Monday, May 22, 2017

STN recommends: a massive May catchup

Right then. Buckle up.

We ended up taking blog downtime at the same time as EVERY BAND IN THE WORLD announced a return. First cab off that rank is the mighty Grizzly Bear, up til now perhaps America's most consistently fascinating band. Painted Ruins, out August 18th, brings us two tracks: Three Rings and Mourning Sound both start like a well oiled machine with drum loop and buzzing deep bassline before the multitude of layers come in. In the former wordless chorales and delicately interlocked pieces floating across uneven paths and firing off in all directions before coalescing and resolving around a mini-guitar solo striking and cresting at the heart of Ed Droste's emotional angst; Mourning Sound, boasting a good variety of retro synth sounds, is maybe more direct and radio friendly single-worthy standout than they've ever produced.

Next down the aisle come The National, whose Sleep Well Beast, out September 8th, brings us The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness, a slightly adjusted take on their slow burn dark poise, electrified bursts of guitar rudely interrupting the paranoid elegance that in what passes for a chorus sees Matt Berninger attempt to reach the highest parts of his vocal range reaching for a peak everything else doesn't feel like playing along with. While we're talking bands who've gone two decades finding new paths through inbuilt build-and-release tension, Mogwai release Every Country's Sun on 1st September, their ninth album proper, from which comes Coolverine, tingling and graceful with an undercurrent of anxiety that slowly builds as the drums enter into a spectacular panorama. This year's Brilliant Mogwai Track Title: Don't Believe The Fife. And then there's the multi-faced, multi-faceted Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder out 7th July as their first album in seven years, with an understated. skittering Feist-led title track locked into a steady if tense coast until the machines finally attempt to take over at the end.

Onto albums we already knew and have written about, starting with one practically made for us as Public Service Broadcasting, who release south Wales coal mining-themed Every Valley on 7th July, consider the social and political strides of women involved in and around the industry and the miner's strike on They Gave Me A Lamp, and our old showbiz pals Haiku Salut help out (and co-billed) on a track where interview samples are brought into a Haiku-esque series of exquisite interwoven loops eventually joined by a triumphant brass section. Napoleon IIIrd's The Great Lake came out on Friday - there's a full presentation of the album as part of Holmfirth Film Festival on Wednesday - and we'll talk about its late Talk Talk/slowcore with a sax-recalling treatises on dealing with loss in time, save to guide you towards So It Goes, its hymnal closing song of hope and recovery. Fleet Foxes' Crack-Up, out 16th June, has on whole attracted a little more attention, the purposefully striding Fool's Errand expanding the solitude chamber folk approach to take in the Technicolor influence of 1960s sunshine pop. And then there's Sparks. There's always Sparks, and there's always a Sparks song in the form of a conversation involving a laissez-faire God. What The Hell Is It This Time?, from 8th September-due Hippopotamus, is of their latter day goofy-orchestral bent in which the Almighty finally cracks under the pressure of constant prayers and entreaties for good.

And now a brief diversion into Bands You And We Both Like Who Have Released New Stuff Without An Album Seemingly On The Horizon. (Got to think of a catchier title than that.) LCD Soundsystem's fourth album will according to James Murphy be ready when the physical versions are ready, which seems almost self-parodic. In the meantime come two tracks, Call The Police a first cousin of All My Friends' propulsion with a greater ambition that leaves it sounding almost too much like a Brian Eno stadium-aiming production, while American Dream is for the morning after, a woozy fried ultra-introspective to the point of self-loathing self-examination to the backing of cheap waltz time drum machine and crystal synths. Courtney Barnett's How To Boil An Egg is for Split Singles Club, a 7" series the joint work of her own Milk! Records and Melbourne-based Bedroom Sucks, and a track she refers to as "a songwriting experiment", a brain-emptying treatise on loneliness and lack of achievement that stems from her open mic days and on which she plays every instrument in an appeallingly rockabilly fashion. Danger Mouse's track for Edgar Wright heist comedy Baby Driver is built around the intro riff from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Bellbottoms, which would be more than enough grimy funk for us without the flow weight of Run The Jewels and Big Boi added. The blues remains number one. Beach House meanwhile are releasing B-sides And Rarities, a self-defined stopgap, on June 30th, featuring the hitherto unreleased Chariot from the Depression Cherry/Thank Your Lucky Stars double session. There's no good apparent reason why its cinematic sway was left off, unless they thought it chiming airiness was too atypical of their sound.

Let's return to the transcendently dreamy melancholia of Amber Arcades' Cannonball EP for Wouldn't Even Know, featuring a Lee Hazlewood pitch-level cameo from Bill Ryder-Jones which gives it extra self-querying brooding. Electro-folkie Mary Epworth feels like she's been around for some time but is only just getting around to her second album five years after the debut, Elytral out 1st September; from it, Me Swimming glides and throbs entrancingly for more than six minutes, as aqueous and submergent as its title suggests. Michael Nau has been making detailed folk-rock as Cotton Jones, and under his own name on I Root he traces a path from there to classic soul, especially in its laidback shimmering production - album Some Twist is out June 16th.

Emma Winston as Deerful has drawn our attention before, and from debut album Peach out 2nd June comes the minimal synth introspection of Cloudwatching. Another we've written about a good few times in the past, Seazoo are finally approaching their debut as yet unconfirmed album with the aid of Roy's World, a sprightly piece of typically Welsh scene-scented warped insta-pop with an ineffable hook and wobbly psychedelic synths. Not quite as many of the latter as inside Flamingods' percussive psychotropia, which achieves a kind of divergent form with the tripped out shamanistic sound (and video) of Mixed Blessings, from EP Kewali out on Friday. Hey, Zola Blood, there's another name we've blogged before, and their album Infinite Games is out on Friday. The Only Thing has definite soaring ambitions of not being held down into another electropop act but not in that obvious radio-demanding way, instead attaching its ineffable melody to an appeallingly insistent misshapen beat.

Next, to Glasgow. Atlas Cedar is Chris Syme, whose In Hollywood quotes inspiration from Supertramp in the song information but comes across like a more Americana-friendly take on that Quiet Is The New Loud thing from around the start of the century, a hazy, well layered electro-acoustic shuffle with sonic nods to a late 60s aesthetic, unshowy but keen to imprint itself. Meanwhile the city's DIY/punk scene is as fertile as ever, Breakfast Muff's R U A Feminist, half of a double A-side ahead of an album due in July, full of piss and vinegar, Eilidh McMillan spitting out the words against an increasingly ragged and increasingly angry backing. From ragged punx to ragged lo-fi, What's In Your Bag? from Dublin's Silverbacks' Sink The Fat Moon EP, which came out on Friday, is built on the rickety foundations of laconic lo-fi.

Newly signed to Big Scary Monsters over here, Canadians Single Mothers are an incendiary proposition on Long Distance, essentially Japandroids to the power of Dischord. Second album Our Pleasure is out 16th June. Compass by Leeds' Esper Scout surges like the pop-accessible end of Sonic Youth, which isn't a bad thing when it's shaped into a subtly insistent charge of their own and around smart lyrical consideration of homeliness and displacement; the sometime Cribs support are going to be worth watching as they promise an album next year.

Here's a name you likely never expected to see again - Montreal's The Dears were almost a big deal around the mid-00s for their Smiths-inspired expansiveness. Now down to a duo, Times Infinity Volume Two is either their seventh or six-and-a-halfth depending on how you read it and returns them to the might and internal heft of their peak, 1998 a misleadingly upbeat gallop that eventually finds its sense of place and release in its closing quarter. And, perhaps very much finally, Cardiff's My Name Is Ian - go on, guess how many of them are called Ian - are about to go sixteen albums in seven years to the good with Cincinnati Cola via the ever reliable Bubblewrap Collective, the spectacularly titled Fight, Drink And Watch People Die On TV a pure garage indie-rock thrill.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

STN recommends... April 2017

Finally, very belatedly, the best new songs of the fourth month of the year.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

STN recommends: 3/5/17

First things first, we realised we didn't get time to write a Recommends at the end of last week and then spent just as long putting the songs we wanted to write about on Twitter instead, so who's the real winner here?

Drahla - Faux Text

From Leeds, a Too Pure Singles Club release, recorded by MJ at Suburban Home Studios - some people have worked out the express route to getting onto STN. And luckily it's a great single too, a menacing meeting of almost-spoken intrigue with surging art-noise guitars and skronking sax in the Sonic Youth lineage but none the worse in ideas and ominousness for that.

Soeur - Just Yet

There's been a few bands recently reaching back to the great gritty grunge sound of 1992, and not a lot of them are very good. Bristol via Worcester's Soeur, who we first came across just this weekend at Handmade festival, have the charm and nous to pull it off on their What Separates Us EP, knowing all about the key to it all being the capture and release, allied to the raw, sleazy dual female vocals. And check that riff bringing down buildings in its wake.

Orchards - Darling

Another Handmade discovery, Brightonians and recent PWR BTTM support Orchards are tricky to grab hold of, switching seamlessly from Foals-style slightly straightened angular hi-life influenced shapes to big showy synth-driven choruses to exuberant shiny poppiness, bursting with hooks throughout. Fans of Fickle Friends will find plenty to like here.

Monday, May 01, 2017

40 From 40: 1997

Cool Britannia! Backing Britain! Noel at No.10 with Tony! (There's a reason why we're posting this on 1st May 2017, obviously) Yeah, 1997 was the year that all kind of evaporated and Be Here Now was key in making it that way, alongside the old canard of just being too much of the workaday being hailed as next big things - note in this playlist even the bands thrown into the Britpop malaise are audibly making great distance from that form. The year's big winners as far as hindsight goes ended up being Radiohead, making the most of the first great uber-muddy Glastonbury and of the technologies made available to them to progress - which is telling given at the time almost as much critical hosannah-ing was being given to the Prodigy's hooligan breakbeat culmination Fat Of The Land, which from this distance has been thoroughly subsumed by the albums before it even before you factor in the very much timelocked context of a Crispian Mills cameo. Of course what actually sold in 1997 was the reworked Candle In The Wind, brought into a world that was all for the lachrymose having just made Puff Daddy's I'll Be Missing You an enormous starmaking vehicle, and, in long form, the Spice Girls, so great a cultural force that their Saturday Night Live appearance got on the actual news back over here. Chumbawumba of all bands had a massive international hit. Dimly remembered roots rockers Texas reinvented themselves to world-carrying effect. Someone tried to get New Grave going as a genre, while urban London took up speed garage, the opening strains of a very fascinating, very much evolving form (even if the recorded version largely existed in white label 12"s and remixes) that pretty much has a through-line via the following year's UK Garage boom to this day. Jeff Buckley and Michael Hutchence both left us, the latter a polarising force to rock stardom of the 1990s, the former an unwitting key text in the softening of the form in the early 00s. 1997 - a transitional year, but not in the usual way. Someone please sort out digital distribution for most of the Prolapse albums, would they?

Spearmint - Sweeping The Nation
Comet Gain - These Are The Dreams Of The Working Girl
Velocette - Get Yourself Together
Kenickie - People We Want
Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out
Prolapse - Killing The Bland
AC Acoustics - Stunt Girl
Dawn Of The Replicants - Lisa Box
Cornelius - Freefall
Yo La Tengo - Sugarcube
Supergrass - Richard III
Clinic - IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Impression That I Get
Belle & Sebastian - Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie
Grandaddy - A.M. 180
Radiohead - Airbag
Primal Scream - Burning Wheel
Cable - Freeze The Atlantic
Super Furry Animals - Demons
The Beta Band - Dry The Rain
Massive Attack - Risingson
Portishead - All Mine
Eels - Your Lucky Day In Hell
Flowchart - Flutter By Butterfly
Björk - Bachelorette
Spiritualized - Come Together
Blur - Death Of A Party
David Holmes - Don't Die Just Yet (The Holiday Girl) (Arab Strap Remix)
Six By Seven - 88-92-96
Mogwai - Mogwai Fear Satan
The Chemical Brothers - The Private Psychedelic Reel
Missy Elliott - Beep Me 911
Scott Garcia feat. MC Styles - A London Thing
Cornershop - Sleep On The Left Side
Tindersticks - Bathtime
Elliott Smith - Between The Bars
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Into My Arms
Teenage Fanclub - Ain't That Enough
Sodastream - Turnstyle
Pavement - Shady Lane

Previously among the 40: 1970, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009