Tony Molina - Kill The Lights
We're all very glad Tony Molina's luck has run out again so he can make an album out of it -- it may be a criminal ten minutes short, but his overwhelmingly succinct jangle pop refreshed our ears for a moment or two.
For those who don't know, here's how Tony writes a song: he breaks someone's heart, starts grating on all his friends and realises that, alas, it's time to leave town. Woe is him; joy is us. While his last full ‘LP', Dissed and Dismissed, was like Weezer with metal riffs, Kill the Lights is like Teenage Fanclub looking at themselves in the mirror. It's the very definition of a gem.
Cult Party - And Then There Was This Sound
One of our other monthly heavyweights managed to put in double Tony's shift on one measly song.
Cult Party's record began with a twenty minute folk tune that breathed in early Sun Kil Moon and Mount Eerie, as if arriving pre-made as an underground classic. A brilliant record of bedroom pop that pulled up the curtains and threw open the window, And Then There Was This Sound is both solitary and expansive, growing big arrangements from nimble nylon-string origins. It's one of those records we want everyone to know about.
Elephant Micah - Genericana
Who got weird this August? I'd have to say Elephant Micah takes a podium position with his record of rerouted, tape looped Americana.
Having previously waited on Joe O'Connell's project as a likeable and more palatable version of folk rock greats like Jason Molina, I was quite shocked to hear this experimental u-turn. Inspired in parts by the omnipresent dark cloud of Trump's America, the record deconstructs and oftentimes demolishes genre tradition, suggesting new expressions to be found in this time of anguish and turmoil. Drone, free improv and synths -- who in the hell would have thought this record would ever exist?
Toshu Aizawa Quartet - Tachibana
I simply must shout out this unbelievable Toshu Aizawa Quartet reissue.
It's a bebop barnburner and I am forever in the debt of the private press jazz nerds who resurrected it. Tachibana is the result of four ‘70s uni students who moonlighted as jazz hobbyists, meeting up to blow off then never-ending steam brought about by hitting the books. Playing around catchy vamps, the group improvise absolute gold, and at heart-stopping speeds, proving themselves the most professional of amateurs and giving Japanese jazz another secret opus. You've never heard such energy. Trust me.
The Internet - Hive Mind
Syd's band return with a record of telepathic neo-soul.
Listening to this stuff is a super-nice time, but it's also a little frightening: like, how on earth does this band manage to pull off a vibe this intuitive, harmonious and effortless? Through a sounitd that glistens and grooves and very occasionally blows up into widescreen arrangement, the band are always cruising, navigated by autopilot basslines, gauzy synth and knowing call-and-response vocals. And they even called it Hive Mind. Indeed, indeed.
Laurel Halo - Raw Silk Uncut Wood
This one's a no-brainer.
It's also a brain-melter; having wowed us with a big birthday party of a record in her dance opus Dust, Laurel Halo turns sharply on style and makes a record of sleepy American contemporary music. Grown out of recent live improvisations with drummer Eli Keszler, the sound draws on free jazz but as it's nodding off into deep sleep. Keszler appears on Raw Silk Uncut Wood alongside cellist Oliver Coates, who rounds out a bizarre record of broken lounge elegance. Be warned: it's beatless, but it's also beautiful.
Domiziano Maselli - Ashes
This is a record so good our Ant told you that all of the Norman staff loved it despite the fact only he had heard it at that point.
It's that sure of a thing. Domiziano Maselli has made an astounding collection that eschews neo-classical cliches and grows something new, an intense collation of lamenting piano melodies, stark string work and dark ambient fog that speak to the crucial, ongoing apocalypse event of our world that we're all repressing. Gorgeous and hostile in equal measure, it's a devastating must-have.
Tigue - Strange Paradise
On their latest outing for NNA Tapes, Tigue create a playful rhythmic workout for gloopy xylophone, whirring synth, gulping bass and stringent percussion. Despite presenting at first as a straight-and-narrow dance record, this is a gorgeous, colourful collection, one that travels into ambient passages and a whole cowbell bit that can only be described as a shindig.
Shawty Pimp - Still Comin' Real
It's extremely nice to see Shawty Pimp's ‘95 rare classic redoing the rounds.
Reupped through a reissue by Gyptology Records, Still Comin' Real is a strong innings of lo-fi hiss rap, its raw, low-key sound nearly impossible to find in our modern era. It's a tape that speaks to the great juxtaposition of Memphis rap; hazy and lucid, Shawty's tracks float on by.
Resina - Traces
Weepy neo-classical came back in a big way with the advent of FatCat's 130701 imprint.
Revived a couple of years ago, they inaugurated it with Resina's debut record of stark, droning cello pieces. She's now followed it up with a marvelously versatile collection, one that does away with the homogeneity of her old playing and considers new open processes. With mournful melody and bellicose percussion accenting the usual droning notes, Traces frees up Resina's cello exercises and offers something harsher, wilder, and altogether more feral.
Helena Hauff - Qualm
This list is our own completely failed version of clickbait, so of course we waited ‘til the end to get to Helena Hauff. Made you scroll!
The world's most quixotic DJ released Qualm this July, offering a total spookfest that contained blasts of acid and techno before getting warm and welcoming on the flip. A great example of all the things Hauff can do, the record was housed in a gritty, pared down production, just the way she likes it. Warehouse ravers rejoice! You can't rave in our warehouse, though.
A quick round-up of everything else we liked…
If you want some simple, affable rock music, you're probably better off in Spider Bags' shaky hands. The dudes are like Modest Mouse on a mission to self-destruct their own dignity, creating a record of barely-produced brilliance that makes your favourite lo-fi band sound moneyed up.
Also hiding in the garage this July was Julia Jacklin, everyone's favourite sad pop songwriter, who goofed off for a bit. Her new superpal group Phantastic Ferniture have - on Phantastic Ferniture, their self-titled new album - rekindled what little love I had left to give to no-frills indie rock, offering simple but imitable pop magic through easy-breezy guitar slidin'.
There's some gnarly Fugazi-isms living in this Negative Scanner record, those sinewy guitars likely to raise a dozen or so eyebrows amongst our clientele. Brilliant and brash, they link up punk rocks old and new, also hinting at the yelping hardcore of Downtown Boys.
Jim O'Rourke changed lanes this month, trading his free jazz improvisations and idiosyncratic pop songs for a record of blanket-covered ambient. He claims not to like the genre, all too much, so the record is more than that beneath the sheets, a weirdly textured collation of drones and sparkling keys reminiscent of his Steamroom series. His record belongs to a triforce of loveliness including a new My Autumn Empire record and an unbelievable drone opus from Jake Muir. On the aggy flipside to electronic music, we were graced with the vintage daydreams of Twelve Hour Foundation, who appeal to Phil, our aging nostalgia fountain and boss.
And a few things coming in this August...
There's plenty to get our teeth (uh, ears?) stuck into as the heatwave endures in its plan to murder us all. Worth highlighting is the new record from morose legacy act Interpol and a handful of Japan reissues. And if you like Yorkshire-exported kosmische, you might be excited for this Craven Faults
12”. Take a look at our list of all this summer's hottest preorders for more inspiration.