Is it the summer doldrums, or maybe a bit of a slow week for releases. We're making the best of it though...
'It's a great time to be alive, if only you've got some funds...'
This announcement at the start of the single 'Bassline of the Cornucopian', could easily be the subtitle of Snapped Ankles' third and most accomplished album.
As with their last record ('Stunning Luxury' 2009), it's big business and gentrification that appears to get the greatest shoeing from the foliage masked group. As with their attire though, the music is spiky, mischievous pisstakery ('Rhythm is our Business' opens with the delightfully snarky 'I'm not a politician, I'm a business man ...and it's time to get down to business' ).
The wild punktronica template is still present, but 'Forest of Your Problems' wants you to dance as well. The frantic drums of 'The Evidence' sets the excitable pace early on and the throbbing bass and quirky synth noises of 'Psithurythm' take the album into a bewilderingly fabulous territory. But it's the seven and a half minutes of 'Xylophobia' that truly surprises, it opens with bleeping and whirring like Cabaret Voltaire at their darkest before launching skyward, with motorik drums and mantra-like vocals. Thrilling.
The 'Forest of Your Problems' is a place that you really must explore.
Natalie Bergman is best known as the sister side from the bro-sister duo, Wild Belle. Her very cool cathartic LP, Mercy, came out at the tail end of May and, is just a simply delicious delight. Her cover of You've Got A Woman follows a similar rich path. All the sounds are there, the chord organ's there, the bongos are there. Oh wow! Natalie Bergman just has that thing. That thing is everything. That's what it is. And Beck can't spoil that. I don't have a video to embed so watch this instead...
Wow! A great 70s wah-wah rock intro. You could def be in a field in Reading in the 70s, (when it grooved to prog-rock) echoes of India in the flutes and full of fuzzed-up discordant soundclashes. It's a perfect counterpoint to a dismal, damp, grey, Toonside Tuesday. In my 'Yoouff' (light-years away) - this would have been heavy metal, we would have chanted that refrain, "We are the Queens of the underground", slow, loud sleazy. Who cares if it's a throwback, sit back, enjoy its slow-paced burn, its guitar explosion, it's at the edge of losing control, ESPECIALLY in the fade-out Guitar solo, just sublimely, Glorious. Sounds like an anthem for some mid-afternoon band at a warm sunny, just after the rain at a summer festival. This is a slab of retro that's just made for these recovery days.
Regressive Left, yeah great name (especially for old leftie like me). Cream Militia has a great 80's electro, retro intro, and mid song break. It could be Heaven 17, Japan, or Depeche Mode, no bad thing there, the threat in the music hinting of a crisis to come - the synth lines and repetitive beat, a long gone metal industry, marching pounding beats, (very regressive left on the streets ), a good thing too. The words like the music hint of isolation, loneliness, and drifting rudderless in the current maelstrom of political atrophy, there's exuberance, and fear. Yeah the words hint at an angry desperation in these days, and at moments can sound like they're coming out of David Byrne's mouth, but the cynicism of the generation comes through, there's a resignation and withdrawal, sad to hear, tragic in it's sense of loss... BUT - A parable for the future, the confused, dissonant, desperate future that we face in the middle of this decade.
No, 'Prioritise Pleasure by Self Esteem' is not the title of a well meaning self-help article in a glossy magazine, (you know, the hefty ones that smell of umpteen perfume samples). No, it's much more important than that!
Rebecca Lucy Taylor and co. follow up one of the best singles of the year (' I Do This All The Time'), with a swaggering ode to moving out of the darkness and into the light. The percussion-led verses break into the fabulous juxtaposition of a gospel choir with a blast of electro noise in the chorus. It's a jolt to the system - a cry for release. And it's just a shame that the verse where Taylor breaks out the straightjacket guilt to find joy, defiance, and, err, pleasure won't get played on the radio.
The album, 'Prioritise Pleasure' is released on 22 October on Fiction records.
The opening track from Courtney Barnett's next lp, Things Take Time, Take Time, her follow up to the phenomenally successful, Tell Me How You Really Feel. And how you'll feel about it will depend on how you feel about Courtney's voice. It is such a lovely lazed rocknroller voice, that everything that surrounds it is merely window dressing and Courtney's voice is Christmas. It's made for this, you know, like say Peter Perrett was made for the Only Ones. She'd make a great album of Only Ones covers I'd say.
The second release from the forthcoming EP of Esther Rose songs, How Many More Times. Stef Chura's vision for Good Time is excellently all New Wave for people that like their new waves rough around the edges. Great!
The title track to the Fall follow up to Sam's number one debut LP, Hypersonic Missiles. Sam a popular singer, then, and even based on the E-reated version of this song, inoffensive. Simple drums, they sound real, but could be a up tempo Springsteen sample, some good horns, simple (not in a stupid sense ) music and song, lovely harmony vocals, but just forgettable. Recorded in Norht Shields, in the UK. The best thing for me, the Video and shots of places close to my home. Familiar sounding.
'What? The gentlest acoustic number from last year's folk-tinged 'Blackberry' album has been given a dance remix treatment?'
'No, no, no, that sounds preposterous! It will never, ever work. Ever'
And yet 'It's been reimagined by House, Deep Techno and Minimal DJ Aske Izan, who specialises in House, Deep House and Deep Techno (...no, me neither) has reimagined the song managed to retain something of the original grace whilst creating this intoxicating series of mixes. Broderick's haunted vocals weave around their new territory in such an effortless manner.
It shouldn't work, but it does! And if it's still not to your liking, the heart-stoppingly gorgeous original is here again too.
Somehow seemingly, this period of quarantine has turned Bearwood's Ancient Champion from a virtual recluse, into super productive artist with new music nearly every week. The tunes I've heard are upfront and short, there literally is another one along in a minute if you don't like it. But possibly you on't like the next one either. Bin lids at the opening? But they won't be real. Nor will the very busted organ powering this paean to the Museumgoer of Baton Rouge, the inspiration for an entire Ancient Champion collection arriving next week. Melodic and mad, it endearingly meanders for a minute and half and then ends. Recommend to everyone.
Nine Pianos is from the soundtrack to the film, Nine Days. The movie stars the fantastic Zazie Beetz, maybe best known from Atlanta. The piano is suitably spare and soaring too. Antonio packs all of the movie's emotional heft into two minutes or so here. Allow two minutes of beauty into your day.
The Spice Girls have re-issued the single that started it all 25 years ago this week. Has it really been 25 years? I can still remember the exact moment I heard the Spice Girls “Wannabe” -- it was the summer of 1996. Bill Clinton was in office, the Chicago Bulls were in the middle of their second three-peat run, and Jarvis Cocker had just bum-rushed (literally) Michael Jackson on stage during his pedophiliac performances at the Brit Awards. It was a fantastic time to be alive. Then the cherry on top of the sundae: “Wannabe.” It was everywhere and cleansed the palate, hitting the reset button of tastemakers and music aficionados everywhere. I can make a fairly strong argument that the Spice Girls was pop culture’s last grasp at innocence -- convince me that I’m wrong.
Who else thought A Certain Ratio would be making interesting music in 2021? Not I. While they’ve never broken up, ACR has been knocking out interesting tracks since Tony Wilson signed the boys to Factory Records in 1979 with "All Night Party," (FAC 5, produced by the larger-than-life Martin Hannett). So it should be no surprise that ACR:EPR is a vital, funky little collaborative four-track EP with hints of acid house, funk, disco, dub, and that stiff, tangible early-’80s Manchester dance groove we all know and love. ACR hasn’t lost a step -- Tony would be proud.
I’m skeptical of the Lords of Altamont. I’ve been fooled by bands like this before -- Jet, Manic Street Preachers, Arcade Fire, the Mooney Suzuki -- they all have the look, they use the right instruments, some of the songs are even listenable, but in the end, they’re all just going through the motions -- rock & roll pomp and circumstance. Lords of Altamont are sort of like that for me because Tune In, Turn On, Electrify sounds too good, too well produced. Maybe the LP has to live with me a little longer. I’m skeptical, but I don’t hate it, and coming from Spanish, that’s about as good as it gets.
Only Cameron Crowe could take a 17-song soundtrack from a middling movie made over 20 years ago and blow it out into a six disc mega-sized box set. The hubris! And for $200, you too can own the colored vinyl, the remixes, the photo book, excerpts of Crowe’s personal memoirs on set, the Almost Famous version of “Tiny Dancer,” and two fake ticket stubs from fake band Stillwater during their fake 1973 West Coast tour. Fake fun!
GIESEKING - Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words (Discover)
by Ancient Champion
I am dropping this collection of Felix Mendelssohn's classic Songs Without Words, performed by Walter Gieseking into this weeks review page. No one can stop me. I was asked this week what I listen to when I am writing and this, the solo piano just sweeps under me. My fingers are elevated. In many passages the piano is so spare. I should order up the sheet music for Ms. Champ's birthday what a treat that would be to hear her play this. Meanwhile Gieseking is the greatest. Go directly to your nearest charity shop and find it. You could love too.
Main Image: Snapped Ankles, Leaf records photo
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