New Music Friday: the top releases this week Featuring Thundercat, Yves Tumor, Viagra Boys and more...
Right then, Friday it is. New Music Friday, no less.
For all of us lucky enough not to be exhausted key workers facing this fuckawful virus down on our behalf (thank you!), sitting comfortably is basically the only leisure activity still readily available at the moment. So are you sitting comfortably? Have you used your one (1!) nugget of outside-time for the day? Plonked yourself back down on the sofa?
While there are many (so many) drawbacks to lockdown life, the situation is primed for some concerted album-listening. No distractions, no digital interference - just you, a slab of vinyl/cassette/CD and the fruits of someone else's creative labours.
And do we have some creative labours for you this week. Yves Tumor's Heaven To A Tortured Mind, for instance, is the work of a singular auteur that must have taken countless hours to bring to fruition. Nightmares On Wax, Thundercat, Everything Is Recorded's Richard Russell and Sun Araw leader Cameron Stallones all surely had to sweat for their records too. And that's before we've even got to the heavy energy of groups like Viagra Boys and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, or brighter reveries from Warm Digits and Ringo Deathstarr.
Everything Is Recorded’s new LP ‘Friday Forever’ adopts an extreme version of Rebecca Black’s ‘gotta get down on friday’ philosophy, chronicling an end-of-week night out (and morning after) in twelve parts. Given that the man behind Everything Is Recorded is none other than XL Recordings boss Richard Russell, it makes sense that ‘Friday Forever’ touches on the wide range of sounds one hears emanating from the label’s stable. Rap, rave, indie balladry and many other styles are all squished together on an album that is simultaneously rambunctious and a bit manic (in a good way). It’s also unsurprising that, just like the first Everything Is Recorded LP which came out back in 2017, ‘Friday Forever’ also boasts an impressive set of features - Penny Rimbaud, Ghostface Killah, A. K. Paul and FLOHIO are just a handful of the esteemed guests.
The clocks have gone forward and the days are warming up. Spring is in the air. Ok, you’re stuck inside all the time, but sunny days are sunny days. You might want to try kicking back with this new anniversary edition of Nightmares On Wax’s magnum opus ‘Smokers Delight’. Even in its original form the Leeds legend’s second studio LP clocked in at well over an hour, its laid-back stoner breaks reaching lackadaisically for dub, jazz and downtempo. However, this quarter-century pressing of the record goes even further by affixing four bonus tracks to the main sixteen.
The seven deadly Pigs have begotten to us a new LP, and once more it is full of hellfire. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs pigs have bludgeoned their way to the front of the British heavy-psych pack in recent times, and ‘Viscerals’ is the sort of record that you make when you find a fleet in your command. Brazen, bold and bullish, this record puts pedal to metal more than 2018’s monolithic ‘King Of Cowards’. Tracks like ‘Rubbernecker’ and ‘Reducer’ come off like Sabbath on steroids.
Texan band Ringo Deathstarr double-down on their admittedly-good pun name by also using it as the title for their admittedly-great new LP - their first full-length for half a decade. There’s plenty of Ringo Deathstarr’s signature style of souped-up shoegaze here (‘God Help The Ones You Love’, ‘Once Upon A Freak’), but also moments of dreamy rumination that wouldn’t sound out of place drifting amidst an early My Bloody Valentine record.
‘Rock Sutra’ - now there’s a thought! This new set from Cameron Stallones’ Sun Araw project proclaims itself as space-rock, but the term doesn’t really do justice to this endearingly unusual set of tracks. ‘Rock Sutra’ was recorded live to MIDI by Stallones and his band, something that gives the album a zany machine-malfunction feel. The record’s quixotic nature is only heightened by Sun Araw’s ultra-whacked, almost-danceable version of fourth-world pop. Think Brian Eno & John Cale’s ‘Wrong Way Up’ reimagined by a genuine oddball like Clarence Clarity and you’re some way to figuring out this charming album.
Initially emerging as a catch-all term for music that built on the sound and fury of punk, the definition of ‘post-punk’ has, in recent years, narrowed to be synonymous with bands that sound like Joy Division. This is a strange devolution - the whole point of the movement was to explode genre, not shackle it - and one that does a disservice to records that are post-punk in the truest sense. Records such as The Monochrome Set’s ‘Strange Boutique’, in fact. The songcraft here is artsy like Orange Juice, but where The Monochrome Set really win out is in the vocal department - band-leader Bid’s surrealist singing and an urbane literary streak make ‘Strange Boutique’ an offbeat precursor to both Pulp and Pram. ‘Strange Boutique’ has been reissued to coincide with its fortieth birthday.
‘It Is What It Is’, and what it is is a new LP from Thundercat - that is what it is. The bass-bothering meme-machine settles down a bit on his new record. There isn’t quite as much of the hyperactive noodling that we heard on previous records, and Thundercat's love of soft-/Yacht-rock dictates proceedings more than it has done in the past. When blended with his impressive command of jazz harmony and ability to absorb styles into an easy brand of fusion-funk, what we end up with is arguably the artist’s most accessible and likeable collection to date. And that is, verily, what it is.
Nothing to do with the J Hus album of the same name, Viagra Boys’ new EP ‘Common Sense’ largely consolidates the gains made on their 2018 debut full-length ‘Street Worms’. This is to say that, for the most part, ‘Common Sense’ consists of Motorik punk rock that takes its rightful place in the lineage that runs from The Stooges to IDLES. We say "for the most part" because ‘Common Sense’ closer ‘Blue’ is something of a curveball - with its trip-hop groove and anguished, Tom Waits-esque delivery, time will tell if ‘Blue’ is an outlying curio for Viagra Boys or a harbinger of the band’s future.
Warm Digits’ ‘Flight Of Ideas’ is sort of like the inverse of Viagra Boys’ ‘Common Sense’. These songs are powered by similarly driving drum beats, and both records occasionally veer off into noise that isn’t a million miles from Pigs x7’s ‘Viscerals’. However, where ‘Viscerals’ and ‘Common Sense’ wallow in the muck, ‘Flight Of Ideas’ pushes towards the light. The grooves here are perky and bright in a manner that recalls sparky, danceable recent entries from Sink Ya Teeth and P.E., and Warm Digits’ penchant for synthesisers owes no small debt to LCD Soundsystem. Guest spots from some of British indie’s great characters - The Lovely Eggs, The Orielles, Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith - give ‘Flight Of Ideas’ additional pep.
On ‘Heaven To A Tortured Mind’, Yves Tumor has fully assumed the role of outsider popstar they've been growing into ever since 2016’s ‘Serpent Music’. This is music with a plush sheen and a dark centre, its uncannily beautiful grooves ensnaring you like siren song before Tumor’s twisted invocations smash you against the rocks. The overall effect of ‘Heaven To A Tortured Mind’ is like listening to Andre 3000’s ‘The Love Below’ while drunk in the noonday sun.