Review: Boarding House Reach is the third solo album from Jack White, a man who really should need no introduction by now. Where 2014's 'Lazaretto' was a cohesive and indulgent gothic collage of country, soul, Americana and rock, 'Boarding House Reach' sees White ambitiously add layers of hip-hop, experimental and electronic influences. Twists and turns come thick and fast, from the fuzzy organ soul of 'Why Walk A Dog?', the poetic preacherman monologue of 'Abulia and Akrasia', the jittery and crunchy hip-hop 'Ice Station Zebra' to the stunningly laid-bare folk and wrought piano chords of closing track 'Humoresque'. This breadth of sounds makes the album compelling and unpredictable from start to finish, and a fascinating addition to Jack White's juggernaut of a discography.
Review: The mercurial and magical Jeff Buckley departed this realm leaving a severe shortage of actual material, thus this collection of early demos - recorded in 1993 in advance of his debut album proper 'Grace' - marks a cherished opportunity to experience his soulful intensity and otherworldly powers as an interpreter of song. The majority of 'You And I' consists of covers, traversing all the way from Sly & The Family Stone to The Smiths, yet all imbued with his uniquely raw, intuitive and captivating approach. The world will never see the like of Jeff Buckley again, which makes 'You And I' a document worth savouring.
Review: Hailing from Wimbledon, Formation deal in a sound unfettered by genre distinctions yet driven onward by anti-establishment ire and maverick chutzpah, free to deal with Clash-style energy, house shapes, post-punk groove and sky-level hooks with equal aplomb, all the while maintaining a gritty vitality that can't help but bring to mind the magpie spirit and irreverent charm of LCD Soundsystem. 'Look At The Powerful People' is a strident call to arms from a band with as much uplifting spirit to offer as punk rock spite.
Review: Turning heads a couple of years hence with their self-titled debut, Fumaca Preta (which means 'black smoke' in case you weren't sure) are dark magicians of a wild and volatile analgam of whatever musical ingredients they see fit to throw into their collective cauldron at any given moment - be it crazed tropicalia, incendiary garage-punk, hypnotic psych-rock, Sabbath-style riffage, Butthole Surfers weirdness. wayward cumbia or maudlin balladry. Yet more mysterious than ever, they've somehow crafted a manner in which to be both more adventurous and more focused on this second effort, arriving at something akin to a tastefully disorientating dream sequence on a glorious psychic wavelength somewhere between high-energy Brazilian carnival and the nameless void.
Review: Following the long awaited return of Gang Gang Dance, New York glam rock brothers, Brian D'Addario and Michael D'Addario, aka The Lemon Twigs, quietly but surely make their way on to legendary label 4AD once more. It's been two years since their Do Hollywood LP and the pair - with the help of their parents (really) - deliver 15 tracks that according to the band tell a "heartbreaking coming of age story of Shane, a pure of heart chimpanzee raised as a human boy as he comes to terms with the obstacles of life." Satire, irony, haircuts, glam rock. Yes, it's a musical...what, you didn't know?
Review: This Essex four-piece are purveyors of a stylish and succinct brand of guitar-driven indie rock that nods to the like of Royal Blood's heavy riffing and The Dandy Warhols' arch pop tunesmithery, arriving at a black leather jacket racket that makes its presence felt with hooks and swagger, arriving at a continuum that unites Britpop vim and vigour with a more twenty-first century brand of attack. The Bohicas style themselves as 'The kind of S-t that Marv from Sin City would listen to', and indeed the thuggish efficiency of 'The Making Of' is redolent of a band who have their sights set on mainstream glory and aren't ashamed to admit it.
Review: Having made their name as modern-day aesthetes with a series of records that meld the cerebral and the physical with style, 'Boy King' appears to be the point in which the Will Beasts allow their id to run rampant in a way befitting their name. Recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent) it shows them heading towards a notably more aggressive, electronic and masculine sound, at once influenced by the binary thump of Nine Inch Nails and the sonic brinksmanship of 'Yeezus' era Kanye West. Odder still, this gamble has more than paid off, and 'Boy King' is the sound of the band at their most vibrant and persuasive.
Review: Katie Stelmanis, the spectrally-voiced and ferociously-talented figure behind maverick electro-pop outfit Austra, set herself the not inconsiderable target of setting out 'a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia' with this third album, yet against all odds she's done a sterling job of marrying the icy binary chill of technology with a very human frailty to emerge with a defiant and emotionally affecting statement of intent. Indelible melody and Stelmanis' extraordinary tones may dominate, yet the sonic landscapes here - equally bracing and beatific - have the rare effect of making the listener hopeful for what 2017 has in store.
Review: If there was ever a flaw to The Vaccines' apparent world domination masterplan, it was that their musical horizons didn't appear to extend much outside the world of straightforward indie guitar rock, yet on the evidence of 'English Graffitti', this has been rectified, and how. With the production assistance of Flaming Lips legend Dave Fridmann, this third album is chock full of sunny enthusiasm and sonic experimentation, lurching into straight-up pop territory on single 'Minimal Affection' just as easily as it tackles an arch Sparks/Devo curveball like '20/20'. It may have been youthful chutzpah that intially marked The Vaccines' arrival, but here the band has audibly grown up, and it rather suits them.
Review: Running through their third record, there's a feeling that Django Django have wildly eclectic tastes, and with infectious and nervous excitement want to create music that patches it all together, dodging pigeonholes and subverting their listener's expectations in the process. Stark changes in direction happen from track to track, and often within the songs themselves: take for example the tone set with powerhouse synth-pop opener 'Marble Skies', which is immediately turned on its head with second track 'Surface To Air', a brash and addictive dancehall jam, by the fourth track 'Tic Tac Toe' they're fully immersed in euphoric indie-psych. These changes in gear happen throughout the album, and it's to the band's credit that the individual songs and the album as a whole, bind together so well. This risk-taking is what makes Marble Skies a highly accomplished and ambitious album, but perhaps more importantly, their most fun album so far.
Review: This East London duo honed their style in their own studios, sculpting a homespun sound that marries electronic innovation with a warmly soulful approach redolent of a welcome British answer to the glitzy R&B more commonly found across the Atlantic - kneed that rendered bt self-admitted heroes of this pair such as Usher. Yet boasting a neon-drenched late night aesthetic that's somehow maintains enough brio and quirky charm to avoid it sounding like the soundtrack to a perfume advert, 'Warm On A Cold Night' is as sleek and sophisticated as it is earthy and characterful.
Review: Iron & Wine, aka Samuel Beam (not to be confused with Father John Misty) is an crooning America folk singer-songwriter who's earned the right to sport the beard he does. The music here is a collection of songs that couldn't quite make it in time to find a place on his Grammy nominated album Beast Epic from last year, so they are neatly encapsulated in this heart-nourishing follow up. It's a nice strum through folky pastures that at points reach a bluesey coastline (maybe hi-fiving Donavon Frankenreiter along the way) in search of that warm campfire, somewhere nearby.