Glasgow seems bustling with musical gems at the moment. Indie-pop quartet Spinning Coin, who despite some visa problems with some of their international members still just about call the city home, released their second album a few weeks ago.
Category Archives: Album Reviews 2020
Album #57: Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music
When I reviewed Green Day’s Father of All… a few weeks ago, I was pretty scathing, but I’m starting to think I was a bit generous all the same. Music-reviewing YouTuber Anthony Fantano awarded the album 0 out of 10, while Sputnikmusic’s 1.5 out of 5 was only marginally kinder. There’s no doubt it is, was, and always will be a right toilet of a record.
Album #56: Nova Twins – Who Are the Girls?
Fitting that I should come to this one on International Women’s Day. On this confrontational and socially aware debut, we have a band that are about as fiercely feminine and proud of it as it gets.
Album #55: Real Estate – The Main Thing
Friday didn’t seem like the strongest of days for new albums, so I’m catching up with some new releases from the week before and saying hello to the fifth album from Real Estate.
Album #54: Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques
Stephen Malkmus is an artist who has explored many different genres, but what his work always has in common is it makes me think of sweltering heat. Whether it’s with Pavement, the Jicks or his solo output, hearing his music makes me envisage either golden, sun-drenched California suburbs, or arid deserts that stretch on for miles upon miles. It perhaps makes him the antithesis of Sigur Ros, whose music you can only associate with icy, glacial landscapes and bitter cold.
Album #53: Title Fight – Floral Green
I’m not sure how I missed Title Fight and the three albums they released between 2011 and 2015. Described as everything from post-rock, to melodic hardcore, to shoegazing, they sound like an amalgamation of everything I’m into, and this particular record reached #2 in the US Billboard Vinyl Charts. I suppose it’s another example of my musical blind spot from the late ’00s to the early ’10s.
Album #52: CLAMM – Beseech Me
Released in January and just coming to my attention now is the debut album from Melbourne punks CLAMM. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the Aussie punk scene at the moment, full of straight-talking, snotty bands putting their own spin on a formula that can’t go far wrong.
Album #51: King Krule – Man Alive!
I’m a bit too rural and dorky for rap and/or hip-hop, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it a go.
Album #50: Wasted Shirt – Fungus II
To expect anything but an unholy racket from two of the most profilic din-makers in the business would be hopelessly naive. Wasted Shirt is a joint project that sees the garage rock and psychedelia of Ty Segall intertwined with the experimental noise-rock of Lightning Bolt vocalist and drummer Brian Chippendale, with predictably loud, weird and uncompromising results.
Album #49: Soccer Mommy – color theory
With her 2018 debut Clean, Sophie Allison – aka Soccer Mommy – brought out one of my favourite albums of the decade. I’m not sure why I loved it so much, as it doesn’t tick many of the boxes of what I like to hear in music – it was a bit quiet for a start! And as a vocalist, I think she’s kind of ordinary.
Album #48: Thompson Twins – Into the Gap
It’s my birthday this weekend, and in a complete vanity project, I thought I’d find out what was number one in the UK album charts on the day I was born, and give it a listen and review.
Album #47: Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See
I read this morning that David Roback, founding member of dream-pop duo Mazzy Star, had passed away aged 61. A band that’s long been on my infinite list of ‘must hear more from’, it seems a fitting time to explore Mazzy Star and check out their best-known album.
Album #46: Greg Dulli – Random Desire
Best known for being the frontman for The Afghan Whigs and their side project The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a solid body of solo work too. Random Desire dropped last Friday and is his second studio album, and his first solo release since a 2010 live LP. I haven’t even heard a great deal of his two bands, let alone his solo output, so this will be a venture into the unknown for me.
Album #45: Cloth – Cloth
Facebook is, as we all know, a total arsehole, but one area in which it’s proved useful is in connecting music fans, exposing local bands to a wide but like-minded audience. A Glaswegian music lover’s postings alerted me to this band from his home city, who brought out their self-titled debut LP last November.
Album #44: Purr – Like New
It’s not easy to find out much about Purr. There have been several short-lived bands of the same name, but this is a New York boy-girl duo releasing their debut album. I tend to be quite fond of mixed-sex two-piece bands – Big Deal being an example that springs to mind in recent years. There’s just something quite likable about a male and female vocal singing together, not necessarily even harmonising.
Album #43: Guided By Voices – Surrender Your Poppy Field
In my last review, I described The Men as “prolific” for bringing out eight albums in a decade. Making that claim seem pretty laughable, Guided By Voices just brought out their 30th album since 1987 – all the more astonishing considering the dry spell between 2004 and 2012. Last year alone saw Bob Pollard and his lo-fi legends drop three full length albums.
Album #42: The Men – Mercy
Bringing us their eighth album in ten years, The Men are probably a band who meet the definition of being “prolific”, even if their pace has gradually slowed to around an album every two years. Their sound has evolved someone over that time too, gravitating towards Americana and country, yet retaining the hard, punky edge of their earlier work.
Album #41: HMLTD – West of Eden
From what I’ve heard of HMLTD in the past, I’m not sure whether I like them or not. Their mix of guitar rock and EDM influences is pretty innovative and original, but I’ve found it hard to escape the notion that they’re trying a bit too hard. Plus their name makes them sound like some kind of financial advice company.
Album #40: Kiwi jr. – Football Money
I was doing fine until I took a few days off work! Now, here I am on my 40th album, on the 50th day of the year. Not good enough!
Album #39: Bambara – Stray
It’s difficult to talk about Bambara without making comparisons to Nick Cave/Birthday Party – the baritone vocals, the dissonant guitar, the dark and narrative style of lyrics. Despite that, they’re not a derivative band by any stretch, and I prefer to think of them as a soundtrack to some kind of post-punk Western that’s never been put together.
Album #38: Mush – 3D Routine
Sounding more like they’re from the sun-drenched suburbs of California or Texas than the cold and damp expanse of West Yorkshire, Mush’s debut is one I’ve been looking forward to. I really liked their Induction Party EP last year – a bit lo-fi and rough around the edges perhaps, but that’s no bad thing.
Album #37: Blankenberge – More
Last week, I was writing about how Japanese shoegaze/dream-pop has its own distinct sound. So too does Russian, come to think of it. Spearheaded by the likes of Aerofall and the wonderful Pinkshinyultrablast, the genre’s Eastern European offerings are highly sonic and layered but not usually very abrasive, often favouring electronics to guitars, with delicate female vocals buried within the melee.
Album #36: Nada Surf – Never Not Together
Nada Surf are best known for writing the ’90s-est song ever in ‘Popular’, but what else have they done? Nine albums, as it turns out, the latest of which was released last Friday.
Album #35: The Homesick – The Big Exercise
Whatever Boris and his bitches think of it, I’m embracing Europe, and today’s album comes from inventive Dutch trio The Homesick.
Album #34: Duster – Stratosphere
While listening to Codeine on YouTube last week, as soon as the album finished, the site took me straight to a video of Duster’s 1998 debut Stratosphere. I’m still feeling a bit “slowcore” in this ongoing winter, particularly given Britain has been hit by one of the worst storms I’ve ever seen this weekend. So I thought, why not?
Album #33: Green Day – Father of All Motherfuckers
There was a sizeable period of time in my life where I would have called Green Day my favourite band. We’re talking from about 1999 to 2001, after the release of Nimrod and before, during and after Warning.
Album #32: Shopping – All or Nothing
Like Paris Saint-Germain in the French Ligue 1, there’s always a feeling that Shopping are a bit too good for what they’re playing. However, what they’re playing – minimal post-punk with a funky vibe – happens to be something I like a lot, so I’m never sure whether I really want them to try anything different.
Album #31: Wipers – Is This Real?
I’ve got to #31 without covering anything from the 1980s yet. About time that changed as I listen to a band often name checked as an influence on some of my favourite music.
Album #30: Bad//Dreems – Doomsday Ballet
Since I’ve started doing this blog I’ve found myself largely filling in the gaps between one Friday and the next with stuff I missed out on last year. And for some reason, a lot of it seems to be Australian.
Album #29 – Xinlisupreme – Tomorrow Never Comes
‘Japanese shoegaze’ might sound like a niche within a niche and a genre created by “that guy” who has to outweird everyone else with his music. Still, it’s quite a movement. In 2013, the ‘Yellow Loveless’ album saw all 11 tracks on My Bloody Valentine’s landmark album Loveless covered by Japanese bands. Of course, MBV’s Kevin Shields also contributed several songs to the soundtrack for Tokyo-based film Lost In Translation.
Album #28: Poliça – When We Stay Alive
After gravitating to the two big punk releases on Friday (Sløtface and Dune Rats), it’s time to explore something a bit more off my radar.
Album #27: Dune Rats – Hurry Up and Wait
Australia is without doubt the punkest country on Earth. Down there it’s pretty blunt, unpretentious and not afraid to do its own thing without caring what anyone else thinks about it. That basic, no-nonsense mentality has spawned the country’s fine pub rock scene, the punk arm of which perhaps rose through veterans Cosmic Psychos and continues today thanks to likes of the Chats. It’s often yobby and vulgar, but very real.
Album #26: Sløtface – Sorry for the Late Reply
It’s another New Music Friday, and I’m in for a bit of a pop-punk marathon today, starting with this second album from these Nordic whippersnappers.
Album #25: Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
I feel like I listened to more music in 2019 than I’ve done before, but there’s still a hell of a lot I’m catching up on. Today may be the eve of Brexit Day, but bollocks to all that – I’m jumping over the Channel to explore French band Alcest’s sixth album.
Album #24: Show Me the Body – Dog Whistle
Punk rock is, and always will be, the most important kind of music for me. At the same time, Jello Biafra had a point when he sang ‘Punk’s not dead, it just deserves to die’ on ‘Chickenshit Conformist’. I love basic punk, but it’s true that if the genre wants to be taken seriously, it has to stay fresh and keep saying and doing new things.
Album #23: Beth Orton – Trailer Park
I’ve no idea why I’ve never listened to this album. I love Beth Orton’s folky voice, and the single ‘Someone’s Daughter’ is one for any playlist even at a period as rich in indie/alternative music as the mid-’90s, but I’ve not heard much from her at all in truth. I remember her lending vocals to a couple of Chemical Brothers tracks around the same time, but other than that she bypassed me at the time and I haven’t caught up with her since.
Album #22: P – P
Something always attracts me to bands and artists with strange and stupid names. The short-lived alternative rock band P certainly didn’t preempt the rise of search engines when they chose their name. They’re an absolute bugger to find music by – in fact I had to search for the name of a track to find this album on Apple Music.
Album #21: Los Suziox – El Fin Justifica Los Medios
There’s little doubt that music is as affected as any art by the ‘Western Canon’. I’d hazard a guess that way over half of my music collection is made up of artists from either the UK or the US. There’s Ireland of course, and there are probably a fair few Canadians and Australians, some from the Nordic countries, and maybe the odd bit from Japan, but really even in a vast musical collection, probably only a small portion of the world is covered by anyone but the most discerning collector.
Album #20: Wolf Parade – Thin Mind
The third (and probably final) one of Friday’s releases I’m covering is by Canadian indie-rockers Wolf Parade. I haven’t been overly keen on previous work by this band, but I liked the two singles from it, ‘Against the Day’ and ‘Forest Green’. They had a bit more of an ’80s new wave feel than I’ve heard from the band in the past, so I thought I’d give this one a blast.
Album #19: Wire – Mind Hive
My Wire chronology jumps pretty much from the ’70s to the present with little in between. I know and love their first two albums, the iconic 1977 record Pink Flag and its follow-up Chairs Missing the following year – post-punk before punk had even had its heyday.
Album #18: Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
It’s a sure sign of mid-30s family life that the thing I now look forward to most on Friday nights is reruns of Top of the Pops on BBC Four. In the download and streaming age, today’s charts are pretty meaningless, but they also seem horribly bland. Perhaps it’s my age, but to me it sounds like there’s very little variety in the Top 40 these days. I heard a rundown of the weekly charts recently featuring a burst of every entry in it, and I was honestly left thinking “is this all just the same song?”
Album #17: Codeine – Frigid Stars LP
January is a long, cold and dark month here in Northern England, and I find that the best way to embrace it is with suitably miserable music. Sigur Rós has long been my go-to winter band, but I’m also drawn towards bands of the so-called slowcore/sadcore scene like Low and Red House Painters – that slow, minimalist and often downright depressing type of music.
Album #16: Holy Fuck – Deleter
My favourite fact about Holy Fuck was that in 2009, they appeared at the Festival of the Fuck Bands – along with fellow bands Fuck, Fucked Up, Fuck Buttons, Starfucker and Fuck The Writer – held in the town of Fucking, Austria. I thought that must be a wind-up when I first heard it, but no, it’s true!
Album #15: Criteria – Years
For my 15th review, I’ve covered an album called Years, by a band that’s gone 15 years without releasing one, on a label called 15 Passenger – a coincidence that’s as accidental as it is boring. I really must find better ways to start these blogs.
Album #14: Futurebirds – Teamwork
After a fairly slow first two weeks of the year for exciting new music, last week’s album releases have kept me busier than expected – probably enough so to keep me going until this Friday without dipping into anything older.
Album #12: Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision
Political punk rock usually works best when the message is delivered with subtlety, irony and humour. Perhaps at times like now though, with so many developed countries insisting on electing such complete fecking eejits as their leaders, there’s a need for someone to just come along and state the bleeding obvious. To tell us “for God’s sake, come on guys!”
Album #11: Bombay Bicycle Club – Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
This isn’t a great thing to admit, but I wouldn’t say I’m a music fan who reacts too well to change. While most critics tend to expect bands to mature and develop their sound, I’m quite happy for them to stick to a winning formula, rather than try something new and stuff it up.
Album #10: Suede – Bloodsports
An unfortunate byproduct of this project is I’m going to have to out myself as a newbie to several albums you’d think I’d have heard. In the first half of the 2010s, my interest in music was going through a bit of a drought.
Album #9: Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Part of the reason why I started doing this was because of how long it sometimes takes me to get round to listening to an album. I’ve realised that this one has been on my ‘I must listen to that list’ since May 2018! It’s conceivable she could have another one out soon!
Album #8: Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold
It’s time I stopped admiring Sleater-Kinney from distance and listened to them properly. They’re one of those bands I know I like without ever having listened to them that much, with my experience of them pretty much starting and ending with their 1997 riot grrrl staple Dig Me Out.
Album #7: Liam Gallagher – Why Me? Why Not.
Released: 2019 Origin: Manchester, England Label: Warner Best Track: The River
Album #6: Chelsea – Chelsea
Released: 1979 Origin: London, England Label: Step-Forward Best Track: Twelve Men
Album #5: Penetration – Coming Up for Air
Released: 1979 Origin: Ferryhill, County Durham, England Label: Virgin Best Track: Shout Above the Noise
Album #4: Beach Slang – The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City
Released: 2020 Origin: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Label: Bridge Nine Best Track: Kicking Over Bottles
Album #3: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Released: 2019 Origin: Melbourne, Australia Label: Ghosteen/Bad Seed Best Track: Bright Horses
Album #2: Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
Released: 2019 Origin: New York, USA Label: 4AD Best Track: Jenni
Album #1: Nuclear Dreams – Year Zerø
Released: 2020 Origin: Basque Country Label: Unsigned (I think!) Best Track: Empty Eyes