Goodness me, it’s September already. That’s gone quickly (while also managing to be the longest eight months of my life).
While we're not quite at the chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire stage yet, but the nights are starting to draw in and there’s certainly more of a chill in the air. A good time, then, to stoke the embers in the fireplace and drop the needle on a new slab o’ vinyl. If you’re the sort who will want to sink into the slumber of the season then we suggest gravitating towards the more sonorous entries in this list - the Richard Norris, Bill Callahan and Emily Barker LPs, for instance. However, if you’d rather blast such autumnal feelings into the stratosphere then you should head straight for the ‘DEAFBRICK’ album.
Deafkids & Petbrick - Deafbrick
‘DEAFBRICK’ wins out over ‘PETKIDS’ as the name of this full-length collaboration between London’s Petbrick and Sau Paulo’s DEAFKIDS. There’s some serious muscle gone into this record - the members count Sepultura and Big Lad among their other projects - and as such it’s no surprise that ‘DEAFBRICK’ is one of the more intense records you’ll hear all year. The bludgeoning beats and great waves of distortion will have one thinking of the power electronics that characterised those early Posh Isolation releases, though ‘DEAFBRICK’ also has enough psych-rock texturising about it to keep you reminded that this one’s out via Rocket Recordings.
Naked Roommate - Do The Duvet
A personal favourite discovery in recent times, Naked Roommate’s debut LP ‘Do The Duvet’ is a set of knowing punk-funk in the Liquid Liquid/Tom Tom Club mould. Full of louche no-wave basslines and impassive, smirking vocals, ‘Do The Duvet’ gets the balance just right between disco-friendly fun and knowing critique. Throw in a good dose of Devo-esque absurdity and the result is an album which feels low-stakes but actually has you signed up to the cause by the time closer ‘(Re) P.R.O.D.U.C.E.’ hoves into view.
Richard Norris - Elements
Richard Norris was once described by Electronic Sound magazine as “the electronic musician’s electronic musician”. High praise indeed, but one listen to Norris’ new LP ‘Elements’ and you can see that the praise was completely justified. This is an album of spiritualised synthetic vistas which run with the kosmische spirit while combining it with the sort of warm organic tones that one finds in the work of Plaid and Seefeel. Straddling the border of ambient, electronica and new age composition, ‘Elements’ is surely the loveliest-sounding record in this week’s roundup.
Throwing Muses - Sun Racket
Throwing Muses may have slowed down in the past couple of decades - ‘Sun Racket’ is the beloved band’s first studio LP for seven years and only their third of the 21st Century - but Kristin Hersh and the gang still haven’t lost their knack for crafting top-tier alt-rock. Their sound may now be a little more varied than the post-Pixies crunch of their acclaimed 90s output, but when it gets going ‘Sun Racket’ still has a great swagger about it. On those excursions into adjacent genres Throwing Muses fold dream-pop, shoegaze and blues-rock into the mix with aplomb.
Tricky - Fall To Pieces
I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t looking forward to writing about this record. Not because I don’t like Tricky - I do, very much - and not because I don’t like ‘Fall To Pieces’ - I do, very much. No, I wasn’t looking forward to writing about this record because ‘Fall To Pieces’ is the first Tricky LP to emerge since the death of his daughter in 2019, and even trying to imagine the pain he must have gone through when making this thing just does me in. That said, while ‘Fall To Pieces’ is certainly an album flushed with grief, it’s no doom-and-gloom affair, with Tricky stating that "[y]ou've gotta fucking get up and fight [and] right now I'm in fight mode." This is an incredibly admirable attitude, but what's even better is the fact that Tricky's on good form here regardless of circumstance - 'Fall To Pieces' moves between the shadowy electronica that he has stayed close to down the years and some shuffling, low-lit groove tracks.
Yo La Tengo - Electr-O-Pura
Twenty-fifth anniversary edition of ‘Electr-O-Pura’ here, an LP which many Yo La Tengo fans would count among their favourite releases in the band’s long, vaunted discography. Emerging right in the middle of the group’s all-time-great 90s run, ‘Electr-O-Pura’ contains so much that is good about the Yo La Tengo experience in one place - whimsical indie-rock which can go toe-to-toe with anything in the Pavement discography, a nice grungy crunch and professional songcraft delivered with a fan’s enthusiasm.
The Microphones - Microphones in 2020
A utilitarian title for a passionate return, ‘Microphones In 2020’ is the first record that Phil Elverum - he of Mount Eerie fame - has made under this particular moniker for seventeen years. He pushes his practise in a bold new direction here, delivering a single, multi-movement song which runs for almost three-quarters of an hour. ‘Microphones In 2020’ features several passages of spectral alt-folk which are made all the more haunting for their juxtaposition with distorted blasts and grinding drone. It is, in short, another singular achievement from Elverum.
Bill Callahan - Gold Record
As the old saying goes, you wait ages for one Bill Callahan album to show up and then two come along at once. Ok, maybe not at once - ‘Gold Record’ emerges over a year on from ‘Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest’ - but given that there was half a decade between ‘Shepherd …’ and its predecessor ‘Have Fun With God’ it’s nice to see Mr. Smog back so soon. Alt-country’s favourite crooner sounds like he was having fun here, and you can almost see the mischievous glint in his eye when he begins one song with the line ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’, but ultimately ‘Gold Record’ contains as much wisdom as it does wisecracking.
Emily Barker - A Dark Murmuration of Words
‘A Dark Murmuration Of Words’ finds Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker delivering a stupendous set of ballads and acoustic songs. Across the record we find Barker both despairing at the state of the manmade world and drawing strength from her natural surroundings. There are some rootsier numbers, but flushes of distorted guitar and sonorous vocal harmonies on cuts such as ‘The Woman Who Planted Trees’ give ‘A Dark Murmuration Of Words’ pleasing variation as it wends its way forward.
Special Cases - Special Cases
Previously released as a cassette back in 2014, the eponymous debut LP from Special Cases finally makes it to vinyl courtesy of fledgling imprint Weisskalt Records. Special Cases is a solo project from Föllakzoid fellow Juan Pablo Rodríguez, and while this LP may not have the raw drive of Föllakzoid it shares the band’s penchant for cavernous psych-rock sonics and spacey treatments. Fans of both Spacemen 3 and the most far-out end of kosmische, this one’s for you.