Issue Twelve: Tim Smith, Shirley Collins and one hundred albums weâ€™ve loved this year.
Primal Scream Chaosmosis
The Avalanches Wildflower
The Divine Comedy Foreverland
DIIV Is The Is Are
Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
Cavern Of Anti-Matter void beats/ invocation trex
Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998 - 2016
Martha Wainwright Goodnight City
Deluxe. Welcome to Deluxe. This is a special edition of the magazine. Whereas normally we look solely at the bricks and mortar buildings, their racks, their walls and the people that frequent them, this issue is specifically about the CDs and records that fill them. Itâ€™s the end of term review. We have listed our favourite one hundred albums released in 2016 and told you a little about why we like each of them.
Another amazing set of albums this year, these really are salad days at the Record Shop. Wherever you find yourself, keep shopping.
Interviewed, edited and compiled by The Drift Record Shop. Cover photograph by Jay Bing Sub edited by Louise Overy Printed by Newspaper Club Distributed by Forte Music Distribution www.fortedistribution.co.uk / 01600 891589
Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of this newspaper, the publishers cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of information or any consequence arising from it. Published in Devon by The Drift Record Shop. ÂŠ2016
Elsewhere in this issue, we had the chance to speak to one of our most favourite music makers in Tim Smith, formerly of Midlake. We were also thrilled to have good friend and Sea Change alumnus Alasdair Roberts interview Shirley Collins about her new album.
100 LUH Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing LUH (it stands for Lost Under Heaven) is Ellery Roberts and Ebony Hoorn. Admittedly speaking as big WU LYF fans (Ellery used to front them), we got into this instantly and played it a lot over the last six months. Euphoric, spiritual, primal, epic, intimate, it really is an album with plenty to it, especially the balance between Ellery’s raw vocals and Ebony’s ghostly counterpoint. There is a third factor here at play, production from The Haxan Cloak, some of his most accessible work... but that’s not to say there aren’t some moments of pure black.
99 King Gizzard And the Lizard Wizard Nonagon Infinity Nonagon Infinity is the eighth studio album in just over four years from the psychedelic and mind-melting King Gizzard And the Lizard Wizard. Musically it is another rich melding of styles, but there is no dabbling, the sincerity is key. In keeping with their indefatigable spirit, the album may be the world’s first infinitely looping LP. Each of the nine, complex, blistering tracks on Nonagon Infinity seamlessly flows into the next, with the final song linking straight back into the top of the opener like a sonic mobius strip. Keep spinning.
Douglas Dare Aforger
The Range Potential
Aforger is the second album from Londoner Douglas Dare and is 100% about his wonderful voice. The album sets his original poems to deep and spacious music, grand sweeping pianos and scuttling drum beats alongside brass and choirs, it is really quite maximal in its intimacy. The album was mixed at the iconic Abbey Road Studios and produced by long-time collaborator and Dare’s live drummer, Fabian Prynn. His debut sat very much in the post James Blake/ Anohni landscape, and although chilling and beautiful, the progression with Aforger has elevated the young songwriter very much into his own realm. Lyrically there is a touch of Jeff Buckley, and at its more sombre even Mark Hollis, but to overly compare is unfair as he really does have a beautiful voice quite of his own.
Potential is a dreamlike experience, NY- based musician James Hinton (aka The Range) crafting instrumental hip-hop, dubstep and twinkling electro-pop, all whilst eavesdropping on forgotten conversations through a haze. Potential uses as its backbone a series of vocal samples that Hinton found in the forgotten corners of YouTube. Around these voices, Hinton built the songs, looping piano tones, pulsing drum sounds and tightly sequenced synths. Most admirably, Hinton tracked down the forgotten sources of his YouTube samples and signed them on for a share of his publishing.
97 Teleman Brilliant Sanity Brilliant Sanity is the second album from Londoners Teleman, a band we’re really into. At its core it is meticulously created pop songs, and we mean that very literally, it sounds like they have gone quite mad in the rehearsal room with the tempos. Lots of pop cues from the last few decades, ranging from the off-kilter rhythms and deliveries of Sparks to the explosive and tense guitar work of a young Foals or Bloc Party. The most admirable quality is that they have taken ownership of it all, they sound exactly like Teleman and that is dead good fun.
95 Sturgill Simpson A Sailor’s Guide To Earth A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is Sturgill Simpson’s follow-up to the 2014 album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Our friends at Loose Music introduced us to Sturgill some years back with the simple assurance that “he’s the real deal”... he’s that and then some. Although he has THE classic country voice and sure-fire grit delivery, it’s his willingness to experiment with the psychedelic that really elevates him. A fine modern country record from the genre’s charismatic (and utterly deserved) poster boy.
94 exmagician Scan The Blue Belfast duo exmagician create a heady mix of guitars meeting synths and spiralling threads of psychedelia. Scan The Blue is the latest musical incarnation of longtime collaborators Danny Todd and James Smith, the songwriter partnership previously behind (David Holmes-produced) Cashier No.9. Although they’ve been around, it is easy to forget that this is a debut record, and there is supreme confidence to move fluidly between a wide range of influences. He’s not there, but the shadow of David Holmes feels present in the best possible way.
93 THROWS Throws THROWS is a new pop duo, but neither new to us or to each other, as the two halves are Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders of the muchloved Tunng. Nearly ten years after the release of Tunng’s third album Good Arrows and the last time the partnership was let loose together - comes THROWS; the sound of two old friends and collaborators reconnecting, catching up on each other’s lives and creating ideas on an enchanting island. Such a great organic flow to this, you can really lock into the songs.
Shearwater Jet Plane and Oxbow
Margo Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Jet Plane and Oxbow is the third Sub Pop LP from Jonathan Meiburg’s (formerly of Okkervil River) Shearwater. It’s as close as he has come to all-out 1980s rock and roll, a stadium-sized record from a band who are just as adept whispering it in a mid-sized dive bar. It’s produced by Danny Reisch and arranged by Brian Reitzell, who both have helped retain Shearwater’s wit and charm whilst pumping it with lofty euphoria. Recorded in very humble studios but handled so well it sounds like a million dollars.
Debut album from Margo Price on Jack White’s Third Man Records. Recorded at the legendary Sun Studios, it’s a very traditional take on country and western music. It is brutally honest, with Price recalling hardships and heartaches, but without self-pity or sentimentalism; you get the sense that it just happened the way she sings it. Old-school honky tonk and heart-weary ballads always centred around her voice, very much the modern day Loretta or Dolly. Opening track Hands Of Time explains it all, listen to that alone and you’ll be hooked to her story.
91 Ty Segall Emotional Mugger January’s Record of the Month was Ty Garrett Segall’s Emotional Mugger. He is pretty much the most prolific artist around right now, but his garage jams are always finding new space, new hooks and new gnarl. Emotional Mugger is a real treat, loads of psych influences, from Paisley through to face-melting riffs. Of his eight solo albums, this is perhaps the most uneasy sounding - it’s kind of schizophrenic, dicing from song to song, and definitely a career turning point where Ty is analysing what he is doing and deciding on where he is going. It’s about stories, feelings and wild experimentalism. As with each of the last few years, Ty appears again in this top 100 albums list.
89 Ben Lukas Boysen Spells Berlin-based composer, producer and sound designer Ben Lukas Boysen’s new LP, Spells, on the always-essential Erased Tapes. Boysen is classically trained since the age of seven, the son of an opera singer and something of a protégé of Nils Frahm. Spells is beautiful, stirring piano meditations, very filmic. The production is masterful, gentle bubbling electronics really bedding in the huge piano chords and delicate reverbs. The eight tracks bleed into one piece, seamless and evocative, it demands to be listened to as a whole.
Luke Roberts Sunlit Cross
Grumbling Fur Furfour
Sunlit Cross is the third album from Luke Roberts, and it is a masterclass in understated heartbreak. The gently strummed and picked laments are occasionally augmented with a fuller band (including guest vocals and banjo from Kurt Vile on Silver Chain); the way they frame Roberts’ vocals are mesmerising, it is not simple arrangement at all, it is just perfectly subtle. Narratively it is about leading simpler lives, and draws on his experiences in Cambodia, Thailand and eventually Kenya. Only three albums in but already a balladeer of high calibre.
Furfour is the fourth album from the London duo Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan under the name Grumbling Fur. As crowded as their music is with instruments and ideas, Grumbling Fur, and Furfour especially, does not sound like a collision of sensibilities, it is rather a dense musical partnership of exploration. Since NME got hold of the word psychedelic, it’s become identified with guitars and haircuts. Grumbling Fur go a very long way to reclaiming the ideals around the expansion of consciousness… it is a sonic trip in the most fertile and embracing way.
Released on Daptone’s new WICK Records imprint, The Mystery Lights’ self-titled debut album is full of garage shapes, but the musicianship is way tight… more the kind of precision you’d expect in the Daptone studio down the hall. There’s a stoned, analogue atmosphere hanging over everything, but not to the detriment of getting shit done, they are determined and the music has a well-seasoned hardness, especially for a debut. Plenty of fuzz, but it is not hiding anything.
87 Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band The Rarity of Experience Pts. I & II Few bands command such instant and addictive groove as Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band. The Rarity of Experience Pts. I & II is a double album, a set of innovative and wildly creative improvisations. Each song (or movement) is a total trip, balancing out winding progressive 1970s rock and roll with today’s experimentalism perfectly. Although full of sonic headspace, this collection is the most focused set of compositions Forsyth has produced - the band are seriously on point here.
The Mystery Lights The Mystery Lights
DJ Shadow The Mountain Will Fall
Merchandise A Corpse Wired For Sound
The Mountain Will Fall is the fifth album (and first in five years) from DJ Shadow. There are some amazing samples in there (the title track is incredible for one), but he has definitely and very deliberately shifted further toward original composition and textures. There is a rich palette of beats and synths, and the balance between experimentalism and cohesion is really strong. Features guest spots from Run The Jewels, Nils Frahm, Matthew Halsall, Ernie Fresh and more.
In many ways, A Corpse Wired For Sound signals a new chapter for Merchandise. For their second album on 4AD (sixth studio album in their career), Merchandise have stripped back to a core trio, and their hardcore roots have developed to include noise and ambience. There is a lot of control across the songs, perhaps as a result of recording in a ‘proper’ studio for the first time, but the biggest step up since last they were on record is the conviction. There is much opportunity for chest pounding and half the record sounds like The Cult… that is intended as a high compliment.
82 Not Waving Animals Alessio Natalizia has previously put out records as Banjo or Freakout and as half of Walls, so plenty of you are going to really like this, even if you have not come across the Not Waving name before. Animals is built on beats, hard electronic beats that recall some of the genre’s earlier moments. With the beats locked in, there is plenty of space to pull in other tones, from the more minimal synth leads to the churning and over-driven Dario Argento and John Carpenter-inspired textures. Inventive with gestures towards punk.
81 Savages Adore Life Sophomore album from the inimitable Savages. Adore Life is thrillingly hard and loud, definitely the hardest and most intimidating album about love that we’ve heard this year or for many years. Their connection with their fanbase is feversome, they launched the record to a sold-out building on London’s Oxford Street at 8am. They are so legit, talking candidly about love and sex and their own shortcomings with such a brilliant fury. Savages, for our money, are one of the most important and singular bands to come out of this country in years. Adore Life is brutal and honest.
The Early Years II
Karl Blau Introducing Karl Blau
Almost ten years since they released their self-titled debut on Beggars Banquet, The Early Years returned this year with a brand new album called, simply, II. It is an absolute gem, kraut-psych with supreme confidence... Sounds like loads of stuff we like from the last 35 years... and doing that with your own swagger is no mean feat. A gap of close to a decade between releases is very rarely a good sign, but II has the sound of an album that was released when it was ready, and not particularly affected by anything around it.
Introducing Karl Blau is the enigmatic vocalist’s new vision of country music. A Northwest indie hero, Blau channels darkness and hope in a cinematic collection of Nashville country hits from the 60s and 70s. Produced by Tucker Martine, the record features performances by Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Laura Veirs, Jon Hyde, Eli Moore (Lake) and Steve Moore (Earth, SunnO)))) among others. A real time capsule collection with sublime production, right up our street. He might have made a more Lambchop album than Lambchop this year...
79 The Lucid Dream Compulsion Songs Compulsion Songs is the third album from Carlisle’s The Lucid Dream. They still have their feet in the space-rock-psychedelic wasteland... but their minds are open and there is so much going on. Kraut, jangle pop, synth tones and some brilliantly unpredictable rhythm changes. Hell of a band, and as the album stops with the eleven minute Epitaph, and the sound rumbles on into the distance, the Lucid Dream feels like just that: a dream of incendiary highs, it’s all about the ever increasing reverb, the building layers and finally seeing the horizon.
77 King Creosote Astronaut Meets Appleman Astronaut Meets Appleman follows King Creosote’s breakthrough record From Scotland With Love and his Mercurynominated collaboration with Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine. Amazing delivery and such deft production, the silence and air in the room are as important as anything else. He can control proceedings with his broad Fife whisper and his wit, but when he wants to raise the heartbeat, the results are positively anthemic. Charming and lovely.
76 Julia Jacklin Don’t Let The Kids Win
75 Allah-Las Calico Review
Don’t Let The Kids Win is the highly anticipated debut album from Australian Julia Jacklin. It sounds the least like any debut this year, the production is really measured but the delivery is just another level, Julia is a ready-made finished product. Her vocals are amazing, such a swoon to them and the funny part is that she’s able to deliver some confessional gut punches but you hardly notice under the charm of her drawl. Broadly, it is a country record with indie guitar jam hooks but seriously now, it is all about Julia front and centre singing songs. She’s going to be a huge breakout off the back of this record.
Calico Review is the third LP from Californians Allah-Las and their first with Mexican Summer. The album was recorded in the Valentine Recording Studio in LA, which had been out of use since 1979 - this is perhaps the narrative of the album. Plenty of melancholy and plenty of nods to decades gone, but there is no sentimentalism, no imitation or posturing, it is delivered with a lot of authenticity. It’s got touches of sunshine rock and roll that could be then or could be now... not really the point, we’re pretty sure that’s just how they sound.
The Comet Is Coming Channel The Spirits
Howes 3.5 Degrees
There are few bands who genuinely sound like a cosmic odyssey... “Great fire will fall from the sky, the cause will appear both stupefying and marvellous. Very soon after, the earth will tremble.” The Londonbased three-piece The Comet Is Coming make some serious funkexperimentalist pathways with their debut album Channel The Spirits, whipping up a fusion of jazz, Afrobeat and electronica that Sun Ra himself would approve of. Deservedly nominated, these guys would have torn the Mercury Awards a brand new Black Hole.
3.5 Degrees is beautiful organicsounding electronic music from 22-year-old mastermind John Howes. It’s all created and recorded pretty much verbatim into a cassette machine, some really wonderful wooze here. Howes played a full modular synth set (in a church) at our Sea Change festival and melted some minds. It’s an album that we’ve gone back to more than perhaps any other this year.
74 Kate Tempest Let Them Eat Chaos Kate Tempest is someone we like a lot, and her new LP Let Them Eat Chaos is a peach. Her first album with new label partner Fiction picks up where her previous left off, combining her razor-sharp lyrics (that flow as adeptly as her brilliant literary works), her uber-smart performances and so much charm. It’s harsher this time out, more aggressive as a record. The production is all wrapped around her vocals (rightly so) but with a lot of fury there, it’s quite volatile.
71 Meilyr Jones 2013 Back in 2013, Meilyr Jones found himself at a personal and creative crossroads. He decamped to Rome, and 2013 is the album that documents it all. We always go wild for psychedelic pop music from the Welsh fields, but Meilyr is especially cosmic, and his mind-bending chamber pop sits alongside the Cymraeg royalty Euros Childs and Gruff Rhys. Plenty of euphoria and it’s beautifully balanced against the horn-laden moments of introspection. One of 2016’s most explosive, bold and joyous debt albums… albeit titled 2013. Fun fact: Meilyr bought and signed his own record from our pop-up shop in the summer, but forgot to pay and subsequently gave the LP to someone else. Lucky, he’d charmed us sufficiently to chalk it up to experience. You are absolved Jones.
70 Ash Koosha I AKA I An amazing canvas of sonic textures. I AKA I is the first album on Ninja Tune from Iranian-born, Londonbased electronic musician Ash Koosha. The broad methodology is breaking down samples into almost unrecognizable sounds and beeps before layering them back up into melodies and beats. The creativity here is almost boundless, the notions of song and structure are rigid things that has no bearing on this deconstruction of dance music. Never straightforward but sonically immense when you lock into it.
64 Anna Meredith Varmints Varmints is Anna Meredith’s first fully independent release on Moshi Moshi and is pretty explosive stuff, some incredible ideas hurtling around. She’s a fascinating one: her dizzying CV includes being Composer In Residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, writing a piece for MRI scanner, soundtracking Prada’s Spring / Summer 2015 campaign, symphonies created for nursery children, music for park benches in Hong Kong and sleep-pods in Singapore. Seriously innovative pop music, not following any furrow long enough to be defined before flying off through time and space… all of this without being jarring. Quite brilliant, quite bizarre.
69 School of Seven Bells SVIIB School of Seven Bells were a band that we really like a lot and will miss for sure. At one point a three-piece, they have more recently been a two-piece, until 2012 when founding member Benjamin Curtis was diagnosed with lymphoma and died the following year. From all that sadness comes something powerful and beautiful. Alejandra Deheza has made one last brilliant gesture with SVIIB, emotionally charged and an album that explodes, euphoric and sad in equal measures. There have been few albums this year where you can palpably feel how emotionally tense the recording must have been. A beautiful eulogy.
63 Boys Forever Boys Forever August’s Record of the Month was multi-instrumentalist Patrick Doyle’s debut as Boys Forever. Without a doubt one of the year’s most instantly addictive records; bittersweet, melancholic, ludicrously catchy and full of acid-tongued pop bangers. Having been a member of various bands for over a decade, Boys Forever is Doyle’s first solo project. Though born from disillusionment and despair and the insecurities of a brand new start, the resulting album is paradoxically sparky, gorgeous, swooning garage-pop, a perfect balance of bitter and sweet, happy and sad.
68 PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project PJ Harvey, one of the most consistently vital, evolving and important artists of the last few decades, returned this year with The Hope Six Demolition Project. It draws from several journeys undertaken by Harvey, who spent time in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, D.C. over a four-year period before recording last year in residency at London’s Somerset House. The album feels like part of the whole process: writing it was the start of the journey, recording it was the grand experiment and it is perhaps where she goes next that is most exciting. Angry in places, raucous and funny too, but always held together by her deft touch and delivery.
62 Brian Eno The Ship The Ship is Brian Eno’s first solo record since 2012’s Grammynominated LUX. It was originally conceived from experiments with three-dimensional recording techniques, and formed in two interconnected parts. It’s very much about feeling, it sounds not much like anything else (even from his own catalogue), it’s all about immersive listening and sensation. The Ship is broken into four tracks that more or less flow into one fluid 48-minute suite of music, guided by Eno’s rich baritone vocals and Peter Serafinowicz’s perfect guest diction. Well worth the required attention.
Chris Cohen As If Apart
Hinds Leave Me Alone
As If Apart is the new album from Chris Cohen, former contributing member of Deerhoof, The Curtains and Cryptacize, and former touring player of Cass McCombs, Haunted Graffiti and Danielson. A mix of classic melancholy singer-songwriter, country rock and roll jams, and weird choppy pop rhythms. It doesn’t necessarily sound like any time period, it just definitely doesn’t sound like it was made now. You can easily imagine it transpiring that it was made thirty years ago... like a dreamy long lost gem.
Our very first record of the week for 2016 way back at the start of January was the debut album from Madrid four piece Hinds, big-time hurtling pop jams. Since bursting onto the DIY scene last summer, Hinds - Ana Perrote, Carlotta Cosials, Ade Martin and Amber Grimbergen - have mastered a raw and playful sound all their own, genuinely unaffected garage-pop. The production (from Diego García of The Parrots) is tight and keeps the tension, but Leave Me Alone has just enough shambles to it to keep things loose and full of the sort of energy you’d expect live.
61 Be One One is a four-track album that imagines the sound of British summertime as heard by one of the most important members of the animal kingdom - the bee. Kev Bales and Tony Foster have created something wonderfully beautiful and woozy, utterly hypnotic. There is something in the tone and frequency that is transcendentally beautiful and quite overwhelming. One is the soundtrack to artist Wolfgang Buttress’s multiple award-winning UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo – an installation that highlighted the plight of the honeybee. Features guest appearances from Jason Pierce, Youth, cellist Deidre Bencsik, vocalist Camille Buttress and amiina.
60 Melt Yourself Down Last Evenings On Earth Melt Yourself Down are explosive. The jazz-psych supergroup honestly have few peers, blending decades of multi-discipline jazz, psychedelia, afrobeat and their own kind of freak out... it is just such addictive – bodyshaking - listening. Last Evenings On Earth is super gratifying on the surface, with loads of subtlety to check out on repeat listens. Few records manage to balance the abilities of keeping things tight, controlled and tense whilst disappearing off into uncharted territories. It’s not just that they are good, it’s that they are fearless.
65 Pill Convenience Andrew Savage from Parquet Courts tipped us off about Pill when we spoke in Deluxe earlier this year. It’s an LP we’ve kept going back to. Convenience is a record, as Pill are a band, that is super hard to pin down. You can call them No wave, post-punk, noise; they are immune, content to head off in a direction of their own design. There are some moments of supreme freak out, the saxophone really wails, but also some mellow moments where they comfortably idle around garage and post-punk shapes. They are so genuinely punk, this is endlessly creative and wildly exciting music made only for the sake of making it... and that is pretty rare these days.
59 Car Seat Headrest Teens of Denial Teens of Denial is the thirteenth album in Car Seat Headrest’s (aka 23-yearold Will Toledo) highly prolific oeuvre, second on Matador and first to be recorded in a proper studio with a full band and producer (Steve Fisk). It is honestly knock out... it’s just so expansive, it is one of the biggest post-bedroom records we’ve ever heard and covers genres, tones, styles and themes with amazing dexterity and cohesion. He amazingly sounds not all that much like anyone else, and that it is quite a feat.
58 Hieroglyphic Being The Disco’s Of Imhotep Man we’re into Hieroglyphic Being… the most premium disco. New LP The Disco’s Of Imhotep is about as close to straightforward as he’s got, but it moves around plenty and some of the textures are so wild. Disco’s Of Imhotep feels like something that has been crafted by hand, something that is structured on experimentalism. Dance music can often sound too rigid and controlled; there is a sense that all of these components could as very well fly off in their own direction as much as coexist. It’s the element of conducting it that we really liked. As he explains, “The One who comes in Peace, is with Peace”... that we dig.
55 GØGGS GØGGS An absolutely thrilling slab of garage. GØGGS is the latest musical incarnation of Ty Segall, Charles Mootheart and Chris Shaw (collectively and individually parts of Ex-Cult and Fuzz). It just all comes so easy man... Created in Los Angeles in the middle of the summer of 2015: three years of planning, thirty days of writing, one week of ripping. You can feel the room, you can sense how it felt to be there and that is a pretty astonishing thing to have captured to tape. Ten tracks of antisocial noise and face-melting burners.
Jherek Bischoff Cistern
Steve Gunn Eyes on the Lines
Some seriously emotional stuff from the mercurially talented Jherek Bischoff. Recorded with a live orchestra, Cistern is the second album by the prodigiously talented musician, collaborator, composer, arranger and producer. Spectacularly (and not always comfortably) cinematic, these modern orchestral recordings showcase Jherek’s unerring ability to pull at the heartstrings. It was recorded in a cistern in Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington, and the album is very much about interacting with the space and most of all the reverb. Make sure to give this one a listen, it’s very highly recommended.
Steve Gunn is a prolific guy, but the progression with Eyes On The Lines (his first with new label partner Matador) is quite brilliant. Laid-back jams, still much space and experimentalism, but it’s his vocals that take the weight of the song. Steve Gunn will doubtless take you on a trip, there are few music makers who can tell stories, lock in grooves and blow your lid with just the wiggle of his fingers... turns out he can do it with his lyrics and vocals too.
54 Tim Hecker Love Streams Another big Drift favourite is Canadian composer Tim Hecker, one of the most important sonic artists making and releasing music today. New album Love Streams, his first record for 4AD, takes its cues from the avant-classical orchestration and extreme electronic processing of his previous full-length - 2013’s Virgins
- but shaped into more melancholic, ultraviolet hues. It was recorded in Iceland (with Jóhann Jóhannsson making the choral arrangements), and with this in mind you can almost see the Northern Lights in front of you as the layers and layers of dense ambience play out. Quite extraordinary.
52 53 Warpaint Heads Up Warpaint’s third studio LP Heads Up was recorded in House on The Hill studio in downtown LA, their home studios, and Papa’s Palace; and for the first time ever, recorded in pairs and alone, rather than as a full band. It has all the band’s dreamlike qualities combined with their much-deserved swagger. The beatmaking here is superb, as close to full-on electro BPM as they have ventured, but not discordantly. Lucy Drift took time to point out that So Good has been awarded with the first annual “Drift Drum Break of the Year”™.
C Duncan The Midnight Sun
Holy Fuck Congrats
The Midnight Sun is the second album from Glasgow’s prodigious talent C Duncan, and the follow-up to last year’s Mercury Prize nominated debut album Architect. Seems funny that he’d still be labelled a bedroom producer when his sound, especially on this new album, is seriously expansive. The use of more prominent electronics on The Midnight Sun is the big difference, swooping synths alongside his vocals for a hugely layered and sonically dense experience. There is a really eerie euphoria, so pretty, but still tense atmospherics.
It’s really hard to describe exactly what Holy Fuck’s Congrats sounds most like, it’s full of riffs, primal beats, addictive little bleeps, textures... it’s just a really big, really bold record that grabs you by the collars. They were once described as “a hardcore thrift-store found-object punk band” which still runs true, but that’s not to suggest there isn’t a very deliberate process to the sonics here. Congrats was recorded into a “proper” studio, rather than the barn in rural Ontario where most of their previous records were made. It really shows, maximal stuff. They’re heavier, wilder, leaner, sharper, more daring and more unpredictable than ever before, on fire with the power of inspired outsiders like Suicide, Silver Apples or Can. For a band whose DNA is based on their disparate influences, Congrats is the sound of a band in fine form, taking those parts and forging something new and definitely their own.
51 Goat Requiem Over the last few years, Goat have been one of our most consistent go-to psychedelics. Requiem is a really wild, glorious, side step. It still has all of the screaming voodoo of their previous work, but there is a spiritual aspect running through it that is rooted more in the acoustic swirl of devotional. It is mellow, outsider music. Still hypnotic, quite primitive in places, certainly primal but the screaming guitars do eventually arrive and run through the songs like the spirit of fire... or something like that man...
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Tim Smith This October Bella Union reissued a tenth anniversary edition of Midlake’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther, for our money one of the finest albums of the past 25 years. It actually turned ten years old on 25th July, but placing the pedanticism aside, we got in touch with Tim Smith, the album’s principal writer, producer and singer, to talk about the anniversary and a little about the album’s enduring appeal. Four years after The Trials of Van Occupanther, Midlake released their fourth studio album The Courage of Others and embarked on their biggest set of live appearances to date, whilst concurrently trying to write and record their fifth LP. Seven Long Suns was never finished, the project was abandoned six months into sessions, and Tim Smith made the decision to leave the band. Midlake subsequently regrouped and released 2013’s Antiphon, whilst Tim moved away and has been working on a new musical project under the name Harp. Not that we’re too obsessed, but a few weeks back he put a demo on YouTube that got us pretty excited. Deluxe: Tim, how and where are you? Tim Smith: I’m living in Kerrville, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country which is about a 6 hour drive from Denton, Texas (home of Midlake and where I spent the last 15 or 20 years of my life). I’m here basically to make a Harp album. So, I spend my days messing with music, very slow process for me, but it’s taking shape gradually.
I mess around with making horrible-smelling things... it’s very difficult. There’s a whole fragrance/perfume culture out there that most people don’t know about (sounds ridiculous I know). D: Not ridiculous, but definitely something I’d be terrible at. Rather than ask anything too specific about the Harp project, how about you give me the overview of why you’re doing it and what you, well, anticipate it will sound like... TS: Let’s get something straight, I’m no amazing musician. By saying that, I’m not trying to degrade myself or be humble. I do have some strengths and can be well confident in the things I excel at but I also have many weaknesses that keep me from making exactly what I want to make. As I started writing and recording songs for Harp it was clear that things weren’t going to be any easier than how they were in Midlake. The only upside is when things aren’t sounding right I don’t have to stand in the way of six bandmates and say “No, let’s try again”. D: So broadly, where are you with it?
D: That’s pretty intense. TS: I’ve become fascinated with the art of fragrance/ perfume lately. That might sound silly but scent is so powerful and very similar to music. Both are invisible, both use notes, both conjure scenes in a person’s mind, both cause a person to feel emotion, and both can strongly trigger one’s memory. It’s just another creative outlet. So
TS: The first batch of Harp songs/ideas just fell a bit flat after trying to record them. They were then put away while a new batch of songs came. I had Paul from Midlake help produce for a few weeks, hired a couple of local musicians. But sadly that also ended up feeling stale as well. Then another batch of songs came and so on. With each batch though, the songs or the way they’re put together comes
closer to the vision in my head. That vision too has changed somewhat but not drastically. It’s become clearer, more defined. Songs that I wrote two years ago would seem out of place now with what I want to make and I’m very thankful I didn’t just finish those songs and release that album. Now, the deal is I get pegged as a perfectionist, which I hate. That’s so subjective when talking about music. I certainly don’t want the music I make to be perfect. I want sloppiness, I want mistakes, but most importantly I want heart. When I don’t feel that, then what am I to do? Just put it out anyways because people will like it? It’s as if I were a baker making a chocolate cake and people kept tasting it saying how good it is, that I should stop because it’s already perfect, but the whole time I’m actually trying to make a strawberry cake. People don’t see that, they see someone striving for perfection when all along the intention, the vision, is far from being realized. I think people have some picture of me tinkering with the same 10 songs for three years trying to make them better and better, trying to perfect them into some masterpiece of an album... but it’s nothing like that, that would drive me crazy. It’s me, learning and trying out many different things, I’m no genius, it comes slow. A more accurate way of looking at it would be to imagine I made three albums, but none of them said what I wanted them to say, so I didn’t release them. There’s a sound, or feeling, or vision in my head that I’m trying to get to in making an album, once that’s met then I’ll gladly release it... that might take many more years. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be a masterpiece, but it will hopefully get across this vision/ vibe. D: Do you feel it to be a supportive drive or perhaps a burden that people are so eager to hear what you are doing as Harp? TS: As far as pressure from fans or from past work, I don’t really feel any of that. There’s so much awful, meaningless music in the world. It’s so saturated, disposable, and really it’s a bit sickening (especially when you spend hours a day devoted to the subject and see what people are eating
up). Whatever I release, some people will like. That’s a fact. And it’s also a fact that some people will hate it, but that won’t bother me as long as I made what I truly wanted to make. The criticisms hit much harder when you can’t help but agree with them. So, as long as the music gets to the heart of what I want then I don’t care how many people like it or hate it. It’s nice to have a huge following but not at the expense of knowing your work really missed the mark. I also don’t hold much of what I’ve done in the past as some great thing that I have to top. Not at all. There’s some good songs, but there’s also much that I’m embarrassed about. I’m confident that whatever I make will be better than what I’ve made in the past. So that’s certainly not an obstacle I deal with. As far as the sound... it won’t be radically different from what people would expect. Hopefully it’ll have a bit of 70s mellow vibe, slightly medieval, slightly British folk, slightly fantasy, slightly 80s too, so the use of more synths perhaps, but still earthy, we’ll see. It’s just a matter of combining all my loves. Very difficult to find the right combination/balance along with my voice. That’s what the struggle is mostly these days...mixing all these styles into a unified direction.
still love some Fleetwood Mac. I was recently turned onto The Cure. Their album Faith... masterpiece... definitely in my top five of all time. That turned me onto many more 80s bands like The Cocteau Twins, The Church, Depeche Mode, The Chameleons, The Wake, Clan Of Xymox, etc. D: I thought it was very interesting that considering your music has always been tied so heavily to the past, it’s not like you make out that you don’t live in the 21st century. You have a website, you use YouTube, we are emailing… How has the internet impacted you as a music maker and a music consumer? TS: In a way it’s exciting because you can make something and share or sell it immediately rather than going through all the channels of getting the song/album pressed and put into stores. There are downsides to that, obviously. But it does give hope for anyone who has something to say, to say it freely without needing a ton of money or even a record label behind things. Unfortunately, that causes over-saturation and competition, because now anyone with a computer can make an album and begin fighting for valuable airtime in a listener’s ear. Therefore, we’re bombarded with gimmicky
“For me, it’s like reading an old diary. That was us, our struggles, figuring things out, still very new to things... but we were committed and believed in what we were making.” D: Creatively - musically - who do you particularly admire? TS: I still love the greats like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath. Also Roy Harper has got to be one of the greatest ever. Love some Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Bread Love And Dreams, and Jimmie Spheeris. And I
things, hype, advertisements, videos, everyone trying to get their foot in the door, a trillion songs and growing and much of it sounds the same. I’m guilty as well, but at least I take 10 years between albums. Oh well, at the end of the day the consumer can make up their own mind about what moves them, what they buy, what they steal. And steal they will. I’m not innocent
in that area either, as a consumer. But I do have a rule that ‘If I love it I must buy it’. I think that’s the key to any illegal downloading or even streaming sites like Spotify or Apple Music...if you start to love it then buy the song/ album to support the artist. I do miss the old days when if you wanted an album you could try and tape it off the radio or make a cassette tape in real time of something your friend owned. Eventually though you’d have to buy it if you loved it because the sound of the actual record was so much better than your recorded cassette. These days if you want a copy then you can have one in a matter of seconds and it will sound exactly the same. It’s far too easy and that’s not good news for people who make music for a living. D: When was the last time you listened to Van Occupanther, and how did it make you feel? TS: I haven’t listened to the entire album in probably 10 years, but I did hear some the other day while collecting thoughts for a different interview. Gotta say it didn’t sound as good as I remembered it. It certainly has a unique character though and evokes a certain world, but to me it’s a bit embarrassing in places. D: Was there a point where you felt proud of that album? of those songs? TS: For me, it’s like reading an old diary. That was us, our struggles, figuring things out, still very new to things... but we were committed and believed in what we were making. I don’t want to dog it too much because I know there are some brilliant moments on it too. I still think Head Home is really great. I know that album has meant a lot to many people. I wish I could hear it that way. I do remember being proud of it when we finished. I remember being thrilled when Roscoe leaked before the album was released and we received news that lots of people were digging it. Then when I started doing interviews early on about it, I could tell we were going to be able to move up a notch with that album. And so we did, where finally people at the shows were actually singing along with our songs! That feels pretty good.
D: Does it feel like a decade has passed since that record was released? TS: It actually feels much longer. D: (laughing) When did you really first start to feel that album was taking shape? TS: I think once Roscoe was recorded (which was probably many months into the process) we felt this album stood a much better chance than our previous one of getting recognition. That song made us more aware of our potential, I think. It strengthened us, excited us, and gave us more direction. It was a song that could draw a listener in immediately. D: With Roscoe... it felt like it really caught fire and opened the door for not only yourself, but arguably Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and a whole scene to follow... do you feel that’s the way it went down? TS: It certainly opened a door for us. It put us on the map even if as a small blip. Without that song I doubt I’d be answering questions about that album right now from a record store in the U.K. I’m very thankful for it. As far as other bands though, I’ve never once felt that it paved the way for them. Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver are amazing bands that certainly didn’t need Midlake to open anything for them. I’m of course flattered that anyone would propose that theory but I really don’t think Midlake can take credit for any kind of scene. D: In this new Anniversary edition of Van Occupanther, are you happy that The Fairest Way and Festival are being released? As a fan it is exciting to have these songs, especially as we did not know about them... TS: So, here’s the deal with those songs. They were both written for Seven Long Suns. The Fairest Way was written very early in the process and we used it to open some shows (including the Roundhouse show and End Of The Road, I think). It was slated to be on Seven Suns, but we never seemed to get a decent recording of it. So it got pushed down the list and lost. When I was approached about this Anniversary
idea, my main concern was that we needed some good demo stuff or alternate takes to throw in there, but we had nothing from the Occupanther days. Nothing from Occupanther besides what’s on the album exists as far as I know because we recorded it all on an old Roland digital 24-track machine that later got destroyed and all data CDs were lost. So we figured last year, what if we got together again for three days to record a simple song or two? That yielded Fairest Way. Recorded in December of 2015, I think. I wanted more songs to release for the Anniversary edition, so I went back through most of the demos and attempts at songs we did for Seven Suns and really found nothing too useful (most of it being just bits and pieces of things). The only sort of passable and complete recording was Festival. It was recorded when I was in the band and it was to be on Seven Long Suns. It was a song we’d played live just a couple of times. I know both those songs don’t directly relate to Occupanther but we felt releasing those would be nice. Sort of a bookend... with me having left the band then coming back for a final recording with everyone ten years after Occupanther to sort of end things in a more satisfactory way. Seems to fit somehow and it gives the diehard fans a bit more. D: I think one of the most striking aspects of The Trials of Van Occupanther was that - certainly on an international platform - you were relatively unknown as a band, so for many, the first impression of Van Occupanther (and possible Midlake as a band) was the album artwork. Tell me about that image... TS: It started as a little sketch I made of the gold guy flying and I wrote the word “Occupanther” on his back. It was just a doodle very early on, probably while on the road touring some for Bamnan and Slivercork. I liked this gold guy. It stuck with me. Around this time I was getting into 70s folk rock. I was really influenced by this. Very easy to see album cover inspiration in something like Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood. So I felt I really wanted an actual photograph rather than a drawing or painting for this particular album cover (unlike
the first album we made). Also, at that time there was a Calvin Klein ad from a magazine that I tore out to use as inspiration in writing the Occupanther songs. I loved the colours of gold and burgundy and grey. I wanted the music to sound like that photo looked. It had a woman dressed in an equestrian outfit. So when it came time to make an album cover, I wanted the gold guy, the equestrian outfit of burgundy, and a panther mask in a woodsy setting. I think there were four of us: Eric Nichelson (Gold Guy “Occupanther”), his wife Rachel
(who made the gold outfit), Eric Pulido (under the panther mask), and myself... we drove about 20 minutes outside of Denton and found some woods, the sunlight was coming in and out of the clouds, so we waited for moments when it was more covered and grey, took some photos with my 35mm camera, that was it (after a bit of photoshop). I’ve got to say that that album cover is one of the things I’m most proud of in all my years with Midlake. Yeah, it’s a little silly with the motorcycle boots and whatever, but still such a classic vibe. Couldn’t be more pleased with it. One result like that is worth far more than
100 mediocre results. That’s what I seek, even now. Not perfection, but something that truly gets to the heart of the vision/idea. D: How about the anniversary reissue cover, did you have any involvement with Brian Lotti’s painting? TS: Not too much. I think he did a great job. There was a first draft, I think, that was more colourful and bright, but we had him darken it a bit. I like it. I can see it as being a very nostalgic thing for a true fan of that album. Otherworldly.
D: How important to you is the visual aspect of releasing music? TS: Well, it seems to me album covers are extremely important with how the music will be perceived. Ultimately the music wins the day no matter what the picture is, but that cover goes a long way in relaying the vibe of what one’s listening to. It gives more insight and dimension to the music. It’s an identifier for bands, just like a name. Think of Pink Floyd, think of them while deleting any trace of their album covers, it’s really impossible. They are that prism with light on a black background. A picture can really steer the music into feeling a different way, even sometimes in the opposite direction from what a person might have blindly thought about the music. But many times albums do seem to sound the way they look, unless it’s one of those awesome paintings of some warlock riding a winged stallion at night with lightning bolts because that will no doubt turn out to be a heavy southern blues rock album... I’ve been burned many times with that sort of thing. In fact there’s one vinyl I have on display in my music room that looks cool to me (Rare Bird, Someone’s Watching) so I use it for inspiration, but I’ve never listened to it because I just have a strong feeling the music won’t be as good as the cover... so best to not listen until I finish making this album. But yeah, I love album covers. Always place them in the room where I’m recording, even with Midlake they were all around on the walls. D: Which album covers historically have resonated with you? Which do you hold close to you or as an inspiration? TS: I bought the vinyl of Jimmie Spheeris - Isle of View at a thrift store based on its cover. Just amazing, golden, fantasy, and warm. It quickly became one of my favourite albums of all times. There’s so many great covers. I do love the simplicity and greyness of The Cure’s Faith. Also, The Cocteau Twins, Garlands; Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy; Death In June, Nada; Feathers (from Vermont), Feathers; Incredible String Band, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter; Hawkwind, Warrior on the Edge of Time; Elliot Smith, Either/ Or; The Smiths - any cover; Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath; Jon Anderson, Olias Of Sunhillow; Fleetwood Mac, Rumours; The Band, The Band; The Beatles, Abbey Road; Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief; Jethro Tull, Heavy Horses; Pink Floyd, Dark Side. Also, I love ECM album covers, especially those of Jan Garbarek from the 70s. There’s really a ton more that I could say, so many great covers. These have all inspired and motivated me to some degree at different times in my life. D: How about shopping, which record stores do you use regularly? TS: Well, there’s no record stores where I live now, but in Denton there’s a great place called Recycled Books and Records, which is the store I’ve spent the most time in, and it always seems to fuel me with wanting to make music after sifting through the stacks for five or ten minutes. Never fails, always motivates me. Also, Waterloo Records in Austin is always good. Other than that, I might use Ebay. I suppose most of the vinyls I have (about
600) were inexpensive and used, which of course gives no money to the artist... so in a way it’s stealing... or at least I’m benefitting from someone I did not reimburse. But as always, if I love it then I’ll buy it again. Which I might then buy the CD or download. I’ve never had a really great record player/amp/speakers so I’ve never been able to compare vinyl vs. CD. I’m perfectly fine with any format though. D: How about your very first shopping experience? Where, when, what did you buy and on what format? Do you still own it? TS: I can’t quite remember my first experience, but I do remember getting my first CD player and CD around 1992 or so. It was a jazz CD of Joshua Redman. I also remember getting in a fight with my girlfriend in high school, we’d been individually saving money to go on a school trip, but once we broke up for a brief period I took my money, opted out of the school trip and headed to a big music store to buy six jazz CDs. That was far better than a school trip. I was in that store a long time deciding. I felt a little bit guilty afterward but ultimately I think I did the right thing. I’ve sold most all my CDs now (after putting them into my iTunes of course). So most of those old jazz ones are gone now, but I did keep my favourite CDs of all time and still have a small amount. D: How about on your travels, which record stores have you been impressed by? Which have really supported you as a band? TS: I remember Rough Trade being really great and also hospitable to us. Even got to sign the wall. I think it was in London? In Los Angeles, Amoeba Records is wonderful, spent many hours there. And also Rasputin Records in L.A. There was a cool record shop in Amsterdam near the Paridiso music venue, forget its name. It’s really tough to remember more than that right now. I tend to draw a blank when it comes to remembering touring, most is a blur. D: What, for you, makes for a good record shopping experience? TS: One thing I love is a mess. Not where it’s completely disorganized because you need some sense of order, but where the place has so much stuff falling off shelves, things up on the walls, records all around your feet, just a maze of different rooms... never knowing what you’ll find. If I go into a place and look for the few things on my list, and they don’t have it but only a limited selection, then I’ll probably leave very soon. But if the place is just vomiting up music then I’ll stay much longer even if they don’t have what I came in there for. Another thing is the prices have to be somewhat decent. Also, some sort of listening station with headphones is a big plus. D: Oh man, I nearly forgot and I’d kick myself if I had… who is Van Occupanther? TS: Not sure really. Just some ridiculed lonely scientist, in my mind.
Reissues Amongst all of the year’s new releases, here are some new editions of some wonderful not-new releases. Some long lost recordings from bands we love, some stunning reinterpretations, and more digging from the musical archaeologists with a handful of extraordinary reissues.
No1 Angelo Badalamenti Twin Peaks Truly one of the most enduring and iconic original scores created, Angelo Badalamenti’s melancholic and chilling soundtrack to David Lynch’s era-defining TV show Twin Peaks. Available for the first time in 25 years, Death Waltz Recording Company went to extraordinary lengths (something like four years of work) to reissue the score in a deluxe and very suitable manner. The reverence in which Twin Peaks is held is like no other. Firmly still a cult world, but one celebrated with fervour enthusiasm. It is a surreal and densely layered programme and each element is carefully analysed and questioned. The delivery of the soundtrack was absolutely measured to perfection, poured in damn good coffee coloured vinyl, stunning black lodge inspired sleeve design, it was approved by both director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti. The strength of Twin Peaks as a TV show was always its ability to make you shudder and cower in terror or stand open-mouthed and laugh, almost scene to scene. It had no peers and has never been replicated. A huge part of its power was down to the original music and Badalamenti’s score here sounds as fresh, unique and iconic as it did on release. You know what they say about 2017, that gum you like is coming back in style.
“I’m glad that after 25 years, Death Waltz Recording Company has re-released the original soundtrack for Twin Peaks for a new audience to enjoy. This is my defining work as a composer and I’m happy it will get a fresh listen” - Angelo Badalamenti
Heartworn Highways Original Soundtrack An amazing piece of filmmaking and an amazing soundtrack, it’s a collection that every home should have. Big shout out to Loose Music for introducing us to it all those years ago. On Record Store Day it got the full Light In The Attic treatment, with a 40th anniversary box set edition on double “whiskey” coloured vinyl. A CD/LP standalone release followed in July, both including a 20-page booklet with an essay by Sam Sweet, interviewing artists and documentary creators and crew. Another chance to become part of the cult Heartworn fanbase.
African Head Charge All the way back in January, Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label reissued the long out of print first four African Head Charge albums (originally released between ‘81 and ’85) My Life In A Hole In The Ground, Environmental Studies, Drastic Season and Off The Beaten Track. With new 2016 remasters, they sound as vibrant, industrial and otherworldly as they did twenty odd years ago. All four LPs have been re-cut at Dubplates & Mastering, with sleeve notes written by Steve Barker.
The Shaggs Philosophy Of The World In 1968, three sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire strapped on their instruments and declared themselves The Shaggs. At that moment began a peculiar tale that would last far beyond the group’s five-year run. Have to call this one straight - The Shaggs have always been a more fascinating listen to us than anything else, balancing charm and discordance in equal measure. It is difficult listening, but without any echoes of the Emperor’s new clothes, perhaps… perhaps, this might actually be high art… Either way, it is a hugely exciting thing to have back, as we’d previously only had odds and ends on YouTube.
My Morning Jacket It Still Moves One of our very favourite bands and one of their most wonderful albums, plus thirteen previously unreleased B-sides and demos. Deluxe package with new artwork and exclusive photos. It includes frontman Jim James’ ten original demos plus three unheard tracks from the original sessions. With the help of the band’s longtime friend Kevin Ratterman behind the mixing desk, James revisited and tweaked all the old material. This new version still has that shimmering grandeur that lent it such a singular identity, but there is an increased strength and clarity to it now. Hearing Jim James go batshit crazy on the demos is equally as thrilling as hearing the band in full, grandiose control of these decadent and wonderful songs.
Betty Davis The Columbia Years 19681969 Music fans have long debated the truth about one legendary session recorded in 1969 at Columbia’s 52nd Street Studio. The session was rumoured to be the first collision of Miles Davis’ jazz and Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelia... all under the guidance of Funk Queen Betty Davis. The rumours are true. You can hardly imagine Prince, Erykah Badu, or Outkast without the influence of Betty Davis. Her style of raw and revelatory punk-funk defies any notions that women can’t be visionaries in the worlds of rock and pop. At its core, it’s a futurist jam session, jazz heavyweights playing psychedelia, rock, and jazz-fusion long before the term became commonplace.
David Bowie Who Can I Be Now? Whether you are a fully-fledged fan, an obsessive or newly engaged with the thin white duke, the Who Can I Be Now? box set is essential listening. The twelve CD or thirteen LP set covers material officially released by Bowie during the ‘American’ phase of his career from 1974 to 1976. Named after a track recorded in 1974 (but not officially released until the 1990s) the set include The Gouster, previously unreleased as a complete album. It was recorded in Philadelphia in 1974 and produced by Tony Visconti, before David decamped to New York to work with John Lennon and Harry Maslin on what became the Young Americans album. We’re not going to turn the screws. We know you need this, but worse... you know you need this.
Big Star Complete Third There will never be a day when we stop talking about how much we love Big Star. Complete Third is the ultimate presentation of their third studio album, Third (later reissued as Sister Lovers). It includes every demo, every rough mix, every outtake, every alternate take and every final master… that is known to exist!! This really is the full presentation of this wonderful lost album. Like much of the Big Star story, it just didn’t run to plan and its initial staggered release was just the start of the problems. Complete Third is a deeply intimate portrait of a band buckling under pressure, dark and harrowing pop music. A genuine classic album. Includes an essay from Bud Scoppa and extensive notes from the original participants and other artists deeply influenced by Big Star.
A GREAT ALBUM ISN’T JUST FOR CHRISTMAS
‘GOOD LUCK AND DO YOUR BEST’
‘LEAVE ME ALONE’
‘AT SACRED WALLS’
‘LATE NIGHT TALES’
latE nigHt talEs
ANGELO BADALAMENTI BAYONNE
‘LOST RIVER’ (OST)
‘TWIN PEAKS‘ (OST)
‘LOST THEMES II’
italians DO it BEttER
DEatH WaltZ REcORDing cO
Thank You to all at Drift and it’s customers for supporting Independent Music in 2016 - Keep the Faith! Check www.republicofmusic.com
Late Every year we will doubtless spend some time with albums released after the big Drift staff vote for our top 100 countdown - roughly mid-October. We have some fairly clear guidelines to help us put together our list, but in the last few annuals we have made space to highlight albums that have ‘just landed’ after we’re done with voting and compiling. Here are albums that have arrived in the last quarter of 2016 - ones we are really enjoying and would have ranked in the top one hundred, if only they had arrived slightly earlier. Papa M Highway Songs Highway Songs is the new studio album from Slint’s David Pajo under his Papa M moniker, his first material in over 10 years. Highway Songs is an extraordinary listen. In February 2015, David survived a suicide attempt. He has spoken very candidly about it since as he recovers and begins working again: “Honestly, there was such a massive outpouring of love and support by making my heart public that there was no way to avoid being empowered by it all. My family drew me in tighter than we’ve ever been. Thousands of emails and messages from friends and strangers came flooding in immediately.” A big part of talking so openly about depression and suicide was that, to be frank, no one else was doing so. “Depression and suicide rarely get any attention unless it’s unusual or a celebrity. We don’t talk about it amongst friends – we think it’s too morbid. But I’ve known more people who have died from suicide than any other illness. In my world, it’s a bigger problem than cancer. Yet it’s never talked about.” Real life sets the tone of the album and hangs heavy over the early proceedings. Opener Flatliners is one of the year’s most churning guitar
riffs before the song gets annihilated with drums and waves of feedback. The tone is dark, the blackest of black. The Love Particle is chopped up with electronic stutters and the following movements (largely instrumental) create the most vividly intoxicating head spaces with stark guitar lines and broken beats. Then right out of the darkness comes Walking On Coronado, a moment of sublime picked guitars and electronic bleeps that is perhaps the most successful marrying of the two since The Postal Service 13 odd years ago. There is so much craft in the songs, all hugely evocative whilst balancing folk, metal, electronics and ambience wonderfully. Closing track Little Girl is an amazing ballad, and the first time you hear Pajo’s stark vocals in full flight. A remarkably intimate and emotional album. As we put this issue together, the album is not even out yet, but we’re pretty certain it is the LP we’ve listened to most of anything released in the ten and half months that precede it. A remarkable achievement, very highly recommended.
Lambchop For Love Often Turns Us Still Dungen Häxan In between the release of Dungen’s most recent two albums (2010’s Skit I Allt and 2015’s Allas Sak), the Stockholm quartet was asked to create an original score to Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, understood to be the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film. Inspired by the work and the characters, Dungen immersed themselves in the groundbreaking visuals to create a score that is… well, perhaps the most Dungen-sounding Dungen record ever. Rich and vivid with a beautifully organic and otherworldly meeting of jazz and psychedelia, Häxan (which translates as “The Witch”) is Dungen’s first all-instrumental album. One of the most wonderful hours to get lost with this year.
The very welcome return of Lambchop, “Nashville’s most fuckedup country band”... For Love Often Turns Us Still (in short FLOTUS … yes FLOTUS!!), arrives just in time for the band’s 30th anniversary and one of the most tumultuous years in history. The musicianship is - as ever - so controlled. You can hear the hairs of each brush scattering across the drums, the hands resting on muted guitar strings… they are experts. The biggest movement in tone is vocally and stylistically from Kurt Wagner, employing a vocoder across large parts of the album. Whereas it seemed initially a shame not to have the famed Wagner whisper, the ghostly layers of digital Kurts is quite an eerie and beautiful thing to behold.
Solange A Seat at the Table Sex Swing Sex Swing Self-titled debut LP from Sex Swing, released on The Quietus Phonographic Corporation label. A seriously loud and primal album from a band right at the forefront of the darkest and heaviest end of noisy avant-psych. There is an Ian Curtis quality to the vocals and the loosely controlled chaos, with touches of Suicide about the drones. A menacing and wide-eyed psychotic take on krautrock. Utterly thrilling stuff this.
A Seat at the Table is the third fulllength album from Solange Knowles, and for our money will be the last time we have to explain that “she is Beyoncé’s sister”. It is one of 2016’s finest funk and soul records, feet in both genres and eloquently moving between the two with confidence and a trail of diverse influences in the mix. It is the archetypical “coming of age” album - as she hits 30 she has released a superbly politically aware album about, in essence, black womanhood. The confidence means that her performances are so measured, it actually feels like she is holding back, there is so much restraint in her delivery. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some wallop - it’s a sexy album for sure. It’s just so well produced, the samples create a perfect balance to the healing and protective vocals, always looking at American social equality and living in 2016 as a black woman.
Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker You Want it Darker is the new studio album from Leonard Cohen, his 14th studio album, and it is quite the bleak treasure. His whispery baritone sings (kinda) of life and most directly about death, largely accompanied in the most subtle of ways. The organs and slight twangs are confident gestures to give him the perfect platform to growl from. Really love it.
Thor & Friends Thor & Friends Now you will all know Thor Harris... we love the guy, we talk about him and his drumming (most lately with Swans) regularly and we interviewed him a while back for Deluxe... but none of that will get you ready for how much we’re into his new album. Thor & Friends is the eponymous fulllength debut from the avant-chamber ensemble formed by the polymath percussionist. Recalls Terry Riley, Steve Reich, both Enos... this is some hypnotising and truly out-of-body sh*t right here. Marimbas, mellotrons, and Thor hitting all sorts of stuff that we can’t even decipher; this is honestly spectacular music-making, exploratory, pretty, swooning and quite emotional. Very highly recommended indeed.
Wolf People Ruins Ruins is the fourth studio album from London’s Wolf People, and firmly establishes them as custodians of a very English type of classic rock. Recorded in Devon, the Isle of Wight and London, its over-riding theme is that of nature reclaiming the land. Our very favourite thing about this band is the meeting of the old and the new. In lyrics and tone they are modern men, self-aware and kind; the perfect juxtaposition to the music. The songs have a rich swagger, they are conduits to mystical progressive folk and rock before it became a barren cul de sac for the legions of Saxondale-esque gents. The tones are valve rich, the solos are soaring, the drumming is jazzy and the vocals are full of ghostly euphoria. Bring on the flutes! A really great band and a really great record.
Shirley Collins Lodestar In a year of huge returns, highly anticipated albums and late night internet drops, would anyone have been brave enough to predict a new album in 2016 from Shirley Collins? Her return to singing at the age of 81, after a 38 year absence, comes as both a surprise and a delight. The larkish voice of her youth has transitioned into something new, but she sings wonderful songs here, breathes new life into others, and overall has such composure and stature that Lodestar is an overwhelming experience. It feels at times very much like she is singing just to you, telling you something that happened once and that stops you dead in your tracks. Wonderful supporting cast who augment her beautifully and with much love and care. A gem.
Weyes Blood Front Row Seat To Earth Front Row Seat To Earth is the new LP from Weyes Blood and MAN ALIVE do we love her voice. Natalie Mering, the being behind Weyes Blood, embeds her sublime song in a harmonic gauze of arpeggiated piano, druggy horns and outer space electronics. The hazy 1970s run through proceedings, recalling Nilsson or even contemporary swooners like John Grant. She is brilliant - this is her at her best.
TOY Clear Shot Clear Shot is the new studio album from esteemed nouveau-krautrockers and Sea Change 2016 headliners TOY. The band spent time between this and their previous album - Join the Dots - absorbing influences and carefully considering how it would impact the music they make and the music they want to make. Clear Shot is more thoughtful, slower and ultimately achieves an altogether higher level of artistry than before. Whereas the previous albums had an underlying menace and a chugging drive, Clear Shot is kaleidoscopic, much more dynamic in its scope. Definitely way less straightforward and requires more attention, but on the third or fourth listen there are tones and themes going on that really are a treat.
Tim Buckley Lady, Give Me Your Key: The Unissued 1967 Solo Acoustic Sessions Thirteen previously unissued solo acoustic demos from the sessions that predate the Goodbye & Hello album. The climate was psychedelic, with debuts from Velvet Underground, The Doors, and Pink Floyd, not to mention The Beatles’ grandest gesture with Sgt. Peppers. Tim Buckley was no plain singer-songwriter, he was drenched in acid-folk and these early sketches are a fascinating look at those grand songs as they started. However, the crown jewel of this package is seven never-before-heard compositions. These will be new to even the most devoted Buckley fan.
The Radio Dept. Running Out Of Love Insanely long-overdue new album from Sweden’s The Radio Dept. They are a band we hold very dear and thankfully, at long last, we have a new LP - Running Out of Love - to cherish. They are on splendid form, albeit as maudlin as they have ever sounded, with a set of woozy post dance floor-inspired songs about what a mess we’re all in. Hazy synth leads and beats not out of place at The Haçienda, it’s a fine addition to their pretty much impeccable back catalogue.
Compilations Our 2016 compilation of the year was perhaps our easiest ever decision, it does after all feature killer new Grateful Dead interpretations from damn near everyone we like…
No1 Various Artists Day of the Dead Day of the Dead was created and curated by brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National and is released to support the wonderful Red Hot Organization. For Aaron and Bryce, as for so many people, Grateful Dead were a gateway to playing music together. The Grateful Dead were sonically a band not just years ahead of their time, but beaming from another place. Their catalogue is formidable, and their ability to move through genres and styles was dextrous to say the least. Bob Weir, a founder of The Dead, invited The National to play a fundraiser in 2012; what started for that show became the ‘house band’ across a lot of these recordings. The compilation is a wide-ranging tribute to the song-writing and experimentalism of the Dead, and highlights just how amazingly their songs and words lend themselves to reinterpretation. The compilation took over four years to record, and across its 59 tracks and six hours it features: The National, Angel Olsen, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Bill Callahan, The Flaming Lips, Real Estate, Charles Bradley and Menahan Street Band, The War on Drugs, Orchestra Baobab, Daniel Rossen, The Tallest Man on Earth, Phosphorescent, Jenny Lewis, Courtney Barnett, Fucked Up, Jim James, Unknown
Mortal Orchestra, Hiss Golden Messenger, J Mascis, Lee Ranaldo, Tim Hecker, Local Natives, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Bruce Hornsby, This Is the Kit, Wilco, Cass McCombs, The Walkmen, Anohni, Marijuana Deathsquads, Sam Amidon and more… It is a remarkable project, a remarkable accomplishment, and a wonderful opportunity to introduce this incredible set of songs and talents to a new generation. You might not love every reimagining, you might not love every voice full stop, but you will be surprised for sure and we’re confident you’ll find something pretty special amongst these tracks. Red Hot Organization is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS through pop culture. Over the past 25 years, over 500 artists, producers and directors have contributed to 20 compilation albums of original music, videos, events and media to keep people thinking about the implications of the AIDS epidemic as well as donate millions to organizations around the world. www.redhot.org
BBC Late Junction Sessions Unpopular Music Unpopular Music is a superb compilation of the wonderful BBC Radio 3 Late Junction sessions. The premise for the Late Junction collaboration sessions is deliberately straightforward; pair people from different musical backgrounds, who have never previously worked together, and put them into the studio for a day to work jointly on new pieces of music… and no one can argue when you hear the amazing results they get. Curated by Nick Luscombe and Darrel Sheinman, Unpopular Music gathers a selection of unique recordings from this on-going series of exciting collaborations, the majority of which were recorded all analogue at BBC Maida Vale Studios. They represent part of an incredible body of work by a wide variety of musicians from all around the world.
David Holmes Late Night Tales Over the last fifteen years there have been some wonderfully curated compilations under the Late Night Tales banner, and through them some breakthrough moments for the featured artists and curators alike. It does however feel like it has all rather been leading towards David Holmes. The Belfast producer and DJ has proved himself adept at picking songs, one of the most celebrated contemporary soundtrack compilers for one. His Late Night Tales selection is superb, it’s a wonderfully evocative collection set of songs on love, live, memory and nostalgia. Telling a story and setting a mood with someone else’s words is no easy trick and David Holmes is really captivating here. Make time for this, clear your mind and take it all in.
Various Artists: (The Microcosm) Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 The follow up to Light In The Attic’s game-changing I Am The Center box set is finally here. The Microcosm: Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 is the first major overview of key works from cosmically-taped in artists needing little introduction Vangelis, Ash Ra Tempel, and Popol Vuh - and unknown masterpieces by criminally overlooked heroes like Bernard Xolotl, Robert Julian Horky and Enno Velthuys. Arriving at a very similar time of year to its first volume three years ago, Microcosm feels very much like a special collection of music, as much a gateway to somewhere else as an album. Again much like its predecessor, it requires
a certain amount of trust and also to really take the most from it, you have to arrive with blank expectations and forget what you think you know about ‘New Age’. It is beautifully evocative music. There is a spiritual quality to these amazing music makers, all creating work individually that can so coherently be compiled together into this collection.
Sky Girl Efficient Space Spanning the 1960s through the early 1990s, from Christian folk to exotica to minimal wave, Sky Girl is an intimate mix tape and pure crate digger’s gold. Sky Girl is a mysteriously unshakeable companion, a deeply melancholic and sentimental journey through folkpop, new wave and art music micropresses. A seemingly disparate suite of selections of forgotten fables by more or less never-knowns, Sky Girl forms a beautifully coherent and utterly sublime whole, deftly compiled by French collectors DJ Sundae and Julien Dechery.
“It’s that ineffable sense of longing, loss and melancholy that gives every song on Sky Girl its haunted pall.”
SUNFLOWER BEAN Human Ceremony
DAY WAVE Hard to Read
SERATONES Get Gone
A Youthful Dream
Donâ€™t Hold Anything Back / Eternity
ADAM TORRES Pearls to Swine
KADHJA BONET The Visitor
AMERICAN WRESTLERS Goodbye Terrible Youth
Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 Jack White is a guy incapable of rest. Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 is a career-spanning 26 track acoustic collection released on XL Recordings and his own Third Man Records. It highlights the gentler side of White, some in a stripped-down Detroit setting and others in a homespun Nashville setting. So much good stuff here, chronologically it covers pretty much all the paths he’s taken over the last two decades. “This, like (Son House’s) Grinnin’ In Your Face, is mirror-music,” writes renowned music journalist Greil Marcus of City Lights in the album’s exclusive liner notes,
“the singer talking to himself, trying to tell himself the truth, which he’s going to need if he’s going to step out of his door, walk into the world, and fool himself, for just a second, that he’s ready to take it on. As you listen, it’s no surprise at all that it took most of White’s music-making life to bring the song home.” Good opportunity to really dial into what he’s singing about... then dig out some of those sleazy early White Stripes LPs yeah.
Wayfaring Strangers Cosmic American Music Numero Group’s Wayfaring Strangers (amongst other finds) are always highly recommended, but Cosmic American Music really struck a chord with us. An amazing collection of country-rock-and-roll from the fringes of 70s America, Cosmic American Music’s 19 tracks document what wholly unknown folks laid to
tape, between the inaugural flight of the Flying Burrito Brothers in the late 1960s, and Waylon and Willie’s outlaw hijacking of Nashville a few years later. This collection picks up and dusts off golden ingots from the dollar-bin. It wasn’t just The Eagles man, this is the underbelly and you have to take a trip.
“Without hearing the rest of the albums these songs came from, there’s no way of knowing if we’re dealing with the work of lost greats, or just artists who had one fleeting moment of inspiration, three minutes of great music and nothing more. As it stands, Cosmic American Music is a fine bit of musical archaeology.”
“More than just showcasing his tuneful side, Acoustic Recordings is a shrine to White’s self-sufficiency, in both the musical and ideological senses. After all, White has always been one to take matters into his own hands, whether he’s building guitars from some spare wire and wood, opening his own record press, or ensuring aliens have access to a turntable.”
As part of compiling this year’s list, we noticed three releases that were ranking quite high but had ‘EP’ in the title. I mean, there really are no hard and fast rules, but having three EPs in the ‘top 100 albums’ issue seemed a little discordant, so we have given them their own page to tell you all about them without worrying about extra playing and long playing pedantry. Melanie De Biasio Blackened Cities EP Revered in her native Belgium and often referred to as the Belgian Billie Holiday, Melanie De Biasio was lauded in jazz circles for 2013’s sublime No Deal LP; her Blackened Cities EP has pushed her as an artist further into atmospherics and experimentalism. On No Deal, her amazing voice was centre stage, whereas for much of Blackened Cities, she has taken a back seat to her band, giving them the freedom to drive the music and improvise. She does still remain very much as the figurehead, and drives the piece (it is one extended 24 minute song) through the postindustrial landscape. As much postrock as strictly speaking jazz, and all the better for its roaming inspirations. A bold move and a quite brilliant one.
Rival Consoles Night Melody EP During the release of his acclaimed full-length album Howl and heavy touring in late 2015, Ryan West came out of a 13-year relationship and found himself making music throughout the winter months. The result of his efforts is the 34-minute, 6-track Night Melody, born out of and shaped by long hours working into the night. He is one of the most organic and intimate beat makers we know,
his music is emotionally tense and captivating as the songs slowly unfold and build. Watching him craft them live at our Sea Change Festival was an extraordinary privilege. Telling stories and setting tones without words can be challenging, but on Night Melody Rival Consoles has created songs that speak clearly about sadness, transition and space. Extraordinarily evocative.
to the British electronics company of the same name and their MS800, a short-lived digital synthesizer that has been described as “one of the most unfathomable instruments ever made.” We believe the EP was structured using the MS800. What makes the MS800 unusual is its wavetable technology - or, as described in the user manual, in a phrase Warp repurposed for Cheetah’s press release, “sounds programmed to sequence through changing
waveforms as the note plays, giving exceptional movement and character to the music.” It is a slower piece than the releases in the previous 18 months, based very much around the squelching tones of the synth and its master’s unparalleled ability to make it swing. About as friendly as he has sounded in years, and a set of songs that we’ve listened to on loop pretty much since the summer. The most exciting bit is trying to guess where he’ll go next.
Aphex Twin Cheetah EP It’s been two years since Richard D. James returned from his extended hiatus, and in that period we have been well reminded of the multiple facets and nuances he possesses as Aphex Twin. This new EP is not so much shrouded in mystery, rather in typical Aphex Twin fashion it is just in no way given clarity; we are left to wonder, based on icons, riddles and hardly decipherable track titles. We’re pretty sure that Cheetah refers
Shirley Collins By Alasdair Roberts In 1580, the Great Earthquake struck the south of England, toppling part of old St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Taking this as a sign of God’s displeasure at the sinful behaviour of his countrymen, ballad-monger Thomas Deloney penned a song of three relentlessly moralising verses entitled Awake Awake Sweet England: “...repent, repent sweet England, for dreadful days draw near.” Over three centuries later in 1909, Ralph Vaughan Williams noted the song from the singing of Miss Caroline Bridges of Pembridge, Herefordshire, but in the passage of time it had gained a fourth verse: “...for we wish you all good morrow, God send us a joyful May.” “It’s morphed into a May carol – I think it’s wonderful that that last verse is tacked on there now”, says Shirley Collins down a telephone line from her Sussex home. Widely regarded as one of the finest folk singers England has ever produced, Shirley sings a bold version of Awake Awake Sweet England as the opening track of her new album Lodestar. “I’m fascinated by stuff like that”, she says. Shirley has had a lifelong enchantment with the richness and mystery of tradition as embodied in the history of Deloney’s penitential ballad. “How did it end up there, and where was it all that time? It’s an absolute miracle that it’s survived.” Indeed Shirley might once have regarded it as a miracle that she would, at the age of 81, be releasing a new album after a hiatus of almost 40
years. She essentially turned her back on recording and performing in the late 1970s, leaving a fine and extensive back catalogue of powerful recordings from the early 1960s onwards. Lodestar, Shirley’s first album since 1978, is being hailed by her new label Domino Records as “the unlikeliest release of the year”. It is testament to the momentousness of this release - by a woman whose passion for folk song led her on song-collecting trips in the American south with the late folklorist Alan Lomax in the 1950s, and subsequent deep explorations of English tradition - that Lodestar is garnering much attention ahead of its release, both in England and further afield. Shirley herself is clearly taken aback by the attention – albeit pleasantly so. “It’s all very busy at the moment”,
she says. She is in good spirits – our conversation is frequently punctuated by her warm laughter. “This morning I spoke to a German magazine; I’ve spoken to two American magazines as well as various English ones. I’ve got a Swedish one tomorrow”, she laughs. “It’s just extraordinary!” The reason for Shirley’s long silence is fairly well known. In 1978, she began to suffer from dysphonia, an inability to sing attributable to psychological trauma. The support of friends has been a major factor in the gradual rediscovery of her voice. “It was mostly David Tibet”, Shirley recalls. Tibet, of the group Current 93, phoned her up out of the blue about 20 years ago. “He said that he really liked my music and could he come and interview me? I burst into tears and said I thought I’d been forgotten,
Photographed by Eva Vermandel
which is slightly heartbreaking”, she reveals. “Then David Suff of Fledg’ling Records bought up back catalogue stuff and discovered early material to put out on EPs.” These releases helped to introduce Shirley’s work to a new generation of music lovers. Tibet’s encouragement eventually led to Shirley appearing in a concert with Current 93 at London’s Union Chapel eighteen months ago. “He kept asking if I would appear in a concert with him, just one or two songs. I said no at first, then I started to say ‘yes, alright’, because I was fed up with being asked!” Shirley performed two songs that evening, accompanied by her long-time friend Ian Kearey. A two-song EP was then mooted; however, as Shirley explains: “I sort of thought there’s more songs I could actually do that I really love and still want to sing.” And so the project grew into an album. One of the songs Shirley sang at the Union Chapel concert was Death and the Lady. An English song with mediaeval roots about the inescapability of Death, personified in the song as an old man with white hair, grey beard and a coat “of some myrtle shade” coming to carry a maid away, it originally appeared in a pioneering early music-inspired arrangement by Shirley and her late sister Dolly Collins on their landmark 1970 album Love, Death and the Lady. A haunting reworked version on Lodestar has Kearey pitting his rattling, skeletal slide guitar against Shirley’s mature, deeper yet instantly recognisable voice. Considering the change in her voice over time, she observes: “I’ve come to realise that my old voice, my voice now, is the sort of voice I really love listening to on field recordings. When you are younger you sing in a more carefree way. At 80, 81, you sort of go deeper into the song in many ways.” Produced by Kearey and recorded by Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown (both of Cyclobe), Lodestar features a well-chosen cast of musicians on guitar, fiddle, ‘cello, hurdy-gurdy, drums, concertina, serpent, banjo and more. It inhabits a rather different sound-world from its 1970 predecessor, yet betrays similarly dark preoccupations, addressing topics such as drowning (The Banks of Green Willow), child murder (Cruel Lincoln) and jilted doctors spitefully dancing on the graves of their lovers (The Rich Irish Lady) – not to mention that aforementioned striking opening track. Shirley says of Lodestar: “It’s not...flippant. It’s serious, and it’s quite dark.” A pause. “Which is a bit like me!” she laughs. “But I honestly think that we live in such violent times, quite terrifying times now, so something like Death and the Lady is quite commonplace, really – but beautifully put.” Nevertheless the recording process, in Shirley’s own cottage, was an upbeat affair, beset only by mundane issues at odds with the often grave subject matter at hand. “I live on a narrow little street which slopes slightly, so it’s great for skateboarding down”, Shirley explains. “You always have to stop for those to go by...
then the lady next door has WI meetings and they’re quite raucous – in a ladylike way! It just added to the general fun, really.” Notably, Lodestar marks Shirley’s return to American material after half a century of concentrating more or less exclusively on English song. Perhaps most surprisingly, it features a Cajun song, Sur le Borde de l’Eau, learnt from a recording of Louisiana’s Blind Uncle Gaspard. “Ian played me this recording from 1929 and I just fell in love with it instantly”, she reveals. There are two songs from her 1959 US field trip – an Ozark song Pretty Polly and the aforementioned Appalachian song The Rich Irish Lady (imaginatively paired with Jeff Sturgeon, a “crooked reel” from Kentucky played by Pete Cooper on fiddle and Dave Arthur on banjo). Shirley’s American journeys only served to convince her to concentrate almost exclusively on English tradition: “The 1959 trip was in many ways lifechanging, partly because when I got back I really thought ‘I don’t want to be American, I want to be English’.” Shirley’s pioneering 1964 album with late guitarist Davy Graham, Folk Roots, New Routes, was her last to feature American songs – until now. I put it to Shirley that perhaps, as she’s matured, the dogmatism of her youth regarding a focus on English song has lessened somewhat. She laughs: “Oh, you might be right! I mean, people are entitled to sing what they want anyway – I think what I do see now is the sort of virtue in everything. It’s just that I often think it’s daft to sing songs from outside your own culture.” As it happens, the first record Shirley bought, aged 18 or 19, was by a great American artist, recently deceased: “It was Jean Ritchie singing four Appalachian songs”, she recalls. “Back then, you could go into a shop and listen to the vinyl first, in a little cubicle with earphones”, she reminisces. However, her relation to music was always more that of an active creator than a passive consumer, and so songbooks were more important than LPs. “I didn’t buy many records. I was too busy singing! On a Saturday I didn’t go out and buy the latest pop song – I went to the library. I’d pore through books. If I found a song and I liked the words, I’d copy down the dots, take it home for Dolly to play and if I liked the tune then I’d learn it.” Finally, I ask Shirley whether she has any plans to make a follow-up to Lodestar. Again, she laughs: “Who knows? Actually, I confess: I am building up a list of songs I want to do.” Happily, her research – her life’s work – continues unabated. In the meantime, Lodestar is certain to please long-term Shirley Collins fans, in addition to kindling the sort of enthusiasm that she has for traditional song herself in the hearts of a whole new generation of listeners.
nonkeen The Gamble nonkeen is a project led by (ever brilliant) Nils Frahm alongside Sebastian Singwald and Frederic Gmeiner, two of his friends and codreamers from school. As children (following Singwald’s two-week study holiday from the East) they all bonded over sound making and recording on the most childlike of machinery. After a dramatic hiatus, they regrouped and forged The Gamble over a five year period as adults, the full realisation of those most innocent of dreams and ideas. Overtones of minimalist music and traditional krautrock, but there is a really sweet naivety to the songs, they do not feel over-thought or over-complicated, they certainly do not hang around long enough to be over-analysed, explosive extensions of thoughts. Released later in the year but taken from the same sessions, Oddments of the Gamble is a continuation of the unique, analogue concoctions that formed the first album - very much like a ‘Part Two’ in many ways. Both albums have superb handmade tones and organic beats. Very addictive listening.
48 The Parrots Los Niños Sin Miedo Rock and roll, sunshine and good times... Los Niños Sin Miedo is the debut album from The Parrots and was released on the very day they played at our inaugural Sea Change
46 William Tyler Modern Country
Quilt are a band we’ve long admired and enjoyed, and with this year’s Plaza LP they are really on top of their game. Their third album isn’t a particularly easy one to define, there are moments of Laurel Canyon balladeering, there are moments of 1960s NYC noodling, psychedelia, vintage British folk and even Americana. Plaza is a kaleidoscope, a coming together of songs and ideas all under the same groove. The songwriting and structures are so tight, but the delivery is really loose, confidently loose. It plays out like a band who have been playing, tweaking and perfecting their songs for years on the road. At its most simple, it’s a set of hazy, dozy pop songs with brilliantly melancholic undertones. The element that really separates them from the pack is the incendiary highs when all the pieces come into sharp focus, you can see how crafted the songs are.
The Dorian Gray of the six string, is Nashville’s William Tyler. Modern Country is his fourth full-length album and features an ensemble backing group of Phil Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger, Megafaun, Blind Boys of Alabama), bassist Darin Gray (Tweedy, Jim O’Rourke), and percussionist Glenn Kotche (Wilco). He is a sonic adventurer and, as he explains, this new album is no doubt his boldest statement to date. “The cultural geography of this vanishing America is what I sense as a slow fade, Modern Country is a love letter to what we are losing in America – to what we’ve already lost.” Such broad themes in other hands might have been sentimentalised or overly romanticised, but Modern Country is such an honest reflection of what two eyes see, how those themes and that landscape are overwhelming in scope, and paying homage with such transcendentally beautiful music. He truly is a player of extraordinary dexterity and imagination... we love this guy.
Festival. The Parrots are Diego García (vocals / guitar), Alex de Lucas (bass) and Larry Balboa (drums), a loose-hipped, primordial rock‘n’roll band from Madrid. They recorded the album in one week at the studios of much-loved Spanish sound engineer Paco Loco and his wife Muni, down by the sea in Cádiz. Everything from the opening bars to the front cover of Los Niños Sin Miedo screams of an analogue-rich time decades ago, when the guitar band was king and
hip-shaking rock and roll bangers had not and could not be superseded. That is not to say that the album or the band are derivative of anything, in fact that is a big part of their charm. It is honest, it is fun and it is very hard to put down. You can hear the valves pop on the amps, you can feel the mic stands wobble on the drums and you can hear the vocal howls peak on the desk… this is not imitation, quite the opposite, these guys were just born 30 years too late.
45 Swans The Glowing Man One of the most important bands around; utterly unique and simply terrifying. The Glowing Man was announced before release as the last recording of the current incarnation of Swans, which gave proceedings a sombre tone before the needle had even dropped. Despite this, the album is as powerful as those that came before it. Looking back at Swans is perhaps the only way to compare this album to anyone else, they truly inhabit not only their own sonic space, but their own world. There is a dreamlike quality to The Glowing Man, neither dreamy nor nightmarish, but in a hazy space where certain aspects drift past while other sections are in your face in stark clarity, whiplashing you out of the lull. The builds are as epic as ever, reaching monolithic highs, both harrowing and exhilarating. It’s an album that benefits greatly from extreme volume to really hear what is going on and what each of this extraordinary lineup is individually contributing. That in itself makes it as much of an event as an album. Astonishing.
43 Anohni Hopelessness Anohni, the singer of Antony and the Johnsons, returned this year with the Mercury Prize nominated Hopelessness. A seemingly simple removal of the letter T (yes yes, and replacing the Y with an I), Antony is now Anohni, publicly aligning the
44 D.D Dumbo Utopia Defeated Utopia Defeated is the debut album from D.D Dumbo, the guise of Castlemaine’s Oliver Hugh Perry. Super imaginative, free-flowing pop jams all structured out of a one man set up. Live, there are loop pedals and stacks of effects, but on the LP he’s committed a crystalline and very perfect take of some off-kilter songs. Much like Merrill Garbus’ tUnEyArDs (who also resides on the 4AD roster), the initial reaction is to be impressed at the technical aspect of what Perry is doing, it all disappears to the background when he reaches one of the many crescendos across the album, which can be pretty jawdropping, technical delivery aside. There is plenty of experimentalism and it really goes off into its own headspace, cohesively binding the experiences and narratives into a very pop-smart set of songs. Oh, then there is his voice… absolutely stunning vocals... some really very special moments. A super impressive debut.
‘band’ with Anohni’s long-held female identification. Hopelessness is produced in collaboration with two of the most celebrated electronic musicians around, the incredibly experimental Oneohtrix Point Never and the bashing superproducer Hudson Mohawke. The messaging is still the same, there is much hopelessness not only in self, but also in the broader international
42 Amber Arcades Fading Lines Fading Lines is the debut LP from Amber Arcades, the moniker of Dutch musician Annelotte de Graaf. Annelotte was someone we were stoked to get a chance to catch up with earlier in the year for this magazine. In the real world she’s worked as an aide at the UN war crimes tribunals, but as Amber Arcades she makes shimmering and driving guitar pop. Try balancing that right!? It is an album with such good jangle, in no small part thanks to her studio backing band, serving members of Quilt and Real Estate and Kevin Morby’s band, not to mention producer Ben Greenberg (Beach Fossils, The Men, Destruction Unit) who locks in a very NYC ‘loosetightness’. Dreamy but grounded with solid indie rock stomps. The organs are fuzzy, the vocals are hazy, the guitars are winding, and as a front woman Annelotte is brilliant - think Broadcast, Stereolab and even Nico.
climate. Gone is the balladry and the piano - the beat and crush of the machine is the new band, and it provides a hugely gratifying backdrop to one of contemporary music’s most distinctive voices. Pretty unrelenting, but there is so much going on that it makes for a fascinating repeat listen, with ever more to be taken away both musically and lyrically.
41 Parquet Courts Human Performance We’re not blinkered, but this is a band who we just feel can do no wrong. Recorded over the course of a year against a backdrop of personal instability, Human Performance massively expands the idea of what a Parquet Courts record can, could and perhaps should be. Their fifth album is the one they wanted to make, no baggage, arguably they’ve consciously shed whatever the hipsters saw in them and focused on the songs that flow through them. Although slower than previous albums, it still has the ability to rattle along with a brilliantly off-kilter psycho-post-punk pace. Whereas they have been firmly garage and punk before, Human Performance is an album of songs that illustrate a much more dynamic range. Lyrically it is as wry (and neurotically funny) as anything they’ve said before, but for us Human Performance’s major strength is the utter sincerity with which the band deliver it. None of the labels fit, Parquet Courts sound exactly like Parquet Courts.
39 White Denim Stiff White Denim are one of the best bands of Drift’s lifetime... not many you can say that about right? Latest LP Stiff is a return to the Austin quartet’s frenetic rock band roots, and is both a jubilant thrill ride and joyous celebration of their past ten years. They are a remarkable set of musicians, as adept as jazzers as much as they are rock-and-rollers. Despite the departure of second guitarist Austin Jenkins and drummer Joshua Block to join Leon Bridges’ band, frontman James Petralli and bassist Steve Terebecki have regrouped in another tight unit with Jonathan Horne, Jeffrey Olson and Mike St. Clair not only to continue the band, but arguably to fill even more sonic space. On Stiff they really have hit the sweet spot between cosmic rock and roll, wild changes in rhythm and crunching riffs - the album contains some of the most insanely addictive songs since Creedence Clearwater Revival. They said themselves they just wanted to make a ‘good time record’. Stiff is 100% all killer.
38 M Craft Bloodmoon Bloodmoon marks a very welcome return from the super talented M. Craft. The album was created meticulously in isolation on the edge of the Mojave desert. The basis of the album is formed on long freeflowing piano meditations, recorded in neighbouring Los Angeles on a hundred-year-old Mason and Hamlin concert grand piano. Those Echo Park sessions were taken back to the wilderness as several hour-long pieces of piano music and worked into until they started to take form as songs. Either the isolation and expanse of time alone in a studio, or the natural solitude of the desert - most likely both - has created a set of songs that are intimate in their delivery, so so expansive and epic in their realisation. Dreamy and very easy to get lost in, there is much measure and control here. Definitely one of the year’s most beautifully crafted albums.
Mark Pritchard Under The Sun Under The Sun is the first Mark Pritchard solo LP in five years and it’s a real gem. The album is designed to be listened to in one sitting, a perfect balance of delicate, minimal, repetitive, hypnotic... it really is a very special listen indeed. It’s a deeply atmospheric album, it can be very
minimal and requires such expert hands to keep it from drifting into a sparse sort of ambience. Across the whole album there is a strong sense of movement, an otherworldly landscape. It is perhaps at its most dynamic with the aid of guest vocalists. Bibio is positively kaleidoscopic with multiple harmonies, Linda Perhacs
softly whispers and gently plucks to chillingly beautiful effect, and Thom Yorke’s vocal is as distinctly ‘Thom Yorke’, whilst as strangely alien and ‘un-Thom Yorke’ as he’s ever sounded. The production is masterful, clean to the point of expert and guides Under The Sun to somewhere special. Utterly captivating.
Black Mountain IV IV is indeed the fourth album from Vancouver rock band Black Mountain, and goddamn is it a scorcher. They are a band we have always loved, and IV has successfully pulled in all the parts of their characters to forge something bold and very gratifying. It is in essence a rock album from the pages of history, very much in the classic style. The opening moments whisper to life with the picking up of sticks and warming of organs before the guitars rip the scene to shreds, huge, stadium sized, chainsaw guitar parts. Even from the very first moments, the teased intros, the odd timings,
there are plenty of hints towards prog. The synths are almost hymnal against the conflicting vocals but when riffs drop, it is with supreme confidence. Elsewhere there are plenty of indie sensibilities, it’s not all ten-minute prog-burners. That said, closing track Space to Bakersfield is an epic sci-fi closer. As an album it’s both muscular and smart.
36 Danny Brown Atrocity Exhibition Detroit native and ‘reigning ambassador of psychotropic outsider rap’, Danny Brown delivered the extraordinary Atrocity Exhibition on Warp. Honestly now, this LP is proper trailblazing stuff, explosive, hysterical, manic and creatively driving the whole rap genre somewhere... a very rare thing indeed. Guest vocals come from label-mate Kelela, Cypress Hill member B-Real, Petite Noir and surely the year’s closest play for the Million Dollar Quartet with Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt all on Really Doe. Even with the major league guest vocal talent, nothing detracts from
the songs, they are all such concise and creatively exciting snippets of something much bigger; Atrocity Exhibition is and should be listened to as an album, and again that is so rare in the last decade of rap and hip hop records. Paul White’s production (he produced the vast majority of it) is the secret weapon, it keeps proceedings very much in focus and on track, allowing Brown to lead as the central voice, the central character. Brown’s own vocal is almost cartoon like and his delivery skips ahead and behind the beat like a manic conductor. Atrocity Exhibition is so creative, pretty much an instant classic.
DIIV Is The Is Are Is The Is Are is the long-awaited follow-up to Oshin from Brooklyn’s DIIV. From the very first bars it is right back to where they left off, tight, angular guitar pop with washes and washes of reverb. It’s a pretty grandiose return, clocking in at seventeen tracks, but across its full hour it never outstays its welcome. It is an album that was years and many personal struggles in the making for its architect, Zachary Cole Smith. Written in the wake of a very public heroin bust, DIIV’s new album tells a cautionary tale. “What happened to us was really shitty and traumatic, and it wasn’t something I did to get attention - it was the worst possible thing that could have happened at that moment.” The embarrassment is clear, drugs certainly aren’t being worn here like a badge of honour, the creative inspiration was to deliver something really good in many ways to avoid simply being typecast as “druggy losers.” Is The Is Are has a real NYC quality to the thumping bassline and off-kilter drumming. The guitar tones are swooning and pull the hazy sonics into and out of the maudlin mists. All the work was worth it, creatively Is The Is Are is very good indeed and in its genuine slackness it is effortlessly cool.
Mitski Puberty 2
Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood
Mitski Miyawaki makes thrilling music, brutal and unhinged but amazingly nuanced. Puberty 2 is the fourth studio album from the 25-yearold Brooklyn singer-songwriter, and is an album of confessions and unbelievable honesty. On its opening track she sings about sex, pleading and ultimately being discarded, there is such a frankness that it would seem to have been either a cathartic or gutwrenching experience to write. This however does not necessarily make it too heavy, in fact the movements from post-folk through riot grrrl and clashing loud/quiet Pixie-esque guitars runs through a euphoric experience; for the listener, at least. It never wallows, in fact it never stands still for long, with everything from electronic drum patters to saxophones driving the rich and expertly mixed album forward. It is a devastating emotional piece of work, but not something you’ll want to forget or avoid revisiting.
Hailing from Hicksville, Long Island, brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario have a combined age of just 36 and, more impressively as Lemon Twigs, have crammed decades of ridiculously addictive music into their debut album Do Hollywood. It has so much pomp, rich synth tones, brilliant production (from Jonathan Rado of Foxygen), mathsy pop ballads, loose-limbed jams... this is honestly all killer. You can pin as many influences to them as you like (Donnie and Joe Emerson, Harry Nilsson, Big Star, Supertramp, Queen, Elton John, Todd Rundgren, Lennon, McCartney, Syd Barrett...) - the best bit is they have found their own space and are remarkably assured with their debut. The way they carry themselves (and refuse to stop star jumping) is bound to divide opinion and their appearance will only fan those flames, but this set of songs and the production can only be delivered with honest, heartfelt sincerity. Do Hollywood is a set of baroque-pop bangers, possibly the most addictive ones of the year.
31 Death in Vegas Transmission As the founder, frontman and sole constant member of Death In Vegas, Richard Fearless has been inhabiting genres like characters for the last two decades. Spread over six deluxe sides, Transmission is the sixth LP as Death In Vegas and the first on his own Drone label. Broadly it is strippedback, noirish industrial techno, but with the addition of dreamlike vocals from former adult actress Sasha Grey, things are never quite what they seem. The tone is dark, pure black but there is much expanse in the darkness. It rumbles up to a BPM drive, but also sits (un)comfortably in a dreamlike drone. Grey’s vocals and lyrics resonate across the soundscape further adding to the haze, never giving too much away. After six sides you’ll want to go back to the start and keep deciphering the riddles, it’s that good.
33 Szun Waves At Sacred Walls This year we had the distinct pleasure of not only listening to this album a lot, but also inviting the band to play it live for us at Sea Change, and we can testify to a whole out of body experience. At Sacred Walls Is the debut album by Szun Waves - the newly-formed group comprising electronic producer Luke Abbott,
Laurence Pike of PVT and Jack Wyllie of Portico. The recording process was based very much in spontaneity and collaboration, recording what happened as the tape started rolling, moments that are instinctively fresh and quite singular. Opening - 12 minute - cut Further is one of the most striking things you’ll hear all year long. The album needs
your attention, you need to meet it halfway, but you will blown away, it is right up there with the giants; Steve Reich, Eno(s), Terry Riley, Philip Glass... it is very special indeed. Also it is brilliantly mastered so we play it super loud and it feels like you are walking the streets in the middle of Blade Runner. It is a pretty stunning piece of work.
30 Skepta Konnichiwa On the night of Thursday 15th September, few people could argue that a very well deserved victory had been awarded in the Mercury Prize, certainly one that was universally popular. It was arguably the strongest list of nominations in years with (amongst others) David Bowie, Anohni, Radiohead, Savages and our favourites The Comet Is Coming all in contention. The unanimous response was that not only was Konnichiwa a great album, it was recognition of Skepta’s work to raise the profile of the whole grime genre. Konnichiwa is certainly a landmark album in British street music, one that will doubtless shine a light on the scene’s key players and broaden the reach. The real victory is that Skepta has not compromised any integrity to accomplish it. Konnichiwa sneers with quite some contempt about the political and cultural climates, the police, the government and the media. He is direct and unflinching lyrically, nothing is left unsaid or ambiguous. Largely self-produced, it’s an album of fierce, powerful and rough takes on jungle, garage and dancehall. Pretty exhilarating. Oh, and God only knows when it will ever arrive on vinyl before you ask...
29 Kneebody & Daedelus Kneedelus The Brainfeeder label is synonymous with opening minds and never missing beats, pioneers with feet firmly in both jazz and electronic music worlds. This wonderful collaborative album is possibly archetypical of the label’s ethos. They have once again dipped into LA’s crucible of jazz and deep electronics, and shine the spotlight this time on the collaboration of instrumental funk-jazz quintet Kneebody with electronic veteran and serial innovator Daedelus. It is simply called Kneedelus. It is a multiheaded beast straddling rock, jazz and electronic music; the ten song set of Kneedelus explores the theory of technological singularity - the notion that humans and computer technology will increasingly blend together - in spirited and enterprising style. It’s a powerful fusion of abstract hip hop and modern jazz, music makers working with fluidity and amazing cohesion. In fact, it is hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. Also, a special mention to Kozyndan, whose artwork here is spectacular.
28 Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve The Soft Bounce The most in-demand duo around, Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve is the sonic brotherhood of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris. Amazingly a full decade into their career, The Soft Bounce is their debut album of original material. Everyone will tell you this, but it is a trip. A trip in the classic sense, you start somewhere, you experience stuff and you end up somewhere else. Guest appearances from Blaine Harrison (Mystery Jets), Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci), Jane Weaver, Holly Miranda and Hannah Peel. There are electronic influences, there is psychedelia and there is an amazing place where they meet. As Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve they have created an album that is both highly enjoyable and on a deeper level, perceptual and psychological. It is indebted to the past in its spirit, but it is carrying the torch for where psychedelic pioneers might adventure in the future.
27 Woods City Sun Eater in the River of Light April’s Record of the Month was City Sun Eater In The River Of Light, the ninth studio album from Woods. You can hear from the first bars of the opening track Sun City Creeps that Woods have been soaking up some new and diverse tones. Woods are still very much rooted in the psych marshlands, sunshine-tinged songs that cover Americana, folk and jangle guitar pop without ever really committing to one furrow. The album rolls to life with a horn-enthused take on African jazz, a warm and confident
impression of the Ethiopiques. The organs are borrowed from reggae tones, providing a stark and mysterious backing to the swirl of guitars. Elsewhere there are touches of the cinematic (spaghetti westerns), and in the sprawling sun-burned guitar solos (and occasional freak out) they sound close to the previous Woods catalogue. Across City Sun Eater In The River Of Light all of the influences and references get whirled up with a great deal of restraint, and they all sound first and foremost
like Woods songs. Jeremy Earl sounds warmer and more confident as a bandleader than ever with his addictive falsetto, like a ghostly veil giving proceedings a lot of cohesion and warmth. It’s an album we’ve gone back to a lot - across its ten tracks there is much that requires revisiting. Great LP, great band.
25 26 Kevin Morby Singing Saw Kevin Morby’s third solo LP Singing Saw in principle is fairly straight forward, but his laments are backed by everything from gospel breakouts, electronic touches, lush orchestration and rich lyrical symbolism to create one of this year’s most charismatic albums. There is something in Morby’s laconic drawl that is both arresting and disarming; it’s the sort of record that immediately captures your interest, and it’s also one that gets stuck in your head and you can find something surprising in the background on your fifth, sixth and seventh listens. Both musicianship and delivery are supremely confident, despite a gorgeously slack pace think the breezier moments of 70s Dylan. Like Dylan, he knows his vocal limitations and sits happily, very controlled in his range. For all the looming darkness, it’s actually very funny, he sings about his swear jar and domestic shortcomings without a hint of irony. It’s a warm record and it’s a welcoming record. It swoons beautifully and is a great example of an album set at its own pace, inviting you back as a listener rather than demanding your attention.
Jenny Hval Blood Bitch
Stephen Steinbrink Anagrams
Blood Bitch is the fourth solo album from Norwegian artist, composer and experimental music maker Jenny Hval. By her own admission, it’s her most fictional and most personal record to date, filtering stark reality through the surreal lens of 70s horror cinema. Musically, Blood Bitch balances drone, feedback and white noise, especially the crossover areas between them. Out of this however there are also extended periods of almost angelic pop music, actually very catchy. Hval co-produced Blood Bitch with Norwegian noise veteran Lasse Marhaug, on the surface dreamy, but this is meticulously produced avant-pop. It’s an intimate portrait of deeply personal feelings on sexuality, aspects of woman, liberation, imprisonment, joy and despair. It is so visceral and so personal that it can at times feel intrusive to be listening, but it is a genuine gift and an honour to be privy to such deeply felt themes and music-making. Smart, fascinating, hard going, enjoyable, uplifting… Jenny Hval remains one of the most powerful, honest and funny performers, and Blood Bitch is fascinating.
Stephen Steinbrink is one of the finest working American singersongwriters. His album Arranged Waves was one of our albums of 2014, and this new LP - Anagrams - is another batch of wonderfully crafted songs. After ten years of touring and secluded home recording, Anagrams is full of gorgeous melody and stark, minimal pop. It’s an album of beautiful yet unflinching portraits of addiction and mental illness. Both lyrically and in terms of structure, his crafts have improved again, layering sharper melodies over increasingly sophisticated arrangements. Whereas his music has often been insular, this new album has grown up, it is wiser and more confidently strange. He is a bedroom producer ready to embrace the world outside his bedroom window. His harmonies are so on point. Much melancholy, but also moments of real sunshine pop.
22 23 Yorkston / Thorne / Khan Everything Sacred Everything Sacred was released right back in January, our second ‘record of the week’ of 2016, released in the days following the loss of David Bowie (of which we’ll talk more later). An album of mournful ballads and long devotional singing took on extra spiritual significance in those first few days. Everything Sacred is a quite beautiful collaborative project from James Yorkston, Suhail Yusuf Khan (award winning sarangi player and classical singer from New Delhi) and Jon Thorne, best known as jazz double bass player with electro outfit Lamb. In lesser hands, an Indianjazz-folk project could have set alarms bells ringing, but the delivery of this collaboration is utterly superb. A marker of its success is how it has become a piece of work that is more than a sum of its parts - all three are doing what they do really well, and their mutual trust enables them to launch into the unknown; some of the resonance here is quite otherworldly. There is a lot of variation across the album: from the 13 minute improvised opener, to the guitar-led instrumental, the spiritual drones, additional vocals from Lisa O’Neill, and re-workings of both Ivor Cutler and Lal Waterson along the way. They came and played this for us in a Church as part of Sea Change, and it would be hard to imagine a more beautiful experience for this wonderful set of songs.
LNZNDRF LNZNDRF Our February record of the month was the debut self-titled album from LNZNDRF, the trio of Ben Lanz (Beirut, The National, and Sufjan Stevens) and Scott and Bryan Devendorf of The National. The album was recorded in a church in Cincinnati over a couple of days although you’d be forgiven for thinking it was recorded at Conny Plank’s Cologne studio. There is a strong sense of improvisation and exploration; some of the songs are short, some are quite long, some are instrumental, some have whispery vocals - you get the feeling that it was
about documenting the experiences of being together. Although rooted in the 4AD vein of post-punk, this is no revivalism fanboy project. There are gestures towards Can and Neu! but only as passing thoughts, and you could equally try and shoehorn them into the Martin Hannett back catalogue. None of it truly fits as it moves around and locks into some moments of incredible euphoria. Each song was edited from thirty-minute jams, evoking the essence of their expansive, largely improvised live shows. Those high moments aside, it is not necessarily an album of quick thrills, but give them your time as LNZNDRF create rich, layered sonic spaces. Drones, tones, pop songs and chugging Krautrock.
Gold Panda Good Luck and Do Your Best May’s record of the month was one of the year’s most distinctive and individual electronic albums. Gold Panda’s debut Lucky Shiner was an explosive album of joyous snippets, a maximal bedroom opus. His sophomore Half of Where You Live was very much more about the club, brooding, darker and hugely meticulous in its structure. Good Luck and Do Your Best is perhaps the middle ground in tone, but in terms of the production and grandness, it is definitely a marker of artistic progression. The new LP is an open love letter to Japan, a gloriously sunny record reflecting the colourful sights and foliage of the island nation. It is a hugely accomplished album
technically, with immensely satisfying beats and travelogue-esque textures, and in its ability to remain upbeat whilst also interesting. There can be few things worse than being forced to sit through an overly-documented slide show of holiday photos, but the difference here sonically is that, with empathy and a great deal of fondness, Gold Panda has successfully captured feelings associated with travel, nostalgia and time. Whether it is his Japan, your own Japan or any other place for that matter, it feels very much like going somewhere - it is hugely evocative. Excellent conviction throughout, and its warmth and dazzling charm have kept us going back again and again.
Out now â€˜Hyde proves himself an able and enigmatic writer with an intriguing and absorbing way of chronicling the world he finds himself inâ€™
Loud and Quiet
19 Ryley Walker Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
20 Ultimate Painting Dusk Dusk is the third album from Londonbased duo Ultimate Painting, a ten song set that expands the group’s sound from their self-titled debut and their critically acclaimed sophomore effort Green Lanes. We’re not going to talk about who they are, as we do that every year - this is the third year running that they have featured in the Drift top one hundred albums. They also released a Live at Third Man Records EP, which was one of the best Third Man sessions in our opinion too, so we’re firm fans. Dusk is a slower album in its delivery, it is more methodical and as melancholic as they have ever sounded, but what remains (and perhaps defines them) is the looseness of their delivery. The guitar tones are superb, they really frame the wistful vocals with expertly handled tremolos and reverb. Those vocals are more present than before, lyrically they are more cutting too. It might sound like a backhanded compliment, but Dusk is much simpler than the previous two albums, it is about song-writing and having faith in their abilities as writers, lyricists and
Ryley’s Primrose Green LP was one of our top albums of 2015, so we were pretty pumped about its follow-up. His new album - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung - is a sonic shift, a rich and woozy take on jazz, minimalism and psychedelia. Besides its own merits, Primrose Green was always a relatively easy sell in the shop as it sounded like sepia-tinted snippets of all sorts of other things. The only element that really holds the two albums together is Ryley’s vocals, and even then they are used sparingly. Golden Sings… sets its stall early, it is running at its own pace (which chops and changes) and is about sonic experimentation. Whereas twelve months ago you could have argued that the clearest experimental influence was Pentangle, it is now somewhere between Sonic Youth, Tortoise and Ryley himself. He has toured almost constantly, and his
producers. There are still moments of guitar jangle, but whereas they led the songs before, they now augment them. In the modern musical climate, it is a very rare thing for a band to be given the opportunity to stay around long enough to develop and follow their own paths without being written off, superseded, forgotten or plain ignored. Dusk is a really smart album, kind of sad but all played with a genuinely charming ease. See you next year.
delivery and phrasing have developed a firm identity of his own. The album plays out like one of his live shows, you can feel the looks between the musicians working out the best speed as each song comes to life. It’s quite decadent, starting and finishing with two of the longest tracks and spiralling through tempos. In between it is all about the dawdle, not idly, but very much about the pace it dictates. Primrose Green was a world breakout for Ryley, so producing something decadent, experimental and on the surface quite difficult was a bold and brave decision. Golden Sings… will play out beautifully in the background, almost washing over you, but to really get this album, to really take something from it you’ll need to meet it half-way, and that’s where you start to see what he is doing. God knows where he’ll go next.
Factory Floor 25 25 Since the release of their debut album Factory Floor in 2013, the band have slimmed (amicably) to a duo, and new LP 25 25 has moved them away from the archetypal DFA post-punk to a very much more dance floor space. Whereas their debut was a hallucinatory club-not-club stomp, 25 25 is tirelessly energetic, a gloriously brutish mechanical album. There is still much punkish intensity, but whereas their debut felt like a band reinterpreting their influences, 25 25 sounds so authentic in its pulsing that it’s hard to tell when (or where) it was made. The monomaniacal repetitions are so good, such brittle sounding vocals (Ya in particular is masterful) and samples that further add to the hypnotising beats. It crunches and the beats veer more towards an unsettling darkness than before. That said, it’s a euphoric listen, whole, more often than not the tracks feel like they could last even longer (which is going some as the LP clocks in at over an hour). It’s a whole body experience, a hedonistic experience, and that is deeply addictive.
17 Wilco Schmilco Schmilco is the tenth studio album from the Chicago based Wilco, and it is an absolute beauty. This might not sound like the right way to sell it, but Schmilco feels like a joke from the get go. The title is ridiculous, and Joan Cornellà’s sleeve artwork is possibly the year’s finest, irreverently playing out the farcical scene of gallant electrocution via turntable. It is all part of the delivery here, supreme confidence and joyous subtlety. Schmilco is such fun, half the songs skip to life with the patter of bass and drums, like the working thoughts to the most radio-friendly of all hits. It is predominantly played out on acoustic instruments (there are still some wailing solos), all framing Jeff Tweedy’s vocals. As the album builds it does get a little darker, an autumnal take on soft-LOUD, quite a lot of late period Beatles in the background and even Elliott Smith at its most hushed. Wilco can stomp on pedals and hit eleven like few others, but Schmilco is a clear reminder that even ten albums in they are great songwriters, and in its relatively naked production, you can hear everything. They continue defying expectations and embracing change. Simple, unpretentious and ludicrously listenable.
Preoccupations Preoccupations Although this is in name a debut album, the band we know well, and it was in fact their previous name that caused such controversy ahead of Preoccupations’ arrival. Viet Cong (for that’s who they were) were publicly forced into a corner after protests about the cultural insensitivity of their name. Even outside the metal scene where bands are comically vulgar, surely Gang of Four, Joy Division and Brian Jonestown Massacre are as bad? Regardless, out of the much-hyped non-event of a story came the selftitled debut from Preoccupations. It is one of those rare records that sounds incredibly familiar but ultimately like nothing else in particular, truly their own sound. It is a tense postpunk album about fear, insecurity and neurosis, and the delivery is chillingly unique. The tone of the vocals is a primal low howl, the guitars are spiralling, the basslines are brooding, the synths are both sinister and dreamy and the drum beats are mesmeric in their chopping rhythms. Wherever you come from, or whenever you grew up... you’ll hear something in Preoccupations that will remind you of that time. It is visceral, emotive music and it is really quite brilliant.
13 15 Cavern Of Anti-Matter Void Beats/Invocation Trex Cavern Of Anti-Matter is the (relatively) new band from Stereolab mainman Tim Gane, now Berlinbased and collaborating with original Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth, and synth wizard Holger Zapf. Very broadly the songs here cover ground from techno to krautrock to electro and beyond, but there is a hugely expansive element of experimentalism that underpins much of what is going on. From the long sprawling jams to the sparkling concise halcyon pop songs, they sound to have all grown out of organic and loose live sessions. The tones in the synths really change the atmospherics song to song, Pantechnicon has a the inquisitive drive of the fathers of German electronics, black glass actions is warmly nostalgic of early synth pop and void beat is a road trip through electronics from the last forty years, ultimately landing in a chugging and hugely satisfying post-punk prowl. Joe Dilworth’s live drumming keeps everything fresh and avoids anything sounding too regimented. Across the album there are guest appearances from Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom, and Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner. Driving instrumental (predominantly) music with loads of invention.
Bon Iver 22, A Million
14 Blood Orange Freetown Sound Freetown Sound is Devonté Hynes’ third album under his moniker of Blood Orange. Written and produced by Hynes, Freetown Sound is a tour de force, a confluence of Hynes’ past, present, and future that melds his influences with his own established musical voice. For well over a decade, Devonté Hynes has proven himself a virtuoso of versatility, experimenting with almost every conceivable musical genre under a variety of guises. This new album is based very firmly in the current political and social climate of the USA; it is shaded by relationships with the police and the thinly veiled racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia brought right to the surface in a Trump campaign-led America. Freetown Sound derives its name from the birthplace of Hynes’ father, the capital of Sierra Leone. Thematically, it is profoundly personal and unapologetically political over its 17 shimmering songs. Prince’s radical pop spirit lives on in many artists, but none are channelling it more fully or artfully than Hynes here. Somewhere between funk and ‘80s R&B, there is a lot of pop sensibility to the album - the successful balancing of ideas and themes feels incredibly timeless and strangely futuristic all at once.
One of 2016’s most eagerly anticipated returns, after five years in the wilderness Bon Iver delivered a new player called 22, A Million. The opening moments of 22 (OVER S∞∞N) whips into a gorgeous vocal drone, a rich soundscape of vocoders and tones that Justin Vernon has successfully made his own. The production is honestly amazing. Far more interesting than just the everpresent vocal tones, the depth of the first few tracks in particular are vast, cavernous pop songs with hugely emotive hooks. The balance is then the incredibly intimate and primitive moments, the piano-led 33 “GOD” is especially lovely. 22, A Million is part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for selfunderstanding like a religion. The album’s ten poly-fi recordings are a collection of sacred moments, feelings and memories beautifully articulated. All through the tones and facets, there is a moment on 8 (circle) where he sings it straight, just his vocal really present and it’s a bit of a wake up moment. Partially induced by the rich imagery and haze of the preceding seven tracks, but also that his voice was what really elevated Bon Iver from a man in a cabin to a globally acclaimed singer so quickly; he has a great voice. From the album artwork, the liner notes and the surrounding hieroglyphicesque icons, 22, A Million is shrouded in mystery and is intensely private, which does make it at times a hard experience to fully penetrate. There is a glacial element to the proceedings that makes it a thing to admire more than really engage with, but as the album closes the tone changes significantly and ____45_____ is one of the year’s most spiritually uplifting moments. It is a beautiful puzzle of an album, and perhaps solving it isn’t the point.
12 Kaytranada 99.9% The Haitian-born, Montreal-raised producer Kaytranada has delivered one of the most complete and impactful debuts in ages, absolutely brilliant stuff this. He has been prolific and obsessive since the age of fourteen when he first began to DJ. His brother introduced him to music production software, and his output since has been relentless: “After he showed me the basics, from that day on I couldn’t stop making beats”. Ricardo Cavolo’s sleeve art perfectly captures the vibe of the
album, colourful, handcrafted and dazzling in its scope. Although they are as fully club-formed as pretty much anything this year, 99.9% isn’t all about the beats. One of his finest strengths is his ability to chop together samples and tones in his music making, from the primal to the colourful. There is a lot of heritage in the album, not only in the inspirations and drumming, but also in his own genealogy. Kaytranada has the spirit of the musical archaeologist, a crate digger who has spent time and great
care in unearthing the overlooked in forging the album. There is much sonic diversity in the crate-digging, recalling Madlib and Dilla, all with a genuine sparkle, nothing rigid or predictable. 99.9% was very deservedly winner of the acclaimed 2016 Polaris Music Prize. Superbly produced and featuring a host of guests (Anderson .Paak, Craig David, AlunaGeorge, and BadBadNotGood are all on top form), 99.9% is a riot, slow jams and funk to bouncing house.
scope and importance of Kendrick Lamar right now, every aspect of his work is genuinely trailblazing and deserves very much to be heard. To him, they’re outtakes, B-sides, one-off performance pieces, yet these eight tracks are still sonically and conceptually well above anyone else. A testament to hip hop’s undeniable spearhead. Untitled Unmastered is neither strictly speaking an album, nor an EP, neither is it a mixtape.
With its plain green textured sleeve, it is a document, an insight into the creative process or perhaps closure to a jazz session. Socially, politically and ever-increasingly religiously, Lamar is a singular voice and a seemingly reluctant modern day messiah. The skills and fearless experimentalism he has exhibited on this set of songs and on recent live performances just add more fever to where he’ll go next.
11 Kendrick Lamar Untitled Unmastered Back on the evening of 4th March, the internet went into meltdown. Kendrick Lamar dropped a surprise eight-track album simply (not) titled Untitled Unmastered, comprising outtakes from the ground-breaking To Pimp A Butterfly album. There were a fevered few hours, with screenshots and tweets of the track listing, the full credits, rolling news updates on who is what track. The funny thing is, this was not a shock campaign of partially released artwork or cryptic messages, Kendrick took to Twitter himself to explain. He was very clear about what it was, in the spirit of a true musician and creative, this was something he had created and was sharing. This is the
10 Whitney Light Upon The Lake A quite wonderful album this one. An album of swooning blue-eyed soul and hand crafted, loose rock and roll. Whitney make casually melancholic music that combines the wounded drawl of Townes Van Zandt, the rambunctious energy of Jim Ford, the stoned affability of Bobby Charles, the American otherworldliness of The Band, and the slack groove of early Pavement. Formed from the core of guitarist Max Kakacek and singing drummer Julien Ehrlich, to say that Whitney is more than the sum of its parts would be a criminal understatement. The band itself is something bigger, something visionary, something neither of them could have accomplished alone. Ehrlich had been a member of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but left to play drums for the Smith Westerns, where he met guitarist Kakacek. That group burned brightly but briefly, disbanding in 2014 and leaving its members adrift. Brief solo careers and side-projects abounded, but nothing clicked. Making everything seem all the more fraught: both of them were going through especially painful breakups almost simultaneously, the kind that inspire a million songs, and they emerged emotionally bruised and lonelier than ever.
“Anyone who loves the strain of American pop that began when the Byrds started branching out in 1966 and 1967 should rush to hear this delightful confection”
Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history. The irony is that Light Upon The Lake is one of the years sunniest records, laid-back, sun-tinged jams with the perfect balance of freewheeling charm and guitar band fluidity. These are not perfect compositions and the delivery has a looseness that removes it from the often too perfect soul genre. Played out with joy, sung with sadness and melancholia, these are songs delivered with absolute sincerity. “We approached it as just a fun thing to do. We never wanted to force ourselves to write a song. It just happened very organically. And we were smiling the whole time, even though some of the songs are pretty sad.” It’s an album that’s easy to pick up and too addictive to put down. Opening track No Woman is the sort of song you can easily play on loop for an afternoon. Whether it is wistful regrets or sepia tinted memories, Light Upon The Lake is hugely evocative, a fine album of pastoral Americana.
Heron Oblivion Heron Oblivion
“Their debut album triumphs, thanks to how well those constituent parts complement each other.”
People love to bleat on about ‘supergroups’, as if the notion somehow elevates its singular parts or components. That said, Heron Oblivion are a super group, a god damn super group with some serious Jefferson vibes going on here. Heron Oblivion are Meg Baird (Espers), Noel von Harmonson (Comets On Fire, Six Organs Of Admittance, Sic Alps, The Lowdown), Ethan Miller (Comets On Fire, Howlin’ Rain, Feral Ohms), and Charlie Saufley (Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound). There is much of the pastoral about Heron Oblivion, a certain “nature” element that partially ties it thematically to rock and roll progressives of the 1970s. The difference here, and the one that really elevates it for us, is the palpable sense of something brooding. On release, Sub Pop described it as “Listening to Heron Oblivion’s album feels like sitting in a lovely meadow in the shadow of a dam that’s going to burst any moment”... most apt, there is a long drawn out
tranquillity, but things are not always what they seem. It draws both from underground American noise music and vintage psychedelic rock. On their debut album, they strike a balance between delicate, pastoral folk and heavy, loud space rock, with Meg Baird’s fragile, wispy vocals sharing the stage with Noel von Harmonson and Charlie Saufley’s crushing guitar solos. Baird’s vocals are a strong asset and firmly place the album somewhere more interesting. There are many bands making cosmic-sounding guitar music right now, but on this debut Heron Oblivion have made their own space, something louder, spookier, and less optimistic. The songs are moody and dark, almost supernatural with clear moments of guitar solo-driven catharsis.
8 Hiss Golden Messenger Heart Like a Levee One of the latest arrivals in the year and the fact that it had to go in our top ten albums of 2016 is indicative of its compelling quality. Heart Like a Levee is the new long player from M.C. Taylor as Hiss Golden Messenger, one of our most favourite voices. This is his second album with Merge and continues the cycle of performing, recording, writing and touring (almost constantly) that started with his previous album Lateness of Dancers. One of the more prominent underlying themes of this new LP is absenteeism, missing the time and company of his young family as he ploughs bravely and honestly into his music. There has always been a frank and confessional element to Taylor’s music, you get the distinct impression that you are in the company of a good and honest man, but a man who makes no effort to hide minor shortcomings, rather weaving them into his music like a great process of learning and understanding. He questions himself, why he is feeling these emotions. Love is a healer, love is the cause. They are common themes, especially prevalent in the sort of post-American country music that Hiss Golden Messenger is crafting. Heart Like a Levee is honest and warm, it is genuine and that is why it feels so directly articulated. Taylor has one of the most distinctive and charming voices recording today and more so than ever on Levee, he sounds like he is singing direct to the congregation. It is a celebratory recorded powered by Taylor’s voice and his expertly assembled band. A captivating listen.
“The writing of the songs that became Heart Like a Levee started in a hotel room in Washington DC in January of 2015 during a powerful storm that darkened the East Coast. At that time I was feeling—more acutely than I had ever felt before— wrenched apart by my responsibilities to my family and to my music. Forgetting, momentarily, that for me, each exists only with the other. How could I forget? Though maybe my lapse was reasonable: I had just quit my job, the most recent and last, in a series of dead-end
“The most prismatic Hiss Golden Messenger record to date, one that ranges confidently from the folk shuffle of Say It Like You Mean It to the taut rural funk of Like A Mirror Loves A Hammer.”
gigs stretching back 20 years, with the vow that my children would understand their father as a man in love with his world and the inventor of his own days. They would be rare in that regard. And then—driven by monthly bills and pure fear— I left for another tour, carrying a load of guilt that I could just barely lift. But in that snowy hotel room I found the refrain that became my compass: I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road; but did I say I could find my way home?” - M.C. Taylor
7 Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool There seems very little doubt from where we are stood that Radiohead are the biggest band on the planet, certainly for record shops. When this new LP was announced, we pre-sold over twice as many copies (albeit on super limited white vinyl) than the previous highest-ever quantity in less than twelve hours. The next week we had very limited, indie shop only, double 7” singles, and we took calls and emails from around the world. We held a listening party for the new album (as part of a nationwide indie shop take over with music curated by the band) and had people begging for the posters for weeks after. The appetite for this new album was positively seismic. A Moon Shaped Pool is the ninth studio album from Oxford’s Radiohead, and is a sweeping and cinematic image of the sound that they have made their own. With each album the band disappear further and further into the distance, more angular, more experimental, woven from the five separate members’ increasingly disparate influences. It is amazing to think that over 25 years since the arrival of The Bends, the band would not only still command one of the most obsessive fan bases, but also that the “popular music” they make and filled the airways in June is often structured around contemporary classical music. It’s not even necessarily a marker of how far they have come, it’s how far they’ve taken us. A Moon Shaped Pool is hard to pin down, it’s a little like it all plays out through justawake eyes, an album of thoughts and feelings that arrive somewhere between sleep and wakening. Two of the album’s songs, True Love Waits and Burn the Witch have actually been around for years in various forms, and their inclusion further adds to the daydreaming sentiments,
“It sounds like Radiohead achieving something they’ve never achieved before, a quarter of a century into their career: long may their neuroses keep them in constant motion.”
modernised versions of old thoughts, like they are being misremembered. Across its eleven tracks it is arguably Radiohead’s most balanced album. Although unnerving and really quite sad, there is a meditative quality to it, and it is an album that really deserves to be listened to as so. Maybe it is their last album, maybe not; there are so many broader questions based around riddles and iconography with Radiohead that over-analysing them is sport for the forums and nothing more. Trying to put the notion of them as a band aside, A Moon Shaped Pool is a perfectly sculpted album, grand in ambition and realised with sublime grace and sentiment.
“Radiohead move beyond the existential angst that made them music’s preeminent doomsayers, pursuing a more personal - and eternal - form of enlightenment”
6 Angel Olsen MY WOMAN Like many other folk, we first came across Angel Olsen via Bonnie “Prince” Billy and her stunning vocals on the Island Brothers and Wolfroy Goes to Town releases. We went wild for her stark Half Way Home LP and utterly overboard (album No. 21 of 2014) for her brilliant last outing Burn Your Fire for No Witness... none are a patch on the fever we have for her new album MY WOMAN. It is an absolute honest instant classic and Angel Olsen’s finest hour. Her voice is amazing, both frail and damaged but brash and tremendously commanding, a lot more swagger than on previous recordings. Whereas they were previously reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk, grungepop band workouts and haunting, finger-picked epics, MY WOMAN is the recalibrated Angel Olsen. The crunchier, blown-out production is gone, but that fire is now burning wilder. Her disarming, timeless voice is even more front-and-centre. Yet, the strange, raw power and slowly unspooling incantations of her previous efforts remain. It is an album that is contradictory in that way, complex, and worthy of endless re-listens. It is a lo-fi record with grunge and garage shapes, but throughout there is an evocative take on classic power pop, charting the sixties right through the noughties. Thematically about love, from the explosive “shut up kiss me hold me tight” chorus to the more maudlin and introspective moments of the album’s last tracks. The biggest victory here is the strength of character and belief to deliver the songs with such superstar authenticity, whilst fearlessly letting the listener close with intimacy, even when it is sad and painful. It’s all so real and terribly vital. We love this album.
“Here she sounds more assured, even in her darker moments, and her strong, versatile voice is as extraordinary as ever.”
“Her ambitious third record marks another giant progression in an already distinguished career, and offers provocative thoughts on sacrifice and identity that should outlast its 48 minute runtime.”
5 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree September’s record of the month was the absolutely devastating new album from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Being overly simplistic, Nick Cave’s songs are pretty much all about death, in the same way I suppose life is ultimately about death. His ballads are like fables, although he doesn’t always clearly define which side of the morality line he is singing from. He has written murder ballads, he has written songs about loss, hopelessness and love, but it is unavoidable to add gravitas to this set of songs as he is potentially singing directly about his own loss for the first time. The mood is so dark, so sad and covered in a dense fog of despair. The songs are not explicitly all about his son (who tragically died), the recording process had actually already began before he died, there is however an unavoidable closeness to the music in Cave’s voice, the most emotional he has ever sounded. He points out that most of the lyrics were written prior to his son’s death and that he was too stricken to write anything worthwhile in the aftermath. Nick Cave’s lyrics have always dealt with love and grief, so while the themes seem more poignant because of his loss, in truth the content isn’t so different. Musically the album feels like a very logical step forward from 2013’s equally string rich Push the Sky Away, however whereas the maudlin veil was heavy over those songs, there were also moments of great cinematic euphoria. Skeleton Tree is quite beautiful, but it is unrelenting in its sadness. It is a superb piece of work from artists who create such fevered anticipation that anything short of marvellous on each occasion would
seem like a misfire; they are more than mere mortals. There are flourishes and there are moments of drive, it is no plain requiem. For the rich and vivid prose and the open-wound delivery, the songs are produced to perfection, like the most cinematically inspiring and overwhelming experience. It is music that is raw and occasionally frightening, utterly gripping from start to finish. Although they work as a team, Warren Ellis has more visibility on this record then perhaps any other before. There are looping tapes, field recordings, organ tones, unnatural strings and even gestures of buzzing and static that you feel he is controlling to guide the songs. Whether the album has acted as a catharsis it is not our place to know, but the bravery and honesty to share it is really quite humbling. It is far from easy-going (even on repeat listens) but it is an extraordinary album that everyone should hear. Near perfect.
“Skeleton Tree is an extraordinary piece of work, one that might impact upon you profoundly if you choose to bed-down in its dark corridors of hurt.”
4 The Avalanches Wildflower To be a fan of the The Avalanches, you have to be patient. In this year of highly anticipated albums, the sophomore Avalanches LP was perhaps the most feverishly - if not suspiciously - awaited... it has been a decade and a half in the making. Following an unprecedented 16-year gap between albums and all the revolutions the world has made since the release of their hugely acclaimed, award winning debut album Since I Left You (2000), The Avalanches released their new LP Wildflower. Since I Left You famously contained somewhere in the ballpark of one thousand samples (that would all need clearing…) so perhaps the decade-plus lead time into Wildflower isn’t too bad. The Avalanches have again crafted an astonishing soundscape of samples and textures, the sheer imagination to hear far enough ahead to cohesively form these songs is amazing. While the tapestry of sounds continues, Wildflower’s main difference to Since I Left You is the guest vocalists, including Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev, Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi, David Berman of Silver Jews, Detroit rapper Danny Brown, Biz Markie, rap duo Camp Lo, and Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux/Black Bananas. Since I Left You sounded like a dream, there was little start and stop to the songs, like a living suite of noises. Wildflower feels like the spiritual elder sibling, still joyous and ethereal, but the vocalists contribute to songs rather than sections. Stylistically it is also more distinct track to track. There are moments of beatled music and there are moments that sound like long forgotten acid pop, with tape loops and warps adding to the sun-blurred tones. Ultimately The Avalanches are actually quite a hard act to describe, as so much of what they do is so closely connected to feelings. Wildflower is kaleidoscopic in its scope, dreamlike in its graceful crafting of textures and sonics, and above all else it is fun. Whether this is happening as you are half asleep half awake or coming up is hard to tell, it is shimmering and some of the most joyous music imaginable.
“Even if it could never feel like a childhood’s worth of lovingly curated music, and even if the shock of the new is way out of its reach, it’s still another outof-its-time, forensically assembled wonder.”
“The wonderful Wildflower is cause for celebration, its Zappa/ Beasties-style collage of voices, samples, beats, sounds, and especially laughter offering a joyous affirmation of life”
3 David Bowie (Blackstar) On the day of his 69th birthday, David Bowie released (pronounced Blackstar), his 27th* studio album. Two days later he died after a long fight with cancer. From what we understood of his character it would likely have embarrassed him for us to say it, but as the news filtered slowly onto every screen on the planet, the world had definitely changed. What more could we write about this album that hasn’t been written? quite, so we won’t. We’ll write - if you’ll indulge us - a little about what David Bowie meant to us at Drift and those first few days after Blackstar. I don’t especially remember saying it, but on the Saturday 16th January we opted to play pretty much David Bowie’s music exclusively in the shop. I know that this was said in one way or another, as a good friend of the shop Roger arrived mid-morning with a CD copy of Station to Station. As we had requested, he had brought something to play. I can only imagine it would have been said on Twitter, but Roger isn’t much of an internet guy, we know in fact that he is still a letter-writing pen pal with one of the earliest Drift (or World Video and Music, as it was then) managers from back in the mid-nineties. So slightly taken aback, but never the less glad to oblige, we gave over the shop stereo to Roger to play his Bowie memories. If you are getting the local record shop to give you the stereo, why not pick a ten minute track of stern and angular David Bowie, some of the most progressive pop music he made… also, he played it fucking loud. I think we had subconsciously moved away from Heroes, Star Man or Changes and perhaps focused on some of the more subdued sections of his catalogue over that week. The ten minutes of Stations to Station’s title track were remarkable catharsis, shaking us back to life. David Bowie the person has died, he has left us but we have the music. We have David Bowie and we always will. Saturdays always have a nice social element at Drift, but this particular Saturday felt like a wake. There were moments of quite open sadness from people whose life had been genuinely changed all those years ago when Bowie looped his arm around Mick Ronson’s neck on Top of the Pops. He did that though didn’t he, he changed lives. Elsewhere there was a certain British stiff upper lip about it all, “Well this is shit isn’t it?”... The record shop was obviously going to be the place people congregated to talk about their David Bowie. We didn’t put up a sign or anything like that, everyone just knew that was the order of the day. A few years ago I did the “Good Day, Bad Day” phone-in on Steve Lamacq’s 6Music show as part of a record shop special. I’ve never totally understood the feature and
consequently picked two songs that would make me feel okay if it was either a good or a bad day. Whichever it was that day, Steve Lamacq played Laughing Gnome for me and didn’t even fade it down during the end bit where Bowie is just cracking up with laughter. Whether it was as the Goblin King in Labyrinth, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders, the rebirth as Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke or any of the other guises that followed, theatrically, culturally and above all musically, David Bowie touched everyone. Testament to his unwavering creative spirit was that even with The Next Day and Blackstar, as a really quite ill person he continued making critically and commercially successful music that was, in large part, progressive exploratory jazz. That first weekend Blackstar was hugely exciting, long and cinematic with reframes like “Where the fuck did Monday go?”. As soon as he left it took on another tone, the sombre cover (intended to represent “a man who was facing his own mortality”, the very first across his entire career not to feature Bowie) and the much analysed “Look up here, I’m
“It’s a rich, deep and strange album that feels like Bowie moving restlessly forward, his eyes fixed ahead: the position in which he’s always made his greatest music.”
* Some people are counting Blackstar as the 27th, some are saying 25th full-length album and not counting the Tin Machine LPs. Interestingly the official press releases said 28th… is there something we don’t know?
“As much as Blackstar shakes up our idea of what a David Bowie record can sound like, its blend of jazz, codes, brutality, drama, and alienation are not without precedent in his work... Bowie will live on long after the man has died. For now, though, he’s making the most of his latest reawakening, adding to the myth while the myth is his to hold.” in heaven” in Lazarus. It is as fine an album as any he’d made in decades and a very beautiful final gift. David Bowie didn’t need to change my life in such a seismic way, the first time I saw him on Top of the Pops was dancing in the street with Mick Jagger. I doubt anyone will remember the moment they saw that video and had their mind opened and their life changed. A decade earlier he had already changed everything, I’m just one of the young dudes who turned up to a much better place. Goodbye David Bowie, you changed everything and we love you man.
2 BADBADNOTGOOD IV BADBADNOTGOOD are a band we like a lot, the talented young quartet of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, Alex Sowinski on drums and Leland Whitty on saxophone. It’s the second year running in the top ten for BADBADNOTGOOD, after last year’s collaborative Sour Soul album with Ghostface Killah. Their fourth album, the succinctly titled IV, is the most fully realised version of themselves. They formed and became inseparable friends at Humber College’s Music Performance programme in 2011 and have been on a critically acclaimed, rule bending musical journey ever since. There is common acknowledgement amongst jazz students that turning your hand to something else, say being in a guitar band, is to be frowned upon; they can basically do it on their head. The strength of BADBADNOTGOOD’s appeal is that they are still firmly rooted into the jazz world with progressive and complex rhythms and arrangements, but the music they make is so evocative that they can cross genres with remarkable dexterity. Having already collaborated with Tyler, the Creator and Odd Future Sessions, BADBADNOTGOOD’s music sure lends itself well to the rap world. Legend has it that the Ghostface Killah collaboration came about after Killah literally blocked them in a changing room and freestyled at them after hearing them warming up. There is an organic quality to the band that even the most dextrous beatmaker would never accomplish. On IV the guest appearances are superbly measured. Saxophonist Colin Stetson is given huge space to play against the band - you can hear them accommodating the complex gestures he makes as he runs up and down the scales. Likewise with Kaytranada, whose bubbling and popping production allows the band to work out against him. The three main vocal appearances are all stylistically different and all the more exciting for it. Mick Jenkins raps with great vocal distortion, spitting fast then curling his lips around elongated calls for “wwwweeeedddd” at the verse ends. Fellow Toronto native Charlotte Day Wilson is nothing short of sublime on In Your Eyes, a Quentin Tarantino jukebox cut if ever we’ve heard one. Again, the band know how to frame her, lush fills that never encroach the space they have left for her. Then there is Future Islands’ Sam Herring with Time Moves Slow; we do not award a song of the year, but
if we did, then that would be the 2016 custodian of it. A modern soul ballad that uses every corner of his worldweary growl to chilling effect. All of this is not necessarily to say that BADBADNOTGOOD need any guests, the tracks without additional input arguably lead the album. There is a lot of drive about IV, there is almost a sense of claustrophobia as the horns start to swirl hypnotically, not dissimilar to the Éthiopiques. They sound like a band pushing themselves to experiment whilst always keeping a hand on the rudder; not through caution, they just know where they want to get to. Their influences in funk and soul ring true at the start and end of the album, building between with fiery hip-hop instrumentals, creamy rhythm and blues balladry and classic lounge vibes, all explored with equal excitement. They are doubtless one of the most in-demand and go-to jam-bands right now - you can hear their sonic sympathy they offer to the cause of the song, bringing out the very best of people. As coherent as it is addictive, IV is an album of left field jazz, smooth soul and driving blaxploitation horns… no one else has come close to harnessing anything else like that this year.
“Innovative and imaginative, IV overflows with ideas throughout.”
ONE Thee Oh Sees A Weird Exits And finally, the Drift 2016 Record of the Year; the svelte, muscular, hugely addictive and utterly life-affirming A Weird Exits from San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees. We know that a bunch of you are already giving this the affirmative nod, you know these guys rip hard. We can only make assumptions or unravel conspiracies as to why, but some of you might not know Thee Oh Sees, you might not have heard quite possibly the world’s best garage band. For any of you that spend more than a passing prowl into the Drift shop, you will have heard them, you will definitely have shaken your bones and bopped your gleeful heads under pumping neck muscles to the Californian bombers. Thee Oh Sees are a band that make you feel something, they’re a band that make chemicals pump from your brains. A Weird Exits is the 17th studio album released by John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees (in one form or another), the most prolific of all psych-shredders. Their live shows have elevated ever upward, from word of mouth storms, to sold-out tours and appearances synonymous with full outof-body rock and roll euphoria. The Castle Face Records label (that John Dwyer in part runs) has been running a live series over the last few years under the Live in San Francisco banner. Previous recordings have logged explosive live sets from fellow garage stalwarts Destruction Unit, White Fence, Fuzz and the scene’s kingpin Ty Segall. In July this year, the series released the one we’d all be waiting on, Thee Oh Sees in their native environment, melting faces. Their show at the Chapel in San Francisco is utterly superb, one of the first appearances of the pumped new doubledrum line up of Thee Oh Sees. It’s captured so honestly, “our shutters aflutter and our tapes on a roll”; it’s just the way it went down, a band in full flight. The set is fairly recent, with 2013’s Floating Coffin and last year’s Mutilator Defeated at Last album filling over half the tracklist; then, right as the curtain is about to fall, comes the thunderous Gelatinous Cube, the first tease of August’s studio album A Weird Exits. It arrived barely six weeks on from the release of the double live album. A Weird Exits is the first set of studio recordings that capture the muscular rhythm section of twin drummers Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon, cracking spines with ringer bassist Tim Hellman. In Dead Man’s Gun, Thee Oh Sees have unleashed a truly great ‘side one track one’, with an exhilarating stomper of an opening. The song is tightly wound, the psychotic-staccato hurls the track into the first chorus in the fastest possible time, it’s like the song had
been playing for about 25 seconds before anyone bothered to hit record, breakneck speed and utterly thrilling. With a stomp of the fuzz box and an almighty WOOOO, the song explodes through the gears, and A Weird Exits has set its stall as a chemical-surging, euphoric rush like no other. The most exhilarating part is that it is all so unhinged, they are a band of great technical ability but there is always the overwhelming sense that it could explode at any minute. As an album there is much drive, but it’s also nuanced, and across the tracks there is a lot more going on than just kicking and screaming. Good sections of the album are instrumentally focused, lead lines where the instrumentation is hard to decipher. The twin drummers provide such a full and cosmic suite that there is loads of room for the songs to change direction and tone. Whereas big parts of their back catalogue fell in line with psychedelic pop, this new line-up and set of songs are clearly more focused into an expansive headspace. The reverb in particular is amazing, through the churns and the drones, they’ve crafted a sort of 21st century take on the baked surfer rock tone. Across the album there are loads of loose mid-tempo grooves, it’s not all about the smash and grab. A Weird Exits is a joyous album, thrilling in its highoctane garage clatter, and utterly mesmerising in its avant psychedelia. In July they released an amazing live album, in August our record of the year: and now, as 2016 is all set on rails for the slow and excruciating descent towards Michael Bublé, Thee Oh Sees will return this November with their 18th fulllength studio album… An Odd Entrances. Are they prolific? Obsessive? No rest for the restless. The fertile sessions that created A Weird Exits set in motion something altogether more contemplative. If A Weird Exits is a party, then An Odd Entrances is the soundtrack as the sun pours in through the curtains, as the memories of last night haze and vanish in front of your eyes. It is experimental with locking rhythms and reverbs, as genuinely psychedelic and trippy as the last moments of The White Album. The drums shuffle and the guitars shimmer, lush, doomy and at times dreamy. The two parts together have Thee Oh Sees in their fully realised form. They are pretty much untouchable, life-affirming rock and roll that grabs your hearts and minds and hurls you about.
“I’ve been listening to Thee Oh Sees for a fair few years now, always loving their records, always loving the gnarly twists and turns that Dwyer drops for fun. With A Weird Exits they’ve gone up several gears. The two drummer line-up has taken their usual super-impressive aural assault to a full-on mind-blowing psyche/garage war. Their recent live shows were staggering. Thee Oh Sees? Unbeatable. Unstoppable. My album of 2016.” Marc Riley
BOOKS AND MUSIC AT THE HEART OF INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING
‘A carefully calibrated celebration of that most shiny, brilliant, seedy, decadent and subversive of all pop genres’ Shindig HHHHH
‘Hyde proves himself an able and enigmatic writer with an intriguing and absorbing way of chronicling the world he finds himself in’ Loud and Quiet
‘If you have displayed any of the same vinyl-addiction symptoms as Burgess, this is a one sitting read’ Mojo 4 HHHH
‘The funniest rock memoir since Andrew Matheson’s Sick on You’ Uncut 9/10
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Published on Nov 19, 2016
Published on Nov 19, 2016
A newspaper about record shops. In this issue; our favourite 100 albums released in 2016. Alongside the big list, some compilations, some re...