Thursday, October 09, 2014

The best new albums of the month, September 2014

Release schedules usually mean that it's easy to pick 10 albums in the summer months, while the Autumn and New Year sees so many releases it is hard to limit the list to 10. Step forward September, which always manages to overwhelm me. This time it was even worse as I had no laptop for half of September and I only got to hear 29 of the 33 albums I had on my long list. I can't quite believe that I haven't got around to people like Laetitia Sadier and Thom Yorke yet, but that's why they are missing from the 10.

Holy Sons 'The Fact Facer'
my review (the 405)
"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."

Camera 'Remember I was Carbon Dioxide'
my review (the 405)
"Whilst there is no escaping the Krautrock influences, Camera have at least updated that sound with their own imagination, punky energy and a willingness to progress. If you enjoy the music of those German bands mentioned at the start of the review, you should get something out of this energetic 21st reboot of the genre."

Karen O 'Crush Songs'
I guess it's deliberate that the demos that make up 'Crush Songs' are barely there, recorded in a single take and often only about a minute long. The melodies are simple, delicate, and the instrumentation is mostly just a roughly recorded acoustic guitar, though there are little beats dotted around. It is a glimpse into her private emotions and manages to sound and feel like exactly that.

Tweedy 'Sukierae'
A double album created by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer, this is a lot better than I thought it would be. Spencer is a clearly a great drummer and his work on this manages to leave as distinctive a stamp of some of this material as his Dad's voice does. 20 songs as well, which are much more than Wilco cast-offs, in fact some of them are superb.

Aphex Twin 'Syro'
A much acclaimed return for Aphex Twin, with an album more succinct than its predecessor 'Druqks'. It immediately sounds like Aphex, though some of the edginess, crazier aspects have been tempered in favour of fairly accessible, almost house-influenced tunes.

Half Japanese 'Overjoyed'
I can't remember the last time that I listened to a full Half Japanese album, but I'm thrilled that they are such good form here. Cracking guitar sounds, the usual dubious rhymes in the lyrics, and Jad Fair is completely in your face throughout.

Shellac 'Dude Incredible'
Anyone was has seen Shellac in the last few years will be familiar with some of these songs. This album is one of their most immediate - and time will tell if it's amongst their best. Naturally it sounds brilliant, and quirky as well, with an a cappella opening on side 2 and more songs about surveyors on one album than anyone else has ever written.
(Obviously no Spotify on this one, but some chancer has put some of it on youtube, see below)

Sea Pinks 'Dreaming Tracks'
Relative unknowns in this list of heavy-hitters, Sea Pinks hail from Belfast and have a neat line in indie-pop, with nods to the heyday of Postcard records. Their fourth album, but the first to be recorded in the studio with a full band, complete with cello to add a bit of melancholy. Some strong songwriting, and the tracks flow really well together.

Perfume Genius 'Too Bright'
It took me longer to get into this than it had with his previous albums, first impressions were that the greater ensemble of musicians made PG's music more robust, less fragile. The songs do get under your skin in a pleasant way after a few listens, though the tracks with more dynamic range come across better

Tricky 'Adrian Thaws'
Not a perfect album by any means, but it's a sprawling, surprising effort by Tricky, hot on the heels of last year's False Idols. Random nods to past influences with a cover of Janet Kay's Silly Games and a cheeky Massive Attack steal. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Embedded: Slowthrills double edition no.2

Slowthrills double edition no.2 by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

This is the second long show, intending to highlight some of the best new music that has come our way in the latter half of the summer. The next series of podcasts/ radio shows will be shorter in length and more frequent, so look out for those in October. Tracklisting is below, thanks in advance for listening and sharing.

Second double edition Aug-Sep 2014
1. Chem Trails – Spider Bags
2. Archie, Marry Me – Alvvays
3. Falls Away – Childhood
4. Stamford Hill – Mazes
5. Dartford Tunnel – Splintered Man
6. Dripping – Blonde Redhead
7. Salo – Analogue Wave
8. In Love With Useless – A Sunny Day in Glasgow
9. Overdrive feat. Ummagma – Sounds of Sputnik
10. This Once – Acre Tarn
11. A Mirror in my Mouth – Susanna and Jenny Hval
12. Welsh Corgis in the Snow – Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler
13. Seven Year Glitch – Rumour Cubes
14. Unshaven Boozer – David Thomas Broughton
15. Doomed Myself – Holy Sons
16. Tender is the Night – Robyn G Shiels
17. Mister Skeleton – Grumbling Fur
18. Out for the West – Castanets
19. Guidance – Meter Bridge
20. Forerunner Foray – Shabazz Palaces
21. The One – The Bug
22. De Bom Bom – Girl Band
23. Sea Sick – Dot Dash
24. Synchron – Camera

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The best new albums of the month, August 2014

Well this was a tough one. There should probably be twelve or thirteen albums on this page, but I'm sticking with my "ten-per-month" rule. I guess that just means I like these just that bit much more. September is going to be even harder as there are hundreds of albums set for release, but for now, dive in and enjoy my picks for August.

The Bug 'Angels and Devils'

A huge release on which Kevin Martin, the mastermind behind the Bug, stretches the boundaries of dub reggae, hip-hop and industrial noise even further than on the previous album London Zoo.
Its musical range is wide, and the list of collaborators is impressive. We get the gentle touch of Liz Harris (Grouper), the foggy fuzz of Gonjasufi, and star turns from both Flowdan and Warrior Queen.
Martin weaves it all together and creates something that is thrilling, important and very 2014.

Grumbling Fur 'Preternaturals'

Dan O'Sullivan and Alexander Tucker's previous album under this name, Glynnaestra, was well received. Preternaturals is probably even better. It is brief in duration, and some of the tracks are simply bridges between the longer songs, but when they do weave their magic into a full piece it really works. Pitched somewhere on the strange hinterland between the likes of Depeche Mode and New Order, and "electric Eden" style psych-folk, this is an essential listen.

FKA twigs 'LP1'

These selections usually tend to skip the obvious releases, but this debut is impossible to ignore. LP1 manages to combine lots of standard influences (pop, RnB, hip-hop) into something rich, dense and challenging. If you're familiar with last year's EP releases, LP1 runs even deeper into that skewed and emotionally charged vibe. Comparisons to Bjork, Tricky et al, are valid, mainly because FKA twigs is pursuing an individual yet fully realised sound. Easily one of the debuts of this year.

Childhood 'Lacuna'

Another great debut, though this time firmly in the indie-rock/ shoegaze vein. This isn't a case of noise overload though, and strong melodic hooks are present on every track. At times the band's influences are obvious, but Childhood have a few tricks of their own up their sleeve. By varying the tempo and throwing in the odd melodic twist, they've made 'Lacuna' stand out from the rest of the pack.

Susanna/ Jenny Hval 'Meshes of Voice'

On paper, these two seem to have little in common other than their Norwegian nationality, but it is the conflict between their two styles which makes Meshes of Voice such a special collaboration. This work was created for a live performance at Ladyfest in 2009 and it consists of 15 interconnected pieces which form a modern day saga, for want of a better word. The fact that it can move from beautiful, almost classical passages to noisy art-rock whilst still maintaining its flow, is hugely impressive.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow 'Sea When Absent'

Their fourth album, and easily their best, sees A Sunny Day in Glasgow overcome their geographical differences (the members were split across Australia and the USA) to sound more like a band than ever. They are still firmly within the shoegaze sound although there is a euphoric side to some of these songs. The production by Jeff Zeigler (War on Drugs, Vile) may have something to do with it, although the songs still retain that busy, cluttered feel that is familiar from their earlier records.

Adult Jazz 'Gist Is'
It took quite a few listens to convince me on this one. Adult Jazz have an almost abstract approach to songwriting, with tempo changes and twisting multi-layered melodies. There are definite jazz touches but there's also a big Dirty Projectors influence. Every listen to this album offers something new.

Rumour Cubes 'Appearances of Collections'

An impressive instrumental album from this London based six piece. Violin and viola carry all the melodies and the fact that these strings have a powerful rock band driving them along will lead to comparisons to the usual post-rock suspects. However, the sheer beauty of many of the tunes and the skill of the band in taking the route away from bombast and cliché, make this an album should try to seek out.

The New Pornographers 'Brill Bruisers'

Saying that an album marks a “return to form” is a cliché of course, but that's exactly what Brill Bruisers is. AC Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar bring their individual talents back to the group, and on the first few listens it sounds like this could hold its own with any of their back catalogue. Brill Bruisers consists of mostly uptempo material, and sounds like it was much fun to make as it is to listen to.

Ty Segall 'Manipulator'
After a prolific streak over the last few years, Ty Segall stepped out of character to spend 14 months working on this double album. That work has paid off, as the album packs a punch, and across the 17 tracks the influence of 70s glam - in particular Bowie and Bolan- weighs heavier than that of 60s garage.
No tracks to stream as Drag City don't really do that, but here is a nifty vid to promote the album.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Embedded: Slowthrills summer double edition no.1

As you've probably noticed, the radio/ mixcloud side of the blog has taken a bit of a break over the summer. Normal service should resume in September. Meanwhile here is the first of two longer-than-usual shows, 33 tracks, half submissions and half material that I have just stumbled upon. Tracklisting is on the mixcloud widget, but for the benefit of people searching for certain acts, I have pasted it below as well. Enjoy!

Slowthrills summer double summer edition no.1 by Slowthrills on Mixcloud

1. Black and White - Parquet Courts
2. Bitter Branches - Static In Verona
3. Regan's Lost Weekend - Happyness
4. Magazine - the Proper Ornaments
5. No coast - Braid
6. Trembling Moon - Kult Country
7. Satanic Black Devotion - Soft Pink Truth
8. Sarcofago Live - Mountain Goats
9. Common Thread - John Steel Singers
10. Without a Face - Luluc
11.Below the Pines - Northern arms
12. When Love it Starts Leaving - Robyn G Shiels
13 Tremendous Misery Sets In - Music Blues
14. Terrified - Rural Alberta Advantage
15. Super Rat - Honeyblood
16. Unhand Me - The Wharves
17. Sat in your Lap - Vomitface
18. Cry Baby Cry - Prom
19. Tears of Joy - Slow Club
20. Water me - FKA twigs
21. Game Love - Gulp
22. New born - Sounds of Sputnik feat. Ummagma
23. Ice Fortress - Trans Am
24. Bassy - the Hertz Complex
25. Grace - Zola Blood
26. My Girl Comes to the City - Castanets
27. Eye of the Pearl - Quilt
28. A Place you Return to in a Dream - Field Mouse
29. The Wind Blows Through their Skulls - Beastmilk
30. Anglerfish - Dog! Paper! Submarine!
31. Fire in the City - Bob Mould
32. 501-415- Allah Las
33. Mirrorball - Nisennenmondai


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The best new albums of the month, July 2014

Traditionally July is a fallow period for new releases, but this year I had no trouble finding ten albums to recommend. In fact, I would be surprised if a few of these didn't appear in this blog's end of year round-up.

King Creosote 'From Scotland With Love'
Even though this is essentially the soundtrack to a lovely film made from archive footage of Scotland's recent past, it is also the follow up to the masterpiece that was 'Diamond Mine'. It certainly differs from the KC of old; lo-fi methods are cast aside in favour of lush production and some beautiful string arrangements. The songs themselves are by turns happy, sad, poetic and reflective. A perfect companion to the visuals it was made for, but also a collection that ranks amongst his very best work.

Shabazz Palaces 'Lese Majesty'
Eighteen songs over seven 'suites' loosely based on sci-fi might sound a bit prog-rock, and it's certainly a challenging listen, taking a sideways step from the excellent 'Black Up' but delivering something no less thrilling.
Exactly as their recent London show suggested, Shabazz Palaces have a certain skill of reeling you in and overwhelming you with their woozy, psychedelic hip-hop without you really even noticing. They just creep up on you and before you know it you are hooked.

Luluc 'Passerby'
Some may know Luluc from the National's ATP line-up or from last year's Nick Drake tribute, but they have kept such a low profile since their debut came out in 2008. This second album is released by Sub Pop, produced by Aaron Dessner from the National and contains a selection of lovely yet mostly melancholic, Nick Drake-influenced songs. It's perhaps ironic that the title is 'Passerby' as I found it took a few listens to really get into. In the end the impressive, seemingly effortless harmonies won me over.

Comet Gain 'Paperback Ghosts'
Surely one of the most under-rated UK bands of the last 20 years, Comet Gain have been plugging away since the heady days of Wiiija records in the mid 90s, releasing fine albums every few years or so. This is their eighth album and it often sees them in more reflective mode, taking the foot off the gas on their Northern Soul/ indie-pop sound to pause and look around them. This could be the most beautiful record they have made.

Honeyblood 'Honeyblood'
I've had this debut from these "noisy Scottish girls" for a while now, and it's starting to sound like one of the debuts of the year. That slightly self-deprecating description of themselves doesn't to do justice to the quality of the songwriting here. They sit well with the new feisty alt country vocalists like Caitlin Rose and Angel Olsen, whilst still coming across as a cracking indie-rock band.

Wolves in the Throne Room 'Celestite'
On this album, WITTR's estrangement from the world of metal becomes almost permanent, as they continue to explore the atmospheric synth-based pieces which have led some people to compare them to the likes of Popul Vuh and even Tangerine Dream. Indeed this could be a soundtrack from some lost, or yet to be made, Werner Herzog film.

Alvvays 'Alvvays'
Whilst there is nothing new on this debut by Alvvays (it is of course pronounced Always) their melodic indie-pop is hugely enjoyable. I bet this collection of songs will form the soundtrack to may people's summers this year. Up there with the aforementioned Honeyblood as one of the best debuts in this genre for ages.

The Soft Walls 'No Time'
As I often say on here, there are simply too many acts like this around - psychy garage-rock acts who are in awe of what has gone on decades before. Happily, 'No Time' has enough quality to stand out and plenty of tricks up its sleeve - noisy interludes, old school drum machines, and some hissing drones that could have been mined from the mid-70s and Suicide. It certainly doesn't sound like a side project, although it is essentially a solo album by Dan Reeves from Cold Pumas

Gulp 'Season Sun'
Nearly two years on from their first single 'Game Love' (it's the opening track here), Gulp's debut album continues in the same psychedelic folk-pop vein. The haunting folk-tinged vocals of Lindsey Leven are central to it all and she has written all the material with her partner Guto Pryce (former Super Furries bassist). A summer album with a twist, as the pretty tunes sit side by side with some woozy psychedelia.

Slow Club 'Complete Surrender'
When I first heard the remarkable title track I thought we were set for a change of direction from this duo, but overall the album is more of a steady progression from 2011's 'Paradise' rather than a huge leap into mainstream pop. That title track is a masterful pop song though, as is 'Tears of Joy', and the inevitable shift from their folk-pop beginnings to something resembling indie-soul is pretty exciting.

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