With the cold and dark months finally behind us, Getintothis’ Album Club is back with a fresh selection of the best albums of the month to usher in the spring.
There’s always a sense of optimism about this time of the year.
It looks as if we’ve survived another winter, albeit with that late smattering of February snow and ice we had to contend with. The clocks have moved forward to British Summer Time- although that phrase always smacks of Brexit, petty nationalism and irony in equal measures- and the first daffodils of spring are poking through the muddy grass verges.
Easter is nearly upon us, the shops are full of chocolate eggs, there’s blue skies overhead as I write this and the heating can be turned down a notch.
All is well with the world. Well, probably not, but here at Getintothis Towers we’re pretty much a glass half full bunch of people and particularly as far as music is concerned.
The advent of spring means a whole lot of things music wise.
On top of that there’s gigs galore happening in Merseyside, across the North West and further afield. We’re never really short of live music.
There’s new releases happening all the time, new albums on the way from artists, old and new and yet-to-be-discovered. Albums you’ve been waiting for ages and albums that pop up unannounced and yet still fill you with delight and wonder.
This is happening month-in and month-out of course and despite all the naysayers, things are pretty vibrant out there. There’s no point in looking back to the good old days with your rose-tinted spectacles on; whether those halcyon times were five, ten or twenty years ago, it doesn’t really matter.
Forget being a look-back bore. Enjoy and revel in the here and now and look forward to the future, because what’s happening now and what’s going to happen is surely what music is all about and what keeps us so fascinated and enthralled.
In the spirit of all of the above, with spring on the way and Easter bunnies hopping all over the show, here we go with our pick of the last month’s album releases. Like a sort of selection box there’s something for everyone in here and hopefully some surprises as well. Time to look ever forward…
John Luther Adams/JACK Quartet: Everything That Rises
Cold Blue Music
John Luther Adams released one of this writers favourite albums of the year back in 2014, with his Become Ocean piece recorded with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
A truly incredible work of not only music, but of art itself, Become Ocean won the Pulitzer Prize for music as well as picking up a Grammy along the way; its single musical texture, rising and falling over an uninterrupted 42 minutes, was something quite unique and remarkable.
At the centre of Adams world is nature and, in many ways, the indifference of nature. A long time native of the remote parts of Alaska, for Adams it means the vastness of the landscape, of the tundra, forest, glaciers and mountains.
Become Ocean spoke of life on earth emerging from the sea and as the polar ice melts and sea levels rise, we as human beings face the very real prospect of once again becoming ocean. The indifference of nature writ large.
The follow-up, if you will, to Become Ocean– Become Desert– is due to be premiered at the very end of March in Seattle and promises to be as shattering and oddly as life-affirming as its predecessor.
In the interim, however, we do have something new; Adams’ Everything That Rises recorded with the JACK Quartet.
It would be wrong however, to see this as a stop gap composition. Everything That Rises stands as a beautiful work in its own right.
Everything That Rises is a single 56-minute piece. Everything ebbs and flows, and within a subsonic tone, Adams explores 16 ‘harmonic clouds’, moving ever so slightly in and out of atonality. It’s not unsettling as such but rather oddly comforting. Time stands still and you get so wrapped up in it then it’s difficult to know if you’ve been listening to it for five, ten or twenty minutes.
But rather than rising- and it does give the slight impression of clouds wisping away on the tops of mountains, with ever upwards progressions of notes- it seems to climb, as if we are climbing the very peaks close to Adams, until at the end we reach the top and all that’s left is the sound of bows scratching in thinning air and notes evaporating into nothingness.
It’s astounding and we urge you to give this just one listen. We’re sure you won’t be disappointed. Rick Leach
Esme Bridie: Today It Rains
Esme Bridie is the Merseyside-based singer/songwriter delivering stunning lyrics among a harmony of classical, pop and folk sounds that might be likened to Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.
Today It Rains is her debut album and one which sweeps swiftly from one song to the next, with a barely noticeable change between songs. While this may sound like a criticism, it’s far from it.
Bridie’s voice allows the listener the ability to smoothly sink into the album, becoming aware once again only once it’s all over. Her velvet vocals trickle over a folk/pop background and some gentle guitar picking, forming a dreamy bubble for us to fall into when the work day becomes a bit too much (for this, in particular, we’d recommend The Queen Bee).
While the tracks all have a likeness, there are some which offer a more upbeat melody, such as In Love With This City. The pop aspect is most clear in this song, making it the perfect accompaniment to a sunny city walk in Liverpool; or anywhere to be honest.
Meanwhile, songs such as Old Love (How Did We Get Thit Way) are more pensive and allow Bridie’s full lyrical potential to shine through: ‘Or are we just afraid to find the words to say/Were the skies brighter yesterday’. Lauren Wise
Max Eastley/Steve Beresford/Paul Burwell/David Toop: Whirled Music
This album was originally released on David Toop’s Quartz records in 1980 and documents Whirled Music: a spectacular music and art project which ran from 1978 to 1983.
The idea is simple and like all the best ideas unfolds into a fabulous variety of sounds, textures and other content. According to the lavish sleeve notes and booklet that come with the album: ‘Max Eastley first suggested the idea of a piece restricted solely to whirled instruments after he had seen Paul Burwell whirling heavy Chinese cymbals and banging them violently on the floor producing spectacular Doppler effects.’
So the idea of whirling sound sources on the end of a piece of string or whirling an object until it produces sound is the principle behind what became a series of performances and recordings that eventually lead to this album.
The performances were somewhere between ‘composition, installation, and improvisation’. The range of instruments took on the nature of sound sculpture and the improvised events had a ritual and ethnic quality, largely due to the performers wearing protective wicker baskets on their heads and the performance area being behind netting to protect the audience if a string should snap.
The two sides of the album are the Audience side and the No Audience side – the former recorded live at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham and the latter a collection of shorter recordings, three of which are recorded outdoors.
The restrictions of the whirling process make the No Audience side in particular very natural sounding. The process itself controls extremes of volumes and peaks; producing gentle rises and falls in intensity.
The Doppler effect and the harmonic series that whirling produce are fundamental natural acoustic phenomena, so the pieces sound like frogs, insects, birds or the wind in the trees.
The Audience side is much more active and noisy, even transgressive in places; that being the spirit of the time in Thatcher’s Britain. There is a bigger range of sounds: more percussion in particular, giving it more crowd-pleasing dynamics.
This is a very beautiful album which serves to prove so many valuable points: that restriction of method can drive creativity to new heights and new discoveries, while lending the output a special unity; that music can be made in many, many different ways if you allow yourself the space; and that good, well-developed ideas will stand the test of time. Jono Podmore
Etherwood: In Stillness
After 2015’s epic Blue Leaves, Etherwood has stepped back from its stadium drum & bass sounds and has instead come up with a more mellow, introspective album. As a huge fan of Blue Leaves, In Stillness at first sounded a little underwhelming. But, with repeated plays, the cleverness and thought of In Stillness worms its way under your skin and you find yourself returning to it more and more as you unwrap its many layers.
At first, it seems like Etherwood is toning down the drum & bass aspects of his music and bringing a more pop sensibility into his songs. But as the songs here work their magic on you it becomes apparent that all the energy and pace of Hospital Record’s brand of drum & bass is still there, but it’s been given a polish and sheen that makes it sound somehow at once minimal and expansive.
The opening title track brings all these elements together skillfully and, although we have said this before, could at last see Etherwood and Hospital finally manage to cross over into the same market that sees Rudimental headline festivals and have number 1 albums.
Next track A Hundred Oceans sees chill out drum & bass float by, while You’re Missing Life features a beautiful acoustic guitar riff. The album is not all chilled, as tracks like Climbing prove, with the rhythms skittering across an upbeat dancefloor friendly stormer, but still with the catchiness that characterizes Etherwood ’s sound in 2018.
Etherwood ’s inventiveness and refusal to merely replicate past triumphs is proof of drum & bass’ continued evolution and marks him out as one of its consistently excellent key players. Banjo
Martha Ffion: Sunday Best
Martha Ffion’s debut solo album has been a while coming, and Sunday Best is the exact very lovely guitar pop one expects.
Claire Martha Ffion McKay, to give her her Sunday name, has gifted us an album of cute choruses that wouldn’t be out of place in hit singles from 1960s girl groups, but its pleasures and depths don’t end there.
Take Your Name is a case in point on the girl group front, slightly coy, the essential Ffion melancholy slipping a sprinkle of salt in the sugar, giving it the bite we’re after. Record Sleeves has a cheeky twangy guitar and pulls at the heartstrings, not ones of nostalgia or sentimentality but a true sense of loss.
On Sunday Best the Irish singer songwriter, currently based in Glasgow, has penned top quality pop songs here, with a Kirsty MacColl bitter sweetness and lyrical savvy, revealing hidden layers on repeated listens. Cath Bore
Anna von Hausswolff: Dead Magic
It’s a lamentable journalistic cliché that any female musician with a taste for the dramatic should automatically be compared to Kate Bush, and yet, here, it’s inescapable: if Kate Bush was Swedish and into SunnO))), this is what she’d sound like.
Listening to Anna von Hausswolff‘s latest album, Dead Magic, is like dreaming about the room in your flat that’s always locked and the landlord’s told you never to go into. During the day you just leave it alone and assume there’s only mops and lightbulbs inside.
But in the dream, you go in and find a whole other dimension filled with non-Euclidian geometry and other impossible things, and it’s soundtracked by ancient pipe-organ music that’s by turns both melodic and atonal, with a feral feminine howling as accompaniment.
The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra is as close as you’ll get to a pop song, with its stabbing bass beat and mid-paced poise; Ugly and Vengeful is, by contrast, a 16-minute odyssey filled with bombast and desolate, Lovecraftian awe. Consolation comes in the form of The Marble Eye; an organ solo played by the bringer of dawn himself.
Källans återuppståndelse is the wide, immaculate beach you find yourself on at the end, wondering why the dream couldn’t have been longer, or indeed if it ever ended. Matthew Eland
Desert Blues maybe something of a cliché and a lazy way to describe the genre, but it does fit well to give an idea of what we’re talking about.
Perhaps Tinariwen are the best-known exponents outside Africa, with lazy guitars and languid vocals being their trademark. But Imarhan is the perhaps closest thing you’ll get to an African-style Jimi Hendrix.
The band has more of a pace and the quicker rhythms from the guitars and drums possibly makes the sound easier on a Western ear. New album, Temet, doesn’t exactly break new ground, but it cements Imarhan’s place as masters of the style.
There is a connection with Tinariwen, though as Imarhan frontman Sadam sometimes tours with Tinariwen when their infamously difficult main man, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, decides he doesn’t feel like going out on the road.
This album is, for the most part, an upbeat thing of style and skill.
The classy Stones-sounding guitars of Ehad wa dagh are infectious. There’s an almost disco feel to half way tune Tumast – thumping bass lines until that guitar can’t resist making another appearance. It carries on throughout until we get to Ma S-Abok, the final track on the album. It reminds us of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song – one man, one guitar, singing about politics.
After all, these are political songs. These are political people. They have to be. The world they see is very different from ours. Peter Goodbody
Loma’s history so far reads like a complete and complex story.
Shearwater main man Jonathan Meiburg invited husband and wife duo Cross Record to support them on tour. Watching them perform and spending time with them on the road, Meiburg fell in love with CrossRecord’s music and invited Emily Cross and husband Dan Duszynski to form a new band, Loma.
Loma’s lyrics had such an impact on Cross and Duszynski that it forced them to put their own relationship under intense scrutiny. One song especially resonated with them when Meiburg’s lyrics to I Don’t Want Children obliged Cross Loma s to sing ‘I don’t want children, even though if I did I would want them from you’
This started a line of thought and self-examination that led to Cross and Duszynski to divorce. While both are still committed to Loma, Duszynski has since left Cross Record. This makes Loma seem as fragile a band as their music.
Their self-titled debut is an early front runner for album of the year. The songs are often sparse in terms of instrumentation but lush with atmosphere. The music here is often unconventional, both in terms of the instruments/sounds and the song’s structure, although Loma are more than capable of creating a folky, haunting ballad when they choose to.
Cross’ vocals float on top of noir-ish noise that it is easy to imagine soundtracking a David Lynch film. Standout track Black Willow in particular is crying out for moody visuals to match the song’s cinematic scope.
If Loma never make another album, it will be an enormous but understandable shame. In the meantime they have left us this stunning, beautiful, shy gem of an album. And that will always be with us. Banjo
Nap Eyes: I’m Bad Now
Paradise Of Bachelors
Hailing from Nova Scotia on Canada’s East Coast, Nap Eyes are a lo-fi, slacker-pop quartet once touted by their record label as ‘the best band you’ve never heard’.
Now on their third album release in about as many years, the band has consistently produced music with a purposeful sound and beautifully endearing quality. Their latest offering, I’m Bad Now is arguably their most dependable set of songs to date.
Breaking all the rules about singing in tune, Chapman’s flat tones still manage to sound astoundingly good; helped along by witty and intelligent, observational lyrics.
There is so much to commend about this album, as there are so many highlights.
The album’s title track has Chapman cheekily scoring points on whose life is most miserable, ‘I try to talk to you and call you wrong, but you get angry and you would suck your teeth at me’.
Judgement continues in a similar vein, extolling the virtues of patience and the belief that good things come to those who wait. The more upbeat Roses is bold and catchy; while Follow Me Down, with its dancing double bass melody has an almost traditional Irish feel to it.
Dull Me Line has a catchy chorus also, that actually starts out as the first verse. (A popular trait of Chapman’s song-writing). It also features a playful guitar riff at the chorus-end, which conjures up images of a line of the chorus, ‘running abandoned race tracks in my mind’.
A subtle country-blues-style slide guitar meanders in and out of the vocals during Sage; whilst the poetic Hearing The Bass fades with snazzy guitar solo that ever-so-slightly recalls The Allman Brothers‘ Jessica.
The final two tracks of the album are argubly the standout songs. In White Disciple, Chapman tells us that ‘your life is pointless unless it sets you free’. Album closer, Boats Appear is a dreamy expression of increased wisdom, gained through deep contemplation and the peaceful tranquillity of looking out to sea.
Ultimately, in a similar way to Nap Eyes’ previous two albums, I’m Bad Now affects your mood in a warm, uplifting manner. It’s fair to say, enjoying music this good can go a long way to setting you free. Try it and see.
Rolo Tomassi: Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It
If you’ve been following Sheffield five piece Rolo Tomassi‘s career with any proximity, you’ll know that they have always slipped through the cracks of categorization. If you haven’t, well now might just be the time to begin, with the release of their impressively titled new album Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It.
They’ve been honing and perfecting their sound for some years now, and from jazz-inflected, heavily Dillinger-influenced beginnings, Rolo Tomassi have forged a path through hardcore, shoegaze and even ambient sounds.
The choppy Cosmology showed maturation, while follow up Astraea was a spacey adventure through heavy, drowned textures delivered following a change in personnel. With more changes afoot and a darker direction taken for 2015’s Grievances, the quartet feel like they have arrived at a pinnacle with Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, which defies genre thrillingly. Nailing our colours to the mast here, it is not only Rolo Tomassi‘s most accomplished and complete work to date, but also their best album yet.
Preview single Aftermath is dispatched early, probably one of the poppiest cuts the band have mustered so far, with wafts of guitar with glassy synths and melodic vocals edged along by the rhythm section’s light touch. It all builds to a towering crescendo that the massive Rituals stomps all over Godzilla style, with a crushing intro riff and Eva Spence‘s bloodcurdling scream bellowed over pulverizing blastbeats.
Light and shade are expertly handled through epic, atmospheric set pieces like The Hollow Hour or headlong lunges like the supercharged mid-album couplet of Balancing The Dark and Alma Mater.
The highlight undoubtedly comes later on however; Time Will Die has more than its fair share of leg-stretching tracks, but the 8-minute Contretemps is pick of the bunch. It lists from simple piano chords to simply cavernous drumming to usher in Spence barking over earthshaking distortion and flits between time signatures, all over one stately raised heartbeat of a tempo which bristles with intensity.
Nearly a decade and a half into their career, in some parallel universe Rolo Tomassi are one of the most venerated British bands. Right now, they’re doing the work of their artistic lives worthy of such a title. David Hall
Bit disappointed Seazoo are named after Anglesey Sea Zoo rather than mystical Welsh folklore, but here we have a genuine DIY release on our hands.
Recorded in bedrooms and a deactivated nuclear bunker somewhere in Wrexham, Seazoo’s Trunks is one heck of a happy record.
In Hello Stranger it’s the buzzy guitar which wins it, and on CyrilSeazoo gives a respectful nod to Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. High whispery female harmonies gives the celebratory Dig the edge, and on In St Hilary Sings they remind us of ‘the bitter sun in summertime’.
This album of indie guitar pop has infectious chorus after infectious chorus, and fuzzy psychedelic twists adding to the fun. The influences from Yo La Tengo, Pavement, and Super Furry Animals’ sense of playfulness is clear; mixed by Mike Collins (Girl Ray, Metronomy), Trunk calls to the summer we long for.
You don’t get many happy records these days, ones unashamedly embracing pop and not wanting to it let go, but here we have a winner. Cath Bore