New releases from Best Friends, Trembling Bells and more
You know about the big releases each week, but what about the smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar? We’ve rounded up nine of the best new album releases from this week, from Ocar’s lo-fi pop to the glitchy electronica of Son Lux: don’t miss out.
Best Friends – Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane.
Sheffield slackers Best Friends’ debut has been a long time coming. Singles ‘Happy Anniversary’ and ‘Nosebleeds’, released in 2013, still sound raucously catchy alongside newer cuts like ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’. These tracks, like much of the record, are standard Best Friends – upbeat garage pop full of scraggy guitar melodies and fuzzed-out power chords, led by Lewis Sharman’s screechy vocals. The quartet break formula at points – the breakdown at the end of ‘Baba Vanga’ is a highlight, while ‘Orange Juice’ opens with gentle chords as Sharman sings, “Rip it up and start again”. At 32 minutes it’s brief, but not without its thrills.
Trembling Bells – The Sovereign Self
The electric folk style of Fairport Convention and Pentangle still has its supporters; it helps if current practitioners freshen it up, rather than just imitating. Happily, Glasgow’s Trembling Bells oblige on their fifth album: their fourth, a collaboration with Will Oldham called ‘The Bonnie Bells Of Oxford’, didn’t find either party on top form but here the quintet are a crack unit, powered by hard rock riffs, jazz and Krautrock-informed drums and flights of flute-based fancy. The psych-rock airs of ‘Killing Time In London Fields’ or ‘Bells Of Burford’ are creepy, in a charming way, recalling Wales’ Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
Love Amongst Ruin – Lose Your Way
Ex-Placebo drummer Steve Hewitt is building a formidable electro noir rock career as Love Amongst Ruin, the band he formed with Julian Cope compadre Donald Ross Skinner in 2008. Where the quintet’s 2010 debut wallowed in Hewitt’s split from his old band, ‘Lose Your Way’ faces the future with a snarl. Summoning the gothic solemnity of The Cure and adding wafts of modern shoegaze, he creates an artful brand of arena rock. ‘Modern War Song’ tackles imperialism as a less death-gnat-obsessed sister piece to Muse’s ‘Drones’, and there’s a doom-noise take on Six By Seven’s ‘So Close’ that sounds capable of destroying acres of forestation in a single chorus. Lovely, but ruinous.
J-Felix – 101 Reasons
A sublime journey through squelchy electro-funk, tripped-out neo soul and woozy hip-hop beats, ‘101 Reasons’ is the downtempo debut from Bristol-born producer Joe F Newman. With a fondness for vocoder vocals and squiggling synth riffs, Newman tips his hat to such American pioneers as Funkadelic, repurposing the hook of their ‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’ – memorably sampled on De La Soul’s ‘Me Myself And I’ – on closing track ‘One Of These Days (I Just Wanna Treat You Right)’. Enlisting singers Abi Flynn, Sophie Paul and Seychelles his live instrumentation maintains a strong British flavour throughout, with influences from Bristol soundsystem dub, wobbly ’80s jazz funk and, on the delicious ‘Let Me Go’, the honeyed rocksteady lilt of lovers’ rock.
Grimm Grimm – Hazy Eyes Maybe
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The reverb-drenched space folk of Koichi Yamanoha’s debut album as Grimm Grimm unfolds like a dark fairytale. Last year, the former frontman of cult psych rumblers Screaming Tea Party released debut seven-inch ‘Kazega Fuitara Sayanora’ on Kevin Shields’ Pickpocket Records, and toured with a revolving cast of collaborators including members of Bo Ningen. Fittingly, ‘Hazy Eyes Maybe’ deftly marries gentleness and noise. ‘Last Word I’m Saying’ comes on like a sleep-waltz through an abandoned fairground, bent organs conjuring eerie atmospheres. The title track evokes the ghost of Elliott Smith, while the psychedelic ‘Knowing’ rises wild and triumphant from a drone swamp. No happy ending here then, just eternal acid-washed bliss.
So Stressed – The Unlawful Trade Of Greco-Roman Art
As the first band released on Perfect Pussy singer Meredith Graves’ new label, So Stressed may have been gifted a minor nudge up the ladder, but they deserve it. The Sacramento trio’s barnstorming noise-rock favours groove and forward momentum – in the manner of recent, comparable bands like Pissed Jeans and Metz – over monolithic dirge, although the segment of ‘Lisps’ that is overwhelmed by filth and static may yet test a few ears. It’s an unpretty, feedback-slaked listen, but an invigorating one. Fine wit abounds, too, from the bellowed line “I AM TRYING TO USE MY INSIDE VOICE” (‘Nervous Around Punks’) to the fact that ‘Merv King & The Phantoms’ appears to be a reference to the British darts player of the same name.
Lady Lamb – After
Aly Spaltro’s 2013 debut as Lady Lamb, ‘Ripley Pine’, earned her comparisons to Laura Marling. Not so much on this second album. ‘After’ is personified by her ragged, powerful voice, under which she picks, thrashes and strums riffs that mostly sound just as full of character. ‘Vena Cava’ opens the record with a groovy break-up tune on which Spaltaro howls “I ain’t no warrior or king/ But how I am one when I sing”. There are folkier, threadbare moments (‘Violet Clementine’) and instances of whimsy (‘Milk Duds’), but they are offset by the primal grunginess that seeps from the record. Most enjoyable is ‘Batter’, a story of cake-making (“You had a bit of batter on your face”) set to prickly quiet-loud backing.
Fufanu – Adjust To The Light
Fufanu opened for Damon Albarn at last year’s Albert Hall knees-up and support Blur this week in Hyde Park, and it’s easy to see why Damon’s taken a shine to the Icelandic trio. Opening this follow-up to 2014’s ‘Circus Life’ single ‘We Will Last’ is an attention-grabbing electronic clatter. Fufanu used to be all techno, but second track ‘The Hours’, belies their history, marching drums and acoustic guitars mapping out a downbeat, captivating ballad. There’s rock‘n’roll here too, in the form of ‘Blinking’, which charges in on clanking drums and wiry guitars. Closer ‘City Lights (In The Light Of The Night) will likely be Damon’s favourite; disorientating and fiddly, with splintered guitars and faraway vocals that nod to Blur’s ‘Think Tank’.
Lockah – It Gets More Cloudy…
Tom Banks, aka Lockah, honed his sugar-rush electro rave style in the coastal climes of Aberdeen. Granted, ‘It Gets More Cloudy…’, his second LP, could have been made anywhere – full as it is with funk-fuelled instrumentals in which vintage keyboards squelch contentedly and breakbeats thud with purpose. You may identify tendrils of ‘80s synthpop (‘Lawrence’s Weird Joint’), early Detroit techno (‘OG Courgette Miller’) and, at the album’s height of dayglo maximalism, the good-time Glasgow scene which spawned Hudson Mohawke and Rustie (‘Barcelona Drums’). Lockah seems to care pleasingly little about finding a mass audience, but this could prove to be a dance sleeper hit in 2015.