Top 50 albums of 2019: Number Two

2: Fews – Into Red

I can’t begin to describe how close this came to being album of the year. It literally could have been on the toss of a coin but just because it sits at number two don’t let that detract from the brilliance of Into Red.

This is the second album from Swedish/US post-punk group FEWS, following their impressive debut Means. This time around, there is a greater sophistication to the band’s sound. The guitars are notably beefier than the sometimes jangly, knock-me-down-with-a-feather variety on the first. They’ve also fully embraced the shoegaze/wall of sound philosophy on many tracks, which reverb fans will adore.

The level of song quality is consistently high across this album and if they continue to develop their sound in the way they have, album number three could be immense.

I doubt this album will be in many top 50 lists this year, which is a crying shame in my view. A much under-rated band that should exposed to a wider audience.

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 Drum roll please for the number one spot

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.

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The best albums of March 2019

1: FEWS – Into Red

Rating: 9/10 – Read full review

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2: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1

Rating: 8.5/10 – Read full review

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3: Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

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4: The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

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5: Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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6: Flight Of The Conchords – Live In London

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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7: These New Puritans– Inside The Rose

Rating: 7.5/10 – Read full review

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8: Little Simz – GREY Area

Rating: 7.5/10Read full review

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9: The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe

More classy emotive and enveloping soundtracks from these damn-fine purveyors of blissful grooves and soundscapes.

Rating: 7.5/10

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10: Zefur Wolves – Truth Is In The Stars

Droning, drawly alt-indie rock with some pop undertones. A satisfyingly languid assault on your senses.

Rating: 7.5/10

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01 March releases – Reviewed and rated

As hoped, this week turned out to contain some fantastic releases, though there were some disappointments on show too. FEWS managed to scoop the highest rating of the year so far, but kudos also to Snapped Ankles and Little Simz for some highly impressive albums.

FEWS – Into Red

A superb sophomore from the post-punk noise rockers that should see them move from a band with promise to broader acceptance.

Rating: 9/10Read full review

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Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

An fantastically bonkers blend of dance, psych, post-punk and avent garde that almost always hits the spot.

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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Little Simz  – GREY Area

An uplifting and powerful rap album. Little Simz manages to find optimism among hardship, while calling out some of the stereotypes found in rap culture.

Rating: 7.5/10Read full review

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Octo Octa – For Lovers (EP)

Three highly competent house tracks that are a treat for both your mind and your feet.

Rating: 7/10Read full review

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While She Sleeps – SO WHAT?

Classic metalcore from the Sheffield band. Nothing new here but it is exceptionally well executed.

Rating: 7/10

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Lonesome Shack – Desert Dreams

Edgy country blues and urban folk rock that is a lot better on the ear than you might expect from that description.

Rating: 7/10

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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn

More interesting than normal Doom Metal, thanks to the female-led harmonics keyboards and occassional strings on show. Ultimately, it lacks enough variety in its bread and butter guitar riffs to be a great album.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Sebastian Plano – Verve

Some very delicate and emotive tunes on show in this neoclassical work, but there’s a lack of balance to the album as a whole. It feels like it needs something else to lift it to another level.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Mansionair – Shadowboxer

High production values on this debut from the Aussie indie-electro group. A bit too poppy and polished but some good moments.

Rating: 6/10

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Test Dept – Disturbance

In theory this should be right up my alley as classic industro-rock, but perhaps it’s a bit too earnest for its own good.

Rating: 6/10

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Sundara Karma – Ulfilas’ Alphabet

Some evidence of Arcade Fire and The Killers on this pop friendly album. Quite an enjoyable experience but not hugely memorable.

Rating: 6/10

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The Japanese House – Good at Falling

Etherial pop from solo artist Amber Bain. Inoffensive and occassionally pleasant, but unlikely to leave a massive impression on you.

Rating: 5.5/10

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Tom Walker – What a Time to Be Alive

What you’d find if you went looking for Rag n’ Bone man or Ed Sheeran in the centre ailse at Aldi. Can’t believe he beat IDLES to a Brit.

Rating: 5/10

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Pond – Tasmania

The eighth studio album from Australain psych-rocker fails to raise even an eybrow of interest. Tame, familiar and done better elsewhere. Yawn.

Rating: 4.5/10

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Weezer  – (Black Album)

Weezer invoke the spirit of Spinal Tap with their own black album. And this pretty insipid effort prompts me to quote one of the ‘Tap’s most famous reviews… ‘Shit sandwich’.

Rating: 4/10

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Here’s a playlist of all of the above should you wish to take a deeper dive.

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

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New Music Friday 01 March – What to listen to

This week could turn out to be an absolute stonker with two bands who produced some of our favourite music from 2017 back with new material. Expect Snapped Ankles and Fews to feature very prominently in the best from this week. There’s also releases from Weezer and the fabulously-named Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard that we’ll be casting our ears over, along with a whole host of other potential goodies as March kicks of in characteristically busy fashion.

Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

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FEWS – Into Red

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Tom Walker – What a Time to Be Alive

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Weezer  – (Black Album)

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Mansionair – Shadowboxer

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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn

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Little Simz  – GREY Area

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Octo Octa – For Lovers (EP)

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While She Sleeps – SO WHAT?

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The Japanese House – Good at Falling

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Test Dept – Disturbance

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Sebastian Plano – Verve

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Lonesome Shack – Desert Dreams

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Pond – Tasmania

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Sundara Karma – Ulfilas’ Alphabet

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Here’s a playlist of all of the above should you wish to take a deep dive into this week’s new releases.