Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The best new albums of the month, June 2014

Parquet Courts 'Sunbathing Animal'
Parquet Courts haven't messed with the nineties-slacker vibe they perfected on their breakthrough second album 'Light Up Gold'. This carries on where that left off, and if anything shows further development in their songwriting. Still weighted down with obvious influences, but this time Jonathan Richman casts a heavier shadow than the likes of Pavement.

Eaux 'Plastics'
my review (the 405)
"Eaux's music uses the machinery of pop and is, at its heart, a female vocal over a synth backing. There is much more to it though, and the further you dig in, the more puzzling and intriguing it can become. On this debut album Plastics they bend and mould electronic pop into something delightfully strange."

Fucked Up 'Glass Boys'
It was always going to be a challenge to follow up the excellent and ambitious David Comes To Life, and the first few listens to Glass Boys suggest that it hasn't quite got there. Their layers of guitars sound as glorious as ever and the lyrics reveal more on each play, so your patience may be rewarded.

The Soft Pink Truth 'Why Do The Heathen Rage?'
A fascinatingly odd album wherein Matmos's Drew Daniel reversions some of his favourite songs by black metal bands (Venom, Sarcofago, etc) into house/techno friendly slices of electronica. The results are occasionally amusing and at times brilliant. 'Ready to Fuck' sees guest vocalist Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak) soulfully intoning "stand up to see my penetrating hammer". You shouldn't need any further prompting to check this out.

Smallgang 'San'
Perhaps a more ambitious album than their debut 'Trespasses', Smallgang are still working within the realm of classic indie-rock and post-hardcore. They flirt with the relationship between noise and melody throughout, and the presence of occasional female guest vocals add another layer to their sound.

Bob Mould 'Beauty and Ruin'
The intriguing cover image features Mould now and also in his Husker Du heyday, as if his past is haunting him. Musically, this album belies the passage of time and whilst it wouldn't quite fit with the Husker's output, it would sit nicely between, say, 'Workbook' and Sugar. It's a pretty take on melodic indie-rock, in other words.

Happyness 'Weird Little Birthday'
I expect this one to grow on me even more as the months pass. This London three piece have made a lovely debut album that is warm, woozy and at times weird. Like Parquet Courts above, this is in debt to 90's American indie, but it has an originality that makes it worth investigating.

Clipping 'CLPPNG'
A refreshingly original take on hip-hop. Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes explore some edgy and unique backgrounds (including the superbly grating 'Get Up' where the music is just an alarm clock beep) whilst rapper Daveed Diggs creates a third person narrative to accompany these. As someone perceptive spotted, there is a reason why the "I" is removed from the title.

OOIOO 'Gamel'
For this OOIOO release, Yoshimi creates a series of psychedelic pieces - sometimes proggy and sometimes pretty - based around the gamelan. This has the same relentless trance-like rhythms and sparse, haunted vocals of her other band Boredoms, but here their legendary overload has been replaced by something more delicate.

Guided by Voices 'Cool Planet'
Yet another album from the non-stop reformed GBV. This one is more psychedelic and sketchy than recent releases, and all the better for it. Tobin Sprout comes to the fore on quite a few tracks as well.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Embedded: a loosely themed World Cup Special cloudcast

After promising a new "radio" show every two weeks, I was thrown by the double distractions of hay fever and the World Cup. I thought I would use the latter to my advantage so I put together a mix of some less obvious tracks from countries taking part in the world cup. I managed to find tracks I liked from 18 of the 32 nations - obviously in the case of USA, England, Germany, Australia and Japan it was hard to choose. Show is embedded below, enjoy! - oh and I should add that normal service will return on week beginning 7th July, with the usual mix of new and hard to find music.

Slowthrills s02e02 a sort-of World Cup themed special by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Slow Thrills radio returns

For those of you asking about the internet radio show, I have made a new one at last. My plan is to broadcast a show at mixlr.com/slowthrills every other Wednesday - starting tonight (11 June) at the spookily late hour of 2230BST. Times will vary over the coming weeks though. The show will re-run on mixlr at some point over the following weekend and will be available on demand on mixcloud as well. Hopefully each show will have guests invloved, and tonight's show features a chat with Chile's finest psych-rockers Follakzoid.

here is the embedded show - enjoy! (and it is also available via mixlr showreel here

Slowthrills s02e01 with guests Follakzoid by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Friday, June 06, 2014

The best new albums of the month, May 2014

First of all let me say that I dropped the ball a bit when looking back at April, as I heard the Broken Twin and Ought albums too late to include them, but I've listened to both of them a lot since and can definitely recommend them.
May was relatively easy to compile as there were some clear stand-outs over the month. Enjoy the ten...

The Delines 'Colfax'
Essentially this is another side to Richmond Fontaine and fans of that outfit - or indeed fans of Willy Vlautin's fiction - will not be disappointed. The Delines places female vocalist Amy Boone at the heart of the action as the band create a lush country-soul crossover. As always, Vlautin's lyrics tell a beautifully sad story.

Bo Ningen 'III'
my review (the 405)

"seven years and three full length albums on from their early noise-based jams they have refined and re-energized their unique approach to noise-rock with III. It's not punk, acid-rock, shoegaze or metal, instead it's a stranger hybrid of all of these and more. Now that "psych" has come to define garage bands reinventing the music of the past, they don't sit well with that tag either. Bo Ningen are about as futuristic a rock band as you could imagine."

Swans 'To Be Kind'

Nearly two years ago this Swans line-up made a fantastic two hour long album called 'The Seer', which was probably one of the best records made under that name, and Michael Gira even claimed it was the summation of his life's work (I'm paraphrasing, but you know what I mean). Unbelievably, they've done it again - another two hours of revelatory, boundary stretching rock music. Created mostly whilst on tour, these tunes sound more like finely honed jams than anything else. Thirteen albums down the line, they are still a huge creative force.

Bastard Mountain 'Farewell, Bastard Mountain'

Is Bastard Mountain a supergroup or a collaboration? Combining the talents of some of Meursault including vocalist Neil Pennycook, Rob St John and Sparrow and the Workshop, amongst others, they have created a beautiful album that equals much of the recorded output of the separate strands of each act. Three songs from each artist were brought to the sessions and then reworked into a lovely, haunted kind of folk music.

Sharon Van Etten 'Are We There'

This crept up on me in much the same way 'Tramp' did, with the really special moments emerging over repeated listens. Thematically it is similar as well, with her lyrics still firmly focused on the minutiae of relationships. The arrangements, and overall feel, is somehow a bit smoother, as if her earlier folk-rock and indie-rock leanings had had a little polish to make them even more accessible. That's not intended as a negative comment, just an observation, and this has been on constant rotation all month.

La Sera 'Hour of the Dawn'
The return of Katy Goodman, once of the Vivian Girls, with her side project that has now become her main musical outlet. In fact this is the third release under the La Sera name. Summery indie-rock, with a carefully concealed edge.

Oliver Wilde 'Red Tide Opal In the Loose End Womb'

Some confusion over this guy's name - is it Oliver or Olivier? He appears on Spotify as both! Anyway this is an odd but hugely interesting album, and one which I think is in the tradition of English experimental rock music, by which I mean that it manages to sound like Bark Psychosis, Radiohead and Robert Wyatt, often in the course of a single song.

Amen Dunes 'Love'

Essentially a solo project from Damien McMahon, 'Love' is the third and most cohesive release as Amen Dunes. Hints of Syd Barrett, psych-folk and Kurt Vile abound, and the album reveals more layers with each play.

Wussy 'Attica'
It's great to see that Wussy saved up some gems for what is their fifth album but is also essentially their UK debut - all their other earlier albums had been released in the USA only. In particular 'Teenage Wasteland' and 'Halloween' are such great songs that 'Attica' would have got into this list even if the rest of it was poor. Which it isn't of course, and the contrast between the styles of Chuck Cleaver (once of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker make for a fascinating listen. Well crafted indie-rock songs - and tasteful pedal steel in places - make 'Attica' so consistently strong that I think it may be an even better intro to the band than the 'Buckeye' compliation from a couple of years ago.

Ben Frost 'Aurora'

Ranging from ice cold electronic noise to barely audible ambient pieces, Ben Frost can claim to have released one of the most arresting albums of the year so far. As well as the synths, 'Aurora' relies heavily (no pun intended!) on the percussive talents of Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, ex-Liturgy) and Thor Harris (swans and many others). Written on a laptop in the Democratic Rep of Congo, mixed in Reykjavik, and one Tim Hecker is credited with "sound design".

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Embedded: the best tracks from the Radioaktiv shows

I did fifteen shows for the internet station Radioaktiv between January and May this year, during which I played a couple of hundred new releases. As the station has ceased broadcasting I thought I would put together a mix of my favourite 25 of these - as it's nearly June you could also look at it as a best of the year so far from Slow Thrills's perspective. Listen via the embed below.
Contains tracks by Amazing Snakeheads, St Vincent, Liars, Wild Beasts, Tobacco, the Notwist, Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, Thee Oh Sees, EMA, Sisyphus, Pink Mountaintops, the Skull Defekts, Girl Band, Chain and the Gang, Perfect Pussy, Bo Ningen, Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks, Wye Oak, Marissa Nadler, The Delines, Wussy, Sun Kil Moon, Broken Twin, Angel Olsen, Silver Mt Zion.

The best tracks from Slowthrills Radioaktiv shows by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Monday, May 19, 2014

Embedded: Slowthrills show 14 for Radioaktiv

So Radioaktiv has come to an end this week, and so has my hugely enjoyable stint on it. I really loved making and broadcasting the fifteen shows that I put together for them, so much in fact, that I have decided to continue making with this. Logistical details to follow! Meanwhile, here is my penultimate show for them from 7th May 2014, which got lost from the listen again facility, and I know a couple of people wanted to hear it. I think this was the most laid back and mellow of the shows that I did for them. Enjoy!

Slowthrills show 14 for Radioaktiv by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The best new albums of the month, April 2014

Happily, April was a much stronger month than March, and I ended up having to wade through 35 mostly decent new releases to make this month's ten. It was fairly tight though and I wouldn't be surprised if some albums I've skipped over return to favour with me in the next while.

The Skull Defekts 'Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown'

my review (the 405)
"The album is a thrill from start to finish and is perhaps surprisingly accessible, particularly if you are aware of their previous work. There is great tension between the riffs and the melodies and the way the guitars are just seconds away from dipping into something truly edgy and discordant. The Skull Defekts are a lot more interesting and original than those bands simply retreading garage rock in the name of psychedelia. They understand the power of repetition when used correctly - think of the Fall, Can, Sonic Youth - and Higgis's presence completes the band and makes it possible to deliver an album as trippy, yet somehow coherent, as this one."

Fennesz 'Bécs'

Although he always seems to be busy and productive, this is the first full Fennesz album since 'Black Sea', and on it he makes some of his prettiest noise since 2002's masterpiece 'Endless Summer'. Existing fans will not be disappointed, unless of course they were looking for a dramatic progression, because 'Becs' builds on what Fennesz does best but doesn't push the boundaries too hard. If anything, it is more stripped back and at some points there is something resembling raw guitar, stripped of effects. It's a beautiful album.

Protomartyr 'Under Color of Official Right'

There's a bit of a buzz about these people at the moment, and rightly so. 'Under Color...' expands on their impressive debut and it crams 14 songs into its 34 minute duration. The band take a similar approach to Fugazi in that they manage to create space and atmosphere on even short songs, as the drums deliver an unconventional pattern which the rest of the band fill in. The lyrics seem worth investigating as well, but it's early days for me with this one, but I know it's strong enough to make the ten.

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks 'Enter the Slasher House'

my review (the 405)
"Overall Enter the Slasher House is perhaps too subtle to sit amongst the likes of the Cramps, Goblin and Zombie Zombie playing John Carpenter, on your future Halloween playlist. The eeriness only really emerges after a few listens, and the same could be said for the contributions of Angel and Jeremy, but it would be a shame if people just viewed this as an Animal Collective side project, as there is plenty to investigate here."

Wye Oak 'Shriek'

To paraphrase LCD Soundsystem, they've sold their guitar and they're buying synthesisers. Whilst that's not 100% true, this new album from Wye Oak sees them change their sound dramatically, towards something very synth-based. This is fine because they have managed to write some brilliant songs for 'Shriek' which would sound good no matter what they are played on. This isn't the Wye Oak you know but it may still be the Wye Oak you love.

Shonen Knife 'Overdrive'

It didn't seem that long ago that the Knife were professing their love for the Ramones with their 'Osaka Ramones'. With 'Overdrive' - their 20th album in 33 years! - they have drawn on classic hard rock as their main influence. There are shades of Thin Lizzy on the opening 'Bad Luck Song', and things get a bit heavier for 'Like a Cat' and 'Ramen Rock', though the catchy 'Dance to the Rock' is a perfect balance between their own sound and the pop-rock they are paying homage to. Obviously a bit heavier than its predecessor 'Pop Tune' that's no bad thing, and they still manage to leave you smiling as always.

Woods 'With Light and With Love'

Their previous album 'Bend Beyond' saw them emerge into something more coherent than their early folk-jams would have hinted at, and this new one sees them take that a step further. FM country-rock and the Byrds loom large over this, and the band take those influences and update them. The title track in particular sees them achieve the best balance yet between the psychedelic guitar solos that lift their live shows to another level, and their skills in writing a strong tune.

Pixies 'Indie Cindy'

There are probably half a dozen Pixies-influenced indie-rock albums that could have nudged their way into this list, but to be honest none of them are as good as 'Indie Cindy'. I was firmly in the "no Pixies without Kim" camp and nearly didn't listen to this at all, but I'm glad I did. Those guitar lines and those clever little melodic twists that they were so good at are all present and at times they sound sublime.

EMA 'The Future's Void'

There is nothing on here as stunning as 'The Grey Ship' (from previous album 'Past Life Martyred Saints') but then EMA doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would repeat herself. Instead she kicks this off with 'So Blonde', a ghastly yet ironic dig at that bombastic LA pop-rock sound. It's all uphill from here thankfully, and a lot of the album focuses on the cyber side of things - hinted at by the cover pic of her with an Oculus Rift headset. We can't see her eyes, and she is looking at another reality. '3Jane' deals with voyeurism and web-exploitation in a subtle way, and 'Neuromancer' is maybe the most successful blend of her words and her new electronic direction.

Thee Oh Sees 'Drop'

The first recording under Thee Oh Sees name since John Dwyer announced their hiatus in December, so it will be interesting to see where they go from here. Musically 'Drop' follows on from where predecessor 'The Floating Coffin' left off, although the rough edges and wig-outs seem more tempered these days. Coupled with the lack of further news about their future and the fact that the album is just over 30 minutes in length, 'Drop' feels like a bit of a tease. It's a good one though.