Daydreaming about music? Getintothis’ Album Club is back with the finest selection of February’s releases for you.
You can suppose for any music fan, that the idea of appearing on the BBC’s long-running radio programme, Desert Island Discs, would be a bit like winning the lottery.
If you had to pick just eight records, eight songs to be marooned with on a desert island then what you choose?
Some timeless classics maybe? Some sure-fire songs that never ever let you down? Something intensely personal, something that reminds you of a particular time or place or a special person?
Maybe you’d pick your current favourite song. Maybe you’d risk that; picking something that- although you love it at the moment- you’re not entirely sure if it would be something you’d want to be stuck with for years and years. Would you pick it at the expense if something else?
And this gets to the crux of it all. It’s not what you’d pick, but more about what you would leave out.
After all, if you could pick only eight tracks, then there’d be so, so many you’d have to drop. That’s bad enough, but what about those great tracks you’d just overlook, those you’d forget about?
You’d have had your hour or so recording with Kirsty Young, reminiscing about things and patting yourself on the back in that smug way about how all your selections were so cool, only to step outside and realise you had completely forgotten some impossibly great jazz tune that you should have put in there. To make it worse, one of your eight selections was by Muse. You’d done it for a bit of a laugh, but now you feel slightly daft.
Muse. Bloody Muse. That one backfired.
Whichever way you look at it, picking eight songs is an impossible task. You’d never be able to get it right.
So if that call ever comes through from the BBC, think very hard about it. You’d really be on a hiding to nothing.
Still, it doesn’t harm to idly daydream about what tracks you’d share with the nation, if you ever had the chance.
And you never know, some of them may well appear in this month’s Album Club. Some future classics in here to be sure. Read on. Listen on and let us convince you. Rick Leach
The Breeders: All Nerve
Five albums in nearly thirty years doesn’t exactly strike one as prolific.
That’s what The Breeders have managed to do since their debut, Pod, way back in 1990. This latest one, All Nerve, makes their output just large enough to count on the fingers (and thumb) of one hand.
But as we all know, life has a way of getting in the way of things and plans. No more so than for The Breeders; drug busts, drink problems, rehab, side projects (and side projects of side projects) and Kim Deal moving back to Ohio to care for her ageing parents randomly conspired against them.
All of the above got in the way of things. Like some intense cosmological event that we barely understand, The Breeders very nearly collapsed, yet teetered on the brink, wobbled slightly and are back in 2018 with a brand spanking new album.
And what a record this is.
There’s eleven tracks, none of which last more than four and half minutes and most of them clock in under that classic three-minute rule for a perfect pop song. Less is more and sometimes that succinctness is exactly what you need.
They seem to have boiled everything down to the sheer essence of what is needed in 2018. Stripping away all excess baggage is what they’re about.
After reuniting in 2013 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Last Splash, they’ve been working away at new songs, recording (again) with Steve Albini in Chicago, Mike Montgomery in Kentucky and Tom Rastikis in Ohio. Quietly and under the radar somewhat, but what they’ve come up with is magnificient.
Opener Nervous Mary (engineered by Albini) has a disturbing and understated feeling of dread ‘she ran for the exit/ but never got away’ – a low thrumming bass and chiming guitars make for an uncomfortable start to the album. But fear ye not; there’ a cheery ‘Good morning!’ as we’re taken into the buzzy second track, Wait in the Car, all classic Deal vocalizing. This is a song that demands to be stuck at the beginning of every playlist or mixtape that you’ll ever throw together from now on in.
You just know that a track called MegaGoth is going to be good- and it is. Deal’s half tongue-in-cheek spectral voice summons up the ghost of the Sisters of Mercy and rightfully slaps it right out of the park.
And there’s more- something that makes your writer love this album even more. Howl At The Moon features Courtney Barnett on backing vocals. It’s got that toe-tapping quality that’s redolent of the swooniness of Throwing Muses at their best.
The album concludes with the very dark Blues at the Acropolis; a meditation on tramping around ancient monuments ‘Drunks take a piss/ where heroes once bled out.’ Now this song may only last a shade over two minutes fifty seconds but in many ways it sums up what this record is all about. It’s an epic. Why spend ten minutes to say something that you can do better in less than 180 seconds?
The Breeders are back and it was well worth the wait. Rick Leach
Alela Diane: Cusp
Alela Diane’s 5th album finds her looking at life with a different standpoint, that of being a mother.
Diane herself says that the songs on Cusp ‘were written though the lens of motherhood.’ Not that this makes Cusp a sort of aural photo album, but rather a further insight into the mind, feelings and life of Diane as an artist.
She’s no stranger to exploring her emotions through her music: her About Farewell album delved into her divorce from her then-husband and bandmate Tom Bevitori and laid out her heart for all to see. There is a certain bravery involved in allowing strangers to read through your diary in this way that not everyone possesses.
In Never Easy, Diane reflects on her own uneasy relationship with her mother and how she’s now able to view this relationship from a fresh perspective as a mother herself, while Émigré is her reaction to the image of Syrian child refugee Alan Kurdi’s poor lifeless body washing up on a Turkish beach.
Cusp is not a light album and these songs connect to big issues in a person’s life. But the music is never maudlin and the album is never hard going.
Quite a few songs here are piano led, yet the folky guitar leanings of her previous work is never far away. As ever though, the real start is Diane’s crystal-clear voice, showing itself to be the perfect vehicle for an artist’s honest exploration of her life. Banjo
Brian Fallon: Sleepwalker
There’s a new Brian Fallon album out and it sounds just exactly like a Brian Fallon album should sound. The Gaslight Anthem frontman does Springsteen-esque American rock. That’s what he does and he does it brilliantly. There’s no mystique, no pretence at being clever or even any attempt to shift his style. It’s just a new set of storming tunes that sounds just like the last lot.
And, as with death and taxes, that certainty, that stability, in these shifting times when we can never be sure what’s for real or not real is a kind of comfort. It’s reliable, it’s been done before and it’ll be done again. Like your Mum’s corned beef hash or your Auntie’s shepherd’s pie. It’s easy to digest and not challenging. But you’re always drawn back to it. You love it.
Fallon’s voice is powerful. It shouts and screams at times, but mostly it is the perfect rock, melodic, anthemic accompaniment to the lazy guitars and drums that make up most of his work.
It’s poetic too. His songs tell stories; ‘I wanna sleep alone/We ain’t kids any more’ and ‘There’s lightning in my veins’ and they paint pictures in your head. That’s a skill for any writer of a three- minute rock song.
It’s easy to get drawn into Fallon’s world. His lyrics are easily interpreted to fit your own world. May the Gods look down on you with comfort and if not, then Brian Fallon will. He will always be there for you. Solid, reliable and stable. Peter Goodbody
Go-Kart Mozart: Mozart’s Mini-Mart
The best artists, the most important ones, are those who progress and keep moving, not relying on back catalogues and past glories.
It’s to Lawrence’s credit – he formerly of Felt and Denim, no surname necessary – he’s done precisely that throughout his career. The Felt Lawrence was a dreamy, wistful figure in 1980s to match dreamy, wistful songs. Denim Lawrence was different again, shifting into bubblegum glam rock.
Then, we had Go-Kart Mozart Lawrence. Go-Kart Mozart have been a contradiction since their conception in 1998; and the new album even more so than preceding ones. Lyrically we get stark vulgarity but with often laugh out loud hilarity. But this isn’t comedy. It’s pop all right, and twisted with it.
Mozart’s Mini-Mart, released this month along with reissuing of the first five Felt albums is, in my opinion, Lawrence’s most ambitious and telling work to date. The seventeen songs, together lasting thirty-four minutes, paint a bleak but technicolour picture of 2018.
When You’re Depressed portrays poor mental health in starker and in real life detail than Lawrence may perhaps have done in his Felt days, any romantic, poetic notions stripped away to sharp, splintered bones. When You’re Depressed isn’t an aural Facebook meme with Robin Williams looking a bit sad with a comforting inspirational quote. It’s an unavoidable list of facts.
Relative Poverty is an appropriate song to follow on with, reflecting Lawrence period of homelessness and the indignity of living on ‘a tenner a day’ with a snippet of added Gene Vincent to detract from the pain. But in the end he pleads, ‘please don’t take my tenner away’ and if that doesn’t get to you, nothing will.
There’s a sense of confidence in vulnerability in Mozart’s Mini-Mart; in Zelda’s Hit The Spotlight he’s the passive sexual partner, albeit one getting digs in, and frequently with it.
A New World is cheery-melancholic surprise, a curious reworking of Roger Whitaker’s New World In The Morning. Unexpected, yes. But oh, so very Lawrence.
True and more predictably to form, Go-Kart Mozart will be no more soon; in a recent interview he claims to be eyeing up the name Mozart Estate, to see how it fits for size. Lawrence of Belgravia twists and turns, no resting on his laurels here; and we should be ever grateful for that. Cath Bore
Good Tiger: We Will All Be Gone
Blacklight Media Records
Good Tiger are an interesting beast to get to grips with. A super-group of sorts but not in that horrible kitschy rock band way.
Formed from the remnants of UK prog-metal band The Safety Fire on guitars, ex-TesseracT temporary vocalist Elliot Coleman, and ex-The Faceless drummer extraordinaire Alex Rudinger, this is not your Dad’s supergroup. This is a band completely without ego or arrogance and what comes through very clearly is their need for expression and an earnestness that is sorely missing in a lot of modern metal.
Their previous release A Head Full of Moonlight was one of our favourite releases from 2015, it was fun and punchy, and the band have somehow stepped it up a few notches in all areas for their new album We Will All Be Gone which was released this month.
Seriously, these are top-tier musicians, and this is song writing at its most profound and elegant. Vocalist Coleman has easily one of the biggest vocal ranges and best voices in modern metal, and it is put to excellent use in Good Tiger, where it had felt squandered in his time in TesseracT. Whatta set of pipes.
The rest of the band are just as well-rounded with those open riffs and tight rhythms. Special mention to the unexpected and soothing vocal cameo of guitarist Derya ‘Dez’ Nagle in closing track I’ll Finish This Book Later, the perfect accompaniment to Coleman‘s highs.
This is a more refined and mature beast than the Good Tiger we heard previously. The band have opted to strip back some of the heavier elements we heard on Moonlight in favour of a more consistent sound, which is not to say the album is without it’s mosh-worthy moments, there are plenty to go around.
This album is the result of a few years of soul-searching and world-touring, this is no longer a band who are struggling to find their place in music. They have found their opening, and created a solid stepping stone on their way to the top with We Will All Be Gone, so check it out. Mark Davies
Gwenno: Le Kov
Le Kov (The Place of Memory) is the second solo album by Gwenno Saunders. The follow up to the Welsh Music Prize-winning Y Dydd Olaf (The Final Day), written in Welsh, Le Kov is pennd and sung entirel in Cornish.
Saunders spoke both languages at home growing up, English being the third.
Le Kov, sea-warped psychedelia being an apt description, feels like a concept record, though we’re told it’s no such thing. Cornish myths and folklore are explored here, and the history of the Cornish language’s struggle for survival.
The record is gorgeous from start to finish, dreamy pop synths, a piano sounding a bit lonely at times, and that clear, sweet voice offering reassurance. On it, Gwenno works with long term collaborator Rhys Edwards on Le Kov, Gorwel Owen (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Super Furry Animals) had a hand in engineering the drums and David Wrench was installed on mixing duties.
We’re eased into opener Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow with an echo, and swept up by soaring synths, Gwenno’s voice quiet and girlish yet ever confident.
We’re charmed by birdsong, then advised caution by discordant piano and authoritative drums on Den Heb Taves (A Tongueless Man), a desolate story of isolation.
Don’t believe for one moment Le Kov is a dust covered parchment of tales from long ago because of its historical themes, ones relayed in a fading but stubborn tongue. And let’s not fool ourselves; isolation and loneliness are two major tragedies of our time.
There’s fun on Le Kov too. Has there ever been a pop song written about cheese before? Eus Keus? (Is There Cheese?) is exactly that, an almost-chant in tribute to the finest of all the dairy products.
Daromres Y’n Howl (Traffic In The Sun) flags up into 21st Century proper, a jolly tribute to the almost party atmosphere on Cornwall’s clogged roads in the summertime, featuring the unmistakeable Gruff Rhys’ warm words amid dissonant brass and jaunty piano.
There are fewer than a thousand speakers of the Cornish language around now, and it’s very appropriate that Gwenno, as one of them, breathes life into it, by linking the past with the present, not only with sadness, but a sense of real optimism too, and warm engaging humour. Cath Bore
Holy: All These Worlds Are Yours
We first encountered Holy at Psych Fest in 2015 in a packed-out Blade Factory doing a surprisingly early slot. We were smitten from the off.
The combination of trebly guitars and a very distorted high-pitched vocal seemed to fit the ethos of the festival perfectly. Here was a band that meant business and knew only too well how to do it.
This is the second album from Stockholm-based Haynes Ferm’s Holy project and apparently, it had a gestation period that would make a blue whale blush. There are stories he would record a track during the day and then return at night, in the absence of the engineer, to deconstruct, re-assemble and generally fuck about with what had gone on previously. Nobody knew how this album would turn out.
In the end, it’s sophisticated, varied, powerful, yet the style is unmistakeable. There are echoes of psych era Beatles, Bjork, perhaps. Mogwai even in places. Ferm’s vocals are always the mainstay of the album, providing a constant near falsetto throughout and a contrast to the violence (at times) of the guitar and drum mayhem going on behind.
Title track All These Worlds Are Yours is the one that maybe pushes the point home the best, but the first single taken from the album, Heard Her is a close runner up. It’s the kind of Radiohead style alternation between crashing backing and then pauses for the vocal bits which then give way to more crashing which suggests Ferm is not unfamiliar with the structure of, say, Creep.
This is an album that seems to look both backwards and forwards at the same time. There are glam rock references all over the place – not the foot stomping T-Rex kind – more the Eno and Roxy Music kind. But its themes of science fiction and a search for alien life give it a feel of the soundtrack to an as yet undiscovered galaxy. If an alien UFO were to land anywhere near to the Getintothis HQ, this is the cd we’d be reaching for as a welcome Hurrah! And that’s worth a tenner, we reckon, just in case. Peter Goodbody
Efrim Manuel Menuck: Pissing Stars
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music, or as they call it, the “beautiful noise”, has always provided the perfect backdrop for post-apocalyptic scenes.
With Efrim Manuel Menuck’s second solo album, Pissing Stars, the Godspeed ‘frontman’ seems to hit the rewind button, providing a snapshot of the lead-up to the inevitable disaster, where dark clouds hover amid the eerie hum.
Despite the impending doom and front-to-back dead-eyed black pits of sound, surprisingly Pissing Stars contains an accessible sensibility that Menuck flirted with during A Silver Mt Zion’s 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons. In summary, it works.
While the first side of Pissing Stars is dotted with that Godspeed-esque dystopian drone and distortion, it’s the second side that demonstrates Menuck’s sonic shift, almost conjuring up a pop utopian of sorts. Whilst sporadically easier on the ear than a lot of his other works, Menuck has still managed to carve out a lonely album with Pissing Stars.
Filled with gloom, some have suggested a Springsteen Nebraska vibe and we would totally go along with that, particularly on the album’s finest track, A Lamb in the Land of Payday Loans which even has Menuck yelping like Bruce did during Atlantic City!
‘Put the kids in the car/the cops have way too many guns/darlin’ let’s just run,’ are a clear and venomous message to law enforcement and America’s incomprehensible view on firearms. The sequence contains some of Menuck’s finest lyrics, thus far. Then there’s the title track which ends the album. Filled with a buckling lo-fi hum, it’s a glorious accompanying piece to A Lamb…, and together are the greatest moments Menuck has experienced since GY!BE’s Yanqui U.X.O.
Some may see this observation as a stretch, but Pissing Stars can arguably be mentioned in the same breath as Josh T Pearson’s Last of the Country Gentlemen, Gareth Liddiard’s Strange Tourist and, yes, even Nebraska.
Dark albums constructed in dark corners of the world in isolation. Albums that demand attention and are ultimately works of art with no currency. The best albums, really, and although you wouldn’t normally associate Menuck in this kind of company, Pissing Stars has the ability to hold a similar line. Only time will tell. Simon Kirk
Richard Russell: Everything is Recorded
There’s hardly an independent label’s success story more credible than that of XL Recordings – the umbrella to the likes of Adele, Radiohead, Frank Ocean and all rest revealed to us through the six or so albums the label releases each year.
The original brain behind the outlet was Richard Russell with an aim to release dance records. The rest, they say, is on Wikipedia.
Russell has assembled his breed of the new artists from Sampha, Ibeyi to Kamasi Washington for this XL Recordings party, Everything is Recorded. The assemblage does evoke from recent memory works like Gorillaz’ Humanz with its parade of guests – though Russell manages to execute the idea with more album-esque cohesiveness, as the record does remain consistent with tone and concept.
The concept is to mix these new musical heroes with samples of past legends just as Sampha does his thing next to Curtis Mayfield’s samples on Close But Note Quite. Although, for us, the true ride only starts from Wet Looking Road with its Dilla’s Donuts reminiscence till Cane which must be one of Ibeyi’s most gorgeous ballads. However, Bloodshot Red Eyes with Green Gartside and Infinite takes the prize with Sampha and Syd’s Show Love running a close second.
It is an ambitious project to begin with and regardless of its minor failings is a must check for someone who loved Sampha’s Process and similar stuff, and a must have for an XL Recordings fan – for it is a one of a kind artefact.
Don’t get us wrong, it is a truly gorgeous record. Though it fails to be more than the sum of its parts; but when the parts themselves are so exceptionally good- one must not complain! Amaan Khan
Caroline Rose: Loner
Caroline Rose’s debut album, I Will Not Be Afraid, was a great blend of pastoral folk, Americana and blues. Tracks such as American Religious, the Dylan-esque Red Bikini Waltz and Back East showcased her talent as a spit and sawdust troubadour.
Rose’s new album, Loner, is far removed, delving into a more alternative headspace. Given Rose could have easily made further inroads through the folk genre on the back of I Will Not Be Afraid, it’s a surprising illustration of shapeshifting.
Loner is black comedy gold. Rose’s quick wit is ever-present, with capitalism the major theme which she picks apart with aplomb.
There’s a fine juxtaposition between words and sound. Rose’s messaging is indiscernibly barbed while sonically, there’s a playful electro-pop aura laced with small doses of rockabilly. Tracks such as Money and Bikini are perfect examples of her skill in this area.
Then there’s Cry and Soul No. 5. Fine pop numbers that you would never have envisaged Rose to write. Jeanie Becomes a Mom hints at themes similar to Red Bikini Waltz but rather than a stripped back folk traipse, it’s given the new leftfield-pop treatment. –
Not too many artists have genre-hopped like Caroline Rose has with Loner. There’s a great mix of comedy and drama, capturing the pertinent concerns enveloped in the world we live today. Rose has demonstrated this as good as anybody has in the last couple of years and it’s fascinating to think of what she’ll come up with next. Simon Kirk
The Soft Moon: Criminal
Republic of Music
The Soft Moon is American post-punk, darkwave and industrial artist Luis Vasquez and he has been producing some mighty noise for nearly ten years now. His latest release Criminal is a dark slab of industrial and minimal wave that growls and spits with sonic venom.
Right from the off we know exactly where Vasquez is taking- or rather dragging us- and that is into the boiling pit of some visceral electronic hell. Opener Burn flares into life with chainsaw guitar riffs and squally synths reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. Choke and Like a Father continue this, evoking Trent Reznor on his Broken and Fixed EP’s.
Darkly hypnotic throughout Criminal confronts Vazquez’s abusive childhood and it is a journey into the heart of darkness. He flirts with industrial and EBM constantly with tracks often grinding and decaying into shrieking electronics.
This is an album of detailed and layered soundscapes from a wide tonal palette; the sound of crashing metal guitars and shifting arrangements filled with textural variety and unflinching bleakness. There’s drama and introspection to be found amongst the noise and it lingers long after you have pressed stop. Mike Stanton
Iannis Xenakis: Persepolis
Another impeccable release from Karl Records in Berlin of a hidden classic of electronic music, this remaster of a piece first commissioned by the Shah of Iran is the audio aspect of one of Xenakis’s Polytopes – site-specific and multimedia compositions involving sound, lights, performance and architectural space.
Concepts of harmony, melody and rhythm, although present, are secondary to architectural concerns of form and density. You’d imagine that this would give the music a cold, abstract quality but in fact the reverse is the case. This concentrated slab of complex sound is enthralling, invigorating, visceral, even terrifying.
The original commission was for realised in 1971 at the archaeological site of Persepolis in Iran. In his earlier multimedia polytopes Xenakis had designed and built pavilions as part of the performances.
As this was impossible on this sensitive ancient site, he reshaped the space by spacialisation of sound (8 channels distributed through 59 loudspeakers), bonfires burning in the distance, parades of children carrying torches creating patterns on the surrounding hillsides and crucially, two lasers and an array of 92 spotlights. The piece is all about light- light in the ancient Zoroastrian sense as symbolising life itself.
When the 8 tracks were first mixed down to stereo for release on vinyl in 1972, Xenakis added the subtitle “We bear the light of the earth”.
This provides the best way to understand this dense and complex music, as a complete spectrum of light: all the colours in constant interaction and beating against each other to produce a glorious life-affirming blast of light. Jono Podmore