Cass McCombs – Tip of the Sphere

Stalwart slave to indie and the experimental, Cass McCombs delivers exactly this in his new record, Tip of the Sphere, parts of which are expansive, whilst others, well, not so much.

Various influences are present, as we’ve come to expect from McCombs, now on his ninth album; with nods to 60s psychedelia, western swagger and interims of Grateful Dead references. The album is only a small stretch from his 2016 album Mangy Love, though melodic genius in its own right. It’s not groundbreaking and, yet, not quite commercial; it sits somewhere comfortably (perhaps too comfortably) in between. The track listing washes over you with, at times, untraceable structure, though he possesses an undoubted knack for creating a good song.

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Girlpool – What Chaos Is Imaginary

Transformation, transition and evolution. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad root their sound in the discomfort, woes and tribulations of their maturity; synchronised harmony in idiosyncratic disharmony with their world. A world to make you more alone – stale device, this is the world that forms their inception, to capture it musically is beautifully ironic. “The shrillness of a world so still”, this is where their truth really manifests, where they most tangibly resonate with listeners. They’ve added to their stripped-back aggravated riffs, for a fuller sound, often a fuzzy rebellion disguised as dream pop, that they’ve wrapped around themselves. A quilt of subtle punk; warm and inviting, disarming listeners, allowing them to fall in and intwine with their honest, gliding pros.

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Connan Mockasin – Jassbusters

Jassbusters is New Zealand born Connan Mockasin’s third record, not including his side project with Sam Dust, Soft Hair, and one which sees him retain his crown as king of crooning. Recorded in 2016, it was only released last Friday (12th October) via Mexican Summer. A first of its kind for the artist in many ways, Jassbusters was recorded with a band, as well as being paired with a five part melodrama film, Bostyn ’n Dobsyn. The project spent 20 years in development – but took just 10 days to film. His work is so spectacularly peculiar, it seems only right that it spills onto the screen; and the first screening will be at the Barbican next month.

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Slug – Green Door Store, Brighton – 19th September 2018

Three barbershop singers and a nun walk into a bar, specifically, on Wednesday 19th at the Green Door Store. Slug are touring their second album, HiggledyPiggledy, and they’re really grateful to be there. Entering alongside deliberate static from the PA, their outfits were kitschy, unexplained and entirely unnecessary – and maybe so were the sound effects. They wanted us to know before even getting on stage that they were pretty fun guys. However, I can’t be too harsh, because they came across like they probably are. They’re a little bit camp – theatrical and enthusiastic; a bit scruffy and a bit hairy. They wouldn’t look out of place sat at the bar of The Albert across the road. Plus, Ian Black seems like a genuinely wonderful human – modest and personable, someone you know would be good to grab a drink with, and probably actually dislikes very few people.

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Iceage – The Haunt, Brighton – 10th September 2018

Danish post-punk six-piece Iceage, who are currently touring their new release Beyondless, treated the ears of their dedicated fans at The Haunt. They had support from Josiah Konder, who also travelled a similar distance for the show.

Now, I wish not to be mean, but Josiah Konder made a mistake touring with Iceage. Not because they were bad (they weren’t), just uncomfortably similar to the headliners – but a bit less settled in their image. Then again, for a lot of the fans in attendance, anything similar to the headliners most definitely wasn’t a bad thing.

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Stella Donnelly – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton – 24th August 2018

Seeing female-fronted bands is, for the most part, a rare treat, same goes for female solo artists. Seeing female bands, with female support, and a female tour manager, is even more so. It shouldn’t be, and some people would think I’m over reacting, but screw them, because I’m not.

As pointed out by Australian singer/songwriter, Stella Donnelly, there’s a tendency for these artists to be categorised as ‘political’, particularly when approaching particular topics, when in reality, to Stella, these ‘heavily political topics’, are “just part of existing”.

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Mitski – Be the Cowboy

Exhaustion and loneliness take the shape of something bold and elegant on Be the Cowboy, the new album from Mitski. The playful title is an ode to iconically lonesome film Cowboys, and provides a platform that Mitski uses to unpick love and longing in many forms. We already knew Mitski Miyawaki was all kinds of versatile from her previous five albums, but this release validates that truth. Disco? Check. Country? Definitely. Pop? Literally always. Through them all, and more, Mitski confronts her solitude, her yearning for answers – and for another. Why has fame not brought promised happiness? And if not fame, then what will it take to make her happy? The confessional and confrontational tracks are strung together with Mitski’s wistful vocals, cascading across tracks and through genres. The shininess of pop, marries with nihilism’s cynical despair and, in case it wasn’t clear, I’m really into it.

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FemRock Festival – Green Door Store, Brighton – 30th June 2018

So, it turns out the smoking area of Green Door Store has the capacity to be quite pleasant. Who knew? It helps that on this occasion (Saturday 30th June), it was populated largely with Brighton’s femme, queer (and otherwise) creatives. So, rather than stinking of Tuborg and cigarettes, the much more alluring smell of tacos filled the space, courtesy of Cactus Kitchen Girls.

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