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 Chastity Belt’s woozy feminism, Passion Pit’s uplifting candyfloss-pop and more.
Passion Pit – Kindred
Passion Pit have always sounded happy, whatever Michael Angelakos is singing about. With gleeful falsetto and splashy synths, he makes aural candyfloss of life’s challenges. Third album ‘Kindred’ finds the 27-year-old upbeat, punching the air about the day his wife “came out of nowhere” on the stomping ‘Lifted Up (1985)’, revelling in the fact that “we both know what the other wants” over shimmering day-glo electro on ‘Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)’ and only getting glum on the wonky but lovely ‘Looks Like Rain’. Even if there’s still a sneaking suspicion Angelakos used up his very best tunes on 2008 debut EP ‘Chunk Of Change’, this dewy-eyed record sweeps you up in its joie de vivre all the same.
Patrick Watson – Love Songs For Robots
There are many adjectives you could use to describe Patrick Watson’s fifth album, but the most accurate are: intricate, lush, entrancing. Placing it in a genre is not so easy, though perhaps ‘chamber pop’ comes closest. These 10 songs are filled with expansive arrangements that follow an unpredictable flow, steered by an adept cast of musicians (Patrick Watson is the name of the Montreal-based group, not just its singer). In less capable hands, songs such as ‘Good Morning Mr Wolf’ and ‘Bollywood’ could have been a overwhelming muddle. Instead, a hodgepodge of styles (electronica, jazz, reggae, rock and classical) is finessed into something stirringly cohesive.
Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh
When a member of a band takes time off to pursue their solo project, the kneejerk tabloid reader in us kicks in, looking for reasons. However, the second solo effort by the duo’s Benjamin Power sounds like a supplementary branch of the duo, not a replacement. While 2012 predecessor ‘White Math/Polymorph’ was a grandiose, broadly ambient affair, these eight songs employ crunching beats, encroaching on the arena-rave territory of Modeselektor (‘Cruel Sport’). Soothing sonics are limited, ‘Loam’ and ‘Detritus’ bookending the album with pitchshifted gloop and brain-scrubbing synth noise. A standalone success that also whets the appetite for Fuck Buttons’ return.
Juan Wauters – Who Me?
On ‘Woodside, Queens’, the rickety and acoustic fourth track on his second solo album, Juan Wauters admits, ”I know that I’m a freak”. ‘Who Me?’ is rife with kookiness that justifies that description. Cabaret piano fills the minute-long ‘Misbehave’ and goofy lines like ‘Grey Matter’’s ”In my head I have a hole/I’m so well, I look swell” abound, but the Uruguayan songwriter and frontman of garage trio The Beets has an innate sweetness that makes him compelling. When he sings ”I don’t care if you know that I’m all wrong” on ‘I’m All Wrong’, his insecurity is inescapable. ‘Who Me?’, then, is a weird, loveable record to file alongside Wauters’ labelmate and touring buddy Mac DeMarco.
God Damn – Vultures
Royal Blood not rough enough for you? Then may we respectfully suggest the unforgiving offerings of another Brit-rock duo ready to bludgeon your eardrums into cowering submission. A caustic collection of shamanic thrash and malevolent gutter-blues, Midlands pair God Damn’s debut album is a cathartically gritty listen. A manifesto of sorts, the nihilistic chaos of ‘We Don’t Like You’ swirls with 1980s metal meanness, while ‘Horus’ brings a sprinkling of Alice Cooper glam. At almost nine minutes long, ‘Skeletons’ trudges from acoustic balladry to stomping hard-rock behemoth and back again with a terrifying, epic intensity. The heaviest new band in the UK? Crushingly so.
Surfer Blood – 1000 Palms
After singer John Paul Pitts’ arrest for domestic battery in 2012 overshadowed Surfer Blood’s second album ‘Pythons’ (despite the charges being dropped), the Florida quartet, who were dropped after its release, relocated to Portland, Oregon to rediscover their DIY roots on this self-recorded third. For those prepared to listen, the old hooks remain, Pitts’ nasal tones making the likes of ‘Island’, ‘Covered Wagon’ and ‘Dorian’ sound like the alternative universe in which Fountains Of Wayne or They Might Be Giants somehow got cool. A modernist alt-rock chill blows through it, but Surfer Blood’s spirits stay cautiously upbeat, even indulging some Foals-y math-limbo guitar fripperies on ‘Other Desert Cities’.
Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home
On their 2013 debut ‘No Regerts’, Washington quartet Chastity Belt – whose tongue-in-cheek press shots present them as a geeky girl-group – mixed feminist theory with grungy garage and song titles like ‘Pussy Weed Beer’ and ‘Nip Slip’. Sounding hazy and hungover, ‘Time To Go Home’ does much the same. Opener ‘Drone’ tackles mansplaining, aka men patronisingly explaining things to women (“He was just another man trying to teach me something”) and ‘Cool Slut’’s empowering rally of “We’re just a couple of sluts, so what?/We like to fuck” is burdened by the idea that the need to fight gender inequality still exists in 2015. Occasionally though, they find relief, as on ‘Joke’ where twinkling guitars add light to Julia Shapiro’s admittance of “I’m getting better at forgetting anything heavy”.
The Holydrug Couple – Moonlust
The Holydrug Couple’s 2013 debut ‘Noctuary’ was an overtly psychedelic listen, smothered in hazy riffs and barely-there vocals. ‘Atlantic Postcard’, the opener on this follow-up, makes it quickly apparent that the Chilean duo still have their heads in the clouds. Its revolving synth pattern revolves relentlessly, before bleeding into the aptly named ‘Dreamy’, whose deft use of the bass guitar mirrors Kevin Parker’s sleepier Tame Impala tracks. ‘Moonlust’’s remainder is enjoyably dozy – the reverb-splashed ‘Concorde’ in particular – and intrigues most when the band wheel out tricky guitar solos (‘Light Or Night’) or synth parts (‘U Don’t Wake Up’) that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an episode of space-age mouse animation TV show The Clangers in the ’70s.
Gaps – In, Around The Moments
Brighton-based duo Gaps (singing guitarist Rachel Butt and producer Ed Critchley) emerged with debut single ‘When I’m Gone’ in 2013 and, positioned midway through this debut album, it still serves as a tidy distillation of their sound – sparse electronics matched with vocals and acoustic guitars rooted in folk. Butt’s effected guitar twangs underneath her remarkable voice, which shifts wonderfully from low to high-pitched, as Critchley deploys wobbling bass. They edge closer to the bassy techno sound of British/Japanese producer Maya Jane Coles (whose I/AM/ME label is releasing the album) on ‘Keep You’ and ‘A World Away’, but Gaps are at their most unusual – and most compelling – on the slow, undulating ‘Your Own Sweet Time’.