Got An Idea
“The pure pop dream still burns bright in the hearts of The Go! Team. For that, they're as vital as they've ever been.” - The Independent.
“joyous and life affirming” - Q Magazine.
Our Review from 2011:
The Go! Team return with album number three, including guest appearances from Bethany Best Coast and Satomi from Deerhoof. If you bought the previous two Go! Team albums then you're in for another treat here, albeit one that doesn't differ much from its predecessors. Charging headlong into a blistering mash-up of b-boy hip hop breaks, catchy indie guitar hooks, easy-pop melodies and bratty rap (all with nuff treble to make your ears ring), "Rolling Blackouts" is like being mugged by hand-clapping ADD tweenies in an inner city playground. Boisterous, energetic, and with an infectious charm, it's hard not to love The Go! Team's sunny demeanour.
STAFF COMMENTSJavi says: One of my all-time all-time all-time favourite favourite favourite albums. Music for superheroes!
Ready To Go Steady
Buy Nothing Day
Voice Yr Choice
The Running Range
Back Like 8 Track
IF THERE ARE ANY REMAINING COPIES THEY WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT 6PM ON THE SAME DAY (SATURDAY JULY 17TH).
Jesca Hoop has a tradition of reimagining and rerecording her own albums and having previously created beautifully stark versions of her albums Kismet and Hunting my Dress it is the turn of The House That Jack Built. Recorded in her Manchester based home-built studio in December 2020, these intimate and immediate reworkings shine the spotlight on Hoops intricate, complex song writing with her astonishing vocals front and centre The Deconstruction of Jackís House comes on limited edition white vinyl for Record Store Day 2021.
In The Go! Team's world, old’s cool, the future's bright and melody is the star. Just check the second cut “Cookie Scene” with a bouncing flute and junk shop percussion it introduces guest rapper Indigo Yaj who delivers an old school vocal that continues this sonic trip. Pow channels Curtis Mayfield and enter stage centre, the inimitable Ninja in full flow and you don’t stop, you wont stop to this flute driven free for all.
By way of demonstrating The Go! Team’s old school manifesto, comes the 'needle-in-the-red' “I Love You Better” a defiant message to an ex love, spelling out exactly how he’s fucked up – and then there’s those steel drums. Following that comes the soda fountain soul courtesy of “A Bee Without Its Sting”, a groovy protest song that makes its point with a tambourine – hey only The Go! Team.
The musical wagon train then takes you into the wide screen, windswept western that is Tame the Great Plains heading off into a polyrhythmic panorama that’s full of hope. Slappin’ you back to reality comes “World Remember Me Now”, a timely reminder that when you’re lost in the routine of life, you can always count on The Go! Team.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: It's exactly what you'd expect from the Go! Team, this it's bright and bold and chaotic and absolutely on-brand. Summery steel drums and syncopated percussion, offset tinny melodies and jangling percussion, topped with jubilant vocal swathes. Brilliantly bright and wonderfully fun.
1. Let The Seasons Work
2. Cookie Scene
3. A Memo For Maceo
4. We Do It But Never Know Why
5. Freedom Now
7. I Loved You Better
8. A Bee Without Its Sting
9. Tame The Great Plains
10. World Remember Me Now
The album opens with ‘Bad Hair Day’, a relentlessly catchy—and deceptively upbeat—ode to hangovers and missed connections. “I’ve been calling on you all night /But I never get through, I just get in the way” Francis laments; “I am a cloud in the sun’s light/Whatever I do, whatever I say.” Elsewhere, the title track finds him pondering the fickle nature of the music industry: “I think of [Miracle] as acknowledging and even encouraging the feelings we’re not supposed to succumb to - giving up, giving in - just because it can be comforting to hear it from someone else. ‘Why am I climbing these social ladders and jumping through the hoops of this creative industry? Does this make me happy?’”
These themes of longing, and lacking, missing and being missed, reoccur throughout Miracle. “When I die/Will I be missed/Or am I missing the point?” asks ‘Say So’; while ‘Lonesome No More’, inspired by the Kurt Vonnegut book of the same name, begs the question: if loneliness was eradicated, would we miss it? By confronting these feelings, Francis is able to move forward, as triumphant album closer ‘The Let Down’ proves. Its lyrics serve as a call to action, as Francis wills himself (and the listener) to ‘Get up/Get something going/Do something, do it/Do it now’
Miracle was produced by Francis in collaboration with Brendan Williams (Dutch Uncles, Matthew Halsall, Kiran Leonard) and Robin Koob (who co-arranged and performed strings). The opportunity to take creative control was one Francis relished. “I’m quite bad at delegating” he admits, noting that he played every instrument except strings on Miracle. The result is a cohesive, deeply personal record, which is as vital as it is vulnerable. “I don’t want to be defined by my anxiety, my depression or any history of substance abuse,” Francis says, “but I do want to reach out to other people who have had similar experiences, especially if it’s in a way that helps them feel a little better. To me, this music is celebrating healing as much as it focuses on the darker sides of the human psyche.”
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: What an enchanting LP this is. Taking in facets of classic rock, psychedelia and folk rock of the late 60's, while remaining true to the sunshine indie-pop roots. Wry observations and even a Vonnegut reference! this is clever songwriting that's easily accessible and endlessly reveals elements the more you listen. Absolutely essential stuff.
2. Bad Hair Day
3. Blondes Have More Fun
5. Empty Playgrounds, Broken Swings (Demo)
6. Don't Call Me Baby
7. Say So
8. Southern Skies
9. Want 2 Want U
10. Comedown (Again)
12. Lonesome No More
13. The Let Down
IF THERE ARE ANY REMAINING COPIES THEY WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT 6PM ON THE SAME DAY (SATURDAY JUNE 12TH).
Dutch Uncles, Manchesterís premier idiosyncratic prog-popologists, celebrate Cadenza's tenth birthday. Back on wax for the first time since its initial 2011 pressing, this remastered reissue comes on limited edition duck egg blue vinyl. Chock full of joyous, angular anthems such as The Ink and the title track itself, it's a welcome reminder of the playfulness and intellect that has run throughout Dutch Uncles work.
B4 The Rub
B5 The Ink
IF THERE ARE ANY REMAINING COPIES THEY WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT 6PM ON THE SAME DAY (SATURDAY JUNE 12TH).
Mush are back with their second Record Store Day release in 2 years: the 7" single Peak Bleak comes on limited edition green vinyl featuring two brand new tracks, Peak Bleak and Clarion Call. Never ones to rest on their laurels, Peak Bleak is the immediate follow up to their hugely acclaimed second album Lines Redacted, released February of this year, and sees Mush further exploring the outer reaches of art-rock with the coruscating wit and unique delivery that has become their trademark.
Sporadic sessions for the album began in late 2019 at the pair's studio in Sunderland, slotted between rehearsals and touring. The initial recordings pushed a looser performance aspect to the fore, inspired by some of their very first musical loves; Free, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles; old tapes and LPs pilfered from their parents' shelves. But a balance between performance and construction has always been an essential part of Field Music.
By March 2020, recording had already begun for most of the album's tracks and, with touring for Making A New World winding down, Peter and David were ready to plough on and finish the record.
The playfulness that’s evident in much of Flat White Moon's music became a way to offset the darkness and the sadness of many of the lyrics. Much of the album is plainly about loss and grief, and also about the guilt and isolation which comes with that.
Those personal upheavals are apparent on songs like Out of the Frame, where the loss of a loved one is felt more deeply because they can't be found in photographs and compounded by the suspicion that you caused their absence, or on When You Last Heard From a Linda, which details the confusion of being unable to penetrate a best friend's loneliness in the darkest of circumstances.
Some songs are more impressionistic. Orion From The Streets combines Studio Ghibli, a documentary about Cary Grant and an excess of wine to become a hallucinogenic treatise on memory and guilt.. Others, such as Not When You're In Love, are more descriptive. Here, the narrator guides us through slide- projected scenes, questioning the ideas and semantics of 'love' as well the reliability of his own memory. For the most part, the album has fewer explicitly political themes than previous records, though there is No Pressure, about a political class who feel no obligation to take responsibility if they can finagle a narrative instead. And there's I'm The One Who Wants To Be With You which skirts its way around toxic masculinity through teenage renditions of soft-rock balladry.
On Flat White Moon Field Music take on the challenge of representing negative emotions in a way that doesn't dilute or obscure them but which can still uplift. The result is a generous record of bounteous musical ideas, in many ways Field Music's most immediately gratifying to date.
STAFF COMMENTSLaura says: I'm a bit late to the Field Music party, I have to admit. Always quite liked them when I heard them, but never really got into them properly, despite people telling me I should (yes Marc Riley, you were right!)
But I thought the last album 'Making A New World' was amazing and this one is equally as good.
Flat White Moon is full of intricate, multi-layered songs. They're arty and clever (but not in an annoying smart-arse way) and they know how to write a pop song too!
1. Orion From The Street
2. Do Me A Favour
3. Not When You're In Love
4. Out Of The Frame
5. When You Last Heard From Linda
6. No Pressure
7. In This City
8. I'm The One Who Wants To Be With You
9. Meant To Be
10. Invisible Days
11. The Curtained Room
12. You Get Better
Champ is something of a lost classic of new-millennium indie-pop and deserves to be hoisted to the special place in your collection—physically or mentally—that you keep the good stuff. “Boots of Danger,” the single, is every bit as catchy as the Strokes’ “Last Nite,” though it trades New York cool for youthful Ontario exuberance. And it’s not just the hits that drive Champ: Its bench is deep, from the insistent, twitchily bouncer “Big Difference” to the sombre sorta-ballad “Hands Reversed,” which could be a cousin to the best Walkmen songs.
A1 Favourite Food
A2 Favourite Colour
A3 Breakneck Speed
A4 Wait Up (Boots Of Danger)
B1 End Of A Spark
B2 Hands Reversed
B4 Big Difference
B5 Not Sick
A Hundred Dollar Day
B Bambi (Acoustic)
1. Always Free
6. Make It Through
7. Long Wave
8. Awakeners Awaken Us
10. Love Here Listen
Whereas the band’s debut was very much a product of its time, something part-inspired by the political atmosphere of mid-2019 and a genuine moment of optimism when the prospect of a socialist government in the UK was on the cards, this new record uses tongue-in-cheek cynicism as a coping mechanism for the environment that we now find ourselves in. From one song to the next, Lines Redacted introduces a string of different narrators with each providing a different reflection on the Armageddon scenario that we are slowly entering, whether that’s bemoaning it or gleefully willing it along. 3D Routine presented a bed of scathing political jibes latching onto themes and decisions of the time. Lines Redacted mutates these ideas into something slightly more sinister whilst maintaining all of Hyndman’s razor-sharp wit that permeates the album.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Lines Redacted is a whirling, snarling dervish of punky guitars, booming bass and frantic vocal ruminations. It's a visceral but perfectly measured affair, well rounded and fiery.
1. Drink The Bleach
2. Blunt Instruments
4. Dusting For Prints
5. Lines Redacted
6. Seven Trumpets
7. Clean Living
9. Hazmat Suits
12. Lines Discontinued
2. Life Is Full Of Rewards
3. White On White
4. Free Land
5. Alone In Halls (feat. Blood Orange)
6. Dreamers Change The World
There’s a dense narrative to the album that explores personal upbringing - and the potential untrustworthy memories that come with such reflection - along with the industrial, financial and political landscape of the countryside. This is not an indulgent and saccharine plunge into childhood. “It's not nostalgic,” Seed says. “It’s about the past but also the future. Living another way doesn’t seem so possible now for technological and financial reasons - and I was seeking inspiration from the people I knew who tried to do that.” Plus, the narrative backdrop is just that: a backdrop. “It's got to be fun,” says Seed. “It’s got to bang. As much of that stuff that needs to come across will come across. If I was literally writing songs that were: ‘here's a song about reservoir’ then it’s going to be super dull. If you have something that’s so exciting to listen to then you can kind of say what you want and people might take it in or might take something else.”
And bang the album does - from the Sparks-esque ‘On The Tip Of My Tongue’ to the pulsing dancefloor rager of ‘Kiss Me Like It’s Over’ via the electro-pop-funk swagger of ‘Naturalise Me’ and the stirring piano stabs and vocal harmonies of ‘Travel With Me Through This Ghost World’ (featuring Emmy The Great). The record flows like the rolling hills that surrounded its creation. The band being locked away living and eating and playing together also drew out the deep musical bond they share.
Come With Me
On The Tip Of My Tongue
Kiss Me Like It’s Over
Out Of Body
From A High Sky
Travel With Me Through This Ghost World
Slowly, when they could, the six old friends found time to work together in studios, garages, forests, and sheds to put together the concise ten song set of that is Friend Ship. “We took such a long break after Give Up Your Dreams that when we did decide to make a new record we all felt it needed to be in some esoteric sense different,” says co-lead singer Samuel Flynn Scott. “To me that meant returning to something more focused. Honing in on the songs before we went deep into the arrangements and freaky sounds.” And the results reflect this approach too. Whilst Friend Ship, as you would expect, weaves seamlessly between dreamy introspective pop, stretched out grooves and psychedelic rock, it also exists as a collection of masterfully crafted songs.
Friend Ship features vocals from Nadia Reid, Tiny Ruins’ Hollie Fullbrook and Anita Clark aka Motte plus sumptuous string arrangements performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Phoenix Foundation present a widescreen look at the blurred peripheries between dream pop, synthwave and good old fashioned indie music here with their latest outing, Friend Ship'. Beautifully smooth, soaringly melodic and deeply comforting, The Phoenix Foundation have done it again.
2. Miserable Meal (with The NZSO)
3. Hounds Of Hell (with Nadia Reid)
4. Decision Dollars (with Hollie Fullbrook)
5. Transit Of Venus (with The NZSO)
6. Tranquility (with Hollie Fullbrook)
8. Former Glory (with Anita Clark)
9. My Kitchen Rules
10. Trem Sketch
With the flute in a locked groove it makes way for junkshop percussion to go front and centre - built from a marching drum, a 50p against a glass bottle, rimshots and the maple on maple of drumsticks hit together. Says Ian: “The stripped back swinging percussion of ‘Iko Iko’ by the Dixie Cups and the loud crunchy shaker in Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ were both inspirations and I’ve always loved the way Bollywood or William Onyeabor songs would have random laser beams and electro toms popping up. I wanted to mix the street corner with the intergalactic, to take Detroit to outer space.”
A. Cookie Scene
B. Free Breakfast Program
LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.
FIELD MUSIC RECORD STORE DAY TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY REISSUE Back on vinyl for the first time since its original pressing in 2010, Field Music's Measure is released on 180g Red and Yellow vinyl.Limited to 500 copies. A landmark in Field Music's long and varied history, it marked their return from a self-imposed hiatus with a gloriously rich LP that entwined the brother's love of the rock music cannon with a rediscovery of some of pop's overlooked adventurers.Themes disappear and reappear.Some songs flow together, others intrude on each other.There are contradictions and ripostes.There appears to be a great deal of defiance and a fair amount of resignation. Can it make sense? Does it matter if there is no sense? What strands can hold together the dissonant funk of 'Let's Write A Book' (a call to arms for the perpetually apologetic), the mutated blues of 'Each Time Is A New Time' (a riposte to misplaced faith in repetition), the chopping and splashing pop driven through 'Them That Do Nothing' (perhaps about a valiant willingness to make mistakes), the multilayered riffery of 'The Rest Is Noise' or the epic found-sound song cycle that starts with 'See You Later'? Perhaps, then, the central strand of this sprawling Tusk meets The English Settlement epic is simply that this is the album when the Brewis brothers truly became Field Music.Even on a record as varied as this their sound and approach can still be identified as their own.As David said at the time: "In the past we might not have had faith that it was sufficient just to be us.But now I think we do." "Field Music's most bounteous harvest yet." ---- Mojo "A work of incredible beauty and complexity." ---- The Sunday Times "The brothers Brewis reconvene to make a modern gem." ----- Uncut "A superbly off kilter record from Sunderland's Sparks" ---- Q
Written and produced almost entirely by Lovett, yet featuring a wide range of collaborators, Pure Luxury revels in both the insular – the sound of one man processing anxiety-inducing world events - and the communal. It is a record of diverse styles, voices and textures, expanding the musical universe of Lovett’s previous albums whilst cementing his own playful voice with an inescapable sense of joy and excitement.
Tired of the now over-familiar sound of Big Analog Synths and words like glacial, austere, and wistful, he set out with one clear intention: to be Extra. Extra is the governing musical direction on Pure Luxury, accepting that we live in a world of dwindling attention spans whilst acknowledging that traditional notions of accessible musical form are fast becoming irrelevant in a world of online streaming. Simply put, Lovett says, “I didn’t see the point in pulling punches and restraining myself. We are able to access a near-infinite stream of music that we might like based on what we already listen to; it’s an inspirational cul-de-sac. I couldn’t afford to feel like I was making something that sounded boring”.
The notion of being Extra is perhaps best encapsulated by the frenetic title track. Written in New York during a freak February heatwave, Pure Luxury is a response to the notions of luxury, status, and the insanity of pursuing material wealth in the face of environmental catastrophe. Lovett takes us on a technicolour joyride dripping with sarcasm, a hyped-up version of 21st century excess where gold trim hides rotten plywood facades, muscle cars are bought with credit cards and barbed wire fences separate luxury resorts from the slums beyond their walls.
Indeed, perhaps that’s what we need most when the world seems to be falling apart. Tomorrow might be scaring the hell out of us, but, as Lovett reminds us on the album’s closing track, “Tonight is all that really matters, as long as we keep dancing”.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: NZCA Lines is the music from the scene in the movie where everyone takes loads of drugs and goes crazy, throwing up and fighting and jumping off ill-advised floors into barely-there swimming pools. It's green cocktails spilling onto a flashing dancefloor and bass drums paling in comparison to glittering arps and sidechained throbs.
1. Pure Luxury
2. Real Good Time
3. Prisoner Of Love
4. For Your Love
5. Take This Apart
6. Opening Night
8. Primp & Shine
9. Tonight Is All That Really Matters
Infused with the restive spirit of Warm Digits and their guests, these inspirations are taken as a call to arms rather than an academic panel discussion. “Fools Tomorrow” uses the language of scientific revolutions and a spiral-eyed swirl of electro shoegaze to show how being able to accept you’re wrong can change your life, while “Replication” takes the ever-circling influence of Steve Reich and cult synth-composers like Laurie Spiegel to create a luminescent sparkling throb that’s impossible to resist. The Delgados’ Emma Pollock lends her vocals to "The View From Nowhere" which concerns two people working out their closeness and distance. It could be about any relationship, but the title is a reference to the way psychoanalysts historically kept themselves a "blank screen" with their patients, as if they could take a "view from nowhere" and be wholly objective in what they saw. “Feel the Panic” sees wigout psych-merchants The Lovely Eggs take advantage of Warm Digits’ relentless momentum to enthusiastically rail against pigeonholing and outmoded systems of authority with an unruly air-punching chorus. The song was inspired by the "being sane in insane places" experiment, which argued that the power wielded by psychiatrists' diagnoses was dangerously capricious, and that in some instances the treatment induced precisely the psychic distress they sought to classify.
"Shake The Wheels Off" is about the moment when those subjugated by archaic systems of control take their power back: in this instance, the way research on transport safety took the male body as the norm, drastically increasing the risk that women would get injured in a car crash. The Orielles' roll-call of female engineering heroes heralds the moment when the balance starts to be redressed. Meanwhile Rozi Plain gently turns insecurity on its head over a pulsating Eurobeat-meets-MBV backing to make “Everyone Nervous” almost feel like a valedictory slogan. Celebrate Your Uncertainty!
In an increasingly off-kilter world where reality shifts daily, truth is merely what we decide it to be, and an avalanche of possible identities overwhelms us with possibility, it can feel like our lives are careering towards chaos down a one-way street. The question is: do we “Feel The Panic” or “Shake The Wheels Off”? With its glorious defiance and heart-bursting grooves, “Flight of Ideas” calls to our past experience for answers, and dares us to listen.
Warm Digits are Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferis from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Their previous album for Memphis Industries, "Wireless World", featured guest vocals from Field Music and Sarah Cracknell, amongst others, garnered plaudits from BBC 6Music including an "Album of the Day" slot and playlists for “End Times” “Growth of Raindrops”, and boosted them on to the festival bills of Bluedot, Green Man and Festival No.6 amongst others.
1. Frames And Cages
2. Feel The Panic (feat. The Lovely Eggs)
3. The View From Nowhere (feat. Emma Pollock)
4. I'm OK, You're OK
5. Fools Tomorrow (feat. Paul Smith)
7. Shake The Wheels Off (feat. The Orielles)
8. Everyone Nervous (feat. Rozi Plain)
9. False Positive
10. Flight Of Ideas
Songwriter Dan Hyndman explains the genesis of the band as being “fairly boiler plate” a combination of friends old and new converging in Leeds post-uni to form a band predominantly united in their mutual affection for the Pavement back catalogue. Finally settling on a lineup of Nick Grant (bass), Tyson (guitar) and Phil Porter (drums) the band’s progression has taken them far beyond this original vision.
Having garnered local attention in the early days for their unhinged and often calamitous live shows in Leeds, it was the unlikely radio hit ‘Alternative Facts’, (clocking in at an uncompromising ten minutes) that brought the Mush to the attention of a wider audience. The song, one of the last releases for the legendary Too Pure Singles Club saw early support from Marc Riley and others on BBC 6music with them playing multiple sessions, and the follow up single, ‘Gig Economy’ hopping onto the 6music playlist. Roaming further afield from their hometown, Mush spent the first half of 2019 heading out around the UK, earning a reputation for their intense live performances, supporting the likes of Girl Band, The Lovely Eggs, Yak, Shame and Stereolab, as well as releasing the ‘Induction Party’ EP to great acclaim. At the tail end of summer of 2019 Mush headed to Leeds’ Green Mount Studio and with Andy Savours (Dream Wife, Our Girl, My Bloody Valentine) manning the mixing desk, their debut LP, ‘3D Routine’ was born.
The way in which the album brazenly moves from polished 3- minute punk tracks, to avant-garde spoken word, to sardonic-political funk, whilst sounding like the same band is testament to an uncompromisingly unrefined ethic and compounds the jarring nature of Mush. Together, the songs form a unified, abrasive, emotive, frenetic and entirely beguiling concoction of sound and opinion, a fast-moving snapshot of current times, relatable, politically minded and incredibly personal. Music for those who want their guitars loud and weird, and their political commentary a little less ‘on the nose’.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Clashing post-punk attitude meets with playful 'oi' vox and brilliantly intricate counter melodies, forming a melodically diverse but consistently enjoyable shift of pace and style. With more arty sections brilliantly offset by a cohesive anthemic drive, 3D routine is a brilliantly assured debut.
1. Revising My Fee
2. Eat The Etiquette
3. Existential Dread
4. Coronation Chicken
5. Island Mentality
6. Fruits Of The Happening
7. Hey Gammonhead
8. 3D Routine
9. Gig Economy
10. Poverty Pornography
11. No Signal In The Paddock
12. Alternative Facts
When We Stay Alive possesses a new confidence in its sound, reflected in its fierce, determined songs and anchored by the heavy synths and punctuating beats of Poliça co-founder and producer Ryan Olson. Over the last several years Olson and Leaneagh have widely collaborated with musicians from all over the world: both with Bon Iver, and Leaneagh individually with Boys Noize, Lane 8, Sasha, Leftfield, and Daniel Wohl; Olson with Swamp Dogg in addition to countless musicians from the Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon’s 37d03d collective. As a result, When We Stay Alive features one of the largest musical casts of any Poliça record to date. To create the album, Olson brought his favorite collaborators into his studio for all-night sessions. He’d then send Leaneagh the files to write lyrics to while recovering at home, which she’d record alone or with engineer Alex Proctor. Drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu colored the songs with a new approach – drastically changing the rhythmic dynamic from previous efforts by creating an indistinguishable hybrid of live and electronic instrumentation--and bassist Chris Bierden provided a melody-laden low-end as well as more layered backing vocals than ever before.
On Poliça’s first three albums, Leaneagh focused on restructuring the world and her relationships within it. On When We Stay Alive, she realizes the power in restructuring her inner self. The album’s title references the idea of moving forward through life – our experiences, both good and bad – and what happens next with the strength we find. “I had been living unconsciously in past trauma,” Leaneagh says. “I don’t want to deny something happened – this is not about repression – it’s about taking the power back from the past, holding the power in the present, and creating a new story for myself.”
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Brilliantly bold and beautifully textured, Poliça's 5th LP has a perfect mix of downbeat, percussive synth numbers and more propulsive, shadowy offerings. Dynamically astute and beautifully rendered, this is a disparate but never obtuse triumph from the superb Poliça.
3. Fold Up
4. Feel Life
5. Little Threads
6. Be Again
8. Forget Me Now
9. Blood Moon
10. Sea Without Blue
The songs grew from a project for the Imperial War Museum and were first performed at their sites in Salford and London in January 2019. The starting point was an image from a 1919 publication on munitions by the US War Department, made using “sound ranging”, a technique that utilised an array of transducers to capture the vibrations of gunfire at the front. These vibrations were displayed on a graph, similar to a seismograph, where the distances between peaks on different lines could be used to pinpoint the location of enemy armaments. This particular image showed the minute leading up to 11am on 11th November 1918, and the minute immediately after. One minute of oppressive, juddering noise and one minute of near-silence. “We imagined the lines from that image continuing across the next hundred years,” says the band’s David Brewis, “and we looked for stories which tied back to specific events from the war or the immediate aftermath.” If the original intention might have been to create a mostly instrumental piece, this research forced and inspired a different approach. These were stories itching to be told.
The songs are in a kind of chronological order, starting with the end of the war itself; the uncertainty of heading home in a profoundly altered world (“Coffee or Wine”). Later we hear a song about the work of Dr Harold Gillies (the shimmering ballad, “A Change of Heir”), whose pioneering work on skin grafts for injured servicemen led him, in the 1940s, to perform some of the very first gender reassignment surgeries. We see how the horrors of the war led to the Dada movement and how that artistic reaction was echoed in the extreme performance art of the 60s and 70s (the mathematical head-spin of “A Shot To The Arm”). And then in the funk stomp of Money Is A Memory, we picture an office worker in the German Treasury preparing documents for the final instalment on reparation debts - a payment made in 2010, 91 years after the Treaty of Versailles was signed. A defining, blood-spattered element of 20th century history becomes a humdrum administrative task in a 21st century bureaucracy.
1. Sound Ranging
3. Coffee Or Wine
4. Best Kept Garden
5. I Thought You Were Something Else
6. Between Nations
7. A Change Of Heir
8. Do You Read Me?
9. From A Dream, Into My Arms
10. Beyond That Of Courtesy
11. A Shot To The Arm
12. A Common Language Pt 1
13. A Common Language Pt 2
14. Nikon Pt 1
15. Nikon Pt 2
16. If The Wind Blows Towards The Hospital
17. Only In A Man’s World
18. Money Is A Memory
19. An Independent State
Collaborators include multi-instrumentalist Emma Gatrill (Willie Mason / Matthew and the Atlas), drummer Rob Pemberton (Emily Barker / Low Chimes), bassist Jim Barr (Portishead) and vocalists Kate Stables (This Is The Kit) and Rozi Plain. Flux follows Rachael’s highly acclaimed album “We Resonate” which came out on Talitres and Sweetdreams Press, and a string of international releases on Broken Sound, Lost Map, Sweetdreams Press and Angel’s Egg. Living half her time as a travelling musician in Japan, witnessing how other people create things, connecting with other cultures and landscapes; all this is a furnace for Rachael’s innovative song writing, which has seen her gain a reputation as a pioneering and thought provoking artist, unafraid to push the boundaries of folk and pop.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: There are moments in 'Flux' of such whimsical beauty that hark back to the early days of American psychedelic folk, with plucking guitars and Dadd's gorgous vox. It's the more soulful pieces here that really impress, soaring and weaving in equal measure, providing a fascinating but cohesive listen. Lovely stuff.
2. Cut My Roots
4. Two Islands
5. Language Of Water
8. Super Moon Machine
10. Two Coiled Springs
11. Connected To The Rock
The sense of exploration resonates throughout the record and can be defined by its start and end points. Opening track ‘Fly Away’ begins the expedition, a gleaming reflection of past insecurities as a jump-off point for the next chapter, all subtle beats and stark bursts of guitars that leap out of the mix. Elsewhere, ‘No Giving Up’ is a tender recollection of a past relationship, set to an equally affectionate composition, a glowing example of Wästberg’s growing songwriting skills, while ‘The Sun Will Shine’ showcases another side of Joel’s skillset, a playful production full of inspired ideas and nuances; a Les Fleurseque mellow breeze in the heat of the summer.
The record’s boldest moment is reserved for ‘Deployed’, a collaboration with Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano. “Me and Little Dragon go way back. I’ve been hanging out with them for many years, and they were very supportive with my first album,” Wästberg explains. “I remember that Yukimi was always asking me if I was making my own music. One day I was working in my small studio room, and Little Dragon were one floor up. Yukimi knocked on the door and asked if she could listen. I played her some of my songs and she said, “This is great, go out and talk to the world!”. That was before my first album. So having Little Dragon as a feature here makes so much sense.” Beautifully bright and sincere, ’Deployed’ is a perhaps the most vivid pop song that sir Was has released to-date. A heartfelt accounting of relationships, of knowing when to let go and when to fight for them, ‘Holding On To A Dream’, is a dreamy, groovy, lustrous treat of a record.
No Giving Up
Deployed (feat. Little Dragon)
No More Separation
The Sun Will Shine
Lean Into This
See U Again
Pin Me Down
Following on from the home-recorded Volumes 1 + 2 EPs, which contained titbits written during his time in Wu Lyf, ‘A Dream Is U’ is the first fully-realised Francis Lung record, a studio undertaking brought to life with producer Brendan Williams (Dutch Uncles, GoGo Penguin), a colourful patchwork of vision and ingenuity. “Before we started recording I knew exactly what the arrangements were in my head” Francis says, reflecting on the time spent devising his new work. "It was kind of my mission to capture everything as it was in my imagination”.
A beautiful amalgamation of instruments, ‘A Dream Is U’ might fit neatly into the classic pop drawer but it comes with all manner of decoration, from violin and viola, to cello and saxophone. Writing for strings for the first time, Francis was inspired by the likes of Michael Brown (The Left Banke) and Robert Kirby (Nick Drake) and the parts are played by two members of the Hallé Orchestra, while the saxophone was played by Manchester’s jazz saxophonist Sam Healy. “He mostly played stuff I'd written for him,” Francis says, “but the solo at the end of The Lie is all him, with me in the studio trying to direct him by jumping around and waving my arms!”
Initially conceived to outline the different stages of a relationship, from heady early excitement to bitter fall-out, the finished product is intact an assortment of sentiments, scattered like puzzle pieces from an overturned box. “The problem with that theme is that it was too cut & dry and unrealistic,” Francis says now. “You can have all of those feelings in one day in no particular order. It’s more human to me that emotions can come at any time, without any real resolution. I wanted the album to reflect that sentiment.”
The new album is opened and led by ‘I Wanna Live In My Dreams’, a dazzling burst of Ronettes-inspired pop music, a love letter to sleeping, but also a song that buries allusions of real-world melancholy under its jubilant exterior, calling to mind the likes of Stephen Merrit, or later-day Elliott Smith, and their ability to shape moments of sadness into something strikingly pretty. “Songwriting is a bit like writing jokes, you have a setup and a knockdown,” Francis says. “But I really, really want to make music that makes people feel better, not worse. So I’m trying to push that line.”
If that introduction was somewhat understated, the rest of the album isn’t afraid to delve into more mosaic territory, pulling in influences as far-ranging as Big Star and The Beach Boys; Guided By Voices, Olivia Tremor Control, Apples In Stereo. It’s not just a collection of straightforward love songs either. Companionship might be the central weight here but it’s presented in myriad forms. ‘Comedown’ for instance, tells a complex narrative of two people’s drug dependency, and the validation they find in each other’s abuse, alongside gentle piano lines and stirring strings, while ‘Up & Down’ is breezier affair on the surface but actually tells a bipolar love story, chronicling the relationship between two lovers with manic mood swings, the track itself swinging between tender verses and a dramatic chorus.
Touching upon the universal themes of addiction, faith, and love in all of its confusion, ‘A Dream Is U’ is a collection of characters and stories that plays out something like a Harvey Pekar comic strip; an obsessive chronicle of daily lives twisted into new shapes by the unique mind and manners of their narrator. With flashes of striking colour and an ever-present wry smile, Francis Lung has created a debut album that drifts between simple acceptance and exuberant yearning for more. “My favourite part is when it talks about escaping to another universe,” Francis says of one song in particular, Unnecessary Love. “Although it’s a doomed and impossible dream, it’s amusing to me that if we survive long enough it could be a real possibility.”
Perhaps the key to the record, in fact, can be found in its closing track. Written on a toy piano found in a charity shop, ‘The Lie’ is a boldly stirring pop song, projecting Francis’ own statement of intent, to find a way through the fogginess of self-struggle, to accept ourselves as we are. “I don’t like shouting all my lyrics,” he says, “but it feels like 'If you could accept yourself you'd be happy' is a good one to shout. I don’t want to oversimplify the solution to anybody’s struggles but I know that learning to accept myself would help me no end.”
At times boisterous and radiant, elsewhere contemplative and brooding, ‘A Dream Is U’ feels like being awake in dreams, like stepping outside of the daily rotation; like shadows leaving their dancing bodies to waltz away to their own tune.
by tom johnson.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Imagine Elliott Smith backed by Teenage Fanclub in heaven forever, and you having an idea of the chiming, melodic majesty within the grooves of this record. A total delight!
Barry says: From his superb self-released EP's 'Mother's Son' and 'Faeher's Son', it was clear that Francis lung was indeed something special, and that has become even more obvious with the sparkling hazy beauty of 'A Dream Is U'. Channelling the spirit of swooning 70's psychedelia through a Mancunian dream-pop filter, this is a stunning and groundbreaking debut album proper. Essential listening.
I Wanna Live In My Dreams
A Dream Is U
I Do Believe In U
Up & Down
This is an album about Donald Trump - his dubious rise in politics, his capricious behaviour while in office and the motley cast of characters he has surrounded himself with.
It’s not exactly a protest record, though it is shot through with anger. It’s definitely not a joke, though some of it is darkly funny. It is a tragedy and it is a farce. The songs are sung from different points of view, almost as if it’s a Donald Trump funk musical. One advisor sells Trump on the idea of a border wall. Another one feels he can’t quit because of the chaos that might follow. Rex Tillerson fumes at his plummeting status. Psychiatrists fret about the President’s mental stability. Hillary Clinton laments her loss. Trump himself brags and equivocates in his own unique, blustering style.
45 was written and recorded in a little less than two months during gaps in the schedule at Field Music’s studio in Sunderland. It was inspired by Bob Woodward’s book Fear, articles in the Washington Post, The New Yorker and The New York Times and by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. It was also inspired by James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters, Otis Redding and Free.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: It's an interesting approach to a catastrophic situation, but School Of Language's '45' handles the ridiculousness of the situation with a deserving amount of serious lyricism mixed in with a jaunty, funked-out instrumental focus. The lyrics here really speak volumes, and provide a wry and bleak juxtaposition to the whimsical playful funk.
1. I’ve Got The Numbers
2. Nobody Knows
3. A Beautiful Wall
4. Rocket Man
6. The Goldwater Rule
7. Adult In The Room
8. And Even If I Did
9. Lock Her Up
10. The Best People
Released by Memphis Industries, STONECHILD is Hoop refined and defined. Beautiful, subtle and stark, her fifth album, the follow up to 2017’s highly acclaimed ‘Memories Are Now’, is her best yet.
Despite being a long-term resident of Manchester, Hoop, has until now, returned to her native California to record. This time round however, “it was” according to Hoop “time to step out of my comfort zone, my safe place”, venturing south to Bristol to team up with producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, This is the Kit). Parish’s minimal and purist approach helped clarify Hoop in her ideas and subtly yet effectively realigning her sound. The simplified arrangements draw focus to the fundamental sophistication of the songs.
While Hoop’s trademark finger-plucked guitar and ethereal textures remain, the songs and their presentation are ever more direct. Parish “was a gentle collaborator until he killed one of my darlings” Hoop jests. “I’ve never been so brutally edited, and I wasn’t shy about expressing my discomfort at the sight of my work on the cutting room floor. He said, you will forgive me, and in some way, I think I actually enjoyed that treatment…being stripped back to the bare basics…albeit painfully”. STONECHILD ventures further into fresh territory with other voices joining the narrative, with Kate Stables (aka This is the Kit) Rozi Plain and Lucius singing the choruses and expanding the sensual depth of the sonic bloom.
STONECHILD, Hoop says, is intended to “wrap its arms around our human planet spinning in its increasingly precarious wobble”. These rich and curious songs derived from themes of our troubled times speak Hoop’s heart and mind from her empathetic yet tough loving centre point. With writing so fluid, so natural the result is an album where everything is truly meant.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Gorgeous fingerplucked guitar brings echoes of 60's folk, alt-country and modern brooding indie, all wrapped together with Hoop's delicate, prominent vocal talents. Brilliantly textured but smoothly flowing from one idea to another. A masterclass in restraint and songwriting.
1. Free Of The Feeling (Ft. Lucius)
2. Shoulder Charge (Ft. Lucius)
3. Old Fear Of Father
4. Footfall To The Path
5. Death Row
6. Red White And Black
7. 01 Tear
8. All Time Low
9. Outside Of Eden (Ft. Kate Stables And Justis)
10. Passage's End
11. Time Capsule
STAFF COMMENTSMartin says: Rozi Plain's distinctive, gentle delivery is the glue that binds this follow up to the sublime "Friends" together - it's a fuller, more coherent release than it's predecessor and no less gorgeous.
1. Inner Circle
2. Swing Shut
4. The Gap
5. Old Money
7. Dark Park
10. When There Is No Sun
1. A House On A Boat
2. Hopefully, Again
3. Delusional Boy
5. Giving Up On Me
6. Can’t Stand That
7. If U Call
8. The Snow
9. The Afterdays
10. Song #1
Staring into the infinite oddness of office life was interrupted when Seed “fluked” his way into La Roux’s band - which itself proved a further inspiration for the evolution of Stats. “I'd always been in scrappy indie bands,” he recalls. “Then I met Elly and her crew and thought ‘wow’. This kind of pop music, I always thought it only happened over in Hammersmith, you had to have tens of thousands of pounds and a major label. But I realised you didn’t need a huge budget to make something more stylish than your average band.”
This was a turning point for Seed, recognising he could create his own contemporary version of DIY art pop. “That gave me confidence,” he reflects. “I wanted Stats to be quite theatrical. I wanted it to be strangely glamorous, in a Roxy Music or Pet Shop Boys sort of way. Something that’s glamorous and quite silly. Those bands are very serious about being very silly.”
Debut album “Other People’s Lives”, recorded at RAK studios with the full Stats band (Ed Seed – vox, guitar, John Barrett -drums, Stu Barter - bass, Duncan Brown - guitar, Nicole Robson – keyboards, Iso Waller-Bridge – keyboards, vox) is about investigating the gaps in the stories we tell about our lives. Says Ed, “the world encourages me to experience my life as a narrative: a story in which I am the lead character, going on a journey, moving towards the discovery and realisation of an authentic self. Other people’s lives are presented to me as coherent, relatable stories, full of passion and travel and wonder. But my story makes no sense: it is full of contradictions and formless subplots, and I barely feel like the same actor from one day to the next - let alone find any meaning in it.”
Musically Other People’s Lives is in many ways a time-stamp of a record, something that captures the now, the fleeting, the fickle and the forgotten – like that perfect moment lost on the dance floor. Yet the album avoids being tied to a time and place, ricocheting between 70s art rock, 80s synth grooves and cosmic disco, presented honestly and experimentally via the all-encompassing prism of pop music.
STAFF COMMENTSPatrick says: Duncan from Dutch Uncles hipped me to Stats a few months back (Memphis Industries fam innit), and I was on board instantly. Following the same absurdist pop route as Fujiya & Miyagi or Yacht, but with a touch of Roxy Music glamour, some Talking Heads vocal nods and a whole lot of DFA-style indie dance grooving, Stats are 2019's answer to Hot Chip, Metronomy and Holy Ghost.
I Am An Animal
There Is A Story I Tell About My Life
Rhythm Of The Heart
A Change Of Scenery
Other People's Lives
From A High Sky
The Family Business
A Man Who Makes The Weather
Never Loved Anyone
After meeting at a Kate Bush celebration concert, the pair clicked. “I'd been an admirer of Field Music for a good while before meeting Peter at the gig,” Sarah recalls. “So I was pleased to discover he wasn't an insufferable diva, and delighted that he was keen to try working on some music together.” Peter had been “blown away” by Sarah’s voice during a rendition of “This Woman’s Work” and when investigating her solo work heard a lot of parallels to what he was trying to do in Field Music.
By blending their distinct compositional talents, they’ve created a record that possesses their own clear styles but also a new voice too. With both of them writing songs and lyrics, Peter describes it as “a sort of dual-personal record”. Sonically, the result is a subtly crafted album with a rich and intricate sense of composition, in which strings glide above multi-layered keyboards and percussion, and vocal melodies wrap around one another in snug unison. In many senses it feels like a classic songwriter record - rich in craft, songs, arrangements and vocal interplay - yet it manages to feel stylistically contemporary and void of nostalgia.
Lyrically, Peter says, “most of the songs seemed to either be about conversations, be conversational or about talking or not talking.” Sarah echoes this: “the subject of communication - talking and listening, guessing and questioning - looms large on this record and in general for me. It's something I think about a lot.” Which makes sense given that this record is fundamentally a musical conversation between two new collaborators and friends, a constant back and forth of new ideas, shared influences and the expunging of inner feelings.
Whilst the subject matter can occasionally be personal and explores troubled or conflicted conversations around inner turmoil, there’s also a stirring sense of beauty that comes from the record; a feeling of pastures new and moving onto new things rather than being held back by the past. What makes this an even more remarkable musical statement and achievement is that two first-time collaborators were able to channel so much of themselves into a project and create something coherent and poised.
1. Enough To Notice
2. Get Out Of The Room
3. Foreign Parts
4. Water Cooler
6. No Hurry
7. Clarion Call
9. Invisible Ink
10. Starting Point
Harkening back to her 2011 release Golder, which featured two instrumental tracks, McCallum has taken the instrumental concept a few steps further in a bold musical statement which features no vocals. This time, McCallum’s musicianship and artistry take the lead. Transitioning from the erratic, synth-driven intro of "Credit Forever Part 1" into the deeply enchanting "Give Yourself Away", which blends piano melodies in the style of French Romanticism with the production stylings of Brian Eno to build a sonic landscape which is as lovely as it is uneasy.
In the stoner-metal burner "Syrup", McCallum’s lead guitar swaggers lazily over a fuzzed out, intense layer of distortion, featuring long-time collaborator and guitar wunderkind Jeremy Ylvisaker and Low's Steve Garrington on bass. The intimate and devastating "Pig Latin" showcases McCallum’s extraordinary gift for melody, carried by world class saxophonist Mike Lewis (Happy Apple, Bon Iver), tracked live in Haley's bedroom.
Mixed by Shuta Shinoda (Anna Meredith, Ghostpoet), McCallum’s production shines through in a new light. Sparsely interlacing the organic and digital, Pleasureland moves through the gamut of grief, perception, and empowerment, eliciting both the uneasiness of a world shifting unexpectedly as well as the innate capacity for goodness and beauty. Here, McCallum displays her long time mastery of simple and haunting melodies that remain with the listener long after, replacing explanation through words with a pallet of sonic exploration wrapped up into just twenty-seven minutes.
1. Credit Forever Part 1
2. Give Yourself Away
3. Future Maps
5. Credit Forever Part 2
6. Pig Latin
7. Double Dutchess
8. Next Time (For C)
9. Infinite Pleasure Part 1
10. Infinite Pleasure Part 2
11. Lonely As A Mother
12. Snake Moon
New album Black Rainbow Sound is the band's first new material since early 2017’s Lemon Memory, and after a self-imposed break from tour duties, the album exhibits a profound shift in their sound, whilst still mainlining the blasts of noise, visceral power, and timeless pop songsmithery of their previous releases.
Unlike the bands previous records, Black Rainbow Sound came to life in the bands studio, where Liza Violet and Ryan Needham built dense late-night orchestrations from drum machines, synthesizers, loops and guitar noise, before being ripped apart and reimagined by the full Menace Beach cast at The Nave studio in Leeds with co-producer Matt Peel (Eagulls).
Never ones to shy away from an intriguing collaboration, Black Rainbow Sound contains songs featuring Brix Smith of The Fall, and Brix and the Extricated. “The synchronicity of the universe just forced us and Brix together. The very day l finished reading her biography she played us on her BBC 6music show along with a wonderfully out-there monologue of how the song made her feel. I said thanks, we got chatting and it went from there. She’s a burning comet of positive energy”.
On Black Rainbow Sound, Menace Beach continue to explore their own unique aesthetic, venturing much further into a colourful world of bizzaro no-wave analogue synths and static drenched electronic euphoria, which they have been circling for some time.
Lustrous, dizzying, and bursting with cacophonous vintage electronics - the sounds on Black Rainbow Sound act as an otherworldly backdrop for the album's enigmatic lyrics to play out. Celestial conversations, night terrors, love, anti-love, good vs evil, light vs dark, friendly crows, death, depression, and teenage tongues and are all here to absorb; the more introspective topics often hidden in plain sight atop celebratory choruses, and melodic hooks.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Menace Beach go all cosmic on their latest, 'Black Rainbow Sound'. We get clicking CR-78's, throbbing distorted bass and blipping, sample & hold sine waves enriched with heavy guitars and woozy, shimmering vox. Properly lovely.
1. Black Rainbow Sound
3. Crawl In Love
6. 8000 Molecules
7. Hypnotiser Keeps The Ball Rolling
8. Holy Crow
10. (Like) Rainbow Juice
Lomax is writ large on Old Rockhounds... at least in spirit anyway. Odetta plays all the instruments on this and her debut 222, which made problematic the changeovers between songs when playing live. Field recordings the singer had collected on her travels were utilized to make such transitions seamless, and so successful was that intermingling of songs and soundscapes that they’ve transitioned into the recording process. It makes for a strangely intimate listen: tingly and a little tipsy: an album for twilight, sitting within the nocturnal hinterland between dusk and somnambulance - candlelit and confidential - a time for stories and secrets.
So far, so old skool. And yet, Old Rockhounds Never Die also embraces modernity without ever sounding incongruous. The mix of manipulated 21st century beats and the musical traditions of centuries meet at a crossroads and consummate their curiosity without inhibition. It’ll probably not surprise anyone listening to the album then that its a co-production. Odetta writes and performs all the songs while her partner Jack Inslee is in the background bringing the digital dark arts. Experimenting with found sounds & foley, the two have developed a sonic vernacular built around playing around with a-typical instruments. Hartman explains: “Many of the beats on the album were recorded in the kitchen: the snare sound is actually a running faucet, or if you hear these glockenspiel bells that's actually a set of kitchen bowls. Other percussive elements include scissors, a pepper grinder and keys on the radiator.”
1. Old Rockhounds
2. Cowboy Song
3. You You
4. Widow's Peak
5. Sweet Teeth
8. Smoke Break
9. The Ocean
14. Carbon Copy
15. (Still Alive)
Fronted by ice cool vocalist Channy Leanagh (who sang with Gayngs), produced by Ryan Olson and featuring Mike Noyce from Bon Iver, it’s a who’s who of the current Twin Cities scene.
Continuing the tradition of having friends in high places, with Prince and Kanye West among Gayngs fans, Poliça have already been backed by none other than Jay Z, who posted their video for the new for single ‘Lay Your Cards Out’ on his Life + Times blog.
The result is 11 perfectly formed auto-tuned songs that re-shape the intersection of pop and digitised R&B. And for all Poliça’s synthetic manipulation, Channy’s soft vocals and Ryan’s electronic soundscapes reveal a tender heart beneath, pulsating with life and raw emotion.
‘Give You The Ghost’ opens with the attention grabbing sonic of first track ‘Amongster’, the two drummers immediately coming into full effect as it builds to a heady mass of beats, bass and Channy’s wandering vocals. ‘Violent Games’ continues the heavy on the drums theme, with duelling beats that intensify to machine gun-like levels, led by Channy’s urgent and cyclical vocals.
Born out of the break-up of a recent relationship, the majority of ‘Give You The Ghost’ reflects the difficulty of facing up to your mistakes and making peace with them; an exorcism via exciting new musical possibilities. “The recurring theme of this record is ‘what in the hell just happened and who in the hell am I anyways,” says Channy. This redemptive mood is key for the track ‘Dark Star’. Backed by smooth brass breakdowns throughout and mid-tempo loping rhythms, it’s typical of Poliça’s often meditative content.
‘Lay Your Cards Out’ and the dreamy ‘Wandering Star’ both feature Mike Noyce of Bon Iver on vocals and are equally as deliciously funk laden as they are hypnotic, with more ratatat drums from Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, propelling the lush arrangements and slinky bass, provided by Chris Bierden.
“Poliça deals in a type of R&B inflected electronic music that defies explanation... Music with this many synthetic textures and vocal treatments has rarely sounded so natural” - Spinner
“A swirly combination of layered rhythms, some awesomely manipulated vocals and a dragged-out, slow motion feel... the perfect soundtrack to an almost-winter weekend” - Nylon
“Ryan Olson and singer Channy Leanagh lead the group, Channy front and centre with her potently echoed voice riding over forward drums and driving bass” - The Fader
I See My Mother
Lay Your Cards Out
Fist, Teeth, Money
Happy Being Fine
Leading To Death
Slug is the nom de plume of North East native Ian Black and, whereas acclaimed debut album ‘Ripe’ was made in collaboration with Peter Brewis and David Brewis of Field Music, ‘HiggledyPiggledy’ was composed, produced and played entirely by Black, enabling him to give free reign to his beguiling brand of Dada-rock.
Lead track ‘No Heavy Petting’ was consciously written to be an aggressive album opener, which pokes fun at Black’s own Mary Whitehouse-esque response to the sexualisation of music on television.
The album was inspired by a combination of The Residents, John Carpenter and the soundtracks of Don Cherry (particularly ‘Holy Mountain’) and Masahiko Sato (particularly ‘Belladonna’) plus the Dada art movement which will be self-evident to anyone who’s seen the hilarious and life affirming Slug live experience, replete with ever changing stage wear (snooker players, sailors, 50s jazz combo) and spontaneous crowd participation.
Black intended ‘HiggledyPiggledy’ to be a more minimal affair than debut ‘Ripe’, focussed more on rhythm and percussion. Thematically the record was written against the backdrop of political turmoil but really it’s about the strange life Black leads in his native Sunderland, an autodidact outsider living his life in Wetherspoons arguing with some of the questionable attitudes of locals. Blacks stated aim to “have fun writing truly horrible lyrics,” playing characters “venting in pubs, writing in the character of how some people think and behave.”
No Heavy Petting
You Don't Need To Wake Up
Humming And Hawing
A Soft Shoe Number
Arbitrary Lessons In Custom
You Are As Cold As A Dead Fish
‘Lier’, Mathé’s brand new album, is the perfect sonic story to accompany these big life changes and as a result, his most personal record to date. Across the 10 tracks, ‘Lier’ is a hugely uplifting and cathartic record that takes you from the depths of his intricate and wonderful creative mind to the wider wonderful emotions that come with becoming a father.
Picking up where 2015’s ‘Imager’ left off, ‘Lier’ is further electronic wizardry from Barbarossa - one of the UK’s finest song writing talents. This time, his vocal is at the forefront on some of the most accessible pop songs he’s ever written.
‘Don’t Enter Fear’ is the perfect way to introduce the record. Written on the piano in his parent’s house, it encapsulates everything that the whole album represents and is ultimately a reminder to himself not to be scared of the seismic changes in both his own life and the political world around him.
‘Lier’ was written and recorded with Mathé’s producer friend Ghost Culture in Margate with percussion and drumming skills supplied by Joel Wästberg AKA Sir Was and artwork by fellow Margate dweller Tom Vek. The album is focused on the theme of geographic and personal change - ‘Cyclone’, the album opener for example, focuses on the move from city to sea and the calm and space that can bring, whilst album title track ‘Lier’ was inspired by swimming in the Walpole Bay tidal pool.
Inspiration comes from everywhere - ‘Aluminium Skies’ was written in Gothenburg, Sweden whilst James was on the road with José Gonzalez (he plays in the José Gonzalez live band), whilst ‘Thickening Air’ was inspired by the classic songwriters that Mathé obsesses over - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Brian Wilson and Joni Mitchell.
What unites the songs on ‘Lier’ are central themes of loss, love and confronting who you are as time moves on and things change within and out of your control. By the end of the record you are left with the feeling that when things are simplified, they are at their most beautiful.
Don’t Enter Fear
Feel My Sins
But there's no gloom here. For Peter and David Brewis, playing together in their small riverside studio has been a joyful exorcism. Open Here is the last in a run of five albums made at the studio, an unprepossessing unit on a light industrial estate in Sunderland. Whilst the brothers weren't quite tracking while the wrecking balls came, the eviction notice received in early 2017 gave them a sense of urgency in the recording of Open Here.
There probably won't be many other rock records this year, or any year, which feature quite so much flute and flugelhorn (alongside the saxophones, string quartet and junk box percussion). But somehow or other, it comes together. Over thirteen years and six albums, Field Music have managed to carve a niche where all of these sounds can find a place; a place where pop music can be as voracious as it wants to be.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Oh Field music, will your jagged chords and thumping, percussive oddness never grow weary? Apparently not, because here we have another outing that hasn't been off the shop stereo since we got the promo a few weeks back. We're all still enamoured here, and you will be too.
Time In Joy
Count It Up
Front Of House
Share A Pillow
Goodbye To The Country
Checking On A Message
No King No Princess
Find A Way To Keep Me
More akin to poetry set to music, Nadine is all about exploring feeling. Whilst most poets revel in the personal, Nadine's process is collaborative whose core is singer Nadia Hulett (part of the loose collective Phantom Posse) and Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez (both of Ava Luna). The trio's practice is marked by their commitment to playfulness, curiosity, and fluidity.
Nadine's songs have one foot standing firm in pop, but ebb and flow with exploration and experiment. Polyphonic melodies swing and gambol, instrumental layers take generous flourishes and unexpected turns with an ear to the wondrous and occasionally weird, crafting jazz-tinged lounge-pop all held together by Hulett’s characteristic vocals, strong with a sincerity and gentleness that holds the listener. Let go of old ideas. Listen for tricks of the light. What does it feel like?
Not My Kinda Movie
That Neon Sign
Little Self In The Garden
Can’t Be Helped
Peace In The Valley
The Go! Team is the brainchild of one man: Brighton-based, melody-obsessed Ian Parton. But its membership has never been exclusive. Throughout the years, The Go! Team has included on its squad-sheet everyone from Deerhoof to Chuck D to a legion of undiscovered Bandcamp singers. Unlike the group's 2015 album, The Scene Between - which was essentially a solo project that followed the dissolution of the previous Go! Team lineup - their fifth album Semicircle sees Ian collaborating with current live players Simone Odaranile (drums) and Angela 'Maki' Won-Yin Mak (vocals), plus original Team members Sam Dook (guitar) and Ninja (irrepressible rapping).
Ian had the idea of a school marching band gone rogue, chucking away their sheet music to blast out Northern soul stompers or Japanese indie-pop swooners or old-school hip-hop jams. "I like the swing and the toughness of marching bands, the physicality of feeling a beater walloping a bass drum," explains Ian, "but I wanted to reclaim them from patriotic or sporty associations. That was the kick-off for this record." But his extensive sample library could only take him so far. To fully realise his vision, he knew he had to reach out and entice a group of unlikely new collaborators into the Go! Team fold.
So Ian made a pilgrimage to Detroit - city of Motown and The Stooges, of musical (and actual) revolution - where he hooked up with The Detroit Youth Choir. Their age was key; he didn't want kids (too twee), but he didn't want adults either, with all their emotional baggage and wariness and tendency to over sing. He also wanted to avoid the religious connotations of a church or gospel choir. "I've always had a thing for gang vocals and group singing, particularly the roughness of community choirs," says Ian. "Normally they might be singing show tunes or whatever, but I like the idea of getting people to do something they wouldn't normally do. I like making things happen that wouldn't otherwise happen. It's always a gamble, but in this case it paid off."
These inspiring sessions began to define the album. The choir's ebullient chanting is all over the opening track "Mayday," a morse-code-inspired soul belter about a love emergency, in the proud lineage of "Rescue Me" and "SOS." They bring the album to a rousing, defiant conclusion on "Getting Back Up." In between, they reveal a little more about themselves on the heart warming "Semicircle Song." When Ian needed a lo-fi R&B vocal for "Chain Link Fence" - kooky and soulful but not slick or drenched in melisma - he approached a Detroit high school. "I love the idea of recording people who wouldn't think of themselves as singers, who perhaps have never been recorded before."
But this is a Go! Team record, so routine is outlawed; there are a multitude of other voices to be heard, sometimes in the course of the same song. Best-known among them is probably Utrecht indie-rocker Annelotte de Graaf AKA Amber Arcades, whose Dutch-accented English lends a unique flavour to "Plans Are A Dream U Organise." Previous collaborator Julie Margat AKA Lispector delivers "Hey!''s breathy French interlude. And sassy girl group kiss-off "The Answer's No - Now What's The Question" is fronted by Houston based Darenda Weaver, a Texan Mod that Ian found on Bandcamp.
The band's own Maki helms "If There's One Thing You Should Know" with panache, and of course no Go! Team record would be complete without an appearance from Ninja, who unleashes a volley of verbal stingers on "She Got Guns." Meanwhile, the charmingly unaffected rapping on "All The Way Live" is sampled from a 1983 "after-school hip-hop project" Ian found on one of his epic crate-digging adventures. He considered asking a contemporary rapper to re-record it, but decided it would be impossible for anyone to unlearn 35 years of hip-hop history. Capturing those moments of authentic joy, unburdened by cynicism and ambition, is what Semicircle is all about.
In keeping with the album's marching band theme, Ian stacked up sousaphones, glockenspiels and steel drums, mic'ing them all from a distance to recreate that gymnasium sound. The effect is a kaleidoscopic cacophony, almost as if the sound itself is bent and refracted in the metallic curves of a trumpet - comforting and intoxicating at the same time. "It's recognisable as a Go! Team record but it takes the sound to a new place."
Although Semicircle isn't bogged down by polemical responses to the issues of today, there are still some valuable life lessons to be learned. Ian emphasizes that the vibrant utopia he and his cohorts have created on their fifth album is not an escapist fantasy but a potentially achievable goal. "It's about reminding yourself of the good things in life," says Ian. "We don't want to be dumbly optimistic and say, 'Hey, isn't everything great!' but there's something to be said for just getting on with it, for getting organised and not letting the fuckers get you down. Party for your right to fight!"
As always, it's good to know The Go! Team are on your side.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: If I had a team, and I wanted them to go, i'd probably just expect them to know that that was their goal, and to do it prompt-free but that's probably what separates me from Ian Parton. Also the fact that i've not just released my brilliant new album, shining with insistent jangling chaos, and he has.
Chain Link Fence
The Answer's No - Now What's The Question?
Chico's Radical Decade
All The Way Live
If There's One Thing You Should Know
Tangerine / Satsuma / Clementine
She's Got Guns
Plans Are Like A Dream U Organise
Getting Back Up
The Cornshed Sisters are Jennie Brewis, Cath Stephens, Liz Corney (moonlighting from the Field Music band) and Marie Nixon (erstwhile of 90s upstarts Kenickie); four singersongwriters based in Tyne and Wear, who weave together pop, folk, ballad and protest music into a unique and distinctive style.
The Cornshed Sisters have been away for a while (their last album, ‘Tell Tales’, was released back in 2012) but we can probably let them off as they’ve been using the time well, becoming mothers, bringing millions of pounds of funding into major Sunderland arts projects, recording and touring with Field Music and somehow making time to write songs and record this album together.
Drawing on a palette of solo and harmony vocals and a blend of acoustic and electronic instruments, they convey their stories with sensitivity and humour. Their subject matter is love, motherhood, fake happiness, friendship, family, feminism and the increasing complexities of life as you get older but no wiser. The band are proud to write about their experiences as women and their songwriting always has a stark realism to it - as Marie puts it when discussing the track ‘We Have Said This Is Impossible’: “True love is buggering off together in a Ford Focus.”
Their lawless approach to being a band is grounded on Wide Open by Burke’s songwriting, which is both more focused and more personal than on past releases. Burke writes in disciplined bursts, which on the last record consisted of isolated sessions with a looping pedal and a guitar recorded as voice memos on her iPhone, but this time around she varied her technique, often writing on an acoustic guitar, which expanded her songwriting palette in unexpected directions. Both Burke and Waters half-jokingly refer to the album as their “Americana” record, and while the statement is made with tongues placed firmly in cheeks, the album, without discarding the punky pyrotechnics that defined their first LP, displays an expansive and anthemic quality in songs like the opener “#53” and the sweeping “Walkaway,” that makes the joke ring half true.
The record sees Burke extend herself as a performer - moving more frequently to the center of arrangements and revealing new facets of her unique and powerful singing voice - as the band find ways to interpret the growing diversity of her expression. From the glammy Saturday night strut of “Slicked,” to the stripped-down, pedal steel abetted torch song “Wide Open,” to the searing “Scream,” a warped duet with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq that likely constitutes Weaves’ wildest recording to date, the album captures a band for whom exploration is a compulsion making a self-assured step into the unknown.
Wireless World is loosely themed around a present-day that teeters between progress and collapse. The band explain, “Our experience of the world and our states of mind are shaped and thrilled by unimaginably exciting leaps in technology, and yet that world will only last for a few moments as we fail to find a way to act collectively on rising temperatures, the failures of democracy and the unstoppable hunger for exploitation of the ground under our feet. This record is our attempt to make music from our experience of this present that teeters between celebration and devastation.”
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Dynamic Karutrock-inspired breakdowns, soaring synths and dreamlike, hazy shoegazing vocals mix into a euphoric and satisfying melting pot. Brilliant stuff.
Two To Four Degrees
End Times (feat. Field Music)
Better Friction (feat. Mia La Metta)
Victims Of Geology
Growth Of Raindrops (feat. Sarah Cracknell)
Deluge And Delusion
The Rumble And The Tremor (feat. Devon Sproule)
Swallow The City
Big Balloon is the latest chapter in Dutch Uncles’ brilliantly witty, hip-swiveling, left-field adventures. Taking musical inspiration from Kate Bush's The Red Shoes, Low-era David Bowie, some slightly-less fashionable records belonging to their Dads and East European techno, it's the fifth Dutch Uncles studio album and the follow-up to 2015's acclaimed O Shudder.
Functioning as ten distinct pieces, each tackling a different topic, including austerity cuts, therapy, fried chicken, paranoia and coming to terms with loneliness, Big Balloon is Dutch Uncles’ finest album to date, taking listeners on an exhilarating cerebral journey.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Bracing, inventive, catchy electronic-tinged indie at it's very finest. Never afraid to stray from conventions but managing to keep the hooks flowing, DU deliver both a benchmark and a triumph.
1. Big Balloon
3. Combo Box
4. Same Plane Dream
8. Oh Yeah
Written in Ibiza and recorded in Sheffield with Ross Orton (MIA, Arctic Monkeys, The Fall) “Lemon Memory” is in part an effort to lift a citrus based curse – trust us, it’s a real thing - Ryan and Liza believe was placed on their house, via the hexbreaking power of music. It’s also the sound of a band finding their own identity, edging closer to some sort of grimy truth.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Dynamic swooning rock, pulsing indie anthems and pummelling breakdowns, brilliantly textured choruses, and fantastic counterpoint male/female vocals. A clever and immensely listenable tour de force of emotion and drive.
Maybe We'll Drown
Can’t Get A Haircut
Suck It Out
Watch Me Boil
It’s been nine years since we last heard from Blue States, the moniker for the musical outlet of Andrew Dragazis. Recorded, produced and, for the most part, played by Dragazis at his Lightwell studios in Stoke Newington, London, ‘Restless Spheres’ doffs its cap to the soundtracks of Budd and Morricone, to 60s Greek bands such as The Forminx, to German electronic pioneers Dieter Moebius and Michael Rother and to American minimalist composers Steve Reich and Phillip Glass.
Blue States began nearly twenty years ago with the young, movie soundtrack obsessed Dragazis writing and recording largely instrumental, electronic pieces alone at his parent’s house in Sussex. Music had always been around in his family, his father having been involved in the Greek pop scene of the 1960’s, jamming in Athenian clubs alongside pre-Aphrodite’s Child legends Demis Roussos and Vangelis.
The recordings found their way to nascent electronic label Memphis Industries, who went on to release a succession of 12”s including the smooth electro sweep of ‘The Trainer Shuffle’ and the filmic ‘Yé-Yé’ stylings of ‘Your Girl’. An album, ‘Nothing Changes Under The Sun’, followed in 2000 and became a surprise hit, seeing Dragazis form a band, tour the world, remix Future Sound Of London, work with Roy Wood and sign to XL Recordings. Subsequent albums ‘Man Mountain’ and ‘The Soundings’ saw Dragazis work with more traditional song structures (including ‘Season Song’, the title track of cult Zombie flick ‘28 Days Later’) and collaborate with vocalists Ty Bulmer, latterly of New Young Pony Club and old school friend Chris Carr. 2007’s ‘First Steps Into...’ saw Dragazis revert to working solo and heralded a return to his electronic origins with more extended, free form soundscapes.
On ‘Restless Spheres’ Dragazis draws on all four of his previous albums to create something entirely different, an album imbued with a subtle majesty and hope filled melancholy.
Beyond The White Light
Fight The Dying Day
Protect Me Everywhere
Recorded on analogue tape at Pachyderm Studios, Minnesota and produced by Haley Bonar and Jacob Hansen, ‘Impossible Dream’ is the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Last War’, which enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and featured in NPR and Village Voice’s Albums Of The Year lists.
‘Impossible Dream’ is Bonar’s most ambitious record to date. Blending scuzzy 1980s indie, new wave angularity and Spectorish reverb, her songs are, as NPR once described, “as relentlessly catchy on the surface, as they are alluringly complex underneath.”
Hypnotic opener ‘Hometown’ shimmers like a Twin Peaks outtake, the shuddering, swirling ‘Kismet Kill’ recalls Mazzy Star, while the soaring synth and pounding drums of ‘Stupid Face’ summons the spirit and melody of ‘Porcupine’ era Echo And The Bunnymen.
Intrepid and diverse, ‘Impossible Dream’ is consistently bold, infectious and inventive.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Huge pop melodies and 80's classic indie vibes pervade on this instantly likeable new album from Haley Bonar. Could be the feel good hit of the summer.
Your Mom Is Right
I Can Change
Called You Queen
Better Than Me
Blue Diamonds Fall
The group began in a series of sessions in the living room of Water’s Chinatown apartment, where Waters and Burke would record increasingly elaborate demos built from Burke’s phone full of songs. They transitioned to a full band line up in late 2013, adding bassist Zach Bines and drummer Spencer Cole, and quickly set to work recording their debut EP which was released on Buzz Records in the summer of 2014. The EP made an immediate splash, garnering praise from Noisey, Rookie and Spin, and earning Weaves a “band to watch” tag from Rolling Stone. Glowing write ups of the band’s performances at that year’s CMJ from The Guardian and NME followed, cementing Weaves’ reputation as one of the year's most exciting new bands.
Word continued to spread in 2015 with the release of their single “Tick,” ahead of the band’s first European tour, which included dates with Hinds, Dan Deacon and Pissed Jeans, and appearances at Glastonbury and Iceland Airwaves. With their already sterling live show only sharpened by their time on the road, the band returned to CMJ in October and emerged as one of the hottest acts of the festival, earning "best of the festival" write ups from NPR and The New York Times among others, and further building the anticipation for their forthcoming full length.
Weaves have been working on their debut LP for almost as long as they have been a band, tracking with Leon Taheny (Dilly Dally, Owen Pallett, Austra) in sessions that span most of the last two years. Mixed by Alex Newport (Bloc Party, Melvins, At The Drive In) and mastered by John Greenham (Death Grips, Sky Ferreira), the result is an album that traverses the band’s history, exploring every facet of their always adventurous approach to pop music and leaving no idea unexplored. Filled beyond bursting with hooks and possibilities, it’s the sound of a band propelled forward by the thrill of discovering the limits of their sound and gleefully pushing past them. “We’re always trying to push ourselves,” says Waters, “sometimes it feels like bands aren’t necessary, like they’re not the ones pushing music forward, so I think we’re trying to hopefully prove that bands aren’t boring. If we are going to be a band and if we are going to do this guitar, bass and drums thing then we might as well see how much we can fuck it up.”
The record, a tribute to their hometown of Minneapolis, was named after the graffiti tag seen throughout the city as a reminder of its bleak past and uncertain future and is short for “United States of Dreams Be Crushed.” Even at its darkest, the record is musically the band's most upbeat and celebratory. It is a weapon meant to empower the weak, the forgotten, and the disenfranchised; its very creation an act of rebellion in the face of the hopelessness that casts such a long shadow over Middle America's slow urban decline.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: This record, more so than 2014's Shulamith oozes a sort of dystopian dread, displayed through repetitive synth-swells and rippling arpeggios. Though this is in many ways a record about decay, it seems hopeful, like there is something to be gained by adapting. Through adversity comes triumph. This is a bleak yet upbeat offering, dynamic, and exciting.
All this is present again but things are different this time. Where 'Plumb' was an album of vignettes and segues, 'Commontime' edges towards what people might call “proper songs”. Field Music have never shown off their unashamed love of choruses quite like they do on this record. Lyrically, Peter and David continue to mine that inexhaustible seam wondering how on earth we ended up here, in this situation, as these people. Over fourteen songs, conversations are replayed and friendships are left to drift. And all the while, that thing you were trying to remember has changed while your head was turned.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: The Brewis brothers return with more perfectly realised funky, melodic, math-pop (and not forgetting 70's rock!?) nuggets. It's an incredible blend that's just built for repeated listens. Possibly their best yet.
The Noisy Days Are Over
But Not For You
Don’t You Want To Know
How Should I Know If You've Changed?
Trouble At The Lights
They Want You To Remember
It's A Good Thing
The Morning Is Waiting
The follow up to 2012’s well-received self-titled album, ‘Infinite Summer’ sees main man Michael Lovett joined by Charlotte Hatherley (Bat For Lashes, Ash) and Sarah Jones (Hot Chip), to create a record that marries sci-fi futurism to personal intimacies. Since NZCA Lines’ debut, Lovett has honed his skills in the studio with Christine & The Queens and touring as part of Metronomy’s live band.
The record unfurls through brooding, sensual beats, dazzling synths and melancholic vocals that take you on a different journey on every track. Whilst ‘Infinite Summer’ and ‘Do It Better’ focus on the idea of an enlarged sun that would bring us joy and terror, there are glimmers of Michael’s personal life running throughout such as standout single ‘Two Hearts’ dealing as it does with long distance connections maintained via satellites and fibre optic cables.
Infinite Summer’s hyper melodicism sees NZCA Lines explore stellar new territories that position them as one of 2016 most enticing and rewarding prospects.
In the humdrum everyday world, the corporal version of Pure Bathing Culture has for the last few years been growing naturally and at a steady pace. However new album ‘Pray For Rain’ sees them make an evolutionary leap, taking their finely honed metaphysical pop to a new level.
You can hear it in the opening notes of their anthemic title track: in Hindman’s clean yet serpentine guitar lines interacting with the live rhythm section and Versprille’s lucid vocals cutting through it all as she asks: “Is it pleasure? Is it pain? Did you pray for rain?” You can hear it in the sweet pop perfection of ‘Clover’ and the trembling beauty of ‘She Shakes’, a story of two fantasy characters from different worlds being brought to an intense, fragile state through the experience of falling in love.
When it came time to write and record the follow-up to last year’s ‘Moon Tides’, the duo knew what they didn’t want. “We didn’t gravitate towards someone making indie dream-pop records,” Dan said. That was when producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans, Angel Olsen, The Walkmen) reached out to the band and invited them to come record with him in his Dallas, TX studio.
It was a taxing yet ultimately rewarding experience when the album was completed. “It was shocking to hear what the finished product was,” Sarah said. “It was like being in a vortex and then we came out with this record.” She adds with a laugh something John Congleton told her when all was said and done: “You were very brave.”
‘Pray For Rain’ is the sound of Pure Bathing Culture transforming from who they were to who they will be, of finding their way, ready to take steps both small and momentous on their musical path.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Gently persuasive synth'n'guitar pop chimes, prettily topped with Sarah Versprille's engaging vocals. Gorgeous.
New Zealand based The Phoenix Foundation are all set to return with their new and sixth studio album Give Up Your Dreams. It’s a shrewd and vibrant reminder that in The Phoenix Foundation’s gloriously absurd world of Technicolour pop, it’s the challenges you set yourself that reap the greatest rewards. “Give Up Your Dreams could sound like a defeat but it represents something quite defiant, joyous and celebratory” exclaims co-frontman Samuel Scott of the record’s infectious rhythmic driven sound and optimistic feel.
After huge success, sales and awards in their homelands it was 2011’s breakthrough album Buffalo and 2013's colossal double album 'Fandango' that saw the band reach a more global audience - 5 star reviews, ‘Later... with Jools Holland’ and Glastonbury followed. Which brings us to Give Up Your Dreams, the sound of a band with the pressure-off, embracing a freedom to explore and hone their sound at their own pace.
Channelling Fandango’s beauteous side, but this time fuelled by a spit ball of irrepressible energy, Give Up Your Dreams feels like the band’s most contemporary offering yet. With the new addition of drummer Chris O’Connor, the album was written taking its lead from the rhythm section for the very first time; paving the way for an all new creative process. “I was convinced we had to have a different sounding record,” explains Scott’s counterpart singer/guitarist Lukasz Buda. “So we completely removed any trace of acoustic guitar. It was important to leave room for the band to take it somewhere else and make way for a new vitality.”
Recorded within the pow-wow setting of the band’s Car Club HQ in Wellington, it's the first time the band felt totally comfortable and confident in taking on production duties entirely themselves. “The mood when we were recording was so easy, so cordial,” recalls Scott. Taking a free form approach from Chris and bass guitarist/vocalist Tom Callwood’s experiences in the city’s improv and experimental scene, the album’s cosmic vibes are an upshot of utilising gadgets to shapeshift each sound. Whilst synths were always built into the Foundation’s musical make-up, this time around they’re placed centre stage; “we spent a great deal of time messing with an old Eventide H3000. There would be very few sounds we didn’t try to mess with,” says Scott. “We turned all the cool and interesting sounds up loud so nothing was competing in the mix and you can actually hear the trippy shit.”
Thematically and lyrically the group typically took inspiration from various of sources. The dazzling title-track is a frank deglamourisation of life on the road spurred on by a conversation with dear friend, collaborator, and fellow New Zealander Lawrence Arabia. The energetic ‘Mountain’ is the ultimate counterpoint; an afro-kraut groove with layers of Television-inspired guitars and dreamscapes about the 'money men' controlling the world. ‘Playing Dead’ nearly didn’t make it further than the cutting room floor but was revived thanks to the photographs in a 1950s Time Life essay on the Ona people of Tierra Del Fuego in southern Chile and their ghost rituals. Elsewhere in 'Jason' Luke sings about both the mother of his children and his ‘band wife’ (Samuel Scott) being struck down with sciatica and being reliant on string painkillers to function, touching on the fear of ageing in the process. Album closer 'Myth' was inspired by the writings of St. Isidore of Seville who in the 19th Century attempted to compile all human knowledge.
“After 15 years together, this album feels like a total rebirth to us" reveals Buda "it's uplifting feel comes as an act of defiance against all our fears in life.” Take The Phoenix Foundation’s advice then: give up your dreams and good things will happen to you too. Scott concludes “It’s a mantra about letting go, worrying less, and enjoying your reality instead of always wanting more.”
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: A more muscular, propulsive take on their trademark chiming, Flying Nun style otherness. Tunes still intact!
Bob Lennon John Dylan
Give Up Your Dreams
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: An expansive and elegant sound that hints at a combination of Talk Talk, Field Music, Japan and the Dutch Uncles. Released on the ever dependable Memphis Industries label.
Wind Or Vertigo
On The Water, On The Way
Cold Light Home
“A great example of someone following their musical instincts into new areas and finding success” - Drowned in Sound
“Mathé employs his soft soul falsetto over juddering beats, double-time drum claps and a synth riff… a revelation” - The Guardian
Barbarossa, the nom de plume of Londoner James Mathé, follows 2013 album ‘Bloodlines’ with ‘Imager’ on Memphis Industries. ‘Imager’ is a cerebral, slow-burning album, tinged with melancholy and an alluring humanism.
Mathé’s musical journey started with folk-tinged balladry that saw him become part of the Fence Collective and subsequently a band member for the likes of José González, Johnny Flynn and Junip. With ‘Bloodlines’ Mathé started to infuse his songwriting with electronic flourishes and now, with ‘Imager’, he completes his transformation into fully fledged electronic soul pioneer.
Working with co-producer Ash Workman (Metronomy, Summer Camp) Mathé builds on the foundations provided by his organic approach to songwriting, to build elegiac electronic anthems that are filled with a simple, poignant immediacy.
‘Imager’ is pervaded with a sense of disquiet, perhaps driven subconsciously by the fact that the spaces where creativity and culture flourish in London are rapidly disappearing; that the artistic communities that Mathé grew up with are being driven out of London due to financial pressures and, as a result, something vital is being lost. Yet while the album deals in displacement and heartbreak, a sense that everything is in flux, there are redemptive moments to stir the soul.
‘Silent Island’ is perhaps the best example of this. Its melancholic refrain “this city holds no beauty for me” giving way to a blissful yet propulsive chorus that suggests creativity will always find a way.
Elsewhere, ‘Settle’ is the sound of dislocation in the big city, a questioning of how to respond to your surroundings as they become increasingly alien.
The languid ‘Home’, which features a guest vocal from José González, is the light to ‘Settles’ shade; its phrase “you’re one of the lucky ones...” providing reassurance and redemption.
‘Imager’ is the sound of Barbarossa stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight as a talent to be reckoned with in his own right, questioning his surroundings, his own creativity and coming up with answers that are compelling, affecting and thoughtful.
The composition was originally commissioned for a live performance and screening of ‘Drifters’ at 2013's Berwick Film Festival and Field Music (featuring Peter and David Brewis plus original keyboardist Andy Moore) will be performing the score again at screenings of the film across April and May.
Silver colour vinyl, silver board gatefold sleeve.
Limited to 750 copies.
Taking inspiration from film soundtracks (Enter the Dragon, Suspiria), 20th century abstract and minimalist music but also the rock and funk chops of Led Zeppelin, Prince and Funkadelic, the resulting album is concise, unselfconscious, idiosyncratic and exquisitely executed. Animators brothers quay, Phil Mulloy and Jan Svankmajer oblique approaches to subject matter also rubbed off on black and lend the slug album an air of the hypnagogic. 'Ripe' opener grimacing mask tackles how to break the cycle of personal and work related problems. Cockeyed rabbit wrapped in plastic focuses on the rocky foundations of apparently immutable institutions of power. 'Greasy Mind' is the most pop moment on the album that sees Zeppelin matched with 80's Madonna and screaming guitar solos. Running to get past your heart rides a wave of simplicity with a three note distorted bass riff, a one line chorus purely based on the phonetics, bongos and drums recorded with two vocal mics. 'Kill Your Darlings' is a straight to video horror film soundtrack dealing with how, as an artist, you have to avoid treating each creation like one of your kids. The album was recorded at Field Music's Roker studio with Peter and David Brewis on production duties. The Field Music brothers also return the favour for Black who toured extensively with their band as bassist. They play on the album and in the surreally fun yet precision engineered live band where they're joined by Andrew Lowther on bass and Rhys Patterson.
It was playing with Field Music that gave Ian the impetus to start Slug "you cannot be on the road for a year with the guys and not feel inspired. sometimes that helps create a sense of self belief that you can create your own thing.....however delusional that maybe." Slug have made one of the year's most inventive and rewarding debut long players. 2015 is 'Ripe' for their picking.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Hugely cute indie-pop with an occasional shoegazey bent. Effervescent as ever!
What D'You Say?
The Scene Between
Waking The Jetstream
Rolodex The Seasons
Did You Know?
Gaffa Tape Bikini
Catch Me On The Rebound
The Floating Felt Tip
Her Last Wave
The Art Of Getting By (Song For Heaven's Gate)
Reason Left To Destroy
What D'You Say?
The Scene Between
Waking The Jetstream
Rolodex The Seasons
Did You Know?
Gaffa Tape Bikini
Catch Me On The Rebound
The Floating Felt Tip
Her Last Wave
The Art Of Getting By (Song For Heaven's Gate)
Reason Left To Destroy
With O Shudder, Dutch Uncles continue their fascinating, wonky ascent which has seen them play enormodomes with emo punk rock behemoths and self confessed Dutch Uncles acolytes Paramore, supporting and being supported by like minded left-field pop adventurers Wild Beasts, Outfit, Field Music, and Everything Everything, have a burger named after them by one of Manchester’s premiere eateries and prefigure Future Islands’ dance moves meme in their video for 2013 single Flexxin.
The album was recorded with long term collaborator Brendan Williams in three locations; at a studio in the heart of the Welsh valleys, above a Salford pub, ‘The Kings Arms’, (incidentally where C4 comedy Fresh Meat is filmed) and, for the acoustic instruments, in the natural reverb of Salford’s Peel Hall. The band were meticulous in tweaking their synth sounds so they’d fit seamlessly with the harp, xylophone, marimba, string and woodwind sounds that populate the record. Sources of inspiration for the record included The Blue Nile, Kate Bush’s third album, Never For Ever, Igor Stravinsky, Japan and lyrically John Cooper Clarke, Sparks, Ian Dury and Prefab Sprouts’ album From Langley Park to Memphis.
All set to o shudder and stun, and induce plenty of hip swivelling, Dutch Uncles have delivered on their youthful potential and, with O Shudder, solved their own particular Rubix’s cube, bringing their unclassifiable pop music into clear and precise focus.
4 Decided Knowledge
5 I Should Have Read
6 In N Out
7 Given Thing
8 Don't Sit Back (Frankie Said)
10 Tidal Weight
11 Be Right Back
After the success of their EP ‘Lowtalker’ in early 2014, British indie label favourites Memphis Industries snapped Menace Beach up with the band’s debut album in mind. It comes in the shape of ‘Ratworld’, a twelve song assault, a journey through a psyche tinged wonderland, documenting moving away and waving goodbye to the fractured rubble of an unhappy lifestyle. On the title, Ryan says “We’ve created our own grubby little Ratworld to inhabit. Everything is better when it’s a bit grubby and broken”. It’s that dreamy sensation of taking comfort in chaos, looking around at the perfect mess you’ve created and feeling deeply content as it’s yours and no one else’s.
“Among this year's most anticipated British releases” NME
“Like the Shins back when they still had the spark of youth, but with Superchunk’s playful sass and unrestrained crunch” Stereogum
Come On Give Up
Dig It Up
Tastes Like Medicine
Pick Out The Pieces
‘Frozen By Sight’ evolved from a festival commission for new work which saw the pair employ the skills of a string quartet and double bass player. Smith says, “We allowed the words to guide where the music was going in order to break free of more traditional pop structures.” Brewis also adds, “We wanted to touch on a point somewhere between composition, songwriting and improvisation, but we also wanted to keep a sense of humour and a sense of the everyday.”
After performing the work at the inaugural Festival Of The North East in late 2013, Smith and Brewis began work at the Field Music studio in Sunderland with David Brewis - Peter's brother - acting as co-producer. Integral to the sound of the record are the distinctive performances of the band: David’s dynamic push and pull on the drums, John Pope’s wandering, melodic bass playing, the precision and drama of Ed Cross’ string quartet and the sonorous palette of Andrew Lowther's tuned percussion. Brewis reinforces the arrangements with smatterings of piano while Smith features as a highly individual singer / guitar player.
The music wraps itself around the words and the places they chronicle. The locations become tangible; from their home towns in North Eastern England to more far-flung destinations. Characters appear, such as the diminutive L.A. streetcleaner going about his work in the song of the same title, or the romantic old couple “digging their forefingers in freshly-soaked sand” in ‘Santa Monica’.
The notion of discovery is everywhere in these songs, with ‘Trevone’ being a perfect example of a visual journey where the wanderer can take a “sidestep and the whole world appears.” Its uncanny Cornish imagery is mirrored by the unusual musical touches that coax the song from a sparse beginning to an uplifting, magical conclusion.
‘Frozen By Sight’ is a rare piece of music that quietly announces the arrival of a potent new collaboration.
The LP features 180g vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with digital download code.
Exiting Hyde Park Towers
Barcelona (At Eye Level)
L.A. Street Cleaner
A Town Called Letter
Mount Wellington Rises
Perth To Bunbury
Haley Bonar was first discovered by Low’s Alan Sparhawk who spotted her at a local open mic club in Duluth, Minnesota and was so impressed he immediately invited her to join them on tour. Which is how, a week later, nineteen year old Haley Bonar, was transformed from college student to ambitious dropout, crammed into a Honda Civic with a guitar and a drummer for company, touring the US opening for Low.
But there is more to this story. In the decade since Haley has released a succession of recordings, each of which have garnered more praise the last, and has seen her collaborate with the likes of Andrew Bird (with whom Haley occasionally plays live) and Justin Vernon (who features on the new album). That’s not to mention the company she keeps in a rotating cast of premium band members including Jeremy Hanson (Tapes ‘n Tapes), Luke Anderson (Rogue Valley), Jeremy Ylvisaker (Andrew Bird, Alpha Consumer) and Mike Lewis (Bon Iver, Alpha Consumer). Now, with her new album ‘Last War’ Haley looks set to find a wider audience.
Much of the joy of Bonar’s songwriting is in the tension between her sparkling melodic sensibility and her deeply ambivalent lyrics. Album opener ‘Kill the Fun’ positively crackles with traces of the Bangles and the Cure at their most pop, as Bonar chronicles her travels with a lover, taking some moments to reveal the nature of the relationship: "You'll be here till morning / You will get back on the plane / Go back to work / where you never knew my name." On ‘No Sensitive Man’ (which features the most Clem Burke drums outside of a Blondie record), she claims "I don't want no sensitive man / I don't want to talk." While on the captivating ‘Heaven’s Made For Two’ Bonar’s daydreaming vocal drifts ethereally as the instrumentation builds from stripped-back beginnings into a country-meets-shoegaze wall of sound crescendo.
On ‘Last War’, the complexities hit as hard as the hooks, a smart, careful balance achieved through equal doses of mystery and charm.
1. Kill The Fun
2. No Sensitive Man
3. Last War
4. Heaven’s Made For Two
5. Bad Reputation
6. From A Cage
7. Woke Up In My Future
8. Can’t Believe Our Luck
9. Eat For Free
The EP features new song ‘Days Accelerate’ plus radical reworks of old tracks ‘Marine Life’ and ‘Keep Your Water’.
David Brewis is best known as a member of Sunderland group Field Music though he has been using the nom de plume School Of Language since the ‘Sea From Shore’ album released in 2008.
A pop polymath, the past twelve months have also seen David assemble and play in Eleanor Friedberger’s touring band, do production work for Maximo Park’s recent album and Futureheads-affiliates Rivals, Pea Sea and Frozen By Sight (a collaboration between brother Peter Brewis and Paul Smith), as well as remixes for Dutch Uncles, The Ralfe Band and The Phoenix Foundation.
With brother Peter, David also composed a score for 1929 silent documentary ‘Drifters’ which they performed at the Aldeburgh and Berwick Film Festivals. Field Music remain on hiatus since the release of their Mercury prize nominated album ‘Plumb’ in 2012.
“Should satisfy fans of Field Music’s tightly wound pop” - Pitchfork
The new School Of Language album is called ‘Old Fears’ and it’s set for release on Memphis Industries.
‘Old Fears’ is a pop record. A place of clipped falsetto, melancholic funk, iridescent electro, shimmering post-punk, futurist prog. A self-contained sphere of strange sensations. Beguiling textures. Lengthening shadows. At times it is both liminal and minimal, at others emotive and external. Ambiguous and ambient. Tantalising and tempered. Modern. Unique. And funny too. “I wrote a lot of notes and they seemed to distinctly split into things to do with love and things to do with fear,” says School Of Language’s David Brewis. “A lot of it has ended up with me looking back at when I was 19, 20 - my formative years. So though I wouldn’t want to call it a concept album it’s definitely themed.”
Here each song has been honed and polished into something pure, like a vast block of marble chiselled down into a perfectly tiny delicate egg of Fabergé-esque perfection. Recorded throughout 2013 in Field Music’s studio on the banks of the River Wear in Sunderland, synth flourishes sit alongside the staccato jarring guitars of ‘A Smile Cracks’ and the metronomic rhythms of ‘Dress Up’. Like a Ballard novel or a George Shaw painting, ‘Between The Suburbs’ offers perhaps the most lyrical and poetic moment, where “Dogs chase patterns, play to attention / Bulbs glare on greasy roads...”
The title track, meanwhile, is reminiscent of the haunting Giallo film scores of Goblin or Kosmische music at its most moving, while ‘Moment Of Doubt’ displays shades of Brian Eno and Robert Wyatt. Other oblique influences come in the form of early Justin Timberlake and N*E*R*D albums, “a bunch of disco records”, Canadian experimentalist Sandro Perri, Dr John, Fela Kuti and Shalamar.
School Of Language is the nom de plume of David Brewis, a member of Mercury prize-nominated pop group Field Music. His first album as School Of Language, ‘Sea From Shore’, was released to wide acclaim in 2008. A pop polymath, the past twelve months have also seen David assemble and play in Eleanor Friedberger’s touring band, do production work for Maximo Park, Futureheads affiliates Rivals, Pea Sea and a collaboration between brother Peter Brewis and Paul Smith, as well as remixes for Dutch Uncles, The Ralfe Band and Phoenix Foundation.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: More jerk-pop brilliance from Mr. Field Music.
“Psychedelic boss dons Colourmusic are back and will melt the eyes out of your skull” - Noisey
In keeping with their single minded voyaging between disparate sonic realms, Colourmusic’s greatest influence has always been their own intuition. Take new album ‘May You Marry Rich’, released via Memphis Industries. Described by co-founder, vocalist and guitarist Ryan Hendrix as their “purple album”, it’s an album that takes the four piece’s previous full length, 2011’s ‘My ___ Is Pink’, as a starting point and expands upon it in different and unusual directions.
Formed in Oklahoma in 2005 with British-born Nick Turner, some years after bonding over Aphex Twin during their university days together, Colourmusic expanded to include bassist Colin Fleishacker and drummer Nicholas Ley.
With two previous albums under their belts, ‘F, Monday, Orange, February, Venus, Lunatic, 1 Or 13’ and ‘My ___ Is Pink’, the group have gained a justified reputation for marrying hallucinatory textures and experimental rock tropes with an offkilter take on the world. Anything from writing songs based on Newton’s theory of colour, to songs written at the tempo that people have sex have been explored during their nine years together.
‘May You Marry Rich’ is a darker affair, with its twelve sprawling tracks obsessing over mankind’s seemingly insatiable lust for pure happiness. “It’s about having the option to have anything you want, like a king, and asking whether that would make you happy,” Hendrix explains. “It’s about happiness and a theory that we’re not wired to have contentment as our genetic disposition.”
‘May You Marry Rich’ is a powerhouse of a record, a towering inferno of ideas. “But we’re not pounding these themes into people’s heads,” Hendrix says. “They’re more prompts, to give you a sense and the flavours of what we’re exploring.”
The album includes the eight minute epic that is ‘Argentina (Parts I, II, III)’, and their most pure pop moment to date, ‘Hot Tonight’.
The new record is the quartet’s first release in four years, following 2010’s hugely acclaimed ‘Champ’.
‘Forcefield’ is perhaps Tokyo Police Club’s most direct statement of intent yet, musically referencing anything from Tom Petty to Smashing Pumpkins, whilst never losing the unmistakable energy that has marked their work ever since their debut mini-album ‘A Lesson In Crime’.
‘Forcefield’ was produced by Doug Boehm (Girls, Dr Dog) and singer David Monks.
Of the new music, Monks notes, “Since writing started for ‘Forcefield’ in mid-2011 there have been so many trends and every kind of ‘wave’. We saw them all come and disappear or change into something broader. It left us wanting to make something that would last. We ended up rediscovering energy and guitars and simple, direct songs. There was certainly a lot of pressure to take the music somewhere new and there were lots of opinions about how to do that, but in the end we blocked all that out and followed our instincts. I think that’s what ‘Forcefield’ is - it doesn’t matter what else is going on out there, the music just has to be honest and have a real feeling to it.
The only record you’ll hear this year (or any other) to borrow from both ‘Heroes’-era Bowie and Southern rap hooligan Waka Flocka Flame (“I love the way his rhythm tracks just prattle on and on without repeating themselves, somehow never sounding overcomplicated” says Wilson), this new full length release from the band sounds like a trip into another universe, full of trippy analogue synths, manipulated samples, punchy distorted guitars and heavy brass orchestrations.
Painstakingly honest, ‘Violent Light’ finds Wilson wading through his psyche for song matter. “Yesterday my therapist asked if she could hear the music I’ve been working on,” he says. “I’m pretty scared to play her this record because I’m sure there’s some subconscious stuff in there that I really don’t want to confront.”
From the haunting ‘The Black Table’, sparked by a flash memory of his grandfather explaining the destructive power of modern science to him as a child (“we had made plans to see the excellent Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘Kindergarten Cop’ one day when he got into an explanation of nuclear fission, drawing diagrams on napkins and going into great detail. We missed the film”) to ‘Jeweled Cave’s recollections of a childhood romance with a male friend (“it wasn’t a sexual relationship, but I don’t think you could describe it as anything other than being in love”), there are few more personal, confessional listens to be had in 2014.
Now a four piece, Milagres - completed by producer and bass player Fraser McCulloch, keyboard player Chris Brazee and drummer Paul Payabyab - sound destined for stardom. Until then, Wilson, like all great musicians before their breakthrough, is living a humble existence in his adopted home of Brooklyn. “I work as a waiter in a Michelin star restaurant. I once waited on Lou Reed’s birthday party. David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Julian Schnabel and Salman Rushdie were all at the table. I was a little bummed that I wasn’t meeting these people in another context,” he says. Should the progressive, forward thinking and life-affirming ‘Violent Light’ find the acclaim it deserves, Wilson could get that opportunity yet.
Founded by vocalist Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olson out of the ashes of Minneapolis collective Gayngs, and featuring Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu on drums and Chris Bierden on bass, Poliça’s ‘Give You The Ghost’ was released in April of 2012. Seemingly from nowhere it became one of 2012’s standout debut albums. The band made their UK live debut in June 2012, with two packed nights at the tiny Camp Basement in London, and less than a year later, March 2013 saw the band play a triumphant show to a sold out Shepherds Bush Empire.
From the flurry of warped metallic electronica and razorsharp groove of opener ‘Chain My Name’, with its stark and rushing refrain, the angular R&B-pop futurism of ‘I Need $’, its sweetly earworm hook belying lyrics of alternately helplessness and defiance, to the gliding, bird’s eye meditation of closer ‘So Leave’, ‘Shulamith’ reaffirms Poliça as one of the most fascinating and vital groups in forward-thinking pop.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: A lot of excitement around this unique band at the moment and they don't disappoint. Album number Two is even better than their debut and it's not often you can say that, is it? Mesmerising.
In a short time the duo have created a sound that is undeniably their own: soaring synths, chiming keyboards, and shimmering electric guitars move in lockstep with bouncing drum machines, with Sarah’s crystalline voice floating on top of it all with divine purpose. It’s a sound that looks back momentarily for inspiration - Talk Talk, Prefab Sprout, Cocteau Twins - but then fixes its gaze firmly on the present.
Further developing the sound of their acclaimed four song, self-titled 2012 EP, at the start of 2013 they set out to record ‘Moon Tides’, their first full length album. Again, they chose to work with producer Richard Swift at his National Freedom studio in rural Cottage Grove, Oregon. Throughout 2012 Swift had called on the duo to help him with other studio projects (Versprille sings on Foxygen’s latest album and Hindman adds his sprawling guitar work to Damien Jurado’s excellent ‘Marqopa’) which only helped to cement the threesome’s musical partnership.
Like the earlier sessions for the EP, they worked quickly in the studio and improvised parts around the basic song structures that they’d carefully composed up in Portland. Dan explains, “Pretty much all tracks (vocals and instruments) are all first or very early takes. Richard is kind of a stickler about this and I actually don't go in with a clean, pristine idea of what I'm going to play on guitar or any other instrument for that matter, so there's actually a lot of improvisation as far as performances in the studio go.”
It’s this compassion and warmth in Pure Bathing Culture that set them apart. The music is uplifting. It invites self-reflection. It never feels alienating. ‘Pendulum’ is a perfect mid-tempo album opener that pulses and shines. Other standout tracks from the album - ‘Dream The Dare’, ‘Twins’, ‘Scotty’ and ‘Golden Girl’ - are slices of reverb-drenched, soulful, danceable electropop that musically and lyrically tap into an introspective worship of the natural and psychic mysteries that surround us.
Pure Bathing Culture’s debut album Moon Tides is optimistic modern music for souls who seek to explore the infinite.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Gorgeous dream-pop for fans of Beach House and the like. Perfect for the summer.
Dream The Dare
Only Lonely Lovers
Seven 2 One
Temples Of The Moon
From the sultry ache of opener ‘Bloodline’ (a nod to Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ “about not picking up the bad habits of the generation before you”, says Mathé), to the Pharrell Williams-inspired urban crunch of ‘Turbine’, all the way to ‘The Load’ (written when Mathé was indulging in his love of Jurassic 5 era 90s hip hop), ‘Bloodlines’ is a brilliantly varied listen that pulls and paws at your heartstrings.
If there’s a gloriously loose, tenebrous feel to songs like the blue-eyed electro-soul ‘Pagliacco’, it might have something to do with the Londoner’s organic approach to song writing. “I just sit down with my dictaphone and make sense of what comes out afterwards. The best stuff usually comes when I’m hungover or not really thinking. The minute I try to be clever with words, it just sounds sh*t,” Mathé laughs. Instead, the album’s lyrics burn with a simple, poignant immediacy and Mathé sings them with touching, soulful grace.
Fandango, an expansive, ambitious and gloriously rich 78 minutes, was recorded at four studios over 15-months. From opener ‘Black Mould’ (perhaps the first motorik-influenced song about respiratory problems induced by inadequate building standards in New Zealand) to the 18 minute closing behemoth ‘Friendly Society’ (almost certainly the only psychedelic epic named after the Quaker movement and which features Neil Finn and Bella Union signed Lawrence Arabia on backing vocals), Fandango is un-coy about its lofty ambitions in an age of digital disposability.
The album draws on the band’s collective love of the rock canon (Dr John, Black Sabbath, The Carpenters, Can, Talk TalK, ELO, Television,), but also from some of music’s more obscure corners (Harmonia, The Clean, Aphrodite's Child, Erkin Koray, Baris Manco, Georges Zamfir, Hayao Miyazaki). Check the balladeering yacht rock of ‘Sideways Glance’, the end-of-the-party psych-folk of ‘Modern Rock’, and ‘The Captain’ a 3-minute slice of melancholic melodic joy featuring the vocal talents of co-frontman Lukasz Buda. ‘Thames Soup’ finds the band stretching the pop tropes of mid 70s FM radio to near breaking point while ‘Evolution Did’ channels Sly and Robbie production into an oblique rant on creationism.
The band recorded Fandango partially at Neil Finn’s Roundhead studios, partially at a barn in the depths of the New Zealand countryside (in the middle of winter, fire blazing in the recording studio, cardigans on) but mostly at the band’s own HQ, The Car Club in Wellington. The album was then mixed with the assistance of long-term associate Lee Prebble at The Surgery (earthquake warnings taped to the front door). Lee and the band mined the depths of vintage studio effects in a quest to create new aural chimera.
Let’s leave the final word on Fandango to co-frontman Samuel Flynn Scott:
"Damn the zeitgeist, I still rejoice in the pan-sexual opulence of a double gate-fold vinyl album. Honestly, I'm thoroughly satisfied that we have made 80 minutes of tripped-out pop oddities that pays absolutely no attention to the short form game of contemporary music. This is Test Match music - maybe it's prog or psyche-folk - whatever it is, it's music that we thought about a lot, worked on a lot and cared about in the minutiae."
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Phoenix Foundation stretch out in a glorious way. Deep and lush!
A1. Black Mould
A2. Modern Rock
A3. The Captain
A4. Thames Soup
A5. Evolution Did
A6. Inside Me Dead
B3. Morning Riff
B4. Sideways Glance
B5. Friendly Society
A1. Black Mould
A2. Modern Rock
A3. The Captain
A4. Thames Soup
B1. Evolution Did
B2. Inside Me Dead
C3. Morning Riff
C4. Sideways Glance
D1. Friendly Society
The two met in the early hours of a house party back in May 2010, a fateful encounter that led to many a long night writing and recording songs in Christian’s South London bedsit. They soon came to the attention of Memphis Industries in the Autumn of 2010, with whom they subsequently released a pair of acclaimed 7” singles, ‘Ants’ and ‘Allured’, with The Guardian declaring “they're a Meg'n'Jack reared on breathy Brill Building pop and haunting atmospherics”.
The pair set to work on their debut EP and the result, titled ‘Assembly’ and released in 2011, was a four track wonder that expanded and developed the quiet beauty evidenced on their previous releases.
But all was not well with Elephant - Amelia and Christian had parted ways in a Fleetwood Mac style bout of acrimony. Then Christian broke his wrist (which may or may not be related to the aforementioned acrimony) rendering him unable to play. It looked unlikely that they would ever write together again.
Sometimes, though, you have to realize when you’ve got something good. After a tempestuous year, where they just about managed to play a show at Primavera’s opening party without injury (or worse), a gradual rapprochement took place. September finally saw them starting to write together again and playing shows (including an appearance at Eurosonic and supports with Matthew E White), and lo and behold, an album shaped batch of songs finally started to take shape.
Sumptuous new track ‘Skyscraper’ sees Amelia’s vocals swooning and swooping over a backdrop that twists familiar fifties Doo-wop stylings into something new and alluring, whilst B side ‘Spies’ is a sweet and sparse repost.
It’s a strong, confident marker that Elephant’s debut album will be worth braving broken hearts and broken bones for.
White vinyl 7”.
He’d always been a musical wayfarer, collecting sounds and styles from his travels around the globe and depositing influences and ephemera into three knockout Ruby Suns albums (2006’s ‘The Ruby Suns’, 2008’s ‘Sea Lion’ and 2010’s ‘Fight Softly’). In Scandinavia - amidst its icy architecture and sky-high fjords, not to mention the indomitable gloss-pop that’s the region’s leading export - he discovered the inspiration for this album.
The story of ‘Christopher’ mirrors McPhun’s own coming of age: after a childhood spent in nerdy isolation, hiding away in his bedroom with his guitar while his older sister hosted high school ragers in their parents’ Ventura, CA home; after leaving home and becoming a citizen of the world; after disengaging from the relationship that defined most of his adult life, McPhun has stopped thinking so much and joined the party.
‘Rush’ sets the process in motion, but of all the songs on the album, ‘Jump In’ encapsulates a carpe diem MO - “When you reach the end of the world,” McPhun sings in his tender falsetto, “don't wanna have no regrets and no penitence.”
‘Christopher’s opening song, ‘Desert Of Pop’ - recorded at a friend’s home studio in Oslo, floating on Nord modular synths and ecstatic dancefloor energy - details McPhun’s inebriated encounter with Robyn backstage at a music festival in Cologne, Germany. “Flower among the leaves is what you are,” he sings, his sheepish grin practically bursting out of your speakers, “cold glass of water in the desert of pop.”
This is a refined version of Dutch Uncles doing what they do best - making labyrinthine pop of Escher-like complexity and crystal clarity.
“Coming from the generation of bookish Manchester bands striving to throw off Northern Indie’s boorish image, Dutch Uncles look set to graduate at the top of the class” - NME
“The Manchester band returns with a refreshingly intellectual approach to merging guitar-based indiepop with electronic dance” - The Independent
“Dissonant, xylophone-pocked electro-pop - sublime” - The Sunday Times
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Excellent. By far their best record. Watch out Field Music, Dutch Uncles are coming!
Ryan says: The local lads are back with their third album & it's an incredible one! Clever math-pop with intricate, intertwining melodies underneath solid indie-pop songs and intelligent rhythms.
Dragazis, who splits his time between London and the Greek island of Evia, came up with the idea of an album influenced by the Greek garage rock scene of the 60s and 70s whilst driving to buy cigarettes with his uncle listening to his old compilation tapes, an eclectic mix of old Greek bands such as The Persons, The Forminx and Aphrodites’ Child, traditional Greek Rebetiko music of composers like Stavros Xarhakos and the mainstream instrumental guitar workings of The Ventures.
The album is an imagined ‘best of’ compilation of a band called The Scantharies, who he imagined bestrode the Greek music scene from the late 60s through to the end of the 70s.
Dreams Island is the island famously visited by The Beatles in the late 60s with their ‘fixer’ Magic Alex. Dragazis imagines that this visit inspired four local Eretrians to start a band called The Scantharies, a play on the Greek word for beetle. The band would morph from a simple guitar led instrumental garage group into a more widescreen and experimental ensemble absorbing more diverse musical influences, becoming increasingly religiously obsessed, before ultimately dissolving in acrimony, overdoses and obscurity.
The chiming cymbals, bewitching vocals and downtempo disco vibe of ‘Walk On By’ promise an album of spellbinding intro- and extrospection. Airy, translucent synths meld with languid, otherworldly sounds, making this album soft and hazy, but never forgettable.
From her early DIY releases on the Gothenburg scene - including collaborations with Jens Lekman - through to 2009’s ‘Love Is Not Pop’ album, and recent work with Lykke Li, Gruff Rhys and Chad Valley, El Perro Del Mar aka Sarah Assbring has woven sophisticated late night tales of love and loss. With Assbring returning to the producer’s chair, ‘Pale Fire’ is her most seductive work yet.
So, out with the reverb of the Frankie Rose and the Outs, (and her previous bands) and in with something altogether more glittering and shivering. Interstellar is the confident swagger of a singer and auteur fully aware of how to build the simplest of pop moves into aching, full-blown melodramas, how to grab hold of an emotion and ride its darker waves.
Highlights include "Know Me" a gorgeous piece of widescreen pop, dreamy and driving at the same time and “Night Swim” whose clean, big hooks bring to mind the best of mid-80’s pop – The Smiths, New Order -- without sacrificing any of Frankie's unique melodic style.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Completely different from her super debut, but in its own way just as compelling. This is shoegazey, slightly wonky, deep 'n' doomy, romantic pop.
With 15 tracks crammed into 35 minutes, 'Plumb' remodels the modular, fragmented style of the first two Field Music albums; only now shot through with the surreal abstractions of 20th century film music from Bernstein to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory and with the off-beam funk and pristine synth-rock developed on the brothers' School of Language and The Week That Was albums.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: Amazing album! A bit mathy and proggy but the difference with Field Music is it's always poppy! This record sounds like one enormous song with a thousand different parts, all perfectly slotted together like a crazy musical jigsaw. Unbelievable!
1. Start The Day Right
2. It’s Okay To Change
3. Sorry Again, Mate
4. A New Town
5. Choosing Sides
6. A Prelude To Pilgrim Street
8. Who’ll Pay The Bills?
9. So Long Then
10. Is This The Picture?
11. From Hide And Seek To Heartache
12. How Many More Times?
13. Ce Soir
14. Just Like Everyone Else
15. (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
From the opening bars of ‘Halfway’ this is an album of languorous splendour and easy grace, the ambitious musical scope matched by main man Kyle Wilson’s swooping, soaring vocals.
Milagres deliver recurring images of empty beaches, shafts of light, isolated mountain ranges and memories of childhood.
With Kyle Wilson’s vocals sitting comfortably in the lineage of great rock falsettos, from Prince to Wild Beasts, ‘Glowing Mouth’ is a record remarkable for its confidence and poise, dynamics and drama.
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: A fabulous debut album from this Brooklyn five piece. Delicate and intricate with an effortless swooning grace, this is intelligent and thoughtful music that belies the bands tender years.
From intelligent and infectiously catchy pop / rock gems, to epic, psychedelic prog rock, "Buffalo" combines sun bleached harmonies, chiming guitars, progressive synth scapes and subliminal rhythms to glorious effect.
“Surely the most potent band to come out of New Zealand since the far-off days of the Chills… Gorgeous” - The Independent (5 stars)
“The future, and the past, seldom sounded so delightful” - Q.
STAFF COMMENTSMartin says: While most bands are supernovae, all explosive energy and creativity expended in one brilliant moment before quickly fading, there is another rarer form that reaches maturity more slowly, honing and developing its craft and tending to have a much longer productive life. Auckland’s Phoenix Foundation have taken 10 years to realise the sublime, effortless meander of “Buffalo”, and it’s quickly apparent from the album’s opener, “Eventually” that it’s been well worth the wait. Its drifting, captivating languor sets the scene for the rest of the LP, which manages that difficult balance of being entirely good natured without being trivial and laid back without being soporific. Their engaging psychedelic pop is easily carried by vocal harmonies and hooks that stick, earworms that caress rather than annoy. If you haven’t been reeled in by the gentle glow of “Golden Ship”, which closes the album, then you probably never will be and, frankly, there’s probably something wrong with you.
3. Flock Of Hearts
5. Bitte Bitte
7. Orange & Mango
8. Bailey's Beach
10. Golden Ship
"Frankie Rose And The Outs" is the debut album from ex-Vivian Girl Crystal Stilt, and Dum Dum Girl Ms Frankie Rose.
Frankie, with her former bands, has been at the forefront of a scene that mixed the sounds of lo-fi garage, big reverb-drenched Phil Spector-produced 60s girl groups, the noise aesthetic of the Jesus And Mary Chain with a touch of Velvet Underground and a strong DIY ethic to create a sound that’s influenced a new generation of bands around the world.
On her new group’s self-titled Memphis Industries debut, Frankie Rose And The Outs have their heads in the clouds a bit more than Rose’s previous projects.
Listening to the ghostly golden oldie grooves of songs like "Candy" and the pedal-pounding "That’s What People Told Me", it’s as if the Cocteau Twins and Shangri-Las made a split album with the help of a time machine and a freshly-acquitted Phil Spector.
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: Riding on the current wave of cute 60s bubblegum sounds ala Best Coast comes Frankie Rose's new band. Lo-fi meets Spector-esque reverb meets JAMC's noise aesthetics, and hits now!
Abs says: Includes a gorgeous version of Arthur Russell's "You Can Make Me Feel Bad".
1. Hollow Life
3. Little Brown Haired Girls
4. Lullabye For Roads And Miles
5. That's What People Told Me
7. Must Be Nice
8. Girlfriend Island
9. You Can Make Me Feel Bad
10. Don’t Tred
11. Save Me
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: After loving their first mini album, "A Lesson In Crime", and being a bit disappointed with the full lengther "Elephant Shell" I wasn't sure what to expect with "Champ". But I'm pleased to report that Tokyo Police Club are back on track, "Champ" showcases a bright and fresh sound with melodies falling over themselves in urgent abandonment.
01 Favourite Food
02 Favourite Colour
03 Breakneck Speed
04 Boots Of Danger (Wait Up)
06 End Of A Spark
07 Hands Reversed
09 Big Difference
10 Not Sick
Following a self-imposed three year hiatus Sunderland's Field Music return with a new 20 track double album. Powered, as ever, by brothers and co-front men Peter and David Brewis, "Field Music (Measure)" is a gloriously rich LP that entwines the brother's renewed love of the rock music cannon with a rediscovery of some of pop's overlooked adventurers.
From the dissonant funk of "Let's Write A Book" (a call to arms for the perpetually apologetic), the mutated blues of "Each Time Is A New Time" (a riposte to misplaced faith in repetition), the chopping and splashing pop of "Them That Do Nothing" (perhaps about a valiant willingness to make mistakes), the multilayered riffery of "The Rest Is Noise" or the epic found-sound song cycle that starts with "See You Later" "Field Music (Measure)" is the sound of one of the UK's finest bands in supreme and confident control.
1. In The Mirror
2. Them That Do Nothing
3. Each Time Is A New Time
6. Clear Water
7. Lights Up
8. All You'd Ever Need To Say
9. Let's Write A Book
10. You And I
11. The Rest Is Noise
12. Curves Of The Needle
13. Choosing Numbers
14. The Wheels Are In Place
15. First Come The Wish
16. Precious Plans
17. See You Later
18. Something Familiar
19. Share The Words
20. It's About Time
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