Gruff Rhys has always been brazen with his political beliefs, particularly in the run up and aftermath of Brexit back in 2016. Before the result, Rhys released ‘I Love EU’ which was “An attempt to make an emotional case for Mother Europe – this flawed, fantastic, potentially utopian megaclub that I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in”. Around the same time, he wrote the ten songs that would appear on his new album, Babelsberg, which explores those similar themes of political turbulence. So why the wait?
Over the last few months, Kanye West has been back to his controversial self in the run-up to the release of his new, much debated album ye.
West has openly supported Donald Trump, made controversial comments about slavery and drawn further criticism for his choice to use Whitney Houston’s drug-filled bathroom as the artwork for protégé Pusha T’s new record DAYTONA.
A musical collaboration born out of a chance meeting, LUMP is the creation of Laura Marling and Tunng’s Mike Lindsay. Introduced to each other at a bowling alley following the former’s Neil Young support slot at The O2, they immediately hit it off and were in the recording studio just two days later. Lindsay had for some time been working on an intricate form of sound cycle, (much of which forms the backdrop to this album), and in Marling he found a kindred spirit. Together, they have brought into the world a surreal, hypnotically beautiful piece of music that is almost like a stream of consciousness at times. Drawing inspiration from a wide array of subjects, from crab bites, Father John Misty and the Surrealist Manifesto, LUMP is a strange beast – even the project itself is named after an idea from Marling’s six-year-old goddaughter. It is captivating and addictive, though, and will easily find itself placed on repeat.
When Lindsey Jordan dropped her Habit EP as Snail Mail in 2016, it seemed as though the industry had a strong desire to make her the next big thing. She’s young and seems to have a better grasp of life than most of her seniors. There’s a relatable sense to her, the teenager we all wanted to be. She’s been supported from all over, from mainstream press to indie mags: she’s the artist that a lot of people think is needed right now, a superhero for the social media generation. This all adds up to setting a huge and possibly unfairly high bar for her debut record Lush.
After finishing the first ever Boy Azooga demos, frontman and visionary of the band, Davey Newington, was just going to put them on SoundCloud, but someone persuaded him to send them to record labels. Speaking about his dream record label, he stated that “Heavenly Recordings would be a dream, they have one of my favourite bands King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but that’s the ultimate dream and unlikely. Anyone that just wants to put it out would be amazing”. Fast forward a few months and Boy Azooga are one of the hottest bands in the country, having just dominated The Great Escape Festival with three excellent performances, and signed to Heavenly Recordings where their debut record 1, 2, Kung Fu! was released.
Five years on since her last solo project, Neko Case returns with her latest studio album, Hell-On, a 12-track record which burns with the same lyrical fire from which the album gets its namesake. Being written following Neko’s house burning down in the early hours of a morning in Stockholm, Hell-On captures a passionate and beautifully intricate sound which shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Cornwallian singer/songwriter has cut an unlikely hero at times. Young teenagers couldn’t get enough of him when he first appeared, even though he was never a teenage heartthrob in the traditional sense. Witnessing him once when he was on the cusp of big things, a very noticeable thing about Howard was how wrapped up in the music, oblivious to the almost invariably younger audience present. Yet they could see and hear a special talent, one with oodles of musicality and intelligence, blanketed by a cool-yet-down-to-earth charm, and topped off by those vaguely south-west beach dude looks.
What do you do when a sound that you have largely defined has been copied and homaged so much that you can barely move for 80s-tinged electropop indie bands? For Glaswegian group Chvrches, it was time for a small but important change. Their previous two albums, 2013’s The Bones Of What You Believe and its 2015 follow-up, Every Open Eye, were both self-produced and launched the trio to the top of every music media hype list. This time round, they have opened the doors to new ideas by working with super-producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Foo Fighters and more). The outcome? A largely successful move, one that should keep Chvrches at the front and centre of an increasingly crowded pack.
Happy Endings begins with an odd, exasperated count-in, before the bombastic sound of an old school rhythm and blues band style intro: pulsating drums overwritten with piano flourishes, before hitting into the trumpet and synth-pad dominated verse of ‘Rescue Mission’. These drums may come as an auditory surprise for anyone’s who’s been following Crayola Lectern’s live show in recent years, where normally the trio of chaps we see on the inner sleeve are sat surrounded by keyboards and an array of percussive devices. Hailing from just along the coast in Worthing, Crayola Lectern is the brainchild of psychedelic family man Chris Anderson, backed by a number of musical friends. Alistair Strachan and Damo Waters, from the live show are bolstered on record with a few extra pairs of hands, notably including a couple of ex-Cardiacs in drummer Bob Leith and multi-instrumentalist Jon Poole. Anderson’s mastery of the keys has been further distilled in this weird and whimsical collection of songs, which lose nothing through being a little more focussed and succinct than on the debut album.
In a surprisingly rapid follow-up to Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman has thrust out a record that’s arguably his most concise to date. Leaving the outward looking meta-analysis behind, he moved into a hotel for six weeks to gaze deeply inward at his struggling marriage while binging on drink and drugs. The results are a wild ride, sure, but still melodic as hell.