At the end of another horrible week on this insane planet, music again provides something close to comfort.
Sophisti-pop proves the big winner on this New Music Friday - the spectre of Talk Talk, Prefab Sprout et al hangs over about half of the albums in this list. Other sounds in vogue below include various strains of indie-rock, from wiry post-punk to daydreaming shoegaze, and a couple of records which spin delightfully idiosyncratic music from the well-worn playbook of psychedelia. And then there’s whatever the hell is going on on that Roly Porter album.
Brigid Mae Power - Head Above The Water
Brigid Mae Power - any relation of Benjamin Power aka Blanck Mass? Probably not, but it’s fun to imagine. The pair are both fine examples of nominative determinism in music, though they go about their business in decidedly different ways. While Blanck Mass’s electronics bludgeon you into submission, Brigid Mae makes sonorous, evocative acoustic folk that is flecked with the hearty harmonies of her native Ireland. Power co-produced third LP ‘Head Above The Water’ with Peter Broderick, a contemporary classical musician who seems to be everywhere at the moment.
Melenas - Dias Raros
Melenas hail from Pamplona - yes, where the bulls run - but the only thing that really gives away their second studio LP ‘Dias Raros’ as being by a Spanish group is its lyrics. Otherwise, what one is dealing with here is a set of shoegazing indie-pop which isn’t too far removed from the Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever album chronicled below - though the additional air of dreaminess about this thing also has one thinking of DIIV. Listening to ‘Dias Raros’ might be the closest thing you get to a Summer this year, buddy.
Modern Nature - Annual
Modern Nature, a project centred around one Jack Cooper but also including input from people like Sunwatchers chap Jeff Tobias, hit upon a novel songwriting style on new LP ‘Annual’. The press release for this thing references Talk Talk, and there’s definitely some of that band’s more outre output to the jazz-flecked balladry of tunes like ‘Flourish’. However, ‘Annual’ also has an earthiness about it that points a little to Richard Dawson while there’s the ghost of Polar Bear’s smokier cuts about this music as well. Slyly arresting listening all in all.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Sideways to New Italy
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever feverishly roll towards coastal blackouts once more. The Aussie band’s latest LP ‘Sideways To New Italy’ takes stock of their astronomical rise in the past couple of years - the group only released their first joint on Sub Pop in 2017 but can already be considered one of the bigger acts in the global indie-sphere. ‘Sideways To New Italy’ reminds one just why this lot have become so beloved so quickly, chiefly by the fact of it being very good. This is passionate, driving and thoughtful rock that invokes Real Estate.
Roly Porter - Kistvaen
Roly Porter clearly isn’t an artist who does things by half-measures. A member of Vex’d, a group who had a run of records on Planet Mu in the second half of the 2000s, Porter maintains Vex’d’s air of cavernous grandeur but switches up the sound from dubstep to … well, whatever ‘Kistvaen’ is. I guess you’d call this drone? Power electronics? Noise? None of those terms really do this thing justice - indeed, the epic scale with which these tracks have been conceived lead one to think first and foremost of film music.
Roxy Girls - A Wealth of Information
Neither much Roxy Music nor much Girls to be found in the sound of this Mackem outfit. What Roxy Girls do very well on ‘A Wealth Of Information’ is that kind of speedy post-punk thing that has outlived originators The Fall. The temptation to compare Roxy Girls with the early work of fellow north-east group Maxïmo Park is very much there, and I’m willing to grasp that particular nettle - although ‘A Wealth Of Information’ is more ramshackle than anything on ‘A Certain Trigger’.
Sonic Boom - All Things Being Equal
Sonic Boom’s ‘All Things Being Equal’ wins artwork of the week for me. What pleasing colours and shapes! Those of you with long memories may be able to recall Peter Kember’s first LP as Sonic Boom coming out way back in 1990 - though the Spacemen 3 fellow has released a few collaborative singles and EPs since, most recently with No Joy. ‘All Things Being Equal’ drops the listener right back into Sonic Boom’s heavy-psych sound, meaning that there are a lot of spiral-staircase Krautrock tones and third-eye psych jams to be found here.
The Blue Nile - High
Having had their debut LP ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ reissued in 2019, The Blue Nile’s fourth - and to date final - album, 2004’s ‘High’, now gets a brand-spanking new version via Confetti Records. This is a first-ever vinyl pressing for ‘High’, an album that I am fully here for on account of two things - one, that it sounds a fair bit like Prefab Sprout’s dream-kissed sophisti-pop epic ‘The Gunman And Other Stories’; and two, that it begins with a (little) song called ‘The Day Of Our Lives’. Those who cop the CD of ‘High’ will be privy to a bunch of bonus beats.
Vanishing Twin - In Piscina
Writing about Prefab Sprout always makes me want to listen to them, so I decided to crank their God-tier pop send-up ‘The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ while writing this next blurb. It proved a prescient choice - that track’s surreal video focuses on goings on at a private swimming pool, and judging by the cover of Vanishing Twin’s ‘In Piscina’ EP the London group would have felt right at home in that scene. These four tracks are great fun, with Vanishing Twin’s wacky brand of post-rock keeping the same company as Cavern Of Anti-Matter, Meridian Brothers and seekersinternational.
Westerman - Your Hero Is Not Dead
There sure is a lot of arty pop in this week’s list! Hotly-tipped Westerman is the latest to offer up a selection of boutique songcraft on his debut LP ‘Your Hero Is Not Dead’. Bullion got involved making this, but the record steers away from the cheeky thrills of ‘Blue Pedro’ to land on something decidedly more considered. Those who got all nostalgic with the Talk Talk talk above could slake that particular thirst with a few spins of ‘Your Hero Is Not Dead’.