Plenty of ear cheer for September, including splendid new releases from Villagers, Teleman, Beak>,Waxahatchee and Christine and the Queens.
Villagers – The Art of Pretending to Swim
Domino | 21.09
The striving, pining ‘Sweet Saviour’, is both The Art of Pretending to Swim’s most immediate moment and its closest brush with the minimalist, Conor O’Brien-and-guitar intimacy that marked 2015’s Darling Arithmetic.
With O’Brien having adopted the role of both producer and troubadour on this record, it offers Villagers’ most expansive sound to date, from the wheezing electronics that underpin opening track ‘Again’, to the debonair break into horns of ‘Love Came With All That It Brings’. ‘Hold Me Down’ almost dissolves before burgeoning into a full-hearted – but never bombastic – string section.
Yet this fourth LP is by no means a total departure from Villagers’ previous work. There are still lashings of deft poeticism in the lyrics, such as ‘Fool’s “The future has been written / But the pen ran out of ink / And the dopamine is dripping / Back into the kitchen sink.” Indeed, a delight on any Villagers record is O’Brien’s diaphanous voice – the chorus and mid-section of first single, ‘Trick of the Light’, is as good a showcase of this as any. Alexia Kirov
Dilly Dally – Heaven
Partisan | 14.09
Following the success of Bud Light’s adverts featuring it, the phrase ‘dilly dilly’ has become a popular and extremely irritating component of group drinking. Fortunately, Dilly Dally’s new album Heaven doesn’t reflect this annoyance, however, with its razor-sharp riffs. It also doesn’t soundtrack the stereotypical perception of its ethereal titular location.
Hailing from Ontario, the quartet’s sophomore effort is packed with much of the same bite as their acclaimed debut Sore, with added sonic complexity. The explosive ‘I Feel Free’ demonstrates the impact of Katie Monks’ deliberately grizzled vocals, whilst ‘Believe’ exhibits a sombre side and ‘Sorry Ur Mad’ an acute lyrical precision. Truly heavenly, in its own way. Will Perkins
Waxahatchee – Great Thunder
Merge | 07.09
Starkly lingering and poignant, the affectingly-potent fragility of Katie Crutchfield’s vocal and acoustic compositions on Great Thunder instantly recall the sounds of her earlier releases. It makes sense then, that the tracks on this EP were written at a similar time to Ivy Tripp and Cerulean Salt, and originally for her more experimental output Great Thunder, in existence back then.
Stripping back from the heavier rock sounds and immediacy of last year’s Out in the Storm, this hauntingly-beautiful collection of tracks harks back to Crutchfield’s folkier sonic roots and further consolidates her as an incredibly versatile artist with the capacity to convey such emotional vulnerability across a far-reaching sonic range. Kezia Cochrane
Beak> – >>>
Invada/Temporary Residence | 21.09
Beak> have always strived for sonic ‘wrongness’ and on album three, they’ve done it so bloody well that no-one will want to be right again. What does >>> even mean? If it’s mathematical and ‘>’ means ‘greater than’ then this album’s definitely thrice greater than a lot of the aural landfill that clogs our ears. Maybe >>> represents the chevrons you get on hazardous bends, a warning that they’re going to take sharp stylistic turns and you’d better be ready.
Perhaps, >>> could simply be directional, meaning ‘This way to something refreshingly unpredictable.’ You’ve got prog, krautrock and electronics, giving the whole thing a post-apocalyptic, Studio-54-meets-Area-51 feel. Le Beak>? C’est chic. Jon Kean
Teleman – Family Of Aliens
Moshi Moshi | 07.09
Teleman have always had a penchant for crafting enticingly suave and idiosyncratic melodies. Family of Aliens, their third album, sees them take this to new realms, delivering otherworldly psychedelic oscillations and pulsating, swirling beats that envelop you in their kaleidoscopic sonic cosmos.
Approaching the creation of this record with more collaborative fluidity and a greater exploration and incorporation of electronic sounds, there’s an undeniable evolution from previous releases whilst maintaining their distinctive pop sensibilities and astute lyricism. From the pensive, brooding tones of ‘Somebody’s Island’ to the infectiously buoyant rhythms of ‘Fun Destruction’, Family of Aliens exudes an overarching, glistening warmth that enfolds you within their perpetually-intriguing, vivacious creations. Kezia Cochrane
No Violet – Faces
Leisure Records | 14.09
No shrinking violets, this Bristol quartet’s debut EP, Faces takes no prisoners. If that’s not exciting enough, it’s out on translucent sea foam green 10” vinyl. Even more mouth-watering, the EP may come with a fistful of fuzz, but the sound is beautifully mixed, so that you hear all the component parts with pleasing clarity.
‘Be My Friend’ sits between needy fragility and latent aggression, such is the clouded nature of ‘friendship’ in the digital era. Rhys Graham’s guitar and Ellie Godwin’s vocals give you Pixies vs Babes In Toyland. On ‘Behaviour’, she sings, “I don’t wanna fall out. What you gonna do now?” Don’t vex Ellie. Buy this record. Jon Kean
Christine And The Queens – Chris
Because | 21.09
Chris is the sophomore album from Christine and the Queens; a multi-layered pop record that’s perhaps lyrically and contextually more interesting than the total sum of its parts. Héloïse Letissier’s experiences as a queer woman are vital and beautifully articulated here – worth the listen in itself – but the music grates against such bold, personal themes at times.
‘Goya Soda’ and ‘Damn (What Must a Woman Do)’ stand out as non-single highlights that strike the balance well: catchy, without dulling the important stuff. Notwithstanding relatively minor faults, Chris clearly marks a healthy evolution from 2014’s Chaleur Humaine, retaining Letissier’s considered, widely-appealing approach to songwriting, whilst boldly staking new ground. Harriet Taylor
Fröst – Matters
Lost Room | 28.09
Brighton duo Fröst, otherwise known as Jujiya & Miyagi’s Steve Lewis and French-Swedish sound artist Johanna Bramli, have only been working together for two years, but they’ve wasted no time in proving themselves to be one of the most infectious and entrancing electronic acts to grace our ears in recent months.
Throughout their debut, Fröst echo traces of early eighties alt-pop, blending haunting, bilingual vocal efforts with a series of ambient, dream-like synths and pulsating motorik beats. The repetitive melodies of ‘Record Still Spinning’ work alongside personifying lyrics to create a spellbinding embodiment of the track’s namesake, while ‘Black Mountain’ takes a seductive, electro-pop approach, somewhere between Portishead and London Grammar. Kelly Ronaldson
Exploded View – Obey
Sacred Bones | 28.09
Exploded View’s every action seems shrouded in mystery. Refusing to be defined to a genre, the multinational trio fall on the right side of intrigue with Obey, forging their own challenging yet accessible world, luring the listener to cling on to their every note.
Fronted by the enigmatic Annika Henderson, the group produced the record in Mexico City, inspired by their friendship and ambitions to test sonic boundaries. Lead single, ‘Sleepers’ provides a majestic shoegaze swirl, whilst opener, ‘Lullaby’ is a torturously affecting two-minute tone-establisher. However, it is ‘Letting Go of Childhood Dreams’ that most compellingly captures the album’s murky aura, exaggerated by Henderson’s hauntingly absent vocals. Will Perkins
Mothers – Render Another Ugly Method
Witchita | 07.09
You’re on a boat, lost at sea. It’s getting dark and a hypnotic light show displays in the sky. That is what this record feels like: An accumulation of rumbling, psychedelic and dirge-y sounds, and an evolution from the folk-rock of their debut, toward a punchier and darker sonic experience.
The elongated words and distorted vocals heard at points on the previous record are augmented, made more stark and distressing by the absence of those lighthearted melodies and the angelic clarity of Leschper’s singing prior. Musical development is to be exalted, but those who enjoyed the easy listening of Mothers’ first album will likely be disappointed with this down-tempo, experimental record. Eloise Davis
The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking
Witchita | 14.09
Mixing the influences of ‘80s indie jangle with heartfelt lyrics of teenage angst and love gone wrong, We’re Not Talking is the sophomore effort from Brisbane’s The Goon Sax.
Album opener and lead single, ‘Make Time 4 Love’, with its immediate hooks and string section, feels like a nod towards singer-guitarist Louis Forster’s father’s band The Go-Betweens. At first glance the album seems more polished than its predecessor Up To Anything but it also features the trio’s most stripped-back recordings, where emotional storytelling takes centre stage. With one of 2018’s best indie rock records, The Goon Sax deliver a welcome dose of hook-laden jangle-pop with plenty of heart. Tim Ellis
Marissa Nadler – For My Crimes
Bella Union | 28.09
Perhaps her most refined album of heartbreak songs to date, For My Crimes strikes the listener directly from those first hauntingly achy strings on its title track, wrapped up in the staunchly dark and impassioned pleas of a fictional scene on death row. “You can watch behind the glass,” Nadler’s persona submits with harrowing vulnerability, but “please don’t remember me for my crimes.”
At turns bittersweet and romantic, yet potently depressing, Nadler strikes clear of contemporaries that otherwise wilt at the sight of such bold lyrical subject matter, yet is bolstered by some notable contributions here from Angel Olsen, Sharon van Etten and Kristin Kontrol to name but a few. Harriet Taylor
She Makes War – Brace For Impact
My Big Sister | 28.09
Just as Mary Berry is known as She Makes Cakes and Sarah Millican is known as She Makes Jokes, multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd is She Makes War. Calling her fourth album Brace For Impact, She Makes Bold Claims. Fortunately She Makes Good on Her Promises.
Brace For Impact was already its working title, conceived after breaking her foot, but then she found the self-same phrase scrawled on a venue toilet wall. Such scatological serendipity. The album has said impact through the songs’ diversity and her creation of curious and unexpected narratives. High points are ‘Hold On’ and ‘Fortify’, but you get twelve songs and no filler – can’t say that about very many albums. Jon Kean
Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses
Sargent House | 14.09
“Fear, a feeling, is it real?” This is the question that sparks Emma Ruth Rundle’s fourth solo outing with startling urgency. Certainly, the aspect of overcoming hardship lies in asking such questions, even without answer, which I believe marks Rundle’s intent throughout.
Taking the album in its entirety, it’s akin to a healing process or profound meditation. At turns complimented by instrumentation that’s heavy and doomy, at others, surreal, dreamlike, or comforting. It’s the kind of album that begs the listener to give their time and go back for more, right down to the surprisingly cyclical nature of the album – it sounds great on repeat, even if by pure coincidence. Harriet Taylor