With 2020 reaching the midway point, the Getintothis team pick their favourite albums of the year so far.
Will 2020 just end already?
Bush fires, global pandemics, institutionalised racism and police brutality.
It’s hard to actually believe that there are still six months to go and, as I’m sure many others have already thought, what the fuck is next?
At this current juncture of the thing we call life, the future seems just as frightening as the present.
What does it hold?
With lockdown still prevalent in the lives of many, it has been a time to pause and to delve into our pasts, immersing ourselves in nostalgia, which for some hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing.
Again, using the current state of affairs as a reference point and I’m sure like us, many of you may wish to keep your minds buried these times, as difficult as it is.
Amid the shitstorm which keeps coming in the thickest forms imaginable, it’s hard to envisage just how much good new music has been released in 2020 so far.
The first year of a new decade and there are a handful of releases that, in my opinion, will be hard to top come the end of it. That’s if we aren’t consumed by an apocalypse beforehand, of course.
Nine years is a long time…
Like all lists, there will be grumbles and faux outrage.
We’ll admit it, we’ve missed quite a bit this year, so far. Everybody does, don’t they?
We ask you to hold fire on that front though, as we will be publishing an Under the Radar – 30 albums we’ve missed feature next week. Still, there will be an album or two missed from that, as well, I’m sure.
What can we say?
Too much music, not enough hours. (Or ears)
So on that note, we hope you find something new to lend your ears to in the list below, which has been selected by the Getintothis staffers.
Enough of the chatter. Explore and enjoy – Simon Kirk
Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
It would be an understatement to say Fiona Apple’s comeback record Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a statement.
It’s a declaration of war.
After 8 years of waiting since her last album The Idler Wheel, Apple has clearly had a lot of time to revolve her feelings around broken relationships, sexual assault and her desire to fight back. Loaded with clattering drums and throaty growls, an off-kilter atmosphere à la Tom Waits encompasses all of the tracks.
The raw and unkempt production style perfectly accompanies Apple’s through and through honesty and lack of filter. For example, she has no problem confronting a rapist on For Her: “Good morning/You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in”.
But this honesty isn’t always affronting, it also shows how fragile Apple can be like on Rack of His: “And I’ve been used so many times/I’ve learned to use myself in kind”
An interesting facet of the album is being able to see a very sudden change in her perspective, jumping from her mindset in her teens to the modern-day.
For instance, Apple recalls being told she ‘had potential’ to stand up for herself from a girl she briefly knew in school, who the track Shameika is titled after. We then see later in the tracklist on Heavy Balloon that Apple has since grown, and intends to keep going as she gruffly howls: “I spread like strawberries/I climb like peas and beans”
The tension that flowers throughout the conflict of Apple’s reprimanding and temperamental vocals against innocent bass and pianos is palpable.
The entire album feels as though she’s about to burst, until she finally does on the 10th track, Cosmonauts. A cynical love song about the difficulty of monogamy and the inevitable friction that will arise from being around a lover for so long ends with an eruption.
Apple’s screeching of “started off, started off, started off” is enough to put you off falling in love for a lifetime.
In any case, vulnerable or furious, the last thing is going happen is Apple being told ‘no’.
Lock your doors. – Jason Simon
Arbouretum: Let It All In
Dave Heumann‘s Arbouretum have always straddled the worlds of folk, rock and psychedelia – however rarely, if ever, have they done it this successfully.
The band’s tenth album, and fifth for Thrill Jockey, continue their odyssey into the outer reaches of English folk, country blues and wild Americana yet. Let It All In is their most focused and coherent to date.
We alluded to last month when writing about Sunburned Hand of the Man how psychedelic rock had become the new indie landfill – and while Arbouretum hadn’t added to that bottomless pit, they’d strayed somewhat close with deviations into music territory awash with like for like sound carriers.
For the most part, Let It All In distils the Baltimore band’s want for swirling freakouts and balances beautifully restrained musicianship with the odd extended jam aligned to Heumann‘s masterful imagery. It makes for compelling listening throughout the 46 minutes on offer.
None more so than on opener How Deep It Goes which serves as the perfect signpost of what’s to come – an ever-building motorik rock song which bursts into a glistening instrumental final third to truly transcendental effect.
And it’s the versatility of Arbouretum on Let It All In which makes for such a compulsive listen; the effusive bar-room closer High Water Song book-ending a record which sees Heumann channelling his inner Arthur Lee.
None more so than on the otherworldly psychedelic blues on Headwaters II and A Prism In Reverse while Night Theme sees keyboardist Matthew Pierce come to the fore with a two-minute cosmic instrumental lullaby wrapped up in shoegaze synths.
Recorded at Wrightway Studios, producer Steve Wright deserves mighty credit for overseeing an album so dense in layers yet able to shower the record in light and levity aplenty. Buffeted By The Wind, another employing Love like melodies with Heumann in wistful mood offset by playful sun-kissed melodies.
Yet when they do cut loose – as on the album’s epic near 12-minute title track – boy, do they cut loose.
Bass player Corey Allender and duel drummers Brian Carey and David Bergander combining on visceral wrecking ball rhythms as Heumann plugs into the heart of the sun with some white-hot riffing.
Fuzz tones collide with leaden slabs of percussion and hammering piano – we can only imagine how good it would be to hear this in the flesh.
Sensational stuff by a sensational band back at the top of their game. – Peter Guy
Wharf Cat Records
New York based three-piece, Bambara, return with their much-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s simply stunning Shadow On Everything with Stray.
In the lead-up to Stray it was hard to consider Bambara (Reid Bateh – singer/guitarist, Reid‘s twin brother, Blaze – drums/vocals, and William Brookshire – bass/vocals) topping the brilliance of their former conception, but with Stray they have certainly raised the possibility.
Rather than one main theme which was the basis throughout Shadow On Everything, Stray compartmentalises Reid Bateh‘s spellbinding tale-spinning with 10 short stories that each illuminate and enthral more and more with every listen.
Bambara‘s southern gothic-inspired leanings may draw comparisons to The Birthday Party/early Bad Seeds while sonically, their nervous freight train blues assault gives a delicate nod in the direction of the much underrated Gun Club.
Essentially brought up on a diet of Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, Bateh effortlessly spits out quips that will eternally be etched to your brain. At times it feels like a sordid version of a Cormac McCarthy novel unfurling right before your eyes.
Bateh‘s storytelling is dark and dirty, embellished with cigarette ash and the stench of stale liquor. There’s a razor-sharp edge to his craft. A slightly debauched wordsmith producing gritty realism through a scope of intense anxiety-riddled protagonists navigating on fault lines.
And the results are fascinating.
The scene is set with the opening track, Miracle. A ghostly number that builds with a creeping bassline and methodical brass.
“Got a tattoo, says ‘Meanness’/Inside her lower lip/She pulls it down in the mirror/So she can read it/
Framed by her blonde wig/In a bright white room/Spit crawls down her fist/As she lets her lip go.”
Bateh‘s female characters are hazardous vixens bloodthirsty for danger. Women you shouldn’t fall in love with but can’t help being drawn to them.
Heat Lightning comes as advertised, brimming with rockabilly rage to get your bad swerve on, while Sing Me to the Street wouldn’t look out of place as a foil to a Jim Jarmusch film. Lead single, Serafina is – quite frankly – poetic genius that ploughs a path towards the darkest corner of the earth.
“My name is Serafina/But people call me Sera to save some time/’Well, I’ve got all the time in the world’ and “Serafina/Shoots Roman candles all around/Serafina/Smiling with matches in her mouth.”
It’s simply a rock ‘n’ roll banger with restless heart-on-the-wire riff-a-rola and tumbling percussion. There won’t be many better songs released this year.
Stay Cruel is as close to a ballad that Bambara gets with an echoing blues riff, backing female vocals and subtle brass feminising the band’s approach. It works a storm. Then there’s Ben & Lily. Back by bullet-train blues instrumentation, Bateh once against unleashes memorable one-liners and catchphrases that spark the senses.
“Yeah, I’m dreaming on the run/Always driving towards the sun/Yeah always dreaming on the run
Yeah they’re driving straight for the burning sun.”
The rockabilly blues traipse of Sweat expels more darkness and raw energy with a howling chorus that spits wild fervour. Which then leads us to closing track, Machete. Bambara always close albums big and with Machete, old habits do indeed die hard. A twisted horror story of lust. Love. Murder. The end.
That’s what Bambara are about. They distil darkest and give it free rein with an alluring effect. Some say guitar music is dead. Pastiche. Derivate. Not Bambara. As long as they continue producing this brand of ear-worm then these notions are resoundingly quashed.
Stray is an album where the liner notes must be read with fervent interest. Bambara don’t demand this of their listeners. Like a moth to a flame, subconsciously you are drawn to them. Some of the passages so jarring, you might just get burnt.
This is what upper echelon art demands. Walking that tightrope between beauty and pain and with Stray, Bambara produce both in equal measure. – Simon Kirk
BC Camplight: Shortly After Takeoff
This is the last of the three-album set that Brian Christinzio has entitled the Manchester trilogy, after his adopted hometown, following 2015’s How To Die In The North and 2018’s Deportation Blues, this is the pick of the bunch.
Anyone who has gone anywhere near 6 Music over the last few weeks will already know the catchy pre-release single, the summery wonk-pop of Back To Work, due to the heavy rotation it’s been receiving.
And the public seems to be catching up with BC Camplight, just the five albums in, as it’s his first to enter the U.K. Album Charts. It’s easy to see why. It’s hook-laden pop sensibilities shine through from the start.
“This afternoon I thought about Buckfast…..and space, and danced around my kitchen singing Ace Of Base”, is the opening line to the opening track I Only Drink When I’m Drunk and this starts the onslaught of clever, smile-provoking, quotable lyrics that permutate the whole record.
The most unorthodox track follows next and the mock stand-up spoken word first portion of the longest piece Ghosthunting, is worth the album price alone.
The track sees his dark humorous side peek through the gloom, alluding (not for the only time on the record) to the death of his father, whilst mentioning Rachel Riley, The Arndale Centre, Tame Impala and his pet cat, whilst conjuring up feelings of both The Fall and Divine Comedy in just one track.
Cemetery Lifestyle sounds like Flaming Lips if Wayne Coyne had the slightest ounce of self-awareness and some funk in his CD library, and contains a (yet another) killer line about Nando’s and a banana suit.
The mood turns almost bombastic (well musically at least, lyrically it still feels pretty bleak), with the organ-led I Want To Be In The Mafia and the title track.
Arm Around Your Sadness is a beauty, a straightforward piano-led ballad, it sounds like it could have come straight from a musical, whereas Born To Cruise unfathomably brings to mind The Human League, with it’s 80’s ‘doo-doo-doo’s’.
Closing with the instrumental Angelo, it doesn’t hang around, it’s 9 tracks are all done and dusted in just 33 minutes.
This record manages to combine sadness and humour whilst not sacrificing anything musically, a harder trick to pull off than you would think. A triumph. – Steven Doherty
Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now
While we’re all sat bored in quarantine, Charli XCX in her true workaholic manner set herself the challenge of making an album within 6 weeks.
Despite the tight deadline, the album in no way feels rushed. It’s clearly the result of the round the clock work she’s put on full display on social media each step of the way.
Executive producers A.G Cook, Dylan Brady and BJ Burton bring their distinctive, futuristic volatility to the album which submerges Charli into her most experimental sounding album yet.
Being stuck together with her boyfriend in quarantine with her tenuous, long-distance relationship on the rocks has provided some perspective for Charli. The upfront, rekindling of her adoration for him is on full display in the album’s lyrics such as Claws’ mantra of ‘I like everything about you’.
Amongst joyous lyrics, some sombre themes are included too such as an almost intrusive clip of her thoughts after a therapy session on enemy. Despite some tough themes, Charli’s non-stop rave aesthetic is still here as always in an unprecedented, wholly glitchy fashion.
The ear-melting opener pink diamond is Charli’s harshest song to date with the chorus of ‘I just wanna go real hard” seeming like an understatement.
The real ‘diamond’ of this project though is forever. The heart-on-sleeve adoration for her boyfriend Charli instils in her robotic warbles is beautiful and arguably her best track yet.
How I’m feeling now is the result of all of our experiences of quarantine, perfectly exemplified with the montage of her fans’ clips of their favourite memories in the forever video.
However, it’s also the perfect album to have while we’re stuck in this whirlwind crisis. With sentimental digi-croons and pulsating bangers, the album is perfect for a cathartic cry but the liberating dance you’ve been needing afterwards. – Jason Simon
Diet Cig: Do You Wonder About Me
What young band doesn’t quake at a salty Pitchfork review?
Diet Cig were dealt one back in 2017 when their debut Swear I’m Good At This took a hammering.
Too flimsy and too lacking in “transformative salvation”, they were told. Imagine bringing that report home.
Fast-forward three years, and Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman have survived to put out a sophomore effort. Do You Wonder About Me? is an endorphin-heavy pop-punk record crammed with catchy hooks and melodrama – if not literal salvation.
Luciano’s choruses are shrill but cathartic, fizzing with angst.
Night Terrors airily warns potential bedfellows they might get killed if she has a bad dream. Priority Mail is a wispy elegy about the transition from soulmate to sometime penpal.
Broken Body seems oddly clairvoyant, railing against cabin fever and being stuck in the house for weeks on end.
That’s not to absolve this band of being a strung-out Livejournal entry. Luciano is forever antagonising exes for antagonising her, and her songwriting is regularly one long hall of mirrors in which she’s straining for epiphanies only to arrive, time and time again, at her own reflection.
The songs can buckle beneath all that self-mythologising.
Gone are the rotting apricots of the last record, the birthday cakes and disastrous barbecues.
Where once Luciano lampooned her romantic encounters by fantasising over séances filled with tetchy hearts she’s broken, or the weirdness of sleeping with someone who shares her name, this time she keeps things vague, fishing constantly for apologies without ever explaining how she’s been wronged.
The lyrics are so light on detail, you’ll wish the album came with a director’s cut and full commentary.
For all that, Do You Wonder About Me? could still end up being the sugary pop-punk you stick on repeat this summer. File with Tancred and Candy Hearts. And your diary from 2003. – Orla Foster
Baxter Dury: The Night Chancers
Six albums in and the mutant messenger that is Baxter Dury returns with his latest musings, The Night Chancers.
Dury’s stock has risen considerably during the last five years – most notably with his last album, 2017’s Prince of Tears, which drew acclaim beyond his seemingly second refuge in France – right here in ol’ Blighty.
Prior to Prince of Tears, the son of Ian Dury made tremendous waves along with French Rivera with his 2014 oeuvre, It’s A Pleasure. It was well overdue adulation.
With The Night Chancers, things seem a bit different. Like Dury has had his taste of fame and considered retreating into the shadows.
It’s no bad thing.
Dury still adopts that male-female Gainsbourg-like crossover quality which has served him well since It’s A Pleasure. Here though, he chooses a backdrop of soundscapes where he has turned down the dial on the playful funk aesthetic and instead nurtured it in more subtle bursts alongside shiny rich textures. There’s no better example of this than during Samurai.
Dury has always been a skittish chameleon. A quick in-and-out merchant, knowing that his current artistic default settings can only hold an audience for so long. He’s always been smart enough not to outstay his welcome.
On The Night Chancers, there’s an air of contemplation. A loose concept album, even, ducking and weaving between lust and love, arriving in that ever-present grey area. Overall, the mood isn’t a world away from his stunning sophomore album, Floor Show.
Where Floor Show was a younger Dury recounting the debaucherous tales of his youth through pleasure-seeking protagonists, here he is reflecting on loss and heartbreak but with a new sardonic edge with mordant cynicism festering underneath.
The opening number, I’m Not Your Dog, does indeed have the bite of a hound that’s wary of anyone but its owner. The motorik keys and minimal guitar reverb with subtle inflections of funk give off an air of darkness.
“I’m not your fuckin’ friend/Tryin’ to be though/Tryin’ to feel it/Tryin to be it” he starts. “But I’ve been following you everywhere/Some people like to show/Some people like watching/ And I watch a bit too much/But you show too much.”
These murky missives set the scene for what’s to come.
So downcast, some of the tracks you could almost imagine being a Sleaford Mods song, particular Slumlord. Dury and Jason Williamson have struck up a blossoming friendship over the years and, notwithstanding the latter’s appearance on Almond Milk, this is the first time the Mods‘ influence can be distinctly heard seeping into Dury‘s repertoire.
“Charm dripping like honey/I’m the Milky Bar Kid/Soiled trousers/Shiny cheekbones like graveyards in the sun.”
It’s the closest thing Dury finds to his much-lauded single from 2017’s Prince of Tears, the mind-bending acrobatic tour-de-force in Miami.
Moving on and there’s a familiar terrain Dury takes us on, for this character seems to display an uncanny resemblance to past ghosts of the Baxter Dury broad-church. This time it’s Carla and she’s got a new boyfriend.
In fine form, Carla’s Got A Boyfriend finds Dury pulling the piss out of the said man’s ill-fitting trousers, dickhead haircut and messy facial foliage after spending too much time scrolling through the bloke’s Instagram account. There are sour grapes and Dury thrives on the taste.
“Carla’s got a problem/Carla’s got a boyfriend/That looks like me.”
It has a parallel unsettling quality to that of Prince of Tears’ Oi.
The rich orchestra traipse and hip-hop beats during the album’s title track see Dury reaching for the dusty crates of his youth.
“You left me with the crumbs of my spare thoughts/You left me with the noise of the night chancers/ Good cheer to the wee hours.”
Daylight is an open letter of lost love. Dury hasn’t laid it on the line like this before, seemingly at the ends of the earth in a spill-it-all lament. The track’s fade-out riff could well be as good as Roy Bittan‘s piano solo on Bruce Springsteen‘s Stolen Car. We’ll find the definitive answer with more time spent in its company.
Say Nothing culminates the anxious misery that envelops The Night Chancers. Perhaps with Dury‘s most despondent verse yet.
“And I lie down and let the cars run over my lifeless body/Each wheel represents pain/For all of us.”
The last chorus of words projected by Dury‘s often equal foul-mouthed female companion – “Baxter loves you/ Baxter loves you.”
The Night Chancers is a slow burn. Dury has always produced music of this quality and that’s why his fellow Britons have always found his music hard to pierce. The French know the score, though. Had Dury been born there then there’s little doubt he’d be heralded as a national treasure.
The durability of Dury’s song-craft will outlast many of his other contemporaries. Not that he has that many given his unique form of sneering satire. The man stands alone and sometimes that’s the best way. – Simon Kirk
Hightown Pirates: All of the Above
Port Royale Records
I’ll head off any accusations of bias at the start, shall I?
Which doesn’t mean that All of the Above can’t be my favourite album of the year. Do you know how good it feels when your favourite album is made by someone you know? We’re in Liverpool, the chances are that loads of you do.
This one’s mine.
All of the Above is the second Hightown Pirates album, came out in May to the normal limited interest that you get if you’re not favoured by radio, press or festivals due to the fact that you’re not an Instagram sensation.
And it’s not inventing a new wheel for you. This album’s job is to take the music that has influenced the singer for the last thirty-odd years, mix it up, blend it a bit, and turn it into something fresh.
Basically, it’s in the line of all those guitar groups that ever mattered to you, it’ll make you desperate to see it played live, it’ll make you feel young.
You don’t need the back story here, just the feeling.
What more do you want from rock’n’roll? – Ian Salmon
The Innocence Mission: See You Tomorrow
Every few years the world receives an injection of kindness. The sun comes from behind the clouds, we have a nice dream, and someone smiles at us on the street. If you noticed that happening to you, you should know why: a new album by The Innocence Mission has been released.
Arguably the sweetest band in the world – sorry, Belle & Sebastian, you lost that title about 15 years ago –, the Pennsylvanian group has been perfecting its 1960s-inspired psychedelic folk sound since they became a trio, at the turn of the century.
Their 12th LP, See You Tomorrow reaches new melodic and arrangement heights and is one of their best works. The record opens with The Brothers Williams Said, a gorgeous piano-based tune, with orchestration coming later, producing a sound larger than they usually make.
As we all know, Karen Paris’ voice is pure tenderness delivered through sound waves, and this time it’s particularly delicate and charming. She was surely French in a past life, and she enchants us by sounding like a shy and young Françoise Hardy speaking in 1963.
On Your Side is one of the most beautiful songs The Innocence Mission have ever produced. And France, of course, had to be in it: “In my dream, I would be in Paris with my mom / In cafés she would sip coffee / She would be smiling on”.
St. Francis and the Future and At Lake Maureen see the group in their basic, vintage version, with Karen on acoustic guitar and voice.
As usual, Karen Paris wrote most of the songs and played an impressive list of instruments – guitars, piano, pump organ, accordion, melodica, low harmonica, electric bass, strings keyboard and mellotron.
Her husband Don wrote one of See You Tomorrow’s best songs, though; Mary Margaret in Mid-Air, taking also the lead singing role. Bassist Mike Bitts plays only in four of the 11 tracks, which confirms the group as basically a couple affair.
Atmospheric music, touching lyrics, gentle singing, everything we expected from an album by The Innocence Mission is here, and a bit more. Thanks to them, the first half of the year has been kinder to us. – Rogerio Simoes
Keeley Forsyth: Debris
The Leaf Label
If it is often difficult to separate art from the artist, it is also often very difficult to separate the story behind the art from the art itself.
Call it projection, an attempt to find meaning in a piece of work that might not be there, or the act of the listener filling in the blanks themselves, but it is very easy to experience a body of work, particularly an album, through the lens of what we know about how and when it was created.
That prior knowledge of the situations regarding the art’s creation can colour and define how we perceive and understand it and isn’t always fair for the creator.
Sespite his protestations that it categorically isn’t about his divorce, it is impossible to listen to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks without thinking, actually Bob, it is. The fact it is held up as the greatest ‘break-up album’ ever is testament to this dissonance.
It is tempting therefore to assume that this is the soundtrack to that period of Forsyth’s life, or an aural documentary about the experience of literally losing one’s voice and rediscovering it. Tempting, because it does so neatly fit with this hypothesis.
As an album, Debris is a wondrous, intense experience that is undeniably claustrophobic in parts, searching for an escape, yet redemptive in others, finding strength in its fragility.
Forsyth herself stated that singing was a big part of her recovery process, physically and mentally, and the eight songs here bear fruit to that, as Forsyth’s voice itself is – thematically and musically – the beating heart of the album; simultaneously cavernous and vulnerable.
Bringing to mind the lower ranges of Aldous Harding’s voice and Tilt-era Scott Walker (one can imagine her singing Farmer in the City perfectly), her haunting, tremulous voice ebbs and flows against the sparse instrumentation, deftly arranged by experimental composer Matthew Bourne and producer Sam Hobbs.
At times her voice is as hushed as to be barely audible and the sounds of the room bleed in, all creaking chairs and buzzing guitar strings. This isn’t an album to be played across a room, this is intimate, at times overbearing music and ultimately, absolutely beautiful.
Look to Yourself is perhaps the best illustration of this, with its melody and lyrics free to roam amidst the vast space created and Forstyth’s voice gradually building to a breath-taking zenith. It is heart stopping and heart breaking.
Regardless of the album’s backstory, the songs too do fit with a theme of dark versus light. The lyrics are peppered with images of windswept, rain-battered, bleak mountainscapes and engulfing shadows, matched by the aforementioned sparse musical background.
Yet this darkness is occasionally pierced by shimmers of light, of strong oak trees digging their roots deep into the ground and promises of starting anew – the final song on the album is literally titled Start Again and the brightness of the synths used instead of guitar offers some welcome relief and hope for further ascendancy post-Debris.
Even if the album is not literally about Forsyth finding her voice again, we should all be very thankful she did.
We will be hard pressed to find a finer album in 2020. – Matthew Loughlin
Maserati: Enter The Mirror
If ever a band lived up to their name it’s Maserati.
Luxurious, sleek and gloriously over the top, the band have for 20 years excelled in supercharged dynamism.
Returning with their first album since their 2015’s Rehumanizer, the quartet of Coley Dennis (guitar), Matt Cherry (guitar/synths), Chris McNeal (bass) and Mike Albanese (drums) continue their quest to make widescreen cinematic noise which is wildly unhinged yet stylish in the extreme.
Enter The Mirror is quite unlike anything you’re likely to hear in 2020 in that it’s rooted in an almost outdated ’80s extremism – colossal drum fills trade with manically warped keyboards – yet there are so many spellbinding grooves and outlandish hooks it’s anything but thrilling.
The appropriately named Killing Time serves to showcase the band’s visceral thrill as Albanese knocks the living shit out of his drum kit with X-Rated levels of brutality all the while heavily treated guitars soar like intergalactic battleships.
The killer final flourish sees meaty slabs of bass duelling with a fret-dancing Robert Fripp style solo.
This level of intensity is replicated throughout Enter The Mirror leading the listener on some kind of breathless chase.
Only on the introductory 2020, with its warm radiating ambience which softly bleeds into the robotic chug of A Warning In The Dark (imagine Kraftwerk jamming with Trans Am and you’re nearly there) does the pace settle into anything but top gear.
Der Honig is perhaps the pick of the bunch (though Enter The Mirror implores to be listened to as a complete whole) ramping up the bass amid a Klaus Dinger aping hyper-kinetic drum beat before a jarring brace of synths slice through the mix colliding with more filthy guitar licks.
In another set of hands, the entire mix could be quite monstrous – yet Maserati truly excels in this amphitheatre of abstract frenzy.
Somewhere in the mix are a list of collaborators including Alfredo Lapuz Jr (keys), Owen Lange and R.E.M. founding member and drummer Bill Berry – though amid the dystopian atmospherics it’s near impossible to know where.
Only on penultimate track does the din become to tire with Empty lacking the cohesion and focus of the remainder of the record.
With it’s bracing choral guitar effects and effervescent chrome sheen it’s the sound of a band hurtling at breakneck speeds into a white-hot cauldron of controlled chaos.
Ridiculous, rampant and really worth your time – Enter The Mirror, if you dare. – Peter Guy
Mura Masa: R.Y.C.
Mark my words, R.Y.C. will be the soundtrack to every teen’s angst years.
Following Mura Masa‘s last self-titled record, R.Y.C. is a release that is nothing less than a reflection of the self. Possibly a confession of the self. But it’s anything but empty.
Genre-defying is a phrase I try to avoid at all costs because it just translates as I don’t know what this is, so I daren’t describe this one as genre-defying. However, this is certainly experimental, it is marked as electronic pop, but there is so much more to it than that.
Raw Youth Collage and Teenage Headache Dreams are just two out of the 11 tracks that feature guitar riffs that are reminiscent of the 2000’s pop-rock era. I wouldn’t necessarily define this one as pop, but it’s much more complex than pop-rock.
It takes you on a ride, that’s for sure. Although it’s completely confessional, it’s also hopeful. With every climax, it leaves you with that ever-protective sense that everything will be fine. That’s what pop music is supposed to do, right?
The Guernsey born artist has already established himself pretty firmly among the titans of the industry, with his debut album featuring big-hitters and hitmakers alike like Christine and the Queens, Charli XCX, and A$AP Rocky.
Listening to this album it’s pretty easy to see why they were all so willing to work with a debut artist like Mura Masa.
If the lyrics aren’t enough to uplift you and make you feel elated, the production sure is. Although it may fluctuate between light, almost sweet acoustic guitar and robotic vocals and core-shaking electronic beats, it all somehow makes perfect sense.
A Meeting At An Oak Tree is a welcome surprise. Exuding teenage innocence and tales of young love, this track turns an otherwise stellar pop record into a comprehensive story with super special insight into the mind that brought this album to be.
Pop has somewhat of a bad rap due to its often-manufactured nature, but here at Getintothis we appreciate a pop album that has soul and charisma, and R.Y.C. has that in spades. – Kris Roberts
Other Lives: For Their Love
Play It Again Sam and ATO Records
Good things come to those who wait, is what I’ve heard.
It’s been five years since Others Lives last album release, and it’s only fair to say the wait was certainly worth it in this case.
For Their Love see’s Other Lives bring another whole new dimension to their output, which has resounded in what is quite possibly their best work to date.
Not one for pigeonholing, the band have experimented in a few different fields previously, yet may have now touched on a formula that suits them best. A psych-folk offering was on display for 2011’s Tamer Animals, followed by a much deeper, almost ambient assignment for Rituals in 2015.
So five years later it was intriguing to see which direction the band would be heading with their latest incarnation.
What we have is a traditional folk ensemble with a healthy dose of vigour and vibrance that’s meant to be heard in full zest. Each track dynamically provided giving an all-round crisp, clean and polished record, with a clarity to the self-production allowing Jesse Tabish’s vocals to take centre stage.
There’s also certainly no alternative splendour within the songwriting here, just honesty and fresh account of the everyday grind of life, love, money and death.
Opening track Sound of Violence is a harrowingly beautiful start to the record, with other notable highlights including All Eyes – For Their Love, having an elegantly balanced flow between the lead vocals and harmonies.
Nites Out leads with an almost ghostly cinematic intro and keeps you hanging in there through to an Ennio Morricone-esq modern western chorus in glorious fashion.
With 10 songs racking up 37 minutes in total it, without doubt, leaves more than enough interest to see what’s up next for the Oklahoman formed quartet.
Hopefully, it won’t be another five years before we find out. – Kev Barrett
Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
Over his prior albums, Mike Hadreas has used big emotions and cutting lyrical content to create a sense of drama around his Perfume Genius.
Similar to how Bowie would use grand gestures to create a distinct aura, Perfume Genius has developed a kind of kitschy throwback image for himself, informing his music with bombast that’s felt in every song.
His latest album Set My Heart on Fire Immediately finds him taking this dramatic, emotionally wrought outlook and informing it within classic pop structures and sounds to create his most accomplished album to date.
Much of this album calls back to slow-burning torch songs of the 50s & 60s, creating a distinctly noir feel to the album.
It’s hard not to hear the doo-wop swoon of Without You without thinking of vintage crooners like Roy Orbison or listening to the sweeping orchestral backing of Leave and not hear the cinematic sounds of Scott Walker.
It helps though that Hadreas is a gifted enough songwriter and vocalist that none of these influences overtake the quality of the songs themselves, making their throwback sounds more of an assist to a tightly structured pop song than coming off as pastiche.
While the vintage sounds become the album’s key characteristic, there’s enough experimentation elsewhere to provide the album with variety and flavour.
On the Floor is a moody, driving synth-pop banger in the style of Depeche Mode at their most perverted, guiding listeners into a dark, sleazy world.
Moonbend is a soft, lilting ballad that finds Hadreas at his most vulnerable, pining in a wounded falsetto over penetrative bass and organ stab.
Nothing at All is pushed forward with a pulsing bass and a rising distorted synth, the vocals creating an ambient and engrossing atmosphere before the track collides into a bruising clash of sounds.
Overall, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is the most accomplished and concise Perfume Genius album yet, building on all his prior work to create a powerful, forceful piece of art that stands head and shoulders above his other albums. – Jack Murphy
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: Viscerals
The third album from Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs comes as no real surprise.
Distorted vocals, check. Black Sabbath style guitars, check. Songs about blood, check. Manic drumming, check.
It’s all there in what we have come to expect from a Pigs x 7 release. It doesn’t have quite the mayhem of the band’s first album, Feed The Rats, nor indeed the behemoth that was the 22 minute single track EP that became The Wizard and the Seven Swines.
We first encountered Pigs x 7 at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia in 2017 when they tore the roof off District with their seemingly chaotic, yet in the end, perfectly executed set. Since then we’ve followed their development from a mass of (glorious) noise to a much more polished being.
Whilst we loved the band’s 10 minute plus epic songs, it seems like a natural progression that Viscerals is a more traditional / safe series of 4ish minute numbers.
But that doesn’t make it any less appealing as a prospect. Nor any less worthy of your attention. There are very few bands living in the Pigs space, who embrace the heaviest bands of the seventies and drag them unceremoniously into this shitstorm of the world that is 2020.
Viscerals is as hard as nails. Just not quite as hard as the band’s earlier output. Unashamedly looking back at an age when there was a requirement for a rock band to have long hair.
Matt Baty doesn’t fit the look – he has a fine tuned head of hair that would make your Grandma happy – but he has all the moves. And makes all the noise. And that would not make your Grandma happy. Nor the neighbours, we suspect. Unless you lived next door to Ozzy.
The album bows out with Hell’s Teeth – we suspect there’s nothing more to be said. You can imagine what that sounds like. A deep dark banger of a track, as are the rest of them.
If we have one complaint, and we do, it’s Matt Baty has turned down the reverb on his vocals. We can make out too many of the lyrics. Turn it back up mate, you were ace when we had no idea what you were singing about.
When the guitars swirled around and the bass felt like it was going to collapse any time soon.
But, we guess, it’s the natural progression of things. Just don’t lose sight of the early stuff. – Peter Goodbody
Porridge Radio: Every Bad
Porridge Radio’s sophomore album, Every Bad, sees the band become more assured and focused than their debut Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers.
Channelling 90s shoegaze, American noise-rock and PJ Harvey, Every Bad begins with the brazen line “I’m bored to death let’s argue”, Dana Margolin’s voice bouncing between uninterested and on the verge of a breakdown which it does across the album.
Margolin knows how to use her voice to great effect turning saccharine phrases into snarling put-downs and insults into affectionate turns. Album opener, Born Confused, ends with shrieks of “Thank you for making me happy” at first sarcastic but ending in a cry of affection as she continues to howl the line.
Biggest track on the album, Sweet, is a Pixies-esque track with it’s loud-quiet dynamic as tender guitars are broken up with interruptions of crashing instruments as Margolin switches between Jerkyl and Hyde with her vocals, but it’s the softly sung lyrics that feel more laced with malice than the guttural howls, “I am charming, I am sweet, she will love me when she meets me”. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Long sees Porridge Radio veer off in another direction, a more synth-driven track that shows that they can mix it up when required. The loud-quiet dynamic is replaced for a more introspective feel, Margolin’s voice is full of resignation and regret.
Every Bad feels like working your way through an existential crisis that most twenty-somethings go through, there’s the rage, the anxiety and terror of feeling inadequate, you’re meant to be grown up now and you have responsibilities you’re struggling to deal with it or as Margolin puts it, “you’re dwelling again you’re an unconscious mess”.
Case and point halfway through the album is Pop Song. It’s mournful introduction rings like a funeral procession while the melancholic guitar gently sweeps along behind.
Pop Song echoes of the end of a night out, “oh won’t you take me home, I’ve got nowhere to be, I’m lonely”. We’ve all been there, you’re lonely, depressed, too drunk and you just want to crawl into bed with someone, anyone, you both know how ephemeral it’ll be but right now it’s exactly what you need, “please make me feel safe”.
While Give/Take sums up how quickly your emotions and mood can quickly shift and change, “I like you and you like me, but I’ve got other things that make me happy”. Another of the album’s big hits, it chimes like Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979 with its steady guitar line while Margolin questions “how do I say no without sounding like a little bitch?”
The refrains of “I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I’m stuck’ and I’m kind, I’m kind, I’m kind” in Lilac shows someone stuck in a failing relationship, they’re trapped in a loop and but ‘wants us to get better, want us to be kinder to ourselves and to each other’.
By the time Every Bad comes to a close it feels like we’ve gone through the emotional ringer with Dana Margolin, it’s been a cathartic process but with solid tunes and honest songwriting you emerge from the other side feeling all the better for going on this ride with Margolin and Co. – Michael Maloney
Psycho Comedy: Performance Space Number One
Silver Machine Recordings
In Performance Space Number One, Psycho Comedy have made not just the best album of the month, but also one of the most astonishing albums of recent years.
I will delve into the songs that have led me to this conclusion shortly, but before we get into that, the first things that jump out at the listener on Performance Space Number One is the sense of bravado on display, the sense of confidence and the sense of outsiders being proud of their place in the world.
There is such a presence on Performance Space Number One it is hard to believe this is their debut album. There is a swagger, a determination and a huge amount of couldn’t-give-a-fuck about this record that is hugely impressive on album number one.
As the opening track Psycho Comedy begins, frontman Shaun Powell screams a full-throated ‘Wooooh’ and thus stamps himself over the music the band make from step one. It is an effect that does not leave for the rest of the album; Powell’s presence in written large over Psycho Comedy, it is his voice, his lyrics and his vision that they bring to life in their music.
There is an air of the circus or a rainy American carnival about this first song, it’s guitar line evocative of a Victorian stage play or a backstreet melodrama.
Psycho Comedy wear their influences on their sleeves and it is easy to hear snatches of Glam-era Bowie, Stooges and The Birthday Party in their music. Powell comes across as an Iggy fan while the guitars sound in thrall to the work of early Rowland S Howard.
One look at their playlists on Spotify reveals their influences – Suicide, Lydia Lunch, Velvet Underground, Johnny Thunders. It is from this well that Psycho Comedy draw their water.
But theirs is a vision that is not only distinctly British but hugely, unmistakably scouse. Still on track one, Matthew Smith delivers a stream of consciousness rant about supermarket meltdowns, dole queue uprisings and ‘left-field normality‘, ending on the repeated phrase ‘we won’t stop the music‘ is a voice so scouse that it drips with the infectious attitude of that city.
This is repeated elsewhere in the album, allowing street poetry to become an unexpected part of the Psycho Comedy sound. The scouseness of it all seems somewhat anachronistic; as if the music is more suited to tales of a New York underground, not tales of local crisis and views of Chinatown.
The effect of this is just stunning. We have left the confines of a normal song behind and we are into something else, something other. All this and we haven’t even finished the album’s first song yet.
The second track, the excellently titled First Cousin Once Removed, picks up the baton from the sadly no longer with us Queen Zee and lets us know that Psycho Comedy are perhaps perfectly placed to pick up their audience of outsiders looking for a crowd to call their own.
Psycho Comedy‘s sound is primarily composed of their twin guitar attack, one steadfastly supply a steady rhythm track, leaving the other to go off on wild flights of fancy, shrieking and screaming all over the soundscapes that make up this record.
It is almost performance art – Powell recorded all his vocals for the album after depriving himself of sleep, to capture the 24 hour-city-that never-sleeps vibe of the songs he writes.
For all their grit and sleaze, Psycho Comedy are quite capable of writing pop hooks and memorable, catchy choruses when the occasion demands it.
Singles Standin’ and Pick Me Up have understandably been attracting attention from 6Music DJs, including Steve Lamacq, who knows a thing or two about finding a good band.
Sleepwalking ramps up the Birthday Party influences to great effect, sounding like it would fit happily on the b-side of Release the Bats, at least until Powell‘s vocals come in.
The album’s title track is also its highlight. Discordant Rowland S Howard guitar lines carry the song that, although it clocks in at just under three and a half minutes still has an epic feel to it. It is incredible and perhaps points the way forward for Psycho Comedy.
One promising thing about this reminding me of Prayers on Fire era Birthday Party is that it makes me wonder what their next album will sound like, given that follow up album Junkyard is one of my very favourite records of all time. Psycho Comedy have given themselves a wonderful place to grow from.
Closing tracks I Am The Silver Screen and One close the album in fine style, sounding like the encores they very probably are.
A suitably noisy and in-your-face closing to a stunning album. Psycho Comedy have made an early claim on the best album of 2020.
The album is released on February 14 (Valentines Day, how apt), Buy a copy as soon as it becomes available.
You will not be sorry. – Banjo
Public Practice: Gentle Grip
When we pulled a couple of inadvisable all-nighters a few weeks ago, mining the John Peel Archive, one of the bands who stood out was a 70’s fave – Au Pairs.
And, then, here comes their grown-up, 2020 version of a long lost sibling.
The first thing we thought of when we heard this album was how much there are similarities between the two bands. And Gang of Four and The Raincoats.
Gentle Grip is a magic and enjoyable romp around the style of those post-punk bands who played around with rhythm and sporadic guitars. Nothing overpowers, they all wait their turn for their moment, before retreating to let another bit of the song do its thing.
Disposable, for example, is a song that could have been written and recorded in the 70’s but has a kind of more polished feel to it. It’s as if Au Pairs had re-mixed their early albums 40 years later – this is what they would sound like. Edgy, dance-worthy, political and damn fine.
There’s the funk of Underneath, another 70’s throwback sound brought right up to date. See You When I Want To could well have been written by Andy Gill, thumping bass lines and all.
But just because there are clear references to bands we used to listen to years ago doesn’t make this any less of a piece of work. In fact, quite the opposite.
It looks back, for sure, but it brings the mood right up to date. And does it in fine style.
Highlight track may well be the reggae / Slits infused My Head buried in the middle of the album.
As we write this review, it’s probably the hottest day of the year so far. It’s a perfect soundtrack.
Pour a beer and play this one loud in your back garden. The neighbours will thank you.
Feel-good tunes. – Peter Goodbody
Ren Harvieu: Revel In the Drama
Patience is definitely a virtue, one which the Mancunian singer Ren Harvieu has proven to have plenty of.
After glorious first album Through the Night, released in 2012, she’s been perfecting her art through small gigs, particularly with partner Romeo “Magic Numbers” Stodart at Green Note’s tiny stage, in London.
Her second record has finally arrived, and it’s an exquisite piece of work. Sensual, mysterious and extremely personal, Revel in The Drama is made of Harvieu’s sublime voice, uniquely powerful tunes and captivating arrangements.
The richness of the music supporting the singer is clear right in the opener, the upbeat Strange Thing, and continuously throughout the 12 tracks.
Harvieu teases and provokes the listener in jazzy numbers such as Teenage Mascara, while moving us to tears on Spirit Me Away or My Body She Is Alive.
Love and sex were big inspirations. Yes, Please is all about two bodies getting together, as she confirmed it herself during Tim Burgess’ Listening Party – “it’s pure sex this song, and why not”.
Cruel Desguise’s force and eery atmosphere makes it probably the album’s most accomplished track – according to Harvieu, “a song about female Salfordian rage, I was in a dark place writing this and felt very over everyone and everything”.
The truth is that every single tune on Revel in The Drama is beautifully crafted and bold in their own way.
If there’s a clear winner is the singer’s talent and us, grateful listeners. Ren Harvieu’s eight years of patience and hard work have paid off.
She’s given us a masterpiece. – Rogerio Simoes
Rina Sawayama: Sawayama
Dirty Hit Records
In our opinion, Sawayama is the best, most diverse and original album of the month and it comes from Rina Sawayama, it’s hard to decide where to start,
There’s so much going on in this album, so many styles covered and merged together, no stone is unturned.
But we’ll start with the 90’s R&B meets contemporary R&B style, present in songs XS, Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys) and Love Me 4 Me. These tracks feature the rhythmic vibe that make a classic R&B tune; however, they incorporate a subtle element of something more distinctive, saving the tracks from becoming ‘just another cliché R&B song’.
XS starts with a heavy rock guitar riff, which appears unannounced throughout the otherwise melodic beat. The contrast is memorable and somehow works with great effectiveness.
Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys) is a dance R&B track, including French dialect to give it a seductive undertone. What makes this track so distinctive, is the heavy bass that carries the rest of the subtle, catchy elements of sound. The bass amplifies the sensual nature of this track, giving it an inviting quality.
Love Me 4 Me is perhaps the catchiest of the three songs. It has that dramatic R&B effect, featuring the classic anxious phone call and pitter-patter of rain to kick things off.
This beat is layered with clicks, claps, backing vocals, jazz instruments and electric guitar amongst other sounds – giving it that distinctive pop characteristic. The famous RuPaul quote – “if you can’t love yourself, then how are you gonna love somebody else” – that opens and closes this song is an instant attention grabber.
Tracks Akasaka Sad, Paradisin’ and Snakeskin all contain differing experimental, digital qualities.
Akasaka Sad is eerie in its nature, thanks to its varying tempo. The stop-start deliverance of lyrics along with a mixture of paced and playful tones have an almost robotic effect – all the while maintaining incredibly delicate and rich vocals.
Paradisin’ is a track that sounds like it’s been pulled straight from a videogame and merged with a Disney song, slightly hectic and simultaneously enjoyable. This makes perfect sense, as its reflective lyrics describe Sawayama’s younger years. The concept of using child-like qualities with childhood lyrics makes for a creative and fun listen.
Snakeskin is worlds away from the other two tracks, despite them all featuring a digital twist. The track opens with an almost operatic tone, due to the bleak piano that accompanies the high pitched, soft vocals. This diverts to a progressively upbeat sound, with the vocals picking up pace accordingly.
This anticipated build-up of sound is suddenly stopped by the repetitive and blunt chorus, containing the lyrics “like a snakeskin” over and over.
The track then bursts into a drum and bass style, incorporating electronics with seemingly random patterns of sound, before returning back to the upbeat melody that featured near the start. Snakeskin follows an unprecedented journey; its contradicting nature produces an amazing and memorable track, to say the least.
Sawayama has a beautifully versatile and strong voice, drawing similarities to Lady Gaga. Her voice can be appreciated in tracks Bad Friend, Tokyo Love Hotel, Dynasty and Chosen Family.
Bad Friend contains reflective and regretful lyrics, the emotive influence on this track is evident through the way in which Sawayama sings them with passion. The fluctuation between nostalgic storytelling verses and the remorseful chorus, containing the lyric ‘I’m a bad friend’, makes Bad Friend an honest and meaningful track – with the gospel choir in the bridge bringing an added dimension.
Tokyo Love Hotel has a dreamy vibe to it, incorporating light sounds that make it fast enough to move to, and slow enough to relax to. This track showcases strong and effortless vocals from Sawayama.
Dynasty combines an intense soundtrack with a ballad style of singing. The mixture of powerful vocals and alternative rock qualities make this a standout track, with a likeness to Evanescence. The track also leads in to an incredible guitar solo; the differing sounds that make up this track are unforgettable.
Chosen Family includes a soundtrack that complements Sawayama’s mesmerising vocals. The thought-provoking message behind this song, including lyrics such as “we don’t need to be related to relate” and “you are my chosen family”, is projected through Sawayama’s deliverance. The merging of pleasant lyrics and steady soundtrack makes Chosen Family a beautifully radiant tune.
Who’s Gonna Save U Now is a track that could please many a crowd. This is an upbeat track, combining elements of Rock and Pop that result in a strong presence; one that has the potential to appear in the charts. The opening to this track is made up of “Rina” crowd chants, applause and cheering – making it instantly engaging.
All the tracks listed above work together to create an outstanding album, filled with diverse characteristics that make Rina Sawayama a breath of fresh air within the current music scene. Of course, we’ve saved the best till last, this track elevates the whole album onto another level of musical genius. STFU!
STFU! is the most unique track of the album, undoubtedly. A heavy metal guitar is accompanied by a dense drumbeat for the most part, though a sudden shift to a light, almost lullaby-deliverance of the repeated lyric “Shut The F*ck Up” features throughout the track.
This lullaby tone is accompanied with the sickly-sweet singing of Sawayama – the lyrics “Have you ever thought of taping your big mouth shut coz I have many times” – is amusing and adds a sarcastic undertone. The track finishes with a heavy metal screech, though it seems chaotic, it works.
As soon as it ends you’ll likely play it a few more times over, you simply cannot categorise STFU!, making it an incredible masterpiece in contemporary music.
The tracks that makeup Sawayama just might be the making of Rina Sawayama; her signature sound is compelling and unique. This bold debut album is one step in the right direction, a direction that has the potential to result in world-class stardom for Rina Sawayama. – Sian Ellis
The Soft Pink Truth: Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
It may have taken us three years to catch up, but we’ve finally digested and fallen for the German Netflix series Dark.
Shot in a sleepy remote town, this science fiction mindfuck revolves around several generations of families, their sinful past and dubious futures with the only certainty that everything is connected.
No matter how the story weaves, twists and ultimately shocks there is the cyclical natural order of time and what’s happened will ultimately affect our future.
Maybe we’re overreaching, but the thematic truisms of this deeply disturbing television programme can’t help but mirror the music and revelatory revolving swirl of Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
This is a record which churns like a bubbling cauldron from the get-go with each minutiae of sound interconnecting with the next; frothing and breathing life into a dramatic chain of sound which for 43 minutes rarely relents in its captivating power.
Created by Daniel Drew, one half of San Francisco duo, couple and band, Matmos, The Soft Pink Truth is his experimental vehicle for his more whacked out trance-inspired creations.
And on Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase? Drew‘s results are nothing short of spectacular.
The two 20 plus minute pieces draw upon shamanic chants, vivid techno, densely textured noise collages, hymnal ambience, Brian Eno-like drone and pulsating rhythmic wonder.
Where it broken down into bite-sized chunks the effect would be nothing short of chaotic, disorientating and confusing – but woven together as a complete whole and you have one of the finest pieces of music this listener has heard in some time.
The opening passage conjures up pagan or sacrificial imagery with a chorus of voices atop a backdrop of a burning crackles (or is it glistening water?) which segue into fluid-like electronic pulses, meditative breathing and an undulating bed of warming percussion.
There is a unique feeling of primitive noise colliding with futuristic technology which arrests the senses and is peaked further on the five-minute mark when a wash of chimes usher the listener into a second phase of divine hypnotic krautrock.
From here on in, you’re taken into the realms of Four Tet or Does It Look Like I’m Here? era Emeralds.
Bells and drones become the dominant force as the intensity is ramped up several notches before a disquieting low hum consumes and you’re seemingly thrust back into the oceanic depths of the waves once again.
For this is Shall We Go On Sinning’s… essence, a record that once you press play makes you forget about beginnings, ends or even midway points – it is simply a fascinating journey. One path but all connected.
Daniel says the record was born as a reaction to Donald Trump‘s election victory and the subsequent anger he felt.
However, he insists: “I felt I needed to get past a private feeling of powerlessness by making musical connections with friends and people I admire, to make something that felt socially extended and affirming.”
Those friends form the basis of one unified orchestra with Daniel’s partner M.C. Schmidt and Koye Berry blending piano melodies with Sarah Hennies near relentless percussion and discordant vibraphone while Colin Self, Angel Deradoorian and Jana Hunter act as a choral foundation.
Together their voices are the record’s most powerful force, rarely if ever, completely drowned out of the mix – instead they dip, rise and pull into soft or firmer focus acting like a guide as you drift deeper into the magnetic maze.
Propel into the mix Andrew Bernstein (Horse Lords) and John Berndt‘s saxophones and the finished record feels like the culmination of multiple energies channelling as one – turning that anger into a more powerful positive force.
Euphoria and calm.
Hysteria and divine serenity.
It’s all there just waiting to be unleashed.
There’s a moment 15 minutes into Shall We Go On Sinning which sees the soft gentle ebb of the sea transform into an array of clattering bell clangs before blooming into a crest of claps, horns and wild free jazz – it’s quite overwhelming but not nearly as delirious as what’s to follow.
That choral foundation comes to the fore once again on the second half of the album with the harmonies twisted and warped beyond human form and the result, when aligned to the iridescent piano, is little short of magical.
Around the nine-minute mark of So That Grace May Increase there’s a beautiful stillness as the music is rendered beatless and one colossal swell takes centre stage as once again you feel as though you’re beginning/ending another form of a journey.
The cycle is once more complete. It is time to start over. What has been has gone but we are kept moving. Everything is connected.
Another quality of the record is its power to beguile and entrance.
Shall We Go On Sinning… never feels like background music, yet on repeated listen there are numerous times we found ourselves lost amid the music’s myriad of bends and folds.
This is far from ambience music, much more closer to the high state of bliss you feel in a club. The peak of the night unfolding in some kind of psychosis-soaked bath.
Nevermore so than the second half of So That Grace May Increase.
The serpentine piano works itself into a coil as Hennies‘s percussive taps rise to the fore and build into a crescendo before – for a mere moment – there’s almost near silence only to be broken by a siren. A kind of dizzying wail of electro lightning.
The effect nearly knocked our head off the first time we heard it.
Disorientating and woozy, it lasts little more than a minute but for those seconds it feels like the heaviest sounds committed to tape. It will slamdunk you into oblivion.
As your senses realign, treated vocals speaking in tongues enter the fray marking the close of a quite revelatory spellbinding mission of music.
The journey has come to end. All the highs and lows. All of it connected and working as a complete whole.
All you can do, is press play, and begin all over again. – Peter Guy.
Domino Recording Co.
London’s Sorry are a serious bunch of musicians, and having seen them live recently, it’s clear that ‘they mean it maan’, there was no room for audience banter, it’s all about the music.
And this record, 925, sounds meticulously planned to the nth degree.
No raggedy sounding edge to this debut album, it is one of the most polished, well-produced records of recent times.
Already touted as one of the most eagerly awaited records due to a great run of early singles, it’s a matter of whether the so far unheard material stacks up alongside it.
Starting with one of those singles, the flawless Right Round The Clock, which shows off their unashamed gift to cherry-pick from other well-known songs when it aids their own song, in this case, Mad World.
They are a truly intriguing band, and one that has a gloomy icy cold heart at their core, so those moments when they show some feelings and compassion, such as on the uplifting (well, for them) Heather, feel even more of a truly glorious moment.
The duelling vocals are a big selling point and they compliment themselves on the likes of the brooding Rosie and Wolf.
On Perfect, they show that they can do straightforward pop, whilst still keeping that overriding woozy feel that the record manages to maintain throughout.
The undoubted highlight comes halfway through in the form of the beautiful As The Sun Sets, which sees them again showing off their exquisite musical magpie skills with it’s hypnotic ‘borrowed’ “and I think to myself, what a wonderful world” closing refrain.
Sometimes some of the tracks sound like they’re losing their way because of their offbeat feel, but a lyrical twist or dark drumbeat will come along and get it back on track.
The already released stomper Rock and Roll Star, More and Starstruck fit in seamlessly to the overall rhythm of the album, arriving like the old friends that they have become already.
Probably a track or two too many to keep it totally focused and compact, but that’s a tiny criticism.
The word on the street was true, 925 is very much an early contender for 2020’s finest. – Steven Doherty
Svetlanas: Disco Sucks
Demons Run Amok
Coming in at 28 minutes for 10 songs, this one doesn’t mess about. Right from the opening salvo of Jump the manic firefly that is Olga Svetlanas pounces and gurns like her life depends on it.
We first encountered Svetlanas at Rebellion last year and their live act completely blew us away, such is the energy and lust for the live performance, we became instant fans. Olga’s stage presence and sheer exuberance is at a level we’ve rarely ever seen.
Disco Sucks is a proper punk masterpiece. Every track an anthem, not necessarily particularly original or groundbreaking. But that isn’t what the band is trying to do, anyway. Its an enjoyable romp, nothing more nothing less.
In some ways, Svetlanas are a band best consumed live, for the record doesn’t go anywhere near conveying the madness of the live shows. And for that reason, but that one, alone we’d have to knock a point off the star rating, were we to be giving one.
On the other hand, the way Olga can roll her Rs on songs such as Don’t Do It – “I wanna fuck from the human rrrrrrrace” gets that star back.
The album closes with Never Sleep Again. Having seen Olga live on stage at the Empress Ballroom, as well as her activity on Facebook, we’d guess this is autobiographical. We can’t imagine she ever sleeps. It kind of sums up the whole album in one 3 minute shot (of tequila, probably). – Peter Goodbody
Tame Impala: Slow Rush
Tame Impala have been drip-feeding us singles throughout the past year or so, keeping fans excited and engaged in the long-awaited and much anticipated fourth studio album, the first in 5 years.
The album was released last Friday, on Valentine’s day, simultaneously sound-tracking lovers and lonely hearts.
Getintothis first listened to this album on a train journey, unsuccessfully trying to conceal our excitement.
The album pretty much perfectly fit the trip from Birmingham to Liverpool, and was the perfect soundtrack to the rolling hills and the sunset lighting up the clouds with a pink hue. We doubt there is a better band to match such dream-like scenery.
Tame Impala songs can often take some listening. It is perhaps easy for listeners to find themselves initially underwhelmed during the first play, then, later on, catch themselves humming the tune throughout the day, the track leaving more of a lasting impression than first seemed to be the case.
This album is the perfect example of this, it’s definitely a grower.
Parker teased his fans with a stand-alone single in March of 2019, Patience, almost a year before the album was released, urging us to just trust in and stick with him.
The lyrics, ‘they ask me all the time … what you doing with your life?’ suggests he was under pressure to produce something new and exciting to succeed the release of Currents in 2015.
In an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, Parker discussed how he got into music and how he finds his inspiration. His reply was “I’ll do anything that gets me inspired… anything that causes those lightning bolts, you know? As soon as I found music, I was like, “that’s me”, that’s my identity. It was like a rush of identity.
The thing about all my albums is, that they’ve gradually got more and more personal, as I’ve gradually gotten more confidence to say what I want to say.Making a Tame Impala album or, just making a Tame Impala song, satisfies a part of me that nothing else can.”
Tame Impala have had several incarnations over the years, both as a recording and live band. Nick Allbrook and Jay Watson belonged to Tame for a short while before exploring other avenues with psychedelic rock band Pond (the band in which Parker was a member and is still a contributor).
Tame Impala is now essentially a solo project, with Parker recording all vocals, instruments and being involved in all elements of production and a band joining him for live shows…. – Emilie Clark
Read the full feature length review here.
Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels
Highway 20 / Thirty Tigers
Trying to pin down the career of Lucinda Williams has never been an easy task.
Credited as one of the progenitors of Americana with 1988’s classic self-titled album, she began her career being compared to Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, but her association with the Rough Trade label always hinted at the punkish spirit behind her music.
Now, at 67, Williams has gone back to those roots and then some with an album that is full of startlingly raw blues-punk and drips with strong liquor, bad men and even worse politicians.
Lyrically songs cut straight to the core with frank and honest commentary on domestic abuse (Wakin’ Up) and the dangerous, quick to judge and convict aspects of social media (Shadows & Doubts).
Musically it’s hard not to think of the early White Stripes at that time Detroit seemed full of righteous punk, with opener You Can’t Rule Me seeing Williams growl her way through her powerful statement of intent as her band rumble and grind beneath her with all the subtlety of a broken down pick up truck.
Over the next 40 minutes, she seems pissed off with most things that come her way but particular ire is saved for President Trump, the undoubted target of Man Without Soul (“You’re a man without shame/ Without dignity and grace/ No way to save face/ You’re a man without a soul”) – try that for size at the next coronavirus press conference.
Big Black Train is another standout as Williams settles into a slow soulful groove full of echoing electric guitars and a genuinely startling vocal packed with wracked regret and fears for the future. It’s a beautiful thing.
40 years into a fascinating career and heading into her eighth decade, Williams has no right to sound this vital, gnarly and alive but with Good Souls Better Angels she’s at her brilliant best. – Jamie Bowman.
Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Minds
Yves Tumor has spent a career fucking with us all.
Having been known as Sean Lee Bowie, Rahel Ali, Sean Bowie, even Shan Bowie. Who really knows for sure?
He has also released music under various guises, including Bekelé Berhanu, Shanti and TEAMS.
For the purpose of consistency, we’ll go with what it says on the tin: Yves Tumor.
Tumor has fast become the master of shedding skins. While his glorious 2018 album, Safe in the Hands of Love, was jam-packed with abrasive bass-oriented rage, through the latter part of touring on the back of this album, Tumor cobbled together a gypsy-like musical collective and that partnership continues on his latest offering, Heaven to a Tortured Mind.
Tumor and his merry band of bohemian street urchins have toned down that bass packed electronica and cranked it up to turbo for a full-on rock assault that spews with a fluorescent crash, embellishing us with beguiling collages of sound.
Lyrically, too, Tumor has departed from his previous defaults of anxious howls from the void, now posing as some deranged space-crooner, his subjects somewhere between love and lust, filling in these spaces with grotesque imagery.
The opening track, Gospel For a New Century begins the new chapter of Yves Tumor hysteria and in mind-blowing fashion. A wild collision between avant-garde and soul-pop that showers you in a debris of prickly brass lines and killer melodies, Medicine Burn is basically the demonisation of funk.
All told, it’s just a skin-flaying punk assault.
Identity Trade has you looking at the heavens and mistaking them for hell. A jumped-up glow-wave glam battering with a bruising duet between Tumor and Diana Gordon.
The riff is right out of the book of Mick Ronson, coming completely out of the left field and leaving you in that similar what-the-fuck? state of mind you have when listening to Roxy Music‘s In Every Dream Home A Heartache. It’s just that good.
Featuring a collaboration with Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming and Kelsey Lu, the streamlined soul of Romanticist demonstrates Tumor reaching for wider addressees. The audacity is admirable as it is accurate.
The David Bowie homage doesn’t let-up with Super Stars sounding like The Thin White Duke‘s long lost child sent from the gods, while closing number, A Greater Love, is an unconventionally beautiful offering filled with Tumor‘s ambient soul-boy charm.
No question, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is Tumor‘s attempt to “go for it”. A chameleon mutating past musical styles and unleashing them through feral juxtapositions of demented desires and rationalised love.
The backdrop is presented with an unhinged swagger, a filthy, furious noise of glammed-up soul punk. Had A.R. Kane stuck around a bit longer, they may well have tiptoed through these perilous paths.
That is history, though, and this is the future. Yves Tumor doesn’t just carry that burning torch. On Heaven to a Tortured Mind he flails it. – Simon Kirk