new music round-up #1

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It has been a feature of this site over the past two years that the monthly album reviews have dominated proceedings. Unfortunately this does not reflect the large amount of new music we get sent, so, in order to keep on top of this we have decided to put together a regular post that picks some of the best new/ self-released/ unsigned material that we stumble across - either from our busy inbox or elsewhere. Here is the first instalment...

The Tamborines (link)
A Brazilian duo based in London about to release their second album 'Sea Of Murmur' on their own Beat-Mo records, and it promises to be a little quieter and more melodic than the swirling fuzz of their debut. 'Indian Hill' is the first track to emerge from it, and it's pretty good teaser for what is to come.

Föllakzoid (link)
This is the band who got labelled 'krautrock from Chile' when their second album brought them to a wider audience a couple of years ago. This taster from the forthcoming follow-up is an exciting progression from that sound and shows their love of minimal electronica.

Sharks' Teeth (link)
The prolific Sharks’ Teeth began in 2009 as an outlet for the solo recordings of Tyler Scurlock, songwriter and guitarist of New Orleans indie band, Sun Hotel. 'Jade Oscilloscope Screen' is a track from the forthcoming cassette release ‘Wissenschaftslehre IV or Opinion Crisis’ which is the latest in the series of ambient recordings.

Young Guv (link)
Young Guv is Ben Cook, who is best known as one of the guitarists in Fucked Up, but this taster for his forthcoming solo debut is way more POP than you could possibly imagine. Think Prince, the Cars, Cheap Trick.

Rosenthal (link)
This lot had a couple of decent releases last year, and the forthcoming single 'Heart' should turn even more heads. From Copenhagen, this is dreamy indie-pop somewhere between New Order and The xx.

K-X-P (link)
Who remembers Op:L Bastards? Well two of that acclaimed Finnish band have continued to work together under the name K-X-P, and Space Precious Time is the first track to emerge from their forthcoming album 'III Part One'. An odd yet infectious tune that manages to combine industrial beats with space-rock drones.

Craig Scott's Lobotomy (link)
It is a constant moan of mine that there isn't enough genuinely unusual music being made, and also that there are precious few outlets for it to be heard as well. Well this release is certainly unusual - an album with little regard for genre or conventional song structures and tempos. People may file this under jazz or avant-garde, but really it is in a league of its own.

Grubby Mitts (link)
This band features the acclaimed UK visual artist Andy Holden and this is a taste of their forthcoming album which has taken so long to complete (eight years I think), they have taken to describing it as "Part anthology, part debut album". Lots of depth and experimentation here.

This Heel (link)
This Heel is a new collection of songs from the Malmö band Dog, Paper, Submarine's frontman Martin Månsson Sjöstrand. Although a lo-fi solo project (Martin played everything on the record), fans of Dog, Paper, Submarine should enjoy this EP, as it contains four short sharp tracks of melodic and fuzzy indie-rock.

The best new albums of the month, January 2015 edition

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2015 has offered up some gems already, and here are ten of the best of the year so far.

Jessica Pratt 'On Your Own Love Again' (Drag City) iTunes
my review (the 405)
This "flows perfectly from where her debut left off. Recorded to four-track at home in California over the last two years it is once again a delicate, reflective affair. There are nine songs, and most of them feature just Jessica and her acoustic guitar, yet this time there is room for occasional keyboard touches on a couple of tracks and some adventurous multi-tracking of vocals to flesh out the sound... a mesmerising, bewitching listen."

Dan Mangan & Blacksmith 'Club Meds' (City Slang) Spotify
my review (the 405)
"Dan Mangan transcended the singer-songwriter label three years ago with Oh, Fortune. Now that his band have equal footing perhaps people will start to appreciate that his work involves rich musicianship which gives the music an extra dimension and depth. Club Meds is deliberately dense and cluttered and at times confusing. The fact that it manages to be beautiful and intriguing at the same time is quite a feat."

Pinkshinyultrablast 'Everything Else Matters' (Club AC30) Spotify
my review (the 405)
"Even at this early stage Pinkshinyultrablast have a great understanding of how to harness their noise and work them around the song, and their willingness to use rhythm to give those older shoegaze elements a good kick, means that this debut is not a homage but a fresh step into the future."

Viet Cong 'Viet Cong' (Jagjaguwar) Spotify
There is nothing new under the sun these days it seems, and whilst a lot of bands are plundering shoegaze and garage rock, Viet Cong have set their attention on the post-punk of the early 1980s. VC comprise the rhythm section from the acclaimed group Women, but in this incarnation their music is more direct , more cacophonous, more intense. 'March of Progress' is one of the tracks of the year so far.

Ghost Culture 'Ghost Culture' (Phantasy Sound/ Because) Spotify
Another mysterious London producer only known by stage name, Ghost Culture has crafted a great debut, which manages to combine the darker side of electronica as well as the pop side. Comparisons to Arthur Russell and Kraftwerk are justified, and you get the feeling that this multi-layered album will be one that keeps on giving.

Darren Hayman 'Chants for Socialists' (wiaiwya) Bandcamp
Apparently Darren, the man who wrote Hefner's 'The Day That Thatcher Dies', thought the release of an album called 'Chants for Socialists' in an election year would be a boutique release. It's fitting that this release has a lack of commercial ambition, but it would seem that the vinyl edition - complete with sleeve created on a press used by William Morris - is nearly all gone.
As you may already know, the chants in question were written by Morris in 1890s and produced in a pamphlet, intended to be set to the popular music of the day. Hayman has faithfully updated them with his own music and in turn produced one of his strongest solo records to date.

Sleater Kinney 'No Cities To Love' (Sub Pop) Spotify
Sleater-Kinney's first album in a decade has been hugely and deservedly acclaimed. It's so great to have them back and it's also fascinating to hear them deliver 'No Cities To Love', which may actually be their very best record, this far into their career. What other occurrences are there of a band returning after so long, only to deliver its best work? 32 joyous minutes of cracking punk-pop songs. One of the great bands really.

Panda Bear 'Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper' (Domino) Spotify
Perhaps not as bleak as the title suggests, this third solo album is darker and more soul-searching than his others, but also has a neat line in memorable melodies. This time as well, his sonic experiments have been tweaked to include some hip-hop beats which don't seem obvious on the first few listens but come to define the album. This also feels like the conclusion of a trilogy, but maybe I'm reading too much into that.

Menace Beach 'Ratworld' (Memphis Industries) Spotify
Slightly in danger of becoming submerged by its influences, which are mostly 90's indie-rock, Leeds band Menace Beach's debut is the sort of thing people would have gone mad for if the band were, say, from California. Essentially a duo, with some regular guests like Hookwroms's MJ - who also did a cracking job on production - they flick between slacker-indie tunes like the title track, moody pieces like 'Blue Eye' and the frantic 'Lowtalker', with ease. There's lots to investigate here.

Jan St Werner 'Miscontinuum Album (Fiepblatter Catalogue #3)' (Thrill Jockey) Spotify
This challenging and experimental work from Mouse on Mars's Jan St Werner was developed over the last four years as an operatic performance and also a radio play. "The central concept of Miscontinuum explores misconceptions of time and memory, inspired by unique acoustic phenomena derived digital phasing and musical time stretching techniques. There is an aura of doom that pervades the work." Largely ambient and electronic, it contains cameos from Markus Popp (Oval), Dylan Carson (Earth) and Taigen Kawabe (Bo Ningen).

Time constraints mean that I couldn't quite do justice on albums by Etienne Jaumet (one half of Zombie Zombie), Alasdair Roberts, and the surprise release by Bjork, in time for this round-up, but then January always is a bit overwhelming in terms of the new release pile.

Slow Thrills albums of 2014

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Well, albums of the year lists are a bit of a thing this year, aren't they? I'm sure most people have reached list fatigue by this point, but it is almost compulsory for a music blog to make a AOTY list and besides I still enjoy it.
Cast your mind back twelve months to the end of 2013, which I decided was a vintage year for albums, and I celebrated by compiling my top NINETY albums in order. Although I heard even more releases in 2014 - I think it was 220 this year versus 187 the previous year if anyone is interested! - I vowed not to go overboard with the AOTY chart this time. One reason was that when I was compiling the radio shows in the earlier part of 2014 I heard lots of great tracks, but not always great albums - that's one of the reasons why I put a lot of effort into making two "tracks of 2014" mixes. There are plenty of tracks in there that don't come from any of these 20 albums.

As regular readers know, this blog publishes a monthly round-up of (usually ten) new releases and that list is not in any specific order, although for the AOTY I did submit to peer pressure and I've put the choices in order. Obviously I cannot hear everything within the confines of a calendar month, so I am quite surprised in how many of those choices made up the final list. It turned out that most of the albums I missed from those round-ups were, to my ears at least, non-essential. At time of posting I have heard nearly everything I set out to hear with the dramatic exceptions of Einsturzende Neubaten's 'Lament' and Andy Stott's 'Faith in Strangers', both of which I suspect may have made this list.

2014 saw a different variety of psychedelia emerge, evolving away from the garage bands towards a post-Stereolab vibe. The records that came out of nowhere to surprise me sound more like Broadcast than Syd Barrett or the Seeds. That was the defining sound of the year for me, but I'm also a sucker for songcraft and both 'Benji' and 'Colfax' were great examples that that art is still alive and well.

As each year passes I often think about what to do next with the blog and I think in 2015 things are set to change here. I didn't utilise the blog as much as I would have liked in 2014 (though it was better than 2008 when I didn't post for the entire year!) and I would like to try a different approach to things now that the new year is here. In the meantime, thanks for your support over the last 12 months, and I hope that you find plenty to explore and maybe something to love in this list.

20. Skull Defekts 'Dances in Dreams of the Known Unkown' (Thrill Jockey)

"a thrill from start to finish and is perhaps surprisingly accessible...There is great tension between the riffs and the melodies... the guitars are just seconds away from dipping into something truly edgy and discordant. The Skull Defekts understand the power of repetition when used correctly - think of the Fall, Can, Sonic Youth - and (Daniel) Higgis's presence completes the band and makes it possible to deliver an album as trippy, yet somehow coherent, as this one" -my review (the 405)

19. Grumbling Fur 'Preternaturals' (The Quietus Phonographic Corporation)

Grumbling Fur are evolving with each release, and this third album is a fascinating blend of influences. There is a particularly "British-folk" base behind it, and they build on this with elements from synth pop, hauntology and industrial music to create something well worth exploring.
(great review here)

18. TV On The Radio 'Seeds' (Harvest)

The fifth full-length studio release for the indie rock band is its first since the death of bassist Gerald Smith, and sees the band emerge from that tragedy to create an album full of life. It is much more an indie-pop-rock album and fans of their early doom-gaze material may struggle with it, but it still has an edge to it, and the pop touches are both triumphant and surprising, particularly as some people were expecting a heavy dose of melancholy.

17. Flying Lotus 'You're Dead!' (Warp)

The psychedelic touches are there of course and that teasing way that he flips away from one idea before it is really finished with is still in evidence as well. The title does hint at a fairly morbid effort, and it does get darker than he has before, but ultimately it is well worth hearing for the adventurous and ambitious turns that the music takes.
"As each song merges into the next, as one style succeeds another, the sensation is that of being in a dream." (the Guardian)

16. Wrekmeister Harmonies 'Then It All Came Down' (Thrill Jockey)

"This was premiered in the National Bohemian Cemetery in Chicago, under a full moon. When you hear it, that all makes sense. The natural yet eerie setting, surrounded by reminders of mortality, and the potential interest in the occult. This is a superbly assembled piece, with a great grasp of dynamics and an understanding that its subtle moments can be just powerful as those times when it becomes a complete aural assault. Then It All Came Down is a noisy beast, but it is a beautiful one too." - my review (the 405)

15. Sharon Van Etten 'Are We There'(Jagjaguwar)

In my opinion, not quite as great as her near masterpiece 'Tramp', but still a sign of a superb talent.
"Are We There offers an artist in full command of her voice and her instrument, a woman who knows exactly what she wants to offer listeners and who isn’t afraid to accompany the barest streaks of sunlight with thousands of clouds." (A.V. Club)

14. The Soundcarriers 'Entropicalia' (Ghost Box)

I think this is the only one here which wasn't in our monthly round-ups as it only came to my knowledge late in the year, and a quick search shows that it has been generally under-reviewed. What you need to know - it's on Ghost Box, it features guests include some of Midlake and a cameo voice over by Elijah Wood. The title is accurate in that there is a large Brazil/ tropicalia influence, but there are also large dollops of baroque psychedelia, funk and motorik vibes. Space age bachelor pad music I reckon.

13. Virginia Wing 'Measures of Joy' (Fire)

one of the debuts of the year... The vocals of Alice Merida Richards are central to it all, and her delivery plus the accompanying drifting psychedelia of the other musicians create something not unlike the more experimental moments of Broadcast and Electrelane. It is so much more than a carbon copy of those acts and each listen reveals new layers and twists and turns.
"‘Measures of Joy’ is a piece of noir-pop majesty that constantly pushes its own boundaries and frequently shatters the listeners’ sense of expectation." (Loud & Quiet)

12. Wild Beasts 'Present Tense' (Domino)

Initially the fact that this was the first WB album to be written on computer unsettled me, but I grew to love the songs.
"Their most complete record by a serious stretch, it's a work that laughs, cries, detests, adores and above anything else inspires." (DIY)

11. Thee Silver Mt Zion 'Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything' (Constellation)

“We live on the island called Montreal, and we make a lot of noise… because we love each other!” says one of SMZ's children on this excellent 7th album by the band that began as a post-GY!BE porject. This album strikes a lot of chords, as it takes on raising the next generation in a repressive world of austerity. Closing track 'What We Loved Was Not Enough' was the anthem of the year for me.
(Pitchfork review with lots of background here)

10. Thurston Moore 'The Best Day' (Matador)

The most Sonic Youth of any of the post-Sonic Youth releases, and in fact it hits on exactly what made SY so appealing and intriguing - the mix of subtle melody and extremely disorienting noise. TM's band are a bit of a supergroup, with Steve Shelley back on the drums and Deb Googe from MBV on bass duties, and it's joy to hear how well they gel here.
"Both comforting and discomfiting, The Best Day recalls prime Youth, when their tense experimental attitude dovetailed with often sour but instantly accessible pop melodies." (the Observer)

9. Lorelle Meets the Obsolete 'Chambers' (Sonic Cathedral)

Another grower which I paid more attention to after I had seen them live. My fave psych-rock release of '14 and almost certainly the first Mexican act to make my albums of the year.
"Chambers is an album that reveals more of itself and ever more nuances and clever touches with every listen. Final track Thoughts About Night Now, featuring Gonzalez on vocals, is a rather lovely pop tune, showing that they can try their hand to pure melody for good measure. There’s much to savour here from a band that are just hitting their stride and attracting new audiences all the time."(musicOMH)

8. Gulp 'Season Sun' (Sonic Cathedral)

This one came out in the summer and crept up on me over the last few months.
"This album will certainly tick a lot of boxes for Super Furry acolytes, but for those who couldn't take to the SFA brand of avant-pop, Gulp should provide you with a nerdgasm or ten. Library electronics, jangly loftiness and enough in the way of melodies and choruses to soundtrack your summer." (the Quietus)

7. Dean Blunt 'Black Metal' (Rough Trade)

An album that dominated my listening in the latter part of this year. This has nothing to do with black metal by the way, let's establish that straight away. I wasn't completely convinced by Dean Blunt's previous solo album, but 'Black Metal' is a beaut. Somewhere between noise-rock bliss-out, dub reggae and melancholic rock, he has a knack for putting together delightfully unhinged tunes, with suitably laconic vocals that sit somewhere between Bill Callahan and Rudy from AR Kane. The female counterpart on 'Molly and Aquafina' and the superb '50 Cent' gives the sound an extra dimension.

6. The Delines 'Colfax' (El Cortez)

If you like Willy Vlautin's work with Richmond Fontaine, or even his novels, then imagine that kind of writing combined with a perfectly pitched female vocal that brings every bit of emotion out of it and you have the Delines. 'Colfax' is their debut album (maybe their only one?) and it is superb.
"One can find precedents for this album in classic Americana songwriting by those who know how to encapsulate how frayed our national experience can sometimes become for everyday people by setting their narratives in specific places or out on the road."(American Songwriter)

5. Angel Olsen 'Burn Your Fire for No Witness' (Jagjaguwar)

Her previous effort Half Way Home was good, but on this follow-up she raised her game even more. Those Roy Orbison comparisons remain valid, whilst she remains a performer equally at home with country or indie-rock.

"Burn Your Fire for No Witness conjures the past without ever imitating it, swirling its influences into something intimate, impressionistic and new."(Pitchfork)


4. Grouper 'Ruins' (Kranky)

Grouper aka Liz Harris nearly always works alone, but this time she has dispensed with any artificial studio work and recorded four long sad songs with just voice and piano in a seemingly untreated room. There are many incidental sounds that are picked up - thunder and rain, crickets and the ping of a microwave - it is quite a revealing listen on headphones. The songs themselves are sad and beautiful, and overall Ruins is pretty wonderful.

3. Jane Weaver 'The Silver Globe' (Finders Keepers)

Puzzlingly passed over by most blogs and mainstream press, Jane Weaver's sixth album is a wonderful thing. The move from her folk background is more of an evolutionary one rather than a change of direction. The constant factor in all of her output is her voice, and it is the unifying factor in this varied album, always bringing a melody regardless on top of any sonic experimentation.

2. The Bug 'Angels and Devils' (Ninja Tune)

A long awaited follow-up that at least equals predecessor London Zoo. 'Angels and Devils' is very much an album of contrasts, as it mixes fascinating ambient noise and aggressive MC-led pieces.

"one of the most stunning documents of 21st century music being made in Britain." Clash


1. Sun Kil Moon 'Benji' (Caldo Verde)

Such an awkwardly beautiful album. "In nearly every song on Benji, someone dies. Family members, friends, celebrities, people in the news; they all pass away. This album packs a huge emotional punch as it tells its stories, often solely through Mark Kozelek's baritone vocal and his skilful yet gentle guitar playing. It moves, entices and, in some places, even amuses the listener....Most people who have heard Kozelek's previous work will know to expect beauty, sadness and emotional baggage. Benji is no different in that respect, but it encourages you to empathise with the subjects of the songs, and therefore adds some light to the melancholy.
my review (the 405)


Don't forget those "tracks of the year" mixes!

Slowthrills 2014 end of year mix #1 by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Slowthrills 2014 end of year mix #2 by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Embedded: Slow Thrills tracks of the year 2014

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It's just like when Guns n Roses released Use Your Illusion I and II really, right down to the different coloured sleeves! Seriously though, I've put together TWO different "tracks of the year" mixes, both featuring music that I couldn't get enough of this year.
I'm not sure what this says about 2014, but neither mix has a strong overlap with the Albums of the Year or the Gigs of the Year, both of which will be on here in the next day or so. Meanwhile, feel free to dip in out of the three hours of music embedded below, it is conveniently timestamped.

Slowthrills 2014 end of year mix #1 by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Slowthrills 2014 end of year mix #2 by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

(tracklists below as well as on mixcloud)
Mix #1
Don't Wanna Lose - Ex Hex
Big Stars - Perfect Pussy
Salford - Mazes
Encrypted Bounce - Thee Oh Sees
Lawman - Girl Band
Slider - Bo Ningen
The Known Unknown - The Skull Defekts
North Hollywood Microwaves - Pink Mountaintops
Kong - The Notwist
Meshes - Virginia Wing
Boiling Point - The Soundcarriers
Strange Colores - Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks
Eruption - Tobacco
The One - The Bug
Medicine - Trash Kit
What's Holding You? - Lorelle Meets the Obsolete
Vote for Me Dummy - Guided by Voices
Chem Trails - Spider Bags
With Light and With Love - Woods
What We Loved Was Not Enough - Silver Mt Zion

Mix #2
Drive (fade into) - Marissa Nadler
Micheline - Sun Kil Moon
Shell - Vashti Bunyan
Atomos IX - A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Don't Take My Soul - Jane Weaver
Game Love - Gulp
New Born - Sounds of Sputnik feat. Ummagma
3Jane - EMA
Before - Wye Oak
Rites - Lost in the Trees
Faded Eyes - Horsebeach
Mister Skeleton - Grumbling Fur
Windows - Angel Olsen
Sun Has Gone - Broken Twin
He Told Her The City Was Killing Him - the Delines
Hallowe'en - Wussy
Holding - Grouper
Meteorites - Yann Tiersen

2014 CATCH UP no.3 :Sea Pinks

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Any band which begins their biog with "A band from Belfast inspired by sea glass, bleached grass and ghost guitars" deserves your attention.
That is how Sea Pinks describe themselves. The band have been around for a few years now and I first became aware of them when they played a few shows with fellow Belfast band Girls Names a few years ago. Back then Sea Pinks singer/guitarist Neil Brogan was the drummer in Girls Names, and I think it's fair to say that the two bands complimented each other well, both coming from the same place in terms of geography as well as musical influence.
Sea Pinks most recent album Dreaming Tracks is their fourth but it's their first to be recorded in the studio with the full band line up of Davey Agnew (drums) and Steven Henry (bass) along with founder singer/guitarist Neil Brogan and cellist Jonny Agnew. It has been released on their own CF Records, a label which grew out of the Cass/Flick imprint, which began in 2006 with a series of cassette only releases and went on to issue material from the likes of Cloud Nothings and Thread Pulls.

Some compare Sea Pinks to the Smiths but it is not as straightforward as that. There are post-punk influences (Orange Juice and the Go-Betweens might be a more accurate comparison than Moz and co) but there is also a healthy dollop of sixties style garage-rock and summery-pop, and the resulting mix would sound perfectly at home on a K Records release from the 90s. Given that their sound is essentially fairly clean guitar bass and drums with regular melodies, there is plenty of variety on offer.

Anyway, enough of my prattling, check them out yourself below. Releases are available on vinyl or bandcamp downloads.

Holy Sons

2014 CATCH UP no.2 :smallgang

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[pic by Katie Harris]

A power trio of sorts, smallgang comprise of brothers Simon and Toshi Kobayashi with their friend Matt Atkins on drums. Their sound is curiously out of time in the uk at least, given that it owes a lot to American post-hardcore and indie-rock. Back in June we reckoned that their second full length 'san (三)' was "a more ambitious album than their debut 'Trespasses'" and that still holds - the songs are varied and there are a couple of female vocal guest spots too courtesy of Gill Sandell (Emily Baker and the Red Clay Halo) and Jen Macro (Something Beginning With L, My Bloody Valentine). It is an energetic and noisy album, with all the instruments sounding big in the mix and brutal and half-spoken vocals sometimes deliberately submerged.

Well worth hearing if you like Shellac, Wedding Present, Sebadoh, etc, which I reckon you do if you're reading this. More info (biog, audio, dates) from their label Damnably. London types should be aware that they are playing the Windmill in Brixton on the January 18th, 2015.

2014 CATCH UP no.1 : Holy Sons

2014 CATCH-UP No1: Holy Sons

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Today's overlooked act is Holy Sons, which is essentially the solo project of Emil Amos, who is perhaps better known as the driving force behind Grails, or the drummer in Om. I reviewed Holy Sons fine new album The Fact Facer for the 405, it was released in September this year.
"The Fact Facer applies variety and imagination throughout, which doesn't dilute the melancholy, yet ensures that the album doesn't become an overbearing listen. If anything it is the opposite, as the band are full of surprises and Emil Amos's voice is often a joy to hear. By the end of the album you can scarcely believe that this man is the drummer in Om."
Holy Sons are playing some European dates in February 2015, with Watter, and Lilacs and Champagne. If you don't already know, Watter feature Britt from Slint and Zak from Grails, whilst Lilacs and Champagne are Emil himself and Alex from Grails. I can feel a Grails family tree coming on! Full tour dates are on the Thrill Jockey website. Meanwhile here is the official video for 'Transparent Powers' (from the Fact Facer)