Solo artists of many stripes bring their A-game. We've got the arresting punk soliloquies of Billy Nomates, Jason Molina's heartbreaking balladry, Suzanne Ciani's game-changing early synthesiser work, Shanti Celeste's impeccable club selections and Washed Out's woozily beautiful alt-pop. Then there are the ensemble efforts - Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids and Jaga Jazzist deliver a pair of brilliant jazz albums while Shit & Shine's sludgy noise-rock will knock you for six. Cap it all off with a Pixies reissue and a great wave music compilation from Polytechnic Youth and you're looking at as strong a field as we've seen in yonks.
Billy Nomates - Billy Nomates
On the eponymous debut LP from rapidly rising Billy Nomates the artist delivers a collection of impassioned punk invective. Backed by instrumentals whose bass/drums/keyboard combinations channel the Motorik insistence of Sleaford Mods, Nomates decries the failures and enervations of workaday Britain with a poetic bite reminiscent of prime Mark E. Smith (RIP). This is an impressive, timely statement that sets Billy Nomates on the way to becoming a major force in modern post-punk.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - Shaman!
Jazz outfit Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids first got together in the 1970s, so the fact that they’re still releasing music is pretty incredible in and of itself. However, ‘Shaman!’ is an LP that also wows on its own terms, an album of empathetic and heartfelt spiritual jazz which continues the fabulous run that the band have been on these past few years. ‘Shaman!’ takes in many modes - Gil Scott-Heron-esque soul-jazz invocations, Afrobeat-inflected rhythm odysseys, lilting neo-soul, hard-blowing moments that border on free jazz - yet brings them all together through the clarity of its vision.
Jaga Jazzist - Pyramid
There are few bands who draw you into their sonic world as completely as Jaga Jazzist. The Norwegian fusion outfit create incredibly rich music, blending jazz, prog, funk, post-rock and more, and new LP ‘Pyramid’ is their latest multi-faceted offering. Though they have been operating for around 25 years at this stage, and acts like BADBADNOTGOOD and Vulfpeck have emerged in their wake, ‘Pyramid’ is a reminder that Jaga Jazzist are still masters of their craft.
Pixies - Bossanova
Back in 1990, Pixies followed up their cast-iron-classic second LP ‘Doolittle’ with ‘Bossanova’. The album builds on the success of its predecessor, lacing the band’s typically strong melodies and idiosyncratic songwriting with a grungier instrumental tone. There are hits here - ‘Velouria’, ‘Dig For Fire’ - but also tunes like ‘Rock Music’, which tears out the speakers with the caustic intensity of The Jesus Lizard. To celebrate ‘Bossanova’s thirtieth birthday 4AD have reissued the record in a fetching red vinyl edition and replete with a sixteen-page booklet.
Shit & Shine - Goat Yelling Like A Man
God bless Shit & Shine. With each new album the band expand their aesthetic in wild, exciting ways - the records they’ve released in the past twelve months alone have touched on experimental techno, leftfield hip-hop, glitch and noise-rock, all delivered with the industrial-strength intensity that has become Shit & Shine’s signature. ‘Goat Yelling Like A Man’ pushes on through with the Melvins stylings of 2019’s ‘Doing Drugs, Selling Drugs’ to come up with some monolithic, doom-laden noise-rock. Intense and unyielding music.
Suzanne Ciani - Music For Denali
Fans of Suzanne Ciani’s crucial early synthesiser music will be delighted to see Finders Keepers Records delivering another archival collection from her back catalogue. ‘Music For Denali’ follows ‘Flowers Of Evil’, ‘"Help, Help, The Globolinks!"’, ‘Buchla Concerts 1975’ and others as the latest of Ciani’s early records to be given new life by the label, and it’s a fascinating look into the development of her practise. These pieces, which were composed to accompany a documentary about an attempt at the first successful ski down the Alaskan mountain Denali, find Ciani growing into working with the Buchla synthesiser and combining her experiments with impressionistic piano composition. The result is a brilliantly deft record which brings together influences from Claude Debussy, Laurie Spiegel, Kraftwerk and more.
Washed Out - Purple Noon
After seven years away from Sub Pop, Washed Out returns to the label with another LP of dreamy synth-pop in the form of ‘Purple Noon’. The chillwave stylings with which the project shot to prominence a decade or so ago remain here - single ‘Too Late’ is gorgeously hazy - but ‘Purple Noon’ is grounded by prominent beats and tight songwriting which also deliver some of the most immediate music in Washed Out’s catalogue. For instance, you might not hear a better tropical house tune this year than ‘Time To Walk Away’.
Jason Molina - Eight Gates
‘Eight Gates’ is an LP containing the final studio recordings of Jason Molina, the beloved singer-songwriter who passed away in 2013. Anyone who knows Molina’s work, either under his own name or in Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co., will have braced themselves before listening to ‘Eight Gates’. If this is your first time then we suggest you strap yourself in - the bleak beauty of these songs brings to mind the darkest corners of Angel Olsen’s ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’.
Various - Shanti Celeste – The Sound of Love International #003
Love International’s ‘Sound Of Love International’ compilation series gives some of the Croatian festival’s favourite artists a chance to bring together a few favourite tracks/artists in one place. After entries from Beautiful Swimmers and Gatto Fritto, producer/selector/Peach Discs boss Shanti Celeste steps up to the plate for ‘The Sound of Love International #003’. What we get are a dozen Balearic house/techno delights from acts like Pauline Anna Strom and seekersinternational as well as a shimmering, shuffling collaboration between Celeste and Saoirse. ‘The Sound of Love International #003’, and also the sound of Summer #2020.
Various - Some Neon Reason: Further Adventures of the Polytechnic Youth
Polytechnic Youth’s latest compilation ‘Some Neon Reason: Further Adventures of the Polytechnic Youth’ confirms what we already knew about the London label, namely that there are few better when it comes to modern wave music and synthetic post-punk. Channelling the spirit of the first Mute Records drops as well as the Sheffield scene of Cabaret Voltaire and The Human League, many of these tracks bristle with a dark, stern energy. Tunes like VIB’s ‘The Deep i’ also push on into the heady electronic psychedelia of Sonic Boom.