New Releases: 12th February 2021
Ben brings you all the new releases and reissues to arrive at The Vinyl Whistle this week, featuring releases ranging from indie, post-punk, bedroom pop, lofi, hip-hop, ambient, rock, folk, prog, soul, jazz, punk, garage rock, pop-punk, funk, metal and pop. To order, you can find the items on the links below. Here's Ben's roundup of his Top 10 Picks of the week:
Trace the arc of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s evolution and it shows an accomplished musician and composer sounding ever more confident, constantly refining and broadening his sound and indulging an ever wider set of influences. Few have been as consistently brilliant, eclectic, and intimate; fewer still have done so while being defiantly, 100% independent, refusing to sign deals that compromise artistic vision. New Fragility is a continuation of this, yet it also stands apart as one his strongest collection of songs yet. Personal yet universal, New Fragility confronts numerous modern ills. Where They Perform Miracles, a song concerning spirituality and alternative methods of healing, harks back to Ounsworth’s time as an anthropology student doing fieldwork in Mexico, while Dee, Forgiven is an intimate look at what harm anxiety, and the over-prescription of certain medication, has on the vitality of youth. The song contains one of Ounsworth’s strongest vocals yet – a quivering beacon that shifts from a wail to a low grumble in the blink of an eye, a remarkable expressive instrument that sits perfectly amid the understanded orchestration. For 15 years, it’s been one of music’s most distinctive voices, and it’s never sounded as rich or poised.
Cuffed Up was formed thru a chance encounter at a party where Sapphire Jewell and Ralph Torrefranca first met, connecting about their love for the UK punk scene with bands like Idles and Shame. A few months later, Cuffed Up was formed along with Joe Liptock and Vic Ordonez, becoming a full time band for the group.
With comparisons to 90’s bands like Sonic Youth and The Pixies to modern day post-punk UK acts like Idles, it’s no wonder why the LA based quartet, Cuffed Up, have been turning heads since their debut double A-side Small Town Kidand Mother / Father was released at the end of 2019.
Over the course of their extraordinarily accomplished discography to date, Django Django have constantly headed left where others have gone right. Described by The Guardian as “capable of making music that sounds close to perfection”, they are known for their genre defying eclectic sound and their new album Glowing in the Dark heralds, once again, the beginning of a thrilling new era for the band.
Glowing in the Dark has a running theme of escape: from despair, from constraints, from small town life, and even, in dreams, from the Earth. The brilliant title track and new single, for instance, soars gloriously towards the stratosphere. A track built around a sample from one of Dave Maclean’s spoken word records then plushly upholstered with Moog synths and drum loops, it is accompanied by some eye strobing visuals from rapidly ascending NYC artist and illustrator Braulio Amado.
Leeds-based art-rock trio, Mush, release their feverish second LP, Lines Redacted via Memphis Industries. The new release, which finds the group recruiting Lee Smith (The Cribs, Pulled Apart By Horses) on mixing duties, arrives just under a year after their debut LP, 3D Routine, capping off what has been an obviously tumultuous, but remarkably prolific year for the band. With any prospect of live shows decimated, the group, led by songwriter, Dan Hyndman, has found the time to release two EPs (Great Artisanal Formats and Yellow Sticker Hour) and now a duo of full-length albums.
Mush resent their own sonic idiosyncrasy. It’s a sound that blurs the lines of abstract surrealism, existentialism and social commentary; utilising guitars as tools in 2020 to stave off malaise whilst simultaneously commenting on the nation’s ability to fall into such dire straits. It’s a sensory overload of wiry tones that zig- zag between punk, prog and sardonic-funk with a relentless ability to reflect society’s faults and apathy in a unique and acerbic manner.
Whereas the band’s debut was very much a product of its time, something part-inspired by the political atmosphere of mid-2019 and a genuine moment of optimism when the prospect of a socialist government in the UK was on the cards, this new record uses tongue-in-cheek cynicism as a coping mechanism for the environment that we now find ourselves in. From one song to the next, Lines Redacted introduces a string of different narrators with each providing a different reflection on the Armageddon scenario that we are slowly entering, whether that’s bemoaning it or gleefully willing it along. 3D Routine presented a bed of scathing political jibes latching onto themes and decisions of the time. Lines Redacted mutates these ideas into something slightly more sinister whilst maintaining all of Hyndman’s razor-sharp wit that permeates the album.
Who Am I? is the second album from icons Pale Waves. Recorded in L.A. over early 2020 with Rich Costey (Muse, Biffy Clyro, Sigur Ros), and led by the unabashedly huge lead single Change, it finds the Manchester band stepping up once more, fulfilling the promise of that widely-lauded debut album and striding towards pop megastardom.
Rock ‘n’ roll is a religion. It’s a commitment to an ideal, a belief system. The lifestyle and trappings may appear to be glamorous and romantic, but the road isn’t easy. It requires staying power and an enormous amount of faith. The Pretty Reckless are truly a rock and roll band.
Bryan Devendorf’s solo curio Royal Green doesn’t possess the only-in-New York vibe of Basquiat’s work, there is something shared in its many-channels-open style of creation. Satellite signals, strange voices from lost television documentaries and radio operas are all woven into its fabric — like it’s using these endless tides of media and information to unlock the subconscious. Even its covers — Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, The National (with a nice big wink), The Beatles — are like stunning, albeit satanic takes on hymns, or like American standards almost dragged into the underworld. Like the best of Spacemen 3, Sparklehorse or massively underrated San Fran band Skygreen Leopards — the music makes you queasy in one movement and lulls you into blissmode in the next. It’s the very edge of outsider pop songwriting.
For all the amphitheaters and festival fields Devendorf has played to over his career, Royal Green almost feels like an un-learning and a newfound love of homemade/found/fractured sounds — and how, if collaged just so, detritus can become stunningly gorgeous and surreal. And not without hooks. Look no further than Frosty which could be Little Billy Corgan’s decayed demo tape from just before the Smashing Pumpkins appeared on the scene. And the unspooling, slightly unglued dream-pop of Breaking the River is as rapturous as it is sinister. And that’s probably where Devendorf wants it.
Tyron is a tale of two halves exposing human complexity. Just as with the narrative of his own life, there are always two sides to every story. Side one re-introduces us to the classic hubris, machismo, and braggadocio typical of rap music. Side two takes what you thought you knew about slowthai and flips on its head. Feel Away and NHS go some way to dip a toe inside the complexities of his mind but delve deeper and you’ll be left with a clearer understanding of who he truly is. Honesty is paramount as ultimately Ty wants listeners to know that “it’s ok to be yourself”.
Tyron was formed against the backdrop of an unforgiving climate where judgement, shaming and underdeveloped and simplistic conceptions of other people are fashionable. Instead of succumbing to such simplicity, Tyron presents an artist who is unabashedly complicated and willing to explore themes of loneliness, identity, self-acceptance, and the difficulties in becoming an individual. Unlike the political overtone of slowthai’s debut album Nothing Great About Britain which took listeners on a journey through slowthai’s turbulent upbringing and his stance on British life – this self-titled follow up, Tyron is a melodic dive through the expansive landscape of his feelings. His ability to bear his imperfections and contradictions makes Tyron an album that is the antithesis of a culture of purity. A resistance to the rising tide of moral one-upmanship and the pervasive self-righteousness that blinds us to our own fallibility.
So 2020 was going to be the year of Van Weezer - the big riffs rock album Weezer made as an homage to the metal bands they loved growing up - until, thanks to the global pandemic, it suddenly wasn't. The entire time, however, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo was busy at the piano, writing a very different album that referenced another vital musical touchstone of his youth: The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.
Throughout the summer of Covid-19, he and the band - along with a 38 piece orchestra - chipped away at masked recording sessions until the record was complete. The result is an album called OK Human - a cheeky nod to Radiohead's technophobic future-trip OK Computer, but sounding nothing at all like that record. Taking the listener bit by bit through parts of Cuomo's every day, it's a Technicolour symphonic spree that meditates on how over-and-under-connected we all are, particularly in a year where we can see each other with greater ease, but actually can't physically be near each other at all.
OK Human is also packed to the brim with some of the best, most personal songs Cuomo has written in the last decade, all of which shine brighter and bolder with splashes of string and horn arrangements courtesy of album producer Jake Sinclair and arranger Rob Mathes. It's hard to imagine any other band who came up in the alt haze of the 90s creating a simply perfect orchestral pop album, but that is exactly what Weezer's done; OK Human is a testament to the excellent, enduring melodies Cuomo has written since Weezer's inception, and the ones he continues to write today.
One of the year's most daring and true pop records, private LIFE comes as the result of Virginia Wing living through, and with, huge personal emotional and mental traumas. It is a document of how the very process of music creation in a group can be of huge therapeutic benefit to people. The three members of Virginia Wing have explored the depths of their creative and artistic inspirations within performance, production and composition, and have made a candid and brash pop record that speaks clearly about hope, desperation, impulse, addiction, urge and shame.
More tumultuous than its predecessor, private LIFE knocks hard. The evolution of Virginia Wing’s sound continues to build on the broad creative flow of the last album whilst being another audacious contribution to contemporary pop. The drums are huge and playfully unquantized. Edits are both assured and heavy handed, the instrumentation lightly mediates the two and finds itself on the edge of collapse alongside them. The icy facade of Merida Richards’ words are still front and centre, but are contrasted by dense, multilayered improvisations, vying for attention throughout the record. Over I’m Holding Out For Something’srelentless juggernaut of 90’s R’n’B beats, Richards examines the relentless hope and desperation glued to modern consciousness, and speaks of how we often find the answer, or the route through, right at the breaking point. Subsequently, St Francis Fountain compounds the issue, observing that often our own coping mechanisms can grow into full blown traumas of their own. Virginia Wing’s last record opened its arms into euphoric light, private LIFE invites you through a door and closes it. It examines what we’re doing at night, on our own, after work. What we do to enjoy ourselves, to cope, to be together, to be alone. It shines a dim blue light on what might be happening, causing us anxiety, stress and desire.
Here are the best reissues coming out this week at The Vinyl Whistle:
“Is that what you wanted, Alfred?” we hear in Miles Davis’ unmistakable rasp at the end of “One for Daddy-O,” making it clear that the legendary (and assertive) trumpeter was not just playing the role of sideman on Somethin’ Else, the sole Blue Note album by Cannonball Adderley.
The alto saxophonist was a member of Davis’ band at the time and the depth of their musical camaraderie lifts this session up to rarefied heights throughout, from the breath-taking performance of “Autumn Leaves” that opens the album to the thrilling call-and-response theme of the title track. Pianist Hank Jones, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Art Blakey round out the quintet on this timeless classic.
This Blue Note Classic Vinyl Edition is all-analog, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal.
Formed in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1987 as Nelsh Bailter Space, the band’s musical family tree touches on some of the nation’s most revered weirdo luminaries - including Flying Nun mainstays like The Skeptics, The Clean and The Gordons.
Bailter Space embraced chaos but celebrated precision, finding melody amid networks of brooding noise and feedback. After relocating to New York City, the band - who by then included Alister Parker, John Halvorsen and Brent McLachlan - arrived on Matador in in time for the US release of ‘Robot World’ (1993).
Wammo was the trio’s third and final full-length with the label (their fifth album overall). At the time, music scribes were a bit puzzled by the record’s “accessibility.” In retrospect though we can recognize Wammo for the perfectly melancholy and drone-laced brain-zap that it is.