Albums Club #46: Rina Sawayama, Gerry Cinnamon, BC Camplight, Mystery Jets, Fiona Apple and more

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Albums Club #46

This edition of the album club is a veritable feast of fabulous, fantastical finds and we’ve made it easy for you to wrap your ears around all of it, Getintothis’ Banjo is on introduction duties, the rest is up to you.

We hope you are all well and coping with the lockdown as best you can.

We seem to be well and truly through the looking glass at the moment, don’t we?

We find ourselves in a world where over a thousand deaths a day just isn’t enough for anyone with the power to take the government to task to actually consider doing so.

Where Dominic Raab boasts on prime time TV about having met the target on testing that he himself set, despite the fact that he is only able to do this if he counts home testing kits that have been posted.

Not delivered mind, they aren’t in the hands of those who need them yet, they haven’t actually been opened or used for testing, they’re just in the post.

Where a 99-year-old is motivated to raise millions of pounds to fund the NHS Charities Together and nobody stands up and shouts THE NHS IS NOT A FUCKING CHARITY!

It should not need fundraising efforts like this, however impressive they are.

We all pay into the NHS and pensions via our National Insurance contributions.

That’s why it was started in the first place.

So why has NHS funding risen and fallen depending on who is in power?

All of our NI contributions should go directly and exclusively the NHS and pensions, none of this is for the government to divert away from its intended cause to pay for frivolous cons such as Michael Gove‘s £28,000 claim for moving house.

And if this money isn’t enough to adequately fund the NHS, the money must be found elsewhere. The idea of hospitals going bankrupt or being in debt is as offensive as it is ridiculous.

And don’t get me started on Boris Johnson tweeting a picture of himself looking sombre as he purportedly holds a minutes’ silence for NHS workers who have died, despite the fact that he and most of his cabinet cheered when they were able to deny NHS workers a pay rise a few years ago.

Or that his predecessor overruled those asking for more doctors to be found overseas and cut bursaries to trainee nurses, thereby ensuring a huge drop in applications.

Or that the Tory party have consistently underfunded the system they are now so keen to be seen applauding to the point that, despite all the funding boosts they have promised, the level of financial support they will receive is still below the average it has had since it started.

On the plus side, the world of the arts has responded with great alacrity and have made all manner of treats available to those of us in lockdown.

We have Radiohead releasing footage of complete shows, Nick Cave TeeVee is showing videos, concerts and ‘surprises’ 24 hours a day, and we have had the Fleabag stage show being streamed for charity.

Hospital Records and Defected Records have held their own virtual festivals online and Benedict Cumberbatch and the National Theatre have made their latest production of Frankenstein available to stream free of charge.

We are in a world where our government is more concerned with spinning out a lie that shows them in the best possible public spotlight and our artists are content to give something of themselves and their art to the public at absolutely no gain to themselves.

We are indeed through the looking glass when a drum & bass label shows more concern to and gratitude for the public than the entire government and their stage-managed public updates.

Our leaders would do well to follow the example being set by those it is supposed to govern.

Let art and artists lead the way and light the way. Stay safe everyone. – Banjo, Features Editor.

If Liverpool loses Parr Street Studios it loses the right to be called City of Music

Album of the Month

Rina Sawayama: Sawayama
Dirty Hit Records

In our opinion, Sawayama is the best, most diverse and original album of the month and it comes from Rina Sawayama, it’s hard to decide where to start,

There’s so much going on in this album, so many styles covered and merged together, no stone is unturned.

But we’ll start with the 90’s R&B meets contemporary R&B style, present in songs XS, Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys) and Love Me 4 Me. These tracks feature the rhythmic vibe that make a classic R&B tune; however, they incorporate a subtle element of something more distinctive, saving the tracks from becoming ‘just another cliché R&B song’.

XS starts with a heavy rock guitar riff, which appears unannounced throughout the otherwise melodic beat. The contrast is memorable and somehow works with great effectiveness.

Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys) is a dance R&B track, including French dialect to give it a seductive undertone. What makes this track so distinctive, is the heavy bass that carries the rest of the subtle, catchy elements of sound. The bass amplifies the sensual nature of this track, giving it an inviting quality.

Love Me 4 Me is perhaps the catchiest of the three songs. It has that dramatic R&B effect, featuring the classic anxious phone call and pitter-patter of rain to kick things off.

This beat is layered with clicks, claps, backing vocals, jazz instruments and electric guitar amongst other sounds – giving it that distinctive pop characteristic. The famous RuPaul quote – “if you can’t love yourself, then how are you gonna love somebody else” – that opens and closes this song is an instant attention grabber.

Tracks Akasaka Sad, Paradisin’ and Snakeskin all contain differing experimental, digital qualities.

Akasaka Sad is eerie in its nature, thanks to its varying tempo. The stop-start deliverance of lyrics along with a mixture of paced and playful tones have an almost robotic effect – all the while maintaining incredibly delicate and rich vocals.

Paradisin’ is a track that sounds like it’s been pulled straight from a videogame and merged with a Disney song, slightly hectic and simultaneously enjoyable. This makes perfect sense, as its reflective lyrics describe Sawayama’s younger years. The concept of using child-like qualities with childhood lyrics makes for a creative and fun listen.

Snakeskin is worlds away from the other two tracks, despite them all featuring a digital twist. The track opens with an almost operatic tone, due to the bleak piano that accompanies the high pitched, soft vocals. This diverts to a progressively upbeat sound, with the vocals picking up pace accordingly.

This anticipated build-up of sound is suddenly stopped by the repetitive and blunt chorus, containing the lyrics “like a snakeskin” over and over.

The track then bursts into a drum and bass style, incorporating electronics with seemingly random patterns of sound, before returning back to the upbeat melody that featured near the start. Snakeskin follows an unprecedented journey; its contradicting nature produces an amazing and memorable track, to say the least.

Sawayama has a beautifully versatile and strong voice, drawing similarities to Lady Gaga. Her voice can be appreciated in tracks Bad Friend, Tokyo Love Hotel, Dynasty and Chosen Family.

Bad Friend contains reflective and regretful lyrics, the emotive influence on this track is evident through the way in which Sawayama sings them with passion. The fluctuation between nostalgic storytelling verses and the remorseful chorus, containing the lyric ‘I’m a bad friend’, makes Bad Friend an honest and meaningful track – with the gospel choir in the bridge bringing an added dimension.

Tokyo Love Hotel has a dreamy vibe to it, incorporating light sounds that make it fast enough to move to, and slow enough to relax to. This track showcases strong and effortless vocals from Sawayama.

Dynasty combines an intense soundtrack with a ballad style of singing. The mixture of powerful vocals and alternative rock qualities make this a standout track, with a likeness to Evanescence. The track also leads in to an incredible guitar solo; the differing sounds that make up this track are unforgettable.

Chosen Family includes a soundtrack that complements Sawayama’s mesmerising vocals. The thought-provoking message behind this song, including lyrics such as “we don’t need to be related to relate” and “you are my chosen family”, is projected through Sawayama’s deliverance. The merging of pleasant lyrics and steady soundtrack makes Chosen Family a beautifully radiant tune.

Who’s Gonna Save U Now is a track that could please many a crowd. This is an upbeat track, combining elements of Rock and Pop that result in a strong presence; one that has the potential to appear in the charts. The opening to this track is made up of “Rina” crowd chants, applause and cheering – making it instantly engaging.

All the tracks listed above work together to create an outstanding album, filled with diverse characteristics that make Rina Sawayama a breath of fresh air within the current music scene. Of course, we’ve saved the best till last, this track elevates the whole album onto another level of musical genius. STFU!

STFU! is the most unique track of the album, undoubtedly. A heavy metal guitar is accompanied by a dense drumbeat for the most part, though a sudden shift to a light, almost lullaby-deliverance of the repeated lyric “Shut The F*ck Up” features throughout the track.

This lullaby tone is accompanied with the sickly-sweet singing of Sawayama – the lyrics “Have you ever thought of taping your big mouth shut coz I have many times” – is amusing and adds a sarcastic undertone. The track finishes with a heavy metal screech, though it seems chaotic, it works.

As soon as it ends you’ll likely play it a few more times over, you simply cannot categorise STFU!, making it an incredible masterpiece in contemporary music.

The tracks that makeup Sawayama just might be the making of Rina Sawayama; her signature sound is compelling and unique. This bold debut album is one step in the right direction, a direction that has the potential to result in world-class stardom for Rina Sawayama. – Sian Ellis

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Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Epic Records

It would be an understatement to say Fiona Apples comeback record Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a statement.

It’s a declaration of war.

After 8 years of waiting since her last album The Idler Wheel, Apple has clearly had a lot of time to revolve her feelings around broken relationships, sexual assault and her desire to fight back. Loaded with clattering drums and throaty growls, an off-kilter atmosphere à la Tom Waits encompasses all of the tracks.

The raw and unkempt production style perfectly accompanies Apple’s through and through honesty and lack of filter. For example, she has no problem confronting a rapist on For Her: “Good morning/You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in”.

But this honesty isn’t always affronting, it also shows how fragile Apple can be like on Rack of His: “And I’ve been used so many times/I’ve learned to use myself in kind”

An interesting facet of the album is being able to see a very sudden change in her perspective, jumping from her mindset in her teens to the modern-day.

For instance, Apple recalls being told she ‘had potential’ to stand up for herself from a girl she briefly knew in school, who the track Shameika is titled after. We then see later in the tracklist on Heavy Balloon that Apple has since grown, and intends to keep going as she gruffly howls: “I spread like strawberries/I climb like peas and beans”

The tension that flowers throughout the conflict of Apple’s reprimanding and temperamental vocals against innocent bass and pianos is palpable.

The entire album feels as though she’s about to burst, until she finally does on the 10th track, Cosmonauts. A cynical love song about the difficulty of monogamy and the inevitable friction that will arise from being around a lover for so long ends with an eruption.

Apple’s screeching of “started off, started off, started off” is enough to put you off falling in love for a lifetime.

In any case, vulnerable or furious, the last thing is going happen is Apple being told ‘no’.

Lock your doors. – Jason Simon

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BC Camplight: Shortly After Takeoff
Bella Union

This is the last of the three-album set that Brian Christinzio has entitled the Manchester trilogy, after his adopted hometown, following 2015’s How To Die In The North and 2018’s Deportation Blues, this is the pick of the bunch.

Anyone who has gone anywhere near 6 Music over the last few weeks will already know the catchy pre-release single, the summery wonk-pop of Back To Work, due to the heavy rotation it’s been receiving.

And the public seems to be catching up with BC Camplight, just the five albums in, as it’s his first to enter the U.K. Album Charts. It’s easy to see why. It’s hook-laden pop sensibilities shine through from the start.

This afternoon I thought about Buckfast…..and space, and danced around my kitchen singing Ace Of Base”, is the opening line to the opening track I Only Drink When I’m Drunk and this starts the onslaught of clever, smile-provoking, quotable lyrics that permutate the whole record.

The most unorthodox track follows next and the mock stand-up spoken word first portion of the longest piece Ghosthunting, is worth the album price alone.

The track sees his dark humorous side peek through the gloom, alluding (not for the only time on the record) to the death of his father, whilst mentioning Rachel Riley, The Arndale Centre, Tame Impala and his pet cat, whilst conjuring up feelings of both The Fall and Divine Comedy in just one track.

Cemetery Lifestyle sounds like Flaming Lips if Wayne Coyne had the slightest ounce of self-awareness and some funk in his CD library, and contains a (yet another) killer line about Nando’s and a banana suit.

The mood turns almost bombastic (well musically at least, lyrically it still feels pretty bleak), with the organ-led I Want To Be In The Mafia and the title track.

Arm Around Your Sadness is a beauty, a straightforward piano-led ballad, it sounds like it could have come straight from a musical, whereas Born To Cruise unfathomably brings to mind The Human League, with it’s 80’s ‘doo-doo-doo’s’.

Closing with the instrumental Angelo, it doesn’t hang around, it’s 9 tracks are all done and dusted in just 33 minutes.

This record manages to combine sadness and humour whilst not sacrificing anything musically, a harder trick to pull off than you would think. A triumph. – Steven Doherty

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Gerry Cinnamon: The Bonny
Little Runaway Records

Everyone’s heard the name, it’s nearly impossible to have not heard it somewhere, or seen it plastered across a poster, or most recently, across the Number 1 spot on the UK & Irish Album Charts.

Gerry Cinnamon, the Scottish performer, solely reliant on his voice and his guitar.

Cinnamon’s 2017 Erratic Cinematic saw his popularity soar overnight, and by June 2019 he had announced his second studio was to be released April 2020.  While many artists put their albums on hold due to the current crisis, others soldiered on, Cinnamon is one of them.

“It’s probably not a smart to release during a lockdown when the shops are closed and everyone’s isolating but no chance I’m letting folk down”

The Bonny was teased from the minute it was announced, with lead single Canter being released almost immediately. Canter shows Cinnamon at his best – upbeat anthems perfect for any live show.

He followed this up by releasing a further 5 singles from the album over the upcoming months.

Kicking off the album with Canter creates excitement for what’s to come next, yet it quickly becomes apparent he’s not sticking with his usual narrative of upbeat songs, as War Song Solider follows, catching the crooner at his bleakest, singing powerfully about dark times in his life.

It soon becomes apparent that for every upbeat, festival-style anthem on The Bonny, there’s a sombre, dark counter-part.

Roll The Credits captures a new side to Cinnamon. A classic break-up ballad, showcasing his emotional side as he sings “Roll the credits, there’s no happy ending”.

His willingness to put his own experiences into his lyrics has always given Cinnamon an advantage in being relatable to his audience, and The Bonny captures it perfectly. – Danni King.

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FACS: Void Moments
Trouble In Mind

Born out of the ashes of Chicago underground stalwarts, the brilliant Disappears, in 2017 Brian Case and Noah Leger joined forces with Alianna Kalaba (We Ragazzi and touring member for Cat Power) to form FACS.

After their 2018 debut, the needle-thin spidery offerings of Negative House, the trio return with Void Moments, a thick-clouded atmospheric affair cloaked in a new shade of darkness.

If there were an album to sound just like its namesake then look no further.

The opening track, Boy, is a bitter spoken-word summoning with an array of angular riffs, tin-can drone and a dagger-wielding rhythm.

Teenage Hive follows and equally twists the knife with apocalyptic atmospherics that knocks you completely off balance, dragging you into a sweaty haze of uncertainty.

The raw sprawling noise of Casual Indifference provides the backbone to Void Moments in something that runs close to the periphery of industrial music. Then there’s Void Walker and Lifelike, a pair of tracks that strike as a double-whammy of pummelling malaise riddled dissonance.

The closing number in Dub Over is FACS showing off their gentler side, but don’t let this fool you. Despite the drop in pace, its hellish walls of sound still remain embellished in an acerbic tone which is rife throughout Void Moments.

Where the world is littered with loss-leader post-punk acts selling cheap idealism, FACS are far removed from this, unleashing a sprawling rancour that feels as if it were conceived from the belly of a junkyard.

It’s a fitting representation of a style of music that has become in vogue, but while many these days use it as some cheap badge of honour, FACS stay true to the origins.

There’s only a handful of acts around at the moment doing this and FACS are most certainly one of them.

With Void Moments, FACS rumble through the sludgy furrows of this diseased world where they serve their art on an equally grim platter. Simon Kirk

Ren Harvieu: Revel In the Drama
Bella Union

Patience is definitely a virtue, one which the Mancunian singer Ren Harvieu has proven to have plenty of.

After glorious first album Through the Night, released in 2012, she’s been perfecting her art through small gigs, particularly with partner RomeoMagic NumbersStodart at Green Note’s tiny stage, in London.

Her second record has finally arrived, and it’s an exquisite piece of work. Sensual, mysterious and extremely personal, Revel in The Drama is made of Harvieu’s sublime voice, uniquely powerful tunes and captivating arrangements.

The richness of the music supporting the singer is clear right in the opener, the upbeat Strange Thing, and continuously throughout the 12 tracks.

Harvieu teases and provokes the listener in jazzy numbers such as Teenage Mascara, while moving us to tears on Spirit Me Away or My Body She Is Alive.

Love and sex were big inspirations. Yes, Please is all about two bodies getting together, as she confirmed it herself during Tim Burgess’ Listening Party – “it’s pure sex this song, and why not”.

Cruel Desguise’s force and eery atmosphere makes it probably the album’s most accomplished track – according to Harvieu,a song about female Salfordian rage, I was in a dark place writing this and felt very over everyone and everything”.

The truth is that every single tune on Revel in The Drama is beautifully crafted and bold in their own way.

If there’s a clear winner is the singer’s talent and us, grateful listeners. Ren Harvieu’s eight years of patience and hard work have paid off.

She’s given us a masterpiece. – Rogerio Simoes

Horse Lords: The Common Task
Northern Spy

Hey, how’s your anxiety? Fancy ramping it up a notch? Try Horse Lords‘ new album. That’ll do the trick.

Released back in March, mere days before the official lock down was enforced in the UK, The Common Task is not one for the faint-hearted.

The Baltimore collective have issued a five track LP which commands resilient listening and is all about tension and release.

Taut, propulsive grooves align with Andrew Bernstein‘s bombastic sax and angular jerking guitar threads which steadily build before breaking free into a maelstrom of discordance.

Few albums in 2020 will decimate the senses using progressive African beats, finely tuned textured ambience *and* a set of bagpipes, but that’s exactly what is on offer here.

The Radiant City sees guest musician Duncan Moore dominate with his ear-shredding pipes while People’s Park and opener Fanfare For Effective Freedom employ the kind of jerky math rock effectively employed by Battles back in the early 2000s.

It’s in the smaller detail which makes The Common Task such a rewarding listen.

The skronking Owen Gardner guitars on Against Gravity or the rasping exotic percussion which dances through the mix on People’s Park before dissolving into what sounds like river passing over moving traffic.

The 18 minute krautrock finale of Integral Accident sounds like a different band altogether with a Steve Reich classical orchestral drone melting into chugging guitar picks, violin, accordion and bassoon with Bonnie Lander’s vocal wails the cherry on this epic madhouse.

It’s a glorious climax to one of the most beguiling, unsettling yet richly rewarding records of 2020 so far. Just don’t expect an aural comfort blanket. – Peter Guy

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Ist Ist: Architecture
Ist Ist

Manchester four-piece Ist Ist take their cue from the alternative rock scene often referred to as Goth, but they come at it not as a retro act, but a band who know exactly where they want to draw their influences from.

On debut album Architecture, Ist Ist combine some heavy guitars, deep rumbling bass and some excellent drum work to great effect. Add to that some dramatic vocals and you have a record that will delight the blackest of hearts.

There are echoes of Joy Division and Fields of the Nephilim, but a modern take on these, as influences are updated and used as raw material for Ist Ist to create a sound that is their own.

As someone who grew up with this kind of music, Ist Ist are welcome in my collection and will find lots of like-minded souls to rub shoulders with.

They do have a broad range of sounds though, Drowning in the Shallow End comes across as almost poppy while Under Your Skin is a slow, brooding attack of a song.

Ist Ist deal with atmosphere, just listening to Architecture we can imagine plumes of dry ice, cut through with flashes of light.

Slowly We Escape is the album’s standout track, a six-minute epic that starts of slowly before ramping things up at the halfway mark and finishing as an out and out classic alt-rock song.

Ist Ist mean what they do and personally they make us wish the lockdown was over and we could once again lose ourselves in the abandon that their live show would surely unleash. – Banjo

The Living Brain: Two Sides of the Brain
Living Brain

What do you do in the days after your time in a band that has been massively regarded, hugely influential and incredibly creative are over?

If you’re Ged Lynn, ex of genius scouse R&B purveyors The Stairs, you do it all over again.

Ged and Hamburg native Lars Gabel met at a Cast gig in late 94 and created The Living Brain.

By 96 they’re a four piece with drummer James Pagella and bassist Tom Sumnall. 99 sees them release Life Sentence On Planet Earth, 2000 brings Bad Present Day with Matt Lord replacing Lars on guitar. And 2001 brings us the band’s implosion.

Two albums, loads of gigs, nowhere near enough attention.

But those that saw them, loved them. And were influenced by them. The Coral, The Zutons, The Maybes and other luminaries of the early noughts ‘Cosmic Scouse’ scene held them in esteem.

It’s just the public who weren’t paying attention.

Two Sides Of The Brain is here to either put that to rights or, alternatively, give those who are already in the know, a lovely red vinyl version of the work they love.

Everything you need as an intro to the first two albums is here: Bland Planet’s obvious hit single potential, Burnout 2000 combining a fade out of gabbled vocal with guitars that would sit nicely on A House Is Not A Motel.

Yes, there’s a Love influence. We all have a Love influence in this city.

Stride holds a chorus which could have been huge had it been presented by Doves but is surrounded by guitars that are far too interesting to be commercial.

There are Russian toy town instrumentals, unbridled chaos, sheer edge and glorious melodies.

You can add The Living Brain to the list of bands that should have been bigger. But at the same time you can buy the vinyl, download the album, stream it from the usual places.

Better late than never. – Ian Salmon

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Luge: Luge
826321 records DK

I love to come across a band that is as joyful as Luge.

Hailing from Toronto, they appear to have forged a sound that would fit very well in the UK. Funk laden glitched synth and guitar sounds underlay the grey vocal play.

Luge indulge in a great quirky pop ethic that shines through each song on this album.

With a heavy nod to The Cardiacs, they have a lovingly crafted sound, all jangly fun, Afro guitar and with sporadic noise elements that BLAM through each track.

They play with differing time signatures and delight the listener with their effortless musical acrobatics.

Although this is ground many of us will be familiar they show they have the chops to pull off a solid album with ease, it is impossible to pick a favourite track. when each one is near perfect.

If you love bands like Stump, Ex Model or Whirlwind Heat, this is going to be up your street, but really this is an album most people will appreciate.  Go check it out and tell us if we’re wrong. – Guy Nolan

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Magic Sword: Endless
Joyful Noise Recordings

Did you see Ready Player One?

It was shite, wasn’t it.

If ever a book was more deserving of a fine adaption that was it. And talk about fluffing the soundtrack.

Bruce Springsteens Stand On It and Tears for Fucking Fears. Jeez.

Steven Spielberg should have called in Magic Sword for a tidal wave of science fiction heroic 80s synth-action which would have served as a consolation for the on-screen dross.

This enigmatic trio, known as The Seer, The Keeper and The Weaver (unsubstantiated reports suggest they’re Everton midfield dynamos Peter Reid, Paul Bracewell and Kevin Sheedy) have been producing laser-guided melodies since 2013.

And their latest album Endless is their best.

Ignore the press release guff about fantastical battles with The Dark One and the search for The Chosen One and focus on the mesmeric iridescent splendour of the likes of Aftermath which feel like the creation of an intergalactic species.

Shimmering textures trade with pulsating blips and stabbing synths and frenetic modulated gurgles forming an ever-changing robotic landscape.

Highlights include the Justice-infused turbocharged propulsion of Invincible, the Italo-disco opener Depths of Power and Prophecy which could easily have fallen off Daft Punk‘s Discovery.

Every so often ‘real-life’ enters the fray with hurtling gusts of wind (Shores of Oblivion) or atmospheric baths of lights (Empress) but for the most part, this is one gigantic circuit board of groove-laden retro-futuristic disco-funk.

Escape reality, plug into an alternate realm. – Peter Guy

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Mystery Jets: A Billion Heartbeats
Mystery Jets Records

Mystery Jets seem to be one of the few bands from the NME noughties heyday still producing good content, over fifteen years after the madness that was indie, they may have just produced their best album yet.

Now, this is not to say that Mystery Jets only have written love songs, but their past material has mostly stuck to introspective topics, like relationships and identity.

A Billion Heartbeats is their first record where it seems they’ve looked outwards at the bigger picture, each song speaks to a specific political and social movement that’s emerged over the past few years. Opening with single Screwdriver, this record is the closest the weirdo indie-pop group have gotten to ‘rock’.

The central riff, conceived in a jam session, has a real straightforward classic rock vibe. The lyrics are the most urgent we’ve heard, speaking about the hypocrisy of the white Christian nationalist movements.

Even songs that sound more pop at their core, like Petty Drone and Campfire have politics and protest truly at their core, namedropping the Iraq war and surveillance.

Hospital Radio is the band’s love letter to the NHS, both criticising the government’s failings to support it and praising its necessity.

There’s a real emotional drive to the song, which comes to a head with the pulsing psych-rock of the chorus. The final chant of ‘our blood is not for sale’ is certainly one for the live shows.

In comparison with past albums, the ten-track has a noticeable lack of songs sung and written by guitarist Will Rees, who usually takes three or four songs, here only one. But Endless City, his sole writing contribution, is a tender and sad ballad about communities and landmarks being tossed aside for skyscrapers.

The standout song has to be History Has Its Eyes On You, inspired by witnessing the Women’s March in London. Its message is encapsulated by the lyric “teach your daughters how to climb, show your sons how to commit, be kind and never quit”. The calm and emotional stylings of the track probably sum up the message of the album best – protest with love, optimism and through community.

Delayed by frontman Blaine Harrison’s stint in hospital, A Billion Heartbeats is a  timely album, all the more crucial in the world we now find ourselves.

Untethered from social communities and gigs many of us call home, and with the ineptitude of UK and US governments truly coming to light, now really is the time for this warm-hearted protest album. – Will Truby

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: Viscerals
Rocket Recordings

The third album from Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs comes as no real surprise.

Distorted vocals, check. Black Sabbath style guitars, check. Songs about blood, check. Manic drumming, check.

It’s all there in what we have come to expect from a Pigs x 7 release. It doesn’t have quite the mayhem of the band’s first album, Feed The Rats, nor indeed the behemoth that was the 22 minute single track EP that became The Wizard and the Seven Swines.

We first encountered Pigs x 7 at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia in 2017 when they tore the roof off District with their seemingly chaotic, yet in the end, perfectly executed set. Since then we’ve followed their development from a mass of (glorious) noise to a much more polished being.

Whilst we loved the band’s 10 minute plus epic songs, it seems like a natural progression that Viscerals is a more traditional / safe series of 4ish minute numbers.

But that doesn’t make it any less appealing as a prospect. Nor any less worthy of your attention. There are very few bands living in the Pigs space, who embrace the heaviest bands of the seventies and drag them unceremoniously into this shitstorm of the world that is 2020.

Viscerals is as hard as nails. Just not quite as hard as the band’s earlier output. Unashamedly looking back at an age when there was a requirement for a rock band to have long hair.

Matt Baty doesn’t fit the look – he has a fine tuned head of hair that would make your Grandma happy – but he has all the moves. And makes all the noise. And that would not make your Grandma happy. Nor the neighbours, we suspect. Unless you lived next door to Ozzy.

The album bows out with Hell’s Teeth – we suspect there’s nothing more to be said. You can imagine what that sounds like. A deep dark banger of a track, as are the rest of them.

If we have one complaint, and we do, it’s Matt Baty has turned down the reverb on his vocals. We can make out too many of the lyrics. Turn it back up mate, you were ace when we had no idea what you were singing about.

When the guitars swirled around and the bass felt like it was going to collapse any time soon.

But, we guess, it’s the natural progression of things. Just don’t lose sight of the early stuff. – Peter Goodbody

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OHYUNG: Protector
Chinabot records

Like most people. I use Bandcamp, I’ve always enjoyed looking for something that you would necessarily think would not work. So, when I came across a Chinese experimental hip hop artist, I thought I need to hear this.

Thankfully it turned out to be a good call.

OHYUNG brings a fresh sounding album manipulating samples that are near generic (foghorn and laser sounds  ??! – I mean we are talking mid-eighties here) but delights in those sounds and transforms them into something new.

Yes, he has a death grips fetish in places, but it drops into places that most hip hop fans will be unfamiliar, Territories that have only be used by bands like hoodlum priest or crypts. But again the phrasing and song structure is near alien to my European ears.

Bringing sounds that would be near K Pop with jungliest rhythms. Standout songs here are Senme GuiI Hate Myself and Now I Close My Eyes.

It is all just is so unfamiliar, discovering something that, on paper sounds unlikely to be something you’d enjoy.

Take the time to listen to this album, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Enjoy. – Guy Nolan

Upskilling isn’t a priority in times of crisis – looking after ourselves is

Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Minds
Warp

Yves Tumor has spent a career fucking with us all.

Having been known as Sean Lee Bowie, Rahel Ali, Sean Bowie, even Shan Bowie. Who really knows for sure?

He has also released music under various guises, including Bekelé Berhanu, Shanti and TEAMS.

For the purpose of consistency, we’ll go with what it says on the tin: Yves Tumor.

Tumor has fast become the master of shedding skins. While his glorious 2018 album, Safe in the Hands of Love, was jam-packed with abrasive bass-oriented rage, through the latter part of touring on the back of this album, Tumor cobbled together a gypsy-like musical collective and that partnership continues on his latest offering, Heaven to a Tortured Mind.

Tumor and his merry band of bohemian street urchins have toned down that bass packed electronica and cranked it up to turbo for a full-on rock assault that spews with a fluorescent crash, embellishing us with beguiling collages of sound.

Lyrically, too, Tumor has departed from his previous defaults of anxious howls from the void, now posing as some deranged space-crooner, his subjects somewhere between love and lust, filling in these spaces with grotesque imagery.

The opening track, Gospel For a New Century begins the new chapter of Yves Tumor hysteria and in mind-blowing fashion. A wild collision between avant-garde and soul-pop that showers you in a debris of prickly brass lines and killer melodies, Medicine Burn is basically the demonisation of funk.

All told, it’s just a skin-flaying punk assault.

Identity Trade has you looking at the heavens and mistaking them for hell. A jumped-up glow-wave glam battering with a bruising duet between Tumor and Diana Gordon.

The riff is right out of the book of Mick Ronson, coming completely out of the left field and leaving you in that similar what-the-fuck? state of mind you have when listening to Roxy Music‘s In Every Dream Home A Heartache. It’s just that good.

Featuring a collaboration with Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming and Kelsey Lu, the streamlined soul of Romanticist demonstrates Tumor reaching for wider addressees. The audacity is admirable as it is accurate.

The David Bowie homage doesn’t let-up with Super Stars sounding like The Thin White Duke‘s long lost child sent from the gods, while closing number, A Greater Love, is an unconventionally beautiful offering filled with Tumor‘s ambient soul-boy charm.

No question, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is Tumor‘s attempt to “go for it”. A chameleon mutating past musical styles and unleashing them through feral juxtapositions of demented desires and rationalised love.

The backdrop is presented with an unhinged swagger, a filthy, furious noise of glammed-up soul punk. Had A.R. Kane stuck around a bit longer, they may well have tiptoed through these perilous paths.

That is history, though, and this is the future. Yves Tumor doesn’t just carry that burning torch. On Heaven to a Tortured Mind he flails it. – Simon Kirk

Set Lists and why we love them as a souvenir that money can’t buy

VAR: The Never-Ending Year
Spartan Records

VAR are new to me, another band who came to me as the result of a mixture of a random email (as you can imagine, we get a lot of these) and good fortune in clicking the link to see what they sounded like.

It might have been the description of VAR as being an ‘Icelandic emotional post-rock collective‘. Who wouldn’t click on that? I could know that lead to a virus and still be tempted.

Upon downloading their album, we find that VAR are less post-rock and more shoegaze for the 21st Century. There are hints of Ride and Doves, and there is always an ear out for melody. VAR write songs rather than walls of noise.

Opening track Moments starts things off in the right gear, a great song with a glorious falsetto, shored up by some sterling work on the guitar and drums. I am reminded of Delays, from around their second album period.

Fearless has an almost Coldplay vibe to it, but VAR‘s natural inclinations prevent it from it sounding too sweet or overly nice. It segues cleverly into 3rd track Drowning, the piano motif carries from one song to the other. They have obviously given their album a good deal of thought.

From there we’re into the more straightforward rock of Run. It is easy to imagine VAR plying their trade at a festival, if there were any for them to ply at, and easily winning over hordes of new fans. Run seems tailor-made for soundtracking those special festival moments.

By the Ocean takes the intensity down a notch, with off-kilter drums and a general haze, before Where to Find You provides us with the album’s finest track, an quiet/loud/quiet indie epic that demands to be heard live.

Breathing provides us with space to do just that, a brief quiet interlude between huge sounding widescreen epics. Highlands takes over with some haunting guitar interplay and interweaving vocal lines.

It is sounding like VAR are already headline material and, by now, lighters and mobile phones would be held aloft and we would be hugging strangers in the audience, joined together by the sheer beauty of the music we are listening to.

An album like The Never-Ending Year needs a killer track to finish on and VAR do not disappoint. Still I Miss You is a Radiohead-esque set closer that comes across as the perfect encore to what has gone before with Júlíus Óttar‘s falsetto catching the mood and bringing this amazing album to a suitable climax.

Maybe I’m just gig starved after all live music being pretty much cancelled, but after listening to The Never-Ending Year I feel as though I have just walked out of one of the best gigs of the year.

In fact, I’m going back in. I hope you can join me. – Banjo

Belle And Sebastian Present – Protecting The Hive

Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels
Highway 20 / Thirty Tigers

Trying to pin down the career of Lucinda Williams has never been an easy task.

Credited as one of the progenitors of Americana with 1988’s classic self-titled album, she began her career being compared to Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, but her association with the Rough Trade label always hinted at the punkish spirit behind her music.

Now, at 67, Williams has gone back to those roots and then some with an album that is full of startlingly raw blues-punk and drips with strong liquor, bad men and even worse politicians.

Lyrically songs cut straight to the core with frank and honest commentary on domestic abuse (Wakin’ Up) and the dangerous, quick to judge and convict aspects of social media (Shadows & Doubts).

Musically it’s hard not to think of the early White Stripes at that time Detroit seemed full of righteous punk, with opener You Can’t Rule Me seeing Williams growl her way through her powerful statement of intent as her band rumble and grind beneath her with all the subtlety of a broken down pick up truck.

Over the next 40 minutes, she seems pissed off with most things that come her way but particular ire is saved for President Trump, the undoubted target of Man Without Soul (“You’re a man without shame/ Without dignity and grace/ No way to save face/ You’re a man without a soul”) – try that for size at the next coronavirus press conference.

Big Black Train is another standout as Williams settles into a slow soulful groove full of echoing electric guitars and a genuinely startling vocal packed with wracked regret and fears for the future. It’s a beautiful thing.

40 years into a fascinating career and heading into her eighth decade, Williams has no right to sound this vital, gnarly and alive but with Good Souls Better Angels she’s at her brilliant best.  – Jamie Bowman.

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