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: 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: Like a slightly in-tune Nico from her collab with The Velvet Underground, Natalie Mering's vocals have a unique quality to them that shouldn't go unheard. There's an undeniable country music beauty to the notes and instrumentation in both tracks "A Lot's Gonna Change" and "Andromeda", with Mering hitting those high notes more like Father John Misty and Roy Orbison than Dolly Parton. It's here that it becomes obvious why she is such a trusted collaborator with Ariel Pink. Her album as Weyes Blood, "Titanic Rising", dips and dives through a sequence of emotions that from the halfway point soars like a bird in "Everyday" and the Enya-like "Movies" before making its own crescendo down again on "Picture Me Better" and "Nearer to Thee", closing the album with nostalgia-inducing tales.
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: When is a psychedelic rock album not a psychedelic rock album? Anyone who has quickly scrawled answer-on-postcard reads "when it's Temples" can go straight to the top of the class. Evidently you have been paying attention over the course of the British three piece's last two full length records. It's not that things don't sound pretty out there and trippy. All the elements to achieve that are here, but the accessibility is ramped up to the level of a pop album, with arrangements owing more to traditional song craft than anything particularly experimental. Don't read that as criticism, though. Tracks like "Not Quite The Same" are huge, proud, instantly catchy but far from obvious numbers. "You're Either On Something" thumps and lunges through its various permutations, "Atomise" pares everything back, luring us in, before opening up into a frantic, grunge-metal guitar line. We can only imagine the fun they had recording it.
Review: Unabashed satirical wares straight outta Nottingham, Sleaford Mods somewhat charming embrace of British provincialism sees the semi-ironic nature of their music nestle itself in a space shared with Jamie T, Mike Skinner and Blackout Crew. Slightly wayward, political and patronising, their music can sometimes come off something like a scene out of Peep Show, though however tongue-in-cheek their commentary of the UK life can be, it's a gloriously proud album of cultural identity, and in among references to chip tune, bedroom produced beats, alternative Madchester-era sounds to rap and spoken word, it's a record embracing hoodies and trainers as much as it does anarchy and builder's tea. Oi!
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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
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: When you use words like "prickly", "abrasive" and "uncompromising" it's rarely flattering. Consider Kim Gordon's exceptional powerhouse long form one of the exceptions. As far removed from music for the masses as you could hope for, it takes a particular talent to deliver work like "No Record Home". Labels such as punk certainly apply, but it's less about mouths gushing spittle amid the deafening screams of guitars and raucous vocals, and more about overall attitude. No change there for this co-founder of the mighty Sonic Youth then. Loud and intelligent, forthright and yet heartfelt and tender in its own unforgiving way, it's as far removed from wall of sound discordance as it is anything you could describe as remotely over-explored. Marrying the bloody-lipped electro of Peaches and body blow lows of EBM with gritty rock 'n' roll chords, those looking for originality that oozes repeatability should consider their hunt over, for now at least.
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.