Top 50 albums of 2019: 20-11

20: Sarathy Korwar – More Arriving

Thought-provoking, jazzy dub and electronica with a distinct Asian flavour.

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19: slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain

Punky grime from Northampton’s finest Tyron Frampton. This debut fulfills the promise shown in earlier EPs

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18: DiiV – Deceiver

Classic, sumptuous shoegaze from this Brooklyn band. Something to shake your curtain hairstyle to.

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17: The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All The Time

An emotive indie-rock post-punk opus dipped in a good helping of 80s synth.

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16: Balthazar – Fever

Funky, melodic guitar pop that nuzzles it’s way into your brain.

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15: The St Pierre Snake Invasion – Caprice Enchanté

Riotous, affecting and heavy as hell punk that pounds you into joyous submission.

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14: W.H. Lung – Incidental Music

Electronic-heavy indie pop that fans of last year’s storming TVAM album will most certainly enjoy.

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13: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Infest The Rats’ Nest

The band’s tribute to 80s Bay-area thrash metal and one of their most enjoyable works. Like slipping on an old pair of comfy slippers for me.

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12: Warmduscher – Tainted Lunch

Fun and sleazy rock ‘n roll. A fantastic follow up to last year’s Whale City. Guest contribution from Iggy Pop too.

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11: black midi – Schlagenheim

Sometimes bizarre, but utterly rewarding post-punk. An album that requires active listening.

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Things are starting to get interesting now. Next up: 10-6

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

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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

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Album review: White Lies – Five

White Lies - Five album cover

London post-punk 3-piece White Lies release their fifth studio album a decade after their first came out, with the band pushing hard on the oh-so-fashionable alternative 80’s vibe. A lot of familiar synth noises back up their guitar work on an enjoyable, but ultimately unremarkable, work.

Opener Time to Give, is quite emblematic of the album as a whole, starting with some soft echo-laden keyboards before moving into a indie-pop vibe with synth overtones. Nice enough, but then it throws in a keyboard break that doesn’t really feel like it fits with the rest of the track and keeps going with it.

Never Alone is piece that uses a throbbing keyboard bass line to push the track along, adding a touch of Editors alongside the pop elements of the track. Pushing the pop even further is Tokyo, which feels like it was written to maximise radio airtime.

Everywhere you turn on this album you can feel the influences screaming at you. Kick Me, for example kicks you in the face with Pink Floyd before a change in direction brings you to towards an actually quite satisfying crescendo. Denial starts like ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police, though the chorus is a lot more dramatic than Sting’s version.

Some of the synth/guitar combos across the album, particularly on Jo?, land somewhere between Bon Jovi and Van Halen, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your predisposition to those artists.

To my mind, the band saves the best until last with Fire and Wings, a classic loud-soft effort that at moments sounds like a collaboration between Gary Newman and Nirvana.

In many ways, Five is reminiscent of the recent Twilight Sad album, but doesn’t quite reach the same heights. Rather than pulling threads of reminiscence from their influences, White Lies have instead chosen a more direct borrowing from their past favourites the album. Add to that the vocals of Harry McVeigh, which are competent if not outstanding and you have a work that is nice enough to listen to, but I can’t see it staying on my favourites playlist for too long.

Release date: 01 February 2019

Rating: 6/10

Standout track: Fire and Wings

For fans of:

  • Editors
  • Interpol
  • The Twilight Sad

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The best albums of January 2019

January’s normally quite a slow month in terms of new releases, but there were some great albums making their debut. Here’s my view on the best of the month – and a playlist to boot!

1: The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All The Time

Rating: 8.5/10 – Read full review

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2: Julia Kent – Temporal

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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3: Lorelle Meets The Obselete – De Facto

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

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4: Nils Frahm – Encores 2 (EP)

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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5: Rat Boy – Internationally Unknown

Rating: 7.5/10Read full review

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6: Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Rating: 7/10 – Read full review

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7: Buke & Gase – Scholars

Rating: 7/10

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8: Balthazar – Fever

Rating: 7/10

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9: Sneaks – Highway Hypnosis

Rating: 7/10

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10: Bring Me The Horizon – Amo

Rating: 7/10

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Album of the week: The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All The Time

The Twilight Sad - It Won/t Be Like This All The Time album cover

The Twilight Sad have been knocking around for a few years now but, much to my shame, this is my first encounter with the Scottish post-punk five piece. But I’ll certainly be exploring their back catalogue after this.

It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is and emotionally-wrought journey through a combination of indie-rock, post-punk and shoegaze, all heavily dipped in 80s-style synths that are reminiscent of Editors at their best.

Opener [10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs] sets the tone as a building track that layers sound on top of sound to devastating effect. It’s a style that’s re-employed across several tracks on the album, and is responsible for most of the album’s strongest moments such as Auge/Maschine and I/m Not Here [Missing Face].

Elsewhere on the album, there are a few tracks such as The Arbor and Keep It All To Myself that adopt a lower-key swing beat that will have your head swaying unconsciously, rather than the vigorous head nodding that will accompany most of the rest.

Vocalist James Graham’s heavily-accented folky voice is one of the things that makes The Twilight Sad stand out from their indie rivals but may not be to everyone’s taste. I’ll admit it took a bit of getting used to and initially I found myself enjoying the album in spite of it. However with further listens I’ve grown to appreciate the delicacy encapsulated within it, that adds to the beautiful bleakness this album oozes out of every pore.

It might be a little too early to be talking about album’s of the year – there’s a long way to go yet – but this album certainly has the potential to be in the mix and will be sitting on my playlist for some time to come.

Release dates: 18 January 2019

Rating: 8.5/10

Standout track: I/m Not Here [Missing Face]

For fans of:

  • Editors
  • Maximo Park
  • The Cure

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New Music Friday 18 Jan – What to listen to

It’s New Music Friday – hoorah! After the festive lull, releases are now starting to come in thick and fast. Particularly looking forward to getting my teeth into the new one by The Twilight Sad. Here’s what I’ll be mostly listening to this week:

The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All The Time

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Go Dark – Neon Young

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Alice Merton – Mint

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Subjective – Act One – Music For Inanimate Objects

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Joe Jackson – Fool

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Buke & Gase – Scholars

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Hedvig Mollestad Trio – Smells Funny

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Lost Under Heaven – Love Hates What You Become

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Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

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Night Beats – Myth of a Man

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