THIS WEEKS ESSENTIAL NEW RELEASES Friday 11th February

Posted: February 16, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop’s fourth proper solo LP and first for Sub Pop is entitled “Memories Are Now”, a reference to the concept of seizing the day. With producer Blake Mills the album encompasses much of the range of her previous output, which routinely challenged the boundaries of indie rock and folk, encouraging a label more along the lines of unconventional singer/songwriter. It follows her excellent likewise free-spirited but more rustic duet album with Iron and Wire’s Sam Beam “Love Letter For Fire” by less than a year, and any new fans from that collaboration may well delight in its expressiveness right alongside established fans. The empowering title track, which opens the album, is spare yet pointed. Accompanied only by a pulsing bassline, tambourine, and Hoop’s own backing vocals, it plays like an offbeat anthem for the newly self-reliant (“Clear the way/I’m coming through/No matter what you say”). The whole record, in fact, is injected with a heavy dose of gumption and irreverence, a spirit that, deliberate or not, seems timely in the sociopolitical climate of early 2017. Speaking of sociopolitical, the playful “Simon Says” takes on mindless consumerism with campfire immediacy and a twisted twang (“When you don’t pick the words you choose/Involuntarily advertising for their enterprise”). Meanwhile, “Songs of Old” is a folky chamber piece with arguably the album’s best example of Hoop’s distinctive way around a melody or three within a single, haunting tune. Efficient arrangements mark this track and the rest, so much so that when “Unsaid” arrives with electric guitar riffs, more expansive percussion, and poly-rhythms, it hits like a prism.  “Memories Are Now” is exquisite-sounding while it contends with a songwriter who not only has a few things to get off her chest, but seems to make a call to action. With lyrics that reject “that old device called fear,” some will find the inspiration to be catching.

Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)

Known in certain circles for backing indie singer/songwriter Kevin Morby on his recent tour, guitarist Meg Duffy steps into the spotlight all on her own with “Wildly Idle” (Humble Before The World) , It’s her full-length debut as the band “Hand Habits” . A true bedroom project  or living room project, to be literal, the album was written, performed, recorded, and produced by Meg Duffy. The intimate set takes listeners behind closed doors with lyrics that refer to bathroom sinks and late-night invites. Frequent double-tracking makes Duffy’s melodic but conversational vocal style seem even more lost in thought past bedtime. Meanwhile, her floaty, psych-tinged guitar pop swirls into corners and wraps back around headphones. Tempos are ambling on tracks such as “Flower Glass” (“When I hold you like a flower/Hold you like an hourglass”), a melancholy reflection that, even without the suggestion of the title, sounds like a musical representation of stained glass. Sustained chords, mixed low, provide the glue for layered harmonic guitars that unroll one note at a time in irregular rhythms. Later, the whispered count-off to “Sun Beholds Me” leaves ample time to anticipate the next beat. Even a relatively brighter, brisker tune like “Nite Life” has the leisurely twang of slide guitar, spacy effects, and airy vocals. Three brief “scenes” are spread throughout the track list: “Great LA,” “Cowboy,” and “Time Hole.” Incorporating samples, each one is an atmospheric exercise in texture that relinquishes form, only reinforcing the dreamy, drifting feel of the album.

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Dropping Bombs On The Sun” is the final and third of 3 singles from the forthcoming album “Don’t Get Lost” to be released in February 2017. The first track Dropping Bombs On The Sun  features vocals by longtime collaborator Tess Parks, this track gives an idea of the changing rhythms of the Brian Jonestown Massacre for the new album. Of a mellow flow of strings and keyboards, with smoky vocals provided by Tess Parks. Geldenes Herz Menz features Pete Fraser (The Pogues .New Young Pony Club) on saxophone , both Dan Alliare (drums and Ricky Maymi (guitar) from the Brian Jonestown Massacre play on both tracks.

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“Caught In Still Life” is the debut album release from London band Vaults. Whilst not yet a household name the band have been quietly building momentum since signing to Virgin EMI in 2013. The album contains two songs which are very well known; One Last Night featured on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey and went to No.1 on iTunes in 20 countries. Secondly comes the bands beautiful version of Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” as featured in this year’s much anticipated John Lewis Christmas ad. The TV ad was viewed 7 million times in the first 24 hours. Also featured on the album are Cry No More and Premonitions, both of which featured heavily in the Channel 4 drama Glue. For fans of Kate Bush, Florence, London Grammar and Chvrches.

A Pink Sunset for No One

“A Pink Sunset For No One” is the follow-up to “Fantastic Planet” , the 2015 album from guitarist/filmmaker Sarah Lipstates solo project Noveller. While the album contains all of the hallmarks of Lipstate’s cinematic sound, such as gently drifting waves of droning guitars and slightly melancholy atmospheres, there seems to be more definition to her playing this time around, in some aspects.

She hasn’t exactly started writing pop songs, but at times there’s a bit more of a propulsion to her compositions, and the melodies feel more outlined than before. It’s hard to tell exactly what instruments or effects pedals she’s using, since the liner notes don’t reveal any of this information, but there are moments that sound like organs, and others that seem like sampled woodwinds (on closing track “Emergence”). On “Rituals,” there are even shades of vocals peeking out from the detached but swinging rhythm and post-punk-influenced chords. The album’s title track starts calmly, with chiming notes, before louder guitars burst out. While not quite as harshly distorted as some earlier of Novellers works like Red Rainbows, the album demonstrates that Lipstate is still masterful at applying heavier guitar effects at exactly the right moments, elevating the lush, dreamy atmospheres to an exciting next level. Standout track “Trails and Trials” does this as well, and her guitar playing sounds particularly close to early His Name Is Alive on this one. Without getting too gloomy, She creates haunted, mysterious atmospheres on tracks such as “Corridors,” which could easily be the theme to the next big horror or sci-fi series. With this her eighth proper solo album as Noveller,  Lipstate continues to push her otherworldly sound in fascinating new directions.

Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins

Is Chuck Prophet a storyteller who just happens to be a great musician? Or is he a talented songwriter and guitarist who also has a real gift for spinning tales? On 2017’s Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, his 12th studio album, Prophet has managed to strike an ideal balance between the two sides, delivering a tuneful and engaging set that’s full of character sketches with a full complement of heart, soul, honesty, wit, and the details of a recognizable adult life. Prophet is capable of playfully imagining what it would be like to be the star of Nashville and Friday Night Lights (“If I Was Connie Britton”), then sharing the true story of a young man gunned down by the San Francisco police for no clear reason just a few tracks later (“Alex Nieto”). Both songs come off as smart, honest, and thoughtful despite their very different tone, and those adjectives apply to nearly every cut on this album. The current state of music is a recurring theme here, as evidenced by the title tune, “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” “We Got Up and Played,” and “In the Mausoleum” (the latter an homage to the late Alan Vega of Suicide). But Prophet is just as interested in the lives of people in all sorts of trouble. A single mother and a gunman unexpectedly cross paths in “Killing Machine,” the author ponders the objects of his affection in “Your Skin” and “Coming Out in Code,” the peaks and valleys of romantic relationships are examined in “Open Up Your Heart,” and the Son of God’s consumer preferences get a rundown in “Jesus Was a Social Drinker.” Prophet and his studio band (including Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and co-producers Brad Jones and Matt Winegar on various instruments) give the melodies a rich, wide-ranging sound, and Prophet has rarely been better as a vocalist, finding the right tone on every track. Along with having one of the best titles of recent memory, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” confirms that more than 25 years after making his solo debut, Chuck Prophet remains one of America’s strongest songwriters and recording artists, and he’s in great form here.

Outside (Briefly)

Froth have come a long way since their joke-band beginnings, weedy garage rock first album, and their initial foray into shoegaze on their 2014 album Bleak, which showed a great deal of promise with a batch of good songs and an impressively full sound. 2017’s Outside (Briefly) cashes in on that potential and ends up sounding like a great lost shoegaze/dream pop/experimental rock album of the early ’90s. Mixing the guitar overload of bands like My Bloody Valentine, the experimental nature of the Swirlies, and the hazy wistfulness of bands like Slowdive, Froth manage to ingest a ton of influences without sounding in thrall to any of them in particular. Lots of times on albums as stuck in the past as Outside (Briefly) is, the nostalgia factor weighs it down too much, the endless rounds of spot-the-influence make it impossible to actually enjoy the music as it happens, or the listener is so transported back in time that they’d rather listen to something old instead of the music Froth is making. None of that happens here. The band’s leader JooJoo Ashworth never succumbs to hero worship or pastiche. He and his cohorts (guitarist Nick Ventura, drummer Cameron Allen, and bassist Jeremy Katz) mix and match sounds, styles, and approaches like masters, never allowing the album to get predictable or obvious. Tracks like “Passing” defy the listener to pin down exactly what’s happening. It starts off as a raging shoegaze rocker that could have been lifted off an early Slumberland Records 45, then suddenly shifts into a droning Motorik jam where Ashworth and Ventura’s guitars noodle and dance like hippie girls at a Phish concert. After a few minutes of zoning out, the song crashes back into life before ending in a blast of feedback. It’s an exhilarating arrangement and serves notice that the band isn’t about to be pinned down. They can do slow noise rock ballads (“Petals”) that start off sparse and scattered sounding, with Ashworth’s fragile vocals up front, then finish in waves of synth strings and organ swirls or do simple blown-out shoegaze (“Romance Distractions”). They nail both abrasive JAMC-sleek rockers (“New Machine”) and fuzzy indie pop (“Sensitive Girl”) with equal aplomb. Synth pop drones (“Contact”) sound just as good as the songs that mix new wave melodies with noise pop guitars (“Show a Flower a Candle and It Grows”). Basically, everything Ashworth and crew try on Outside (Briefly) works a charm, sounding like the entire history of noisy indie pop wrapped up in one constantly surprising, effortlessly appealing ball of sound. Anyone who has a soft spot for sensitive pop songs played by loud guitars that are run through a ton of effects will want to check the album out. It may not make people forget the past mighty heroes of noise, but a few spins through Outside (Briefly) is enough to make room in the shoegaze/dream pop pantheon for Froth.

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