Good afternoon dear readers and welcome to another edition of Tracks! This week saw the return of Gengahr, two years on from the release of their debut album ‘A Dream Outside’, which dwarfed all expectations. Now they’re gearing up for a second, and with their comeback single they’re promising a wide open door which could lead anywhere. Intriguing stuff. Maggie Rogers, on the other hand, has announced that she’s taking a break (boo!) but has done so by releasing yet another colossal slice of pop (yay!)
Meanwhile, Shame delivered another blackened piece of post-punk, Angel Olsen went a long way to proving that her B-sides and rarities are just as stellar in quality as her A material, Will Wiesenfeld, better known as Baths, returned with a pop track with a grand twist, and former Dum Dum Girl Kristin Kontrol returned a year on from her debut album with a hint at what’s to come.
For our verdicts on all of this week’s biggest and most exciting tracks, all you need to do is scroll down. And if you’re itching to check out everything else out this week, step this way for DIY’s Listening Hub, and our Essential Playlist.
Gengahr – Carrion
When Gengahr’s comeback single ‘Carrion’ rolls into life, the most noticeable change from their brilliant debut ‘A Dream Outside’ is the vocals of Felix Bushe. His floaty falsetto has become a snarling, swaggering voice, recalling Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox in its new-found twang.
It provides a base on which the band take their sound to darker, heavier places. Stabs of John Victor’s guitar battle with an increasingly strong rhythm section before a swirling storm of a chorus barges down the door.
Rising and falling across its length, ‘Carrion’ feels like it’s building towards something, and a second album that widens Gengahr’s horizons significantly. It’s true within the song itself too - ‘Carrion’ folds out into the band’s dirtiest guitar solo yet, a towering riff that sees them embracing the creepy darkness that only a song named after roadkill could bring.
As a first taster of Gengahr’s second album, ‘Carrion’ ticks all the boxes, while leaving the door wide open for what to expect from ‘A Dream Outside”s follow-up. A very welcome return. (Will Richards)
Maggie Rogers – Split Stones
Like her breakthrough track, ‘Alaska’, Maggie Rogers’ ‘Split Stones’ is built from field recordings harvested on a hiking trip - this time, to Oregon. It’s a foundation that conjures up endless images of Maggie running around the wilderness holding a dictaphone and hitting various things with a stick, but this aside, the Marylander has a special knack for making it all sound sleek and percussive, carving a clean pop song out of the most basic natural origins; even her own breath becoming an instrument .
According to Maggie this latest track is her last before taking a break; presumably to write new material that reflects her incredible rise over the last year. She wrote the song back in college (long before the fabled seminar in which she played her music to a one Pharrell Williams) and with a lyrical urge to seize every chance - “if you would only move like you had something to lose,” she urges- it’s a fitting farewell for now from one of 2017’s brightest talents. (El Hunt)
Angel Olsen – Special
When a band or artist announces that they’ll be releasing an album of rarities and B-sides, there’s the tendency to simply assume that, even if it is a solid collection, it won’t be packed with their A material. Angel Olsen seems determined to challenge that presumption. After releasing her album ‘MY WOMAN’ little more than a year ago, she’s gearing up to release a compilation of rare tracks, ‘Phases’.
Leading off the collection is a pair of tunes: ‘Fly On The Wall’, a number originally released as part of Secretly Canadian’s ‘Our First 100 Days’, and ‘Special’, a track originating from the ‘MY WOMAN’ sessions. It’s a robust testament to how strong Olsen’s last album was that ‘Special’ didn’t quite make the cut, because it more than lives up to its name. It’s a bit more lo-fi than what came from that record, propelling itself on rough-strewn guitar melodies and slightly fuzzed-out vocals, but it’s no less emotionally engaging, even from its very first lines: “Want to be someone special/ Something like your mother/ Want to be someone else”. ‘Special’ is proof that, even when it comes to her B-sides, Angel is at the top of her game. (Eugenie Johnson)
Baths – Yeoman
Earlier in the year, LA-based Will Wiesenfeld, better known as Baths, composed the theme tune for the bizarre, bonkers yet brilliant game ‘Dream Daddy’ (where yes, you can romance your very own dream daddy). Perhaps you wouldn’t think that ‘Dream Daddy’ would be a springboard into what to expect from Baths on his follow-up to 2013’s ‘Obsidian’ and the ‘Ocean Death’ EP. Then again, Wiesenfeld says himself that he feels a deep emotional connection to anime, games, books and comics, which has fed into his new material: “I wanted to be honest with myself that this is where my heart lies and where I get the most emotion out of life”.
So the first taste we get from his upcoming new record ‘Romaplasm’ is ‘Yeoman’, a track that’s almost exactly like the “buoyant waltz” Wiesenfeld references in the lyrics. That short initial burst of portentous, stately brass is something of a red herring, an overture for what’s to come. ‘Yeoman’ is light to the touch, filled with bouncy, spring-like electronics, strings and glitchy, vintage elements that could have been taken from the sound board of a Sega Genesis.
Fittingly, it’s all accompanied by a sweeping tale that could have been plucked straight from an RPG. Even the first lines could have been spoken by a eagerly adventurous ‘Final Fantasy’ character: “Man it’s good to see you/ This must be the airship/ And are these your fellow crew”. From there we’re guided through romantic visions (“we’ll follow where the moons move”, “gliding in the dark on an endless sea”) that capture the spirit of embarking upon a relationship. It’s a dazzling slice of pop, emblazoned with a deep sense of grandeur. (Eugenie Johnson)
Shame – Concrete
After crashing their way through a summer of non-stop festivals, across the UK and spilling across to Mainland Europe, Shame have made another claim for the title of Britain’s best new rock band. Appropriately titled new single ‘Concrete’ is the strongest they’ve ever sounded, a vicious, blackened blend of post-punk and noise.
Call-and-response vocals in the track’s frenetic verse just get more vicious and out of control, with the track teetering on the edge of destruction. Shame are making their name on the live circuit currently, and ‘Concrete’ is the best example yet of them matching this promise on record, and recreating their undeniable live firepower. (Will Richards)
Kristin Kontrol – Concrete Love
Last year, Kristin Gundred shed her Dum Dum Girls persona of Dee Dee and took on a new moniker: Kristin Kontrol. Signalling a shift into a new chapter of music, she later released her first album under the new name, ‘X-Communicate’, a collection of often vintage synth-pop gems that were less about shoegaze and rock, and more about unleashing her inner Janet Jackson or Madonna.
What also characterised ‘X-Communicate’ though was its often icy exterior, characterised by glacial electronics and crisp beats, and only the occasional guitar riff. On her new track ‘Concrete Love’ though, Kristin maintains those pop-centric elements while also thawing the ice a little bit. The arpeggiated beats and rhythms in the background are still angular and the tones still frosty, but something about the way that they meld together into a sweeping wave makes them just a bit warmer than anything that appeared on ‘X-Communicate’.
Like its title suggests, it’s a track that sees Kristin delicately balancing elements of hard and soft, harsh and tender, making it an intriguing glimpse into what she might have in store for a second solo album. (Eugenie Johnson)