Getintothis’ writers pick the best new albums from the last month to help your summer go with a swing.
Everybody loves a summer holiday.
A break in the sun. A trip somewhere hot and hopefully somewhere that requires a passport to get to.
It’s something that most of us look forward to or aspire to every year. Even those of a gloomier disposition who swear blind they’d prefer to stay in a caravan in Prestatyn in the rain than head off into the sun aren’t really fooling us. They may prefer to listen to the likes of the Sisters of Mercy or Muse but we know they’d secretly love to be heading off on a plane, boarding cards in hand and factor 35 packed in their suitcases.
But this is the thing about holidays abroad. Music. Or at least it used to be.
In times gone by-and it’s not really that long ago and certainly so recent that this writer can recall it – a holiday abroad meant cutting yourself off from music. The music you wanted to listen to. European radio stations were (and still are, by and large) awful. There was no internet, no streaming, no phones to hear the music you wanted to hear. It was the only downside of two weeks in the sun and a cheap holiday.
Things changed however with the advent of boomboxes and Walkmen. This is how music became portable. You’d get on a plane and there’d be a few teenagers lugging around boomboxes as their hand luggage. They’d end up sticking it on as soon as they could, usually as you waited for your luggage to fall off the carousel and invariably it was loud and annoying and shit music, but it was music nevertheless.
The alternative was taking a Walkman with you. For some in the early 1980’s this meant a proper Sony Walkman with not bad sound, pretty well engineered and made and not liable to break. They weren’t cheap though.
For others (like me), cheap holidays abroad also meant cheap Walkman-type devices. Mine cost £15 from Dixons and was made from plastic that had been rejected by East German car manufacturers as being too flimsy for Trabant dashboards. The headphones were dreadful and the sound was so weak and pathetic that it would get drowned out if a couple of mosquitos buzzed anywhere within a few meters. Still, it allowed me to take the music I wanted to listen to and avoid being stuck with nothing but Europop for a fortnight.
This was the thing though.
You used to spend ages and ages before you went away deciding exactly which tapes to take with you. Did you take the essential ones? The albums that you couldn’t bear to be parted from, not even for a week? What about the new ones that you’d been meaning to listen to, but hadn’t properly, not yet? Surely a holiday would be the ideal time to catch up. And then there were the ones your mates had recommended, those ‘you-must-really-hear-this’ ones. This was all before you spent an inordinate amount of time making mixtapes to take with you. It was all a major exercise.
I distinctly recall one time when I’d gone through all of this and ended up with over 30-odd tapes to take with me on a one-week break. It was ridiculous. There was no possibility of listening to even half of them – as much as I loved music I didn’t want to spend every single second of the holiday ploughing through those tapes – but I took them with me anyway. Just in case. After all, you never knew when you’d get a hankering to hear Crass bash their way through Reality Asylum.
And as much as tapes took up a major part of your luggage allowance, then CD’s were just as bad, if not worse. Despite being sold to us consumers as the perfect way to hear music, we all now know that wasn’t strictly true. We’d watched Judith Hann or Maggie Philbin smear jam all over a CD on Tomorrow’s World, stick it into a player and heard it blast out Dire Straits Brothers In Arms with nary a jump or a glitch. This was was the future!
Sadly, this wasn’t how it panned out. Get a few grains of Mediterranean sand on your prized CD and you were knackered. Did you have a Sony Discman (or a cheaper Dixons equivalent)? Possibly the most useless piece of audio hardware ever made. Unless you kept it perfectly horizontal then it would simply stop. The days of walking around with a Saisho Walkman copy strapped to your waist as you wandered without a care, music playing quietly yet hassle-free were over. CD Walkmen were thankfully a short-lived phenomenon. In 2017, don’t be fooled by any hipsters going retro with them. They’re not worth a carrot.
However, all of this is consigned to the past. The days of prevaricating endlessly about what music to take with you on holiday are all gone. In these days of streaming, we can listen to the equivalent of a Jumbo Jet full of tapes or CD’s whenever and wherever we want. We don’t need to cram tapes or CD’s cheek-by-jowl with our flip flops, sun creams and horrible beach shorts in our luggage. As long as we have our phones with us, we’ll be fine.
Having said that, the problem of exactly what to listen to while we’re sunning ourselves hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s worse. We really are spoiled for choice nowadays.
So, with this in the back of our minds, the crack Getintothis writing team have carefully selected the best albums of the last month and picked some favourites. Whether you’re spending some of August in Alicante or Aberystwyth, Palma or Preston or indeed Lisbon or Liverpool, then these choices should help a little bit and allow you to relax in the sun without worrying about what to listen to. Unless you’re in Preston, where no doubt it’ll be raining.
Marcia Bassett and Samara Lubelski: Live NYC
Feeding Tube Records
This quite frankly amazing record is the work of just two people with a guitar and a violin. To be able to conjure up the sounds they make is staggering.
Although a live album (and don’t knock it for that) this work by Marcia Bassett and Samara Lubelski, improvised over two separate nights and two separate locations in New York in May and July 2016, doesn’t have that ring of “live album” about it. There’s no ‘Are you ready to rock New York?‘ exhortations in there, yet this album does rock, in its own way. And how.
Apart from the title of the album being a bit of a give away and a touch of faint applause at the end of each of the two tracks, you wouldn’t guess it was recorded in a live setting. You’d think that it would have been crafted carefully and precisely in a studio for months and months with a whole bunch of musicians and a truck’s worth of guitars.
But each of the two tracks, MMXVI – V – XIV Fifth and MMXVI – III – XVI Day of the Teutoberg Forest, were made with just one guitar and one violin and not a massive orchestra. It just sounds as if it was. It sounds like it’s been hewn from solid granite.
It’s all too easy to call this drone music or experimental or electronic. Yes, it is all of those, but we know what droney experimental music is like. And it’s like nothing like what Bassett and Lubelski have made.
They’ve made something that’s truly innovative and exciting, music that twists and turns and folds in in itself, constantly changing and evolving.
Every time you hear it, you hear something different. It’s one of those albums where you can’t wait to get to the end because that means you get to play it all over again. Rick Leach
Growing up in a small village we had to make our own fun.
Curby, one bounce and dicking about down the back field were always winners during the summer months. But in the winter it was pretty bleak.
One October a couple of us befriended this local loner and for two consecutive winters we found ourselves holed up in his bedroom involved in Warhammer role-play.
Bear in mind, this was before the internet, and we weren’t old enough to drink, let alone even know what drugs were, so we sat there rolling 48-sided dice, marvelling at his collection of three-headed goblins – all meticulously crafted in Games Workshop paint while he pretty much made the rules up behind his mass of long, straggly unwashed hair.
For about a year or so, me and my mate Stephen kinda worshipped this oddball loner – you know the type; wears his brothers hand-me-down Iron Maiden t-shirt, has spliff blimps in all his clothes and can never find the grinder, stunk of dog and was monosyllabic until his ma called him for tea and told us to fuck off home.
Anyways, after two years of playing his impenetrable Warhammer board games and attempting to decipher his whacked out Middle Earth narratives we decided to fall out with him by throwing soilies at his house. His dad was real fucked off and told us never to come back – even knocking at our parents’ homes before cleaning all the mud off with a gigantic hose.
Somewhere, I can guarantee that madcap, orc-loving lunatic is listening to Finnish prog-metal-glam-pop-riff-demons Circle and having the time of his life while priming an orc with some white base coat acrylic paint. Peter Guy
Dead Cross: Dead Cross
When Faith No More/Mr. Bungle vocalist extraordinaire Mike Patton first announced that he would be taking the lead position in post-hardcore supergroup Dead Cross, which in itself is the brainchild of ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, we could not contain our excitement.
The kind of vocals Patton displayed in the first singles dropped from the self-titled debut were so reminiscent of that time he made an EP with The Dillinger Escape Plan, that it bode very well for the Dead Cross LP to come.
The EP Irony Is A Dead Scene completely shattered any expectations we had of what Patton was capable of. Screams, singing, grunting, and almost rap-like verses came spewing out of him, and it was safe to say that he nailed it.
Now that very same vitriolic, almost-schizoid Mike Patton is back, with a group of equally furious musicians ready to spit in your face, shouting “Pistoleroooo” in unison. Running at twenty-eight minutes in length, fairly standard by hardcore measurements, at a glance you might be fooled into thinking that can escape having your face blown off by riffs, and how wrong you would be.
There is certainly no shortage of memorable moments throughout, despite its length, no, almost in spite of its length, as though the band felt that they needed to cram everything they wanted to say in as small a space as possible. On paper Dead Cross should sound like a shambles, but it just works, and we try not to question it too much, lest we break the spell it has cast over us.
This thing slays (hoho, slays geddit?), and you will want to hear more of it immediately after it has finished; a good sign we reckon. Mark Davis
The Fall: New Facts Emerge
This is the thing about The Fall.
After thirty studio albums, countless live releases, innumerable compilations and what must be thousands of gigs, you never quite know what you’re going to get from them.
The Fall always surprise you.
This is not to say everything that Mark E Smith and his merry band of troubadours do is beyond reproach.
After almost forty years of seeing The Fall live and buying all those albums (all thirty of them!) this writer knows only too well they can surprise you in a bad way; shambolic gigs and albums recorded with a “will this do?” attitude (see Are You Missing Winner as a prime example) are part and parcel for The Fall. Yet through all of this, being a follower of The Fall is never boring.
There is still that excitement – and it is a strong word, excitement, but very apt when you hear a new Fall album for the first time.
Waiting for the first notes of New Facts Emerge to come rumbling through the speakers you still get that sense of nervous anticipation when you slapped Dragnet or Grotesque fresh out of their sleeves on your crappy little turntable four decades ago. The format of delivery might have changed somewhat (unless you’re sticking with vinyl and I’d wager MES would have something to say about that) but playing a new Fall album for the first time is really like no other musical experience.
And having played New Facts Emerge a least a dozen times over the last few days, we’re happy to report that it could possibly be one of The Fall’s finest.
There’s a tautness to the whole thing and a sense of urgency that has been sadly lacking from The Fall’s output certainly for the last five years, if not longer.
Even when they’re not firing on all cylinders, The Fall tend to kick off albums with very a strong song and on New Facts Emerge they’ve done that with two; Fol De Rol and Brillo De Facto. The recent loss of Elena Poulou in advance of the album might have been seen as a worrying sign. There was a risk of The Fall falling apart again and losing the edge that her keyboards added, a shade of darkness and light.
If anything, it seems to have freed The Fall up to come up with the most exciting and innovative music that they’ve made for years.
It’s a sign of good Fall album when you can only decipher a tenth of what Smith is on about. So far, I’ve managed to hear him growl about ‘asphyxiated trolls’, ‘the great green jelly’ and something indecipherable about the French. On that basis, we’ve got a great one here. Adding in a Seven Dwarves ‘Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho’ backing vocal to Couples vs Jobless Mid 30’s is a cherry on the cake.
In a very Fall-like way, the album ends with a nearly nine-minute track about albums being reviewed with a 9 out of 10 rating and seems to link back in some strange and reversed way back to Music Scene– the final track on the The Fall’s first album.
Like the rest of New Facts Emerge, it’s wilfully experimental and intriguing and that’s not something that you’ve been able to say about The Fall for a while.
There’s a feeling this could well be the last Fall album. If so, they’re going out in a blaze of glory.
But you never know. The Fall will surprise us yet again. They certainly have with this remarkable record. Rick Leach
Life In Patterns
German techno seems to be one of that handful of styles that seems capable of constantly refreshing itself, remaining as vital now as it was back in the 90’s. One reason of many for this is that young German composers still get involved in techno and approach it with the seriousness and intellectual rigour that they would any other style of music or visual art.
Ferdinger is a prime example.
This is his first album, self-released on his Life In Patterns label and it oozes with confidence. The technical standards are on a par with Herbert von Karajan’s BMW, all purring and shiny. Where this album really stands out is Ferdinger’s ability to bring new flavours and techniques to techno without disturbing the music’s direct accessibility.
A couple of tracks sit neatly on the album but, although completely danceable, aren’t actually in 4/4. Sporn – the last track on the album- displays the kind of spectral slowly evolving harmonies more often found in the concert hall and Firn shows mastery of the minimalist principles of Steve Reich.
The title means “Terrain” and each track title refers to different aspects of mountain landscape: Nordwand, Kamm, Tobel. This is perhaps a clue to the persistence of German techno. It’s become part of the kulturlandschaft itself, as permanent and everpresent as the Alps. Jono Podmore
Haim: Something To Tell You
Haim return with their sophomore album, Something To Tell You is the essential pop rock album which will soundtrack the majority of your summer nights while you try to re-enact the dance from the lead single Want You Back.
The Haim sisters have returned with an album which is an advance form the melodic and lyrical narrative in Days Are Gone and they are now perfecting their own style with collaborations from Dev Hynes and George Lewis Jr.
With the opening track and lead single Want You Back setting the essential tone of the album, upbeat rhythm and melodies perfectly contrast the longing and heartfelt declarations of mistakes. Little Of Our Love and Ready For You echoes the melodies of the debut album yet maintain captivating rhythms. Even with the heart-wrenching and lovelorn lyrics, the album has an ability to be an act of empowerment while embracing acceptance of events beyond control. Kept Me Crying concludes with ‘I was your lover/ I was your friend’ morphing into an act of defiance; ‘I’ll never say goodbye.’
Right Now and Night So Long pair to make the perfect ending to the album, Right Now acts as a slow melancholy wind down to the album, and Night So Long says goodbye to a lover and friend- giving the closure to emotions running right through the album.Jess Borden
2017 has been a promising year for chart electronic music, holding the release dates for some fantastic debut albums from some positively forward-thinking bands. One of the most recent releases, and perhaps most noteworthy, is the self-titled debut album from the Los Angeles based synth-pop group LANY.
LANY has never failed to achieve a unique vibe, mirroring the nostalgic sounds of bands like The 1975, but bringing a poppier, more American and – dare I say – less pretentious edge to it.
The album gives the people exactly what they wanted, starting out with five typical, arp-synth and 808 soaked cheesy electro-pop tracks, really the sound that launched their career in the first place. Dumb Stuff – the opening track – is really less cheesy than the following four songs, but its title really gives the observant listener an idea of how the album begins; dumb pop songs.
The first five tracks lead up to Parents, a bizarre Frank Ocean-esque spoken track, what one can only assume was an attempt at adding an artistic and alternative edge to their album. Despite the strangeness of the Parents track, the songs following are a huge improvement, and after they get the inevitable drop of their old hit single ILYSB out of the way, their cheesy pop vibe transforms into something much more palatable for the pop music connoisseur.
Pancakes, Tampa and So, Soo Pretty are a few contributing factors to what turns out to be an amazingly satisfying ending to the album, despite the slightly less-than promising start.
Over the course of the album, LANY successfully shifts their sound from dumb pop songs to less-dumb, artistically fulfilling and beautifully vibey pop songs – still retaining the “pop” – but a rare thing to find in current pop artists. The development from their old to their new is clear from the beginning to the end of their album. Well worth checking out for anyone interested in our current era of music – LANY is at the cutting edge. Stephen Geisler
Public Service Broadcasting: Every Valley
Play It Again Sam
Public Service Broadcasting are back with their third LP Every Valley, a concept album charting the coal mining industry of South Wales. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – PBS have very much followed the same formula as their previous works, teaming archival voice recordings with lavish instrumental tunes.
The album begins during the heyday of the industry and the first couple of tracks are bombastic, industrial even, recalling the great pride of the Welsh mining communities and painting pictures with sound of lavish valleys and treacherous mines.
There’s an instant intensity on Every Valley that comes from the fact that we know this story and we know how it ends. It is a sad aspect of our nation’s history and indeed our wider civilisation: the decimation of communities in the name of progress. There’s a dark irony to the early tracks and some humour even. It’s hard not to scoff for instance at tracks such as People Will Always Need Coal, which features a recruitment film from as late as 1975 urging men to ‘be a miner … there’s money, lots of money and security”.
The sound of each track on the album reflects the specific time that song is focused on. As in People Will Always Need Coal and Progress, there are modern guitars, vocoder and synth aplenty. Go To The Road has a murky sound, an intense tone and tempo which never breaks, reflecting building tensions as the mines began to close. All Out is in many ways the centre of the album, signalling the strikes and the raw anger felt by many. It is at this point we move from recordings of information ads to interviews with people on the ground making their voices heard. It’s a heavy rock n roll track that is typically fitting.
They Gave Me A Lamp is a personal highlight – the mining strikes from a feminine perspective. On it there’s archive of recording two Welsh women who talk about how the mine closures have awakened them politically. “Politics is life, and everything to do with it affects you, directly or indirectly” one says. They talk about the sexism they’ve experienced from girlhood and how becoming politically active has given them strength that they always knew they had. Their beautiful sing-song voices are backed by the twinkling of a xylophone; An emotionally charged song that brought more than a lump to the throat. As the track progresses the delicate xylophone morphs into a whirlwind of brass and vocals by Haiku Salut. An older lady speaks at the end, proclaiming confidently “I’ve been in front, I have never give in, I have never sat back, and I have never refused anybody, and I am very proud of it … and I’ll be proud to look back on it”.
What did stick out in my mind was the intriguing notion that a band from London decided to write an album on the Welsh working class. PBS’s albums previous to Every Valley have focused on much broader aspects of modern history. In a sense then it is a positive thing to have such a niche section of history under their microscope but it would mean more perhaps if it were Welsh musicians speaking of their own history.
There are the endorsements from James Dean Bradfield, who features on Turn No More, and a track featuring Lisa Jen Brown singing in her native Welsh. The band also recorded the album in Ebbw Vale, Wales at the hall of an abandoned workers’ institute. There’s no doubting the earnestness of the PBS’s intent but at the same time an art-rock band from London telling a regional working-class story will always be suspect. Indeed, in respect to those communities under focus this can’t be ignored and it is something that band has obviously tried to address.
All that aside, this is some fine music and the subject, although regional, will resonate with many. Public Service Broadcasting may not be changing up their style with their third album, or look to be doing so in future, but their music isn’t really about that. Music can, and should be used for a variety of reasons and, as ever PBS are thought provoking, imaginative and I highly recommend this one. Janaya Pickett
Public Enemy: Nothing is Quick in the Desert
Public Enemy were very quick on the uptake of the internet’s possibilities with showcasing and distributing music, and this is a trend that they seem keen to continue. New album Nothing is Quick in the Desert is being given away as a free download over at their Bandcamp page.
The PE sound has evolved over the years, their lineup now featuring live bass and drums. As a result, their sound is less one of electronic overload and more an organic hip hop. They also now tend to rock out and overall there is more than a flavour of rock to their music. Thankfully, they still manage to retain their funk, their attack and their swagger.
Chuck D still sounds like the authoritarian voice of hip hop and a righteous fire still burns in his belly.
Anyone who has caught their recent gigs will know the PE live experience veers from moments of brilliance to rap panto. On record though, they are lean and mean. Their targets are still the curses of modern society, in this case these include unearned celebrity, the corrupt banking system and the state of hip hop in the 21st Century.
Although perhaps less essential than they were in their heyday, it is good to know that PE are still producing records of this quality. The importance of PE in music history can never be overestimated, but still to be delivering the goods 30 years on since their Yo! Bum Rush the Show debut is just enormously impressive. Banjo
Ride: Weather Diaries
Who would have guessed that Shoegazing would be such a happening genre in 2017?!
After producing some classic albums in the 90s, Shoegazing quickly became a much ridiculed scene and its principal lights either vanished or slipped into self parody. Ride were undoubtedly one of its leading lights, bursting into our lives by producing one of the best debut albums of all time in Nowhere.
And then things took a turn for the worst; Alan McGee introduced them to The Byrds and, to these ears, they seemed to lose their essential Ride-ness in a rush to emulate their new heroes. A protracted fall from grace and a messy end seemed to bring everything to a close, with guitarist and co-vocalist Andy Bell going off to join Oasis as their miscast bass player and the rest of the band retreating to lick their wounds in private. Main singer and secondary guitarist Mark Gardener eventually emerged with a few decent albums, but all seemed over for Ride until they announced their reformation and toured to celebrate the anniversary of their debut album.
We have a new album, Weather Diaries, which is their finest since Nowhere. Opening track Lannoy Point starts with a gentle electronic pulse before the chiming guitars and twin vocals that form Ride’s trademark sound kick in with gusto. From here we’re into Charm Assault, the single that was Ride’s first new material for 21 years. The album is full of such songs, and it becomes quickly apparent this is a band with the fat trimmed off, all songs here are lean and we have an album that does not dip or have any filler tracks.
For a band that were known for their guitar attack, Ride always had an easy knack for a slowie, and this is a tradition they carry on with the album’s title track, a haunting tale of love lost and one of Weather Diaries best tracks. They have upgraded their sound since the heady days of the 90s and incorporate some electronics into their sound, but thankfully without losing sight of where they should be going. Altogether, Weather Diaries promises a good outlook for Ride fans. Banjo
Sheer Mag: Need To Feel Your Love
An unashamed punk cd from an unashamed garage band.
Kicks off at 100 mph with opener Meet Me In The Street and then doesn’t really slow down much for the next 43 minutes.
At times there’s an almost funk groove to the sound; Need To Feel Your Love could be Chic were it not for Tina Halliday’s shouty vocals. Nile Rodgers, she ain’t.
The five-piece from Philadelphia have released their first full length album, although there are earlier ep’s kicking around.
It’s lo-fi for the cassette generation and a wicked fuck off to anyone else. This album takes no prisoners. It’s angry music for a disenfranchised culture. And, yet, can we hear a bit of Thin Lizzy in there? Some heavy Rock? We’re not really sure we care. It’s just brilliant. Peter Goodbody
Seán Street, Neil Campbell, Perri Alleyne-Hughes: Estuary
The idea of a 17-track conceptual album about estuaries set to spoken word poetry is perhaps going to struggle to make a significant dent in today’s pop charts.
However, the collaborative project between poet and broadcaster Seán Street, Liverpool-based guitarist Neil Campbell and vocalist Perri Alleyne-Hughes really is quite something.
A 12-poem sequence across two books by Street were pulled together via the music of Campbell and vocals of Alleyne-Hughes for Merseyside literary festival Writing on the Wall in 2015 – and it’s received a full album release in 2017.
While the subject matter relates to dancing ferries, the Iron Men of Crosby beach, tranquil harbours and a plethora of aquatic species it’s the overall ambience which truly washes over and captivates the listener.
Street’s voice itself is like a stream of consciousness ebbing to and fro between Campbell‘s progressive guitars which veer between Michael Rother-like cosmiche and Canterbury prog.
Alleyne-Hughes is used sparingly but her appearance injects a deft power to the proceedings – see the modulating soul of Storm Blind or Sestina (Part Two)‘s cascading waterfall of nylon strings and sparse bass.
There’s some truly transcendental production work at play too with Marty Snape layering textured electronica subtly beneath the waves of guitar (see Fog Redux‘s Eno like rhythms) while unsung Mersey producer Jon Lawton allows the entire piece to breathe amid the delicate waves of instrumentation.
This is a seriously fine record and quite unlike anything we’ve heard for some time. A natural beauty. Peter Guy
This is the Kit:Moonshine Freeze
This is the Kit is the moniker of multi – talented, Bristol based singer Kate Stables and this release, her first on Rough Trade, certainly has a kind of Bristol vibe about it.
For this John Parish-produced CD, Stables is joined by a slew of special guests to supplement her guitar and banjo playing. There are saxophones, flutes, trumpets, violins, cellos and more and it creates a multi-layered, yet also sparse sound.
Throughout the album you can hear all sorts of disparate influences – some desert blues on Bullet Proof, an almost African style drum sound on title track Moonshine Freeze and her infamous banjo on tracks such as Easy On The Thieves.
Given the accolade of being Rough Trade’s album of the month for July this is a feelgood record for the summer, the warm notes and Stables’ smoky, lazy vocal style make the perfect accompaniment to a cool Campari and soda sipped out on the decking.
There’s a simplicity to the sound that belies the more complex structure of the arrangements and there’s lots to discover even after a number of listens.
This is a folk record, probably, but that description does it an injustice because, while those sorts of influences are apparent, it draws on so much more to create a glorious gem of gentle harmonies and shifting rhythms that isn’t easy to pigeonhole anywhere in particular, save in the file marked “Excellent”. Peter Goodbody
UNKLE: The Road, Pt. 1
Songs for the Def
It has been a long seven-year wait for fans of trip-hop/electronic/downtempo ensemble UNKLE.
Their last studio effort Where Did The Night Fall, released back in 2010, saw the then core duo of James Lavelle and Pablo Clements assemble an all-star cast. One that included the likes of Mark Lanegan, Gavin Clark, Katrina Ford and ELLE J for what would be the band’s most celebrated work to date.
Now, in 2017 Lavelle is back after a very successful crowdfunding campaign with another set of musical wonderpeople, not at the least limited to the gravel-voiced Mark Lanegan once again, ESKA, Keaton Henson and Liela Moss, for another epic dive into Lavelle’s musical mind.
First thing to note is the sheer weight of this album. The talent contained within its’ fifty-seven minute running time is enough to satisfy any listener with the variety of musical styles all lodged within its’ bounds. Though, where other ensemble groups have failed to capture audiences with a fractured end result and an over-reliance on star credibility cough Gorillaz cough, UNKLE is truly focused on their craft.
What began as a slab of raw talent from an amalgam of sources has been deftly chiselled and worked into a worthy successor to WDTNF, and a true example of the genre done right.
The culmination of seven years of musing, and a stellar journey from start to glorious cliff-hanger ending, The Road has only just begun to take root in our consciousness.
Truly, this is an album that needs to be absorbed, not consumed, as any piece of art should be, let us just hope we don’t have to wait another seven years for Part 2. Mark Davis
United Waters: The Narrows
This album sounds like a dream.
Or rather, it sounds like that half-asleep, half-awake semi-conscious sense you get when you’re waking up from a dream. You’re puzzled and the reality of any dream merges and morphs with the reality of being awake. It ebbs and flows and for a few seconds, maybe a bit longer, it’s hard to determine what’s real.
A record that can evoke feelings like this is surely a good thing. United Waters have come up with the goods on The Narrows, their third album after their debut in 2011 and the follow-up, Sunburner in 2014.
The Narrows is woozy and relaxed, wobbly and constantly shifting. You wouldn’t have expected something like this to have stemmed from that tired old cliché, ‘noise-rock’ yet that’s exactly what Brian Sullivan has done with United Waters, after the demise of his loud and thrashy act Mouthus.
While we all have a bit of space in our hearts for noise and rock and therefore noise-rock, it is a bit of a musical cul-de-sac. You can only go so far with it e.g. noisier and rockier. Sullivan, with the addition of Patrick Cole on guitar and Chris Shields on drums, has performed a subtle three-point turn with United Waters and is heading down a road that could quite frankly, lead anywhere.
There are faint echoes of his former musical style; the vocals remain slightly gruff and growly but that’s all it is, faint echoes and the slightest memory of years gone by. Ride the Midnight Home just about has a tune and a melody, yet it’s a track which peeks through the mist every now and again to let you know that there are rock roots still anchoring it to the ground.
Songs are stripped down to the bare bones until you get the sense that they could be blown away with a slight breeze, leaving nothing behind. Best track on the album is the title track, underpinned with a twangy and murky rock and roll guitar riff and sounding like an outtake from a Velvet Underground bootleg you’ve never heard.
This is music to dream to. Rick Leach
Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm
Out in the Storm marks the fourth release from Waxahatchee, the solo project of Katie Crutchfield. Written in the wake of an unhappy relationship, its relentless self-reproach is shot through with the insight that comes from having survived a break-up.
Lyrically, the record doesn’t stray too far from Crutchfield’s signature themes of vulnerability and introspection, but there’s a crackling energy to the songs which keeps them from brooding in the corner.
Lead single Silver soars along with its wordless yet effervescently catchy hook (it’s the one you’ll be putting on repeat) while Sparks Fly examines the carefree and emotionally fulfilling nature of Crutchfield’s relationship with her sister. Those nights spent laughing with her twin in a Berlin bar are clearly a far cry from the internal battles wrought by her romantic encounters.
One enduring trait of Waxahatchee songs is that the lyrics can come off a little like unsent letters. With all that doggedly whispered regret, they can start to sound like lists of things you imagine Crutchfield wished she’d uttered in person, only to bottle them up instead.
And yet, with this record, you get the feeling that whatever the storm, she’s somehow weathered it. It’s no surprise that Katie Crutchfield is taking another long hard look at herself, but this time she’s come out with some fight in her. Orla Foster
Siobhan Wilson: There Are No Saints
Song, By Toad
The classically-trained and Glasgow-based Siobhan Wilson, previously Ella the Bird, on her second album There Are No Saints, combines classical leanings with pop. Pleasingly there are no pretensions here; on the contrary, her songs are honest and arrangements unfussy.
The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – cello her go-to instrument of choice –spent a gap year in Paris as a teenager, a 12 months which morphed into five years. And it shows.
On the French songs – a cover of J’attendrai (I’ll Wait), and Paris Est Blanche (Paris Is White), written by ex-boyfriend Simon Campocasso (also known as acclaimed musician Le Noiseur), she channels her inner Jane Birkin. They’re charming, and chic.
On There Are No Saints she collaborates with producer Chris McCrory, of Glasgow indie band Catholic Action, the album recorded in his childhood bedroom, and appropriately it’s the simplicity of this album which touches the most. Whatever Helps is kindly advice to herself, maybe, on how to deal her depressive episodes. ‘You’re haunted by the line of a song…try to move on.’ Dear God is pure and true, acoustic guitar and vocals, ‘when I scream your name I do it loudly and clearly so you’ll hear me and one day maybe forgive me…for my sins’, and makes the atheist in me give a nod to the agnostic other half at the very least. ‘Dear God…all I wanted was a job’ shows Wilson’s sharp, clever wit.
The sweetness of her voice, especially on the French songs, cuts through and makes its mark. Themes on the album are dark and thoughtful; depression, and moving on from loss of different kinds. This is ever the way of the sensitive singer songwriter, but Siobhan Wilson has an uncanny knack for making such sad things extremely beautiful. There Are No Saints is a striking record. Cath Bore