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: 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: 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: 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: "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: 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 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: 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.