Good afternoon dear readers and a very happy Friday to you! Here’s a teatime teaser for you: is it actually possible for Wolf Alice to throw us any more curveballs? The answer, if their latest track is anything to go by, is a definite yes. They’ve gone a little bit funky with their latest but, as predicted, it’s still glorious.
Speaking of fire tracks, Dream Wife have gifted us with a studio version of a track that’s been setting their live sets alight for some time now, and it’s every bit as explosively giddy as you want it to be. If you need even more playful, sunny tunes in your life though, then Weezer have once again managed to squeeze the essence of the sunshine state into a vitamin-packed three and a half minutes with the new one from their upcoming LP ‘Pacific Daydream’.
Elsewhere, Julien Baker takes full control on the first track from her new, sophomore record, James Holden has expanded his and is searches for a “psychic connection” between them on his return and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is continuing to map the cognitive development of humans through her music. Last but not least, producer Shigeto nods to the deep musical heritage of Detroit while maintaining his own sound for his new jazz-inflected cut.
Wolf Alice – Beautifully Unconventional
It’d be pretty tough, one would have thought, for Wolf Alice to throw us a curveball. By the time they released their debut album they had, after all, already mastered the art of turning from thrash-out riffs to quiet introspection on a sixpence (via a handful of lighters-aloft indie anthems, no less). And from the first two snippets of ‘Visions of a Life’ - the ruthless ‘Yuk Foo’ and smouldering ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, it was fair to assume its follow-up would be on the same path.
Then comes ‘Beautifully Unconventional’. Clean and funky, it’s Wolf Alice, but not as we know them. As to whether that’s due to the influence of producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen or just a pre-existing affinity for indie’s favourite weirdo, there’s more than a smidgen of Beck to the track, especially in the ‘Dreams’-like scratchy guitar riff. Keep surprising us, Wolf Alice. (Emma Swann)
Dream Wife – Fire
Across their last two singles, Dream Wife have become a heavier, more dangerous and vastly more important band. ‘FUU’, all Spice Girls-references and cut-throat demands, was the first proof that the trio can be a truly intense prospect. Its follow-up, ‘Somebody’, took aim at slut-shaming and rape culture, providing a perfectly delivered commentary on an increasingly prevalent issue.
On ‘Fire’, though, the band rekindle some of the youthful giddiness and abandon that peppered their ‘EP01’. A staple of their live sets for coming up to 18 months now, ‘Fire’ shows the interplay and chemistry between the trio at its absolute best.
Rakel Mjöll dances around Alice Go’s ever-intricate guitar lines, and its chorus explodes like a thud to the heart. ‘Fire’ moves Dream Wife further forward, showing them to be a thoroughly versatile and brilliant band. Not that it was ever in doubt, mind. (Will Richards)
Weezer – Mexican Fender
If the rest of Weezer’s eleventh studio effort sounds as gloriously sunny as ‘Mexican Fender’ (or, for that matter the suitably-titled ‘Feels Like Summer’) then there’s no wonder they’ve opted for the title ‘Pacific Daydream’. This is a story that - to this inhabitant of our rainy island, at least - could only exist on the West Coast.
‘Mexican Fender’ distils the sunshine state into a perfect three-and-a-half minute slice of giddy, upbeat power-pop, sprinkling Weezer’s trademark “oohs” all over, and has a smattering of self-awareness (“she loves me, she loves me, she loves me not…” perhaps being a knowing throwback to their lovelorn lyrics of years past). It’s time to get excited about Weezer once more. (Emma Swann)
LCD Soundsystem - tonite
Some things just never change, do they? But we can take comfort in the fact that wherever he finds himself, James Murphy will always be getting older. Because on ‘tonite’, that faithful crux of many-an- LCD track feels far from a broken record – his middle aged musings more astute and well-rounded than certain factions of his peer group (ahem). Those indirect
addresses that sound both universal and hyper-specific at the same time never cease to resonate in a uniquely James Murphy way, and that bodes very well indeed for their forthcoming return.
With things ramping up before next month’s release of ‘American Dream’, ‘tonite’ is the clearest sign yet that all of the old LCD Soundsystem magic is present and correct. Indebted to the post-disco fusion of early 80’s New York – its elastic, locomotive bassline provides the foundation for the kind of off-kilter, groove-laden track the group cut its teeth on. The opening chugs along sounding like Eddy Grant’s ‘Time Warp’ after a Xanax, but builds into something so much grander, laced with flickering guitars, lush chords, and spiralling synthesisers. It feels effortlessly euphoric in a way only LCD Soundsystem could pull off. (Liam McNeilly)
Julien Baker - Appointments
Julien Baker’s debut LP ‘Sprained Ankle’ was an astonishingly fragile collection, with the Nashville singer’s voice feeling like it could snap at any second. The tales of religion, depression and heartbreak were simply stunning though, making her, in a lot of instances, your favourite singer’s favourite singer (Jesse Lacey covered the album’s title track at a batch of Brand New gigs last year).
‘Appointments’ is the first single from its follow-up ‘Turn Out The Lights’, and while it doesn’t lighten the mood from ‘Sprained Ankle’, it presents a more confident, controlled songwriter.
Though still tackling self-loathing and depression, Baker feels in complete control, convinced that her songs are resonating with thousands of others like here. She’s right.
A crippling final line - “Maybe it’s all gonna turn out all right / And I know that it’s not / But I have to believe that it is” - serves as Julien Baker’s mission statement, and even if there’s only scraps of hope to be found in these places, there’s a brilliant catharsis gained from laying out such pains, both for artist and listener. (Will Richards)
James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through The Fire
It’s been four years since producer James Holden released his last album ‘The Inheritors’ but now he’s due to return – and he’s brought a new, expanded band along with him. The Animal Spirits are a collective force that’s grown from the live touring outfit he’s taken around the world; there’s long-time collaborators Tom Page and Etienne Jaumet, as well as Marcus Hamblett, Liza Blec and Lascelle Gordon in the mix. Perhaps unsurprisingly given their antecedence as a touring group, their upcoming, semi-self-titled new album ‘The Animal Spirits’ is attempting to capture that same live spirit, with the record being recorded in just one room in single, uninterrupted takes with no edits and no redubs.
Part of the raw energy that Holden and his band have attempted to achieve with the record comes from attempting to grasp a kind of “psychic communication” between each member of the band. It’s this heightened form of understanding and musical symbiosis that really shows itself on the album’s lead track, ‘Pass Through The Fire’. Its pulse originally grew out of a trip Holden took to Morocco to work with Maalem Mahmoud Guinia, a legend of Gnawa music (a type of ancient African Islamic spiritual song that also combines traditional music and dancing), and the hypnotic beat-driven spine forms a foundation for hypnotic sax loops, swirling synths and more.
It’s the culmination of Holden’s vision to have each element of the band combine together and reveal themselves as players across the backbone of a song, rather than the other way round. But while each element gets its own unique room to breathe within the euphoria, every aspect that’s introduced and is given the limelight helps to form a unified whole. Across six minutes, Holden and his band capture the spiritual and the danceable with seemingly effortless vibrancy. (Eugenie Johnson)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – To Follow and Lead
On her upcoming new album ‘The Kid’, due out on 6th October via Western Vinyl, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is planning to span four cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan. In doing so, she’ll cover two LPs, and four sides, in which we’ll be taken on a journey from being a new-born through to later life.
With the album’s lead single ‘An Intention’, Kaitlyn captured the sense of ignorance that comes with not being aware of one’s surroundings, the music becoming ever-more distorted as the child’s awareness of the world grew. On new track ‘To Follow And Lead’, she’s skipped a phase, landing in the third stage of awareness in which a person starts unravelling their own personality through experimenting, following and discovering new things. As a result, Kaitlyn’s track displays a kind of playfulness associated with early development, carrying itself on blocky, childlike percussion before blossoming into an alt-electro-pop stomper. With its introduction of strident synths and other soundscapes, it builds on its initial foundation, breaking free from the template and experimenting to find its own definitive path. In that way, it perfectly reflects the stage of development that it’s based on, marking another success for Kaitlyn’s mapping of cognition through sound. (Eugenie Johnson)
Shigeto – Detroit Part II
In the past century, the city of Detroit has been responsible for the rise of some of the most iconic sounds in popular music – not least because it was the birthplace of a little subgenre and label known as Motown. But it’s also had a huge hand in the formation of the sounds associated with techno, with some of the genre’s most iconic artists – Juan Atkins and Derrick May among them – hailing from the city (and indeed the same school, Belleville High).
Four years on from the release of his last LP ‘No Better Time Than Now’, producer Zach Saginaw, better known as Shigeto, has come to become part of the fabric of Detroit’s music scene, having had a stint in New York. As such, his upcoming album ‘The New Monday’ is set to be more about the city’s community than anything else – even its title is named after the DJ event that Saginaw runs in the Motor City alongside a group of friends.
But with such a rich musical heritage to mine, crafting an album that nods to the records that have helped put the city on the sonic map isn’t an easy task. Yet, with its lead single ‘Detroit Part II’, Saginaw subtly nods to the creativity of the metropolis while also maintaining his core sound. Harnessing beats that wouldn’t be out of place on a techno track and lowering the BPM somewhat, Saginaw weaves a slow-burning track that propels itself on an elastic bassline and, in its dusty percussive elements, gives a little nod to hip hop too. Just to top it off, saxophonist Marcus Elliot provides those added smooth jazz vibes that punctuates the track, a staple of much of Shigeto’s work. It’s a sophisticated slice of genre-bending electronica that’s all Shigeto’s own, but that also serves as an introduction to his musical ode to the city. (Eugenie Johnson)