Review: Where were you seven years ago? School? High school? College? First job? Last job? Whatever the answer it's certainly not the same place as Efterklang were, and still are. The Danish trio have never been of this world, yet give us so many opportunities to consider the emotion and passion this world offers. The first album to be fully written in their native tongue accentuates those qualities - dreamy soundscapes, different and decidedly bewitching intonation. It's an epic journey, with the likes of "Uden Ansigt" among the most epic, like Bon Iver's vocals slow dancing with the soaring instrumentation of Sigur Ros. "Havet Lofter Sig" ups the beauty, fittingly on the shortest track - gentle pianos, unnaturally pitched backing voices and baritone lead creating real yearning, proving nothing great lasts forever. Or longer than a couple of minutes. Cutting to the chase, it's a mesmerising work you're sure to have on repeat.
Review: There's plenty of anticipation around Big Thief's third record U.F.O.F., and we can say with confidence that it delivers on every front. A solid expansion of their last record, Capacity, U.F.O.F. for the most part goes deeper into diverse sonic territories that's emotionally raw and rich, calling to mind Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and various other accomplished singer songwriters especially in songs like "Contact" and "Cattails". Elsewhere, "Strange" and "Orange" provide a backing that seems more upbeat on the surface, yet the varied vocal technique of Adrianne Lenker, ranging from a whisper to a vulnerable bellow keeps us firmly captivated. The album really shines through when it reaches for slightly louder soundscapes, best heard on "Terminal Paradise" and "Jenni" (with the latter reminding us of "Washer" by Slint). All in all, U.F.O.F. will be a record that entrances you with its subtle yet haunting charm.
Review: The preaching sirens of Deerhunter return, long has everyone been waiting, since the band's Fading Frontier LP of 2015. The group have moved on from the pinky-pop nostalgia they've described as their last album, and moved into and towards a darker and more intensifying feel. The Atlanta group's eighth full-length in total finds itself tripping out on klaviers and chant-like numbers as heard in "Element" and the rickety jingle of album opener "Death In Midsummer". While there's some crooked-eye positivity to be found in the James Dean referencing "Plains", the masterwork of the band's ambient and cinematic scope remains as strong as ever, and alongside Bradford Cox's undeniable haunt, vocal contributions and extra (subtle) hints of subversive nihilism come from Cate Le Bon and White Fence's Tim Presley.
Review: Western Australian haircuts Methyl Ethel bring their surrealist wares back to London's 4AD for a second time, following up the Everything Is Forgotten LP of 2017. Spearheaded by Jake Webb and his somewhat androgynous vocal take, a most alluring factor of the band's music, the group continue to deliver a musical blend of avant synth and indie pop with swathes of emotion we will compare to Bat For Lashes, Hot Chip and even in some cases, Tool. Achieving huge success down under, and once slated as just another "psychedelic rock band from Perth" by the smirking editorials of the big smoke, this homespun album sees Webb's avant take on pop at the edge, or ahead of the curve, of mainstream listening; See the drama of "Post-Blue", the summery haze of "Real Tight" and the concoction of sounds to make Arcade Fire blush in "All The Elements".
Review: It's not hard to understand why people so often ignore album release blurb. Sales-y, hyperbolic, and on more than the odd occasion rather poorly written, it's hardly required reading in order to get the most out of the record. That is unless it's Big Thief's 'Two Hands', a collection of music that genuinely makes more sense when you know the back story. For one thing this long form offering is arriving just months after its predecessor, which is always either the sign of a band that don't need big ideas to facilitate rapid-fire output, or a band that have so many big ideas they literally can't stop the momentum. This is a case of the latter. Timescale aside, "Two Hands" genuinely feels as though it was born in the Badlands, epic songs that invoke endless vistas across barren settings in a way that makes you feel as small as you actually are in a global context. Like cosying up in a log cabin away from the chilly endless dark of a desert night.
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: There's a certain infallibility to Phoenix, a band one imagines would manage to keep a certain louche, cocktail-sipping cool even in the middst of a full-scale thermonuclear war, and 'Ti Amo' is another effortlessly assured and almost indecently cool outing from a band who nonetheless have pushed the kitsch factor further here than ever before. With an Italian theme presiding over these characteristically sunny and laidback ditties, here we're gifted Moroder-esque disco, smooth house and a plethora of '80s synths, yet far from coasting on charm and glamour these young fops are as adept with a memorable hook as a sharply-turned collar.
Review: God bless Metronomy. Pioneers of a dance-indie crossover that was less garish and day-glow hued than the Nu Rave movement dominant back then. Their sixth full-length comes in the 10th anniversary year of their first, and proves the band have grown and fine-tuned, rather than got lost and forgotten why they came out to begin with. Despite clear development, though, the spirit of that inaugural effort is still here, and arguably in more generous helpings than any outing between then and now. Equal parts playful and earnest, there's plenty here to fall in love with. Single-worthy outings like the bouncy, floor-filler "Salted Caramel Ice Cream" and the appropriately titled pairing "Wedding" and "Wedding Bells" are confident and big room sounding. "The Light" veers into dubbier, more introverted directions, whereas "Upset My Girlfriend" shows them at their most heart-achingly beautiful and human. Exquisite, as usual.