Review: If there were still justice in the digital age, and artists really got what was owed to them exposure-wise, Alex Cameron would be a safe bet for leftfield pop sensation. A multi-faceted songwriter, his previous two albums took us through a horror show of horrible characters and their innermost thoughts, twin roads that have somehow veered onto another course altogether for "Miami Memory". Here a much friendlier face is donned. Nevertheless, opener "Stepdad" makes intentions clear, with uptempo keyboard lines invoking the emotional qualities of mid-80s Prince. "Far From Born Again" tells the story of a "her" who's making bad choices, and the potential fallout of that, set to a Bruce Springsteen-sounding chorus, the likes of which can be found again on "Divorce". Not holding back, but instead holding a light up to a different side of his personality, it's Cameron's most positive to date and his best.
Review: We're now over thirty years on from the era in which the Reid brothers were a headline and riot creating hype machine, yet if 'Damage And Joy' proves one anything, it's that the strange cocktail of insouciance and nihilism with which they made their reputation is an evergreen thing. This collection of surprisingly upbeat garage-rockers and languid ballads is carved in the same alluring classicist shapes that the brothers have made their trademark, yet the band - aided and abetted by collaborators like Sky Ferreira and Isobel Campbell - sound alarmingly vivacious for ones who've made their name through narcotic cool, whilst these songs bear an indelible imprint of melodic charm and three-chord rawness.
Review: From the moment opening track "Giving Up" hits you with its timeless pop rock romanticism you're immediately transported to some bygone era, when the charts really meant something, everything on the radio inspired boy-meeting-girl, vice versa, or indeed non-binary-meeting-non-binary. You know - when things were right with the world. Dangerously close to pastiche, the quality of the songwriting and infectious instrumentation elevate this second long form from Chicago's greatest hope(s) to a whole other level. Listen to the brass work on "Rhododendron", a jaunty walk in the park after that surprisingly good first date. "Valleys (My Love)" anthemic chorus and lilting strings. The crooning guitars of "Before I Know It". These tracks pay homage to golden era love songs, when mainstream was experimental because so little had come before. And yet they all stand up today - mesmerising proof that fashions come and go, but style is omnipresent.
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: 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: It's business time. Alongside Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Simpsons, references or refrain for New Zealand comedy act Flight of the Conchords are never far off. And with the pair garnering even more notoriety with their cameo songwriting appearing in shows like Rick and Morty, it's no surprise to hear they've delivered a special. Recorded live in London, and released in deluxe triple vinyl form via legendary Seattle label Sub Pop, if you can survive the raucous laughter between the punchlines across the night's setlist than you'll appreciate classics like "Inner City Pressure", "Mutha'uckas - Hurt Feelings" and "Bowie" that much more, and with live adlib commentary between the scenes too, "The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)" curtails this mega release with a most classic closer and encore! Happy Birthday.
Review: Joseph Donald Mascis, well known front man of Dinosaur Jr., provides a third solo instalment for Sub Pop in what you could call a trilogy of LPs for the Seattle label. It follows Tied To A Star (2014) and Several Shades Of Why (2011), and other than keys and occasional guest vocals, this record is proudly his own show. Still wistful and Americana at its finest, the warmth in Mascis vocal are a highlight on this LP and they come through bright yet forlorn on album opener "See You At The Movies", and sombrely so on "Web So Dense" too. And by the time you make your way to "Everything She Said" you may just feel like you've listened to new age Pearl Jam session without the dangerous amounts of whiskey.
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: It would seem for all the world like Ty Segall is locked in some deathless conflict with Thee Oh Sees man John Swyer to see who can be the most prolific garage rock genius of the here and now, with this self-titled effort - a record as awash with his trademark blend of jam-kicking cheer and stylish chutzpah as ever - the latest case for this cause. But with his band The Muggers taking a more prominent role here, 'Ty Segall' is not just that same old fabulous thing - sure, there are three minutes punk gems, cocky T-Rex ramalama and head-spinning psych-pop, yet one song here hits a mighty ten minutes, hinting that there may be evolutionary pathways open to this modern-day marvel even beyond his ability to rock out like no-one else on earth.
Review: To be a fan of Ty Segall must be a rewarding thing as the Californian singer-songwriter can deliver at the very least one album per annum. This does nothing to diminish the quality of his much loved and trusted music and this time around, with the help of his backing group the Freedom Band, he delivers a live album recorded at Los Angeles' Teragram Ballroom. Mixed by American legend Steve Albini, this album even comes with a rendition of a Segall track commissioned by Comedy Central, and though "Deforming Lobes" may be on a slightly different tip from Segall's cover album "Fudge Sandwich" - and the four albums he released in 2018 - there's no denying the raw take of a wild, uncensored performance.
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: Before we get to his solo career credentials, it's a good thing to know something of Kevin Morby's background first. The American singer-songwriter has counted himself as the bassist in the Brooklyn outfit Woods and was frontman of The Babies before that. This cassette release of Oh My God delivers Morby a fifth solo studio album since his Harlem River debut in 2013 and the versatility of his styles and inspirations seem to be hitting a new high, given the sometimes bluesy substance of his lyrics. Often where Morby's voice hits a sweet spot, subtle humming attenuations caress his deeper notations, all coated in a slight smokey haze similar to Bob Dylan (of now) and the late Leonard Cohen. Throw this into a mix of light distortion, piano ballads and theatrical big band techniques, it's in Kevin Morby we trust.
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: Sporting something of an appearance that looks like it could have come out of Harmony Korine's Gummo, Cherry Glazerr reappear once again on their homely label Secretly Canadian. There's a mass of pop culture appeal to band, and considering they surfaced early on [Adult Swim] it's no surprise maybe to see everything from mid-western emo to punk motifs alongside more cosmo R&B beats. It's an album that wears its hair up or down, experiencing softer and more introverted moments to thrash guitars and punk stances. With angst and distortion never far from earshot, the album's flex is acoustic and electronic with the imaginations of talented kids dosed up on MTV Americana coming to the fore.
Review: It's safe to say when City Slang releases a record everyone listens, with White Denim now the newest Texan contingent filling the ranks of the German label. Following a longplayer this year from Calexico outta Tucson, White Denim bring the sound of Austin to the label by delivering their ninth long player in ten years. Like the artwork of performance, the music is a colourful montage that brings together saxxy jazz, mellow tropicana and distorted garage to psych rock and pop, with melancholic vocals only adding to its unique cross section of colours. A highlight for us is the '70s Biker rock of "It Might Get Dark" and finger snappin', vibrato heavy "Moves On".
Review: By the time you reach the muffled, eccentric opening bars of "Tenderness", just past halfway on "Anak Ko", Jay Som's remit is clear. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter has left her shoes, or rather shoegaze, behind. This time she's walking barefoot through a lo-fi musical tapestry, baring soles and heartbreak while musing on the importance of self-value. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the head-noddingly agreeable "Nighttime Drive" to the jerking, grunge-y "Peace Out", it's equal parts gorgeous and effortlessly- not to mention breathily- cool, sexy and surprising. Perhaps what's most reassuring, though, is that there's every chance this could all come across as affected and a little too self-aware. Nothing could be further from the truth from what we can hear- an honest work representing the next step in the evolution of a truly exciting American indie talent.