Album of the week (03 May): Viagra Boys – Street Worms

Viagra Boys - Street Worms album cover

Stockholm seems to be the place to be right now if you’re looking for new and inventive post-punk bands. Following on from FEWS releasing one of my favourite albums of the year so far, we now have Viagra Boys ploughing their own heavy guitar furrow to great effect.

There’s a touch of surrealism across debut album Street Worms and the occasional use of saxophone makes for some interesting moments – setting this effort apart from releases by bands of a similar ilk.

The thing that drives this album, however, is the incredibly infections and super-dirty bass that you just can’t help falling for and the almost pub-rock croonings of vocalist Sebastian Murphy, which he manages to sell perfectly.

From opener Down In The Basement, with its high tempo hi-hats, right through to the hypnotic instrumental LP closer Amphetanarchy we are treated to a masterclass in scuzzed-out bass and guitars that worm their way inside you and stick their hooks in.

Highlights along the way include Sports (see video below), in which Murphy does his very best Iggy Pop impression, and Slow Learner, which instantly transports you to a crowded, sweaty, dirty dive bar to pogo along with the heaving masses.

Standout track Shrimp Shack offers a touch of humour, with Murphy telling us how he’s ‘Surfing with your mom in the dirt’, while the second half of the track is dedicated to a good ‘ol instrumental wig-out.

I’m a massive proponent of vinyl, but it’s a shame that it can’t find room for the five additional bonus tracks available on CD and digital. There are some corkers in there too, including some proper bouncy punk numbers like Jungle Man, Up All Night and the broody but infectious Special Helmet.

A proper treat for the ears this one.

Release date: 03 May 2019

Rating: 8.5/10

Standout track: Shrimp Shack

For fans of:

  • FEWS
  • Iggy Pop
  • Fontaines D.C.

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (26 April): Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – Sacred Dreams

This is the third studio album from Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation, and while it’s not a perfect piece of pop, there’s enough sophistication here to make it stand out from the rest of this week’s releases.

Sacred Dreams takes us through the realms of electro-pop and lazy, hazy country blues desertscapes – all with a dash of psychedelia thrown in.

The album does feel a little front loaded, as most of the best moments feature early on. Opener Feel The Sun borrows heavily on the Goldfrapp model of crowd-pleasing blissful pop. Then follows an unnecessarily early keyboard and effect laden interlude before we are hit with standout track I Can Feel It, featuring a pounding bass drum, incessant keyboard tones and layered harmonics. The hypnotic chorus is fabulous.

The danceable electro-pop theme continues with Desire, Öhrn’s breathy vocal style working particularly well here with the french lyrics in the verses.

The second act of the album signals a change of pace – Hey Little Boy is a slower track with a country blues feel to the guitar work, though there’s still a hint of pulsating synth to be found.

Only Lovers leans heavily on a spacious folky acoustic guitar to match the echo-laden vocal and moves away from the beat-driven tracks before it. The tempo ups slightly with Baby Come On, a blues-rock number featuring some interesting keyboard work and good layering of sound.

However, things start to get a little flabby towards the end. New Horizons is a fairly standard low-key pop number, while Let It Come and Whatever You Want don’t really add anything extra.

The main saving grace of the latter part of the album is Caramel Head, that uses lazy, hazy slide guitar to let you drift away to another plane.

It’s not going to be my album of the year, or even the month, but I reckon some of these tracks will stay with me for some time.

Release date: 26 April 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: I Can Feel It

For fans of:

  • Goldfrapp
  • Lorelle Meets The Obselete
  • Ladytron

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (12 April): The Chemical Brothers – No Geography

The Chemical Brothers - No Geography album cover

The Brothers are back and, boy, have they worked it out. No Geography is their ninth studio album and probably the best in nearly 20 years (that it’s been two decades since Surrender was released is now worrying me quite a bit). In order to regain their mojo
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, a.k.a The Chemical Brothers have back to their roots, giving us some absolute classic bangers along with some soulful, funky disco numbers. Whatever direction they take us on this album – and there are a few – you can’t help but feel that they enjoyed putting it together as much as I enjoyed listening to it. In case it needs clarifying, I enjoyed it a lot.

Eve Of Destruction kicks us off, a cracking disco stomp featuring some seriously funky bass, 90s-style house synths and soulful vocals. Close your eyes (and turn up the heat somewhat) and you could be back in the Haçienda, yet the track manages to maintain a distinctly modern feel to it at the same time.

There’s no pause for breath as we move seamlessly into the next track, Bango, a bongo-laden effort that continues with the funky bass and house synth themes from before. This time we are treated to a strong dose of the Chems’ trademark squelches and random add-on effects. It’s a nice call-back on previous works, but on this album I’m happy that it’s more of an occasional visitor rather than an ever-present.

Yet again, there’s no break as we are introduced to title track No Geography, a more stripped back, emotive piece that samples poet Michael Brownstein to create a heartfelt work without dropping the tempo.

Finally, the opening mix ends, but there’s still little time for rest as we are treated to recent single Got To Keep On, another euphoric house/disco work of genius that has a smattering of 70s to it and a cracking vocal sample that makes the track. Very nearly my standout track.

The pace slows slightly over the next couple of tracks, with Gravity Drops taking a more languid approach and relying heavily on drawn-out synth notes and a bubbling bass track to make it’s mark. The Universe Sent Me is a (very) slow builder, using a juicy post-punk bass line and the ethereal vocals of Norweigan singer-songwriter Aurora to take you on a journey that adds layer upon layer of sound over you until you are completely immersed in a dreamy headspace.

We’ve Got To Try features some yummy deep acid notes and twisted synths alongside some funky soul, with olny the slower tempo stopping it from being a proper stomper.

But now we enter classic Chems territory. Firstly we have single Free Yourself, featuring an arpeggiating synth line, acid working away in the background and the occasional full-on sonic assault, all tied together by a simple vocal loop. Majestic.

This paves the way for MAH, a proper old-skool acid-techno banger that will have any dancefloor anywhere throwing their hands in the air in rapture. It’s proper rave material that makes me smile whenever I listen to it (and that’s been quite a lot recently).

Catch Me I’m Falling provides a low-key close to the album, a slower track featuring the dream-pop vocals of Stephanie Dosen. This isn’t an unfamiliar approach from the boys and again, provides a nod to what’s come before.

I’ll have to see how this opus plays over time, but right now it’s placed itself as a strong contender for album of the year.

Release date: 12 April 2019

Rating: 9/10

Standout track: MAH

For fans of:

  • Underworld
  • Leftfield
  • Orbital

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (05 April): JAWS – The Ceiling

JAWS - The Ceiling album cover

This is the third full length outing from Brummie indie-rock trio JAWS and this album displays enough maturity and song craft to justify it as album of the week in what turned out to be quite a strong shortlist.

The Ceiling has just enough dreaminess, grunge and shoegaze to push a lot of my buttons, and in many ways is quite reminiscent of the work of Shame, who also produced a strong album with Songs of Praise last year.

It takes a little while for this album to get going. Driving at Night offers us some warm familiar tones, with a classic jangly indie guitar riff, while Feel has a distinct Foals feel to it with its poppy chorus and slightly staccato rhythm section.

All very nice so far, though not necessarily blowing your socks off, but the album keeps growing as you listen.

With Do You Remember? we get our first taste of some heavier grungy rhythm guitars, albeit balanced out by some lighter lead guitar work at first but as the song gets into gear the heavier tones dominate and we end up with a bit of a stomper.

Fear offers us laid back grooves alongside lighter touch guitars that really sweep you up as the song motors along. End of the World has some Slowdive influence at the start with some echo laden guitars complementing Connor Schofield’s vocals before the song veers off into a satisfyingly heavy area.

Two more indie classics follow, Patience offers us beats, whereas Looking / Passing has a more atmospheric start. But however build well as the songs progress leaving us well happy by the end.

Strangely, title track The Ceiling is probably the weakest track on the album – a lower key number that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Please Be Kind is another classic indie belter with an anthemic wall of sound guitar laden chorus, while closer January is another groove-laden number after a slower start.

Ultimately this is an indie album, pure and simple. But it is good to see that there are still some newer bands injecting a bit of fresh life into a mature genre at a time when some of the old names are coming back out of the woodwork to reclaim their territory.

Release date: 05 April 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Do You Remember?

For fans of:

  • Shame
  • Foals
  • Slowdive

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (29 March): Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work

This four piece based in Brighton and Glasgow certainly enjoy to walk on the heavier side of the musical highway and Lower Slaughter‘s sophomore release revels in doomy, sludgy, brilliant riffs enhanced by the spiky growling vocals of Sinead Young.

I loved debut album, What Big Eyes, and with Some Things Take Work they have moved the dial again. This is a heavy, raucous and clever sonic assault that you may have to steady yourself for before donning the headphones.

The overall impression is that of Garage/DIY rock gone extreme, but despite the lo-fi nature of whats on offer, the band are as tight as can be and have explosive riffs coming out of every pore.

Opener Gas is a slower, grinding number that relies heavily on the vocals of Young to carry the track, which she does easily. We then are launched into the chugging Reboundaries, that sits somewhere between punk and Sabbath on the rock scale.

To be fair, there’s not a huge amount of variation in this album. Stylistically your’e going from punk, through metal of various types, but when it’s this good, who cares.

There are some different shades in here. Standout track Some Things Take Work is higher paced, slightly lighter in tone and actually quite catchy. A Portrait Of The Father contains some of the most delicate moments on the album and a slightly bluesy feel.

Elsewhere, there’s the all our Mötorhead-tastic The Measure Of A Man, and some properly sludgy doom-metal-done-well on Revenant, but generally you know what you’re going to get on this album – and it’s likely to make you ears bleed.

Closer The Body epitomises everything that has come before it, shifting between jangly indie guitars and crunching riffs, culminating in a hypnotic, head-pounding sign-off.

Certainly this album isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, but those with a penchant for the heavier side of music should lap this up.

Release date: 29 March 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Into The Fire

For fans of:

  • Black Sabbath
  • Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
  • Sleep

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week (22 March): These New Puritans – Inside The Rose

The fourth studio album from Southend’s Barnett twins is probably the most accessible These New Puritans album so far. Do expect too many roller coaster-type thrills on Inside The Rose, but this is most certainly a rewarding listen for TNP fans and newcomers alike.

There are some delicious moments of contrasting light and dark tones on this album – often at the same time. Opener Infinity Vibraphones is a case in point. It is both soft and ominous, with the vibraphones of the track name providing a juxtaposition of impatient relaxation, rounded off with some emotive strings and a militaristic drumbeat.

This contrast of near blissful tones against a dark background features strongly on other tracks, such as A-R-P, with its arpeggiated keyboards giving way to some much softer tones interspersed with the occasional brief bout of heavy distorted bass.

Like several of the tracks on Inside the Rose, the rhythm section is nowhere to be found on ARP, until very late on in the track. Where The Trees Are On Fire employs a similar tactic, which until the final third is a slow, beautiful lament, and the only real deployment of TNP’s trademark brass section on the album.

The reluctance to put real rhythm behind a lot of the tracks can feel frustrating at times, as the sense is that’s it’s always just around the corner, and on tracks such as Beyond Black Sun, it can start to feel a little dirge-like. However, the overall ominous beauty that’s on show overshadows this and while there are still some notes of discordance that TNP are well-known for, such as on Anti-Gravity or the twisted rhythms on the challenging but ultimately rewarding Into The Fire, they are nowhere near the levels seen on previous works.

Another fine work from a now well-established band exploring the possibilities within their unique style.

Release date: 22 March 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Into The Fire

For fans of:

  • Teeth Of The Sea
  • Gazelle Twin
  • The Twilight Sad

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

The Comet Is Coming - Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery album cover

Fair warning, I am about to use the phrase ‘Space Jazz’. I implore you to look beyond that or risk missing out on a quite brilliant album…

Space Jazz trio The Comet Is Coming have been quite a revelation for me. I first had my ears opened to a bit of jazz last year by, among others, the brilliant Sons of Kemet. Perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the main reasons why Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery is so darn good is the sax and clarinet of Sons of Kemet’s Shabaka Hutchings that features on this album. But it also manages to add some impressive and heavy bass synth work to the mix, adding in some real dance floor credentials.

The album starts off realtively sedate, giving little indication of what’s to come. Because The End Is Really The Beginning is an atmospheric, almost proggy, start to the album with little in the way of beats. It’s a real scene setter that then leads into Birth of Creation, which introduces some nice meaty, throbbing, synths to the clarinet work. You start to get the feeling that the album is beginning to lead you somewhere and building up to something more special.

Which is precisely what we get with Summon The Fire. There’s a pounding synth, great drum work, Hutchings’s saxophone gets its first proper workout – Sons of Kemet-style – and there’s a few nice background effects going on too. This is proper jazz music for the dance floor.

Things then get deeper with Blood Of The Past, with a fantastic mid-tempo hypnotic bass synth line that becomes a proper head-nodder. There’s even a slight mid-eastern feel to the sax work, but what makes this the standout track is the inclusion of spoke word maestro Kate Tempest from the midway point. Even if the word ‘jazz’ sends shivers down your spine, give this track a whirl.

Super Zodiac sees more breathless sax work from Hutchins. Bar the dreamy synths, this could easily be a Sons of Kemet track, but the inclusion of them adds a bonus layer.

The album then starts to ease off the pedal slightly. Astral Flying‘s slower pace allows both the synth and sax some breathing space, while Timewave Zero is more typical space jazz (if there is such a thing) but moves towards a more house-y feel by the end.

Unity offers us some laid back tribal drum rhythms, while closer The Universe Wakes Up provides a low-key atmospheric ending to the album, with just a hint of random jazz wig out (the bit that usually really annoys me).

I’m still not yet a jazz enthusiast, most of it still seems like pompous musical masturbation to my mind, but I can certainly get down with this kind of groove.

Beware the comet, for it most certainly is coming.

Release date: 15 March 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Blood Of The Past

For fans of:

  • Sons of Kemet
  • Theon Cross
  • Kate Tempest

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1

Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 album cover

Confession time – Foals haven’t been on my radar since 2010’s Total Life Forever, which featured the brilliant Spanish Sahara but little of interest.

With that in mind I wasn’t expecting too much from Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1, but how wrong I was. This is an exceptionally good half an album that manages to constantly catch you off guard.

It displays a mastery of song progression – with layers building and building on each other until you are incapable of anything but being sucked into the tracks.

On numerous occasions the first few bars of a track leave you with low expectations and little indication of what’s to come but by the end you’re left thinking ‘that was fucking brilliant!’

Prime examples are Syrups, a slower number with a dominant bass that adds keyboards, soulful vocals and guitars as it goes, while On The Luna starts all Maroon 5 but gets beefier as it goes and is beyond recognition by the close of the track.

Sunday is perfectly named, as it has a laid-back sunny Sunday afternoon feel to it. But even here we get some guitar and keyboard layers, a squelchy bass coming in and even a change of tempo that will be perfect for getting the summer festival crowd bouncing.

There are some more full-on numbers too, such as In Degrees, which is an all-out dance number – Foals style, and the brilliant White Onions, which has buzzy guitars and some delicious heavy notes in the chorus.

Even in the quieter moments, such as with the synth chorals of opener Moonlight and the solo piano of closer I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me), there is still plenty of atmosphere and emotion on show.

I had to listen to this album immediately after finishing it first time round just to make sure I hadn’t been hoodwinked by it, but if anything it sounded better second time around.

Part 2 of this work is out in the autumn, and I for one can’t wait.

Release date: 08 March 2019

Rating: 8.5/10

Standout track: White Onions

For fans of:

  • The Twilight Sad
  • Editors
  • Klaxons

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: FEWS – Into Red

FEWS - Into Red album cover

The second album from Swedish/US post-punk group FEWS sees the band building on the unique sound developed on debut album Means.

What we have with Into Red is a more mature sound, greater use of atmosphere, heavier guitars and a sometimes slower pace. This is epitomised on opening track Quiet, which is anything but. It incorporates elements of shoegaze, isn’t afraid to hold the pace up where necessary, and sheds the sometimes jangly guitars of the last album for something much beefier.

Paradiso continues this trend, while still being unmistakably FEWS. The vocals have more of a drawl to them and the effect-laden guitars in the chorus section are something to behold.

There are some hark-backs to earlier days. More Than Ever is a classic up-tempo indie rock number that, while not hugely original in design, is brilliantly executed. Anything Else recalls Ill from their debut album, before taking us off in a slightly different direction with some stupendous guitar bursts. Over provides us with a proper post-punk opening, a high tempo and a fabulous chorus.

Elsewhere there are new delights to entertain us. Business Man is driven along by piano and bass until distorted synths kick in as the guitars keep building on each other. 97 provides us with a desolate opening using a single echoing guitar and soft vocal before the guitars break over you. It contains quite a discordant riff that at first sounds off, but eventually falls perfectly into place.

There’s even the addition of a little bit of 80s synth on Limits, though this is kept to a minimum across the album.

A highly impressive sophomore for this band, which I would advise anyone with a soft spot for loud guitars to listen to. You won’t regret it.

Release date: 01 March 2019

Rating: 9/10

Standout track: Quiet

For fans of:

  • Shame
  • Moaning
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: Teeth Of The Sea – Wraith

Teeth Of The Sea - Wraith album cover

Teeth Of The Sea have produced an absorbing album that mixes electronica, ambient, dance and jazz with a splash of psych rock and even a touch of avent-garde, while managing to maintain its sense of direction throughout.

On Wraith, the band is not shy on using brass to create that jazzy noir feeling but ensure it doesn’t dominate proceedings, and just when you feel that things are in danger of running aground they surprise you with a change up that pulls you back in once again.

I’d Rather, Jack as an opening piece, lays the groundwork for the rest of the album, fusing a simple heavy drum line with synths, trumpet, some electronic soundscapes and electric guitars. At times it feels like a film noir set in a sweaty nightclub.

That trend continues with the brooding Hiraeth, which flirts with becoming too jazzy before deep bass and grungy guitars fully redeems it.

Fortean Steed explores a more atmospheric, swirling electronic motif, incorporating echoing plucked electric guitars with some folky female choral voices and effect-laden glockenspiel.

There’s some masterful work going on in the track Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World, where not a whole lot seems to be happening but yet you are hooked from the first note to the last bar. Very reminiscent of the last year’s fantastic album by Nils Frahm.

Where the album really takes off is when the beats speed up and the loops take you on a hypnotic journey, such as in the excellent VISITOR and the brilliantly-titled Gladiators Ready – which transforms into a proper mid-tempo banger worthy of any acid rave.

There was enough variety and depth to this album to make it my album of the week, despite some very strong competition. Get your ears round it now.

Release date: 22 February 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: VISITOR

For fans of:

  • GoGo Penguin
  • Nils Frahm
  • These New Puritans

Listen on Spotify