I’m intrigued by the descriptions I’ve heard of Myrkur. It’s a project by Danish singer Amelie Bruun, although initially the person behind the music was unknown. This reminds me of the mysterious iamamiwhoami, which fascinated me with the bounty project in particular, and was rumoured to the work of Christina Aguilera before it was revealed to be Swedish singer Jonna Lee.
Day 5 of self-isolation, but at least there’s a bounty of new albums coming my way, with it being Friday.
Having enjoyed Lonker See yesterday, I thought I’d check out another band on the same label. The Feral Trees – and I love their name for a start – are also from Poland, although singer Moriah Woods hails from Colorado, USA. The band brings together an unlikely combination of Southern folk and Eastern European sludge metal.
Offhand, I can’t recall ever sitting down and listening to a Polish band or musician. In fact the ‘Eastern Europe’ section of my music collection would be a bit like the hand sanitiser section at your local supermarket at the moment.
So at this time of global crisis, what is the logic behind a review of a 25-year-old album from a Swedish indie-pop band?
If someone had told me that by mid-March nobody would’ve been taking about Brexit anymore, I would have been amazed and delighted. In the run-up to the General Election in December, I was imploring people on both sides of the argument to consider that there was lot more to think about than Remain or Leave when voting. Sadly, it’s taken the outbreak of a global pandemic to get people to realise that getting worked up about the shape of fruit and the colour of your passport is pretty silly.
It can be a dangerous game when two artists come together for a release. If you’re a devoted fan of one or the other, your reaction is always likely to be “it’s alright, but not as good as their usual stuff”.
Right, I’ve fallen way behind on these, and gambling on future self-isolation and the free time that comes with it is no strategy, so here’s a quick review of an album that really deserves a bit more detail than I’m giving it.
For a band hailing from the keen-tongued, no-nonsense heart of West Yorkshire, The Orielles’ brand new second album really is über-cool stuff. Jazz, dancy, funky – it’s a real space-rock adventure.
When West meets East in indie/alternative music, it tends to work pretty well. Two examples that spring to mind are George Harrison’s work with sitarist Ravi Shankar, and the Indian influence on Britpop band Kula Shaker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whatever Boris and his bitches think of it, I’m embracing Europe, and today’s album comes from inventive Dutch trio The Homesick.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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!
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.
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.
It’s a shame that over time, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s once awesome name has come to sound a bit post-2000 emo. The turn of the millennium saw bands with names like Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) and The Number Twelve Looks Like You come along, so we got used to ridiculously long, nonsensical band names, and associated a particular kind of music with them.
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!”
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.
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.
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!
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.
Released: 2019 Origin: Manchester, England Label: Warner Best Track: The River
Released: 1979 Origin: London, England Label: Step-Forward Best Track: Twelve Men
Released: 1979 Origin: Ferryhill, County Durham, England Label: Virgin Best Track: Shout Above the Noise
Released: 2020 Origin: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Label: Bridge Nine Best Track: Kicking Over Bottles
Released: 2019 Origin: Melbourne, Australia Label: Ghosteen/Bad Seed Best Track: Bright Horses
Released: 2019 Origin: New York, USA Label: 4AD Best Track: Jenni
Released: 2020 Origin: Basque Country Label: Unsigned (I think!) Best Track: Empty Eyes