Thursday, 21 July 2011

Round up: 5 great albums you really should hear

I like to do a little round up every three months or so - an opportunity to mention records that might not have warranted a full review here or an opportunity to big something up if it didn't get enough attention at the time. After a slow start to the year there has been some really good stuff in recent months.

Firstly, those which nearly made the top 5. I'll not go into depth on Bon Iver''s self-titled second album as I reviewed it at the time, but if alt-country is your thing you'll like it. Its an ambitious mix of Crosby, Stills and Nash era Americana and 1980's soft rock and is a brave and impressive record. Another record I reviewed at the time was The Weeknd's House of Balloons - sleazy coke fuelled RandB - I know that sounds awful but rest assured this is quality stuff all the way and its free to legally download.

Others that are worth a mention are Metronomy's English Riviera which has had good reviews all over the place with its slightly 80's synth sounding take on Paignton and Torquay (again, its much better than it sounds) and the very recently released Horrors LP Skying which manages to sound exciting while sounding somewhat like the Psychedelic Furs. In terms of hip-hop I'd recommend Shabazz Palace's Black up - the best abstract hip hop this side of Madlib's Quasimoto LPs. Finally, check out Thurston Moore's Demolished Thoughts - produced by Beck - its a little obviously derivative of Beck's own work and of Nick Drake (the strings in particular recall the English troubadour) but its a very nice listen.

Here though are the 5 I really think you need to pick up

tUnEyArDs - Whokill

Absolutely bonkers this. Afro-pop, dub, post punk, jazz and folk all melded together by  Merill Garbus a native of New England. This is her second album (her first recorded using a handheld voice recorder only) The free jazz of Gangsta is a wonderful example of the eccentricity here with the sound ripping from speaker to speaker to leave the listener somewhat disorientated. In the spirit of ESG, Pere Ubu, Jah Wobble, Nina Simone and Fela Kuti but utterly original as well....lyrically its not afraid to touch upon issues of the day - race, gender, body image and her voice is immense - this lady is going to be a big star.

Diamond Mine - King Creosote and Jon Hopkins

Sometimes less is more. Reminicent of Barafundle era Gorky's Xygotic Mynci, you're unlikely to hear a more understated album all year. Some of the tracks are barely audible but this is a lovely piece of folk with no attempt whatsoever to crossover into the wider marketplace. The record was seven years in the making and inspired by Scottish fishing villages so this probably isn't for you if you like your heavy dubstep. Much of the joy here is not just the songs but the sounds placed into them - cups of tea, people chatting, birds singing - this is a record of great atmosphere and perfect if you are off to a fishing village for your summer holidays.

Gloss Drop - Battles

I feared listening to this record after seeing to described as 'maths rock' - has anything ever sounded so unappealing? I'm pleased to say that it doesn't sound as difficult as you might think and despite not having much in the way of vocals is thoroughly listenable. The drums in particular stand out and propel each song forward. Stand out track is Ice Cream which also has a fantastic video (below). These New Yorkers have been making idea packed music for years now and are worthy of your attention if you like guitar rock.

ISAM - Amon Tobin

If you are one of those people who only likes music that is pushing forward the boundaries then Brazillian Amon Tobin's latest LP is for you. He's eschewed the 'drill n' bass' sound of previous releases and created what he calls a 'sound sculpture' but this is challenging stuff with layers of off kilter beats thrown down into the mix of field recordings. One wonders if this will date quickly as at times it sounds like an alien invasion (although Surge has undoubtedly been influenced by car or motorcycle racing. ISAM does breed some humanity though (much like Boards of Canada in places) - check Wooden Toy as an excellent example...another excellent Ninja Tunes release...and a record the like of which I've not heard before.

Locussolus - Locussolus

Finally for one of dance music's great enigmas - DJ Harvey. A legendary DJ, his recorded material has never quite reached the same heights but this release on Uraguayan electronica label International feel is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Its probably best described as cosmic house music and features remixes from Andy Weatherall, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas (whose remix of I want it brilliantly uses Venus to hook you in). The use of slower, dubby keeps tempo varied although as an album its perhaps a little disjointed.  If you like this sort of thing you've probably already got it but if you're looking for some 'quality house' look no further.