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 five of the best new album releases from this week, from the Titus Andronicus’ five-act epic to the power-pop of EZTV: don’t miss out.
Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
New Jersey punk six-piece Titus Andronicus have tackled concept albums before (2010’s American Civil War-themed ‘The Monitor’) but they’ve aimed even higher with this ferocious, 29-track, five-act tale of a depressive, nameless protagonist and his doppelgänger. It harks back to the traumatic, psychological fantasy narratives of Genesis and Pink Floyd, and the pace runs from pub rock (‘Lonely Boy’) to hardcore (‘Look Alive’) as frontman Patrick Stickles honours his Irish heritage with a blasted cover of The Pogues’ ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’ and then Dexys homage ‘Come On, Siobhán’. A few indulgences like an ‘Auld Lang Syne’ singalong are the main gripes to dampen an otherwise monumental presence.
The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams
Huge in their native New Zealand, The Phoenix Foundation have amassed a cult UK following for their quirky, life-affirming rock. The Wellington five-piece’s sixth album is a fabulous meld of power-pop, electronica and US West Coast harmony that swings through techno-country on ‘Prawn’, and even dabbles in soulful house on ‘Celestial Bodies’. The fantastic, motorik title track is the pick, moving from a self-motivation (“Thinking ’bout getting a job”) to a shrug at existential angst (“All we can do about it is be alright about things”). It’s a droll outlook that’s served them well, but maybe things are perking up. They ought to be.
Haiku Salut – Etch And Etch Deep
On their 2013 debut ‘Tricolore’, Haiku Salut’s piano, accordion and guitar pieces sounded more like the creations of a Parisian street band than three university friends from Derbyshire. Inventive follow-up ‘Etch And Etch Deep’ finds multi-instrumentalists Gemma and Sophie Bakerwood and Louise Croft exploring electronica, with deep synth tones, crunching glitch and, on ‘Divided By Surfaces And Silence’ and ‘Skip To The End’, flickers of drum ‘n’ bass. Wordless, sighing vocals grace the semi-acoustic techno of ‘Hearts Not Parts’, the trio’s voices rushing through the gaps in the instrumental wash. Then with streams of piano and uplifting brass, ‘Foreign Pollen’ unites all Haiku Salut’s considerable skills in a rousing finale.
The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam
Brevity is key to this six-track mini album from Thundercat, released three months after Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’, on which his elastic bass played a vital role. Whereas Stephen Bruner’s previous two Thundercat albums were fascinating and fidgety, this is concise and uncluttered, with brilliant instrumentals and melancholic vocals allowed room to breathe. Here, the LA-based Flying Lotus collaborator takes jazz-funk to its spacier limits, undercut with rattling hip-hop. ‘Them Changes’ combines a sparse, strutting beat with P-funk bass and a yearning vocal, so edgy you can imagine Kendrick re-purposing it. Less, in this case, is definitely more: ‘The Beyond’ is his best work to date.
Seoul – I Become A Shade
Montreal trio Seoul started work on their debut five years ago, and the dense electronic layers on the opener and title track smack immediately of a laborious gestation. Keyboardist and singer Julian Flavin drapes slow, high-pitched vocals over a half-asleep synth pattern until the whole thing evaporates after two minutes. After that though, ‘The Line’ skips into ‘Haunt / A Light’, its chewy bassline and snappy drums driving a delicious disco groove. ‘White Morning’ and ‘Stay With Us’ brilliantly repurpose frayed indie-pop with synths and effects, so when more slowies like closer ‘Galway’ arrive, they feel like injections of powerful anaesthetic. But the record’s dopier moments only make the highs hit harder.
Nap Eyes – Whine of the Mystic
In his day job as a biochemist, Nigel Chapman patiently experiments on microscopic proteins and waits for the big picture to emerge. He’s no less methodical fronting Nova Scotia trio Nap Eyes: their debut album finds the singer-guitarist in spiritual and romantic limbo, making mistakes, obsessing over the details, then making them again in new ways. “Oh baby, all I need’s just another 250,000th second chance”, he rasps on ‘Delerium And Persecution Paranoia’, like a deadbeat Lou Reed; on ‘Tribal Thoughts’, a perky jangler, he sighs “fuck it” for so long you can practically hear him ageing. The music shambles between arid Americana and early Strokes pep, but ultimately it’s Chapman’s grizzled longing that enchants.
Golden Rules – Golden Ticket
Producer Paul White hails from the relatively unlovely London borough of Lewisham, but the music he makes with Florida singer-MC Eric Biddines as Golden Rules sounds like it comes from the heart of the American south. ‘Don’t Be’ and ‘Making A Move’ neatly section slinky blues and soul into boom-clap beats, with Biddines’ vocal sat all sticky on top like a plate of BBQ chicken wings. Good news for OutKast fans, basically, although the pair’s debut works best when it’s playing it weird: see ‘Life’s Power’ and ‘It’s Over’, which have something of the far-side-of-Saturn feel of Seattle duo Shabazz Palaces. Plus there’s one notable guest spot in the shape of Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), who pops up to spit wisdom over the haunted Hammond grooves of ‘Never Die’.
EZTV – Calling Out
The three members of EZTV first played together while auditioning to be Spiritualized’s touring band. That might lead you to believe the Brooklyn trio’s music shares a psychedelic quality with Jason Pierce’s, but the simple truth is that it doesn’t. EZTV are equal parts indie jangle and power-pop, and debut album ‘Calling Out’ is an impeccably rendered interpretation of those genres. The trio adopt a no-frills approach to songwriting. The fuzz of cult New Jersey quartet The Feelies permeates the likes of ‘Bury Your Heart’, and guitar lines wander brightly in the direction of Birmingham’s Felt on ‘Everything Was Changing’. Simplicity means the record occasionally feels samey, but it seems mean to criticise something that feels so pure.