Releases from May–June 2018
Great albums from around the world
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Pre-sale of the week is This Is Not A Safe Place by Ride, out on 16 August.
Honeyblood | Black Mountain | Earth | Morrissey | The Waterboys | Duff McKagan | Richard Hawley | David Bowie | Flying Lotus | Amyl And The Sniffers | Santana | Calexico / Iron & Wine | Chris Shiflett | Bruce Springsteen | Pink Floyd | Emeli Sandé | Eagles Of Death Metal | Madonna | Buzzcocks | Two Door Cinema Club | The Raconteurs | Prince | The Black Keys | Iggy Pop | David Bowie | Kate Tempest | Bob Dylan | Peter Frampton Band | Rickie Lee Jones | The Divine Comedy | Joy Division | Shellac | Willie Nelson | Mark Ronson | Kylie Minogue | Abdullah Ibrahim | Lloyd Cole | Sabaton | Sam Fender | Ride | Chrissie Hynde & The Valve Bone Woe Ensemble
Releases for 29 June 2018
29 June’s super six starts with High As Hope, the long-awaited new album from Florence + The Machine and, although sprinkled with collaborators, it’s still at its core a very Florence album: confessional, poetic lyricism is very much the order of the day and this album will come to rank amongst her very finest. The Now Now finds the world’s most successful virtual act, Gorillaz, taking it back to the core creative crew: blue-haired, sweet-natured dreamer 2D on vocals; whip-smart Japanese badass Noodle on guitar; Brooklyn-born philosopher and the meat–behind-the-beat Russel Hobbs on drums, and bass duties taken up by erstwhile Gangreen Gang member Ace. Industrial metal legends Nine Inch Nails ‘complete’ the album they set out to make in 2016 with the third in a trilogy of EPs, Bad Witch – the most unexpected and challenging work Nine Inch Nails has ever created. If Trent Reznor were to retire now, I cannot envision a more perfect end-point to his career. Ray Davies’ journey through America continues in Our Country: Americana Act II, on which the Kinks frontman reflects on his experiences in America, personal reformation and, eventually, rediscovery and celebration of his own origins. Gravity aptly finds British hard rockers Bullet For My Valentine rewriting their own future – finding new ways to invent heavy noise and stretching their creative wings like never before, delicately balancing film-score electronica and icy synths in their trademark hellfire of hard rock.
Our album of the release is Equals, a fiery reminder that The Alarm are one of the most durable outfits around and, in Mike Peters, they have an ironman of a leader whose smouldering musical passion echoes his steely will for getting through a world that hasn’t always delivered the kindest of news.
- Equals is a fiery reminder that The Alarm are one of the most durable outfits around and, in Mike Peters, they have an ironman of a leader whose smouldering musical passion echoes his steely will for getting through a world that hasn’t always delivered the kindest of news.
- High As Hope is the long-awaited new album from Florence + The Machine, their first since 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The recording of High As Hope is sprinkled with collaborators, Kamasi Washington to name just one, but is still at its core a very Florence album: confessional, poetic lyricism is very much the order of the day and this album will come to rank amongst her very finest.
- The Now Now is 11 all-new songs from the world’s most successful virtual act, produced by Gorillaz with James Ford and Remi Kabaka, and recorded in London in February this year.
- The sessions for The Now Now saw the band largely eschewing guest stars, taking it back to the core creative crew: blue-haired, sweet-natured dreamer 2D on vocals; whip-smart Japanese badass Noodle on guitar; not forgetting Brooklyn-born philosopher and the meat–behind-the-beat Russel Hobbs on drums. And with Murdoc Niccals temporarily indisposed, bass duties on the new album have been taken up by erstwhile Gangreen Gang member Ace.
- The deluxe vinyl set is packaged in a 12"x12" rigid board box with a lenticular image on the lid, containing:
- heavyweight blue vinyl (exclusive to the box set) LP in spined sleeve with a printed inner bag;
- 52-page booklet, replicating 2D’s original studio notebook including album lyrics;
- four 12"x12" art prints, six 1" pin badges mounted on card;
- download card.
- Industrial metal legends Nine Inch Nails release their third EP to ‘complete’ the album they set out to make in 2016. Leaning more towards the dissonance of 2016’s Not The Actual Events than the mellow gloom of 2017’s Add Violence, half the lyrics are crooned and the rest are buried behind a wall of noise. With or without the context of the trilogy of EPs released over the past year and a half, Bad Witch stands as the most unexpected and challenging work Nine Inch Nails has ever created. If Trent Reznor were to retire now, I cannot envision a more perfect end-point to his career.
- Ray Davies’ journey through America continues in Our Country: Americana Act II. The follow-up to last year’s Americana sees the Kinks frontman reflecting on his experiences in America, personal reformation and, eventually, rediscovery and celebration of his own origins.
- Gravity is the new album from British hard rockers Bullet For My Valentine. It aptly sees the band rewriting their own future – finding new ways to invent heavy noise and remaining unshackled by the legacy that comes with being masters of its trade. The four musicians have stretched their creative wings like never before, delicately balancing film-score electronica and icy synths in their trademark hellfire of hard rock.
Releases for 22 June 2018
We kick off 22 June’s six of the best with No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds, the 16th studio album from ambient house pioneers The Orb. Their previous two albums were creations of the duo at the band’s heart, but this time they have thrown their work open to a number of collaborators, including Youth, Jah Wobble, Hollie Cook and Roger Eno, to produce “a more English and less German sounding LP”. Dawes follow their cheerfully titled 2016 work We Are All Going To Die with Passwords, an album for and about the modern age. Plight & Premonition / Flux + Mutability is the long-awaited reissue, fully remastered, of the two seminal ambient works by David Sylvian & Holger Czukay, an early example of the ethereal magic that can be created by loops merged with traditional instruments and that led the way for sampling in today’s music. Simply essential. The Sea Within’s self-titled debut is more an amalgamation of serious talent than a regular supergroup; they’ve played with everybody from Jon Anderson to Meatloaf via Joe Satriani and are very much on the accessible side of prog, with many other musical elements stirred in to a heady brew. Over The Years is a comprehensive overview of a classic songwriter’s career, and when that songwriter is as good as Graham Nash, this makes for a very fine listen indeed.
Our album of the week is Heaven & Earth, the long-awaited follow-up to Kamasi Washington’s astonishing debut The Epic. Over two halves, Washington confronts quotidian realities with cosmic themes. The new album is, apparently, a further investigation of Washington’s world-building ideas, exploring his reckoning with current global chaos and his vision for the future. I have no idea what he means by that, but what I do know is that he has produced an album that both jazz lovers and non-jazz lovers will adore! You must hear it.
- Heaven & Earth, the long-awaited follow-up to Kamasi Washington’s astonishing debut The Epic, comprises two halves, which find Washington confronting quotidian realities with cosmic themes. The new album is, apparently, a further investigation of Washington’s world-building ideas, exploring his reckoning with current global chaos and his vision for the future. I have no idea what he means by that, but what I do know is that he has produced an album that both jazz lovers and non-jazz lovers will adore!
- Note: the vinyl version contains an extra disc hidden in the middle of the packaging, under a perforated seam!
- No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds is the sixteenth studio album from ambient house pioneers The Orb. The previous two albums were very much the work of the duo at the band’s heart, but this time they have thrown their work open to a number of collaborators, including Youth, Jah Wobble, Hollie Cook and Roger Eno.
- Main man Alex Paterson has said: “I wanted to try something with more musicians and more voices. More contributors essentially – similar to the conditions our first album, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, was recorded in. Thomas and I made two streamlined, techno-style albums for Kompakt which I love, but this time I wanted a change to expand the palate, and to bring in other elements that will keep people guessing and keep them confused. This is a more English and less German sounding LP and it’s on an English label, although obviously, the music comes from all over the globe and beyond, as do the musicians.”
- Dawes follow their cheerfully titled 2016 work We Are All Going To Die with Passwords, an album for and about the modern age. Taylor Goldsmith says: “We’re living in such a unique moment in history, many of these songs are an attempt to come to terms with the modern world, while always trying to consider both sides of the story.”
- David Sylvian & Holger Czukay came together in the late 1980s to experiment together and produced two seminal albums, combining Sylvian’s ethereal atmospherics with with the patchwork of found sounds and radio snippets pioneered by Czukay. Sylvian called it: “A form of music that seemed to have been created while we were absent by instruments abandoned to the earth and the woods, sounded by the coarse winter elements.”
- Plight & Premonition / Flux + Mutability is the long-awaited reissue, fully remastered, of these two classic ambient works, with the first album being a special mix prepared by Sylvian in 2002. These two works form an early example of the ethereal magic that can be created by loops merged with traditional instruments and that led the way for sampling in today’s music. Simply essential.
- The Sea Within’s self-titled debut is more an amalgamation of serious talent than a regular supergroup. They have played with everybody from Jon Anderson to Meatloaf via Joe Satriani. The sound they make is very much on the accessible side of prog, with many other musical elements stirred in to a heady brew.
- Over The Years is a comprehensive overview of a classic songwriter’s career. When that songwriter is as good as Graham Nash, this makes for a very fine listen indeed.
- Note: the LP will be released on 31 August.
Releases for 15 June 2018
Our first recommended release for 15 June – squeezed in just before the World Cup! – is Wilko Johnson’s first album of new material for 30 years! Anyone expecting Wilko’s particular brand of R&B to be softened by age and circumstance is in for a surprise – if anything, his ‘chop’ guitar style on is even more aggressive, with the introspection on some of the tracks on Blow Your Mind more than balanced out by others with the urgency of Wilko’s earliest work with Dr Feelgood. Live At Hammersmith does a fantastic job of capturing the live essence of The Darkness, boasting 19 enormous tunes from across their whole catalogue, and in true spandex-clad Darkness fashion you get huge riffs, thundering bass and hair-raising falsetto – all that’s missing is the massive pyro that should not be tried at home! Blues legend Buddy Guy releases his umpteenth album, The Blues Is Alive And Well, featuring some stellar guest talent, including Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s incredible career spans over 50 years with as many albums and countless awards, but he is not one to sit on his laurels: his previous album, 2015’s Born To Play Guitar, was critically acclaimed and debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Album charts. The Gaslight Anthem celebrate the 10th anniversary of their milestone album, The ’59 Sound, with a collection of unreleased songs recorded during that period, aptly titled The ’59 Sound Sessions. Fans will want the deluxe edition with a 60-page photo-book full of fascinating detail. This week’s touch of the heavy is The Wolf Bites Back, the ninth studio album and the most diverse collection yet from Orange Goblin, on which the usual Sabbath and Motörhead influences are leavened by touches of Can, Wishbone Ash and The Stooges. It’s certainly a lot darker both musically and lyrically.
Our album of the week is Call The Comet, the third solo album from Johnny Marr. “Call The Comet is set in the not-too-distant future,” says Marr, “and is mostly concerned with the idea of an alternative society. It’s my own magic realism. The characters in the songs are searching for a new idealism, although there are some personal songs in there too.” That’s good enough for us!
- Recorded with his band in Manchester at his Crazy Face studios, Call The Comet is the third solo record from former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and follows the critically acclaimed The Messenger (2013) and Playland (2014), both of which made the UK top 10.
- “Call The Comet is set in the not-too-distant future,” says Marr, “and is mostly concerned with the idea of an alternative society. It’s my own magic realism.” Songs include ‘Actor Attractor’, ‘Walk Into The Sea’, ‘Bug’, and recent live favourite ‘Spiral Cities’. “The characters in the songs are searching for a new idealism, although there are some personal songs in there too. It’s something that people like me can relate to.”
- The LP is available on exclusive purple vinyl, only available from record shops.
- Blow Your Mind is Wilko Johnson’s first album of new material in 30 years, and is the sound of a man feeling very much alive. This, Wilko says, is “the album I never thought I’d get to write,” and it deals with the trials and tribulations he has faced in the last five years, tackling the terminal diagnosis he was given head-on.
- Anyone expecting that Wilko’s particular brand of R&B to be softened by such heartfelt lyrics is in for a surprise; if anything, his ‘chop’ guitar style is even more aggressive. The introspection on some of the tracks is more than balanced out by the good-time upbeat party feel of the title track, ‘Beauty’ and ‘I Love The Way You Do’, which have the urgency of Wilko’s earliest work with Dr Feelgood.
- Live At Hammersmith captures The Darkness on sterling form in December last year. In true spandex-clad Darkness fashion it featured huge riffs, mighty bass, seismic drumming, hair-raising falsetto, Justin Hawkins acrobatics, gigantic disco balls and a whole lotta pyro. The 19 incendiary tracks span their spectacular back catalogue.
- Regarding the live album Justin says, “The Darkness is untamed. It cannot be caged. Some very clever recording engineers have discovered a way to capture its essence; all that remains is for us to release it back into the wild. This is your opportunity to possess the experience of The Darkness live.”
- Blues legend Buddy Guy releases a brand new studio album, The Blues Is Alive And Well, featuring some stellar guest talent, including Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s incredible career spans over 50 years with just as many albums released and showered with awards. But he is not one to sit on his laurels: his previous album, 2015’s Born To Play Guitar, was critically acclaimed and debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Album charts.
- The Gaslight Anthem celebrate the 10th anniversary of their milestone album, The ’59 Sound, with a collection of unreleased songs recorded during that period, aptly titled The ’59 Sound Sessions.
- In addition to the standard CD and LP, there is a limited deluxe LP including a 60-page photo-book that will fascinate collectors and fans.
- Legendary British rock band Orange Goblin release their strongest and most diverse record date with The Wolf Bites Back. The usual Sabbath and Motörhead influences are leavened by touches of Can, Wishbone Ash and The Stooges. It’s certainly a lot darker both musically and lyrically.
- Vocalist Ben Ward comments: “‘Sons of Salem’ is the first track on the album and we consider it an Orange Goblin anthem. We see this song being a staple of the live set with the singalong chorus and the awesome, catchy riff. A mean and moody intro to the album that sets the tone throughout, it’s short, sweet and straight to the point.”
Releases for 8 June 2018
Our happy hexad for 8 June opens with No Shame, a return to form for Lily Allen, a candid account of the breakdown of her marriage, depression, loneliness and fears about her children. The first of two debuts this week is the eagerly awaited Lost & Found, full of street-smart R&B sung in Jorja Smith’s classic voice – we think this one’s going to be big! Boy Azooga also debut with, 1, 2, Kung Fu!, a shape-shifting musical mystery tour that swings smoothly from filmic instrumentals to a churning rave-tinged rock that recalls Can and Happy Mondays. Country superstar Dierks Bentley shows progression on The Mountain, a subtle album that’s more than just standard Nashville fare, the album he has long wanted to make. This week’s ration of the riffy stuff comes in the form of A Dying Machine, a showcase for Tremonti’s brand of anthemic choruses, punishing riffs and fiery guitar solos.
Our album of the week is Gruff Rhys’s best record to date: Babelsberg, a ten-song gazetteer of modern times, set to timeless, indelible melodies backed by the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Amazingly, for a collection of songs written over two years ago, each one seems to pull very sharp focus on the times we’re living in.
- Babelsberg is the fifth album by Gruff Rhys, his first record for Rough Trade since 2007’s classic Candylion and his best record to date – a ten-song gazetteer of modern times, each track set to timeless, indelible melodies backed by orchestral scores by Swansea-based composer Stephen McNeff and the incredible work of the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Amazingly, for a collection of songs written over two years ago, each one seems to pull very sharp focus on the times we’re living in.
- Lily Allen’s new album, No Shame, represents a vast improvement over the defensive posturing that marred 2014’s Sheezus, and shows that she is back to something approaching her best. We expect candour from Allen, who has shown a sense of being someone with a yearning to be understood since her pioneering colloquial urban pop in the mid-2000s. On No Shame she covers topics such as the breakdown of her marriage, depression, loneliness and fears about her children; she has apparently concluded that the best way to show people they know nothing about her isn’t to satirise their preconceptions, but to tell her truth in unflattering, uncomfortable, accountable detail.
- Lost & Found is the rich fruit of Brit Award winner Jorja Smith’s past three years of work. On her debut album, Smith’s playfully infectious pop spirit intertwines with her youthful charisma, idiosyncratic storytelling and informed opinions to form an artistic statement and a sonic masterclass.
- Since bursting onto the scene in 2016 with her critically acclaimed debut single ‘Blue Lights’, Jorja has been widely tipped for success, has toured with Bruno Mars, collaborated with Drake and co-written ‘I Am’ with Kendrick Lamar for the Number 1 Black Panther soundtrack.
- Boy Azooga’s debut, 1, 2, Kung Fu!, is a shape-shifting musical mystery tour that swings smoothly from filmic instrumentals to a churning rave-tinged rock that recalls both Can and Happy Mondays. Other influences on the album include Sly & The Family Stone, Caribou, Black Sabbath, Outkast, Van McCoy, Ty Segall and The Beastie Boys.
- Dierks Bentley’s new studio album, The Mountain, represents a progression for the country music superstar. Full of subtle bluegrass touches, this album is much more than standard Nashville fare, and is the album that Bentley has long wanted to make.
- Mark Tremonti may be better known for his work in Alter Bridge and rock juggernaut Creed, but in Tremonti he gets the chance to showcase his unique songwriting style. Anthemic choruses, punishing riffs and fiery guitar solos are all present and correct on A Dying Machine.
Releases for 1 June 2018
We kick off 1 June’s six sensational recommendations with God’s Favorite Customer, the most succinct album from Father John Misty to date, whose songs focus on the grotesque side of love when it goes wrong; as always, Tillman’s most brutally honest lyrics are his most profound. Legendary Who frontman Roger Daltrey returns with As Long As I Have You, which mixes self-penned tracks with songs that have inspired Daltrey over the years from the likes of Nick Cave, Stevie Wonder and Stephen Stills. Noonday Dream brilliantly highlights the transformation in Ben Howard’s writing since his hugely successful debut back in 2011, and should cement his status as one of the UK’s most gifted and unpredictable artists. This week’s recommended dose of heaviness comes from Ghost, whose fourth album, Prequelle, continues the band’s ‘tradition’ of exploring apocalyptic events, delving into plague, apocalypse and the Dark Ages – cheerful stuff! Greatest Hits Vol. 1 is optimistically titled, but deservedly so for The Flaming Lips, who have always been creatively unique; it’s both a perfect intro to their work and a chance to have all their best stuff on one disc.
Our release of the week is Hell-On, the first solo studio record in 5 years from Hundred Records favourite Neko Case. This is a gothic examination of the world and the good and bad people it contains. Neko’s voice, an extraordinary instrument, lends an extra depth and emotion to its 12 compositions.
- Hundred Records favourite Neko Case has produced in Hell-On, her first solo studio record for 5 years, a record that channels her feeling of solidarity with people who feel alone or isolated. The album is a gothic examination of Neko’s vision of the world and the good and bad people it contains. Her voice, an extraordinary instrument, lends an extra depth and emotion to the 12 compositions that make up Hell-On.
- Note: the LP is available on indies-only coloured vinyl, limited to 500 copies.
- Father John Misty returns with God’s Favorite Customer, during the course of which Josh Tillman’s alter ego appears to grow up! This is his most succinct album to date, with Tillman at his most direct, writing about the grotesque side of love in full detail and showing us what happens when it goes wrong. As always his most brutally honest lyrics are his most profound.
- Note: The LP is available on indies-only purple vinyl with special blue foil-stamped artwork.
- Legendary frontman of The Who, Roger Daltrey, returns with his ninth solo album, As Long As I Have You. The album places self-penned tracks such as ‘Certified Rose’ and the soulful ballad ‘Always Heading Home’ alongside some of the songs that have inspired Daltrey over the years, including Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’, ‘You Haven’t Done Nothing’ by Stevie Wonder, Stephen Stills’ ‘How Far’ and the title track – originally recorded by Garrett Mimms in 1964, the year that Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle and Moon changed their name from The High Numbers and became The Who.
- Noonday Dream brilliantly highlights the transformation and development in Ben Howard’s writing since 2011. From his hugely successful debut, he moved on to the immersive darkness of I Forget Where We Were, and is now on the cusp of another new sonic phase. His latest album should cement his status as one of the UK’s most gifted and unpredictable of artists.
- This week’s recommended dose of heaviness comes from Ghost. Their fourth album, Prequelle, continues the band’s ‘tradition’ of being broadly themed around apocalyptic events, and we’ve previously had impending doom, the antichrist and the inquisition. Prequelle delves into plague, apocalypse and the Dark Ages – cheerful stuff!
- Greatest Hits Vol. 1 is optimistically titled, but deservedly so for The Flaming Lips, a band that has always been creatively unique. This set is either a perfect intro or a chance to have all their best stuff in one place.
Releases for 25 May 2018
We kick off 25 May’s super sextet with Wildness, which taps into something raw and primitive while staying true to the melodic songwriting prowess that brought Snow Patrol to prominence. Biffy Clyro are known for their high-energy gigs, which are likely to leave you with ringing ears, sweaty and possibly discombobulated; MTV Unplugged, recorded at London’s famous Roundhouse, is an opportunity to experience the band in a more intimate and relaxed environment. If you like your country pitch-dark, Gothic and rootsy, then Lindi Ortega’s seventh album, Liberty – a wild spaghetti-western style yarn about heartbreak, revenge and redemption – is for you. Who or what are Sleep? you may well ask. The Sciences, their latest category-defying (metal? not really … sort of) album, a truly massive yet complex and dynamic sonic environment, should convince you that this a band is not to be missed; they are that good. Here We Go Love is the first studio album from The Beat since 1982! – a collection of 13 vital songs that have their feet in the here and now but retain the fire and frenzy of those timeless, immediate classics that made the band’s name.
Synth-pop bands who dabble with experimentation are two a-penny, but only Chvches have perfectly nailed the formula. This is a band with plenty of imitators but few peers. Their third album, Love Is Dead, captures an electric angst with unmatched intensity, and is our release of the week.
- Love Is Dead is the third studio album from Chrvches, and follows the successful Every Open Eye and The Bones Of What We Believe. The new album was made in collaboration with David Stewart from Eurythmics and Matt Berninger from The National.
- Chvrches have plenty of imitators but few peers. Synth-pop bands who split the difference between pop and experimentation are two a-penny; only Chvches have perfectly nailed the formula. This album captures an electric angst with unmatched intensity.
- Seven years since the release of their last album, Fallen Empires, Snow Patrol bring us Wildness. The new album finds the band searching for clarity, connection, and meaning, while staying true to the melodic songwriting prowess that brought them to prominence. Wildness taps into something raw and primitive.
- The thought of Biffy Clyro live is most likely to bring to mind a night out which leaves you sweaty, with ringing ears and a raw throat, and possibly some sort of discombobulation at a cellular level. The Scotsmen are known for their high-energy gigs. Enter MTV Unplugged (Live at the Roundhouse) – the latest in a long series of stripped-back gigs by some of the world’s biggest and best bands. Recorded last November in London’s famous Roundhouse, the new album from Biffy Clyro is an opportunity to experience the band in a more intimate and relaxed environment.
- Lindi Ortega unveils her seventh album, Liberty. Throughout this album, the Canadian country singer spins a wild spaghetti-western style yarn about heartbreak, revenge and redemption. If you like your country pitch-dark, Gothic and rootsy, then Liberty is for you.
- Sleep continue to defry categorisation on their fourth album, The Sciences. Is it metal? Not really. Sort of. That three people can create such a perfect, truly massive yet complex and dynamic sonic environment is what keeps them fascinating. Truly, this a band is not to be missed. May it never end.
- DISCLAIMER: Any attempts to describe the music of Sleep are almost completely useless. They are that good.
- Note: the double LP is available on green vinyl, only available from record shops.
- The Beat, featuring Dave Wakeling, release their first studio album since 1982. Here We Go Love is a collection of 13 vital songs that have their feet in the here and now, but lose none of the fire and frenzy of those timeless, immediate classics that made the band’s name. As engaged and switched on as ever, Dave Wakeling’s lyrics draw from observing life; and, given the tumultuous events of recent months, his thoughts on what holds us together.
Releases for 18 May 2018
We kick off 18 May’s gems with Half Man Half Biscuit’s 14th album, No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut, which will perhaps finally get due recognition for their witty, dry and sardonic lyrical genius; if not, they will remain one of the great undiscovered treasures of UK guitar music. Dancing With The Beast, the new album from Gretchen Peters, brings strong and broken female characters, from teenage girls to old women, to the fore, and intentionally so. With a superb 17-year legacy, the question for Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks was: could they produce a seventh album at that level? Sparkle Hard is the triumphant answer to that question. James Bay returns with Electric Light, full of towering rocky and soulful songs, introducing influences from electronic music to his sound without losing the essence that made him so successful last time out. Ray LaMontagne continues his musical odyssey into British psychedelia and Part Of The Light is some trip, a natural progression from Ouroboros; with something so well crafted and honest, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Album of the week is Tell Me How You Really Feel, the latest from one of the most distinctive voices in music, Courtney Barnett, who is known for mixing witty observations with unflinching self-assessment. This new collection has a more serious and outward tone, capturing the current social landscape. These songs feel comforting and emphatic yet still full of raw energy and the ability to make the listener think.
- The Grammy- and Brit-nominated Courtney Barnett returns with her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. The new collection follows her critically acclaimed 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit…, and her recent Top 10 collaboration with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice.
- One of the most distinctive voices in music today, Courtney is known for mixing witty observations with unflinching self-assessment. Although her trademark eye for story telling and clever turns of phrase are still there, Tell Me How You Really Feel has a more serious and outward-looking tone, capturing the current social landscape while retaining moments of intimacy and warmth. On lead single ‘Nameless, Faceless’, she claps back at internet trolls with a catchy, bright garage stroller that takes anonymous online hatred to its inevitable real-world conclusion: “I want to walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I want to walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them.”
- As the world becomes more familiar with Courtney Barnett these songs feel comforting and emphatic, yet that raw energy and the ability to make the listener think still remain.
- Note: the LP is an indies-only version on red vinyl and comes in a gatefold sleeve.
- If there’s any justice in this world, Half Man Half Biscuit’s 14th album, No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut, will finally get them the recognition due to their witty, dry and sardonic lyrical genius. If not, they will remain one of the great undiscovered treasures of UK guitar music. If you haven’t yet discovered them, now is the time.
- Track listing: Alehouse Futsal / Man Of Constant Sorrow (With A Garage In Constant Use) / Knobheads On Quiz Shows / Bladderwrack Allowance / Renfield’s Afoot / Terminus / The Announcement / What Made Colombia Famous / Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert / Every Time A Bell Rings / Emergency Locksmith / Mod Diff v. Diff Hard Severe / Swerving The Checkatrade.
- Dancing With The Beast, the new album from Gretchen Peters, brings female characters, from teenage girls to old women, to the fore. And intentionally so. Even the tiniest seed – whether a single sentence or a simple setting – can, once planted, grow into a vision unto itself. Strung together and populated with strong and broken female heroines, such vignettes make up Dancing With The Beast and, indeed, Peters’ entire discography.
- That Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks have thrived, rather than simply endured, over 17 years and, in that time, have delivered six albums of buzzy, sub-cultural significance, constitutes an impressive legacy. The challenge with album number seven is one that any successful band with integrity faces: how to safeguard that legacy and hold on to their identity without rehashing old ground (unthinkable!), and also say something meaningful while – crucially – having fun doing it? Sparkle Hard is the triumphant answer to that question: a light ’n’ breezy, head-down heavy, audacious, melancholic and reflective, good-time and bodacious, and it pulls off the smartest trick: it’s both unmistakeably The Jicks and – due to the streamlining of their trademark tics and turns, plus the introduction of some unexpected flourishes – The Jicks refashioned.
- Where 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments, this new album bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before. The reality of modern life sits close to the surface on Sparkle Hard, cutting to the chase whether it’s a proto-punk grind or a back-porch country duet doing the talking. The album also has turbocharged energy and enthusiasm by the truckload.
- Following on from his huge multi-platinum debut album Chaos And The Calm, James Bay returns with Electric Light. Full of towering, rocky and soulful songs, it sounds like he’s grasped influences in electronic music and introduced them to his sound without losing the essence that made him so successful last time out.
- Ray LaMontagne is a musician in search of himself, and Part Of The Light continues his musical odyssey into British psychedelia in the vein of Pink Floyd and The Beatles. It’s some trip – a natural progression from the concept album Ouroboros, that throwback to layered full-length albums, and his seventh studio release feels just as much a labour of love. With something so well crafted and honest, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Releases for 11 May 2018
We kick off our seven stars for 11 May with Beach House, whose imaginatively titled 7 represents an exciting development of their sound based on rebirth and rejuvenation, resulting in a fresh, complex delight. London quartet The Magic Numbers return following a four-year hiatus with Outsiders, instantly recognizable in its melodies but bringing a more raucous punch sonically. Ry Cooder’s first solo album for 6 years, Prodigal Son, features outstanding bottleneck work across some fine story-songs, and mixes righteous anger with dry wit. Joan Armatrading’s 21st album, Not Too Far Away, does what only Joan can do – get straight to the heart of the matter on a love album of enduring intensity that will get better with every listen. And Loreena McKennitt’s first release of original material since 2006, Lost Souls, is a rich tapestry of contemporary thoughts woven with threads from the Celts to the Bedouins and featuring a diverse collection of musical voices.
Our release of the week is Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, the latest album from Arctic Monkeys. We haven’t been allowed to hear any of it yet, so it’s release of the week purely on the basis that it’s Arctic Monkeys!!
- Arctic Monkeys return with their new album, entitled Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. The album was produced by James Ford and Alex Turner, and recorded in Los Angeles, Paris and London.
- Track listing: Star Treatment / One Point Perspective / American Sports / Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino / Golden Trunks / Four Out Of Five / The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip / Science Fiction / She Looks Like Fun / Batphone / The Ultracheese.
- Note: the deluxe LP is a heavyweight pressing on clear vinyl and includes a 16-page expanded lyrics and photo booklet.
- Seán McGowan’s debut album, Son Of The Smith, is a journey across London between Old Street, Oval and Camberwell, and a trek through Seán’s current sound. “The city’s breathing,” he begins on opener ‘Mind The Doors’. This mantra returns, announcing the album’s second half, on ‘Mind Your Head’, and the album closes with drums rumbling as a metronome for Seán’s pitch-perfect grime-tinged flow into the six-minute tube journey on ‘Mind The Gap’. This final part of the trilogy is the perfect epilogue to a heartfelt run through his life.
- In between, ‘Off the Rails’ sears along over an e-bow guitar drone while Seán acknowledges his mates for being there for him. ‘Porky Pies’ returns to that cheeky pace, jeering at commercial bullshit and fakery. ‘Romance Ain’t Dead’ is a horn-addled scrabble for passion and love. In contrast, there are hints of classic solo Seán on the quieter, finger-picked ‘Life Has A Way’ and the affecting arpeggios of ‘Oh My Days’.
- The spirit of Son Of The Smith was to capture everything live, each instrument colliding with the rhythm. “It feels urgent, like it could tip over the edge at any point,” Seán says.
- Over 13 tracks, Son Of The Smith is disarming in its scope, surprising in its erudite tackling of life’s challenges, and strong of voice with just a dab of laddish humour – the aural personification of Seán himself. McGowan could end up soundtracking our social conscience well into next year.
- Beach House didn’t exactly put a lot of imagination into the title of album number 7. Thankfully it’s a different story when it comes to what’s on the album, which is an exciting departure and development of their sound, based on rebirth and rejuvenation. Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand used to limit themselves to what they thought they could perform live, but this time they have ignored that limitation, and the result is a fresh, complex delight.
- London quartet The Magic Numbers return following a four-year hiatus. The new album, Outsiders, though instantly recognizable as a Magic Numbers record in its melodies, begins with a more raucous punch sonically. The result is more confident than ever before, noticeable immediately in the more bluesy, gnarly guitar sound.
- Ry Cooder releases his first solo album for 6 years. On Prodigal Son, Ry’s outstanding bottleneck work is much in evidence across some fine Cooder story-songs. His righteous anger is leavened throughout with a dry wit and effortless grooves.
- Joan Armatrading’s 21st album, Not Too Far Away, does what only Joan can do – get straight to the heart of the matter. Over the course of 10 deeply personal songs she takes her distinctive voice and makes a love album of enduring intensity that will get better with every listen.
- Loreena McKennitt’s first release of original material since 2006, Lost Souls, is a culturally eclectic recording, which fans have come to expect from this unique artist. It is a rich tapestry of contemporary thoughts woven with threads from the Celts to the Bedouins, stitched with the sounds of a diverse collection of musical voices.
Releases for 4 May 2018
Our Super Six for 4 May opens with World’s Strongest Man, the magnificent third solo album by Gaz Coombes, on which he has evolved from ‘former Supergrass frontman’ to hugely respected Mercury Prize-nominated solo artist. Be More Kind finds Hampshire-born singer-songwriter Frank Turner stepping out of his comfort zone, imbuing his trademark intricate folk and punk roar with new, bold experimental shades. Gumboot Soup, the final of the five full-length albums King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard released in 2017, and which contains some of Stu Mackenzie’s favourite songs of the year, gets a welcome physical release. Good Thing, produced and co-written by Grammy nominee Ricky Reed, marks the first music released by Leon Bridges since the release of Coming Home in 2015. And Reef release Revelation, their first studio album since 2000’s Getaway, road-testing new material on tour to make the album is as strong as it is.
Twenty years after last playing together, Belly decided it was ‘now or never’. Every night on their limited 2016 tour produced an incredible energy and excitement, and they’ve distilled that energy into the 11 songs on Dove – a deserved release of the week.
- Belly, founded by former Throwing Muses Tanya Donnelly and Fred Abong, had one of the unexpected hits of 1993 with their debut album, Star. In late 2015, twenty years after last playing together, the four band members decided it was ‘now or never’ and agreed on a limited tour. Along with great joy, there was an incredible energy and excitement every night the band played on tour: the kind of energy and excitement that really had nowhere to go but into making more music together. The 11 new songs that sprung forth have become Dove, their first album since 1995’s King.
- World’s Strongest Man is the magnificent third solo album by Gaz Coombes, the follow-up to 2015’s critically acclaimed Matador.
- This remarkable collection of eleven deeply personal songs set to expansive, addictive melodies has been inspired by an eclectic mix of sources such as Grayson Perry’s autobiography The Descent of Man, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Californian weed, British woodlands, unchecked masculinity, Neu!, hip-hop, and a whole lot more besides. From the deep soul purge of the title track to the coruscating Fripp-goes-motorik sprint of ‘Deep Pockets’ via the gorgeous cyclonic ballad ‘Slow Motion Life’ and the raw-as-hell stream of consciousness panic attack of ‘Vanishing Act’, World’s Strongest Man is a bold, ambitious, free-thinking, future-facing rock’n’roll record.
- Following the release of Matador, Gaz evolved from ‘former Supergrass frontman’ to hugely respected Mercury Prize-nominated solo artist in the space of just ten months. That album spawned five singles, was described by Q magazine as “his masterpiece” and labelled an “instant classic” by Mojo. Like Matador, World’s Strongest Man was written, recorded and produced by Gaz Coombes at his home studio and at Oxford’s Courtyard Studios, with co-production from long time studio partner Ian Davenport in a working process Gaz compares to what it must be like to edit a novel.
- Note: the LP version is available on indies-only pink vinyl.
- Be More Kind is the seventh studio album from Frank Turner, and one which represents a thematic and sonic line in the sand for the 36-year-old Hampshire-born singer-songwriter. It’s a record that combines universal anthems with raw emotion, the political with the personal, and the intricate folk and punk roar trademarks of Turner’s sound imbued with new, bold experimental shades. “I wanted to try and get out of my comfort zone and do something different,” says Turner.
- King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard said they would release five full-length albums in 2017, and they did! The final of the five was released via Bandcamp on 30 December, following the release of Flying Microtonal Banana in February, Murder of the Universe in June, August’s Sketches Of Brunswick East and November’s Polygondwanaland, which the band shared as ‘open-source’. Now, after a slight delay, that final album, Gumboot Soup, gets a physical release.
- The band’s Stu Mackenzie described Gumboot Soup as: “a place for us to put a lot of different ideas that we’re trying to experiment within the song, rather than within the whole record. And for me, some of my favourite songs of the year are on the fifth record. It’s more song-oriented than album-oriented.”
- Note: the LP is available on indies-only orange vinyl.
- Good Thing contains the first new music released by Leon Bridges since the release of his debut studio album, Coming Home, in 2015. Since his debut to the world, Bridges has embarked on tours, performed on the late-night sketch show ‘Saturday Night Live’ and was also featured on the soundtrack to HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’. Bridges also performed on records by other artists including Odesza and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as well as opening for Harry Styles on the One Direction member’s solo tour.
- Good Thing is executive-produced by Grammy nominee Ricky Reed, who also produced and co-wrote all of the songs within the record.
- West-country quartet Reef release their first studio album since 2000’s Getaway, and their first with new guitarist Jesse Wood. Revelation was recorded in Ireland and produced by long-time collaborator George Drakoulias (The Black Crowes, Primal Scream, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers). The album features a guest vocal from Sheryl Crow on lead single ‘My Sweet Love’.
- “We didn’t want to just make a good record, we wanted to make a great record,” says vocalist Gary Stringer. “We were writing the songs for two and a half years, road-testing them when we were on tour. We’d play four or five new songs every night, really watching the crowd. If their eyes glazed over or they went to the bar, then we dropped those songs! But if a song engaged with them – a melody they can hook into, a guitar riff – then that was a real pointer for how we went about it. Hopefully that’s helped make the album is as strong as it is.” “Recording in Ireland was really special,” adds guitarist Jesse Wood. “It’s always been a magical place for me and we spent a few great weeks there with George. I already can’t wait to make the next album!”
Other releases for 2018
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