Review: The last ten years have seen no shortage of bands with their delay pedals set to stun intent on capturing an aura of dreamlike radiance. Yet Texas 'pop-noir' troupe Cigarettes After Sex are no ordinary shoegazers, for a variety of reasons - frontman Greg Gonzalez' androgynous and dulcet tones may be part of the appeal, yet moreover it's the quality of the songwriting here, which never falls prey to the style-over-substance traps of their peers. Indeed, this debut is more than enough to justify the considerable hype around this outfit, being a collection of ditties as sultry as they are atmopsheric.
Review: House Music With Love turn once again to Swedish duo Swim for a record soaked in a particularly soothing bath of Balearic goodness. Original track "Be There" is certainly laced with an air of Scandinavian cool, not least thanks to Erika Rosen's dreamy vocals, but there's a solid boogie undercarriage carrying the music along. Halllo Halo step up with a remix that makes a playful, intricate broken beat refrain out of the backing track while maintaining the vocals. Ghost Immanuel meanwhile whips up a spacious dub that stays close to the original, albeit in instrumental form.
Review: "Father Of The Bride", Vampire Weekend's first album for six long years, has been receiving praise across the board from critics. It's been variously described as a "modern California pop masterpiece", a "scrapbook of brilliant ideas" and "the band's magnum opus". To our ears, it's certainly joyous and celebratory, with the acclaimed New York band wrapping their usual punchy-indie pop in subtle and not so subtle nods towards everything from Flamenco and Country music, to mournful piano ballads, excitable electronic indie-dance and 1960s baroque pop. In other words, it's a giddy collection of inventive, enjoyable songs that boasts the same eclectic, anything-goes swagger as the Beatles "White Album" or other similar wide-ranging sets.
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: Thirteen studio albums in, and 'Colors' sees Beck maybe at his most playful and upbeat since the late '90s. Title track 'Colors' opens the albums with an immediacy that bursts out like a heavily polished 'Devil's Haircut'. The album veers off in all kinds of pop directions, from the anthemic 'Seventh Heaven', to the almost trap-like 'Wow', Beck shows he's willing to experiment and wrangle as much as possible into an album. It might not be his most contemplative record, but it's definitely his glossiest and most entertaining in a while, and promises a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
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: 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: 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.
Why Do I Lose My Mind When I Have Something To Say?
Review: Through her 'U.S. Girls' project, Toronto-based Meg Remy has released a consistently high quality run of albums that explore issues of femininity with a shaded and angular avant-pop sound. New record 'In A Poem Unlimited' sees Remy continue to explore identity politics, but in a comparatively warmer and more free sound as she collaborates with improvisational group The Cosmic Range. Structurally, the album enjoys an unpredictability of form that sprawls across skulking grunge, found sounds, crunching horn-sections and synth-driven industrial disco. Highlight track 'Incidental Boogie' exemplifies this binding of elements; the contrast of stomping, distorted with Remy's breathy and swaggering vocals is an intoxicating one. The breadth of Remy's palette makes this album an exhilarating listen, and - both as a vocalist and writer - Remy shines as an arresting and formidable talent.
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: San Diego post-hardcore veterans Hot Snakes return with 'Jericho Sirens', fourteen years after their last record 'Audit In Progress' and following a 2011 reunion tour. Slightly longer in the tooth but markedly reinvigorated, this comeback is an explosive powerhouse of an album - all blistering and thundering backings, coupled with Rick Froberg's acerbic commentary. The songwriting is ferocious, exhilarating and intelligent, and after working on various other projects (Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt, Pitchfork et al) the Hot Snakes lineup is sounding stronger than ever. Accompanying this comeback, Sub-Pop also plan to reissue their back-catalogue, but if this return is anything to go by, hopefully there will be plenty more new music to come in the future.
Review: Psychedelic serenades worthy of our attention can be tricky to track down in the here and now, yet it takes little time to work out that the work of Morgan Delt, a bedroom auteur with as much warped songcraft to offer as excursions into the wilderness. 'Phase Zero' maps out an interstellar constellation between the '60s world of The Byrds, the '70s bedlam of Jean-Pierre Massiera and the contemporary slant of recent Flaming Lips, yet at all times it boasts a widescreen sweep and wide-eyed wonderment to match its sonic playfulness and melodic sleight-of-hand, resulting in a gem for the third-eye and both ears alike.
Review: This Melbourne-based outfit, notable for containing no fewer than three singer-songwriters in their ranks, are a tonic and a half for anyone who grew up on the Velvets-indebted indie-pop of the '80s - outfits like The Feelies and The Go-Betweens, or the Flying Nun stable - offering a similarly sprightly, sharply perceptive and richly melodic sound as well as a playful freshness of approach. This six-song collection sees them building on the promise of their earlier 'Talk Tight' with elan, and an almost objectionable amount of songwriting acumen. Few in the current indie milieu are quite so adept at making such a time-honoured sound hit so brand new.
Review: A teaser single to the forthcoming album from Black Bananas. On the A-side, the multi-channel frequency overspill that flows freely through Black Bananas' sound has been combed up into a glamour 'do, ready to groove through a night on the town.Waves of the late light beam across the water, cool in the evening as we head out to tha club, where the guitars are MIDI, the synths bump'n'grind the beat and arc melodies high above the crowd's head, and the gasping of the clubbers is always on the one. Jennifer's sweet delivery is an ode to the stone soul joy of being out on the tiles. This track's a blast from an alternate dimension of weirdness, perfectly nailed from top to bottom. The B-side reworks the glare of recent glory. With four on the floor like they just don't care no more, Hot Chip outline the physical motions of Rad Times Xpress IV's "TV Trouble," with a hot remix.
Review: Listening to the awaited full length of The National's Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon's (Bon Iver) Big Red Machine project and it's hard not to think they've invested themselves in discovering deeper strands of electronic music, or production... if the sporadic drum machine work of "Deep Green" is anything to go by. "I Won't Run From It" however sees the pair back in their full choral beauty, presenting a song for thousands to potentially wave their hands this summer. This Big Red Machine was produced over the past two years involving many-a collaboration from New York and its artistic community, with the band themself saying: "this feels like something new-the process felt different and the outcome felt different." Check it.
Review: Planet Mu has long been celebrated as a genuine source of musical surprises, but even by their standards John Wizards, the debut album from the South African/Rwandan duo of the same name, is a bolt from the blue. Gloriously, it is near impossible to pigeonhole (or even accurately describe), offering a kaleidoscopic, near tropical fusion of gorgeous African pop, skewed electronica, traditional African songwriting, bright juju guitars, wonky British indie-pop, tactile R&B and loads more besides. That it not only makes sense but sounds great, too, confirms that these guys are a major talent. Recommended.
Review: Mulvey's 2014 debut was quite deservingly widely acclaimed, and established him as a highly skilled solo artist. His work with Portico Quartet was cinematic and wide-eyed, and proved his ability to work with broad and enchanting atmospherics. This coupled with a wide range of musical textures brings us to his second album 'Wake Up Now' which is as playful as it is diverse. Just as you're settling into ideas, Mulvey's introduction of surprising elements pleasantly catches you off guard, and this album is all the better for it. Tracks such as 'Myela' - inspired by the current refugee crisis - and the touching 'Unconditional' are key moments in a confident follow-up by an undoubtedly graceful and intricate songwriter.
Review: The teenage duo of Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker have proved themselves unusually skilled at crafting stripped-down, luminous ditties with angular indie-rock shapes, whilst dealing in their spare and affecting style with issues of vulnerability and frailty that most outfits struggle to negotiate. 'Powerplant', their second album and first for Anti, boasts a fuller production than their debut, and may appeal to admirers of Throwing Muses and Cat Power alike, but seldom has such a knotty and gnarly take on punk rock also sounded so raw and intimate.
Review: Feisty female foursome Hinds impressed with their 2015 debut album Leave Me Alone, so hopes are naturally high for this follow-up. It's certainly a confident and cheery affair - musically at least - with the Spanish band flitting between fuzzy, rockier workouts, cuts that touch on classic indie-rock tropes, and eccentric guitar pop, all held together by the band's punk-influenced vocal delivery (half-sung, half-shouted, almost always involving multiple members at once) and a deliciously "do-it-yourself" production style that largely eschews modern studio trickery. The result is a fresh, thrill-a-minute set that should see their stock rise even further.
Review: Alien Stadium is a collaborative project comprised of Martin Duffy of Primal Scream and Felt, and Steve Mason of The Beta Band. 'Livin' In Elizabethan Times' is an audacious and oddball cosmic rock concept mini-LP about a comically underwhelming invasion of drunkard aliens. As well as the sheer unadulterated fun of the record, the amount of dense and inventive genre-melting the pair have managed to cram into these four tracks is astonishing - dropping in theremins, sound effects, militaristic horns and much more when you least expect them. They set an interplanetary course from twanging and stomping bluesy opener 'This One's For The Humans', through hypnotic balearic-ish bleep and orchestrated retro-futurist pop, to the huge cosmic disco closer 'Titanic Dance'. At first glance, it's an unashamedly silly and fun offering, but repeat listens will reveal these maverick veterans have woven in far deeper layers of commentary humour and substance.
Review: Nev Cottee may hail from Manchester (his former band Proud Mary were the first signing to Noel Gallagher's Sour Mash label) yet his heart and muse seem firmly attached to some outpost in the southern states of America, and the sun-kissed atmosphere and narcotically-enhanced mellifluousness of 'Broken Flowers' will have it taking pride of place in the more enterprising head's collection. Something akin to a Ry Cooder platter enhanced by the production and arrangement nous of Air's 'Virgin Suicides', 'Broken Flowers' is a thing of lazy majesty indeed.
Review: These Liverpudlian beat mavens have always - like many great bands - been a mass of contradictions. Perpetually youthful yet with a sound forever entrenched in the heady haze of the late '60s, they've now set themselves up as something of an institution for a mindset based on worn copies of 'Forever Changes' and 'Five Leaves Left, Yet 'Distance Inbetween' - their first for five years - is proof positive that their charm, for all its familiarity, is unlikely to wear off soon. A bold and colourful display of world-class songwriting and heavy-lidded cool from perennial psychedelic peacocks.