Each month we bring you a handy round-up of the most exciting new releases.
This month sees long-awaited albums, EPS and singles from London Grammar, Fleet Foxes, Marika Hackman, Meadowlark, Trust Fund and loads more.
London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
09.06, Metal & Dust/Ministry of Sound | Buy
It’s been four years since the release of London Grammar’s aptly named debut album If You Wait, but for fans of the dynamic trio from Nottingham, the long wait is finally over. One listen to Truth is a Beautiful Thing and it’s clear the band have gotten older, wiser and stronger than ever.
The album sees them come out of their shell and start experimenting more with instrumentation, tempo and chordal structures, but of course it’s Hannah Reid’s chilling vocals that take the limelight; soaring over the music and stopping you in your tracks with their poignant delivery.
Dream-inducing highlights include ‘Rooting For You’, ‘Hell To The Liars’ and ‘Oh Woman Oh Man’, the latter of which tells the story of life choices made as a woman. Amidst its earnest message, it evokes a desire to let go and love yourself. They say good things come to those who wait, and Truth… is evidence of that. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait until 2021 to hear more. Hannah Rooke
Marika Hackman – I’m Not Your Man
02.06, Universal | Buy
From the opening laugh of ‘Boyfriend’, it’s clear that Marika Hackman’s second album is not like her first. Gone is the static landscape of poised poetry and in its place, energy, excitement and a gang mentality. But when your backing band is The Big Moon, what do you really expect.
Rather than a record to admire, this is one you experience. With a newfound desire for movement, I’m Not Your Man trades in polish and control for something a little more free falling. There are whispers of the studio, echoes of conversations and a wicked sense of getting lost in the music as the full-band playfulness winks and grins throughout.
‘Boyfriend’, all impulsive desire and tongue-in-cheek abandon, starts a whirlwind romance that takes in the doubts of ‘My Lover Cindy’ and the cracks of ‘Time’s Been Reckless’ before the breakup of ‘Eastbound Train’. Blame is shared evenly but it’s never fair. Direct and wide-eyed, the record doesn’t try and hide the heart, instead using it to conjure a solidarity that never wavers. It’s rugged, real and sees Marika shine like never before. Ali Shutler
Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
16.06, Nonesuch | Buy
Fleet Foxes are back, and dreamier than ever. Third album, Crack-Up journeys into melodic harmonies and perfect summer vibes. Opening track, ‘I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar’ breezes its listener into a collection of beautifully-curated symphonies. Lead single ‘Third of May / Ōdaigahara’ has already been met by unanimous appraisal and rightly so.
Having not released an album since 2011’s Helplessness Blues, this one signifies a step in a new direction, with a new lineup to match. ‘Fools Errand’, a snippet of which has appeared on frontman Robert Pecknold’s Instagram, is characterised by its heartfelt lyricism and gravitating acoustics. ‘Naiads, Cassadies’ keeps to the band’s folksy laidback aesthetic, as does ‘I Should See Memphis’. Then there’s ‘On Another Ocean (January/June)’, a hypnotically progressive track made up of drifting vocals and leisurely percussion.
The album’s title track, inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s essay of the same name, ties together their prevailing exploration of personal struggle through trademark wandering harmonies. With live dates to match, it’s good to see things moving once again for these indie-folk masters. Georgia Balch
Trust Fund ft Gareth Campesinos! – I’ll Sail This Ship Alone
02.06, Art is Hard Records | Buy
Let me break this one down for you: Trust Fund + Gareth from Los Campesinos! + a Beautiful South cover = iconic. Uniting on record for the first time, this duet turns the tender, slick original Beautiful South track into a fuzzy garage-rock delight. Gareth and Ellis take a verse each before wonderfully recreating the beautiful harmonies from the original, with both’s love for classic 90s bands bleeding through onto the track.
It contains the energy, excitement and passion of friends just recording one of their favourite songs in a room together, but with the seriousness and earnestness that the track deserves. Another excellent addition to Art Is Hard’s postcard series. Christian Northwood
Meadowlark – Postcards
30.06, Believe Recordings | Buy
Captivating pop melodies, sincere songwriting and lush production are at the heart of Meadowlark’s music. Having grown organically over the years through a string of EP releases, the Bristol duo finally present their anticipated debut album Postcards – collating all their experiences into one heartfelt and beautifully-honest package.
Strikingly balanced, the album pulls together old and new as familiar songs ‘Eyes Wide’ and ‘Fly’ sit comfortably alongside mesmerizing new additions ‘Sunlight’, ‘Undercover’ and ‘Pink Heart’. The understanding between singer Kate McGill and her counterpart Dan Broadley is impeccable throughout, especially so on the album’s title track, where delicate harmonies and exquisite guitar-lines shine, making Postcards a must listen for the summer. Mustafa Mirreh
Chastity Belt – I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone
02.06, Hardly Art | Buy
The third album from Seattle’s Chastity Belt sees the band in a more serious and reflective mood than before. The chiming guitars and slacker vocals are still there but the music is more downbeat than 2015’s poppier Time to Go Home. Also losing the irony of their previous output, the music takes a more honest approach, resulting in some quite affecting moments.
The album’s highlight is plaintive ballad ‘What the Hell’, centred around acoustic guitar hushed vocals. The mood is not all downer though, as enough hooks and rockier instrumental moments appear to keep the band recognisable. A resigned record for these depressing times, I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone is a welcome distraction. Tim Ellis
Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go
16.06, Polyvinyl | Buy
With bittersweet tales of bereavement and reluctant adulthood, the follow-up to 2015’s Dry Food finds Palehound more torn and fragile than Natalie Imbruglia circa 1997. Disconcerted by the untimely death of a young friend, the songs are steeped in harsh life lessons – too many things change, too quickly, too often.
Palehound’s youthfully-cynical world feels abrasive, through scratchy, bleeding-heart guitar fuzz. Ellen Kempner’s reverberating vocals frequently make her sound weary, punch-drunk by piss-poor providence. Synths sneak in, first brooding and claustrophobic, then soothing and (finally) uplifting. On ‘Flowing Over’ Kempner sings, “Now’s not the best time for me.” The album may not signify peak form, but it’s a solid offering nevertheless. Jon Kean
Body Clocks – Still Life
16.06, Chiverin | Buy
In Bristol’s diverse but saturated electronic scene, producing an EP that truly captivates the listener can be pretty challenging. However, Still Life by Body Clocks is one of those EPs that really grabs you. The four-track EP truly scintillates the senses with droning synth, sporadic basslines and percussive guitar from start to finish.
Track ‘Luna’ features haunting vocals from Rhain which really gives the album added depth, without detracting from the well-constructed instrumentals beneath. All four tracks are unique, forming perfect easy listening for fans of Bonobo or Darkside; this EP really hits the mark. Rosalind Grindrod
Amber Arcades – Cannonball EP
02.06, Heavenly | Buy
Though with a few harder edges, the Amber Arcades of the new Cannonball EP is largely the same Amber Arcades of last year’s fantastic Fading Lines. Few will be disappointed.
‘It Changes’ is a relatively upbeat number (upbeat for AA being a bit like a downbeat Alvvays), with an urgency that blows away the cobwebs of the hazy, lilting and intricate version of Nick Drake’s ‘Which Will’. Speaking of Nick Drake, Annelotte de Graaf’s songwriting here demonstrates a real step forward from previous records, with the utterly lovely Bill Ryder-Jones duet ‘Wouldn’t Even Know’ standing out as yet another highlight of the record – and of 2017 as a whole. Jon Clark
Vena Cava – Entropy
Out Now, Noctone | Buy
You could easily rattle off a list of your favourite alternative musicians if someone played you this new EP from Vena Cava. They’re a band who have obviously listened to a lot of psych over the years and as a result take themselves rather seriously.
The release is steeped in distorted guitars and a vocal from Christelle Atenstaedt which attempts to provide some sort of spiritual belonging. This is more effective in the noisier parts but kind of alienates the listener after a while in tracks like ‘Amygdaleza’. That being said, if you’re into the ethereal sound then you’ll adore this. It packs brilliant production qualities and the guitars are kicking. Rhys Buchanan
The Drums – Abysmal Thoughts
16.06, Anti- | Buy
Jonny Pierce may have just found his own place without any purposeful intention to do so. Through each record that The Drums have delivered, whether polished or otherwise, a sense of hapless melancholia has hinted at something pertinent, not quite reaching the next rope. With new record Abysmal Thoughts, a period of personal anguish for the chief songwriter has given him a sense of succinctness in writing.
The songs hum like the best lo-fi records, yet have the tenacity and actual dynamism that could leave a longing mark. It’s calmly considered, heavily expressive in Pierce’s own way and most pleasantly, is unquestionably earnest. It’s a record of humbling lessons. Ross Jones
Port Erin – Ocean Grey
Out Now, Burning Shed | Buy
This is a spacious and patiently-paced release, brimming with reverb and atmosphere. The vocals, delivered by Reuben Myles Tyghe, are reminiscent of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, but with a certain emotional credibility and, thankfully, without the nauseating smugness. In the vein of smugness, the guitar work touches on mid-eighties U2 and surf-rock, with its palm muting and pronounced plucks.
Port Erin’s songwriting itself is characteristically measured and never puts a foot wrong; building the melodies and refrains gradually before revelling in crescendos as the wall of sound finally peaks. Title track ‘Ocean Grey’ feels instantly anthemic, and the EP overall creates an ideal, fresh and optimistic-feeling summer soundtrack. Stuart Tidy