Opening with the sound of a ring pull on a can of fizz, The Go! Team aim to paint a picture of those hazy, thirst-quenching, summer days. And, like their previous three albums, they’ve succeeded. Parton follows up the ring pull fizz with the classic introductory drumsticks beating together to get the band in gear, before we are greeted with the agreeable adrenaline rush of My Bloody Valentine style dirty grooves and the exuberance of early Beach Boys on lead track What D’You Say?
Produced and co-written by Ben Hillier, who was at the helm for her debut album, the Nick Cave influenced Love Yer Dum and Mad, Tyneside lass Nadine Shah has decided to ditch the piano in favour of the guitar as her favoured writing tool, in fashioning an album that, while displaying the same dark muscularity and disarming honesty of its predecessor, is a dirtier, rawer, and yet more musical beast. Recorded mostly live in the studio (you can hear the hum of the amps, here and there), bar the vocals, the minimalist set up of guitar (Nick Webb and Shah), bass (courtesy of I Am Kloot's Pete Jobson) and drums is all that is needed to service the wonderfully rich and soulful voice of Shah, who's shares a few similarities with that other modern day indie-siren, Anna Calvi.
Courtney Barnett had never set foot outside her native Australia before 2014, but since then it's been a bit of a whirlwind for this singer songwriter, one of those nice surprises that crops every now and then, when the alignment of the planets (or something or other) conjures up that little bit of musical magic. Aussies in the know, already knew this, and via her second EP, How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose, the word was spreading beyond her shores. In particular, it was the track Avante Gardener, a one-off type of autobiographical song about how she endured an anxiety/asthma attack whilst gardening and had to be carted off to hospital, that caught the ear of reviewers beyond Australia. Barnett has said she can't quite believe that song – 'very long, no chorus, lots of words' – should generate so much attention. But it did. It's her powerful combination of musicianship, voice and song that has seen this outsider run right through the pack in the most surprising fashion, her unique ability to paint a novelistic picture with just a few lines – which she says are little photographs of a moment in time – allied to some raw and unfiltered rock'nroll.
'The Ground Walks with Time In A Box' hits us with another typical up-tempo Modest Mouse groove. The proverbial penny dropped for me while I was listening to this one as I suddenly realised there's a close relationship between this band and Talking Heads, Brock's delivery is not a million miles from David Byrne's at times and that funky bass is not a million miles from something Tina Weymouth would dream up. It feels a bit like the title refers to the two parts of the song as there is a distinct shift of feel after four minutes before the track relaxes into an extended outro groove that's mostly instrumental.
Happy People is the second album from Worcester quartet Peace. I sort of overlooked the band on their first release having been put off a little by the hype that was being built around them by the NME – I think they're the last band I can remember to get the hard sell from the waning powers of that weekly magazine which has the potential to become a poison chalice. For example – do you remember any Viva Brother songs now? Nah, me neither, however, in the case of Peace we were amazed to see the band had booked in three nights at local Brighton venue The Haunt and quickly sold out the whole lot. It's not the first time either, I heard about them selling out four consecutive nights at Birthdays in Dalston to end their tour to support debut album In Love. There's clearly a good and growing following for Peace so I decided to investigate – is their new album as lacking in substance as the critics who have panned it say, or as era-defining as those who champion it suggest?
Transmitter is a lovely batch of breezy dreamy pop songs with folky finger-picked guitars, prominent glockenspiel and some really tasty drumming from Ryan Bollard, who has now left the band to play in a dozen other local projects. The EP is full of atmospheric pleasant sounds – the drums are often laid-back and jazzy, the guitars are full of soft gentle or warm fuzzy tones. Benton's vocal, backed with sweet harmonies from accordionist Emma Macdonald, is also very easy on the ear – with shades of Elliott Smith at his most relaxed. With this safe combo of sounds the EP is at risk of becoming easy-listening and bland but thankfully the Transmitter EP is not without its surprises. Title track 'Transmitter', for example, is rolling along nicely in it's gentle way when out of nowhere the guitar flies off into the distance with a strangely dark and discordant tone that transforms the effect of those insistent drums and bass that keep the track buoyed up throughout. It adds a note of tension that really helps to round out the song.
'Haunted' is a gorgeous rolling number, with some beautiful brush work on the drums, the verses feature a melody that builds around the accordion drone, seemingly picked up at different places by different instruments – this really comes to the fore in the second verse where the drums kick things up a notch and the bass joins up the dots – it's a great bit of arrangement which shows off the skill of these musicians and shows Seadog have more to them than just a knack for a pleasant melody and a polite groove. There's a wintry air and consistent melancholy atmosphere to the whole EP, it's the sort of music I imagine I'd listen to on a long train journey to the north, watching the landscape slide by at high speed.