AOTM – Kate Stapley – Centella
Breakfast Records | 25.02
As guitarist and vocalist for Springbreak, Kate Stapley explored rich songwriting, embedded within waves of spectral noise. What really stuck was just how Stapley’s voice towered over such distortion, with sentiment and composure that lingered even longer than the bracing structures they composed. Now, with a debut solo EP, Kate thrives in a beautifully considered world, concocting lengthy pieces of escapism that exhibit her life and thoughts like pictures, framed within the walls of a lovingly produced EP.
Ingrained within Stapleyís personality is an ability to weave a tale from the day-to-day and paint with the experiences so subtly and expressively, that when the overwhelming moral is unveiled, it hits like a heartbreak, sudden yet residual. The frankness of ‘Irises’ is agonising, as Stapley surveys her relationship with a family member in ill health: “She said I think I’m getting better, I think that I’ll be home soon, however could I tell her, that none of this is true.” It’s braced with yearning violin and brass, enduring and opulent, crafting a memorable introduction to an engrossing songwriter. Ross Jones
U.S. Girls – In a Poem Untitled
4AD | 16.02
The latest from Meghan Remy feels like a modern take on the Golden-Oldies, projected through Pink Floyd’s prism and sprinkled with dust from a Parliament Funkadelic Record.
The seamless transition between an infectious stomper like ‘Incidental Boogie’ and the ethereal
‘Rosebud’ accentuates the album’s stylistic reach. Each track pulls your ear and mind in a thousand different directions; do you listen to Remy’s provocative lyrics or simply enjoy her beautiful voice and range, or lose yourself in the complex genre and generation-spanning soundscapes? It’s a good problem to have – and one that makes the album worth the multiple spins you’ll inevitably give it. Albert Testani
Screaming Females – All at Once
Don Giovanni | 23.02
On their seventh record, the veteran, New Jersey rock trio return with a double LP that feels like a retrospective on all of their previous records, while attempting to retain their more avant elements.
The space the double LP provides the band allows them to stretch their ambition, by crafting tracks like ‘Soft Domination’ which have a more traditional post-punk feel to them, while others like ‘I’ll Make You Sorry’ are pop-punk circle pit material. While not as psychedelic or experimental as its predecessors, for better or worse, All at Once finds its footing in accessibility and exploring a diverse range of rock sub-genres. Albert Testani
Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
Bella Union | 09.02
Ezra Furman’s poetic recipe for another compelling album both sucks you in with its deliciously dark and jarring instrumentals and carves straight through you with a curl of their effortless prose.
We follow the narrative of our beloved protagonist and their self-constructed guardian angel, amidst a derailing landscape of alternating musical genres. Without a doubt it’s a commentary on societal paranoia and the turmoil of the current American climate, but it also offers up one of Ezra’s most monumental works which, pulled from the shelf 50 years from now and the dust blown away, will consume you once again. Robyn Brainbridge
The Soft Moon – Criminal
Sacred Bones | 02.02
Luis Vasquez is no stranger to inner turmoil and insecurities, and the latest release from the multi-instrumentalist portrays a journey of self-reflection and confession, filtered through the murky lens of guilt and self-hatred.
Marking his fourth studio album under the pseudonym The Soft Moon, Criminal’s destructive first single ‘Burn’ draws influence from the pioneers of industrial post-punk, standing high among the ranks of Nine Inch Nails and Joy Division. Haunting efforts by the names of ‘Give Something’ and title-track ‘Criminal’ showcase a mournful portrayal of Vasquez, while the gut-wrenching aggression scattered throughout the rest of the record (particularly within ‘Choke’ and ‘Like A Father’) makes for a dark and intriguing listen. Kelly Ronaldson
Vundabar – Smell Smoke
Gawk | 23.2
When you can smell smoke, something’s usually ablaze, or close to ignition. Vundabar’s second album, Smell Smoke, possesses their trademark spark. When it’s your sanity that’s volatile and flammable, though, sparks can be dangerous things.
As the cover art suggests, we frequently pass ourselves off as mask-wearing smilers. For lead singer, Brendan Hagen, intensely fronting a band whilst privately caring for a seriously-ill loved one was ripping him to shreds. This album cathartically lifts that burden. Slacker rock meets sludge pop. The Strokes meet Modern Baseball. Their languid jangle ought to indeed make you smell smoke – chafing from the inevitable friction caused by possessed, dancing legs against tight post-Christmas jeans. Jon Kean
Django Django – Marble Skies
LYF | 26.01
The third album from Django Django sees the quartet streamline their sound into a solid set of four-minute electro-pop songs. Hummable melodies mix with the band’s trademark playful experimentation, which eventually sees the twangy guitars of the first half giving way to a dancier, more keyboard-based sound for the album’s conclusion.
The obvious Beta Band similarities are still there, mixed with hints of Hot Chip’s disco and Metronomy’s electronic indie. Early highlight ‘Surface to Air’ (featuring vocals from Self Esteem) is reminiscent of the latter’s English Riviera album. Marble Skies does well to showcase Django Django’s poppier side, but is unlikely to be a mainstream breakthrough. Tim Ellis
Poisonous Birds – Big Water
Be Softly | 26.1
Literally and figuratively, that which is ‘poisonous’ ought to be avoided. Until now, that is. Bristol’s Poisonous Birds have shifted further from their rock roots with their Big Water EP. There’s barely a guitar to be heard. Instead, post-electronica meets post-rock, posting a distinctive sound for 2018.
Title track, ‘Big Water’, begins like the precursor to the Dalek invasion of Earth. Portentous analogue synth slabs and tempestuous drums carve sonic cyberpunk soundscapes. The woozy ‘Little Puzzle’ has the ambient haze of a post-pub perambulation, following much high-spirited liver-lashing. ‘Schwer’ rounds proceedings off with a taut chillout, feeling like the morning after the night before, or sounding like Beelzebub’s post-apocalypse table-tennis tournament. Jon Kean
Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love
Dead Oceans | 16.02
After his self-titled debut, Marlon Williams is back with a charming sophomore album. Showing a dark new side as a singer-songwriter, the New Zealander worked on the new recording in Northern California, capturing in turn the Golden State’s vibes.
His distinctive crooning voice flows smoothly on tracks that charm with their deep and mysterious sound. From ‘Come to Me’, melding Elvis Presley and Timber Timbre together in one dreamy, spaced-out atmosphere, to the psychedelic aura of ‘Nobody Gets What they Want Anymore’, recorded with Aldous Harding, to the late-50s pop-informed, eponymous closing track, its reverberating guitars and seductive piano making for a remarkably enjoyable listen. Guia Cortassa
Loma – Self-titled
Sub Pop | 16.02
Loma were born when Shearwater mastermind Jonathan Meiburg, and Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski from Cross Record fell in love with each other’s music while touring together. After a stint on the road, the three convened in the countryside surrounding Austin, TX to work on the project.
There, Meiburg surrendered to his deep passion for nature, exploring the environment and its inhabitants, while Cross and Duszynski found themselves struggling with their romantic relationship. The result is a compelling, dark-folk album, recalling the glorious trilogy Shearwater released for Matador a decade ago, capturing a human tension and passion that sustains the mystical sound of Cross’ outstanding voice. A masterpiece. Guia Cortassa
DZ Deathrays – Bloody Lovely
Alcopop! | 02.02
Party thrash favourites DZ Deathrays are back with new full-length, Bloody Lovely. Opening track ‘Shred For Summer’ lives up to its namesake with chaos-inciting vocals and straight riffs. It also happens to be a signpost of what’s to come for the rest of the record… A youthful and messy squall of tracks which very much continues up the path they started with their debut album, Bloodstreams. Though it’s worth noting that things certainly sound more mature, particularly on tracks like ‘High’ and ‘Over It’.
This band may have emerged in a climate of sweaty house parties – but this third record certainly feels more primed for breezy festival stages. Rhys Buchanan
Hookworms – Microshift
Domino | 02.02
With their two (excellent) prior records, Leeds five-piece Hookworms meticulously crafted a searing, undiluted sound that found a surprisingly fond balance between caustic noise and gratifying ambience.
When approaching third album Microshift however, it does at first seem like a strident change. Bright chords effervesce amongst the motoring foundations they build upon, injecting much more vulnerability into the sound. What makes this a success is the clarity of MJ’s vocal, brazen, gentle and heartbreakingly fragile, as they always have been, without us realising all this time. With Microshift, their ability to arrest emotion with sharp, unwavering channels of sound is fine-tuned, finally expressing the subtle beauty of their work in its clearest form yet. Ross Jones
Joshua Dirk – New Plastic Sounds
Self-release | 15.02
The common misconception of dystopia is that it’s depressing. It’s all about balance.*
Joshua Dirk sits neatly in the middle of industrial discordance and hazy, analogue tones, channelling golden era ‘techy’ techno (from the likes of James Holden, Thomas Schumacher and The MFA), with little spoonfuls of Apex and Caribou for good measure. To make too many comparisons would be unfair though. There are ambles and arcs to each track that are wonderfully unique and pleasantly unnerving, filled with dense layers and restless melodies. The journeys they take you on are quietly bleak, but ultimately warming; like an old duvet found in a park. Tom Belshaw *e.g: Kim Jong Un watching a ballet in his honour.
Muncle – ON
Self-release | Out Now
Have you ever come across an artist and said to yourself: ‘this guy seems cool, I’d like to be his friend’? Bristol kid Muncle is one of those; a self-made talent that enjoys multi-tasking, even performing live with an on-screen version of himself.
His EP, ON, recalls the 90s skate-punk bands who didn’t care if they were invited to the party, and would probably crash it just for kicks. From the anthemic ‘Picnic’ to the weird and math-rock ‘You Threw Off My Groove’, this EP is a proper trip inside a messy American bedroom, where a few dog-eared Green Day posters still hang unashamedly on the walls. Laure Noverraz