowing the world to get into the state it’s in. Where’s the Revolution? follows on with a cry to arms, this is Depeche v Trump with no holds barred. The closing motif of “The Train is coming / Get on board” is a heartfelt rally cry.
The Worst Crime starts with a lynching in the square, (Blame misinformation / Misguided leaders / Apathetic hesitation / Uneducated readers), there’s no room for ambiguity here.
The love songs that make up the rest of the album could be ripped from Nineteen Eighty-Four, there is little love to enjoy in the bleak landscape that surrounds these lovers. These are some of the best post-industrial love songs since Stripped. This is Depeche for the masses. Del Pike
Well it wouldn’t be Album Club without something from Rocket Recordings, probably our most consistently excellent label and certainly a favourite here at Getintothis. This month’s offering is Gnoomes who have produced a striking and contrasting follow up to 2015’s excellent Ngan.
The Russians’ previous four song album was bookended by two protracted suites of music that locked into sweepingly cinematic stargaze vistas. Tschak! by contrast feels bolder and looser. More experimental, broader in the scope of its ambition.
This isn’t an extreme reinvention, the blend of synth-heavy krautrock, psychedelia and shoegaze wanderlust remain present and correct. Yet it’s the directions that the band take this in that define this remarkable record.
Opener Super Libido Awake is a phased, fuzz-laden lollop of rhythmic discordancy that builds relentlessly with the merest hint of sun-dappled melody shining through the cracks. It works as an intro yet Maria offers an immediate and surprising mood change. Clean vocals delivered with a sense of wistful longing are delivered over beautifully considered synth which nonetheless build into a gloriously ecstatic euphoria of ever-increasing intensity.
Cascais sees a further change. This is a full throttle experimental krautrock as drum beats and synth co-exist in a a sense of uneasy competition while a noise-led whirlwind rages in the background. What makes Tschak! such a thrilling ride is its variety and restless creative energy. Where much of their contemporaries seem content to lock into a familiar groove, churning out variations on a narrow theme, Gnoomes‘ career towards new horizons with an exciting sense of élan.
This isn’t a singular vision, it’s a multi-faceted embrace of musical history from krautrock, kosmische, cold wave and industrial yet reimagines it with an undoubted modern relevance. Steverokamsk recalls Harmonia but with a clattering of post-industrial noise coupled with doom-laden deluges added over the top. It is typical of Gnoomes‘ material, songs inhabit themselves seeming to live and breathe independently of the band.
Elsewhere, the title track heads off to a different place altogether embracing the jittery anxieties and warped electronica of the post-millennial era. City Monk delivers a monotonously detached vocal delivery above rumbling noise and the repetitive constancy of electronic beats before a wail of skyward guitar kicks in for good measure.
You can’t help but feel that Tschak! pushes Gnoomes into new territory. Its experimental tendencies and the forced collisions of styles serves to create something new, compellingly refreshing and genuinely thrilling. Paul Higham
Herva: Hyper Flux
Hyper Flux is Italian music composer Herva‘s first Planet Mu release and it is immediately striking and seductive in its collaged sonic abstractions.
The jittery glitch of choppy electronics marry expertly with a natural analogue warmth. Opener Esotic Energy is bathed in organic yet uneasy moods. There is a gentle hissing ambience and a distinctive analogue resonance, at times like listening through the dappled haze of a musical Instagram filter.
Jitter provides stark contrast offering a jagged-edged counterpoint to its predecessor, yet the well-employed use of sweeping analogue synth softens the harshness and adds welcome texture. Indeed, this is an LP that is all about its use of contrast, shifting from the thumping techno of Nasty MF to the ambient textural soundscapes of Multicone with ease.
What is most striking is its instrumentation. The LP juxtaposes played instrumentation with electronics, although in a way that is far from ordinary. The sounds are twisted and warped and are often produced using home-made unconventional means. As Herva noted, “I have a lot of guitars and weird acoustic instruments at my home and also my dad’s. He’s primarily a guitarist and an inventor of instruments, so I have lots of those.
“The weirdo instruments are the best, you are even more free to reinvent how to play them since no one else knows how to.”
The result is an album that is striking in its individuality and pleasingly perplexing in it array of unusual sounds. Even where it hits hardest it never feels harsh. The rhythmic grooves of Lly Spirals are coated in an early 80s funk vibe that jolts us from a drifting ambient slumber, while the techno of Cops Twerk is far from punishing as it makes sublime use of samples and found sounds, slowly introducing waves of underwater ambience to offset the flickering nervous energy.
What distinguishes Hyper Flux most is its striking individuality and its ability to twist and turn without ever tiring the ears or sounding either directionless or otherwise forced. It marks Herve Atsè Corti as a very real talent. Paul Higham
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Damage and Joy
ADA / Warner
To the casual observer, it may not have been a huge shock when The Jesus and Mary Chain reformed ten years ago. The brothers Reid had, after all, a familial tie and those buggers can be tricky to break. So when they announced that they would be performing at Coachella, people were delighted at the prospect of more filth n fury live shows, but probably not incredulous at the idea. The truth of the mater, as is often the case, runs deeper.
But, as Oasis can testify, siblings can sometimes be the hardest people to be around. The depth of the loathing that existed between Jim and William Reid, who are The Jesus and Mary Chain to all intents and purposes, was such that the brothers had spent almost no time in each other’s company for years. They even started as they meant to go on, by having a fight onstage at their first ever gig and then finished by recording what was thought to be their last ever album separately, as neither could bear to be in the same room as the other.
The fact that the reunion has resulted in the first Mary Chain album for 19 years is however a huge surprise. So what can we expect of a middle aged band who made much capital of the mistakes of youth? Well it is good to report that the Mary Chain’s spirit still burns bright, Damage and Joy gets off to a very promising start with opener Amputation coasting along on a Stooges tip, with Jim Reid proclaiming “Fucked-up girls like drugged-up guys, that won’t keep him warm at night. It’s just like a grape in a bottle, it’s wine today but piss tomorrow”
The Mary Chain have never been shy of rock cliché, but some of the album’s lyrics sound a little forced. Get on Home tells us that “I got a heart full of evil, soul full of rock and roll”, while All Things Pass states “Each drug I take is gonna be my last, I hope don’t fry, I hope I don’t die”. That said, the musical quality control is high and the lyrics do kind of suit the stripped back rock n roll of the album.
If all this sounds unduly negative it really isn’t meant to. Damage and Joy can hold its head up high in the company of the rest of the band’s inventory, a claim that is not to be taken lightly.
The album features songs both old and new, which can either be seen as a clearing of the decks ready for the future or an inability to write a whole album of good songs. We’ll let the future be the judge of that, but for now it’s good to have the curmudgeonly old buggers back. Banjo
Laura Marling: Semper Femina
More Alarming Records
Always changing woman or loyalty among women, in Latin translates to Semper Femina. Laura Marling’s sixth album Semper Femina follows a past succession of beautifully crafted folk infused albums, while carrying this through into her latest work, it stands alone as something quite unique in Marling’s collection of work. This album has its own very defiant presence, exploring femininity and the always raw Marling lays her emotions bare for us once again.
Using her calm voice, unaffected by the sentiment she sings of; she talks us through her progression as a woman in this day and age, figuring out her own path, she speaks a lot of growth, the fortune of hindsight, her pain; and the loveliness of it. Marling expresses these windows into her experiences in the best way she knows how, which is through the always changing female form, using the concept of femininity as a root for her relationships with others.
In The Valley, she uses orchestral instruments to mix and wrap around her voice and plucking guitar to conjure a scene in our minds. “I love you in the morning” she sings, following up with “I’ll do my very best”. This gut-wrenching promise of affection echoes a sense of helplessness towards this person throughout the song.
Her exploration of self-growth and awareness is evident in Next Time where she promises she will “do better next time” putting herself up against what could be the subject of climate change “I can no longer close my eyes, while the world around me dies”. Having a bold and sweeping beats of Nothing, Not really finishing the album “We’ve not got long you know, to bask in the afterglow, once its gone it’s gone, love waits for no one”.
This is a very definite album in which Laura Marling has truly analysed herself and ignored the concept of song writing from a gendered perspective, questioning if it even matters. She has turned her song writing on its head, always changing woman. Katie Murt
Pissed Jeans: Why Love Now
There was a time when Sub Pop was the go to place for the filthiest rock music you could think of, though understandably they’ve branched out as the label aged, which is often a wonderful thing (thanks for Father John Misty, Shabazz Palaces and clipping. guys). However, the beautifully named punk veterans Pissed Jeans have always carried the torch for the label’s roots by being the least refined, angriest, vilest and most badass band on the roster.
Beginning with the hilariously awkward cover art, everything about this album is acidic, self deprecating and ludicrous. Topics range from the expectations placed on men being woefully low, worrying about confessing a whipped cream fetish to your partner, and the pathetic-ness of knee based negging. Throughout the course of the album they masterfully combine a self aware, razor sharp wit with more serious fare, often in the same song.
Through their dissection of the male psyche from within, its dogmas and frustrations, they somehow manage to make a record so drenched in testosterone in its sound and approach into a breathing, open, brutally honest examination of gender politics. If that sentence makes you yawn with its headiness, it shouldn’t.
Every point made on the record is done with all the finesse of a baseball bat plunging through a windscreen, and points are less made rather than put on display for you to gawk at, much like “the ape in his cage” referenced on bizarre punk poem centrepiece I’m a Man. It is read from the perspective of a male office worker harassing a secretary by female poet Lindsay Hunter, and contains such beautifully crude one liners as “I’m a man, and I can tell by my reflection in that duck painting that I look GOOD” and “I already know you’re a size Q pantyhose: Q for quit talking, chubby“.
With Lydia Lunch lending a hand to production duties, Pissed Jeans make a real sonic leap forward with Why Love Now. The guitars have Melvins-level sludge, the drums are tight and punchy, the bass grinds, and Matt Korvette‘s vocals are uncomfortably inside your ear in a way they’ve never been before, which is aided his performances are thorough and disturbingly committed performances. He gargles and strains in a truly terrifying way, like Lemmy cross bred with Tom Waits and Brian Johnson, but with throat cancer, and on steroids.
This abrasive album won’t be for everyone but for me however, it is my favourite release of the year so far and stands up with the best records by forebears such as The Jesus Lizard, Future of the Left or even Motörhead. Now excuse me while I put it on at window shaking volume again and thrash around my room. Michael Edward
The Shins: Heartworms
Releasing their first record since 2012’s Port of Morrow, and first since frontman James Mercer’s collaboration with Danger Mouse in the form of the glittering pop of Broken Bells, indie veterans The Shins have returned with their trademark sun kissed sound.
Having spent time away from the band following their years of popularity when The Shins reached almost cult status throughout the 2000s, the self-produced Heartworms has the feel of Mercer becoming comfortable with ageing, maturing in his songwriting and genuinely just enjoying making music, refreshed from a three year break. It’s written entirely by Mercer, the only remaining original Shin, and certainly feels like a solo record.
The record doesn’t pull up any trees, it’s still very much Mercer revisiting a sound that has served The Shins well over their career, that familiar melancholic indie-folk, but there are some great moments on the album and it’s certainly worth of your time.
Opener Name For You is Mercer’s tribute to his three daughters, and one of the standout tracks of the LP. It’s infectious and fun with heartwarming lyrics, brought together by the singer’s distinct vocals, while Dead Alive, the lead single from the record, is an example of The Shins at their very best.
If you’ve been a regular listener to The Shins since their 2001 debut Oh, Inverted World, then Heartworms will certainly be familiar. Yet despite its lack of any real new ideas, it’s as enjoyable and comforting a record as Mercer has released. Adam Lowerson
Sleaford Mods: English Tapas
Rough Trade Records
You have to admire the confidence of Sleaford Mods. To not include the blistering double whammy of single TCR and B side I Can Tell suggests there is enough material here to pack both sides with no filler.
Opener Army Nights is an earworm that reminds us of the band’s musical merit, it’s not just Jason Williamson’s lyrics that matter here. As with previous efforts, the lyrical content is a series of character attacks, the military beefcakes in the opening track and the music industry hypocrites in Just Like We Do.
The snapshots of working class Britain are annotated with perfect soundbites “A trip to Spar is like a trip to Mars” (Drayton Manored), “You’re stuck in moments that have grown out of themselves” (Messy Anywhere), priceless.
The messages are as strong as ever but this is curiously enough an easier album to listen to than previous long player, Key Markets. Even the relentless swearing of former releases seems to have been quelled, and the tunes are a lot catchier. They’ve not sold out by any stretch but this is certainly an album that could reach a wider audience.
Album highlight is undoubtedly BHS, “We’re going down like BHS, while the abled bodied vultures monitor and pick at us.” As Williamson said in a recent interview, “Buy a company, run it down, take the money, fuck the workers, it’s legal” here he is bestowing the same fate on the underclass scrap heap by the powers that be “We are the Baldrick’s son and Blackadders”.
We need Sleaford Mods, no-one else is painting such a vivid picture of the country right now. Crack open the crisps and nuts, you can’t beat a bit of English Tapas. Del Pike
Soulwax: From Deewee
With their first album proper in a decade, the Belgian brothers Dewaele return with their eight studio album From Deewee. It’s not the usual studio fare though, or a live album, it’s somewhere between the two.
Unusually, especially for an electronic band, the entire album was recorded in just one take, back in February in the Ghent studio that gives the album its name. From Deewee took its inspiration from the band’s Transient Program For Drums and Machinery show, which toured last summer.
As well as the Dewaeles and third Soulwax member Stefaan Van Leuven, the album features three separate drummers – often playing alongside each other on the same tracks. No session musicians here though, the drummers include Igor Cavalera from Sepultura, Blake Davis from Turbowolf and Captain Everything!, and Victoria Smith – former Ipso Facto member and sometime drummer for MIA. It’s a group with chops, bolstered further by some impressive keys from the producer Laima Leyton (Cavalera’s wife, incidentally).
There’s no hint of Sepultura here, other than some truly outstanding and experimental drumming. The album leaps from smooth Kraftwerk grooves to pulsing funk.
Conditions of a Shared Belief and Do You Want To Get Into Trouble? are shimmering delights, that neatly fill an electronic gap while we wait for James Murphy to write some new LCD Soundsystem songs. The standout track Goodnight Transmission might well be the most sardonic reaction to Donald Trump recorded so far, smoothly and harmonically fading away as the album closer.
It may not be up there with the best Soulwax albums, but is a solid return for the band. The only downside is that the flowing nature of the album means that individual moments and tracks can often glide straight past you, leaving fleeting glimpses of in-the-moment beauty that you wish could stick around longer. Chris Burgess
More often then not, second album syndrome is a very real struggle that many acts succumb to.
In fact, recently we touched upon this very subject here at Getintothis HQ, whereby we mentioned some bands that have not been cowered by but have bettered their debut long player release. That list may well gain a new addition in the form of Temples with their blistering sophomore, Volcano.
Rewind three years ago, and the synth-soaked sunshine grooves of debut Sun Structures have been sanded down, polished and come up glistening into a wall of textured, rich layers of sci-fi, psych splendour that show a maturity in Temples‘ sound.
Opener Certainty sounds like Walt Disney‘s nemesis with its eerie, almost chilling chimes making you stand to attention instantly under its menacing cloud of darkness. It’s no small feat and could prove to be possibly the group’s strongest effort to date.
What does become apparent throughout Volcano, is the absence of Sun Structures‘ pop element; cuts like Born Into The Sunset show a deeper psych to their second album as its hypnotic grooves transport you into an alternate dimension.
At times a sense of pastiche came across on their debut, Volcano sees Temples hit the reset button and modernise their expanded repertoire. There are nods to Floyd and Bowie at times, but it’s not as blatant as their primary efforts and actually enriches them, with Roman God-Like Man providing a glimpse of frontman James Bagshaw at his most whimsical best.
If the Kettering quartet can recreate the sophistication of Volcano in their live outings, they may well be set for greatness in due course. With them due to play the likes of Glastonbury over the summer, we will wait in hope for Temples‘ arrival. Craig MacDonald