Kavinsky – Reborn

You don’t need to be a particularly avid music fan to know that if there’s a new Kavinsky record coming, it will probably mine the whole sad robots/80s neon futurism aesthetic in clean, crisp musical widescreen. After all, if you’ve racked up a quarter of a billion streams for ‘Nightcall’, the behemoth single that became the de facto theme to Drive a decade ago, you’d be forgiven for sticking to a winning formula. However, what Kavinsky surrenders to predictability he more than makes up for with

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the LSO - Review

With Sam Shepherd’s Floating Points project moving further away from the dancefloor and former status as king of Plastic People with every release, it seemed like only a matter of time before he made a record with an orchestra and a free-jazz luminary. From that point of view, then, the music on Promises – a single, 45-minute semi-minimalist quasi-concerto for saxophone backed by various keyboard instruments and a string orchestra recorded in what appears to be a single, live, and rather spine-t

Wilco – Ode To Joy – Album review

After 25 years and ten albums, there should be an element of predictability to Wilco, especially given that the second half of that run has been spent with an unchanged line-up as cosily familiar as your favourite dad-rock cardigan. After all, long gone are the days of Wilco being touted as the American Radiohead, making confrontational experimental rock music slathered in drones and noise; the tumult, both on- and off-record, of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born that created a pair of po

The Rhythm Method - How Would You Know I Was Lonely - Album review

The most tantalising thing about How Would You Know I Was Lonely is that the record it clearly aspires to be – a witty, warm, warts-and-all portrayal of the (sub)urban millennial youth experience in post-crash, austerity-era broken Britain – is exactly the record we need in 2019. After all, no band since The Streets has reflected its own generation that honestly, and given that Original Pirate Material came out closer to Live Aid and the entire career of The Smiths than it did to the present day

Housewives - Twilight Splendour - Album review

Plenty of bands excel at generating a sense of menace in their sound. For nearly as many, though, that menace is both reassuringly performative and disappointingly artificial. But with Housewives it’s hard to be so sure: their dank, angular and urgent take on post-punk through the prism of skronking ecstatic jazz, jarring polyrhythm and aesthetically pure snarl is as terrifying as it is fascinating, rendering the attendant threat immeasurably more real. With that in mind it’s something of a rel

The Comet Is Coming - Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery - Album review

Both the title of The Comet is Coming’s second LP, reading like the work of an online Sun Ra album name generator, and its release on Impulse! – home to such luminaries as John and Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Mr Ra himself – might combine to signify it as another chip off the old (and increasingly fashionable) block of revisited cosmic jazz. However, characterising ‘Trust…’ as a straightforward album of throwback blustery sax drones and spaceborne wistfulness would be a category error; i

The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land - Album review

Despite his reputation as one of the great musical chroniclers of contemporary Britain, it’s been twenty years since Damon Albarn last wrote a set of songs about England: after all, the late Blur albums are studies in introspection, Gorillaz is satirical meta-pop, and while the first album by The Good, The Bad And The Queen explored the murk and rain-soaked romanticism of London, it never ventured much beyond Zone 4. All of which makes ‘Merrie Land’, an overt comment on Brexit Britain, the peopl

Richard Ashcroft - Natural Rebel - Album review

Richard Ashcroft has been on obligingly gobby form during promo for his fifth solo album, goading Lily Allen, denouncing X Factor, and (most impressively) asking the son of late Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein for £15m in ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ royalties 20 years after he got clobbered for sampling a Jagger/Richards composition without asking. However, if one were worried that Ashcroft’s antics could be linked to the packet of white powder that appeared to fall from his pocket during a recen

Superorganism - Superorganism - Album review

On paper, Superorganism’s appeal is clear: eight divergent oddballs come together, originally via social media and then in an east London house share, to make a virtue of their disparate personalities by writing an album as varied as their individual international backgrounds. On record, though, that appeal dwindles: ‘Superorganism’ is, for the most part, an undercooked, callow and solipsistic appropriation of that “misfits” ethos, devoid of any warmth, depth or self-awareness. A disconcerting p

Feist Pleasure - Album Review

A sentence is appended to the very end of the blurb that accompanies promotional copies of ‘Pleasure’ informing listeners that Feist “boasts the second-most-watched video in Sesame Street history” (the number-one spot, incidentally, is held by India Arie learning the alphabet with Elmo). The information is part of a final paragraph listing all the Canadian musician’s career accolades, but nonetheless, in the present context, the idea of Sesame Street’s people hearing something as abrasive as ‘Pl

Body/Head - No Waves - Album review

The follow-up to Kim Gordon and Bill Nace’s debut improvised noise record, ‘Coming Apart’, is essentially a live LP, recorded shortly after the release of that album at a festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2014. ‘Coming Apart’’s experimentations into long waves of tremulous feedback and gravelly distortions are extended here, although the studio’s precision is discarded in the concert hall: Gordon’s vocals become wordless moans on stage, and neat finger-picking is lost under shimmering drones

Ultimate Painting - Dusk - Album review

If Ultimate Painting’s last album was so slight as to be virtually imperceptible, this one – their third – is an exercise in invisibility. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing: the duo have written a collection of shyly, slyly insistent pop songs here that don’t so much grow on the listener as infiltrate the subconscious, leaving an imprint less on the ears than on the mind. Melodies quietly intertwine, tracks blend woozily, and the album’s palette, though limited, becomes stickily moorish.

Cassius - Ibifornia - Album review

The fictitious tropical island of ‘Ibifornia’ is, apparently, a paradise where the hedonistic abandon of Ibiza combines with the sunshine pop of California to create, in the minds of its creators Cassius, some sort of portmanteau-driven musical idyll. The French electro duo’s latest record is a paen to their invented Shangri-La, with all the attendant whiff of concept album: different songs and singers (including Cat Power, Mike D and Pharrell Williams) praise the island’s varying virtues, and t

White Denim - Stiff - Album review

There’s plenty to potentially hate on White Denim’s seventh album, with its monocultural, retro stylings and straight-white-male dude-rock 40 years out of date at best. But for every anachronistic element of ‘Stiff’, there are at least five examples of joyful virtuosity and unapologetic fun that make it an irresistibly loveable record, despite itself. Make no mistake: ‘Stiff’ is deeply conservative, throwback blues rock, but criticising White Denim for not being Stormzy or Oneohtrix Point Never
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