Who says summer is quiet? The Getintothis team yield a bumper crop of new albums to put on your listening recommendations list.
I have, of late, been away from home a fair bit.
Specifically, I have been in Glasgow. Furthermore I have been there for a good few weeks, apart from a day here and there when I’ve actually managed to be at home.
Received logic would have it that travel broadens the mind, and this is an accurate enough observation. I am now familiar enough with what was a largely unknown city that I can wander around large chunks of it and not feel like a tourist. Or even fully a visitor.
I have been to great gigs, new clubs and bars, spoken to many lovely people and seen cultural references previously outside my sphere of experience (haggis pizza anyone?)
The other side of the coin though is that it can also leave us feeling like strangers in our own home. This morning when I woke up in my own bed for a change, I was momentarily unsure of where I was. What hotel is this? Where is the light switch? Which direction is the bathroom?
It is a strange and momentarily unnerving thing to be so dislocated from your own home. Of course this feeling didn’t last and, as soon as I realised where I was my mental map clicked into place in an instant. But for a moment there I was adrift.
There will no doubt be a similar, but less strong, sensation when I head into Liverpool for the first time in a good while. It is surprising how deeply we can put down roots into our own homes and home towns. So deep that a temporary unsettling of these roots can leave us feeling suddenly, well, rootless, without anchor.
The first sight of a home or a city in many weeks can make it seem unfamiliar or foreign for a few moments.
Don’t get me wrong, Glasgow is a wonderful, vibrant city full of the friendliest souls you could reasonably wish to meet and I hope to return there again soon.
But for now I am glad to be home, glad to be able to meet up with friends and glad to be able once more to immerse myself in Liverpool’s many charms.
Travel may broaden the mind, but coming home deepens it.
And to make coming home all the sweeter, we have an absolute monster of an album club this month, with electronica from Thom Yorke, piano ballads Bill Ryder-Jones, pop from Sigrid and, erm, electro mariachi from the excellent Moongoose.
Let’s jump in.
Sacred Paws: Run Around The Sun – Album of the Month
Rock Action Records
To say Sacred Paws‘ debut was a breath of fresh air would be understatement.
In a world distinctly lacking breezy indie pop tracks clocking in under four minutes, Strike A Match had 10 of them.
The fact it was written by two women living at other ends of the country made it all the more remarkable; the synergy between Glaswegian singing drummer Eilidh Rogers and Londoner guitarist Rachel Aggs is a primal, thrilling joy.
Their fusion of buoyant clattering grooves, angst-turned-upbeat lyricism, popping riffs and the odd burst of brass made for the soundtrack of our entire summer – and subsequently the remainder of the year eventually topping Getintothis‘ end of year top 100 albums chart.
Push forward 18 months and they’re back – can they repeat the trick? The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’.
Acting impressively as a twin sister to their debut, Run Around The Sun adopts the if-it-ain’t-broke-then-don’t-fuck-with-it mantra and the duo have carved out another ten songs which while mirroring the original blueprint, never run out of steam or underwhelm.
If anything, the follow up has shed a little of scatty lo-fi elements of Strike A Match sounding even more exuberant.
Take Write This Down – a song which leans on their paranoia and mental strain – yet is imbued from the get-go with a sense of blistering sunshine aligned to dancing guitar picks, bombastic brass blasts and their quite brilliant harmonies. It’s like the two were born to play music together.
The same can be said for lead single The Conversation which sees them characteristically finishing each others sentences amid a skipping beat imploring you to dance around your bedroom with a hair brush microphone.
That winsome brass is employed to stunning effect on Life’s Too Short and single in waiting Almost It while closer Other Side employs funky African rhythms recalling Talking Heads.
Elsewhere, the relentless rush of What’s So Wrong weaves washes of glittering synth to the frenetic pangs of Rogers‘ percussive pings, while How Far is the only track they pause for breath reflecting autobiographically ‘the page on a map that’s keeping us apart‘.
Apparently Aggs has now relocated to Glasgow and the pair share a gaffe which surely means more music and more fun times ahead for a world with Sacred Paws is a better world to be in. – Peter Guy
John Luther Adams: Become Desert
Adams lived in Alaska for 40 years, playing music and composing as well as working in environmental protection.
The environment of the far North West of the US and the fears for the future of that natural world were the inspiration for Become Ocean and his other works.
However, Become Ocean can be seen as the end of Adams’ Alaskan music as since 2014, he’s been living in New Mexico and this latest piece directly resonates with the imagery of his new landscapes.
Become Desert, he says is ‘both a celebration of the deserts we are given and a lamentation of the deserts we create’.
Become Ocean was something that was dark and ominous; something that spoke of the depths of the unexplored world. With rolling drums and edgy strings, it shifted like hidden currents, ever-swaying and rumbling, bursting into muffled explosions before fading slowly away, yet hanging onto a sense of menace and foreboding.
This time with Become Desert, Adams – working again with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot – has come up with a decidedly lighter work.
This time it shimmers like a heat haze.
You’re standing on an empty road. An endless horizon in every direction. The sun beats down hard.
But in the background (or the distance, it’s hard to tell really), there’s the gentle, undulating sounds and music of Become Desert.
You hear tender chimes and bells, mutating into strings and women’s voices in an almost seamless fashion. You’re unsure where one ends and one begins. The glimmer of the bells fades away but seems to remain long after the music is over.
There’s one movement to Become Desert. It’s a mere forty minutes long; although in this instance time is irrelevant. You don’t need to look at your watch.
Where Become Ocean had a sense of change and transition- or movement if you will- Become Desert has a feeling of stillness and calm. It’s lighter and ethereal, and much gentler than its predecessor.
There’s a sense that if you reach out to catch it, then it will simply slip through your fingers, intangible and lost forever.
This is a beautiful piece of music, beautifully performed and recorded and to be treasured for a long time. – Rick Leach
Black Pumas: Black Pumas
You’d have to go a long way to find a better debut album in recent times, at least from a band of relative obscurity, than what Black Pumas have delivered in their first offering, a record packed full of funk and soulful serenity and prowess throughout.
Released on ATO records, Black Pumas are an Austin, Texas based partnership between Grammy Award-winning guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada, and songwriter Eric Burton.
The pair, having met on the Austin music scene following Burton‘s stint as a busker, have seen their stock rise steadily since 2015 until finding the time to make the leap into the larger limelight now.
The eponymous album is a complete throwback to some of the finest musical works from the late 70’s Soul and R&B era: there’s elements Gil Scott Heron’s precision and panache, the funk and groove of Curtis Mayfield, and the soulful harmonies of the likes of The Delfonics all combining and intertwining with a modern day beat and lyric injection.
There’s a deep rooted cinematic feel to the record, an almost Tarantino’esq embodiment, fitting given the number of film scores Quesada has worked on throughout his career.
Produced in his home studio by Quesada this could well be the surprise album of the year.
Track highlights include bluesy opener Black Moon Rising, and the dramatically cool Oct 33.
On Old Man there’s a remote likeness to a Dan Auerbach production, so much so if the Black Keys had realised this instead of their latest offering, the very average Let’s Rock, then they would have the musical world eating out of their hands once again. – Kevin Barrett
Burning House: Anthropocene
Whether you believe that aural relics can offer contemporary resonance or not, soundscapes born out of this era’s fears frequently offer the most intrinsic visceral connections.
Sure, Elliot Smith still strikes an empathetic chord. But Burning House’s enrapturing album Anthropocene is an invitation to curl up under the cathartic layers of relatable apathy, drink in the intellectualism, and slip into a bed of disconcerted guitars.
The planet is burning, but there’s (hopefully) still plenty of time to soak up the solacing tonality of contortionist swells of distortion, fuzz, and frenzied drum beats which kick with the aggression we should all be feeling right now.
Feeling your rhythmic pulses align with music is one thing, but music which allows you to feel like a puppet attached to an emotive string which you never know which way it’s going to be yanked is quite another.
Each of the 15 tracks on Anthropocene delves into a unique entanglement of vintage Alt-Rock; which deviously shift from short and sweet hazily hypnotic offerings of consciousness (Elvis Moniker) to blistering offerings of stylised yet ruthless Shoegaze (Mimosa).
The common feat between them all, is the lyrics which will make you think twice about listening to prosaic music again. – Amelia Vandergast
Chance The Rapper: The Big Day
Chance The Rapper
As Chance The Rapper’s debut studio album begins with the simply excellent All Day Long, it’s immediately clear that listeners are in for a treat of a record.
The twenty-two track (including skits) album truly pulls no punches, with the bouncy, energetic opening of All Day Long smoothly transitioning to the more laid back Do You Remember – including a somewhat surprising appearance from Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.
The Big Day is pretty different indeed to Chance’s previous release, 2016’s sensational Coloring Book.
Hot Shower is just an unrelenting flow of lyrics from Chance, accompanied only by a minimal beat provided courtesy of a punchy drum machine and a sub-shaking bass synth.
Elsewhere, the seemingly chart-friendly Let’s Go On The Run is simply a superb track, fusing a catchy hook with a top quality beat and topped off with a great feature from Knox Fortune.
Indeed – it’s hard to try and remember that Let’s Go On The Run and Hot Shower are by the same artist, let alone featured alongside one another on the same record.
Another surprising appearance on the record comes from Randy Newman of all people, who appears alongside the likes of Nicki Minaj, Shawn Mendes and John Legend. The diverse cast present on The Big Day is a testament to the growing reputation of Chance, with the ability to attract some top talent.
It must be said – it’s pretty surreal to hear Randy Newman’s signature warbling vocals featured alongside the crisp delivery of Chance.
The Big Day is really just such a bizarrely diverse album, yet somehow all tracks miraculously manage to work alongside one another to create a record which, if perhaps not cohesive, at least tries to do something different – and absolutely succeeds.
There’s something for everyone on The Big Day, and is 100% worth a listen if you haven’t already given it a spin. – Max Richardson
Glassing: Spotted Horse
Brutal Panda Records
2017’s Life and Death was, for the most part, Glassing’s meat and two veg homage to screamo and hardcore. It was merely an album that failed to pull up any trees, until its closing track, Memorial. It showcased an atmospheric, slow-motion quality that was far removed from the seven tracks it followed.
Memorial proved to be a gateway for Spotted Horse – Glassing‘s stunning new long-player and a representation of a band shedding skins and forming into a brand new beast.
Not a world away from what Deafheaven have achieved over their beguiling journey of four albums, however Glassing (Dustin Coffman – vocals/bass, Cory Brim – guitar, and Jason Camacho – drums) lean closer to the fringes of post-hardcore with Spotted Horse.
The radiating flourishes of cinematic textures project the Austin, Texas trio in a new light, with ten tracks that undeniably capture the imagination.
Glassing come out of the blocks hard with opening track, When You Stare. It bends the boundaries of emo with soaring low-pitched guitars that would no doubt excite the likes of, say, Touche Amore devotees.
Sleeper follows and is an atmospheric sprawl with Coffman‘s primal shrieks cutting across surging riffs. From this moment on, it’s evident that we have a seriously good record on our hands.
Cove and Fatigue are two interludes, which compromise of reflective drone, sprinkling a ruminating dose of fairy dust across the sonic canvass. The former track leads into the album’s highlight in A Good Death.
Coated with Mogwai flange and tremolo, the track embodies the aesthetic of Spotted Horse. A perfect combination of aggression and dream-like euphoria, bottled up in in just over six minutes.
The only other moments that threaten to transcend the greatness of A Good Death include the crystallised form of chamber metal in Follow Through and the album’s bleak reflective closing number, The Wound is Where the Light Enters. – Simon Kirk
IDER: Emotional Education
Three years since releasing their first ever track into the world, IDER’s debut album Emotional Education is here and it was well worth the wait.
Born out of Falmouth University, IDER have produced a record that perfectly highlights the struggles that come along with navigating your way through your formative years with superstar production and harmonies that are so good it almost sounds like they’ve created a third member of the band (just listen to Brown Sugar to see exactly what I’m talking about).
Toxic relationships, identity crises, and absent fathers are just a few of the tough topics that are tackled on this record, its angsty, its poetic, but it’s also badass.
There’s something particularly honest about IDER’s music, it’s almost difficult to listen to, “I’m in my 20s/ So I’m panicking every way/ I’m so scared of the future/ I keep missing today” are typical lyrics in IDER’s music, superbly disguised by a perfectly crafted mix of electronic pop and alt-rock drum beats.
Mirror opens the record, it’s one of the more ballad type songs from the record, or a ballad as far as IDER’s style goes.
This song was an excellent choice to open the album, it showcases their biggest strengths, their harmonies and their lyrical content.
Detailing their struggles with self-identity and co-dependence, Mirror sets up the precedent for the rest of the album, its heavy, but it’s so dreamy you barely notice.
It’s not all dreamy melodies and angsty pop, though, they’ve got bite, too. Wu Baby enters the realm of a heavier alternative rock while Swim leans more towards the dance genre. It’s a solid first work that skates effortlessly in and out of genres while still saying exactly what it needs to say.
It’s still early days for IDER, there’s always a risk with up-and-comers, especially in the alternative genre, that they can get lost in the sea that is mediocre music, but here they have produced a stand-out album, one that is absolutely worth a listen. – Kris Roberts
New Zealand based composer and producer Kamandi takes his name from a comic-book character who is ‘The Last Boy On Earth’, wandering a souped-up pop-art world filled with talking animals. And as in that comic there is something lonely, surreal and wildly adrift about this collection of electronic tracks.
The album is called Voices and vocals are woven into many of the tracks, but there are no decodable words, just fragments communicating emotion – forlorn, warm, sexual, longing – over exquisitely teased beats that construct a soundtrack to an absent film.
Voices’ electronic landscaping builds meditative layers in a work that is spacious without being sparse.
Pieces like single Friend with its vibey beats are meta-songs with light but hooky insistence. Kamandi is an artist adept at absorbing, replaying and transforming multiple influences – Brit bass house on Anyway Friday, downtempo trip-hop on I’m Right Here, thick psychedelic electronica on Let Them Be.
Skit-like interlude tracks, atmospheric fragments like the swathing build and fall-away of Trails, add to the sense of sloped narrative. There is energy at play in the vast spaces – immense tracks like Please Ascend seem to be driving towards some sort of ambivalent transcendence.
Smooth, futuristic and bright, Voices is an absorbing and surprising sonic space to inhabit.
Voices is Kamandi’s full-length debut, following two EPs and assorted studio collaborations.
Like the fictional ‘Kamandi’ emerging from his post-apocalypse bunker, Kamandi (real name Tyrone Frost) has come from the underground to explore global trajectories that might go anywhere.
Having worked with Three 6 Mafia, Swishahouse, Riff Raff and Waka Flocka Flame in his CV, as well as composition credits for Dior and Netflix, Kamandi clearly inhabits a rising force role – now confirmed with beautifully creative confidence on this compelling record. – Roy Bayfield
Khruangbin: Hasta El Cielo
Night Time Stories
Khruangbin’s third full-length release sees them remix last year’s Con Todo El Mundo into an ilk of dub that offers another reading into themselves and reiterates the inexhaustibility of their cultured and cultivated sonic dynamic.
Beckoning Laura Lee’s strong and full-bodied funk-basslines to forefront of the mixes and spacing out Mark Speers‘ angular reverb-drenched guitar phrasing even further, Khruangbin take their definitively-worldly brand of Thai-funk into an another dimension; one drenched in lazy heat and a different kind of gravity.
Lead Single Mary Always – a dream-laden dub rehash of fan-favourite Maria Tambien – epitomises the musical essence of the album: where summertime meets space and rests there, just relaxing.
Regarding the dub sound that typifies the record, the band described and noted how this “unique mixing style, with the emphasis on space and texture, creates the feeling of frozen time; it was hugely influential to us as a band.”
And to authenticate the record’s dub take, Khruangbin conscripted revered Jamaican producer and engineer Scientist; the result is real and magnificent.
The hazy licks, scooping bass and tight-echoed percussion make for a warm field of spacey psychedelia as honest to 70’s funk groove as it is to dub’s reggae roots.
Criticism of the record would identify a lack of push and pace, but that is precisely the point.
Though it is not a radically different product, Hasta El Cielo offers another brilliant flavour of the Texan Thai-funk trio – more food for thought, enough to chew on for the moment. – Matthew Lear
Moongoose: Tokyo Glow
There are some words you never expect to have to type out next to each other. ‘ Electro mariachi music’ are three such words, but then along comes the first album from Moongoose.
Moongoose are David ‘Yorkie’ Palmer, ex-bassist from Space and all round local legend, along with guitars from Paul Cavanagh and video treatments from Mark Jordan. (Incidentally, can I say how much I love seeing a video person listed as a band member. It shows a post punk sensibility and takes me back to the heady days of early gigs from the like of Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League.)
Moongoose have had an enigmatic path to this their third album. EPs were slowly leaked out, there was a gig in a cinema, the occasional burst of activity on social media, and two under the radar albums. But nothing that prepared us for Tokyo Glow.
Tokyo Glow has taken this writer completely by surprise. The Moongoose tracks I’ve heard so far have been very good indeed, but when taken together in one hit like this, the effect is to be unexpectedly plunged into another world.
All 10 tracks on Tokyo Glow are instrumentals. But really they are much more than this; they are soundtracks. Listening to this album is like watching a film in your own imagination; by the end you feel like you have watched a Blade Runner style spaghetti western from beginning to end.
The songs that make up Tokyo Glow are expansive in both scale and ambition. Opener Bullet introduces us to the aforementioned electro mariachi, which is catchy as hell and an irresistible call to move. Imagine this playing over an epic Tarantino film trailer.
But one of the albums strengths is that no two tracks sound the same, yet they all sound like Moongoose.
Track 2, Tokyo Aflame, is another upbeat track, rich in atmosphere and texture. A soundtrack to a Bond film, should they ever get around to making a good one again.
A Floating World calms things down and would not sound out of place playing at the Café Del Mar, soundtracking an Ibizan sunset.
This is carried over into Sleep to Disappear and actually, most of the album. By this point, it is easy to forget that we are listening to just one band and not a mix CD that has been expertly put together to take the listeners on a journey. The range of feelings, moods and sounds is astonishing.
To listen to Tokyo Glow on headphones is to be carried away on a near psychedelic journey, blissed out and happy.
By the time the title track closes the album, we have come a long way together, Moongoose and I.It has been a journey of spiritual peaks, my own visuals and Moongoose’s extraordinary vision.
It is a journey I will be repeating many time over the coming months and years. This is an album that will stay with me, we will become firm and lifelong friends.
Undoubtedly one of the year’s finest albums, Tokyo Glow is just superb. – Banjo
Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals: Scattersparks
The Hip Replacement
The follow-up to last year’s Tunguska Tydfil is the third long player by this Soft Hearted Scientists offshoot from Cardiff.
Nathan Hall is Soft Hearted Scientists’ front man, while the album also features that band’s Mike Bailey on bass.
There’s plenty of quirky Welsh psych-tinged music available these days, with some of it skronkier and very off kilter, and some of it much more pop-oriented, like this album.
Effigies was the first LP to appear in 2017, nicely filling in for the absence of Soft Hearted Scientists whose most recent album Golden Omens was released a year prior.
Scattersparks kicks off with some cheesy 80’s synth sounds on Rooms. At exactly three minutes long, this is one of the longest cuts on the record. It’s then followed by Sunrise Sunset, which isn’t a cover of the tune from Fiddler On The Roof, fortunately.
In fact, there are 24 songs packed into just 48 minutes. I’m sure you can all do the maths to work out the average length per tune.
There’s a handful of rather forgettable often-backwards instrumentals scattered through the album, but most of the songs are well worth repeated spins.
Jaws Of An Orchid is a suitably typical track for Nathan Hall or Soft Hearted Scientists, featuring talking and singing sections over some minor key backing.
Return Of The Butterflies is a real highlight, coming in at well under two minutes but featuring perhaps the best lines on the record: “Hooray for the return of the butterflies and other things with compound eyes. Spring is kicking winter’s bony arse.”
This is likely to be the finest album released this year with songs concerning scarecrows coming to life, dead Roman soldiers and Laika, the first dog to orbit the Earth.- Will Neville
No Hot Ashes: Hardship Starship
Modern Sky UK
No Hot Ashes‘ debut album Hardship Starship lands with an air of expectancy.
The expectancy is there for a reason. Ever since the debut single Goose was launched in 2014, No Hot Ashes have built on the success of the single by releasing a steady supply of catchy guitar led singles.
A prime example of this is Eight Till Late, a song that didn’t make the album. But that doesn’t matter because what is on the album is pure class and a joy to listen to.
The band have grown together in time and created a sound that is distinctive, in a world where bands can easily file in lune to join the indie wasteland, this sets them apart from the rest.
Lead vocalist Isaac has an undeniably unique voice, a voice that adds another layer of differentiation from the crowd. His style changes as the album progresses.
His excitable, gritty Stockport accent can be heard most noticeably in Trouble, a track with police sirens and sound effects galore. It’s one hell of a tune, we’re already excited to hear this live at their album launch party on August 17 at Jimmy’s, Liverpool.
As the album progresses, the style twists and turns until we hit ISH-KA, a song which skips along the borderline of changing genre. At times it feels like spoken word, more perhaps similar to the hiphop tracks the band traditionally enter the stage to.
The lyrics in ISH-KA flow seamlessly from line to line. From avoiding high-school teacher Mr Willoughby, to avoiding mistakes on the estate from which he grew it. It sounds like a song dedicated to a younger brother. Either way it’s powerful and the second listen we find ourselves joining in to finish Isaac’s sentences for him.
What makes The Hardship Starship a glorious debut album is the erraticness of the lead vocals, underpinned by genuinely great instrumentals from the band.
The baseline in Extra Terrestrial is something to behold, and the hi-hat work throughout the album takes ordinary beats and propels them out of the atmosphere into orbit.
A triumphant album from a band that have put hours in the Parr Street Studio to create an album that will be on our Recently Played for months to come. – Conor Baxter
Úna Quinn: Inside Out
After a few weeks of listening, and trying to unpick all the individual fragments of sound in the debut effort from Úna Quinn, it’s safe to say I’m virtually no further along than I started.
The dense, rich and highly atmospheric soundscapes crafted so expertly by Quinn are second to none, loaning the record a true sense of serendipity, ideal to match with a carefree summer day in the sun.
Sublime guitar work provided courtesy of Neil Campbell stands out amongst the impeccably crisp mix of the record, with Quinn’s ethereal, almost whispered vocals mixing superbly into the dreamy sound of the nine tracks of the album.
It’s worth reiterating that the mix of this record is truly outstanding, with Quinn’s mixes being suitably polished with an impeccable mastering job courtesy of Jon Lawton.
The record sounds pristinely deep without ever being overwhelming to the listener, with the perfect balance of atmospheric sounds and instruments easing the listener gently into the sublime soundscapes crafted so eloquently.
Every track of the album is distinct, with no two tracks sounding quite alike – yet the album truly feels like a cohesive work, with expert pacing and a top selection of tracks which manage to compliment one another despite also contrasting; in some cases fairly drastically.
The Master is a highlight of the record, which is quite simply the quintessential sound of a relaxed summer day in the sun condensed and transferred to a record.
Elsewhere on the record, the poignant finale of Sin é serves as an excellent conclusion to the record, pulling the album to a close on a high note; a lush tapestry of sound set atop a backdrop of ocean sounds and the sound of seagulls.
Influences for the album seem hard to pinpoint, as the sound of this record is so truly unique it’s perhaps ambitious to attempt to draw a direct comparison to another artist.
There’s maybe a snippet of John Martyn-esque guitar here, or a Sandy Denny influenced vocal there – yet these fragments converge to produce a truly unique work.
Quinn’s debut album is a truly fascinating listen, well worthy of soundtracking your lazy summer afternoons. – Max Richardson
Bill Ryder-Jones: Yawny Yawn
Bill Ryder-Jones’ piano re-work of his last studio album Yawn has seen a fairly divisive public reaction. But if a tenderly orchestrated album of deft piano keys paired with numbed vocals isn’t described as ‘nebulous’ in Facebook comments, and gets plenty of laugh reacts, has it even been done right?
For those who seek exposing soundscapes containing actual human emotion, there’s a smorgasbord of evocative resonance found within Yawny Yawn.
In the absence of vocal gymnastics and clever aural thrills, you’re left with striking sentiment and melodious piano progressions played with the same magnetism of works from Nils Frahm and Philip Glass.
The efficacious use of spatial effect had a completely transformative effect on the previously wavy and minimalistic Shoegaze layered Indie tracks. If you’re already in possession of Yawn and you’re wondering if Yawny Yawn is worth it, the answer is irrefutably yes.
The original version of Don’t Be Scared I Love You carried plenty of restorative weight, but, with the Neo-Classical sensibility of the piano re-work, each note is a soothing cattle prod prepared to sting with sonorous vulnerability.
Whatever instrument happens to be under the pressure of Bill Ryder-Jones‘ fingertips, alchemically soothing fusions of delicate fondness seem to linger. Which is especially the case with No One’s Trying to Kill You. Whether it’s the endearing nature of the candid lyricism or the visceral orchestral intensity of the single, I can’t be sure.
But what I can be sure of, is that Bill Ryder-Jones is an essential artist with more bravery than the Gillette razor boycotting, toxic masculinity clenching philistines who think it appropriate to hear someone’s soul spill and say and complain that it’s not entertaining enough. – Amelia Vandergast
Sigrid: Sucker Punch
Pop has been having a bloody good time of it over the last few years.
Of course, there’s always great pop music, however since the mid 2010’s we’ve been spoilt rotten – and most of it is being created by women.
From the classic pop of Taylor Swift‘s 1989, Carly Rae Jepson‘s Emotion, Ariana Grande‘s thank u, next and Lorde‘s Melodrama through to the more leftfield experimental leanings of Grimes‘ Art Angels, Beyonce‘s Lemonade, Christine and the Queens‘ Chris, Solange‘s A Seat at the Table and Rosalía‘s El Mal Querer it very much feels like we’re living in a golden age.
This was brought home with crystal clear perspective at this year’s Primavera as festival goers sported t-shirts branded: ‘Miley, Carly, Chris, Janelle and Solange‘. Big voices with even bigger bangers had largely replaced the bearded men with guitars as Barcelona embraced ‘the new normal.’
Also on the bill was 22-year-old Sigrid. Another huge talent, and one who’s debut album crept out somewhat under the radar (it peaked at #4 in the albums chart) in March despite three years of relentless promo and a raft of singles.
The fresh-faced Norwegian’s tale of giving two fingers to the men in the music industry who tried to mould her into something she isn’t is well storied and that rebellious tone is all over Sucker Punch. And while her music hardly falls into the aforementioned experimental pop listed above, it’s not far off the contemporary classics of the likes of Carly Rae and Ariana are producing.
Sure the latter third of the album tails off, but the front is loaded with soaring serotonin-infused Scandinavian belters.
The one-two opening combination of the title track and Mine Right Now set the tone with fizzing rushes of synths and block-rocking beats aligned to Sigrid‘s raspy roar.
Sight Of You is even better, all dancing orchestration, twinkling piano and towering rushes of effusive energy – and is perhaps the finest feelgood song of the year while documenting losing your luggage.
Elsewhere, Basic and Don’t Feel Like Crying align massive hooks to a natural lyrical innocence and genuine sense of someone starting off on their (ahem) journey while 2017 singles Strangers sounds just as fresh with the former’s Euro Pop dazzle and the latter oozing ire and steely vigour.
In a crowded field, Sigrid‘s raw talent is easily enough to make her stand out and sit comfortably alongside her contemporaries – it’ll be fascinating to see where she goes next. – Peter Guy
slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain
As debuts go, slowthai’s Nothing Great About Britain has one of strongest focuses we’ve seen in recent years. The production and overall composition sound like that of an artist with a number of records already under their belt.
In an album full of grilling political and social commentary, one of the underrated highlights is slowthai’s delivery
Somehow he’s managed to launch through tirades and proclamations with the same vigour as a seasoned veteran, but also sounding like you’re in the front room with him discussing the day.
His ability to create the feeling of being pulled aside for a chat on Love Island for a topic so cumbersome, without even bordering on becoming patronising, speaks volumes of his eloquence and how much thinking has gone into the record.
Mercury-nominated and riddled with positivity from critics and fans alike – Nothing Great About Britain is a collection of stories from across the nation, told expertly by the young rapper.
Peaking at number 9 in the charts is a major achievement for an artist whose tracks aren’t the most daytime-radio-friendly being released today.
It speaks volumes of his growing following, and this group of fans clearly hold a special place in Tyron’s heart – choosing to play tours for as little as 99p a ticket. It’s only capacity limits, ticket touts and the crippled transport system that stands in the way of you attending.
Lucky for slowthai, if he chooses to source the majority of his inspiration from political turmoil, he’s spoilt for choice for the foreseeable future. – Nathan Scally
Pat Dam Smyth: The Last King
Quiet Arch Records
I first met Pat Dam Smyth many moons ago, somewhere around 2007 when I saw him perform with Nipsy as Pat & Nipsy in Belfast.
As a duo Pat & Nipsy had their heart on these shores, a seemingly never-ending search for a drummer led to them busking around Europe, landing in LA and playing for their lives, literally.
Pat‘s first solo album, The Great Divide, appeared somewhere in 2012 to critical acclaim. The fact that I’d had a rough copy of it for about 18 months before its release felt like a terrible burden, I wanted to blast it from the rooftops, all of them.
Pat is a generous, principled kind of a bloke though he has a tendency to be a bit of a wild card. I spoke to him one evening backstage at a show in Belfast, as I handed him my telephone number his then manager, Barrett Lahey, snatched it out of his hand and handed it back to me with a warning not to open that door.
For that door, I was told, led to 4am calls and many weird and wonderful ideas.
The Great Divide is a remarkable thing, moving, haunting, delicate and deliberate, to say I’ve been waiting for the follow up is an understatement.
Pat, though based in London is now on the roster at Quiet Arch Records in Belfast, alongside Ciaran Lavery and Joshua Burnside. Quiet Arch is the baby of the legendary and superhuman Lyndon Stephens.
It is in many respects the perfect home for him, he will work on their roster and they will have a lot of time and patience for his creativity, although I’m guessing Lyndon switches his phone off at midnight.
On first listen, The Last King is a departure for Pat, it starts with Kids, a mesmerising anthemic beauty about a trouble-torn homeland that builds in your veins and tells of a place that has changed much over the last 30 years. There are certainly fewer helicopters thrashing around, at any rate, something that the start of Kids is reminiscent of.
Catch a Fish is back in more known Pat Dam Smyth territory, it sees him as the wise corner dwelling storyteller, it is full of bass and blues, it has a bit of darkness thrown into the mix to keep it interesting.
Title track The Last King is snappier than anything we’ve heard from him, it’s punchy, it seems to talk of his musical journey, mocking the road left behind and it’s a joyous little thing.
Goodbye Berlin brings us back to Pat‘s masterful grasp of beguiling balladry, the Irish in him seeps out through every pore. Doesn’t Matter Now and Another World are a sublime segue that brings us into Juliette, a sprawling love song that could easily walk off any Nick Cave album you care to mention.
Dancing is is another slice of Pat‘s autobiographical genius, Teenage Love sings at you through millions of lovelorn teenagers angst-filled bedrooms, it’s filled with regret, grit and heartache, and it is incredible for it.
The album finishes on Where The Light Goes which is perhaps one of the finest songs I think he’s produced, its a stunning thing that clocks in all too short.
A lot of the depth in this record has been teased out by producer and Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos. He signed up for mixing and production duties on hearing early versions of the tracks, he brings out that end of Pat‘s sound to stunning effect.
The Last King is a beautiful follow up to The Great Divide and together they tell the tale of a man on a mission to share his view of the world with all who will listen.
I’d say get The Last King as soon as you can, but really, buy both. – Chris Flack
The Soap Girls: Elephant in the Room
This 19 track monster from the French born and South African based band is the third self released album from sisters Millie and Mie.
For want of a better description it’s a pretty accomplished set of post punk / punk / pop tunes.
You may be forgiven for thinking it’s all been done before, and in some ways you’d be right. These are not the female rabble rousers that live in the same company as, say, Witch Fever, Hands Off Gretel or Dead Naked Hippies. The songs don’t have quite the same venom.
But the attitude is similar in that they are unashamedly women trying to forge a path in an all too male dominated business.
We can only guess at quite what they mean as being the Elephant in the Room. From where we sit, we’ll suggest it’s their use of their looks and willingness to get their kit off at pretty much any available opportunity to promote their brand. Coupled with, presumably, a stream of trolls who hate them for doing so.
It is true, their Instagram feed would have a teenage boy reaching for the tissues every night.
But that kind of both makes and misses the point of The Soap Girls. They are a fine band with a really good canon of work. They know how to get their message out there. They choose to do it their way.
There’s no better example than the pre-amble to I Stand Alone, which runs “In life you will meet many people, some of them will try and screw you over and some of them will try and ruin your life, this song was written about a motherfucker who tried to fuck up our band, who tried to fuck up my sister’s life, all I’ll say to you, you fucking piece of shit: FUCK YOU, I’LL BREAK YOU, DIE”
We can only wonder where he is now. – Peter Goodbody
The St Pierre Snake Invasion: Caprice Enchante
The St Pierre Snake Invasion
Caprice Enchante is the The St Pierre Snake Invasion‘s second album, the very long-awaited follow up to 2015’s A Hundred Years A Day, which sees them hone their special kind of a racket into a more varied sound, and is a real progression from the debut record.
The album took four years to make and the opening track The Safety Word Is Oaklahoma sounds like an encapsulation of the frustrations involved in such a long, drawn-out process, an angry splurge of noise and colour.
Carroll a.Deering and Casanovacaine sees them settle down a little, taking a quieter route, and sees them embrace an almost commercial side, they are almost QOTSA/Faith No More-esque in their delivery.
This mellower vibe does not last long with the sneering The Idiot’s Guide To Music and the loud-quiet-very loud Omens, which takes it’s lead from Mclusky’s You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus, fitting as vocalist Damian is also part of the new Mclusky line-up.
(Bonus point for the song titles, Things To Do In Denbigh When You’re Dead almost matching their first album’s David Ickearumba).
The current penchant for something that bit gritty will surely see this record gain them a much bigger audience, and this is well-deserved.
This is the sound of a band leaving nothing behind in the studio, a gutsy declaration of a record. – Steven Doherty
Thom Yorke: Anima
Thom Yorke is back with his 3rd album and, although the last 2 solo releases (The Eraser & Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes) were a little hit & miss, Anima, to me, sounds great.
Yorke’s dystopian lyrics and haunting electronic beats (produced by long term Radiohead family member, Nigel Godrich) are evident throughout this album.
Album opener Traffic sets the tone. The beat builds until the chorus breaks with Yorke singing ‘Show me the money/ Party with a rich zombie’. It’s bass heavy, moody and best served loud.
The second track, Last I Heard (… He Was Circling The Drain) is much more minimalistic and haunting with Yorke crooning, ‘Woke up with a feeling I just could not take/ Swallowed up by the city.’
My personal favourite is four tracks in, Dawn Chorus. This featured in a Radiohead soundcheck over 10 years ago. The more I listen to it, the more I fall in love with it with vocals laid bare and empty over a synth-heavy sound scape.
This is Thom Yorke at his best.
Evocative, moody and taking you on a journey of dreams and nightmares. ‘I’m breaking up your turntables (You don’t mean a thing, but it won’t bother me), now I’m going to watch your party die’ he snarls in I Am a Very Rude Person.
This release certainly isn’t going to appeal to a new fan base or achieve huge commercial success but whether you love him or hate him, it’s Thom Yorke, being Thom Yorke. – Kevin Parry