Another month where I haven’t listened to a great deal of new music, not a lot has come out which has interested me and I’m generally just a bit busier with work! I did squeeze in some more live music, which is an absolute fucking joy after the last 18 months, including NWOBHM band Diamond Head in one of my locals, and my first three day music festival in a couple of years, Beautiful Days near Exeter, which featured particularly outstanding sets from Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls, Levellers, Ferocious Dog, Headsticks, James and Three Daft Monkeys. I then saw Frank Turner again in the aforementioned local, playing to 250 people instead of 10,000. He’s equally at home at both…go see him if you haven’t done so before, he’s one of the best on the live circuit and an all round good egg.
An up beat synth pop album, with a few songs primed for the dance floor, Scottish band Chvrches (I’ve no idea what that ‘v’ is all about) is likely to further cement their position as one of the most promising pop acts of this generation. Lauren Mayberry’s voice is strong and helps carry the array of euphoric hooks and melodies on display (and is quite at odds with the random Robert Smith (of The Cure) duet that pops up on one track!), providing an odd juxtaposition with some of the gloomy lyrics. I find it hard to objectively review something like this, it’s not my thing at all, I can appreciate it for what it is and find it all harmlessly pleasant but it’s not something I’d go back to by choice. So 3/5
Alongside French band Alcest, Deafheaven are one of the shining lights of the blackgaze scene, an unlikely meshing of the black metal and shoegaze genres. Several years ago Alcest briefly threw the black metal out with the bathwater, releasing a pure dream pop/shoegaze album, which divided fans and saw them return to trope with the following record. 2021 and Deafheaven have largely followed suit, Infinite Granite does burst into a barrage of noise for the last couple of minutes but everything beforehand is both mellow and subdued. There are obvious similarities to early shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Ride but Deafheaven are more restrained here, it’s less a wall of noise, I could even see it appealing to the art rock Radiohead crowd. There are lots of gentle guitar melodies and subdued vocals but the songs still often build to an urgent crescendo. I’ve listened to this four or five times and am torn on it to be honest, it’s perfectly pleasant but does tend to wash over me, I’m just not finding it very memorable. For the moment it’s a 3.5/5 but time may be kind to this one. We’ll see!
Duskmourn are an American melodic folk/death metal band who have been steadily building up a bit of a reputation in the scene. This is their third album and is typical of the genre, each song has multiple strong melodies and a triumphant, energetic vibe. It occasionally breaks from the chunky, tuneful riffing to throw a bit of toe tapping acoustic folk passages at the listener and is an album which rarely stands still, with time changes galore. The musicanship is impressive and there’s plenty of invention to be found but it’s also quite a well worn sound…the vocalist in particular sounds like a 101 other metal vocalists (I really mourn the day of distinctive singers in metal!), and I did find myself tiring of it towards the back end. But for those who can’t get enough of this stuff there’s a good time to be had. 3.5/5
Ex Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine singer Jim Bob released his first album in seven years last August. So taken aback was he with the general praise and positive reviews (as well as the top 30 chart position!) he’s come back with another collection of tunes in 2021, with the usual social commentary and catchy tunes. For me, Jim is one of the greatest and most under-rated song writers Britain has ever produced and he’s knocked out another 36 minutes of pure quality here, possibly even more Carteresque than ever, although it’s rarely as raucous as some of their noisier ditties. The man simply knows how to write a tune and always has something interesting to say about society and the times we’re living in. The songs are short and snappy with infectious hooks and melodies and deserve to be heard by more people than they probably will. Although at the time of writing it’s cracked the Top 40 again, without any media attention, which will hopefully encourage him to keep at it! Album of the month for me. 4.5/5
After two multi-platinum albums and one of the biggest selling singles of all time, it’s fair to say New Zealand born singer songwriter Lorde’s third record is hotly anticipated by many. Re-uniting with producer Jack Antonoff (who has also worked with Lana del Rey, St. Vincent, Pink and Taylor Swift amongst others), the album sounds fantastic. Personally I’ve never been sold on her previous synth heavy pop work, it’s simply not for me, but here she’s written a far more indie folk, acoustic affair which appeals more. Not that she’s abandoned that pop style altogether, my interest does fluctuate, but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. It’s a laid back listen, although with a jaunty vibe, I found it a much more mature record than stuff I’ve heard from her before but it’s divided her fanbase, including a particularly peculiar Independent article, which attacks her for changing style. Putting aside the obvious fact that a 24 year old is going to be in a different place to where they were at 16, an artist owes you nothing. I’d much rather hear an honest recording than one manufactured to please. I found this quite pleasant, with overtones of Lana del Rey, and, whilst not something I’ll return to often, still a pleasant surprise. 3/5
This album came out back in June but passed me by oddly, as I’m a big fan of Laura Marling, one half of the duo which makes up Lump, alongside Mike Lindsay. Whereas Marling’s solo work is traditional folk, driven by acoustic guitar, this project is electronic in sound, still a relaxed listen but offering a distinctly different listen. It’s the beats which provide the hooks, some great bass driven tunes, predominately sedate but often with a driving rythym. There isnt much in the way of catchy choruses but the tunes themselves take root. Marling’s voice suits this stuff well, which is reminiscent of some of the electro pop of the early 80s, with a dark edge and never quite enough to be danceable. A really good listen from an unlikely pairing 4/5
British extreme metal band’s fourth record and first I’ve heard by them. It’s predominately black metal but with more than a passing nod to death; heavy riffing with some atmospheric keys and choirs, some of which really help elevate things. There are moments where both are utilised to create a soaring, raptourous sound, lifting the music up from the usual darkness, with a lot of great tremolo riffing and furious drumming. The vocalist is, once again, pretty generic but he’s fine and the whole thing is an impressive package, there’s enough going on here to keep the listener interested, the songs are varied and constantly changing pace and each has a strong undercurrent of melody beneath the pounding rythyms. Enjoyed this quite a lot, glad I happened upon it 3.5/5
A synth heavy, progressive pop album, Spelling’s third record is a pleasant affair which grew on me the more I sat with it. There are some interesting and varied melodies performed on a wide array of instrumentation (over 20 musicians are credited, including horn players, trombones, guitars, banjos, trumpets, trombones, saxophones, conga drums, violins, bassoons, flugelhorns and pianos), the songs are typically quite mellow but do build occasionally, with elements of pop, jazz, folk and electronica. It has a bit of a 70s vibe to my ears at times whilst at the same time feeling entirely modern. Spelling’s voice is rich and vibrant with a slight quirk which complements the music well, but it’s the underlying melodies which are the record’s strength. After being initially unsure that this was my cup of tea I eventually found myself warming to it considerably. 3.5/5
Must admit I baulked at some promotional blurb I read for the new Wolves in the Throne Room, which described them as a veteran black metal band…to me they’re still one of the new ones! But OK, yeah, this is their 7th record since forming in 2003, I’m just an old fart who thinks anything released past 2000 is ‘new’! I love this band, and indeed this sort of atmospheric, entrancing black metal in general. The drums are louder in the mix here than normal, the record sounds monstrous, and it’s a little scaled back, the longest track a mere ten minutes with most of them in the five to six range. They honed their craft on twenty minute epics and I think they’ve benefitted from trimming the fat, so to speak. It provides a bit more variety although stylistically nothing much has changed, it’s ferocious blast beating, gnarly vocals, high end riffing amongst crushing riffs. Despite all this, Wolves in the Throne Room produce an almost relaxing sound, this isn’t an aggressive record, nor is any of their work, just something which you can sit back and get swallowed up by. It has a very earthy, natural feel, close your eyes and you’re in dusk laden woods by a crackling fire, getting lost in the moment. It’s a brilliant album in a year which has been really impressive for black metal, these veterans of the scene still proving they have plenty to say…4.5/5