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: While Netherfield Works might, on first listen, sound a bit like the cosmic side of German rock music pioneered by the likes of Can or Cluster back in the early 70s, the album is very much a product of post-industrial Britain. To be precise, Craven Faults are from Yorkshire, and this is their protest - their view of an existential future laid bare by the downfalls of industrialist culture. Debuting via the newly formed Lowfold Works, this lot sound like they know exactly what they want to say, with two 15+ minute voyages showcasing their skills as musicians, and their vision as an outfit. "Eller Ghyll" bounces off the walls with its supremely echoed riffs and meandering basslines, sounding like an ode to the powers that be; "Tenter Ground" is comparatively gentler in its approach, launching a barricade of starry harmonies up into the sky along with a driving, hypnotic percussive roll that could well slot this into the deeper of DJ sets across the board. TIP!
Review: Tumbling drums and guitars to invoke that classic Madchester feeling are a shining sensation in this Irish band's limited one-sided 12". Something of an extravagant release, The Murder Capital have rightly stood behind a moody number of post-punk charm that deserves its own piece of 12" real estate. "Green & Blue" is The Murder Capital's second single and it's a sound that falls somewhere between the post-punk of The Happy Mondays and Joy Division, and the more contemporarily strands of Oxford band Foals. Atmospheric, moody post-punk with soul.
Review: It seems everyone has their own story when it comes to Cat Power; from first albums purchased, to seeing her perform live on stage with a broken ankle, all the while never ceasing to maintain her blissful air of elegance and withdrawn charisma. Chan Marshall's latest album, six years from her last, provides her debut on Domino, bringing with it three defining aspects, most notably a collaboration with Lana Del Rey on title track "Woman". A Rihanna cover version of "Stay" also makes an appearance mid-way through while tinges of auto-tune inside "Horizon" only add to her continuous extension of folky, blues & roots Americana.
Review: Hot Chip are back! The coolest dudes since Devo return like a monkey with a miniature cymbal with their seventh full length album. With vocoding effects layered over the sweet tone of Alexis Taylor's voice referencing all matter of contemporary and retro-active pop and trance sensibilities, this album once again sees Hot Chip at the front of pioneering, friendly and avant garde pop music. Produced by the late Philippe Zdar (one half of Cassius) - also responsible for applying award winning touches to albums by Phoenix and Cat Power, Domino is calling the record "a celebration of joy but recognises the struggle it can take to get to that point of happiness". Our tips: album opener "Melody Of Love" and the '80s trance-pop that is "Hungry Child".
Review: Emotional Response welcome Detroit's Fuxa to the label with a mini-album that takes their trademark pyschedelic guitar and synth instrumental rock and showcases the more spiritual and ethereal creativity running within. Specially curated from Fuxa's two recent digital only albums - "Dirty D" and "Frequencies for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Healing" - this special 8 track selection sees each album represented on one side of vinyl. Highlighting band leader Randall Neimann's talent, a mastery of the studio that creates a wall of (mellow) sound that envelops and encases in equal measure. While very much Randall's band, the colloborative nature of the project sees numurous artists appear, with members from Mazzy Star, Add N To (X), Dean & Britta, Spiritualized and founding member Ryan Anderson all providing willing support to seek his primal sound. Noteworthy too is his first appearance as lead vocalist. It is the uplifting to hear his voice on the celebratory Shout Out Loud, the paean of Dream (Don't Give Up) and finally the blissedout-surf-psychedelia of Amen. Dirty Frequencies is a welcome departure for the label, a pyschedelic turn in the mold of the Nick Nicely (ERS005) release, but all the better for it because these sounds and ideas deserve to be heard. An inner trip yes, but really a celebration of the deeper part of the soul - a way to connect.
Review: Back in 2016 Music From Memory took a deep dive into the archives of obscure British multi-instrumentalist Mike Turtle, resurfacing with a fine double-album of largely previously unheard cuts. Two years on they've taken another stroll through Turtle's well-stocked vault, resulting in another essential collection of quirky cuts. Check, for example, the psychedelic patchwork "Reincarnation", where backwards drums do battle with exotic Indian samples, or the delay-laden, lo-fi synth-pop pulse of "Uiko's Return to Jeka", which boasts strange spoken word vocals from Turtle and South African style juju guitar solos. You'll find these kinds of imaginative experiments throughout; tracks that really shouldn't work, but instead entertain, excite and inspire in equal measure.
Review: When bands hit album four, two things can happen - or three. Some suffer from a crisis of creativity, opting to regurgitate or, worse still, stagnate. Others opt for reinvention, with as many getting it right as going well off-piste, alienating faithful fans in the process. The lucky ones, meanwhile, hit the nail on the head with their most accomplished and complete work to date. Consider Frankie Cosmos among the lucky ones, then, not that luck had much to do with it. Recorded in their New York hometown, everything about the record feels comfortable in that there's nothing forced, and yet it engages and grabs from the off. Lilting, lo-fi rock 'n' roll odes to love, life and the genre itself, anyone who's ever wondered what Cate Le Bon might sound like having a pancake breakfast with The Orielles should grab a seat at this table.
Review: Horton Jupiter has been skirting around various cosmically-inclined outfits for many years now, but this release marks his first outright solo venture, and where better for it to blast off from than the celestial circus sideshow of Bahnsteig 23? The record launches in a fit of kosmische bravado, all nagging arpeggios, warbling leads, sustained guitars and a healthy dose of drama. "Eclectic Day" is certainly a fitting title. "Smokin' The Roach" is an equally bombastic affair, although with a chirpier disposition and some Italian-sounding vocals, and then "The Box" finishes the EP off with a grungy trip through bongo beatdowns and fuzz guitar for those who like their psych music with a vintage twist.
Review: Slingin' slangin guitars, skittering drums and synths from BRIT School graduates Black Midi deliver a sound that's semi-ironic with all matter of punk leanings. With references abound to New York's heyday of experimental new wave and art rock, this two-track 12" for Rough Trade sees the four-piece edge that bit closer to their anticipated debut album called Schlagenheim. Due for a release this June, most of Schlagenheim was said to have been laid down in five days with producer Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Bloc Party) and these two tracks go to some length in introducing the band's raw talent, their meteoric rise and vision of a gone but not forgotten CBGBs.
Review: It's hard not to feel hypnotised by "How To Live". Modern Nature's debut long form outing opens with the sombre, mournful strings of "Bloom" - a strong case for albums setting the mood before developing. Finally kicking in with a stepping, building track, from thereon in the record expands, contracts and burrows through looping guitars, segments of field recordings, earthly folk lyricism, and wild saxophone solos. Second-to-last track "Nature" is almost a mirror image of "Footsteps", or at least an answer to any prevailing questions - they get deeper and more immersive. "Nightmares" pulls you in with gentle synths rippling in the background beneath soft lines of brass. "Criminals", meanwhile, is a more complex sounding affair, a fittingly dark-hued arrangement of simple guitar hook and slightly unnerving timbre that slowly reveals its true, far more positive intentions.
Review: Troubadour for the dejected, rejected, never-did-fits, Ezra Furman deserves to be ranked among the greatest songwriters of our time. On "Twelve Nudes" he takes the hard-learnt lessons of previous records and channels that anger, desperation, euphoria, fear and hope into an impassioned call to arms - his finest since "Perpetual Motion People". In many ways, this is a far more positive outing, too, or at least one that largely keeps the focus on big noise. "My Teeth Hurt" and "Thermometer" are ferocious, head-banging whirlwinds. "Evening Prayer aka Justice" throws fists to the air with protest-esque pride. "Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone" offers Northern Soul-leaning drums and rhythms. Of course, there's still room for freaky, introspective rockabilly melancholia - namely "I Wanna be Your Girlfriend". Like Furman himself on-stage, it's unashamed and unwilling to compromise, making for one of this year's finest bloody-lipped, sweat-soaked rock 'n' roll records.
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: Fresh from releasing the superb Pink Flamingos album on Dement3d, In Aternam Vale returns to Minimal Wave. This time round, he's not alone. Each of the tracks features the breathy, stylish vocals of Madrid-based Belarusian, Anneq. Her sleazy, whispered refrain is the headline attraction on the throbbing, industrial pop-meets-techno hustle of "Je Ai Dissous", while she also chats seductively over the undulating arpeggio lines, restless drums and dystopian atmospheres of "Tendencia (About Blank Version"). The ambient-leaning "V6" take of that cut is also hugely inspiring, while the Page R version of "Je Ai Dissous" is a dark, atmospheric and intoxicating celebration of legendary '80s "computer musical instrument", the Fairlight CMI.
Review: Talk to anyone about Stranger Things and it will only be a matter of minutes before the sensational soundtrack is mentioned. The future retro synths of Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have a huge impact on deepening the occult feelings you experience when watching the show and that continued through Series 3. Now you can grab the accompanying tracks on this mysterious CD, which features the vulnerable "You're A Fighter", celebratory 80s synth pop stomps of "Starcourt" and meditative charms of "The Ceiling Is Beautiful" amongst other nuggets of gold. The producers themselves have said this is less a score and more a series of cues, and it certainly got us thinking.
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: Say yes! The definitive gossamer Italo floor fuel of Ida No and Johnny Jewel's Glass Candy outfit enjoys an expanded reissue here after over a decade out of print. Nothing but synthetic positivity as both the title track and "Drumm" stride with an almost marching feel before "Where Time Sits Still" plunges much deeper into moody new romantic cinematics. Elsewhere other highlights include the slinky poignancy that lingers from every spacious bass pluck on "City Lights" and the trembling ambience and pressurised atmosphere of the finale "Sanctuary". Yes please.
Review: Socio-political commentary abounds Sleater-Kinney's latest. The title references Yeats' "The Second Coming", and while the catalyst for this call for help isn't clear we are so desperately lost as a civilisation, bound by the chains of what Adam Curtis calls oh dear-ism, the specific sickness is irrelevant. Our symptoms are universal. This is clearest on "Can I Go On". In contrast to the aforementioned, with its furious guitars and anguished vocals, it's a poppier, almost-80s affair. Yet it discusses exhausted, wired-in people, questioning if we are worth saving. Perhaps "Love" will help? A jerking, proto-electro infused effort that charts (presumably) the band's early years touring in a van. When things made sense. But nostalgia isn't salvation, especially when the distorted vocals and scuzzy riffs of "Bad Dance" tell us to get down before it's all over. Hope lost in a deliciously textured, provocative record.
Rushing Through My Mind (Mang Dynasty extended version) (8:03)
Rushing Through My Mind (Mang Dynasty instrumental version) (7:00)
Rushing Through My Mind (Mang Dynasty radio edit) (3:56)
Review: Ray Mang's slick disco stable Mangled calls upon a new pair of provocateurs to lay down a sun-kissed steamer to blow away those winter blues. The agents in question are Josefin Ohrn and The Liberation, and their "Mang Dynasty" is every inch the Balearic idyll rendered in a long form discoid jam. The extended version on the A side fully floats out into gently psychedelic waters guided by Ohrn's infectious hook, "I've got you rushing through my mind." For those who just want the groove there's the instrumental mix available as well, or you can always plump for the radio edit if time is short.