Albums Club #33 – Teeth of the Sea, Steve Mason, XamVolo, Queen Zee, Twilight Sad, James Blake

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Getintothis Albums Club February 2019

With our first Albums Club of the year proving to be something of a classic, Getintothis look forward to 2019 being a very good year.

The start of a new year is a terrible thing to have to go through, we all know that.

The joy of Christmas has been and gone, leaving nothing but stray pieces of glitters that you bizarrely find on your face months later. After a nice break, you’re back at work, struggling to remember your password and looking at another year of the same old same old.  And to top it all it’s fucking freezing and the country descends into chaos after half an inch of snow, with road and rail travel proving problematic at best.

Yep, there’s no doubt about it, if we could hibernate through until spring, that would be just fine with us thank you very much.

Except…the start to 2019 is incredible!  If you snooze through it all this year you are likely to wake up in March feeling all grumpy at having missed out on a feast of gigs and albums.

On the gig front, January alone was kind enough to gift us Red Rum Club’s album launch at Phase One, The 1975 and Massive Attack at Manchester Arena, The Delines playing a sublime gig at the Unitarian Church and Tim Burgess at Phase One.

And February seems to have picked up the baton and saw 2ManyDJs, OVVLS, Ross from Friends and Jah Wobble play Liverpool on the same evening!  2019 is shaping up to be one hell of a year.

On top of this, the festival announcements have started appearing, with Kraftwerk, New Order and Hot Chip headlining Bluedot, Courteeners, Doves and Chic at Kendal Calling and Sound City &, Threshold planning to make their mark on 2019 with incredible and eclectic lineups.

And, if we may direct your attention to the rest of this article, it is a long time since we had such an embarrassment of riches in one single album club.  Debuts from XamVolo, Queen Zee and Red Rum Club prove that Liverpool is still a cultural force top be reckoned with, while The Twilight Sad, James Blake and Steve Mason have released solid albums that need to be listened to on repeat as soon as possible.

All in all, we can’t remember a year that sprang from the starting blocks with such speed and style.  What the rest of 2019 holds in store for us we can’t say, but if it keeps up the momentum it has gathered so far we could be in for one hell of a ride. – Banjo


Teeth of the Sea: Wraith – Album of the Month
Rocket Recordings

It always hurts more when those you love let you down. Speaking as a Prince fan this writer had to get used to that during the latter years of his relentless conveyor belt like musical production line.

While, not quite on that level of stratospheric musical adoration, during the last decade Londoners Teeth of the Sea have been right up there in the ‘favourite band‘ stakes. The love affair began in 2010 with their second album Your Mercury and reached peak infatuation during a colossal live display at MelloMello in 2012

They tick all our boxes: lashings of grooves, malevolent riffs, unexpected time signatures and a penchant to stray into cinematic progressive ridiculousness. Not in a turgid Muse kind of way – rather that of similar mavericks Oceansize, Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree or even Radiohead.

Yet their last album, 2015’s Highly Deadly Black Tarantula marked a sea change in the band’s consistently magnificent output – not only did it sound like several bands experimenting with several ideas it was also a bit of a let down. No matter how much we revisited it just didn’t quite click. Sure it was dark as hell and at times those aforementioned riffs threatened to kick in but for the most part its industrial serrated edges and bleak dissonance was hard to love.

Thank heavens then for Wraith. Their fifth studio album on Rocket Recordings finds the band sadly down a member in Mat Colegate yet returning to what they’re best at spine-chilling widescreen atmospherics married to blockbuster slabs of noise – and the odd bit of lunacy.

From the off, their characteristic use of squalling trumpet oozes into opener I’d Rather, Jack which trades phased guitars with molten Mezzanineera beats providing the ideal scene setter for a record which is a black magik box of tricks crammed with a plentiful supply of dark arts.

The aforementioned Sam Barton‘s trumpet pervades throughout (hurrah!) with Burn of the Shieling all Arabian exoticism, Her Wraith a slow burn of rattling disquiet while the crime thriller-esque Hiraeth carries a magisterial jazzy pomp before blossoming into a trip-hop game of dagger-stabbing beats, leaden thuds and jarring grooves.

But like centre-piece A.C.R.ON.Y.M. on Your Mercury and closer Responder from 2013’s MASTER, Teeth of the Sea specialise in almighty juggernauts of sound ad when they hit home they induce Mike Tyson levels of power. Wraith delivers two knockout blows.

The first arrives midway through (a track we’re told the label almost convinced them to drop) as VISITOR emerges from a futuristic cocoon of sinister John Carpenter keys and strident brass parps before building into Jimmy Martin‘s trademark Robert Fripp aping guitar heroics. It’s supernova in its epic brilliance.

And yet the closing Gladiators Ready (what a title!) betters it with horrorcore synths jerking off to mechanical fuzz-drenched atmospherics which swell into a death disco march before exploding courtesy of a Josh Wink orgasmatron which will have you laughing your tits off at the sheer audacity of it all. It is preposterously good.

The depth on this album is staggering, there is much stirring and there’s many a layer to unravel on Wraith but like the band’s finest work it’s worthy of persistence – for Teeth of the Sea are a special collective truly worth falling for.- Peter Guy

Mart Avi: OtherWorld
AVICORP

When Estonian Mart Avi played Sound City last year in a chilly underground concrete basement, the temperatures at odds with the sweaty warm lager temperatures in the street outside, it seemed as if the tiny venue, flickering with blinks of electric blue light, had sat waiting for him all this time, ever so patient, until his arrival. The place was like a disturbing scene from an out there Eastern European short film. It seemed confirmation somehow that Avi exists in his own little underground world, living up to the oddball tag we read so much about.

And yet, though this, his fourth solo album, might be described as avant garde after a brief or superficial listen, in fact it’s much the opposite. Avi one suspects, is a man very in control here, every aspect of his work, each piece of the jigsaw puzzle, meticulously planned.

And all eight songs on OtherWorld pleasingly display a pop sensibility, with r n b and soul along with his playful trademark electronic wizzardry.

The record is glossy and well polished, balancing the two worlds cleverly so one’s never quite sure on what side he might fall. Let Me Be Me is an Associates single that never was – with a vocal way too high to be true baritone, he’s more Billy Mackenzie and Nite Flights-onwards Scott Walker than his oft comparison to Bowie.

But it has a gentler tone to it a well, say on Half Life. Stuck in an Attosecond is quite lovely, as is the dreamy Back 2 Light – Okeanos.

OtherWorld lulls us into a false sense of security from time to time, the end song The Silent Trespasser with the sound of knives sharpening – what for, we don’t quite know – just about summing everything up. – Cath Holland

  • Mart Avi returns to the UK in 2019 to play FOCUS Wales this May.

James Blake: Assume Form
Polydor

James Blake starts 2019 with a Number 1 in the UK Charts for his fourth album Assume Form.  That’s a pretty astounding bit of recognition and one any artist should be rightly proud of.  That number 1 might be in the UK Cassette tape charts but none the less, you take the victories where you get them.  And besides, until we were digging around we didn’t even know there was a chart for cassette tape releases.

See, every day is a school day.

Blake has worked with everyone from Beyonce to Bon Iver and this album sees another selection of guest appearances and collaborations. Including one with Andre 3000.  There’s that. Assume Form sees Blake taking a slightly lighter look at life, this record is more upbeat, a little less serious and a bit more electronic than his previous offerings.

Many thought that Blake was finished, the guess is that this critique had an impact, he has clearly buried himself in a studio for a while, The production and the depth on this record speaks for itself, the four and five star reviews its gotten across a range of publications adds another layer.

Assume Form is romantic, bittersweet in places, uplifting in other parts, it is by far his most accomplished work and while it perhaps isn’t exactly in our realm it certainly helped kill 40 minutes on a train.

Highlights for us were Don’t Miss It, an ethereal, otherworldy slice of R&B with a haunting backing vocal possibly delivered by a banshee, Into The Red is a different thing altogether, perhaps a little more ballad-like but it’s been dissected, split apart, with each part playing in its own little world, where they meet in the middle like reluctant teenagers.

Lullaby For My Insomniac is another weirdly disjointed affair, the kind of thing that will haunt you in the small hours, rather lovely it is too.  Power On, is perhaps our favourite, it plays heavily on Blake‘s vocal and has the line ‘Lets go home and talk shit about everybody‘. Haven’t we all done that? – Chris Flack

The Delines: The Imperial
Decor

The Imperial sounds just like you think it would from looking at the cover. An old Buick or a Cadillac (we’re not US car experts) parked outside a motel in an anonymous town somewhere in the middle of nowhere. This is the perfect American breakfast of waffles and maple syrup, with a handful of blueberries on the side.

The Delines offer a stripped back country / folk / soul masterpiece that proves less is more. There’s no filler in this one. Amy Boone lets her mellifluous voice do the heavy lifting, but in a manner that just gets over the line without seeming to make any more effort than is required.

Album opener  Cheer Up Charlie sets the tone perfectly, making you yearn for a drive down a long straight road piercing an endless desert. It’s an album that times out after about 40 minutes, which is a pity because you’re kept wanting more. It should really go on for ever.

The band are in the middle of a European tour, having sold out most of their UK and Ireland dates and The Imperial was Rough Trade’s album of the month for January – that’s a big deal and well deserved for a fine piece of work.

These feel like intensely personal songs about relationships, angst, worry and general shit.

Holly The Hustle tells the story of a broken family, gambling and a motel shooting from which our protagonist barely survives, but then takes a married man for $60,000. A happy ending? Not really. But this was never meant to be a happy album.

Beautiful, for sure. But a faceless, nameless car sat outside an anonymous motel. That’s what it sounds like. – Peter Goodbody

Liverpool International Jazz Festival 2019 returns with stellar line up at Capstone Theatre in February

FidlarAlmost Free
Wichita Recordings

Almost Free opens sirens blaring with the in-your-face Get Of My Rock, as a hi-hat beat crashes forward throughout. Setting the tone early with “motherfucker” being the third word on the record, the LA punk rockers present an album which doesn’t quite seem to know what it’s with at times.

In trying to please everyone on their most diverse record yet but still make a ballsy punk record, they’ve come off more XFM than X-Rated.

There are tracks of positive intrigue, however, as suitably chunky riffs shine through on Flake and the modern-life-is-rubbish banger Too Real whose guitar licks rip away at the track like vicious claws. The raucous skate punk sound that past fans returned for explodes on the aptly named Nuke as the short wall of noise contrasts to the otherwise pretty mundane album

Using Almost Free as a step forward to larger audiences the group attempt to move up from boisterous indie label rockers but even when they are trying to be controversial it comes off a little forced and safe. Every track feels like its been approved by a larger team outside the band as punky as anarchistic lyrics of substance are just replaced at times with check-listed tick boxes of needless f-bombs and boozy lad rock.

Cracking one open with the boys on By Myself, the addictive rhythm plays its part on the party starter of the album as we’re tediously asked, “Why does getting sober make you feel like a loner?” The hooliganism continues with the already dated Alcohol, whose chorus is genuinely insufferable for anyone without a Budweiser tattoo. The exuberant guitar solo and good rock rhythm are ruined as you’re blasted by choruses of “give me alcohol!”

Within the title track and Scam Likely the garage rock instrumentals become the highlight of the album as the influx of brass reflect that outside a ‘creatively controlled’ forced rowdiness, Fidlar are actually skilled songwriters.

Closing out with Good Times Are Over the hook chorus lingers in your mind as the overdriven grunge pop anthem finishes off a wild ride of an album which leaves with more questions than answers.

Kerrang! called Almost Free “an instant classic”- maybe I’m just missing something. – Will Whitby

Lorelle Meets The Obsolete: DE FACTO
Sonic Cathedral

Confession time: we’re not exactly sure when we first ‘heard’ Lorelle Meets The Obsolete. It could have been 2013 in the sweat box decay of Blade Factory or perhaps 2016 in the cavernous surrounds of Camp & Furnace.

The fact our memory is hazy holds little bearing on the band’s music but on the semi-conscious state we were in during Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia‘s brutal sensory overload. While we’re relatively sure we enjoyed what was on offer revisiting their music away from the live arena proved less inviting and ever so slightly underwhelming for like most artists prone to rely on cranial exploding sonics and arresting visuals they didn’t quite translate into the grooves.

Not so anymore. As the Mexican duo of Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez have, for their fifth album and first time of asking, employed their live band in a newly built home studio in Ensenada resulting in their strongest record to date – one that fully explores their hitherto slinky ambience but captures the wild drama of their live show.

In essence – it’s louder, heavier and more seductive See Fernando Nuti‘s bass and Andrea Davi‘s drums are pushed to the fore on Acción – Vaciar snaking around Jose Orozco‘s treated synth and Gonzalez’s hypnotic lead guitar or

Central to DE FACTO’s attraction is is the push and pull between meditative chamber pop and grinding death rolls of riffs and percussion; the woozy Inundación a perfect example with it’s Lynchian like waltz before morphing into a megalithic droning rumble But it’s the nine minute Unificado which is head and shoulders above the rest building from subtle bedtime noir into rabid riffs of raining sheet metal.

Elsewhere, Resistir and Lux, Lumina reminds you they can still do noisy psychedelic rock and roll before the quite beautiful 10-minute dreamscape closer of La Maga sees you down the home straight in relative aural comfort. For an album riddled with juxtaposition and contrasts it’s pretty close to perfection. – Peter Guy

Steve MasonAbout the Light
Double Six Records

About the Light is the fourth solo studio album from Steve Mason, and it’s an intriguing development from his previous offerings, a different approach was taken by the former Beta Band man this time round, with him saying; ‘I decided with this album that I wanted to get my live band involved at every stage because I wanted to capture the energy that we produce when we play live shows, so this time the band and myself worked on a collection of songs over the course of last year.’

Recorded with former Smiths and Blur producer Stephen Street the record is a pleasing blend of swirling guitar riffs, dreamy jazz sections, gospel elements, and beautiful songwriting, it’s all too easy to get lost in this albums melodic charm.

Having been both married, and also becoming a father since previous album Meet The Humans there are signs of a much more relaxed and content feel within the lyrics.

Stand out track Rocket is delicately written with gorgeous harmonies, and as good as anything Mason has put out before.and the added dimension of the band’s input bring a warning vibrancy to the songs.

Given Mason‘s big cult following, and mightily impressive back catalogue from both Beta Band and previous solo work the debate will rage as to whether this is his best album to date, but it certainly seems to be his most experimental, and endearing to a more varied and wider audience. – Kev Barrett

Alice Merton: Mint
Paper Plane Records International

If Alice Merton hasn’t been on your radar up to now then in 2019 she will be firmly in your sights.

2018 was a breakthrough year for the artist with a English and German heritage and it’s not often that your first single gets you a number one in France. Now with her first album comes 11 tracks that gives you a rich collection gender empowering tracks that can both uplift you and touch you and will make you reach for the repeat.

The track that started it all in 2018, No Roots, with its rich bass undertone and soaring melodies is one of the many stand out tracks that makes you feel good. The album kicks off with the euphoric opening track Learn To Live which is quickly followed by tracks like Lash Out, I Don’t Hold a Grudge and Trouble in Paradise will no doubt get the crowds bouncing with their lively enthusiasm and a need to say something loud.

Funny Business is a pure pop dance track that will not struggle to get you up. Slowing it down are the beautiful and haunting Speak Your Mind and Homesick, with it’s soulful vibe and catchy bass. The delightful Why So Serious with it’s important life message finishes of the album.

A stand out first album and one of the albums of 2019.

Alice Merton is touring Europe and the Uk throughout 2019. – John MIddleton

Queen Zee: Queen Zee
Sass Records

Queen Zee have been the subject of much comment and deliberation recently, not least in our own august publication.  The reason for this is that here we have a band just releasing their debut album who are already complete, fully formed.

Back in the late 70s, most people’s first exposure to Joy Division was when they released their debut album, Unknown Pleasures.  They had evolved and honed their sound in the relative privacy of the North West and, when their first album was released, everything was in place.  The music, the personalities, the image – everything was right, primed for them to burst into the public consciousness.

Queen Zee can make a similar claim.  Everything about them is right and soon the world will know it.

Their debut album tells us everything we need to know about them, for now.  It contains singles and live favourites and brings us all up to date with their story.

The old adage ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’ is taken to heart here as opening track Loner kicks things off with crunching guitars and heads straight into one of the catchiest choruses you are likely to hear, sounding custom built to be sang by huge crowds as Queen Zee attract bigger and bigger audiences.

Next track Lucy Fur sums up the Queen Zee sound, heavy punk guitar with a more effects driven lead guitar and singer Zena Davine’s excellently sneering vocals and a driving rhythm section.  The impressive thing about them is how they manage to take all these loud elements and come out of it with a song that has a pop backbone and could easily be broadcast on daytime radio.

In a recent interview,  Zena Davine told us that ‘The whole philosophy of Queen Zee is to bother the mainstream, to take the politics and the ideas and the ethics that were very much fringe and were very much confined to the punk scene and to go and preach them to the people that need to hear them’ and in this aim they would seem to be in an ideal position to do so.

There is a mischievous sense of humour to their lyrics that raises a smile, but this is not to say that Queen Zee shy away from serious subject matter.  As an example, I Hate Your New Boyfriend has the line ‘Hey, don’t you think he looks like Kurt Cobain?  I said more like Courtney Love after she went insane’ but then goes on to say that he ‘brags about the sex when he’s off with the boys’ and then finishes with a stream of consciousness full of angry bile the like of which I have never heard before.  The effect is just stunning.

Sexual politics are very much to the fore with Queen Zee and they give voice to those who feel that the sexuality is not something they want to have pigeonholed and those who feel their gender is not a static binary issue.  Theirs is an important message and one that deserves the wider attention this band and this album will give to it.

This album, comes with an attitude.  Mind you so do the band.  And thank God for that.  – Banjo

Gang of Four announce new album Happy Now plus tour date

The Twilight Sad: It Won/t Be Like This All The Time
Rock Action

It’s been a long ol’ wait for the fifth studio album from post-punk The Twilight Sad. Much has happened in the lives of the band since Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave was released in October 2014. Being the darlings of Robert Smith’s favour the band were propelled somewhat into the spotlight they so rightly deserved.

Their unique blend of guitarists Andy MacFarlane’s sweeping guitars mixed with the Scottish-drenched, deeply personal lyrics of singer James Graham made for a listening experience rarely matched. Whisked away on European and Worldwide tours at the personal request of the goth legends, had it seems the two-fold effect of honing those killer songwriting skills whilst keeping us all waiting even longer.

The run up to the release has been well thought out with three tracks on a staggered released- one on a nice 10” etched vinyl. Here’s a band not jumping on the current trend, simply delivering what the fans want.
On to the album and boy, it’s strong!

Each track has been carefully formed, molded and delivered as a completely finished article. From the opening high tempo organ loop of [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs], it only takes sixteen seconds for Graham’s vocals to kick in, ‘we’re hanging on by a thread.’ There’s the running theme encapsulated right there.

This album is full of those larger, personal issues we all carry: love, hope, self-doubt, compassion, bereavement, and above all the belief in human understanding.

Some of these lines are Graham’s most personal and haunting to date. ‘They said the screaming wasn’t loud, a heavy heart hammered you down’ is quietly repeated on the opener, before were launched into that trademark visceral scream for the first time.

The third release from the album, VTr, really ramps up the intensity, ‘I’ve been waiting for you, there’s nothing that I’d rather do. You’ll stop me from falling in the ground.’ It’s all here and the rawness of the exposure only heightens the authenticity.

Don’t be thinking they’ve leave the complimentary ingredient limping along in second place though- the music is ambitious. The soundscapes are hugely melodic with the synth influences firmly embedded into their sound, swirling to the forefront of the sound when needed. This is an album that dare we say, could fill arenas- just play Auge/Maschine and Girl Chewing Gum back to back.

Even the quieter moments there to help us catch our breath Sunday Day 13 and Let/s Get Lost could bookend sets or open encores. If the first set of impending live dates are announced as club dates, there will be a second round – trust us the larger gigs will come.

If this is your entrance point for The Twilight Sad (which for many, it may just be) we’re very jealous. Go and listen to the opening track of their debut record Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters immediately. There’s some great music waiting for you.- Howard Doupé

Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow
Jagjaguwar

On her newest release, Sharon Van Etten takes gigantic strides forward in her development as a musician and a storyteller.

Since her 2009 debut Because I was in love, Van Etten has continued to draw from a wide pool of influences, something that will be abundantly clear to anyone who buys the vinyl release of Remind me tomorrow which includes a ‘recommended listening’ list in the liner notes. Clearly a sign of an artist who is fuelled by a love of the music she works in.

While that first album was driven by rich vocals and clean guitar melodies, each subsequent release has dipped into a rockier and murkier sound. But this isn’t the same well-trodden path of a folk singer becoming a rock singer as their popularity grows.

She’s not switching genres, she’s stripping them for parts and building herself something new and unmistakably hers. Only a few of the tracks are primarily guitar driven, leaning more towards synthy keyboards and thumping drums, both physical and 808’s, layered with subtle complexity that rewards repeated listening.

There’s a diversity of sounds on Remind me tomorrow that a lot of bands couldn’t match with their entire discography. Van Etten’s most adaptable instrument is still her vocals, sometimes velvety, sometimes roaring with shades of Stevie Nicks; and the poetics of her lyrics match the skill of her composition.

From the Springsteenesque balladry of Seventeen to the dreamy soundscape of Memorial day, every track has something to offer.  –Mostyn Jones

XamVolo: All The Sweetness On The Surface
Decca

It’s been longingly anticipated, but XamVolo has finally released his debut album, All The Sweetness On The Surface.

Having juggled an architecture degree with developing his catalogue, taste and musical identity, Sam Folorunsho signed to Decca Records a few years back. This album comes as a merging of all his work from his time making music, from bedroom to studio, and the end product is a clean, soulful and crafted record which has gained praise from the likes of Huw Stephens and, albeit a slightly different genre, Enter Shikari.

When speaking to Getintothis a few weeks back, XamVolo said that he appreciated when a listener explores his music in depth as much as providing someone some background music, and this album can be appreciated in both ways.

On one level, it’s an uplifting record to brighten a day while at other times it deserves deep consideration and, as he said himself, personal reflection to decifer each listeners own meaning. “What do you think this is about?” he posted on social media when sharing Sins of A Soldier.

Maybe you should go and find out. – Lewis Ridley

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