Review: Like a slightly in-tune Nico from her collab with The Velvet Underground, Natalie Mering's vocals have a unique quality to them that shouldn't go unheard. There's an undeniable country music beauty to the notes and instrumentation in both tracks "A Lot's Gonna Change" and "Andromeda", with Mering hitting those high notes more like Father John Misty and Roy Orbison than Dolly Parton. It's here that it becomes obvious why she is such a trusted collaborator with Ariel Pink. Her album as Weyes Blood, "Titanic Rising", dips and dives through a sequence of emotions that from the halfway point soars like a bird in "Everyday" and the Enya-like "Movies" before making its own crescendo down again on "Picture Me Better" and "Nearer to Thee", closing the album with nostalgia-inducing tales.
Review: Produced with the help of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev producer Dave Fridmann, Interpol's iconic sound returns, a whopping 16 years after their acclaimed debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, and four years since their last: El Pintor. Guitars still twang and sparkle with spine tingling reverberation and the melancholy of Paul Banks vocals remains everlasting. There are grungier elements where rock and electronics take over from the emotional response of the bands sound, as heard in "Number 10", and while the dazzling impact of songs like "Obstacle 1" may be something else, there's no denying this groups heartmelthing longevity.
Review: Lewis' gentle and bewitching L'Amour, which came complete with a bizarre backstory involving the disappearance of the blonde-haired would-be-matinee-idol on its sleeve, was one of the surprise delights of the year. Yet the release of the hitherto unsuspected follow-up Romantic Times, which was originally recorded in 1985, only adds to the mystique surrounding this off-kilter auteur. The abstract croon and expressionistic mood may remain, yet the pastel shades and beachside calm of his earlier effort are gone, replaced by brooding atmosphere and vocals that betray a troubled soul beneath the luxurious veneer. Residing somewhere between lounge lizard thrills and outsider art chills, Romantic Times is a portrait of a true one-off.
Review: You may already know 22-year old Norwegian pop singer Aurora Aksnes for her rendition of Oasis' "Half the World Away" for a John Lewis Christmas advert in 2015, but if not, she's the biggest thing since Robyn. This latest record, following A Different Kind Of Human (Step 1) from last year, presents a third album to date and one that forms the second part of last year's surprise release. Fast-paced, hopeful, dancey and nordically folkal music, (Step 2) sees Aurora deliver something more experimental than before with its themes said to focus on ecological crisis and societal concepts of individualism. Syncopated basslines, staccato vocals and criss-crossing rhythms hit all the right spots in "Apple Tree" while our other pick "In Bottles" combines '90s pop sensationalism with breakbeats made to fit house tempos. Tip!
Review: Ty Segall, one of the leading lights and most hard-working artists of America's west coast garage scene, perfectly balances quality and quantity with 'Freedom's Goblin', his tenth studio album under his own name (include his live records, aliases and collaborations, and the total body of work effectively doubles). Having seemingly ditched the songwriting rules he had set himself on previous albums, 'Freedom's Goblin' sees Ty Segall at his most explosive and full-throttle, inventively exploring the many avenues of sub-genres of rock and psychedelia. Consisting of 19 ironclad songs that clock in at nearly eighty minutes, this is an expansive and exhilarating album that never becomes tiring. The wild combination of flawless production (co-engineered by the legendary Nirvana producer Steve Albini) and Segall's balance of raw power and melodic sensibility, makes 'Freedom's Goblin' another astoundingly high-calibre addition to an already colossal catalogue.
Review: Crusading Rocker Sharon Van Etten returns from five years away releasing any long player, and, like her latest album attests, she's the come-back-kid. Full of jovial generation X angst and time-passing motifs - "I used to be 17..." sings the phrase in "Seventeen" - Van Etten has here successfully painted themes of '80s Americana & Nostalgia into a new kind or realism. There are heavier, more emotionally-laden ballads like "Jupiter 4", invoking a Melancholia-feel, of Lars Von Trier-esque persuasion, and with electronic production techniques entering her music more than heard before, alongside a bevy of warming but also haunting vocals, Van Etten's script for 2019 is here.
Review: If a credible form of 80s music was lifted and later archived to show students of the distant future what retrograde quality would be most unique and interesting for today; These New Puritans bring something of an industrial, Human League, Nine Inch Nails edge to their style of shoegaze, electronica and sub-pop. With touches of DAF abound alongside elements of operatic techno to Warp Records inspired moments of bliss, Southend-on-Sea greatest alternatives deliver a classic with their moment in time.
Review: Australian singer hailing from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Julia Jacklin, resurfaces with a third album following Don't Let The Kids Win (2016) and Eastwick / Cold Caller (2017). Opening with arguably the album's most afflicting number, "Body", Jacklin's voice almost inhibits an Edith Piaf-like quality, somewhat shaky but resolute. It's far from a forlorn listen though, and while "Pressure To Party" may lament such things as fun, it adds an upbeat rhythm to the album's more down beat numbers, be they "Don't Know How To Keep Loving You", to the lowly piano and voice solo of "When The Family Flies In". Touching on the hallmarks of a true romantic, Jacklin's music is melancholic as ever, but with her vocals only adding to the warm embrace of the instrumentation, "Crushing" should melt a few hearts yet.
Review: Following the precursing release of a Memphis Industries 7" last year by You Tell Me, Peter Brewis (Field Music) and Admiral Fallow member Sarah Hayes finally present their debut self-titled record of their new collaboration. Said to be an album taking on themes of 'expectations and people's individual ways of navigating' them, this record presents a bold, folky and big band trundle through rolling pasture of horns, strings and powerful pop rock and disco dance! Both artists distinct styles come together here like a birthday party going off and the pair's vocal interplay stands out tremendously among a huge assortment of highly, well-produced instrumentation that makes you feel like your somewhere between 1969 and 1992. Where were you?
Review: Shoegaze dream pop duo Molly - out of Innsbruck, Austria - deliver an alpine coloured CD to compliment the elemental themes of their debut album. It follows two previous singles in 2016-17, respectively, suggesting that last year was spent entirely in the studio. As it turns out their studio sits atop their native alps and laced throughout this LP are field recordings of their chosen summit which only offers more space to an already expansive, glacial and epic sound. With the 15-minute album opener "Coming Of Age" a mountain of production in itself, Molly right now are hitting their peak.
Review: Unabashed satirical wares straight outta Nottingham, Sleaford Mods somewhat charming embrace of British provincialism sees the semi-ironic nature of their music nestle itself in a space shared with Jamie T, Mike Skinner and Blackout Crew. Slightly wayward, political and patronising, their music can sometimes come off something like a scene out of Peep Show, though however tongue-in-cheek their commentary of the UK life can be, it's a gloriously proud album of cultural identity, and in among references to chip tune, bedroom produced beats, alternative Madchester-era sounds to rap and spoken word, it's a record embracing hoodies and trainers as much as it does anarchy and builder's tea. Oi!
Review: The weight of expectation has been lifted. Having turned heads in the right places with breakout track "More Is Less", Dublin's The Murder Capital fulfil the promise of being Ireland's next great guitar hope by delivering a staggering debut album that's powerful yet subtle, uplifting and outward looking yet dark and introverted. No walking contradiction, it's an accomplished and entirely human record. It also sounds as tight as you could ask for. Produced by none other than Flood, whose credits are good enough to drop any jaw (PJ Harvey, Foals, New Order), for evidence just stop to consider the top end hooks and percussive detail on single "Green & Blue", invoking Liars in pared-back post punk mode. Or the tense, unnerving introduction to opener "For Everything". By the time you hit "Don't Cling To Life", arguably the most emotionally charged and reflective here, hopes of walking away unmoved are done for.
Review: From humble beginnings for Parisian label Kitsune back in 2010, the sub-pop of Two Door Cinema Club has reached great heights thanks to their albums Beacon, Gameshow and most of all, their debut, Tourist History. Now with False Alarm, Alex Trimble's vocals continue to collide in sweet harmony with the band's contemporary arrangement of synths, acoustic drums and undertones of tropical instrumentation - bear in mind that TDCC never stray too far from the poppy realms of disco either. Highlights include the radical '80s charm of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (think Sting or Hall & Oates) to "Satellite" and the oddly, stylisticly French ballad that is "Break". Good times roll!
Review: Following the runaway success of their Mercury Music Prize nominated 2014 debut album, Jungle moved to Los Angeles to record the follow-up. It didn't work out for a variety of musical and personal reasons, so they headed back to London and recorded "For Ever" instead. While some of the lyrics reflect on their musical and personal issues during that time, the resultant songs are as soulful, polished and jaunty as you'd expect. Check, for example, the sun-kissed disco-pop of "Heavy California", the sumptuous lo-fi soul shuffle of "Cherry", the head-nodding grooves and lyrical melancholy of "Happy Man" and the grandiose, bittersweet brilliance of "House In LA".
Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief (4:38)
True Love Waits (5:08)
Review: There was naturally much excitement when A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead's surprise ninth studio set, popped up on streaming and download services back in May. Here it gets a CD release, offering those who prefer physical products a chance to bathe in its' woozy eccentricities. Seen by some as a return to their arty rock roots following an extended period spend exploring electronics, the album's 11 tracks draw on a variety of influences (krautrock, ambient, Pavement, James Blake, Stockhausen, intense melancholia etc.), with predictably impressive results. Occasionally elegant, string-laden and grandiose, always beautiful, and sometimes intensely moving, A Moon Shaped Pool is undeniably up there with the band's best work.
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.