New Music Friday: the top releases this week
It's Friday, which means it's New Music Friday, which means it's time for us to pick out some of the biggest and best releases of the week. Grab our weekly YouTube and Spotify playlists to hear more......
I don't care if Monday's blue, Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too, Thursday I don't care about you - It's New Music Friday, I'm in love.
Californian punk acts old and new dominate this week - cult heroes X return after more than a few seasons in the sun while Girl Friday, L.A. Witch and a new-to-the-West-Coast Jeff Rosenstock fly the flag for the new generation. Bent Arcana, a new experimental rock project from John Dwyer, lands somewhere in the middle of all of that.
Meanwhile we’ve got records from a few more seasoned veterans - an exciting link-up between Vladislav Delay and reggae legends Sly & Robbie as well as the seven-billionth album from Guided By Voices. Then there’s a brilliantly unusual collection of leftfield songs from J. Zunz and Nubya Garcia’s hotly-anticipated debut LP. Saturday wait ...
Bent Arcana - Bent Arcana
Bent Arcana is John Dwyer, but not as you know him. On the first LP from his new outfit Dwyer abandons garage-rock almost entirely and instead leads a multi-member ensemble through some freeform excursions that move in the borderlands between jazz, rock and prog. Backed by players from Sunwatchers, TV On The Radio, Flying Lotus and more, Dwyer’s ‘Bent Arcana’ is one of the most ambitious records in a discography full of ambitious records. ‘Bitches Brew’ would be a bold comparison, but not too strong...
Girl Friday - Androgynous Mary
‘Androgynous Mary’, the debut LP from Los Angeles quartet Girl Friday, is a great set of defiant outsider-rock numbers. The band say that this record emerged from a period of personal turmoil for all four members, and there's certainly a sense of introspection shadowing Girl Friday’s Sonic Youth-style noise-rock. However, ‘Androgynous Mary’ also brings the excitement of a group of friends growing into their sound, which is one of the enduring joys of rock music, and balances the heaviness with moments of wit - see song titles like ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’ on that count.
Guided By Voices - Mirrored Aztec
John Dwyer is somehow not the most prolific rock musician in this list - that accolade goes to the insatiable Robert Pollard, whose discography with Guided By Voices now runs to well over a hundred studio LPs and five albums in the past eighteen months alone. ‘Mirrored Aztec’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel for GBV LPs, though it does include a school choir and the occasional excursion into rock’s more outre outer-regions. But yeah, by and large it’s another set of the post-Mudhoney alt-grunge that Pollard has made his home turf over the past few decades.
H.C. McEntire - Eno Axis
The title of H.C. McEntire’s ‘Eno Axis’ may have something to do with The Eminent Bonce himself, but I'll be damned if I'm the one to figure out the link. The music of McEntire’s second solo album is not a million miles away from what she used to do as part of Mount Moriah, so if any of you dug that band’s output then you’ll find plenty to sink your teeth into here. For the uninitiated, ‘Eno Axis’ is a set of impassioned indiecana that touches on Wilco, Big Thief and early R.E.M..
J. Zunz - Hibiscus
J. Zunz’s ‘Hibiscus’ is a Gothic listen which refuses to give away its secrets too readily. These songs are eerie and arresting, with J. Zunz mastermind Lorena Quintanilla often uprooting their Krautrock-style forward lopes with great screes of noise. Anyone who’s been enjoying the Autotelia LP that was released via Rocket Records recently will likely get a kick out of J. Zunz’s ‘Hibiscus’, and the record also brings in influences from Carmen Villain, Suicide and Blanck Mass.
Jeff Rosenstock - No Dream
Jeff Rosenstock's latest collection finds the former Bomb The Music Industry!/Kudrow chap delivering a rambunctious collection of sing-song punk tunes. The instrumentals here sound as meaty as anything else you'll hear this year, and the way in which they rip out the speakers feels apt when combined with Rosenstock’s impassioned decrying of The Current State Of Affairs. However, Rosenstock balances all the harshness out with some delightfully snot-nosed melodies to make ‘No Dream’ a winner with the hardcore and pop-punk kids alike.
L.A. Witch - Play With Fire
To paraphrase Rachel Stevens - sweet dreams my L.A. Witch. New LP ‘Play With Fire’ finds the trio delivering another collection of that sort of darkside garage-rock which has captured the hearts and minds of the public ever since the days of rockabilly. There’s also a little bit of The Gun Club’s offbeat style to ‘Play With Fire’, while cuts like ‘I Wanna Lose’ have a scuzzy bite in their guitar work which channels prime Jay Reatard.
Nubya Garcia - Source
In ‘Source’, Nubya Garcia has delivered the bold and brilliant debut LP that she has been threatening for several years now. Having come up through the same London jazz scene as Joe Armon-Jones and Moses Boyd, here Garcia leads her band through a set of expansive jazz numbers which draw from reggae, fusion, hard-bop, soul and much else besides. Garcia’s dextrous saxophone playing is the divining rod through which all else on ‘Source’ flows.
X - ALPHABETLAND
X! Bloody hell, good to see you. It’s fitting that the first album from these Los Angeles punk legends in twenty-seven years (!) and first with their original lineup since 1985 (!!) should be part of a list that includes some direct descendants of theirs - you see, Jeff Rosenstock, L.A. Witch and Girl Friday all bear X’s influence to varying degrees. With its thrashing guitars and the melodious yipping of the singers, ‘ALPHABETLAND’ demonstrates that X still have the knack after all that time away.
Vladislav Delay Meets Sly & Robbie - 500 Push Up
Yep, that’s Vladislav Delay *and* Sly Dunbar *and* Robbie Shakespeare all on the same record together - and it’s as good as you hoped it would be and all. ‘500-PUSH-UP’ is a brilliant dubwise voyage, an album grounded in the rocksteady lopes of the Riddim Twins yet also chock full of adventurous production from Vladislav Delay. It’s just about a dub record, but honestly ‘500-PUSH-UP’ is so inventive and unusual that this is one to file next to the genre’s most boundary-pushing adventures - early On-U Sound and 'Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires', for example.