Some cracking releases this month across the board with albums from Courtney Barnett, CHVRCHES, Iceage, Beach House and more.
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Milk! Records | 18.05
Courtney Barnett lives up to the title of her second solo album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, with a collection of songs more assertive and direct than we’ve seen from her before. Where previously her songs were littered with a casual Lou Reed-style sing-speak and allusions to imposter syndrome, her second album is one of more confident and straightly-sung songs, untangling the complications of interpersonal relationships.
‘Hopefulessness’, the album opener, sets a sonically-dark tone with dissonant guitar riffs jangling over lines like “your vulnerability is stronger than it seems/ you know it’s ok to have a bad day.” ‘Help Yourself’ offers solutions in its sunny Meat Puppets-influenced chorus, insisting that, “darkness depends on where you’re standing.”
She comments on those around her with skill, every song feeling strong and assured. This assurance, however, somewhat undermines the charm of being let into an artist’s life, as in ‘Depreston’ from her first album. These songs are good more than they’re charming, making Barnett’s former vulnerability, which played so sweetly over the roughness of her guitar, somehow harder to find. Zander Sharp
Iceage – Beyondless
Matador | 04.05
Iceage’s creativity has always prioritised emotion. With new album Beyondless, they find their most evocative form of expression yet. The intricate, subtle musicianship that’s woven into their work is the result of a decade of consistent creative graft, their intentions as a group never comprehensible and all the better for it.
‘Showtime’ sways under a screeching, erratic saxophone before enveloping itself into an ecstatic cabaret of social commentary, constantly providing the unexpected. The balance of romantic restraint and energetic urgency makes the record feel tenacious, full of liberated feeling yet meticulously considered, knowing how best to be impactful without sacrificing any sense of vitality or effective poeticism. Their best yet. Ross Jones
Beach House – 7
Bella Union | 11.05
Bands named Beach House should only release new albums in May, just when the glory of spring is *looks out of window at crap weather*… never mind. Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand’s seventh album addresses societal concerns and individual pressures. This underlying social conscience makes for an curious combination, considering Beach House’s penchant for submerged vocals.
The thing with 7 is that their dream-pop gauze feels more like a thin film of drizzle than a shimmering heat haze. ‘Dark Spring’ and ‘Pay No Mind’ start encouragingly, but by the time you get to ‘Woo’ and the lyrics “I want it all / But I can’t have it,” you’ll share the sense of frustration. Jon Kean
John Maus – Addendum
Ribbon | 18.05
Seeing Addendum as an album title is like seeing ‘A.O.B.’ on a meeting’s agenda. Should you expect wise afterwords or garbled afterthoughts? That the tracks are leftovers from Maus’ 2017 release, Screen Memories, with two others that date from 2003, only increases the trepidation.
Sounding like a mix of OMD and Bauhaus, the songs have the experimental feel of someone playing about with exciting new technology decades ago. If you were told this was a session from 1979, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Add a quirky John Grant/Stephin Merritt twist to the songwriting and you’ll either welcome Maus with open arms, or leave out some cheese and a sprung trap. Jon Kean
CHVRCHES – Love Is Dead
Virgin Records | 25.05
After two successful albums, Scottish electro-pop trio, CHVRCHES, have changed the pace for their third instalment – moving to the US and teaming up with pop powerhouse Greg Kurstin to create Love Is Dead.
The album is filled with the usual mix of heavy pop hitters and slow-burning gems, but it’s the influence of Kurstin on Lauren Mayberry’s already fearless songwriting that truly triggers the magic here. From the infectious ‘Never Say Die’ and swooning ‘Miracle’ to the explosive ‘Get Out’ and ‘My Enemy’ (ft. The National’s Matt Berninger), CHVRCHES have broadened their horizons and in doing so, delivered their bravest work to date. Mustafa Mirreh
Wand – Perfume
Drag City | 25.05
Wand’s latest EP feels more like a CV than anything, with each track following the last by saying, “wait, ignore that, and have a listen to this instead.” The LA band have put out a 30-minute release spanning from a sort of psychedelic jam band feel, to tracks that fall squarely in the category of indie pop.
Openner, ‘Perfume’, is something of a red herring; drum-driven and distorted, it promises a gristly listen. But it’s soon followed by ‘Town Meeting’ and ‘The Gift’, gentle tracks with clean, Thom Yorke-like vocals. Though the EP is uncomfortably eclectic, each song seems a strong promise that they are brilliant live. Zander Sharp
Dogeyed – Throw The Bones
Specialist Subject | 11.05
Throw The Bones surges with sheer, visceral emotion. Melodic tenderness melds with bursts of furious, crashing urgency as Harriet Elder conveys her potent and affecting lyricism, work that’s unashamedly earnest in its vulnerability. Dealing with heartbreak and voicing deep-rooted anxieties, the tracks are imbued with melancholy, yet equally with a certain radiant strength.
Since beginning recording under the Dogeyed moniker in 2016, Elder’s been joined by fellow Bristol music stalwarts Jonathan Minto and Tim Rowing-Parker, and her abrasive-yet-soft vocals now soar amidst a fusion of shimmering, reverb-infused melodies and fuzzy, grungy tenacity. It’s a record of incredibly pure and raw, aching emotion, making for an impressive debut that leaves a lasting impression. Kezia Cochrane
Jon Hopkins – Singularity
Domino | 04.05
Space: the final front-ear… No, not a spelling mistake, but a whimsical segue into the concept of Jon Hopkins’ new album. Singularity focuses on the relationship between Earth and the vastness of the cosmos. For something with the scope of the entire universe, it feels a little unrealised, although you could argue this mirrors the subject matter quite accurately.
It’s essentially a concept album, one that fits it’s own brief perfectly, but that without the context of its theme, falls a little flat. It doesn’t have the same organic picture book quality of previous outings, instead playing like a Gatecrasher compilation from the early 00s, including the third disc of ambient comedown remixes. Tom Belshaw
TT – Lovelaws
Caroline | 18.05
TT is the pseudonym of guitarist-vocalist Theresa Wayman, of downtempo mainstays Warpaint. Sparked by a desire to create more personal work – inspired by touring and motherhood – Theresa produces here what she simply couldn’t before.
While many influences are consistent with Warpaint – like the dirge-y, slow-paced and sleepy vocals tracing electric guitar melodies – Lovelaws differs through its experimental production and use of eerie, unusual sounds. The album has a commendable flow, all the while steeped in Theresa’s trademark distressing chords. Lovelaws is for Warpaint fans seeking surrealist vibes, with any rockier moments eschewed for sleep-inducing, layered episodes. Eloise Davis
Pushing Daisies – Take Me Back To The Light
Self-Release | 11.05
Bristol emo-rock quartet, Pushing Daisies, have lived through grievances, mental health struggles and negativity in recent months, but nothing has held them back from their musical aspirations. Following on from their 2016 debut, Stay Sad, the band return this year with Take Me Back to the Light, a seven-track release that expresses the highs and lows of the past two years.
Opening track ‘Fears’ blends impressive pop-rock melodies with nostalgic lyrical efforts, while lead single ‘Picture Frame’ steals the show with an emotive pop-punk effort addressing the effects of death on those we love. ‘Night Masquerade’ and ‘Luxury’ close the album with nods to post-punk intensity. Kelly Ronaldson
Skating Polly – The Make It All Show
El Camino | 11.05
Oklahoma step-sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse have certainly proven themselves as a force to reckon with since the inception Skating Polly, and nine years later their reputation is still standing strong. This month marks the release of the duo’s new record The Make It All Show.
Teeming with post-punk melodies and infectious hooks across the board, the album boasts some of the most impressive vocal work from the band to date. Highlights, however, come in the form of grrrl-punk favourite ‘Classless Act’, the raw intensity of ‘Little Girl Blue and the Battle Envy’ and the haunting atmosphere of ‘Flatwood Strings’. A strong effort from some now rather experienced songwriters. Kelly Ronaldson
La Luz – Floating Features
Hardly Art | 11.05
You can’t help but feel that the mystique, sunshine and dreams of Los Angeles are something of a cliché when they’re divulged through music these days. Although for La Luz, there’s an air of authenticity on their honey-sweet third album, Floating Features, which brings such influences crashing to the fore.
There’s a joyous and golden swagger around tracks like ‘Loose Teeth’, packing guitar flourishes even The Shadows would be proud of. Certainly a band going at their own speed, nothing is hurried on this effort, as prettier tracks like ‘The Creature’ make themselves known. It’s a solid third from the LA dream rockers; an album you won’t regret picking up. Rhys Buchanan
Run Logan Run – The Delicate Balance Of Terror
Self-release | 04.05
Bristol-based instrumental duo, Run Logan Run release their full-length debut The Delicate Balance of Terror this month, blending experimental drumwork with spiritual jazz in an evocative and mesmerising masterpiece. Influenced by a combination of classic rock and a selection of infamous jazz legends, saxophonist Andrew Neil Hayes and percussionist Dan Johnson work together to create a dynamic range of sounds – and the results are truly impressive.
An album expressing the concept of man vs. technology and their influence on each other, The Delicate Balance… is compiled of hypnotic soundscapes and pounding beats, resonating with just about every emotion that the human consciousness is capable of. Kelly Ronaldson
Cut Worms – Hollow Ground
Jagjagwar | 04.05
Cut Worms is wholeheartedly sticking to his vintage and spirited approach with this debut album, a release that ties together any loose ends and proudly proclaims, ‘this is what I am’.
There’s a simple joy in throwback lovesick ballads like ‘Don’t Want To Say Goodbye’ which could have rolled straight out of the seventies, and while this record doesn’t gain any new ground in terms of style, it has all the hallmarks of an artist comfortable in his own skin. It’s the kind of deftly-penned music with the power to instantly lift your mood – and is certainly a debut worthy of your attention. Rhys Buchanan