Sing us a song, you're the piano man, sing us a song about New Music Friday.
To be honest, there aren’t any piano men among this week’s picks. Damien Jurado and Happyness both come close, I guess, if by piano men you mean balladeers in general, but those two lean on guitars really. The LPs from Green-House and Car Seat Headrest both have a lot of keyboards in, does that count?
Anyway, despite the lack of tinkled ivories amid the ten records below, we still reckon you’re going to like their dulcet tones. And it really is a very listenable selection this week - none of that doom-metal or frenzied noise we’ve been flogging you of late.
‘Making A Door Less Open’. The door’s not closed, you understand - just not as open as it once was. Is ‘ajar’ the word Car Seat Headrest are looking for here? Though I guess a door that is less open than it once was can still be more open than what one would normally class as ajar … Oh, this is a nightmare!
To say that Will Toledo and the gang have ‘gone pop’ with ‘Making A Door Less Open’ is not quite correct - the sonorous indie-rock that characterised their previous albums was always rich with melody, particularly in the vocal department. However, ‘Making A Door Less Open’ is certainly the shiniest-sounding thing ever to emerge from the band’s workhouse, something due in no small part to the prominence of synthesisers throughout. This one may be to Car Seat Headrest what ‘Lost In The Dream’ was to The War On Drugs/‘Currents’ was to Tame Impala.
You know we stan the Dalham man down here at Schloss Normanstein - indeed, so besotted are we with the project that we’ve released two Dalham LPs via our own Public House Recordings label. Now onto his second album for the excellent Castles In Space, Dalham’s electronic sound continues to delight on ‘Alderson Loop’. The record swings back and forth between Plone-style IDM and modern kosmische that runs the spirit of Roedelius through the sort of synth sounds we hear in Boards Of Canada’s best work.
‘What’s New, Tomboy?’ Woooah, woah-woaahh, woah-woah! However, as those of you familiar with the work of Damien Jurado will no doubt be aware, you don’t come to this guy’s LPs expecting leather-skinned showtunes - you come to them for thoughtful, low-lit indie-cana that greets you with the warmth of an old friend. ‘What’s New, Tomboy?’, the fifteenth album of Jurado’s prestigious career, is another set of graceful, tender songs to hold you tight long into the night. Think Bill Callahan.
Are you meant to pronounce that like ‘doggone’? Either way I’m running with it - I can’t be having another ‘Making A Door Less Open’ situation so soon after the first one. ‘Undesignated Proximate’ finds the drum ‘n’ bass innovator returning to Love Love Records (Christoph De Babalon, Ona Snop), and these dozen tracks serve as further reminder for why the one born John Cunnane has garnered a reputation as a superior modern-day junglist. The whirligig breakbeats here lean towards IDM, but dgoHn makes sure that all of the rhythmic innovation doesn’t detract from an essential danceability. Throw in some deft, almost jazz-tinged programming in the synths and you’ve got yourself an LP which would give golden-age Goldie a run for his money.
Ghostpoet managed to keep from nodding off during this one, then. Good thing he didn’t - judging by the darkness that lurks all around his fifth studio LP, we would have expected any such sleep to be restless and punctuated by night terrors. One finds the same sense of witching-hour psychedelia in ‘I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep’ as could be felt running through Yves Tumor’s ‘Heaven To A Tortured Mind’. However, the sonic world here is darker and more murky - Ghostpoet recalls Baxter Dury in the way half-cut deliveries slip and slide over louche grooves at once menacing and beautiful.
Ahh. Lovely. Just lovely. With all the fear, uncertainty, stress and everything else that comes from living through these times, you need LPs like Green-House’s ‘Six Songs For Invisible Gardens’ in your life. This is a balm for the soul, ‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’ for the COVID age. The synths here spiral and sparkle with quiet ecstasy, at once discreet and healing, and gentle field-recordings - running water, birdsong - only add to the air of calm contentedness. A truly delightful album.
Another of this week’s picks that displays a shaky grasp of the English language, Happyness drop an E for their third LP ‘Floatr’. Masters of that modern-day slacker-mo sound for several years now, here Happyness look once more to both the classic songcraft of the 60s and the fuzz-tinged frippery of 90s post-grunge. The result is something that sounds like the next great Girls LP that we never got but really deserved (Christopher Owens, there’s still time!).
Ital Tek has long backed-up one of the best names in the game with futuristic IDM innovations, and he’s done it again on sixth studio LP ‘Outland’. Mind you, those expecting more of the batter-down-the-door beat-tracking that many people associate with the Ital Tek brand won’t have it all their own way here. Sure, tunes such as ‘Deadhead’ fizz and spurt like something on LuckyMe being given a going-over by Ziur, but ‘Outland’ also finds room for John Carpenter-esque electro-dystopias (‘Open Heart’) and more ruminative beat takes in the vein of Pye Corner Audio (‘Leaving The Grid’).
For those of you, like me, who are confused by the name of this record label, let’s clear something up once and for all - Live At Robert Johnson is an imprint run by the Offenbach club Robert Johnson, but releases on the label aren’t actually all taped live. For instance, Daniel Avery & Roman Flügel’s new collaborative two-tracker ‘Meeting Of The Minds’, which they’re releasing under the name NOUN, was recorded not within those four walls but at Flügel’s studio. Both ‘Team Silent’ and the ‘Meeting Of The Minds’ title-track are the sort of dubbed-out tech-house rollers that German ravers absolutely can’t get enough of.
Is it jazz? Is it classical music? Is it something else entirely? Nobody knows - possibly not even Portico Quartet themselves. Either way, the band continue to do whatever it is that they do on new EP ‘We Welcome Tomorrow’. The title is a boldly optimistic statement for times like these, the confidence of which one should admire. Conceived in the orbit of the band’s 2019 LP ‘Memory Streams’, this one leans harder on the Nils Frahm-isms than that full-length did. Limited edish release here - better move quick!