You know about the big releases each week, but what about those smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar. Don’t miss out on the smaller, lesser-known gems which might become some of your favourites. We’ve rounded up six of the best new album releases from this week: catch up with Mew’s chiming indie-pop, Nai Harvest’s emo-tinged pop-punk and more.
Mew – +-
Six years in the making, Mew’s sixth album is opulence in excelsis, the Danish dream-weavers gathering all the synths and power chords at their disposal to conjure a feast for the ears. Nu-metal guitars butt up against a chiming pop chorus on ‘My Complications’; the 10-minute ‘Rows’ is a startling prog indulgence – and soft-rock ballads like ‘Water Slides’ and ‘Cross The River On Your Own’ are beyond saccharine, but there’s usually a redemptive hook. Jonas Bjerre’s falsetto is at the heart of all that’s good, exercising an emotional pull on the Empire Of The Sun-like ‘Interview The Girls’ and riding the epic phases of ‘Satellites’, the best track here.
Bop English – Constant Bop
Billed as a solo venture from White Denim frontman James Petralli, Bop English is actually a collaborative project that features his three White Denim bandmates – drummer Josh Block appears throughout, guitarist Austin Jenkins and bassist Steve Terebecki on a few songs – and six other musicians. However, this richly diverse record is markedly Petralli’s own. Opening with the funked-up bass and piano of ‘Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control)’, ‘Constant Bop’ begins a journey that takes in twanging bar-room rock (‘Struck Matches’) and marauding psych (‘Fake Dog’). Petralli’s guitar and familiar vocal style lead the way throughout, and are most engaging on the countrified ‘Falling At Your Feet’ and ‘The Hardest Way’.
Pity Sex – Feast Of Love
With a sleeve adorned with a soft-focus photo of intertwining naked bodies, Pity Sex’s debut album makes a provocative first impression. The 12 songs on ‘Feast Of Love’ don’t live up to it. Carefully layered with heavily fuzzed guitars, faraway basslines and softly thudding drums, the record forms curtains of poppy shoegaze. Singing guitarist Brennan Greaves heavy-breathes about ”legs wrapped around me” on highlight ‘Honey Pot’, which features a corkscrewing lead guitar part, and there’s playful call and response with singer Britty Drake on the jaunty ‘Acid Reflex’ where both echo the couplet ”I need love/ I need drugs”. Mostly though, the Michigan quartet concentrate on noise, hiding their lyrics and leaving the rest to your imagination.
Jackson Scott – Sunshine Redux
In 2013, North Carolina songwriter Jackson Scott released his debut album ‘Melbourne’, a mix of heavily effected vocals and lo-fi slacker-rock. This follow-up builds on those off-kilter foundations. Two instrumentals feature early on, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ‘Woodworkk’ – a ten-second snatch of eerie strings – and ‘Steal Me’, a loop of childlike burbling built over creepy piano. ‘Merry Nightmare’ continues the dissonance, with Scott’s vocals gently ushering the challenging cacophony into the background and replacing it with a slurred lullaby. It’s not all dark and uncomfortable, though – both the pretty ‘Save The World’ and ‘Ripe For Love II’’s arpeggio guitars balance things out nicely.
Marker Starling – Rosy Maze
Chris A Cummings has been hanging around the margins of Toronto’s music scene for years under the guise of Mantler. Now, as Marker Starling, he’s making an unlikely push for mainstream recognition. He would probably have more success if this was 1973, where his impossibly plush meld of early solo Paul McCartney melodies and Steely Dan jazz chords would be right at home, but there’s still a timeless quality to ‘Rosy Maze’. Fuelled by Wurlitzer electric piano, ‘Husbands’ is a flowing, sun-dappled tale of “a weekend with the boys”, while ‘Uphill Battle’ and ‘Only Speak Your Name’ are immaculate, mannered and blessed with killer choruses. Elsewhere, Cummings could almost be Al Green or Curtis Mayfield, finding the smoothest soul in his muso creations.
Nai Harvest – Hairball
After screaming themselves hoarse on 2013’s emo-filled debut album ‘Whatever’, Sheffield duo Nai Harvest have taken the unexpected step of enlisting Sky Ferreira and Empire Of The Sun producer Bob Cooper for this follow-up. Cooper adds gleaming sheen to ‘Hairball’’s 10 scrappy, infectious tracks. The zippy ‘Sick On My Heart’ is emo-tinged pop-punk, while ‘Drinking Bleach’ is a scuzzy thrash about getting on the wrong side of people. Previous single ‘Buttercups’ is the shining centerpiece, all meaty riffs and Ben Thompson drawling languidly about feeling “like a lowlife”. With ‘Hairball’ under his and drummer Lew Currie’s belts, he shouldn’t be feeling that way for much longer.