Albums Club #42: Alffa, Michael Kiwanuka, The Building, Iguana Death Cult, Angel Olsen and Tom Speight

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December Albums Club

As we enter December, the Getintothis staffers see the year draw to a close with one last Albums Club. 

December is a funny old month. It means that we are now in the depths of winter, all thoughts of summer warmth banished from our rapidly paling bodies, and we are equidistant from another summer festival season.

Yes, we have Christmas to look forward to, but then it’s a cold, long drag until it finally starts getting light again when we’re on the way home from work.

But, as the final month of the year features the final Albums Club of the year, it is a good time to look back and reflect on what we have done, what made us smile and what caused those frown lines bothering our faces to etch themselves ever deeper into our troubled skin?

The first thing that jumps out at me as I cast my mind back through 2019 is that it has been yet another good year. As someone who finds it easy to look on the downbeat, pessimistic side of things, 2019 has given me many reasons to be cheerful.

Chief amongst these, as ever, is the amount of good music the year has seen fit to send our way.

First and foremost for me personally, Nick Cave‘s Ghosteen is the towering work of a master of his craft. Ridiculously, Nick Cave seems to be incapable of anything other than brilliance and is now almost untouchable, so far ahead of his peers has he become.

Sadly, 2019 saw the first and last album from favourites Queen Zee, who split up not long after their debut album was released. This is a huge blow to the music scene both here in their native Liverpool and to the world at large. Lead Queen Zee Davine has since launched a solo career, announcing a trio of gigs, so there is already a reason to look forward to 2020.

Also on the downside, the double blow of missing this year’s Glastonbury and not getting tickets for next year’s 50th-anniversary bash is a bit of a pisser. In fact, Glastonbury ticket day is now a royal pain in the arse, starting with an early start and a hopeful feeling and ending a few short minutes later with crushing disappointment and the feeling that other people are going to be having the fun that is rightfully yours.

Not that I’m bitter, but I hope it pisses down and Harry Styles headlines.

This year has seen some incredible gigs from the likes of Stealing Sheep, Fontaines D.C. and Teeth of the Sea, to name but three.

On the flip side, it’s always a shame when a band you know and love fail to deliver the set you expect of them. We’re naming no names, but we have been forced to write a few less than complimentary reviews.

Contrary to common belief, this is always something we do with a heavy heart and no small amount of sadness. We much prefer to write about great gigs and spend our time bigging up the bands that we see, but as I’m sure you can imagine, this isn’t always possible, unfortunately.

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2019 has also been a great year for anniversaries of seminal albums, many of which hit the ripe old age of 40 this year.  There must have been something in the water in 1979 and no mistake.

Only time will tell if any of the albums we have reviewed over the last 12 months will be talked about in the same reverent tones as the likes of those by The Slits, Public Image Ltd, Gang of Four and The Pop Group, but we would place a sizeable bet that some of them will make the distance.

But, whatever 2019 has given us, we can see another good run of form in the coming year. And perhaps this is what we can take from picking over the last 12 months – there is as much fun to be had looking forward as there is backwards.  Banjo, Getintothis Features Editor.

Album of the month

Alffa: Rhyddid O’r Cysgodion Gwenwynig (Freedom From The Poisonous Shadows)
Recordiau Côsh Records

As a band, Alffa have come a long way since the early releases of tracks like Tomos Rhys, Rhydd and Mwgwd, on their forgotten about Soundcloud account.

They have transformed from a duo playing garage-rock White Stripes-esque tunes in low ceilinged clubs to this, their definitive sound; it screams unprecedented confidence in themselves and the songs they’re performing.

Rhyddid O’r Cysgodion Gwenwynig (Freedom From The Poisonous Shadows) opens with the monumental Gwenwyn, the screeching guitar bends bringing your ears to attention.

Since its release as a single it has gained over three million streams on Spotify and sets the scene for a landscape of gritty blues-rock to unfold, we could argue it is one of the strongest openers for an album released this year, and as it transitions into Full Moon Vulture, your popping head is given no rest.

One of the largest selling points to this release is the approach of the album’s bilingualism, yet with the arrangement, your ears often gloss over the fact the song you’re now listening to, isn’t even in English.

So, how do the unheard songs hold up to the original singles? Well, they comfortably sit alongside the tunes without looking out of place. You could imagine Tommy Shelby strutting into a scene, sound-tracked to songs like Dewr Dy Fyd (a personal favourite), Pla and Black Angel, emitting a cool-ness some of us could only ever dream of having.

Refreshingly with Alffa, is that they have never conformed to normality, while a majority of artists have adopted the jangly-safe guitar sound, with lyrics heavily based on saturated topics, sometimes alienating listeners from other areas.

Alffa’s blues sound and introspective lyrics, particularly on songs like Babi Mam, gives them a uniqueness found nowhere else within the Welsh language scene.

An only criticism being the over-production of the album means some of the grittiness can be lost in areas – but this can be excused, by seeing them live – which you all should be doing!

Da iawn lads! – Cai Thomas

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Ponderosa Glee Boys: Awake
Punktown Records

The usual story here is that there can be a huge gap between a band’s first and second album. Bands such as Stone Roses and Stereo MCs can claim five and eight years respectively between debut and their follow-ups.

Others have gaps between other albums. Guns n Roses Chinese Democracy famously came 15 years after its predecessor.

But Ponderosa Glee Boys have a wilder claim to make. Their debut album Awake is released on December 8th, a colossal 41 years after the band first got together.

The reasons for this are many, but all we need to say is that it is definitely worth the wait.

When the band got back together a few years ago, they decided against rehashing their old set, which was now 40 years old, and instead bravely elected to write and rehearse a completely new set of songs. In three weeks. And then play it live to a crowd of discerning old Eric’s punks.

And, to their eternal credit, they made a stunning job of it. Those songs, now road-tested and worked on over the last two years, form the basis for this album.

What is immediately apparent on listening to this album is that, by refusing to rely on their old songs, Ponderosa Glee Boys have come up with a very now version of their post-punk sound of the 80s.

The first track, the anthemic Liar, starts off with a snippet of Donald Trump talking about building his wall before the song kicks in and the chorus of ‘He’s a liar’ gets repeated, nailing the Glee Boys colours to the mast.

The sound is full and energetic and the guitars are fresh and inventive, which is what you’d expect when you realise that Ponderosa Glee Boys feature one Mike Mooney on guitar, late of Massive Attack, Spiritualized and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Second track Coming to Get You is a punky number, with vocalist Carl Eaton singing so fast he’s almost rapping at a point.

This is followed by So Cold, which takes things down a little, with Mooney’s guitar being sparser and more delicate while Phil Hartley and Mark Robson hold things down on bass and drums respectively.

The only cover on the album is the band’s take on the Magazine classic The Light Pours Out Of Me, which is a fairly faithful version, if a little more beefed up by the band. This is a great version of a great song but, if I’m being honest, I would rather have another Glee Boys original.

As good as this song undoubtedly is, PGB are writing better songs now than Magazine managed. There is a clear line between the two bands though, as Ponderosa Glee Boys are fit to take their post-punk crown.

The album’s title track is an epic call to arms anthem that straddles the 41 years it took to come to fruition.

The standout track is Can You Feel My Pain, which starts with a haunting piano riff before growing and growing to become a wall of sound monster and, yes I’m going to say it again, an anthem.

Awake is an incredible record under any circumstances, it is fresh, lively and in your face. It will have you singing, smiling and dancing around your living room like you were 40 years younger.

The songs that make up Awake feature have all the elements of classic songwriting; catchy hooks, anthemic choruses and just the right amount of rock attack. They know when to roar forward and when to fall back and it is easy, under different circumstances to imagine these songs being sung back at the band by huge crowds at summer festivals.

But, as the band are split across Liverpool and Australia, gigs are limited to December when singer Carl heads home from down under for a month or so. The album is being launched with a gig at District on December 8th and fans of quality rock/punk/post-punk are strongly advised to check them out and pick up a copy of Awake for free on the night.

There will undoubtedly be other hit and run gigs over the month, so keep your eyes peeled for further details.

In the meantime, we have Awake, an album 41 years in the making that was worth every second of the wait. – Banjo

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Amyl and the Sniffers: Amyl and the Sniffers
Rough Trade

The self-titled debut by Aussie punk band Amyl And The Sniffers was released back in May, so it is something of a late entry. However, there’s no messing about with the record itself though as eleven tracks whizz past in less than half an hour.

It kicks off with the pounding Starfire 500, although almost two minutes elapse before Amy Taylor’s vocals appear, the real star turn of the band.

Apart from the closing track, this is the longest song on the record and not all that representative.

More like it is Gacked On Anger, whose title gives a good clue that it’s not a happy-go-lucky tune, as Tucker sing-shouts “I’m working off my ass every single day for the minimum wage”.

Australia has a fine tradition of punk, with The Saints releasing one of the very first records in the world in the genre when (I’m) Stranded was issued in September 1976.

Melbourne-based Amyl And The Sniffers are definitely nastier than The Saints (perhaps one day we’ll hear them following suit by embracing their soul side and adding a brass section, which would be quite something) and they’re less goth than The Birthday Party.

Their closest local precursors are maybe Radio Birdman, but obviously less male-focused, and even more pummelling thanks to Bryce Wilson’s intense drumming. Closer to home, they probably recall The Damned more than any of the rest of the class of ’76.

GFY is a coyly-abbreviated title of a song that is yet another angry tirade with Dec Martens’ guitar and bass work from Gus Romer underpinning things in fine style.

The only downside of the album to these ears is the rather unnecessary shredding guitar solos during both Monsoon Rock and especially the closing, lengthy Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled).

Control seems to come from the perspective of an obsessive, while Got You and Shake Ya, in particular, both have classic chanted punk choruses that send the musical memories spinning back over forty years.

This is a record that doesn’t have a weak track from start to finish.

We may be late to this album, but make sure you don’t miss it completely. – Will Neville

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Beans on Toast: The Inevitable Train Wreck
BOT Music

Beans on Toast’s new album sees the person known to his friends as Jay McAllister turn to some good time rock ‘n’ roll. The Inevitable Train Wreck is the 11th Beans album and is, as is his habit, released on his birthday, December 1st.

While the music may be buoyant, the album’s themes are anything but. In fact, Beans himself describes the album as ‘an upbeat, old-school rock ’n’ roll record about the worryingly bleak future of the human race.’

The music owes much to the involvement of Lewis & Kitty from, unsurprisingly enough, festival stalwarts Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Lyrically, however, this is all Beans on Toast’s show.

The Inevitable Train Wreck is an album that is so current that listening to it sounds like someone has set the news to music. On England I Love You, McAllister is pulling no punches as he sings ‘The first thing that the PM does is spend a hundred million pounds on a digital online marketing campaign. Well PR is just another word for propaganda and there’s a hundred million other things that money could be spent on.’

It is hard to disagree with such comments and The Inevitable Train Wreck is peppered with such sentiments.

Musically, there is almost a touch of Chas and Dave about proceedings, which is entirely meant as a compliment. As a new generation seem to be rediscovering the cockney knees-up merchants, Beans on Toast’s timing may yet again be on point.

Other topics on his mind include driverless cars, the rich/poor divide and people who leave their rubbish behind them at festivals. His lyrics are personal, pointed and relevant and, if people were to listen to them the insights they contain may even make a difference.

What Beans on Toast needs is a bigger audience to hear them and, as his reputation grows through dint of his own hard work and tireless gigging, maybe this is exactly what he will get.

The Inevitable Train Wreck is a worthwhile and valuable record. Listen now, before it’s too late. – Banjo

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The Building: PETRA
Concord Records

When Anthony LaMarca softly sings ‘my body transformed, from leaves to a tree, cut down too soon‘ it’s fair to say he’s not messing.

War On Drugs guitarist, LaMarca, aka The Building, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma while recording his second album PETRA and subsequently recorded much of the album connected to an IV drip.

The physical and emotional scars are left starkly exposed throughout the 37 minutes of this wondrous nine-track record.

PETRA, named after his German Shepherd and the self-made acronym, Peace’s Eternal Truth Renews All – is a brutal, open letter with much of the album autobiographically documenting his health struggle, most notably on lead single All Things New, as he says: ‘fearing what you cannot change, waiting for the ground to thaw I don’t wanna wait at all,’ you can palpably sense his want to overcome.

If it doesn’t make you well up, you have a heart of stone.

Elsewhere, on the superb Life Half Lived he strays from the self, adopting the perspective of two female friends who are dealing with emotionally abusive partners and trying to find their way forward.

Sounding like a young Neil Young, he empathises with their love towards these men, the fathers of their children, while getting nothing in return. It’s another dagger through the heart.

Indeed, much of PETRA recalls the tenderness and naked beauty of Young‘s After The Gold Rush and fans of his will find much to cherish.

See When I Think Of You is a stripped back ode to his wife, while increasing in physical and mental torture, “I hate that this is hurting you, but this is happening to me” he coos over gentle cello and violin strings and suppressed feedback.

He saves his greatest statement of positivity for the title track and finale – a brushed intro leads into a swelling organ, kick drum and a gentle chorus of voices repeating his mantra – ‘peace’s eternal truth renews all‘.

It feels like a victory lap, a triumph against all odds and a testament to the power of the human spirit. And that’s something we can all get behind. – Peter Guy

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Leonard Cohen: Thanks for the Dance
Columbia

This is bang on the nail and typical of Leonard Cohen’s output over the last 20 or so years. If you’re familiar with albums such as Ten New Songs and You Want It Darker, then you’ll be right at home with this latest release.

Although of course, it’s a posthumous release. Arranged by Cohen’s son, Adam, it features a series of recordings made by Cohen in his final months, following the completion of You Want It Darker.

These were rough home-based recordings, cleaned up and recorded with a new cast of musicians.

The instrumentation takes second stage, though. At the fore is Leonard Cohen’s distinctive voice – more spoken than sung. This feels much more like a record of poems, spoken over a backing track than it does a collection of proper songs.

That seems fitting, his strength always was words. No better example of this is to be found in Puppets:Puppet Presidents command puppet troops to burn the land”. It’s almost as though he was predicting the future and getting it spot on.

The penultimate track – The Hills: “I’m living on pills, for which I thank God …My angel’s upset … What I’ve left undone, she will certainly do, I know she is coming

It’s a short album, calling it time at nine songs and 29 minutes.

Listen to the hummingbird, who’s wings you cannot see, Listen to the hummingbird, don’t listen to me. Listen to the mind of God, don’t listen to me”.

And with that, we say adieu.

And, thank you. – Peter Goodbody

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Die Orangen: Swei Orangen
Malka Tuti

One of the good things about running a regular albums column is that people will contact you with details of their new album, hoping for a review.

This means that I can sit here at my computer and have albums come my way with little or no effort on my part, a situation my younger self would have given a considerable amount of eye teeth for.

Of course, not all of these albums are my kind of thing, but once in a while, I am able to access something unexpectedly wonderful, something with bucket loads of skewed charm, something that probably would not otherwise have been on my radar.

Such was the case with Die Orangen.

The band are made up of Kris Baha and Angus Gruzman who started making music in the midst of Australia’s diverse electronic music scene before moving to Berlin, a city that seems well suited to their music.

Swei Orangen starts off with opening tracks Wires in the Outback and Back to Me, featuring guitar squalls and riffs amongst their more Industrial backing, but by Desert Metallika we are firmly into less conventional territory.

The band themselves say their influences lie in the likes of Nine Inch Nails and My Bloody Valentine, which makes sense by the time we hit the motoric groove of Severed Did I, but a reference point I find myself returning to is Industrial pioneers Coil.

There is much to be intrigued by on Swei Orangen and it sounds like the work of two experimental and highly creative minds. It confirms my faith in music that an album of this quality and fierce charm can exist and flourish and be made by people who feel the need to create, rather than the need to chase chart success or dilute their art for commercial gain.

Swei Orangen will take you on a journey. Along the way, you will see strange views and stranger people, but it is a journey we recommend you make as soon as possible,

Die Orangen may be the best surprise of the year. – Banjo

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Hatchie: Keepsake
Heavenly

Primavera is renowned for being one of the finest festivals on the global stage. However, it should be saluted for being one of the few major festivals which delivered when it came to gender balance in 2019.

The line up provided notable big female popstars in the shape of Miley Cyrus, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Robyn, Solange and Christine and the Queens.

Yet the bill was peppered by a plethora of rising female talent deservedly given a platform among one of Europe’s biggest happenings.

Harriette Pilbeam aka Hatchie was one of them. Appearing on the main stage on the opening day proper, the Australian’s glistening sun-kissed lullabies were the perfect accompaniment to a Catalonia summer’s evening.

And her debut album, Keepsake, released in June, has been one of the year’s sleeper successes.

Bountiful in swelling melodic shoegaze, her formula recalls The Sundays given a workover by Ride and the results are nothing short of first-rate.

Obsessed is our pick of the bunch – a fizzing effervescent bullet of chiming Johnny Marr guitars and sugar-rush percussion complete with Pilbeam’s multi-tracked vocal harmonies.

Unwanted Guest sees guitar swells redolent of My Bloody Valentine colliding with big 80s synths which should please the inner Goth in anyone while the breathily brilliant Secret shimmers for all of its four minutes.

Elsewhere, Without A Blush finds her in Smashing Pumpkins grunge-light terrain and by the time Keep concludes with a bloc-popping workout

It’s evident that there’s a new force in pop worth keeping a trained ear on. – Peter Guy

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Iguana Death Cult: Nude Casino
Innovative Leisure

When a band come into our sonic-sphere with a name as good a Iguana Death Cult we’ll always take note to give them a spin. And what a first spin it was.

I mean, what’s not to like about this album from the brilliantly monikered Rotterdam post-punk/new wave band? Minimalistic modern Ukiyo-e style cover artwork has already got us a little bit giddy, but it’s the Ennio Morricone-esq prelude that has us on a hook before the harmonious havoc begins.

Normally reserved for churning out house DJ’s such Tiësto or Armin van Buuren the Netherlands has been a little sparse on the ground for that breakout band of recent times, could Iguana Death Cult just be the ones to break the mould?

Following impressing at SXSW the five-piece signed to the ever expanding LA based label Innovative Leisure, home to Allah-Las, BADBADADNOTGOOD and Nick Waterhouse.

Nude Casino is the second LP from the quintet, following 2017’s The First Stirrings of Hideous Insect Life. The latter unquestionably revealing the band’s full potential.

Whereas their debut was a fully capable rock album, this release see’s the band return with startling purpose. The sound a lot more refined, production so much sleeker, Jeroen Reek’s vocals undoubtedly more crisp, with a big slice of clarity on the direction of the band.

Adept to being played in any situation there’s an almost idiosyncratic escapism to this album, albeit in therapeutic rage sort of way. The record’s title track, Bright Lights and the poetically catchy Tuesday’s Lament stand out as the album best tunes.

For lovers of bands The Stooges, Oh Sees or Parquet Courts, this will be like coming across a rare gem, and wanting to instantly clear your calendar in case they announce a tour any time soon. – Kev Barrett

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Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
Polydor

People say the situation in which you first listen to an album can leave a lasting impression on what you think of it.  For Michael Kiwanuka’s self-titled third album, I listened to it high in the clouds as I flew home from my holiday. It was an album that demanded my attention as the clear skies of the North Atlantic passed by below.

Kiwanuka is no stranger to me, I’ve followed him since his sublime debut record impressed crowds at Sound City 2012. Warm vocals with a retro soul feeling coming from a place of discovery and excellent songwriting.

As we took off as did the album. Track one You Ain’t The Problem comes in straight off the bat, funky as hell.

Brassy and fuzzed guitar lines are coupled with brash snares and a smooth entrance from Kiwanuka’s voice. The 11:20 Easyjet flight from Iceland to Manchester quickly turned into a gritty NYC jazz club.

One thing that sticks out on every track is that the standard of instrumentation. Percussion is crisp, the basslines are groovy and roll on throughout the album, the bites of guitar drip and snap at tracks as the additional strings, brass and choirs just show that Kiwanuka threw it all into this album… and it is worth it!

The album excels in the use of preludes and introductions to set the pace of key tracks.

The first intro track for Piano Joint is compelling and mysterious and pulls you in straight away. Soft piano, softer vocals. Comparisons can be drawn to Marvin Gaye’s classic Inner City Blues. 

Lyrically its a tale of isolation and feeling lost as “walking down the avenue, looking out for something new, the right time to give in, the right time to lose.”

Kiwanuka has exceptional lyrics and is an epic storyteller, its music that transforms you and takes you away. As the track continues rolling snares come in with the soft piano motifs as strings dance and sway around the melody.

The piano throughout the album almost acts as a second lot of vocals as the changes moods and can dictate emotion. Distorted radio clips from 1960s America where racism and the treatment of black people was atrocious begins the track Another Human Being. A solitary gunshot sets the tone.

Hero speaks strongly as it discusses the murder of 60s activist Fred Hampton alongside recent US police shootings of the modern-day singing: “To die a hero is all that we know now.” Fuzzed Hendrix-like guitars meet a warm voice akin to Bill Withers as the immense groove carries it through to rip-roaring distortion.

The pianos meet a rolling snare in Final Days as Kiwanuka lets them take the melody through regret and melancholy to waves of soaring strings and flowing basslines. Blending seamlessly into the final interlude of Loving The People the piano turns to synth as ghostly vocals inject themselves amongst pulsating fuzz.

The mysterious Solid Ground struck when my flight was amongst clouds in a haze of white 32,000 feet up. Kiwanuka talks about “hanging around on the edge of the world” as warm jazz organ begin to entwine themselves amongst the strings.

The final track Light is an exquisite exit to a thoroughly enjoyable album. Waves of strings flew amongst the clouds as my flight came back into land with harmonising choirs and snappy snare rim shots taking us home.

As with all good music, I don’t think the true impact and influence of Kiwanuka won’t be realised until next year. It is an album which people are going to adore more and more with every listen.

The honesty and breadth of topics sung within the album separates it massively from its current counterparts. Kiwanuka is an immense talent talking with great ability about not just love but isolation, rejection, racism, confusion and the deeper meanings of the everyday

An album release in late November changes the first situations in which people enjoy the album. This is an album to walk home with facing cold crisp winds, an album to travel within the dark nights, and one to soak up the bright city lights with.

Kiwanuka is an escapism soul classic. Think What’s Going On but for the Uber generation. – Will Whitby

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Low Life: Downer Edn

I’m constantly amazed how music can develop its own language through a group of individuals, transforming its D.N.A. and becoming new each time it is played. We are familiar with the guitar sound and yet it can be so different.

In this case Low Life have the sound that is their own. Using the familiar they have made an album that sounds so very unique.

Stretching the sound of early indie, punk/post punk bands, Low Life have used the language to engage in what is a great album.

The lyrics are crude but the phrasing seems to define this record. It reminds me on how I felt when I first heard bands like Black Flag or Happy Mondays, who contained their wit and an essence of who they where without losing themselves in the mix.

Although Low Life have a different sound to either of these bands, that same self awareness of who they are comes through, it is an honesty that rarely is heard in music these days. Low Life have crafted in this their second album, and what they have created is a  wonderful noise.

It has a hypnotic effect on this listener, I easily got lost in this album.  It’s various elements could, in any other album, seem mediocre. But, Low Life have been able to capture something that transcends what limitations the music could have.

Like every magic trick,  it’s best not to figure out how it works. Just to enjoy its wonder.

I hope this album surprises you as it did for me, well worth your time. – Guy Nolan

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Angel Olsen: All Mirrors
Jagjaguwar

Angel Olsen’s unstoppable ascension has been one of the most exciting stories in music this decade.

Her fourth album, All Mirrors, arrived in October as a new step forward in her constant search for bolder sounds, words and feelings. It is not so much a work of reinvention, as some would say, but a new and reinvigorating chapter in the American’s natural evolution.

Lark, the opening track, immediately brings to the table Olsen’s familiar subject of the broken heart. “To forget you is to hide, there’s still so much left to recover, if only we could start again, pretending we don’t know each other”.

We’ve been here before with Angel Olsen, but this time it feels deeper and darker, with pretty scary strings providing a despairing atmosphere.

The title track continues in the same mood, this time showing Olsen confronting herself and her life, facing her mirrors and completely lending her voice to the moment.

No matter how sad Olsen’s words might be, and they’re quite depressing at times, she battles her sorrows with her marvellous and extremely confident voice.

Her choice of instruments and arrangements for this record shows how bloody she wanted this battle to be. By applying synthesizers and strings where there used to be guitars, she turned up the emotions to 11, leaving us with nowhere else to go.

On Impasse, a gloomy musical avalanche batters us deep into a hole, while Olsen continues her fight: “You know best, don’t you, now? Don’t you, now? Don’t you, now? You think this is what I wanted when I said I’m just living in my head”.

Used to writing words and music by herself, this time Angel Olsen shared music credits with Ben Babbitt, an experienced composer of soundtracks for video games.

Perhaps because of that and the stories she tells us, All Mirrors kind of feels like a concept album. Olsen travels through mountains, caves, faces some demons and arrives at a lighter song called Summer, where she finally finds some peace of mind. “Took a while but I made it through / If I could show you the hell I’d been to”.

Her journey is not linear, though, and both Endgame and Chance offer us even more perfected versions of melancholy – with the latter turning Olsen into a sort of seductive 1940s jazz singer, performing over piano and strings.

Since her debut Half Way Home (2012), Olsen’s been the same, but in constant expansion, from the acoustic folk style of her early days to the rock of recent years.

The larger her music becomes, and the more she exposes her feelings, the more she finds out about her own powers.

All Mirrors is a remarkable achievement and an indication that Angel Olsen can, and probably will, go much further. – Rogerio Simoes

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Skepta: Ignorance is Bliss
Boy Better Know

As Dave won the Mercury Prize for the brilliant Psychodrama and Stormzy headlined Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, Grime’s rise to the top arguably reached its pinnacle in this year.

It was a long time coming, as Grime pioneer Skeptas first mixtape was released 13 years ago, back when the genre was brand new and labelled dangerous by those who opposed it.

Since then Skepta has seen himself rise from gritty South London raves to winning the Mercury Prize for 2016’s Konnichiwa, a flag in the ground to say Grime is here and it’s not going away.

His latest and fifth album Ignorance Is Bliss comes after a few years of staying modest to his roots and maintaining a low profile outside the public eye.

Drawing from a wide range of influences it holds a much more diverse sound to a simple MC with a mic. Complex beats, articulate rhythms and bars that both please and intrigue the listener.

Giving emerging talent a nod from the get-go with fellow Tottenham rapper Headie One getting a mention amongst hasty beats in opener Bullet From A Gun.

Bars of new success are spat in Greaze ModeI’m so high / I’m so fly / I’m gonna need a parachute” surrounded by hazy rhythms.

It gets all smooth with an almost reggae beat as Mercury Nominated J-Hus features in What Do You Mean contrasting the high life with the hard beginnings.

It’s a very easy-going and accessible grime album and doesn’t ‘go in’ as much as Konnichwa but it still attitude and point to prove. Glow In The Dark tells ‘supremacists that I am a supreme‘ as it shakes hands with politicians with a long arm.

Grime was shunned at its birth as Skepta and early pioneers were halted by London Council’s damaging Form 696 which essentially banned Grime performances.

Glow In The Dark turns about his reluctance to welcome and take in the politicians as the wider world realises the importance of the genre; ‘The streets at an all-time high, the government at an all-time low.’

Skepta is now a grime kingpin, Mercury winner, GQ cover star, British cultural icon and a father. Ignorance Is Bliss is an album of exploration and reflection as although the new boys of grime might be flourishing, that’s all down to innovation of Skepta and this album demands respect.

Konnichiwa was a landmark album for British music and although Ignorance Is Bliss might not be as in your face and angry as his Mercury winner, its a master of work exploring what he can now do. – Will Whitby

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Tom Speight: Collide
Tom Speight Music

Born in London, Tom Speight is an indie-folk musician songwriter who has been much championed by Getintothis over the years.

Collide is his first album, having spent the last few years releasing EPs, which have included some songs that have made it onto Collide, such as Little Love and the albums title track.

Despite his songs having sad sounding lyrics, maintains an upbeat feel and even if you haven’t heard his music before, its easy to get into the rhythm and catch yourself singing along.

In his songs, you can hear the emotion, with Speight singing ‘spending two months in hospital battling with Crohn’s while my relationship slowly breaks down… not knowing when I’ll get better… when I will get back to doing music. I honestly didn’t know if I would finish this album’.

Once you learn this it is easy to form a different view on this album as you understand him more and understand the source of his personal lyrics.

Speight has over 10 thousand followers on social media and it is easy to understand why, as he’s warm and friendly towards his fans, something that shines through in his music and through this album.

He has some rockier feels to some songs such as Heartshaker – an album highlight, along with Little Love.

Speight has recently been on tour performing the album with Lydia Clowes and his band, filling the venues each time.

I highly recommend Tom Speight to anyone who wants to discover new music or just to add to their growing music collection. In keeping with the festive spirit, he has also recently released a Christmas Single, the festive sounding Christmas Morning. – Dayna Taylor

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Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe
ATO Records

Many people have been waiting patiently for this.

More than two years after releasing her first EP, with the gems Small Crimes and Keep on Calling, Nilüfer Yanya gave birth to her first album.

Arguably the hottest new artist from London today, the youngster ignored the pressure of the expectation and didn’t disappoint. Miss Universe, with its 53 minutes of 12 songs and 5 creative interludes, is beautifully crafted throughout, offering a perfect blend of soul, indie and pop.

The album starts with 58 seconds of an ‘announcement’ by Yanya as if she were on the phone, speaking over a relaxing beat, saying things like “We’re here for you / We care for you”.

It’s a message from WWAY HEALTH, a fictitious ‘24-7 care programme‘ that comes back four more times in the album. It indicates how carefully imagined and produced the record has been and gets the listener in the mood for the first proper track, In Your Head.

There’s something powerful about songs that start with the chorus – think Abba’s Dancing Queen. That’s what In Your Head does, with a thrilling guitar riff being followed by the chorus with no warning, all in the first few seconds.

When the first verse comes later on, we’re already at 60 miles per hour – and loving it. The track also quickly introduces the listener to Yanya’s two incredible talents: a gorgeous voice and an inventive guitar playing, both allowing her to venture into different musical paths.

Yanya seems to be always on the move. She sings while speaking – or speaks while singing – and takes us through a gripping variety of pace and rhythms.

The thrilling Paralysed is so full of different moments – heavy guitar trespassing the realm of soul, and a new direction every 20 seconds –, that the listener is left both puzzled and delighted. The only thing one can do is enjoy the ride and pray the song never ends.

The pattern continues in the excellent Angels, Paradise and Baby Blu, with the latter standing out on the lyrics side too – ‘Deep, deep under water I breathe / Let me soak / Choosing the shades of the love that we made / Of the love that we broke’.

Not bad for a debut record by a singer-songwriter still in her early 20s.

Above all else, Miss Universe has a lot of style. Yanya worked with nine different experienced producers, some of them co-writers of the songs, and each track has a unique sound treatment – Tears even brings us back to the 1980s pop of Whitney Houston.

If sometimes she sounds like a new Sade, moments later she can change the game completely and make us feel we’d never heard anything like that before.

Perhaps surprisingly, this diversity helps to give the album a strong identity – just like on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. It shows how versatile an artist Nilüfer Yanya is.

There is still, however, the stripped-down Yanya, the one who gently fingerpicks her guitar and softly sings-speaks about relationships and self-discovery.

That Yanya closes Miss Universe with the three tracks she wrote by herself – Monsters Under the Bed, The Unordained and Heavyweight Champion of the Year. The three prove that her music has evolved, but its essence remains where it’s always been.

Nilüfer Yanya has managed to do what most artists can only dream of: to take a bold leap towards greatness, while maintaining her feet on the ground. – Rogerio Simoes

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