MAGIC MIX

MID-TERM REVIEW 2018

TOP 50 ALBUMS

After taking a year out in 2017 to work on some self-improvement, the Piccadilly Records Mid-Term Review is back with a bang, stealing the limelight from the secondary soccer and bringing our collective attention back to music.

Slimmed down to a sumptuous summer body of ones and zeros, this digital dispatch is a near perfect reflection of the Piccadilly playlist from January through June. The result of heated arguments, happy accidents and Andy's wild air guitar, this 50 LP cheat-sheet contains our combined faves, so you'd better start cribbing.

Disgraced Australians everywhere can celebrate a clean victory for the first time in a while, enjoying Rolling Blackouts C.F.'s victory as much as we've enjoyed the LP. Jangling and thrusting, lush and loud, "Hope Downs" is wonderfully wide-eyed indie in true Antipodean style, and we can't get enough of it.

Former chart topper and fellow Aussie Courtney Barnett has to make do with a silver medal this time, but that doesn't mean her witty lyrics, rambling jams and slacker charm are any less impactful. In at three is the collaborative kosmische of Tunng's Mike Lindsay and modern folk priestess Laura Marling, an oddly pastoral affair that'll pull you through some solstice wormhole.

Elsewhere in the top ten we've got a wonderful return to weirdo form from MGMT, Eleventeen Eston's smudged Balearic, indie excellence from the Orielles and beach House, searing psych from Hookworms and various electronic delights from Advisory Circle and house legend Mr Fingers.
It's rare that a band's debut album sounds as confident and self-assured as Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's Hope Downs. To say that the first full-length from the Melbourne quintet improves on their buzz-building EPs from the last few years would be an understatement: the promise those early releases hinted at is fully realized here, with ten songs of urgent, passionate guitar pop that elicit warm memories of bands past, from the Go-Betweens' jangle to the charmingly lo-fi trappings of New Zealand's Flying Nun label. But don't mistake Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever for nostalgists: Hope Downs is the sound of a band finding its own collective voice.

The hard-hitting debut album is a testament to Rolling Blackouts C.F.’s tight-knit and hard-working bonafides. Prior to forming the band in 2013, singers/guitarists Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White had played together in various garage bands, dating back to high school. When Rolling Blackouts C.F. started, with Joe Russo [Tom’s brother] on bass, Marcel [Tussie, Joe White's then-housemate] on drums, the chemistry was immediate. After a split EP with You Yangs (another Russo brother's band), released in the form of a frisbee, they self-released Talk Tight in 2015, which Sydney-based record label Ivy League gave a wider release the following year. Talk Tight garnered plaudits from critics, including legendary rock scribe Robert Christgau. In 2017, Sub Pop released The French Press EP, bringing the band's chugging and tuneful non-linear indie rock to the rest of the world as they settled into their sound with remarkable ease.

Hope Downs was largely written over the past year in the band's Melbourne rehearsal room where their previous releases were also written and recorded. The band's core trio of songwriters hunkered down and wrote as the chaos of the world outside unavoidably seeped into the songwriting process. "We were feeling like we were in a moment where the sands were shifting and the world was getting a lot weirder. There was a general sense that things were coming apart at the seams and people around us were too,” Russo explains. The album title, taken from the name of a vast open cut mine in the middle of Australia, refers to the feeling of “standing at the edge of the void of the big unknown, and finding something to hold on to.”

With the help of engineer/producer Liam Judson and his portable setup, the band recorded Hope Downs live, and co-produced ten guitar pop gems over the course of two weeks in Northern New South Wales during the winter of 2017. Hope Downs possesses a robust full-band sound that's all the more impressive considering the band's avoidance of traditional recording studios. If you loved Talk Tight and The French Press, you certainly won't be disappointed here—but you might also be surprised at how the band’s sound has grown. There's a richness and weight to these songs that was previously only hinted at, from the skyscraping chorus of “Sister's Jeans” to the thrilling climax of album closer “The Hammer.”

Hope Downs is as much about the people that populate the world around us—their stories, perspectives, and hopes in the face of disillusionment—as it is about the state of things at large. It's a record that focuses on finding the bright spots at a time when cynicism all too often feels like the natural state. Rolling Blackouts C.F. are here to remind us to keep our feet on the ground—and Hope Downs is as delicious a taste of terra firma as you're going to get from a rock band right now.

STAFF COMMENTS

Laura says: This Melbourne five piece first caught our attention last year when Sub Pop released The French Press, their second EP; catchy, super melodic pop songs that ticked all the ‘indie guitar classic’ boxes. Next up came the re-release of Talk Tight, their debut EP; a bit rougher around the edges but still with the same dreamy melodies and chiming guitars. So, could their first album proper live up to the promise of their earlier efforts? Yes! Is the simple answer to that.
All the same reference points are there, but their sound has evolved. Subtly. It’s hard to put your finger on what’s different, but there’s a richness, an expansiveness to the sound, that was always there to some extent, but now seems more refined. With three guitarists, you’d expect the sound to be cluttered, but Tom Russo, Fran Keaney and Joe White, all play their own intricate melodies that ebb and flow in and out of the songs, colliding beautifully from time to time, and far from being chaotic, this gives the album a lush, layered sound. They also share vocal duties, sometimes solo, sometimes in harmony, sometimes relaying through the songs, providing an energy and momentum throughout, while Joe Russo and Marcel Tussie’s bass and drums hold everything together.
This album might have it’s roots in the city, and lyrically depict the sights, sounds and frustrations of urban living, but these are songs for wide open spaces, big skies, open roads, sunroof down, elbow’s in the breeze.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Loser edition marbled blue / clear vinyl.

The Grammy and Brit nominated Courtney Barnett returns with her second album - 'Tell Me How You Really Feel.' It follows her critically acclaimed 2015 debut album 'Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit', and a recent top 10 collaborative record, 'Lotta Sea Lice', with Kurt Vile. One of the most distinctive voices in music, Courtney is known for mixing witty observations with unflinching self-assessment - fast forward to now and although all of the cleaver turns of phrase and an eye for story telling are still there; this new collection of songs see a more serious and outwardly tone capturing the current social landscape yet still retaining moments of intimacy and warmth. As the world becomes more familiar with Courtney Barnett these songs feel comforting and emphatic yet that raw energy and the ability to make the listener think still remain.

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: Another absolute stormer from Courtney, though you might have already heard the superb 'Nameless, Faceless' from the 7" a little while ago, and 'City Looks Pretty' and 'Sunday Roast' from the RSD 12", there are a bunch of gems to uncover on this including the snarling skate-punk melodicism of my personal highlight, 'Charity'. Killer.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive in gatefold mirror board sleeve. Limited red vinyl.

Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

Deluxe CD Info: Limited hardback with exclusive 24 pp photo booklet.

Lump was born of good timing and predestined compatibility. It began when Mike Lindsay – a prolific, Mercury prize-winning producer – was introduced to Grammy-nominated, Brit award-winning singer-songwriter Laura Marling after her show supporting Neil Young in London.

Lump is a heady blend of wonked-out guitars, Moog synths and pattering drums, set against droning, coiling clouds of flutes and voices. The lyrics are inspired by early-20th-century Surrealism and the absurdist poetry of Edward Lear and Ivor Cutler - a bizarre but compelling narrative about the commodification of curated public personas, the mundane absurdity of individualism, and the lengths we go to escape our own meaninglessness.

The composers are keen to stress that LUMP is a creation that passed through them, and they look upon it parentally. It is their understanding that, now it has come into being, LUMP is the artist, and it will continue to create itself from here on. Lindsay and Marling will assist it as necessary.

STAFF COMMENTS

Darryl says: Lump mixes the stunning, instantly recognisable vocal prowess of Marling with the off-kilter electronic folk-tinged oddness of Lindsay's band Tunng. An enchanting and fascinatingly diverse outing, one to listen to in it's entirety. Superb.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Limited translucent green vinyl.

Following on from last years' 'Autres Directions' under his own name, and a collaboration with Jim Jupp of Belbury Poly with the celeb matchup of the year in 'The Belbury Circle', Jon Brooks has returned to his Advisory Circle moniker for 'Ways Of Seeing'. 

After a brief introduction (like we wouldn't know exactly who were listening to within ten seconds of kick-off), we get slowly arpeggiated saw waves and delayed blipping sinewaves dreamily meandering over the insistent percussive backdrop. Massive snare drums and swelling FM sweeps bulk out the forward-moving Italo throb. 

'The April Interval' and it's later counterpart, the stunning 'Skyways' are beautifully redolent of the 80's library music Brooks (and the rest of us) clearly have a soft-spot for, they are stunning, saturated, key led melodic journeys, brimming with spine-tingling whimsy, perfectly measured production and that impeccable ear for progressions we've come to expect. 

'Flight Capture' is possibly the greatest example of synth-led melody and textural intensity i've heard for a long time, combining the glimmering arpeggiated FM stabs and woozy bass throbs perfectly before slowly building into a shimmering Balearic tine-heavy refrain. 

We get spoken-word musings in 'A Mechanical Eye', (though I have less in common with this man than the monologist from the last album, he also being a solid tea enthusiast), before the kosmische shifting arps and swirling pads of 'Airborne Seeds'. 

A mindblowing tour-de-force once again from The Advisory Circle, and one that will be on my record player for some time to come. Stunningly immersive, beautifully produced and stunningly packaged. Album of the year material, for sure. 





STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: It's always the most exciting thing to hear that one of my favourite artists is releasing a new LP, and this was easily one of the most consistent and enjoyable releases yet, an absolute triumph.

Sidonie Hand Halford is a Christmas temp at the Post Office in Liverpool, her younger sister Esme is studying English literature at Manchester, and their friend Henry Wade is preparing to sit his A-levels in Halifax next summer. 

From the first jangling sunshine chords on opening track ‘Mango’, Silver Dollar Moments announces itself as a proper piece of indie pop goodness. Then, across 45 minutes, it takes all kinds of turns, into ESG-ish yips and funk, dreamy-arch harmonies, disco synth-pows and stoner bongos, unsettling submerged voices - with all that and more it still flows like a fountain of indie pop, fresh and catchy and altogether.

Maybe one reason it all coheres so beautifully is that The Orielles are a close-knit unit: two sisters and their best mate. “We met Henry at a house party a few years ago,” says Sid. “I mean, it’s a bit lamer than that sounds. It was a friend of our parents, she was having a 40th birthday party, and we went along, and Henry was there too, with his parents.” They’ve been writing songs together ever since, Esme singing and on bass, Sidonie on drums, Henry on guitar. They’ve played live all over the UK as well as Europe and North America, and this year they signed to Heavenly Recordings and headed into Eve Studios in Stockport.

STAFF COMMENTS

Andy says: Brilliant, classic indie-pop! This has all the youthful charm and quirks of the C86 era, but is way better presented and with very good songs. Anorak godfathers The Pastels spring most readily to mind, except The Orielles have a tangible groove and percussive joie de vivre untypical of that era. You're gonna love this band!

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Limited edition blue vinyl.

Under the tree – In The Cave – At The Water, there’s where you’ll find Eleventeen Eston; savouring the shade since his 2014 debut LP ‘Delta Horizon’ turned the spotlight his way. Taking shelter in the subterranean, the Perth musician has found a sound saturated with entheogenic splendour, growing something gorgeous from the grotesque. Finding a natural home on Hamburg’s Growing Bin, Eston emerges into the daylight with a dreamy LP.

The vision quest begins with 'C in Sympathy', a freefall into the perverse beauty of the Domus Aurea, brought to life with E2-E4 electronics, chorus pedal shimmer and muted bass. Leaving the grasslands we dip a toe in the water with the hypnotic ripples of '2 d'Or (Cab Chassis)', a Carl-Craig-goes-New-Age number which fuses the electronic and acoustic to perfection. Delicate piano, crystalline synth tones and tape-saturated emotion lend their cinematic charm to 'East Perth Stories (Closing Titles)' before the propulsive bass and soft focus groove of 'The Four Fountains' hits you with the heat haze. Eston takes another tapey diversion on the sci-fi synthscape 'I Remember', while the coastal cool of 'Thread & Truth' picks up the wavy white funk baton from Spike.

The B-side brings more beauty as the drifting and dreamy ambience of 'I Float, I Am Free' gives way to the Windham Hill guitar licks, snaking bass and billowing textures of 'A Squall, 1988', offering a welcome echo of the wonder of Wilson Tanner. 'Where There Is Rain' sees Eston tune the Ute radio to 96FM Perth, marrying cascading keys, evocative vocal samples and lush guitar with a solid 80s pop beat, before he slows the pace for 'Sand Man' a skewed and stoned bit of beach funk that's perfect for seduction. We part ways with the panoramic 'Dory On Swan', a serene soundtrack to lapping waves and magic caves. Always in season, Growing Bin do it again.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: Currently causing the calmest stir on the Piccadilly stereo, the long awaited follow up to "Delta Horizons" sees Eleventeen Eston AKA John Tanner (of Wilson Tanner) treats us to warm white funk, hazy ambient and dreamy pop.

MGMT return for their fourth LP, in almost exaclty ten years since their almost cripplingly popular debut, Oracular Spectacular. Breaking away from the catchy generation Y glitter-bomb of 'Time To Pretend' or 'Kids' could drive a less-determined duo to mania, but VanWyndarden Goldwasser are nothing if not tenacious. 

Their newest lurches from queasy neon keys and vicious percussive flourishes (She Works Out Too Much, Days That Got Away) over the top of mellow, warped lounge into wistful melody-heavy glumtronica, swimming in atmosphere and packed to the brim with feels (Me And Michael, When You're Small). 

It is a fascinating and capable return for MGMT, clearly showing they deserve more credit than those early hits have offered them. This is a nuanced and mature journey, fittingly showing a good cross-section of their sizeable talents. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: A true display of how far MGMT have come since their early hit singles, still embracing their synthy aesthetic, but bringing in a host of diverse stylistic influences to complete their warm and varied sound.

FORMAT INFORMATION

2xLtd LP Info: 180 gram vinyl.

2xLtd LP includes MP3 Download Code.

Microshift is the Leeds band's first new work in over 3 years and marks a seismic shift in their sound, dynamic, songwriting and production, whilst still bearing all the ferocious energy, intricate musicianship and bruised but beautiful song-craft of the previous releases which have quietly made them one of the UK's most revered young bands.

This is the band's third studio album technically but arguably the first in which the studio has been central to its creation. Pearl Mystic and second LP, The Hum were heavily informed by the band's live sound, Microshift on the other hand came to life in the studio, formed out of loops, modular synthesizer sequences, drum machines, homemade samples etc. which were jammed around and layered until the songs began to emerge. The band have also opened their writing to include collaborations with artists such as Richard Formby (on Opener), Christopher Duffin (on Boxing Day) and Alice Merida Richards (on Each Time We Pass).

Radiant, immersive and teeming with light, but still heavy and forceful - the music on Microshift acts as a very deliberate counter to some of the difficult topics the album's lyrics address. Death, disease, heartbreak, body image and even natural disaster are all present here but the overall effect these songs achieve is euphoric catharsis.

The album was written and recorded in full following a complete rebuild of the band’s Suburban Home Studio after the River Aire floods in Leeds in the winter of 2015 which devastated the studio. The band had an incredible response to a GoFundMe campaign and the subsequent help of volunteers over several months to rebuild the studio from nothing is a huge part of the band’s continued existence. Striving through the toughness, it is perhaps no surprise that the record is one of both defiance and darkness. “All of our records are to an extent about mental health,” comments MJ. “Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy”.

Hookworms are MJ, MB, JW, JN & EO.


STAFF COMMENTS

Darryl says: A brilliantly dynamic mix of psychedelic guitars, determined vocal swathes and soaring cosmic synth swells. As fascinating and direct an outing as The Hum, but refined through a good few years of working on their sound. Superb.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Indies Exclusive LP Info: JUST FOUND ONE COPY OF THIS!
Indies only deluxe edition with a printed PVC outer sleeve.
Black 180g heavyweight vinyl.
Printed inner sleeve.

LP Info: Black 180g heavyweight vinyl.
Printed inner sleeve.
Download card.

CD Info: CD in spined “mini LP” wallet with printed inner sleeve.

Piccadilly customers, house music inclined Mancunians, the whole of Chicago (surely?!) and WHP attendees will have known about this for some time now - but that hasn't quelled any anticipation or excitement - yes you heard right - THE FIRST MR. FINGERS ALBUM IN TWENTY FIVE YEARS!!!!

Take a breath...

Famous as one of the most important heads in dance music around the world, Larry has enjoyed a successful career as a producer, remixer, collaborator, vocalist and DJ spanning 35 years. Out on his own Alleviated Records, "Cerebral Hemispheres" features 14 new pieces of music that allows the listener to fully immerse themselves and dig deep into Larry's musical world. Often regarded as one of the brightest stars to shine on deep house music, Larry's alter-ego Mr. Fingers has rarely put a note wrong across an illustrious and expansive career. Lucky for us, the fingered one has decided not to change the formula tooo drastically, so it's full of rich, textured piano, delicately played congas, dreamy xylophone licks and swinging house beats. There's a touch of Latin flavour, a stupendously rich and varied palette plus an advanced musical structure, owing itself to proper 'songs' than repetitive beats n trax that litter the modern day house scene. Larry's gone and brought home the bacon pop pickers, showing every mutha f***a how it's done in 2018. An imperative release. Every home needs one! 


STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Possibly the most antipated 'dance' album from the last...five years..? Anyway, ignore the hype just listen to the music and make up your own mind. Is there anyone that crafts house music like ol' Larry H. I doubt it. Impeccable - he's still on top!

Patrick says: Larry Heard follows up that spectacular 12" with his first album of new material in years. Ranging from the deep and soulful to the totally alien, this is top tackle from the real OG. Get your orders in, because this triple vinyl will fly...

"7 is our 7th full-length record. At its release, we will have been a band for over 13 years. We have now written and released a total of 77 songs together.

Last year, we released an album of b-sides and rarities. It felt like a good step for us. It helped us clean the creative closet, put the past to bed, and start anew.

Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation. We wanted to rethink old methods and shed some self-imposed limitations. In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live. On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally. As a result, there are some songs with no guitar, and some without keyboard. There are songs with layers and production that we could never recreate live, and that is exciting to us. Basically, we let our creative moods, instead of instrumentation, dictate the album’s feel.

In the past, the economics of recording have dictated that we write for a year, go to the studio, and record the entire record as quickly as possible. We have always hated this because by the time the recording happens, a certain excitement about older songs has often been lost. This time, we built a "home" studio, and began all of the songs there. Whenever we had a group of 3-4 songs that we were excited about, we would go to a “proper” recording studio and finish recording them there. This way, the amount of time between the original idea and the finished song was pretty short (of the album’s 11 songs, 8 were finished at Carriage House in Stamford, CT and 2 at Palmetto Studio in Los Angeles).

7 didn’t have a producer in the traditional sense. We much preferred this, as it felt like the ideas drove the creativity, not any one person’s process. James Barone, who became our live drummer in 2016, played on the entire record. His tastes and the trust we have in him really helped us keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs. We also worked with Sonic Boom (Peter Kember). Peter became a great force on this record, in the shedding of conventions and in helping to keep the songs alive, fresh and protected from the destructive forces of recording studio over-production/over-perfection.

The societal insanity of 2016-17 was also deeply influential, as it must be for most artists these days. Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present. The twisted double edge of glamour, with its perils and perfect moments, was an endless source (see “L’Inconnue,” “Drunk in LA,” “Woo,” “Girl of the Year,” “Last Ride”).

In a more general sense, we are interested by the human mind's (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny (see “Dark Spring,” “Pay No Mind,” “Lemon Glow,” “Dive,” “Black Car,” “Lose Your Smile”).

The title, 7, itself is simply a number that represents our seventh record. We hoped its simplicity would encourage people to look inside. No title using words that we could find felt like an appropriate summation of the album.

The number 7 does represent some interesting connections in numerology. 1 and 7 have always shared a common look, so 7 feels like the perfect step in the sequence to act as a restart or “semi-first.” Most early religions also had a fascination with 7 as being the highest level of spirituality, as in "Seventh Heaven.” At our best creative moments, we felt we were channeling some kind of heavy truth, and we sincerely hope the listeners will feel that." 

Much Love,
Beach House


STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: Another superb outing from Beach House, this time a slightly more cinematic affair, with huge ambient washes, swooning guitar and that unmistakable vocal style we've come to expect. A superb progression from the stunning Depression Cherry, and further evidence of Beach House's impeccable style and songwriting prowess.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Indies only transparent coloured vinyl.

Lucy Dacus is done thinking small. Two years after her 2016 debut, No Burden, won her unanimous acclaim as one of rock's most promising new voices, Dacus returns on March 2 with Historian, a remarkably assured 10-track statement of intent. "This is the album I needed to make," says Dacus, who views Historian as her definitive statement as a songwriter and musician. "Everything after this is a bonus."

Dacus and her band recorded the album in Nashville last March, re-teaming with No Burden producer Collin Pastore, and mixed it a few months later with A-list studio wizard John Congleton. The sound they created, with substantial input from multi-instrumentalist and live guitarist Jacob Blizard, is far richer and fuller than the debut — an outward flowering of dynamic, living, breathing rock and roll. Dacus' remarkable sense of melody and composition are the driving force throughout, giving Historian the immersive feel of an album made by an artist in full command of her powers.

STAFF COMMENTS

Millie says: Dacus' light Americana leanings of the superb No Burden are sidelined slightly for her grander, more expansive new outing, Historian. Though her smouldering guitar work and unmistakable voice are ever present, they are skillfully woven into an intricate and all-encompassing web of orchestration, grandeur and beauty. This is a stunner, and every bit the successful follow-up.

Not long after recording her 10th album, Ruins, Liz Harris traveled to Wyoming to work on art and record music. She found herself drawn towards the pairing of skeletal piano phrasing with spare, rich bursts of vocal harmony.

A series of stark songs emerged, minimal and vulnerable, woven with emotive silences. Inspired by “the idea that something is missing or cold,” the pieces float and fade like vignettes, implying as much as they reveal. She describes them as “small texts hanging in space,” impressions of mortality, melody, and the unseen – fleeting beauty, interrupted. Grid Of Points stands as a concise and potently poetic addition to the Grouper catalog.

From Liz Harris: Grid Of Points is a set of songs for piano and voice. I wrote these songs over a week and a half; they stopped abruptly when I was interrupted by a high fever. Though brief, it is complete. The intimacy and abbreviation of this music allude to an essence that the songs lyrics speak more directly of. The space left after matter has departed, a stage after the characters have gone, the hollow of some central column,
missing. 


STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: Simmering slow piano, beautiful layered vocals and cavernous reverb all form together to make this one of Harris' most enthralling outings to date. Perfectly tender but undeniably hard-hitting, these pieces are brimming with emotional heft and speckled with moments of spine-tingling beauty. Stunning.

British musician and producer Leon Vynehall is part of a vanguard of artists expanding the ambition of electronic music. Highly respected for his musical output, he has established himself as a genuine artist, releasing bodies of work that are layered with musicality and craftsmanship. Previous releases have consistently received critical acclaim. "Music For The Uninvited’ was widely praised and featured heavily on many of 2014’s Best Of Year polls including XLR8R (#3 album), DJ Mag (#3 album) and Mixmag (#6 album). Follow up "Rojus" (2016) received another long list of accolades including DJ Mag’s Album Of The Year. It also featured in Pitchfork’s Top 20 Best Electronic Albums Of 2016.

"Nothing Is Still", released on Ninja Tune, sees the producer turn his hand to languid jazz meanderings, futuristic tropicalia and sun-baked downbeat. It's a slower and more deliberate operation than his frenetic, neon-tinged house music that's previously been his calling card. Here we find Leon in calm and sedate mood, rich in musicality and emotion and turning his back somewhat on the clubs and dancefloors occupied by the under 25s. 


STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Nice to see ol' Leon Vynehall spreading his musical wings here and offering up summat completely fresh. Ambient, jazz-tinged and most tropical, this is the producer taking a well deserved, horizontally-aligned rest; and we should all revel in its glory.

FORMAT INFORMATION

LP Info: Heavyweight vinyl.

LP includes MP3 Download Code.

14 - Khruangbin

Con Todo El Mundo

    Comprising of Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums, Khruangbin’s sounds are rooted in the deepest waters of world music infused with classic soul, dub and psychedelia. Their 2015 debut album "The Universe Smiles Upon You" was heavily influenced by 60’s and 70’s Thai cassettes the band listened to on their long car journeys to rehearsal in the Texan countryside. "Con Todo El Mundo" takes inspiration not just from South East Asia but similarly underdiscovered funk and soul of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly Iran. The sultry and humid grooves of their debut are alive and well, enhanced by a little extra funk, the lightly spiced flavours of Middle Eastern pop and maybe a little strung out Americana a la Cowboy Junkies. The hefty breaks on cuts like "Lady & Man" and "Maria Tambien" have that "Jungle Fever" toughness, while the woozy "August 10" and "Como Te Quiero" are classic examples of Khruangbin's languid style. "Shades Of Man" colours the trio's palette with a little country soul, while "A Hymn" preaches a gospel out of Death Valley. The perfect sophomore offering, "Con Todo El Mundo" retains all the tasty ingredients of the original and blends them with a new batch of exotic flavours.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: Shop faves Khruangbin continue their stroll through mellifluous melody with sophomore offering "Con Todo El Mundo", swapping the Thai tonalities of their debut for some distinctly Middle Eastern flavours. Every bit as languid and lovely as their debut, this new LP is different enough to show progression whilst remaining reassuringly familiar.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Limited edition numbered vinyl pressed on 180g “off white” virgin vinyl.

    LP Info: Black vinyl edition.

    After the success of 'Galaxies Like Grains of Sand', Warren and Greg retreated back to the Isle of Wight to start work on long discussed concept album based on a fictional children's book The Honey Bear. Each track a chapter of the book, hypnotic folk pieces mixed with ambient field recordings that Warren and Greg collected around the beaches, cliffs and gardens of the island.

    They brought everything together at home, organically forming this beautiful ambient folk tale during the island's idyllic summer evenings. After finishing the initial mixes on the island they brought the tapes up to Scotland and overdubbed with Strings, Oboe and Flute. Whether your 5 or 50, the charm and beauty of The Honeybear is undeniable.

    Children fairytale book concept album
    Limited Edition pressing



    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: The Honeybear beautifully captures the soft mystical tones of this harrowing ambient folk album following their previous record 'Galaxies Like Grain Of Sand'. The inspiration behind the album of it being a children’s fairytale, you can immediately get the sense of the whimsical innocence by the lovely fluttering of string instruments.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    LP Info: On transparent 'honey'coloured gold vinyl

    Parquets Courts' fifth album 'Wide Awake!' - produced by Danger Mouse - is a groundbreaking work, an album about independence and individuality but also about collectivity and communitarianism. The songs, written by Andrew Savage and Austin Brown but elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass), are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness. The record reflects a burgeoning confidence in the band's exploration of new ideas in a hi-fi context.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: It's hard to dislike Parquet Courts, with their dedication to oddball time signatures and funked-out chaka-chaka rhythms, turning the idea of guitar bands on their head, with a heady mix of soaring power chords, introspective breakdowns and massive, chugging heft. Classic PC.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Deluxe LP Info: Deluxe Collectors Edition LP featuring a 16-page double art and illustration booklet by A. Savage.

    Deluxe LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    The long-awaited follow up to Washington’s debut "The Epic", "Heaven & Earth" is comprised of two halves, which find Washington confronting quotidian realities with cosmic themes. A further investigation of Washington’s world building ideas, the new album explores his reckoning with current global chaos and his vision for the future.

    Washington convened his band, The Next Step, as well as members of the long running collective The West Coast Get Down at Henson Studios in Los Angeles to record the 16 tracks on Heaven & Earth. The music was composed, written and arranged by Washington, with new arrangements of jazz and bebop legend Freddie Hubbard’s “Hubtones” and iconic kung fu film theme “Fists of Fury,” as well as one song by bandmate Ryan Porter. Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Ronald Bruner, Jr., Cameron Graves, Brandon Coleman, Miles Mosley, Patrice Quinn, Tony Austin and many more contribute to the album.

    Clocking in at two and a half colossal hours of music, "Heaven & Earth" is available on double deluxe CD and a four piece vinyl housed in bespoke double gatefold sleeve

    “The world that my mind lives in, lives in my mind.” This idea inspired me to make this album Heaven & Earth. The reality we experience is a mere creation of our consciousness, but our consciousness creates this reality based on those very same experiences. We are simultaneously the creators of our personal universe and creations of our personal universe. The Earth side of this album represents the world as I see it outwardly, the world that I am a part of. The Heaven side of this album represents the world as I see it inwardly, the world that is a part of me. Who I am and the choices I make lie somewhere in between.”
    Kamasi Washington

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: The man responsible for turning a younger generation of music lovers onto the passion and power of jazz returns with the bombastic brilliance of his sophomore LP. Seriously spiritual and surprisingly groovy, "Heaven & Earth" incorporates Marvin-esque soul, Old Testament intensity and soaring, searing solos into a breathtaking vision of jazz's next incarnation.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    4xLP Info: Four LP set housed in bespoke double gatefold sleeve.

    2xCD Info: Double deluxe CD.

    18 - Holy Motors

    Slow Sundown

      2017’s equal parts somnambulant and sultry Sleeprydr 7” was aptly described as “psychedelic rock that hits like a dream despite undoubtedly seeking to soundtrack nightmares” (-Stereogum). Thankfully, Slow Sundown, Holy Motors’ debut full length release, finds the Estonian dreamcatchers utilizing a similar sonic palette ranging from dark psychedelic pop to shoegaze-inflected western music. But while Sleeprydr, much like 2015’s Heavenly Creatures 7”, provided only a fleeting glimpse into the dreamscape that their music evokes, Slow Sundown’s eight tracks offer a more immersive experience for those brave enough to take the ride. While the guitar lines from lonely cowboy ballads like “Honeymooning” could easily serve as the central themes for unwritten Morriccone scores, dystopian anthems like the rhythmically propelled “Signs” break new ground for the band and demonstrate that Holy Motors are not bound by their influences. Thematically the album is comprised primarily of sad love songs centered around the idea of motion – the motion of a satellite orbiting a planet, the motion of a passenger riding shotgun in a car – as it relates to stellar-scale and existential isolation. Produced by Merchandise’s Carson Cox and recorded at Brooklyn’s Kutch1 Studios when the band was visiting the US on tourist visas, Slow Sundown is a beautiful alien artifact that definitively delivers on everything we have been promised by Holy Motors’ work to date.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Mine says: I have not been as excited about a new band or record in a long time. While Holy Motors have certainly not reinvented the wheel they are brilliant at what they do, and that is making hazy, slightly psych-y music that is sure to put you in a melancholy mood. Haunting female vocals and shoegaze-y guitars make this album the perfect soundtrack for a night drive, but it sounds just as good from the comfort of your own couch. Promise!

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Indies Exclusive LP Info: Available to independent retailers as a hand stamped and numbered deluxe LP format with poster.

      Singularity begins and ends on the same note: a universe beginning, expanding, and contracting towards the same infinitesimal point. Where Immunity – his hypnotic breakthrough LP – charted the dark alternative reality of an epic night out, Singularity explores the dissonance between dystopian urbanity and the green forest. It is a journey that returns to where it began – from the opening note of foreboding to the final sound of acceptance.

      Shaped by his experiences with meditation and trance states, the album flows seamlessly from rugged techno to transcendent choral music, from solo acoustic piano to psychedelic ambient. Its epic musical palette is visceral and emotionally honest: with a destructive opener full of industrial electronics and sonic claustrophobia and a redemptive, pure end on solo piano.

      Exploring the connectivity of the mind, sonics and the natural world, Singularity reflects the different psychological states Hopkins experienced while writing and recording. It is a transformative trip of defiance from his initial sense of frustration at the state of the contemporary world to the ultimate conclusion that a true sense of peace and belonging can only come from nature.

      Singularity is intended to be listened to in one sitting, as a complete body of work.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: From crackling side-chained throbs, euphoric trance crescendoes and crepuscular reverbed piano bliss, this is a beautiful mix of his early Balearic influenced 90's output and the more recent fractured classical abstractions of 'Insides', through to the seminal 'Immunity' drive. Superb, as expected.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      2xColoured LP Info: Special edition Indie stores only double gatefold blue coloured heavyweight vinyl LP.

      2xLP Info: Black vinyl edition.

      2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

      Ahwlee brings us his album Life2 which was originally released in 2016, this gem has taken a long time to reach the spotlight it deserves. The album is filled with flowering instrumental hip hop with structured jazz elements linked together in a lovely hip-hop-jazz marriage. Ahwlee perfectly balances the chilled out composition while keeping it fresh with raw instrumentals.

      If you are a fan of Abstract Orchestra, MF Doom Instrumentals and Dilla-esque, you will need to hear this and have it in your life. 


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Millie says: I have fallen head over heels for this album, it’s everything I want wrapped up in one perfect package. From the instrumental hip hop in a laid-back effortlessness, and the swoonful soft vocals edging in add an extra something, really lovely!

      “I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn’t want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally. I was always trying to make something like this I guess, trying to catch up with my imagination. And I think I succeeded in that way — it’s got some weird instrumentation on there, and some surreal far-out words.

      I’m lucky enough to have some people who are playing on it who had a big part in shaping the songs and writing with me. Cooper Crain, the guy who engineered it, and played all the synthesizers. And when the flute guy, Nate Lepine came in, that was really something that made it special. The producer was this guy LeRoy Bach. I love LeRoy, he’s a really talented guy. He did the last record too.

      And it’s more Chicago-y sounding. Chicago sounds like a train constantly coming towards you but never arriving. That’s the sound I hear, all the time, ringing in my ears.” – Ryley Walker.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Narcotics enthusiast and all-round ledge Ryley takes us on his newest journey into the wilderness with 'Deafman Glance', with the same tender plucking acousticry we've come to know and love, but with the psychedelic element all the more pronounced. Brilliantly progressive and nuanced songwriting with Walker's imitable style.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Ltd LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      Suuns are pleased to announced their new album, Felt, coming out March 2nd on Secretly Canadian. Singer/guitarist Ben Shemie says, “This record is definitely looser than our last one [2016’s Hold/Still]. It’s not as clinical. There’s more swagger.” You can hear this freedom flowing through the 11 tracks on Felt. It’s both a continuation and rebirth, the Montreal quartet returning to beloved local facility Breakglass Studios (where they cut their first two albums [Zeroes QC and Images Du Futur] with Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes) but this time recording themselves at their own pace, over five fertile sessions spanning several months. A simultaneous stretching out and honing in, mixed to audiophile perfection by St Vincent producer John Congleton (helmer of Hold/Still), who flew up especially from Dallas to deploy his award-winning skills in situ.

      Complementing O’Neill are the ecstatic, Harmonia-meets-Game Boy patterns unleashed by electronics mastermind Max Henry. Eschewing presets, Henry devised fresh sounds for each song on Felt while also becoming a default musical director, orchestrating patches and oscillations. Quietly enthusing about “freaky post-techno” and Frank Ocean’s use of space, he’s among your more modest studio desk jockeys: “Yeah, I sat in the control room while the others played – hitting ‘record’ and ‘stop’. It also gave me the flexibility to move parts around and play with effects. I do have a sweet tooth for pop music.”



      STAFF COMMENTS

      Darryl says: Hypnotic synth throbs, dusty percussion workouts and flickering kosmische bass meet with ambient downtempo before thrashing forwards into dark dystopian minimal wave. Superb.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Indies Exclusive on clear vinyl.

      In creating Freedom, McMahon brought in a powerful set of collaborators and old friends. Along with core band members, including Parker Kindred (Antony & The Johnsons, Jeff Buckley) on drums, came Chris Coady (Beach House) as producer, and Delicate Steve on guitars. This is the first Amen Dunes record that looks back to the electronic influences of McMahon’s youth with the aid of revered underground musician Panoram from Rome, who finds his place as a significant, if subtle, contributor to the record. The bulk of the songs were recorded at Electric Lady in New York, and finished at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, where McMahon, Nick Zinner, and session bass player Gus Seyffert (Beck, Bedouine) fleshed out the recordings.

      On the surface, Freedom is a reflection on growing up, childhood friends who ended up in prison or worse, male identity, McMahon’s father, and his mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of recording. The characters that populate the musical world of the album are a colourful mix of reality and fantasy. Each character portrait is a representation of McMahon, of masculinity, and of his past.

      Yet, if anything, these eleven songs are a relinquishing of all of them through exposition; a gradual reorientation of being away from the acquired definitions of self we all cling to and towards something closer to what's stated in the Agnes Martin quote that opens the record, “I don’t have any ideas myself; I have a vacant mind” and in the swirling, pitched down utterances of “That's all not me” that close it.

      “Miki Dora was arguably the most gifted and innovative surfer of his generation and the foremost opponent of surfing’s commercialization. He was also a lifelong criminal and retrograde: a true embodiment of the distorted male psyche. He was a living contradiction; both a symbol of free-living and inspiration, and of the false heroics American culture has always celebrated. With lyrics of regret and redemption at the end of one’s youth, the song is about Dora, and McMahon, but ultimately it is a reflection on all manifestations of mythical heroic maleness and its illusions.” – Damon McMahon.


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Sil says: Incredibly good fifth album by Amen Dunes. Harrowing vocals, captivating melodies and an overall sense of romance, pain and honesty. This LP is an emotional journey that will not leave you untouched.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Limited navy blue vinyl edition.

      Frahm returns to Erased Tapes for his most beguiling outing yet. Kicking things off with the choral solemnity of the brief 'The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched',  before 'Sunson' excellently displays the sort of percussive demi-trance that he and Olafur Arnalds excelled at in their collaborative output. 'My Friend The Forest' has perhaps the most semblance to Frahm's earlier work, with the gently hammered piano strings being subtly blunted with some sort of preparation. It doesn't sound quite as muted as his seminal work (perhaps the felt has worn out a little), and is unmistakeable in it's  rapid trills, separated by moments of acoustic ambience. 

      'Forever Changeless' is again littered with moments of progressive beauty, but eases off a little on the sustain to give way to a slightly terse atmosphere, beautifully accentuated by Frahm's deft hands before moving into 'All Melody' which couldn't be more reminiscent of the spine-tingling electronic crescendo of 'Says' from 2013's 'Spaces'. 

      With the percussive workout of '#2' and 'Momentum' taking a metaphorical breath from the more upbeat moments, it gives us time to relax and reflect before the mournful military requiem of 'Fundamental Values' gives way to it's own latter resolution and smooth segue into the tropical arps of 'Kaleidoscope' and the soul-soothing slow-mo beauty of 'Harm Hymn'. 

      Another beautiful outing for Frahm, and further evidence of his credentials as one of today's most talented composers. 


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Brittle pieces, flecked with ambient interludes and soaring, spine-tingling euphoric electronic elements. This is by far the most diverse, but thematically impeccable Frahm outing yet.

      World’s Strongest Man is the magnificent third solo album by Gaz Coombes. Inspired variously by Grayson Perry’s the Descent of Man, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Californian weed, British woodlands, unchecked masculinity, Neu! and hip hop (and a whole lot more besides), it’s a truly remarkable collection of eleven deeply personal songs each set to expansive, addictive melody.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Gatefold Sleeve Pink Coloured Indies Exclusive.

      Alfa Mist is considered a frontrunner in the new London jazz movement. ‘Antiphon’ was created around a conversation with his brothers, Alfa blends melancholy Jazz harmony with alternative hip-hop and soul. Beautifully mellow and soulful, this album beams with effortless grace and adding another gem to the London Jazz scene. On the label Black Acre, this double LP is on a special edition orange vinyl. If you like Yussef Kamaal/ Kamaal Williams, Ezra Collective and Kamasi Washington this will be right up your street.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Millie says: This is one of the most beautiful jazz albums of the year by far, an indication of that might be that this sold out before it could reach our shelves! Alfa Mist has created a wave of inspired nu-jazz broken beat, not one to be missed.

      In The Rainbow Rain' - produced by Sheff and mixed by Shawn Everett (Perfume Genius, Alabama Shakes, The War on Drugs) - serves as showcase for Sheff's writing and the musical interplay of his new band mates, Benjamin Lazar Davis (bass), Will Graefe (guitar), Sarah Pedinotti (keys) and Cully Symington (percussion) - the same iteration of Okkervil River that joined Sheff on the Away tour. Recalls Sheff of that tour: "It was my favorite touring experience in many years... I felt like a kid again. I realized how phenomenally lucky I am that I've been able to play music for this long."

      Sheff and the band started work on the new album shortly after the end of that tour - and the presidential election. "If December 2016 was good for anything, it was good for writing songs," he says. Galvanized by the seismic events of that Fall and the following year, Sheff, sometimes co-writing with his new band, channeled his outrage and sadness into music intended to be hopeful, healing and uplifting. Inspired by the Quaker meetings he had been attending, Sheff injected the album with undercurrents of spirituality and gratitude. The result is something akin to a modern secular gospel record, and among the best music of his career.

      Highlights include driving, melodic anthems "Love Somebody" and "Pulled Up The Ribbon," and "Famous Tracheotomies," which chronicles notable figures who've endured the titular procedure, including Gary Coleman, Dylan Thomas, Ray Davies, and Sheff himself. "In places, the record deals with heavy things like trauma and betrayal and shame, but, actually, it's supposed to be a good time," says Sheff. "I hope it's something fun, that makes people feel happier

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Andy says: With hints of smooth synthpop mixed in with the usual swooning indie anthems, Sheff has managed to sacrifice none of his original appeal whilst bringing in the considerable talents of his new bandmates, somehow simmering into a cohesive and enjoyable whole.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Opaque blue/purple swirl marbled vinyl.

      Cavern Of Anti-Matter return for their third studio album on their own Duophonic label. Hormone Lemonade sees the band heavily utilising the sounds of modular synths and home built drum machines, yet still keeping the loose, improvised sound familiar to fans of their first two albums, with minimal guitar melodies and live drum kit helping to build hypnotic layers of texture.

      The albums genesis was in the self-constructed rhythm machines of band member Holger Zapf, the Taktron Z3 and Taktron Z2, being recorded to tape during three one-hour sessions. These sessions also included the use of 70s Hohner and Eko drum machines. Holger played his parts in a free-form way and the bpm varied wildly as it was not possible to sync it to any outside controllers.

      Tim Gane edited these initial jams into useable chunks and proceeded to overdub each new rhythmic “chunk” with some basic musical ideas, keeping in tune to the hum of the machines and retaining the “feel” of the inherent pulse. Joe Dilworth arrived to lay down a beat over these minimal backing tracks, going with the flow as best he could.

      In the following months the music was fleshed out using various synths and sequencers from Roland, Arp, Oberheim and Holger’s modular synth set up. As well as many of the bass and sequencer parts the modular also supplied the chords by tuning each one of it’s five oscillators to specific notes and intervals.



      STAFF COMMENTS

      Darryl says: Another superb outing for COAM, with the throbbing synth pulses and hypnotic motorik beats returning with aplomb. Things take a little more of an orchestral turn this time, with simmering progressions halting to make room for nuanced passages of ambient bliss.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Clear Vinyl 2LP in mirriboard sleeve with printed insert, includes download card.

      Ltd LP Info: Black Vinyl 2LP in mirriboard sleeve with printed insert, includes download card.

      29 - Ezra Collective

      Juan Pablo: The Philosopher

      Synergy in motion, London five-piece Ezra Collective are proving themselves as a harmonious tour de force. Their sound nods respectfully to a classic jazz footprint, celebrating the originators whilst simultaneously carving a path solely their own. Ezra Collective marry the delicate technicalities of jazz musicianship with afrobeat and hip hop, tied together by a sound that’s unmistakably London. Their live show is one of dynamic union; the strength of their partnership shines in performances that are commanding yet sensitive, soulful and pertinently groove-laced. Following a joyous and stunningly cohesive show in May 2016, Boiler Room rightly labelled the group as “pioneering the new-wave of U.K. jazz”. As the genre enjoys a new lease of life that is gaining momentum across the country, Ezra Collective are adding their own fresh and imaginative face to a style that continues to be “as entertaining as it is educational” (Trench). In a year that saw them sell out legendary London venue Ronnie Scott’s not once but twice, 2017 also bought with it the release of their genre-bending second EP, Juan Pablo: The Philosopher . After Ezra Collective took the EP on a successful tour across the U.K and Europe and completely sold out of the vinyl, Juan Pablo: The Philosopher went on to win the accolade of Best Jazz Album at Gilles Peterson’s esteemed Worldwide Awards in January 2018.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Laura says: Absolutely loving this album at the moment! This London quartet take classic hard bop style and infuse it with afrobeat, funk and hip hop. The result is a fresh, dynamic sound that perfectly marries the old and the new.

      Kadhja Bonet’s second album, Childqueen is something of a Hero’s Quest. In the opening Procession, above a muted drummer’s march, an unseen oracle announces to you, the listener: “every morning is a chance to renew, a chance to renew.” This is your first clue, setting you upon a path not to treasure, nor a grail, nor even a long lost love, but highest of all, what Kadhja has christened the “childqueen,” that innermost self that you were truthfully and instinctively before the press of the world came crushing in.

      As with her 2016 debut The Visitor, the songs on Childqueen are never casual, never ditties. Instead they invite us into a world not wholly our own, a half-mythical atmosphere where past and future meet in a parallel, yet faraway, present. The lyrics and melodic lines nudge us along a path of self-discovery— or act as breadcrumbs along her own path. Everything that you hear on Childqueen was written, played, produced, and even mixed by Kadhja, who has always produced all her own music, insisting on a total vision that is nearly as difficult to co-create as a dream. The result is a soundscape the listener sinks into, a sound that combines softer enchantments with an ever-listenable experimentalism, unplaceable in genre and decade from beginning to end.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Millie says: This precious album ‘Childqueen’ is entirely created by Kadhja Bonet from start to finish. Her beautiful vocals are submersed in a lovely swoony softness. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard, her style is truly unique and a joy to listen to.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive flume coloured vinyl.

      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      31 - King Tuff

      The Other

        When asked to describe the title track from his new record, Kyle Thomas—aka King Tuff—takes a deep breath. “It’s a song about hitting rock bottom,” he says. “I didn't even know what I wanted to do anymore, but I still had this urge, like there was this possibility of something else I could be doing… and then I just followed that possibility. To me, that’s what songwriting, and art in general, is about. You’re chasing something. ‘The Other’ is basically where songs come from. It’s the hidden world. It’s the invisible hand that guides you whenever you make something. It’s the thing I had to rediscover to bring me back to making music again in a way that felt true and good.” After years of non-stop touring, culminating in a particularly arduous stint in support of 2014’s Black Moon Spell, Thomas found himself back in Los Angeles experiencing the flipside of the ultimate rock and roll cliche. “I had literally been on tour for years,” recalls Thomas. “It was exhausting, physically and mentally. I’m essentially playing this character of King Tuff, this crazy party monster, and I don’t even drink or do drugs. It had become a weird persona, which people seemed to want from me, but it was no longer me. I just felt like it had gotten away from me.” The ten tracks that make up The Other represent a kind of psychic evolution for King Tuff. No less hooky than previous records, the new songs ditch the goofy rock-and-roll bacchanalia narratives of earlier records in favor of expansive arrangements, a diversity of instrumentation, and lyrics that straddle the fence between painful ruminations and a childlike, creative energy untarnished by cynicism. The soulful and cosmic new direction is apparent from the album’s first moments: introduced by the gentle ringing of a chime, acoustic guitar, and warm organ tones, “The Other” is a narrative of redemption born of creativity. As Thomas sings about being stuck in traffic, directionless, with no particular reason to be alive, he hears the call of “the other,” a kind of siren song that, instead of leading towards destruction, draws the narrator towards a creative rebirth. Elsewhere, tracks like “Thru the Cracks” and “Psycho Star” balance psychedelia with day-glo pop hooks. “The universe is probably an illusion, but isn’t it so beautifully bizarre?” he asks on “Psycho Star,” providing one of the record’s central tenets. At a time when everything in the world feels so deeply spoiled and the concept of making meaning out of the void seems both pointless and impossible, why not try? Thomas self-produced the record, as he did his 2007 debut, Was Dead, but on a far grander scale. He recorded it at The Pine Room, the home studio Thomas built to work on the record, and playing every instrument aside from drums and saxophone. He pulled Shawn Everett (War On Drugs, Alabama Shakes) in to assist with the mixing process. While it would be easy to think of The Other as a kind of reinvention for King Tuff, Thomas views the entire experience of the record as a kind of reset that’s not totally removed from what he’s done in the past. “I can’t help but sound like me,” he says. “It’s just that this time I let the songs lead me where they wanted to go, instead of trying to push them into a certain zone. King Tuff was always just supposed to be me. When I started doing this as a teenager, it was whatever I wanted it to be. King Tuff was never supposed to be just one thing. It was supposed to be everything.”

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: A bleak but unbelievably addictive journey into the mind of King Tuff, through the euphoric highs and crushing lows, acoustic balladry and stoned musings. Simmering, heartfelt and absolutely worth every minute. Think the honest acoustic innocence of Daniel Johnston with Jeff Tweedy's perfectly emotive production, and you're somewhere close.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Loser edition coloured vinyl.

        In contrast to her 2016 lauded album New View, which Eleanor arranged and recorded with her touring band, Rebound was recorded mostly by Eleanor alone with assistance from producer Clemens Knieper. The resulting album is an entirely new sound for Eleanor, exchanging live instrumentation for programmed drums, a Juno synthesizer, and muted guitars, creating a sonic landscape where influences range from Stereolab and Suicide to Lena Platonos and Yellow Magic Orchestra. In addition to a new sonic palette, Rebound takes significant inspiration from Eleanor’s time spent in Greece. Half-Greek herself, Eleanor frequently traveled to Greece to see family, but decided in 2016 to really immerse herself in the culture. Rebound is the incredible next step in a lauded, brilliant recording career by one of the most prolific, daring independent artists of our time. From her days spent in The Fiery Furnaces, creating melodically off-kilter, idiosyncratic mini-epics, to her three acclaimed previous solo albums, Eleanor Friedberger continues to create exactly what we need to hear when we need to hear it.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Andy says: Beautifully smooth synthetic soundscapes, deep and rich harmonic flow all topped by Friedberger's haunting but strangely soothing vocal accentuations. Rich and immersive, and beautifully written throughout.

        Shop favourites and all-round jangle-mongerers Whyte Horses finally release their (proper) follow-up to 2016's end of year LP, 'Pop Or Not'. We kick things off with the classic jangling stomp of 'Counting down The Years', breaking straight out of the starting gates with walking bass and stabbing guitars below the swirling psychedelic vocals and soaring dreamlike haze.  It seems as though the orchestral implimentation we saw in 'Pop Or Not' (and its excellent reinterpretation with St. Bart's Choir) has returned with aplomb, underpinning the whole structure of pieces like 'Never Took The Time', or the tender and stunning balladry of 'Watching T.V'.

        Elsewhere, we get funked-up walking bass and swooning soulful vocals courtesy of La Roux on 'The Best of It', bringing forth the run of more heartfelt, ambient numbers including the rhodes-led instrumental bliss of 'The Return' and the tentative Losing My Religion-y plucks of 'Fear is Such A...'. Sandwiched comfortably inbetween these two beautiful evening chillout pieces is the spine-tinglingly optimistic encore anthem 'Nighmares Aren't Real', slowly building into a majestic and euphoric orchestral release. 

        The Whyte Horses have confidently crafted a superb return, perfectly nuanced, brilliantly written and every bit the follow up to one of our favourite albums of all time. Impeccable. 





        STAFF COMMENTS

        Andy says: They've done it again! Another classic pop gem with massive, heart-rending tunes, and an enchanted,starry-eyed 60's vibe. Perfect.

        Barry says: An unsurprisingly excellent return for the great Whyte Horses. Lengthy progressive melodicism, hazy jangles and heartwarming vocals over huge orchestration and perfect songwriting. Amazing stuff.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        2xIndies Exclusive LP Info: Very limited deluxe edition featuring the gatefold album sleeve housed in a yellow envelope style slip case. Numbered edition of 500 copies.

        2xLP Info: Standard gatefold sleeve edition.

        Self-produced, written and recorded in the east London house-stroke-studio-stroke band HQ they all share together (imagine a squat version of the Brill Building, or a lo-fi, DIY take on Max Martin’s Cheiron studio), Superorganism is a spectacularly confident debut record that beams with a sense of wonky fun, a kaleidoscopic riot of sound and visuals. Influenced by the world-building depth of artists like Devo, Beck and The Avalanches, Superoganism soundtracks the band’s rapid trajectory from shared house side project to global audiovisual powerhouse and features previous singles ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ and ‘It’s All Good / Nobody Cares’ as well as their brand single ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Brilliantly quirky oddball pop, twee synthy pads and glitched indie come together into this flourescent explosion of melodic power. Unforgettable and a truly exciting concept for the future.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Indies Exclusive LP Info: Deluxe edition comes in a glow in the dark gatefold sleeve.

        Deluxe CD Info: Deluxe CD comes in mini gatefold with 16-page booklet

        Across 19 tracks in just 40 minutes, Goat Girl’s self-titled debut creates a half-fantasy world out of a very dirty, ugly city reality.

        Goat Girl belong to a burgeoning, close-knit south London scene, born in venues like The Windmill in Brixton and including bands like Shame, Bat-Bike, Madonnatron, Horsey, Sorry, and many more. “We help each other - I put you on, you put me on - because we genuinely like each other’s music. We’d played gigs all over before but never really settled in a comfortable environment, which is what The Windmill is. It’s an important place for us, it was the first space that our music made sense to exist within. It’s a safe space where music is genuinely listened to and appreciated, and where laws and licensing haven't reached over to ruin the venue.”

        This live freedom enabled the band to think without constraints when it came to recording. Goat Girl enlisted producer Dan Carey (The Kills, Bat For Lashes, Franz Ferdinand) to help them capture their vision, set a goal to write and record a piece of music in a day in effort to capture that raw first-creation moment, and chose to record to tape.

        It’s a very English album -- sharp-eyed observations like The Kinks, louche rage like The Slits -- but it’s also full of swampy, swaggering guitars and singer Lottie’s filthy drawl. Each member brings a diverse range of influences and contributions, ranging from krautrock to bossa nova, jazz to blues. They resist being boxed in to an indie, guitar-based genre, and focused intensely on the layers and textures of each song as well as the different contexts they could sit within.

        The result, Goat Girl, succeeds in conjuring a complete world all unto itself, and is arranged in segments -- divided by improvised interludes -- that offer glimpses of an even stranger parallel universe. With each song acting as its own story of sorts that features different settings and characters, listeners are transported therewithin. It’s dark yet cheeky, varied yet cohesive, and striking in its vision; this world is populated by creeps and liars, lovers, dreamers, and wonderful lunatics. Lead single “Cracker Drool” is at once jaunty and sinister, a foreboding tale full of swirling guitar, echoing vocals and synthetic drum hits that stumbles and gurgles straight into “Slowly Reclines,” an equally menacing and considerably heavier track. “Creep” is, predictably and grimly enough, inspired by actual events: Creep on the train / I really want to smash your head in.

        On “Country Sleaze,” she sings about sex in a way that embraces visceral reality and defeats shame. “If you say you’re sexually free, as a woman, society still deems that a bad thing. But really it’s a beautiful thing to be confident in yourself - to know that you can have sex and it doesn’t have to mean anything and that doesn’t make you a bad person.” Ellie smiles: “That song is quite disgusting, in a good way. It’s not trying to be nice, it’s not a love song.” Goat Girl is altogether an album crafted with intention, and invites imaginations to run wild; it draws listeners in to its half-fantasy world from the slow fade, eerie instrumental intro “Salty Sounds,” to the gorgeous, unsettling closer “Tomorrow” -- a rendition of the song featured in Bugsy Malone -- which ends with dawn-chorus birds and the feeling of new possibilities after a long and messy night.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Darryl says: A superbly textured and stylistically varied outing from Goat Girl, holding within it's 19 tracks a fiery resolve and melodic leaning of the highest order. Brilliantly written and performed with heart!

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive limited violet LP.

        Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        Recorded with his band in Manchester at Marr’s Crazy Face studios, ‘Call The Comet’ is the third solo record from the Smiths guitarist and follows 2013’s critically acclaimed The Messenger and 2014’s Playland; both of which made the UK top 10. “Call The Comet is set in the not-too-distant future” says Marr, “and is mostly concerned with the idea of an alternative society. It’s my own magic realism.” Songs include Actor Attractor, Walk Into The Sea, Bug, and recent live favourite Spiral Cities. “The characters in the songs are searching for a new idealism, although there are some personal songs in there too. It’s something that people like me can relate to.” Says Marr.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Andy says: Easily his best solo album.

        Barry says: Johnny Marr brings his most accomplished and forward-thinking album to date, brimming with cleverly penned lyricism, addictive hooks and his uncompromisingly immersive songwriting style. A stunning continuation of form, and a future classic.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Limited purple coloured vinyl.

        Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        Preoccupations’ songs have always worked through themes of creation, destruction, and futility, and they’ve always done it with singular post-punk grit. The textures are evocative and razor-sharp. The wire is always a live one. But while that darker side may have been well-explored, that’s not quite the same as it being fully, intensely lived. This time it was, and the result is ’New Material’, a collection that broadens and deepens Preoccupations to a true mastery of their sound. In it lies the difference between witnessing a car crash and crashing your own, between jumping into an ocean and starting to swallow the water.

        “It’s an ode to depression,’ singer Matt Flegel says plainly. “To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.” Typically resilient, the months leading up to recording ‘New Material’ brought a new order of magnitude to feelings that had been creeping up on Flegel for some time. He’d written bits and pieces of lyrics through the course of it, small snippets he hadn’t assigned to any one thought or feeling but were emblematic of a deeper issue, something germinating that was dense and numb and fully unshakeable. As the band began writing music, that process gave shape to the sheer tonnage of what he’d been carrying. With virtually nothing written or demoed before the band sat down together, the process was more collaborative than before. It was almost architectural, building some things up, tearing others down to the beams, sitting down and writing songs not knowing what they were about. But for Flegel, it led to a reckoning. “Finishing ‘Espionage’ was when I realized,” says Flegel. “I looked at the rest of the lyrics and realized the magnitude of what was wrong.”

        ‘New Material’ builds a world for that feeling, playing through its layers and complexities while hiding almost nothing. That inscrutable side is part of the magic, here, and a necessary counterweight to the straight-jab clarity of Flegel’s lyrics. You can deep-dive the lyrics or zone into a riff; you can face it or you can get lost in it. “My ultimate goal would be to make a record where nobody knows what instrument is playing ever,” says multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro, “and I think we’ve come closer than ever, here. It shouldn’t sound robotic — it should sound human, like people playing instruments. It’s just maybe no one knows what they are.”

        Opener “Espionage” lives up to Munro’s goals, kicking off with a clattering, rhythmic echo that gives way to sprinting percussion and a melody in the orbit of Manchester’s classics. “Manipulation” explores the futility of going through the motions, balancing a droney, minimal march with a thunder roll that brings it to the brink, and to the doomed romantic declaration, “please don’t remember me like I’ll always remember you.” “Disarray” bursts up like a blackened confetti cannon, the song’s undeniably bright melody dancing over a refrain of “disarray, disarray, disarray” and literally nothing else. “A lot of this is about futility,” he says, “trying to find something where there’s nothing to be found.” That hunt turns into a search-and-destroy mission on “Decompose”, a tense, speedy, “blow yourself up and start again” type of song, the very picture of creation and destruction, as Flegel writes “for better or worse, we are cursed in the ways that we tend to be.” And while calling an album ’New Material’ might seem like a smartass move, the truth is it’s as matter-of-fact a title as Espionage, Disarray, or anything else on the record. Why fight that?

        If the through-line unifying Preoccupations’ work is a furious, almost punishing cyclical quality, ‘New Material’ does offer some relief. “This is somehow the most uptempo thing we’ve ever done,” observes Flegel. That propulsive, itchy quality rescues ‘New Material’ from the proverbial bottom of the pit. To write these songs is to force oneself to reignite, to play them is to stand up and reengage. Closer “Compliance” may not seem revelatory on first listen, but it is deeply elemental, a crucial finale and the band’s first standalone instrumental. Original versions were built to death, reexamined and re-destroyed until they landed on just two chords — something simple, fundamental — and resolved to make meaning out of that, to show instead of tell. Flegel acknowledges it is more affecting to him than any other song on the record. It’s not redemption, more like a forced reprieve.


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Darryl says: One of the greatest modern post-punk outfits return for one of their most blistering outings yet. Atmospheric and ambient in parts, and downright catatonic in others, this is the sound of a band reaching the peak of their game.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive grey and black splatter vinyl.

        Jonathan Wilson had a busy 2017, producing Father John Misty's grammy nominated Pure Comedy and touring arenas around the globe as a guitarist and vocalist for Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters (for whom he also contributed to the lauded Is This The Life We Really Want? album.) Wilson also saw widespread acclaim heaped on Karen Elson’s sophomore LP Double Roses, which he recorded with her in Los Angeles in 2016.

        But it's not looking like Wilson is going to get much of a rest in 2018 either, as he'll be continuing on with the worldwide Waters tour and is set to release his own new solo album Rare Birds in the spring. The highly anticipated long player - which features backing vocals from Lana Del Rey, Josh Tillman, fellow Roger Waters bandmates Lucius and an extraordinary musical gift from otherworldly Brian Eno collaborator Laraaji - will be released through Bella Union worldwide.

        Although much of the album is comprised lyrically of meditations on a failed relationship and its aftermath, Wilson insists that Rare Birds is not really a concept album. "It's meant more as a healing affair, a rejuvenation, a reconciliation, for others, and for me. I wanted to balance personal narrative with the need I feel for calming healing music. I think we need journeys in sound, psychedelic gossamer-winged music that includes elements consciously and purposefully to incite hope, positivity, longing, reckless abandon and regret. It's all in there."

        And, for this one, music critics will need to retire the comparisons to heritage rockers and Laurel Canyon troubadours as they’re hardly useful anymore. Wilson's new sound takes a synthetic/acoustic, best-of-both-worlds analog/digital hybrid approach to achieve the complexity, sonic density and glossy hi-fi coating of Rare Birds. Heard for the first time on a Jonathan Wilson album are the sounds of synthesizers and drum machines.


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Andy says: Jonathan has eschewed the obvious Laurel Canyon trappings this time out, and the result is his best record yet. Still blissed-out, otherworldly, multi-layered and lonnnnng, but the sound is beautifully streamlined with even synths and drum machines gliding by. A headphone masterpiece.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        2xColoured LP Info: Gold coloured vinyl with a 28 page art + lyric booklet.

        Whether re-defining experimental fusion sounds with the hugley acclaimed Yussef Kamaal, or his catalogue of 12”s for imprints such as MCDE, Eglo, and Rhythm Section as Henry Wu, South London’s Kamaal Williams has been a key figure in his thriving international scene for the past few years. "The Return" is a natural evolution from the Yussef Kamaal project, mining the influence of visionary jazz but blended with all kinds of texture, sounds and signals from the over-saturated London streets.

        At times the keyboard work evokes the classic 70s fusion work of Lonnie Liston Smith or Roy Ayers, but underpinned by rhythms more reminiscent of blunted hip-hop and arrangements subliminally laced with the cut-ups of pirate radio. Progressive, funky, cosmic, exploratory and effortlessly musical, this is the sound of a musician honing their craft into thrilling new shapes.

        In the US the like of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat have made great strides in opening a whole new dialogue between jazz and hip-hop, drawing in a young, highly engaged new audience in the process. Kamaal Williams mine a similar seam on the other side of the Atlantic alongside other exciting London talents such as Ezra Collective, Ruby Rushton and Shabaka Hutchings.

        The Return is exactly that: a return and refinement to the sound Yussef Kamaal were progenitors of, and first set the scene for one of the most exciting musical movements London has had in years.

        Notable tracks for old and new listeners are ‘Slow', 'Situations', 'Medina', 'London Shuffle' which features Mansur Brown (of Mansur's Message) and for those die hard Yussef Kamaal fans - they should hear the interpolated roots of 'Strings of Light' in the title track 'The Return’. And that signature Wu Funk can be heard on Broken Theme, and High Roller.

        "The Return" will be the debut album released on Wu's new label Black Focus Records.


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Millie says: Brilliantly funked-up jazz grooves, rolling bass licks and flickering percussion make this not only a fitting follow-up to Williams' collaboration LP from last year, but a significan progression. Simply stunning, and every bit the summer jazz stormer.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Limited edition indies exclusive white vinyl.

        Ryan Lee West aka Rival Consoles presents his expressive new album ‘Persona’ via Erased Tapes. The title ‘Persona’ was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name, specifically a shot in the opening credits of a child reaching out to touch a woman’s face on a screen, which is shifting between one face and another. This powerful image struck Ryan and it inspired the album’s main theme — an exploration of the persona, the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us, the spaces in between; between states, people, light and dark, the inner persona and the outer persona. “My music is generally inward looking. I like finding something about the self within music, that doesn't have to be specific but maybe asks something or reveals something. This record is a continuation on the self through electronic sounds. Like Legowelt once said ‘a synthesiser is like a translator for unknown emotions’, which I think sums up what I am trying to do. I think all these emotions we have make up our persona. So in a way by finding new ones you alter or expand your persona. And that is what I want my music to try to do. I deliberately aimed to be more sonically diverse with this record. I wanted to experiment more. I wanted to create new sounds and new emotions.” — Rival Consoles.

        Recorded at his studio in south-east London, ‘Persona’ benefits from Ryan’s exploration of a dynamic production process that combines analogue-heavy synthesisers, acoustic and electric instruments with a shoegaze-level obsession with effect pedals. A greater depth of emotion and confidence can be heard across the album. From the deconstructed movements on ‘Unfolding’ that starts the album with a snap of delayed snares, the apocalyptic drones of the title track and thundering drums in ‘Phantom Grip’ to more restrained ambient feels of ‘Dreamer’s Wake’, ‘Rest’ and ‘Untravel’. The latter transverses six beatless minutes of undulating melodies representing “a limbo space, a feeling of ennui, of not really ever being known to others and others not ever really being known to you”.

        ‘Be Kind’ reveals a musical connection with fellow Erased Tapes artist Nils Frahm, with its minimal approach and improvisational nature. On the more complex sounding ‘I Think So’ Ryan aims to replicate a colour collage with sound. Like a musical kaleidoscope, a flashing and convoluted mass. Written after he saw Slowdive perform live last year, ‘Hidden’ builds from whispers to landscapes of controlled noise. In an interview with XLR8R magazine, Ryan explains: “once you start trying to make a sound loud, then you turn your back on thousands and thousands of sonic possibilities. One of the best things to do is to start a track with a really quiet, weak sound.” Taking this idea to its ultimate conclusion, ‘Fragment’ closes the album as an innocent sounding ambient piece, almost nursery rhyme like, yielding time for reflection on how the persona has changed.

        ‘Persona’ follows the success of a series of releases — the ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Sonne’ EPs, long player ‘Howl’, and 2016’s mini album ‘Night Melody’ — that saw Ryan mature into what Pitchfork has called a “forward-thinking electronic musician with his own ideas about sound”. Atypical of instrumental-electronic music, Ryan has achieved a signature sound that’s unmistakably identifiable as Rival Consoles. Going beyond typical electronic music production, Ryan defines it as “songwriting with an electronic palette of sounds”. The increasingly dynamic live audio-visual show, born from bespoke performances at the Tate and for Boiler Room at the V&A Museum featuring self-programmed visuals in Max/MSP, has propelled him to play around the world. Ryan launches ‘Persona’ at London’s XOYO on 12th April with further dates to be announced.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Like his 2015 opus 'Howl, 'Persona' treads the line between ambience and leftfield techno whilst staying resolutely listenable and thoroughly jaw-dropping. Less influenced by the interim EP's, and seemingly moew focused on the spine-tingling crescentic electronica that West does SO well. Highly recommended.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        2xColoured LP Info: Limited indies only clear vinyl.

        Shame thrives on confrontation. Whether it be the seething intensity crackling throughout debut LP Songs of Praise or the adrenaline-pumping chaos that unfolds at Shame’s shows, it’s all fueled by feeling. NPR’s Bob Boilen noted, “Of the 70 bands I saw at this year’s SXSW, the band Shame seemed to mean what they played more than any other.”

        Comprised of vocalist Charlie Steen, guitarists Sean Coyle-Smith and Eddie Green, bassist John Finerty, and drummer Charlie Forbes, the London-based five-piece began as school boys. From the outset, Shame built the band up from a foundation of DIY ethos while citing The Fall and Wire among its biggest musical influences.

        Utilizing both the grit and sincerity of that musical background, Shame carved out a niche in the South London music scene and then barreled fearlessly into the angular, thrashing post-punk that would go on to make up Songs of Praise, their Dead Oceans debut. From “Gold Hole,” a tongue-in-cheek takedown of rock narcissism, to lead single “Concrete” detailing the overwhelming moment of realizing a relationship is doomed, to the frustrated “Tasteless” taking aim at the monotony of people droning through their day-to-day, Songs of Praise never pauses to catch its breath.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Brilliantly smooth but uncompromisingly melodic, shame intertwine the spirit of 80's hardcore with the precision playing and intricate structural flux of today's more dynamic musical frontrunners. Brilliant stuff.

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive sky blue vinyl.

        Snail Mail’s full-length debut album, Lush, is a debut for the record books — a refreshing marvel of songwriting and technical composition, that’s both cohesive and explosive — Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn.

        Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan’s explosive, dynamic personality. Growing up in Baltimore suburb Ellicot City, Jordan began her classical guitar training at age five, and a decade later wrote her first audacious songs as Snail Mail. Around that time, Jordan started frequenting local shows in Baltimore, where she formed close friendships within the local scene, the impetus for her to form a band. By the time she was sixteen, she had already released her debut EP, Habit, on local punk label Sister Polygon Records.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Superbly upbeat anthems, soaring melodic vox and highly refined writing for a DEBUT album. Unbelievable really, but true. 'Lush' is exactly that, a beautifully emotive and brilliantly constructed ride.

        Like all DJ Koze records, "Knock Knock" exists outside of trend and influence. In fact, it's a step further beyond: absolutely every single thing here, from grooves to voices to handclaps, is otherworldly and unique. Which is not to say it is utterly alien abstraction, mind. There is still disco, there is still soul, there is still techno, there is still hip hop, there is still psychedelia – there are even wafts of easy listening, lost crackly thriftstore record memories and... sort of... indie rock – but though it may sound familiar, it never does what your brain thinks it's going to do.

        Likewise with the voices. More than ever before on Koze's records, there are fascinating, individualist – and well-known – voices throughout "Knock Knock" but again, each of them is rendered strange, drawn into a different reality Bon Iver's ghostly hymnals on “Bonfire” are very recognizably Bon Iver, but the way they twist and merge with synthetic sounds until choir and computer are writhing around one another in bliss are something else. The ever-unique Róisín Murphy, on two stunning tracks, becomes a cyborg funk diva. Speech from Arrested Development delivers luscious and lazy R&B-funk on “Colors of Autumn”, but Koze's warping bass, dubwise echo and alien nature sounds take it to an alternate dimension tropical landscape. Kurt Wagner of Lambchop is a vocoder bohemian, Sophia Kennedy is a sci-fi Weimar cabaret star, José Gonzalez a holographic projection from an old film of South Sea Islands... on it goes, nothing is real, everyone is an inhabitant of Koze-world.

        And that's what is crucial here. Koze is a world-maker. You don't get to chose how you hear his music – you enter his world or you don't, that's it. And that's why individual influences, whether it's the trippy German techno that's always rippled through is albums or the beat-scene abstract hip hop that he incorporated into his DJ-Kicks mix in 2015, are all but irrelevant. Though he'd never compare himself to anyone else, Koze only makes sense in the way that other world-builders do, from Bowie to Sun Ra, Outkast to Kate Bush. And Knock Knock is far and away his greatest statement of that. It's an album that came together slowly and steadily, his working processes arcane and mysterious in their steady accumulation of sound and inspiration. It's so complete and bursting with detail and consistency from every micro-second that you'd swear it was meticulously planned – but there was no masterplan, do desire to create a definitive artefact: the record itself decided when it was ready. And now it is ready, the most perfectly constructed portal into that other world, you had better be ready too!


        FORMAT INFORMATION

        2xLtd LP Info: Double vinyl plus bonus 7".

        2xLtd LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        44 - Insecure Men

        Insecure Men

          In many ways Insecure Men - the band led by the fiercely talented songwriter and musician Saul Adamczewski and his schoolmate and stabilising influence, Ben Romans-Hopcraft - are the polar opposite of the Fat White Family. Whereas sleaze-mired, country-influenced, drug-crazed garage punks the Fat Whites are a “celebration of everything that is wrong in life”, Insecure Men, who blend together exotica, easy listening, lounge and timeless pop music, are, by comparison at least, the last word in wholesomeness.

          The band originally formed in 2015 in the cramped confines of The Queens Head pub, Stockwell, in the Fat White Family’s notorious South London ‘practice space’. Saul recorded all of the songs he wrote at The Queens Head onto tape at Sean Lennon’s studio in upstate New York. This tape, recorded on his own in a corridor onto an ancient Tascam while in a foul mood with his mates, essentially became Insecure Men’s self-titled debut album as more layers were dubbed over the top until nothing of the original demos remained.

          Saul lists some of the influences on their sound, mentioning the exotica of Arthur Lyman, the early electronic pop of Perrey and Kingsley, the supreme smoothness of The Carpenters, the songwriting chops of Harry Nilsson and the hypnagogic uncanniness conjured up by David Lynch, describing what they do as “pretty music with a dark underbelly to it”.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive yellow coloured vinyl.

          Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

          There's a riot going on. You don't need me, or Yo La Tengo, to tell you that. These are dark times, in our heads as much as in the streets. It's easy to lose contact with the ground, flying through endless banks of storm clouds day after day. Confusion and anxiety intrude into daily life and cause you to lose your compass. There are times that call for anthems, something to lift you out of your slump and put fire in your feet. And then there are times when what is indicated is a balm, a sound that will wrap around you and work out the knots in your neck.

          While there's a riot going on, Yo La Tengo will remind you what it's like to dream. The sound burbles and washes and flows and billows. If records were dedicated to the cardinal elements, this one would be water. There are shimmery hazes, spectral rumbles, a flash of backward masking, ghostly flamingos calling "shoo-bop shoo-bop." You are there. And even if your mind is not unclouded--shaken, misdirected, out of words and out of time--you can still float, ride the waves of an ocean deeper than your worries, above the sound and above the Sound.

          For Yo La Tengo this is a slow-motion action painting, and Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, and James McNew did it all themselves, in their rehearsal studio, with no outside engineer (John McEntire later did the mix). They did not rehearse or jam together beforehand; they turned on the recorder and let things coalesce. Songs came together over long stretches, sometimes as much as a year going by between parts. You'd never guess this, since the layers are finessed with such a liquid brush. You'd imagine most of the songs had sprung forth whole, since they will enter your head that way. Within two listens you will be powerless to resist the magnetic draw of "Shades of Blue," will involuntarily hear "She May, She Might" on your internal jukebox first thing in the morning and "Let's Do It Wrong" late at night. While there's a riot going on you will feel capable of bobbing through like a cork.

          In 1971, when the nation appeared to be on the brink of violently coming apart, Sly and the Family Stone released There's a Riot Goin’ On, an album of dark, brooding energy. Now, under similar circumstances, Yo La Tengo have issued a record with the same name but with a different force, an album that proposes an alternative to anger and despair. Their first proper full-length since 2013’s Fade, There's a Riot Goin’ On is an expression of freedom and sanity and emotional expansion, a declaration of common humanity as liberating as it is soft-spoken. 

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Darryl says: As far as dreamy post-shoegaze indie goes, it doesn't get any better than Yo La Tengo's own brand of whimsical haze and soaring atmospherics. Drowning under a delightful wave of swirling percussion and psychedelic guitar scree, Kaplan's voice is beguiling as ever, anchoring the whole affair from floating away on a blissful cloud.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          2xColoured LP Info: Independent stores only orange vinyl.

          Shop favourites (2016 end-of-year chart high-rollers) Gogo Penguin return for their latest outing on legendary jazz label, Blue Note. The thing about Gogo penguin is, they're a jazz band, but without all the things you'd associate with a jazz band. The beards are as few as their years, and the chin-stroking is not only minimal, but actively discouraged. Their last outing (the stunning 'Man Made Object') mixed the subtle downtempo percussion and slowly unfurling progressions of traditional jazz with tender, minimalistic electronics and ambient textures reminiscent of modern-classical contemporaries liberally littered around the Erased Tapes roster.

          Whilst their compositions are completely instrumental, there seems to be a wealth of outside influence making itself known through the phrasing and keys used. While 2015 / 2016 were in no way dream years for society in general, it was clear that there was a playfulness in their delivery of songs like 'Quiet Mind' (incidentally, this particular piece reminded me of the other 'Penguin' band, no bad thing).

          As soon as we finish the frenetic buzzing and claustrophobic atmospheres of 'Prayer', it becomes clear that the rather torrid world climate has indeed osmosed into their compositions, swapping out the languid bobbing atmospheres of yesteryear for a highly charged, powerfully visceral sound experience. While the melodic counterpoints are as ever, impeccably realised (and perfectly accentuated by Turner's mindblowing skin-smacking), the euphoric peak is often hidden behind a flurry of call-response dialogue, the peak only being reached through an intentionally laboured conversational swell.

          While throughout the album, the simmering malaise invariably breaks through into a grand and sweeping relief, it is in pieces like 'A Hundred Moons' that we get the full-force of their compositional genius, breaking through the residual gloom with airy, tropical percussion and a cleansing palate of major-key lifts and twinkling plucks. Without waxing lyrical about every song in turn, there really isn't much more that can be said, you'll just have to listen to it yourself. Truth of the matter is, Gogo Penguin are one of a kind, and continue to pioneer their own spellbinding brand of electronic jazz. 


          STAFF COMMENTS

          Millie says: Gogo Penguin continue to redefine what 'jazz' is to a lot of people (myself included). Continuing to skilfully eschew staid progressions and inject an electronic ambiguity into wilfully beautiful compositions, GGP remain as groundbreaking yet listenable as ever. Essential.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

          Ltd CD Info: "Mintpack" CD edition.

          Written largely in New York between Summer 2016 and Winter 2017, Josh Tillman’s fourth Father John Misty LP, ‘God’s Favorite Customer’, reflects on the experience of being caught between the vertigo of heartbreak and the manic throes of freedom.

          God’s Favorite Customer reveals a bittersweetness and directness in Tillman’s songwriting, without sacrificing any of his wit or taste for the absurd. From “Mr. Tillman,” where he trains his lens on his own misadventure, to the cavernous pain of estrangement in “Please Don’t Die,” Tillman plays with perspective throughout to alternatingly hilarious and devastating effect. “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)” is a meditation on our inner lives and the limitations we experience in our attempts to give and receive love. It stands in solidarity with the title track, which examines the ironic relationship between forgiveness and sin. Together, these are songs that demand to know either real love or what comes after, and as the album progresses, that entreaty leads to discovering the latter’s true stakes.

          God's Favorite Customer was produced by Tillman and recorded with Jonathan Rado, Dave Cerminara, and Trevor Spencer. The album features contributions from Haxan Cloak, Natalie Merring of Weyes Blood, longtime collaborator Jonathan Wilson, and members of Misty’s touring band.

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Andy says: Tillman segues into Beck territory a little here, with falsetto harmonies and jagged college-rock melodies, tastefully accentuated with staggered percussion and swooning loungey piano. As ever, FJM smashes out another killer album, conceptually clever and brilliantly accomplished, exactly as you'd expect.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Limited Edition Indie Exclusive - Purple vinyl + limited edition sleeve with foil ‘tears’.

          LP Info: Standard black vinyl edition.

          Joe Powers is from Edinburgh, far outside the network of the grime capital of London. His caffeinated productions as Proc Fiskal are faster than usual, with many clocking in at 160bpm. "The Highland Mob", his 2017 debut EP, opened up his music to open-eared footwork and drum’n’bass fans as well as the grime crowd. After following that up with a jungle-inflected EP on Cosmic Bridge, "Insula" switches the feel and intention towards a personal and melodic music with one foot in grime, infused with often a love of space and bolstered with wistful moments from his environment. He says ‘I wanted to be aware of where the music is coming from, referencing things I’m presently experiencing, like making grime, my Radar radio show, phone addiction, alcohol, my surroundings, girls, depression, positivity, being unemployed, being employed and hating it, my friends etc. Trying to be true to myself instead of relying on other peoples’ nostalgia, and focusing on now.’

          The record is a huge leap in vision, with delicate, pointillist melodies and intricate edits reminiscent of grime producers such as Terror Danjah. It also resonates with Japanese video game music like that recently explored on the "Diggin' In The Carts" compilation. ‘I think I probably make tunes to get out emotions I don’t express in day-to-day life. I used clips of my friends talking, drunk folk, and general Scottish life to preserve and represent what my experience is like right now, like a time capsule. Social media notification sounds are designed to release serotonin, which is what I’d like my music to do, to make me, and other people happy, and in using these manipulative noises in a positive way, I like to think I’m taking back the power of the manipulation.’

          Proc Fiskal is adventurous and thoughtful as a producer, and at the young age of 21, his debut album is very advanced in its ideas and execution and therefore finds an obvious and natural home on Kode9's cutting edge Hyperdub imprint.  

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Matt says: Possibly the best thing I've heard all week; an accomplished and inventive LP from this confident 21 year old with nods to Aphex, grime, Keith Tenniswood and soundsystem culture. A masterpiece!

          49 - Halo Maud

          Je Suis Une Ile

            Halo Maud’s first release on Heavenly is a recap of the story so far ahead of an album release later this year – three tracks of this EP originally came out on a Canadian label last year, with the difference that ‘Du Pouvoir’ now features some English lyrics, and ‘À La Fin’ and ‘Dans La Nuit’ cropped up on a La Souterraine compilations in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

            Maud Nadal has been a member of both Moodoïd and Melody’s Echo Chamber’s live bands, and of course at times there are comparisons to be drawn with MEC, with both teetering on a crystalline peak where extreme joy and despair meet. But if anything Nadal’s own melodies are even more indelible, and her voice turns them into vapour trails.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Barry says: Hazy harmonies, rolling grooves and insistent percussive workouts form the backbone to Nadal's often haunting vocal flourishes, sometimes falling behind to give the vocals their own space. Perfectly measured and beautifully written immersive indie anthems.

            50 - Holy Wave

            Adult Fear

              El Paso’s Holy Wave will release their new album, Adult Fear via The Reverberation Appreciation Society. The band have always differentiated themselves from the psych pack with their keyboard-forward sound that rarely falls into standard trippy tropes, and the album’s title track is a good example of that, with a grooving bassline and nice harmonies in the chorus.


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              Thank you to @PSB_HQ for coming down and doing a signing for us today at our pop up shop @bluedotfestival they were… https://t.co/6uJ0WcHK1L
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