Wednesday, June 06, 2018

What you may have missed: May

Only six days late rather than three and a half months like before, 25 of the best tracks that came out last month and may have skipped most's attention:

Adam Stafford - Zero Disruption
Stafford's fascinating approach to neo-classical construction has earned him a keen following - back when we did the UK blogger album of the year poll (when bloggers were still a thing) he surprisingly made the list for 2013's Imaginary Walls Collapse. New album Fire Behind The Curtain, like fellow Scottish instrumentalist RM Hubbert, uses instrumental music to deal with mental health issues, using haunting looped figures to build intricate cinematic constructions.

AidenKeryn - Window Shopping
We still don't know a lot more about the Swansea teenager (as in just done her GCSEs, by the look of her Twitter) from when we first featured her at the start of last year. What we can say is her available tracks since then have warmed up the frosted tips of those early recordings, her richly emotive voice brought into colour as her promise continues to develop apace.

Baba Stiltz - Maze
The Swedish producer makes deliberately tinny, microscopically detailed warped lowkey house with sad robot vocals, proper crying-on-the-dancefloor material. Despite having remixed Avicii and Rita Ora this isn't conflicting downbeat vocals with hands in the air production either, but neither is it the longing longeurs of a James Blake, more a filled out Detroit electronica sound for melancholia nights.

The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
Another salvo, and not this selection's last, from the Antipodean invasion. This time we're in Auckland for some classic melodic, bright but self-doubting and quietly accusatorial pop-punk without that genre's riffola excesses making them seem more like Kiwi mirrors of, say, Happy Accidents. This is the title track from an album due in August.

Cape Weather - Never Say
More sepia-toned surf-pop, this of a gentler hue from an LA duo, imbued with regret and private social anxiety expressed through that familiar sun-kissed twang. Fits that weather we've been having, at least.

Colour Me Wednesday - Entrepreneur
Uxbridge's own have made good DIY scene business from their subtly sociopolitical storytelling power-pop and Counting Pennies In The Afterlife is their best realised album yet, marrying the smartest of summer pop hooks to their avowedly queer/feminist/anti-capitalist standpoint.

Drahla - Twelve Divisions Of The Day
Our highlight from spending this last Saturday at Long Division festival, where their visceral sculpted noise was accompanied by saxophone freakouts. Now signed to Captured Tracks this is their first new track since November's standout Third Article EP, intent on careering down a dark wiry post-punk wormhole that feels from bassline upwards like it's slowly compressing all in its way all while unspooling itself from the outside. Man alive, this is an exciting band.

East Brunswick All Girls Choir - Essendon 1986
Australasia part two, a product of the Barnett/Cloher hit factory Milk! Records (spot the video cameo) with a ferocious coiled spring unleashing into noise and anger like the National being bitten by a radioactive Pere Ubu. There's a peculiar majesty to it despite that.

Eureka California - MKUltra
A longstanding feature of the international indiepop overthrow, the Athens, GA duo's new album Roadrunners, which this opens, not only fulfils this month's Recorded By MJ quotient but follows the loose path of his work with Martha, where jangle approaches The Way Things Are Now and comes out the other side bearing the weight of its own world while still attempting to keep up the energy levels.

Ex-Vöid - Boyfriend
Evidently Joanna Gruesome quietly breathed their last somewhere in the last eighteen months or so because Alanna McArdle and Owen Williams have formed a new band (Owen was/is in several hundred bands anyway but Lan took time away after leaving JoGru three years ago), and their grand tradition of a tall formation story continues - astrology columns and contemporary dance classes this time. There's more audible elements of Posies-esque power pop and evident tunesmithery this time, but there's still melodic harmonic bits and loud distorted bits in bitesize chunks like they used to do so excitingly.

Jens Lekman - Not Because It's Easy, Because It's Hard
This has kind of slipped people's attention, but every month this year Lekman and Annika Norlin, who you most likely know as Hello Saferide, has been posting a track a month as conversation in a project known as Correspondence, where every song is somehow inspired by the last. Lekman took the reigns in May with his reaction to Avicii's death which somehow turns into a tale of how he bought a DIY cloning kit to share out his work and accidentally made his clones work too hard until they turned on him.

Jessica Risker - A Cooling Sun
The Chicago psych-folkie's I See You Among The Stars was a slept-on standout album from the month, gorgeously tender folk where despite the warm often minimalist spaciousness more commonly associated with acoustic singer-songwriters you can tell the Broadcast influence, colouring in the stories with aural care.

La Luz - Loose Teeth
Talking of the surf-pop revival, here's some cracking pointed jangle that sounds like Chorusgirl with a suntan, disorientating with clashing distortion and "wrong" notes amid the harmonies and with a side order of nightmare fuel. 'Challenging twang' would be a decent description of Floating Features as a whole, actually.

Liars - Liquorice
Actually recorded just after the last album but one, in 2014-15 when Aaron Hemphill was still in the band, this is actually from the soundtrack to upcoming film 1/1, which going by this intense distorted synth workout might be heavy but intrinsically vital going.

Mikey Collins - Sound in Here
The Allo Darlin' diaspora continues - Elizabeth is in Elva, Paul is with another band who will turn up in a moment (and is also on this), Bill is back in Australia, and now Mikey has gone solo on Fika Recordings with an album due in August. You can probably broadly imagine what it sounds like and takes after but, as Collins himself says, it also takes after the Cure and, more generally, a devil-may-care charge augmenting the timeless jangle of it all.

Modern Studies - Get Back Down
Another glorious outlier of a psych-folk leaning album, pastoral transient chamber pop that shifts on its axis and incorporates elements well beyond their previously bucolic output, from this track's skittishness via electronics, light jazziness, Nick Cave dark balladry and woodland lullabies to that peculiarly Scottish type of indie-rock oppressive build (you don't really want to invoke Frightened Rabbit in current circumstances, but...), all underpinned by sympathetic strings, Emily Scott and Rob St John's harmonies and a sense of psychotropic time and place.

Phantastic Ferniture - Fuckin 'N' Rollin
What Julia Jacklin does with her time off, by her own admission an attempt to work out what makes people moved when they're not in her country-folk circles. Turns out that means a breezy groove with hints of Belly.

Soft Science - Sooner
Lush aren't doing it any more so the Sacramento band are going to have to pick up the slack. Not Britpop Lush either, the shoegaze-era version with Katie Haley doing a decent impression of the spaced-out harmonies amid floating cyclical guitar washes and a tambourine prominent in the mix.

Spray - Anthologised By Cherry Red
The band that link Glen Campbell, Devo, Daz Sampson, Helen Love and Hacker T Dog, Spray used to be half of the Cuban Boys and have actually been around and taking further adventures in post-modern synthpop since 2002. Gary Crowley namecheck, Record Store Day reference, implacably catchy chorus, the works.

Stanley Brinks - Sweet Fanny Adams
TAFKAAndre Herman Dune claims to have recorded more than a hundred albums, which is the kind of boast that makes you wonder if another can possibly matter. Actually the latest "official" solo effort on Fika is the kind of sweetly oddball antifolk effort he specialises in, this being the kind of track you could easily point out as a quick "in" for his world.

Tigercats - Stay Out Of Limehouse
While they've always had half a foot in hi-life guitars third album Pig City takes on more direct kalimba-driven Afropop influences. That said, it also returns to the scrappy danceability of their debut, these brass blasts and joyously summery atmosphere (here with an anti-Nazi community-breeding message) calling back to their earliest releases.

Tirzah - Gladly
An R&B ballad but not one like the standard mean, as the Mica Levi collaborator delivers a gorgeous straightforward love song amid drunken synths and changeable arrythmic beats bobbing in a sea of serenity.

Trust Fund - Carson McCullers
The last time Ellis Jones put out a record - the same year as his tour promised a mid-set Three Lions karaoke - Frank Ocean played a track on his Beats 1 show. Let's hope he kept the Bandcamp alert as the first taste of Bringing The Backline, due in July, returns from the bedroom offcuts into full band colour, albeit this being Trust Fund the kind of shaggy jangle that might fall over soon enough, not quite as forceful as before but snappier or as much as the heartache will allow.

Value Void - Back In The Day
Built on a circular spidery riff, the new signings to the usually reliable Tough Love debut with a taut economic kiss-off and an air of off-hand mystery, in the "I forbid you to learn more" sense.

Vive la Void - Death Money
As half of Moon Duo Sanae Yamada has often helped plumb the multicoloured depths of Kraut-splattered heavy psych; here on her solo debut she's creating a soundtrack for a chase sequence set on monorails as envisaged in the early 1960s, layers of glowing synths and treated vocals on a driving motorik charge with burbles, sequencer drop-ins and layers arriving and quietly departing as trackside accroutrements.