Each month we bring you a handy round-up of the most exciting new releases.
This month sees long-awaited albums from Aurora and Emmy The Great, while college rock stalwarts Nada Surf deliver a potential farewell record and Bristol’s own Oh, The Guilt and Why We Love each deliver rather memorable EPs.
Listen to the playlist and read more below.
Liima – ii
4AD | 18.03 | Buy: Rise Bristol
Meaning ‘glue’ in Finnish, Liima is a collaboration between the three core members of Efterklang, and their live percussionist Tatu Rönkkö. Any Efterklang fans expecting epic widescreen orchestral tunes may be disappointed, but the band’s tunefulness is never far beneath the surface.
Opener ‘Your Heart’, with its retro-futuristic 1980s keyboard sound, leads the way to percussive pop, hints of contemporary EDM, horn sections and even faint reggae beats heard later on the album. The record’s melodicism and the playful richness of its instrumentation make for a satisfying listen. Unusually for its improvised beginnings, the music of ‘ii’ is easily accessible and not too challenging for the listener, while being interesting enough to justify repeat plays. Tim Ellis
White Denim – Stiff
Downtown/Sony RED | 25.03 | Buy: Rise Bristol
Upon first listen, White Denim’s seventh album ‘Stiff’ sounds as if it was compiled of rejects from the School of Rock soundtrack. As you delve deeper though, the perfect injection of psychedelic and proggy influences start to sound more Fool’s Gold than foolish.
You can tell that this album left room for more experimentation, with plenty of plucky choruses that get heads bopping. The foursome mix together the kinds of riffs that will resonate nicely with fans of The Black Keys, or those who prefer the ‘Molly’s Chamber’ days of Kings of Leon. Topped with a good old Texan twang, the boys have created a stiff little number to play over and over again. Emmie Harrison
Oh, The Guilt – Self-titled EP [BRISTOL]
Self-release | 19.03
The sounds captured here are cold, atmospheric and, at times, satisfyingly abrasive. Bristol trio Oh, The Guilt merge brooding guitar lines with savage outbursts on a debut EP that loses none of the hypnotic power of their live performances.
On ‘A Gesture Of Moral Support’ and ‘Watch Yrself’ guitarists Chris Nicholls and Ami Amp pull haunting metallic melodies from their instruments, which peak with waves of distorted noise. The real climax however, is the violence of closer ‘White Car’, with its squalling guitars and drummer Hannah Layhe’s turbulent cymbal crashes. Visually Oh, The Guilt have a strong design aesthetic, but sound far from stylistic; this recording has genuine grit. Michael Liggins
Yuck – Stranger Things
Mamé Records | Out Now
Conjuring memories of warmer days, sweat in your eyes and that feeling of melting into the pavement, London-based Yuck return with their third full-length – the second since the departure of lead songwriter Daniel Blumberg – championing their updated take on mid-tempo fuzz.
In perhaps trying to achieve the punch they had on their self-titled debut, by way of tracks like ‘Cannonball’ and ‘Hold Me Closer’, Yuck drift through ‘Stranger Things’, occasionally allowing some vibrant guitar riffs to shimmer through on tracks like ‘Swirling’. Still this record is a statement of identity, one that showcases their ability to suck listeners in with crunching, white noise-filled dream-rock. Albert Testani
Emmy The Great – Second Love
Bella Union | 11.03 | Buy: Rise Bristol
It’s taken three studio albums for Emmy The Great to finally find her sound. From dabbling in a Christmas album, to penning country love songs and an anti-folk approach – she’s eventually there.
From the first track on ‘Second Love’, a pure ethereal nature ripples through the evocative guitarwork and soothing, high-pitched vocals, echoing Agnes Obel. With a little help from Wild Beasts’ frontman Tom Fleming on astounding track ‘Swimming Pool’, Emma-Lee Moss is stripped bare for the whole world to see. The Hong Kong-born musician once sang of heartbreak and loss in albums past, but has settled for logic and philosophy this time round. It is, however, clear to see the older, stark and anxiety-ridden lyricist on ‘Social Halo’. Overall, what the album lacks in a final shuddering climax, it makes up for in quirky lyricism and a musical eccentricity that is irreplicable. Emmie Harrison
Telegram – Operator
Gramgram | Out Now | Buy: Rise Bristol
Sounding like Toy with the reverb scraped off and the introversion banished, London-based Telegram’s debut explains why so many top bands have wanted to have them as touring buddies within the last year. Songs like ‘Aeons’ and opener ‘Rule Number One’ are equal parts punishing and mesmerising, drawing you in with their motorik rhythm section, before punching you in the face with heavy, squalling guitars.
Produced by ex-Testicicle Rory Atwell (which explains the unhinged guitars), it’s full of rabid solos and big choruses. There are some surprises, including ‘Telegramme’s menacingly slow build, but this is an album heavily cut from the 60s garage rock cloth. Christian Northwood
Why We Love – The Boy You Knew [BRISTOL]
Self-release | 25.03
Opening with bare, acoustic tones and Joe Wellfair’s memorable voice, Why We Love are back and it feels good; even before initial gambit ‘Staying Awake’ erupts into the melodically dense guitar pop that has become their trademark. But there is variation. The instrumentation on ‘Surrender’ takes a rougher, more slacker-nodding tact that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from Courtney Barnett; this of course before the far-reaching chorus is fully let out of the box and woahs take us toward an almost shoegaze climax.
I’ll admit it’s easy to miss some of the sparkle exhibited on their debut, but this EP does no hiding, leaving nothing but their exemplary songwriting in sight. Loki Lillistone
Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
City Slang | Out Now | Buy: Rise Bristol
Venturing out from a four year hiatus, veteran indie rock underdogs Nada Surf have been hinting at this, their eighth LP release, for a little while now.
‘You Know Who You Are’ comes across as an album of well-crafted, yet insipidly rapturous pop rock that progresses like a wistful glance over the shoulder before stepping into the sunshine. Songs breeze along mid-tempo; ever hopeful and often bittersweet, as on numbers ‘Friend Hospital’ and the preachingly upbeat ‘Out Of The Dark’.
Final track ‘Victory’s Yours’ closes with the line “I wish you peace now I’m gone.” Could this be Caws’ last respectful salute as Nada Surf retire into the nostalgic 90s ether? Ash Clarke
AURORA – All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
Decca/Petroleum/Glassnote | Out Now
Norwegian singer AURORA may only be nineteen, but don’t let her age fool you – she’s something of a prodigy, having started playing classical music at six years old, writing her own songs at ten and now continuing to take on the world with her distinctive sound. Still carrying her classical influence with her, ‘All My Demons…’ is a hook-laden electro-pop delight, packed with atmospheric strings and haunting melodies, all strung together by her otherworldly vocals.
A creative journey from beginning to end, album-opener ‘Runaway’ could be the dramatic soundtrack to a Hollywood blockbuster, while upbeat numbers like ‘Conquerer’ and ‘I Went Too Far’ even make you want to dance. Angharad Bishop
Poliça – United Crushers
Memphis Industries / PIAS | Out Now | Buy: Rise Bristol
The synthpop Minnesotans made massive waves with ‘Shulamith’ in 2013, now here we are, three years later, with an album perhaps less romanticised or adventurous, but certainly darker. We’re miles away from dancing reveries, faced now with wayward, atmospheric rock, where Channy Leaneagh’s voice dominates the arrangements. There remains, though, that marvellous mix of processed vocals and semi-electronic instrumentation that gives Poliça their unique sound, as in ‘Lime Habits’, the album’s lead single.
This is an album ‘correct’ for fans, but that will unlikely bring much to the table for new listeners, in search of something truly special. Laure Noverraz