Each month we bring you a handy round-up of the most exciting new releases.
This month sees long-awaited albums, EPS and singles from Vagabon, Allison Crutchfield, Dear Reader, Oliver Wilde and Dutch Uncles.
Vagabon – Infinite Worlds
Father/Daughter Records, 24.02 | Buy
Delivering an arrestingly emotive debut with bursts of energetic punk power and tender ambient melodies, Vagabon, aka multi-instrumentalist and producer Laetitia Tamko, channels an affectingly visceral sincerity through her music. The gentle, glistening chords that accompany Tamko’s rich, earnest vocals on ‘Fear & Force’ lead on to the clattering guitars and drumbeat of ‘Minneapolis’, which in turn give way to dreamy synths on ‘Mal á L’aise’; Infinite Worlds is as diverse in its fusion of sounds as the influences behind it.
Having grown up in Cameroon before her family’s relocation to New York, Tamko’s musical background encompasses the “East and West African music nostalgic of [her] childhood” alongside the varied range of sounds and instrumentation present on Infinite Worlds. With lyricism that poignantly expresses personal experiences and conveys a distinctive insightfulness – heightened by Tamko’s carefully crafted arrangements and deeply compelling vocals – this is a passionately eloquent collection of tracks. Kezia Cochrane
Oliver Wilde – Post-Frenz Container Buzz
Howling Owl, 17.02 | Buy
Post-Frenz Container Buzz is a record of significant battle, discovery, consternation and undoubtable substance. Designed to subvert the middle grounds of happiness and melancholia, Oliver Wilde has approached and perhaps been defined by his third record – one that was made at a significant time personally and that is, perhaps coincidentally, also his best.
The compositions which Wilde constructs remain undeniably empathetic, a control which destabilises the compassionate tender elements to evoke the overwhelming consideration of existence that perhaps we should all study further. A soul-staring chronicle of profundity that was constructed to merely stimulate an idea of deliberation, and in doing so delivered Wilde’s most accomplished work to date. Ross Jones
Allison Crutchfield – Tourist in This Town
Merge, 03.02 | Buy
As a member of Swearin’ and often Waxahatchee, Allison Crutchfield has shown herself to be one of American indie rock’s most vital new voices over the past five years, but it’s on her debut solo album Tourist In This Town that she steps out as an integral, fascinating voice, and it reaps some unexpected rewards.
Adding dancier, heart-thumping, poppy moments to her arsenal of scratchy, life-affirming indie rock sees Crutchfield channeling everything from Bruce Springsteen and Depeche Mode, while delivering the promise she’s hinted at for years. Single ‘Dean’s Room’ is instant in its delivery, adding lyrical bite to sugary melodies, a cocktail that proves infectious. Will Richards
The Blunderbuss Press – Nudists With Really Big Heads
Self-release, 20.02 | Buy
Nudists with really big heads – not a phrase you usually come across, but for now, it’s the latest single from Bristolian alt-folk duo, The Blunderbuss Press. Originally written in the style of a poem to break up a live set, it has since become a glowing hit for the pair.
After a few twangy chords from guitarist Andy Norton, vocalist Stuart Tidy takes a deep breath and breaks out into an extraordinary, gloopy Americana drawl. Think Kings of Leon in their ‘Molly’s Chambers’ era. The lyrics equate to something Will Varley would be proud of and match the tone perfectly. Definitely a tune to witness live and raw. Emmie Harrison
Hanni El Khatib – Savage Times
Innovative Leisure, 17.02 | Buy
Hanni El Khatib’s Savage Times is an anthology of bluesy, punk-inspired rock with a sprinkling of garage and hip-hop influences. This experimental collection is made up of 19 tracks from five EPs and four new bonuses, in which Khatib enters new realms of solo-guitar portraiture, a prime example of this being ‘Black Constellation’.
The LP also delves into more political, personal and social issues in tracks ‘Born Brown’ and ‘Gun Clap Hero’. Nevertheless, he also keeps it playful with the funk-fuelled grooves of ‘Paralyzed’ and ‘Freak Freely’. The guitar-heavy title track is an anthem for the modern-day punks, and perfectly rounds off a masterfully-curated, instinctive and innovative album from a multi-talented artist. Georgia Balch
PVT – New Spirit
Felte, 17.02 | Buy
Known as Pivot in some circles, PVT deliver their fifth album which is smooth yet jarring throughout. An interlude perfectly bridges together ‘Salt Lake Heart’ and ‘Another Life’ but the standout track is ‘Kangaroo’ – the title acting as a clear nod to their Australian roots.
Instrumental tracks prove unlikely highlights, while elsewhere experimental vocals add impressive flourishes. ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend’ feels slightly dragged out at nine minutes, however. Title track ‘New Spirit’ would make an ideal introduction to the album, setting the LP’s intentions of avant-garde execution and electronic additions. Fans of HONNE, SOHN, and SBTRKT will enjoy PVT’s rich and experimental output. Callum Stevens
Dear Reader – Day Fever
City Slang, 24.02 | Buy
Cherilyn MacNeil has cast herself out of her comfort zone for Day Fever, the first record in four years from orchestral-pop project Dear Reader. In doing so, MacNeil has created an album of natural vision, one uninfluenced by over-consideration and delivered at its most pleasingly honest.
Dipping and swelling without constriction, MacNeil directs a fervent orchestra through imposing notions of apprehension and vulnerability, yet it’s MacNeil’s own voice that unsurprisingly stuns most amongst these liberated arrangements. Drawing with an elegant prose and informed creditably, MacNeil unveils through her convictions a personality that is defiant and unenclosed, compelling in its richness and unrefined strength. Here is an album of vast sustenance. Ross Jones
Dutch Uncles – Big Balloon
Memphis Industries, 17.02 | Buy
Manchester art pop quartet Dutch Uncles have returned this month with their fifth studio album Big Balloon. Released via Memphis Industries, the ten-track record boasts a plethora of progressive guitar pop complimented by the distinctively quirky vocals of frontman Duncan Wallis, a variety of complex lyrical themes and a subtle post-punk undertone.
While the album’s title track blends infectious hooks with an upbeat atmosphere, highlights such as ‘Combo Box’ and ‘Same Plan Dream’ combine darker tones with a smattering of melodic dream pop. The synth-heavy ‘Streetlight’ discusses themes of coming to terms with loneliness, but the most impressive track comes in the form of haunting, Bowie-inspired album closer ‘Overton’. Kelly Ronaldson
Leif Vollebekk – Twin Solitude
Secret City Records, 24.02 | Buy
From start to finish, Twin Solitude is an album of eloquence. Leif Vollebekk’s second LP delves even deeper into an intimate journey of sincerity and grace, drifting from contemplative reflection to hopeful optimism. His warm and soulful vocal is the perfect de-stresser, with the lyrics accompanied by soft drums, melodic keys and acoustic guitar.
Closing track, ‘Rest’, is an eight-minute folk lullaby, offering a welcome, peaceful escape. Dreamy wave sounds float amongst chimes as lengthened keys are held together by Leif’s wistful vocal. There’s no doubt this is an album for a lonely Sunday afternoon, so clear the diary and enjoy in its sweet and solemn entirety. Hannah Wakeman
Ishmael Ensemble – Songs For Knotty
Banoffee Pies Records, 03.02 | Buy
Contemporary jazz is not a genre 20-somethings are all too familiar with. Except for now, it really should be. Ismael Ensemble throw stereotypes out of the window, conjuring up a beautiful, intricately fine-tuned musical journey.
On their debut LP Songs for Knotty, a mix of saxophone, electronica and sweet Bombay Bicycle Club-style chirping is a pleasure to listen to – especially on second track ‘Bembe’. It’s relaxing, yet refreshing, and continues to inspire until its last second. While the genre means a lot of exploration and investigation to uphold, Ishmael Ensemble will definitely make electronica-jazz greats like Snarky Puppy stand to attention. Emmie Harrison