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: 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.