The first of this week’s soaraway six is The Price of Progress, which stands as The Hold Steady’s most sonically expansive record thus far while also remaining unmistakably them. The album showcases narrative rock’n’roll tales of ordinary people struggling and surviving in a modern world. The front and back of the album cover feature photographs by renowned Minneapolis-based photographer Alec Soth. “These are some of the most cinematic songs in The Hold Steady catalogue,” says singer Craig Finn, “and the record was a joy to make. I feel like we went somewhere we haven’t before, which is a very exciting thing for a band that is two decades into our career.”
Nearly five years on from their acclaimed debut, Bennett Wilson Poole reveal the follow-up, I Saw A Star Behind Your Eyes, Don’t Let It Die Away. That eponymous first album was a serendipitous series of events which began with a late-evening session where the trio wrote a response to the murder of MP Jo Cox. The new album has been a long time coming, but it came together in similar fashion; Robin Bennett and Danny Wilson started writing new songs late into the night whilst on tour to promote the first record – a tour which unfolded from a three-night residency in a London pub into a year-long odyssey culminating in a headline show in Hall One at King’s Place – and, before they knew it, they had enough songs to begin recording an unplanned second album. Where the first record drank deep from ’70s US west-coast folk-rock, the second has been heavily spiked with 1960s British psychedelia, even featuring a cover by legendary counterculture artist John Hurford (whose credits include ’60s artwork for Oz magazine and International Times).
London Brew is a reimagining of Miles Davis’ legendary 1970 album Bitches Brew. Produced by Martin Terefe and Downtown Music UK Limited, the record reflects an emotional journey of the times, having been recorded during the pandemic after many months of isolation and the inability to collaborate in person. Recorded in December 2020 at Church Studios in London, the recording session brings together UK jazz artists Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross, Dave Okumu, Benji B and Tom Skinner, among others. As producer Martin Terefe explains: “Sometimes the music is uncomfortable, other times it’s familiar and joyous and other times it’s like deep meditation.”
A Certain Ratio’s greatest strength has always been their unpredictability. They’ve always moved with gleeful disregard for the boundaries of style and genre, their eye fixed firmly on constant progression. It’s an ethos that’s open-minded over all else, and that’s seen them take everything from experimental electronica to vintage funk, filtered through their own Mancunian lens. And their latest studio album, 1982, is no different in its unpredictable multidimensional nature. It shoots off in every direction, whether via searing Afrobeat, mind-melting jazz breakdowns or moody electronic experiments – all with pop hooks and irresistible dance rhythms. It might be called 1982, but it’s no nostalgia trip, fearlessly facing up to the future and running at it with full speed.
All Roads Lead Home is an album born out of pure inspiration as well as social necessity. Molina, Talbot and Lofgren kept recording their original songs, each with other musicians and in various locations during the pandemic years. They were forced to change from working as a trio with Neil Young, and used that opportunity to see what their new individual configurations would lead to. And, of course, they led home. The three Crazy Horse members each recorded three songs apart and with different musicians, and by challenging themselves to see what they could do, all arrived at a wondrous consensus of unforgettable music. Crazy Horse has never made an album like this before.
Our release of the week is The Record, the debut full-length album from Boygenius. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus formed Boygenius after booking a tour together, but the trio had subconsciously been in the works for longer than that. Through a series of tours and performances together, along with chance encounters that led to friendships – including Bridgers’ and Dacus’s first in-person meeting backstage at a Philadelphia festival – greenroom hangouts that felt instantly comfortable and compatible, a couple of long email chains and even a secret handshake between Baker and Dacus, the lyrically and musically arresting singer-songwriters and kindred spirits got to know each other on their own terms.
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