The Runout Grooves with John Earls: Previewing Arlo Parks and Bicep, plus an interview with Rhye
Each fortnight, leading music journalist John Earls goes deep on new releases, examines the latest vinyl issues and talks to a rising new star.
Release The Tracks - the pick of the next fortnight's new albums
Although January 22 is unusually quiet, what's out is a treasure troves of hidden gems. Rhye's fourth album Home could finally send the Canadian producer mainstream. The high-voiced singer recently guested on Dua Lipa producer SG Lewis' sad banger Time, he's held socially-distanced raves with Diplo under the name Secular Sabbath and Beck is remixing a track from Home. Capitalising on those associations, Home is a beautiful set. Think Sam Smith's most euphoric moments and drift into a woozy hinterland. Pre-order Home
The Horrors have been a hub of creativity in their side-projects since they started, and keyboardist Tom Furse is one of their finest. His second solo album Ecstatic Meditations is aptly titled, a series of lengthy pieces that take in jazz, classical and Japanese influences while never losing sight of the melodic suss that makes The Horrors so special. Pre-order Ecstatic Meditations
It took Bicep seven years to release their debut album, so a four-year wait for new full-length Isles is nothing. As before, the Belfast duo don't waste time getting to the heart of a groove. Absolute bangers at every turn lie in wait. Pre-order Isles
Of the January 29 releases, Arlo Parks is already big enough to have her own one-off variety special on Amazon Prime the same day. She's due to confirm her debut poetry collection soon and thankfully the Londoner has kept up to the promise of her early singles. The kind of rare album that's likely to have fans of any genre rave about the purity of her emotional soul, expect Collapsed In Sunbeams to sweep up several awards. Pre-order Collapsed In Sunbeams.
Speaking of awards season, Celeste finally releases her debut album Not Your Muse. She's been left adrift somewhat since getting the Brits' Critics' Choice going, but she can hopefully regain momentum despite that iffy John Lewis ad song last Christmas. Pre-order Not Your Muse.
The leader of The World's Biggest Underground Band (TM), Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson has also been busy lately doing 5.1 deluxe mixes for reissues by the likes of Tears For Fears, Roxy Music and XTC. His new solo album The Future Bites is a wonderfully OTT collection of chamber pop, electronic rumbles and squelchy funk. Pre-order The Future Bites.
Also out on January 29 are new albums by Weezer, The Notwist, Madlib and The Besnard Lakes, plus the latest PJ Harvey demos collection, this time Is This Desire?
MAKING THEIR DEBUT: Introducing your new favourite artist
This week: Rhye
Having gained a sizeable fanbase without any major press attention across Rhye's previous three albums, Canadian producer Mike Milosh is sure to keep the momentum going on Rhye's achingly beautiful fourth LP, Home.
The album was named after he and his partner Genevieve Medow-Jenkins moved into their new house in Topanga in the Californian mountains. It's an album to soothe everyone while we're stuck at home... and will also explode once we're allowed to experience it in concert, as Mike tells The Runout Grooves.
How soon after moving in did the idea of Home come?
I knew it was going to be called Home on the first day I started working on it. We’d purchased this house, and it was the first time I’d ever wanted a home in my whole life. I’m a late bloomer! For the first time in my life, it was important to me to have a home and the record embraces that feeling.
Does making music at home make you create a different kind of music? What’s really affected the sound is I've built a studio that’s very conducive to the sound I’m trying to create. A lot of my synthesisers have designated pre-amps, the way I record drums is very specific and I've customised my piano a lot, which generates a very specific tone you don’t get from a lot of pianos. On a practical level, it's influenced me. But I’m going to make music, no matter what, whether it's in a shoebox, my house or a beach in Thailand.
You began the record before the pandemic, but completed it under lockdown. Did the sound of the music change when Covid hit?
I’ve been finding joy, as a reaction to the fact there’s so much fear around. I’m embracing the time I’m in, like the fact I’m not touring has given me a lot of time to be creative and make a lot of music and art. I don’t know how much the pandemic contextually changed the record, as I was very careful not to allow that feeling into the record. Home is ultimately a big fantasy for being able to play live again, and it’s a hope we will be able to get to play live again.
Having worked with Diplo and SG Lewis, do you have any other collaborations on the horizon?
Beck is doing a remix, so I’m trying to convince him to do a song with me. He’s open to it, we’re just trying to figure out the best time for that. I’m starting to work on another record with mini collaborations. It's supposed to be a Rhye project, but I’d like to work with other vocalists. I don’t know if it’s duets, or if I’m just taking the producer seat and not sing. It’ll be people who are already in my world. There’s 30 musicians who like working with me, some who are on stage with me.
How long will Topanga be your home?
I’ll never sell this house, but believe in multi-city living. I know how privileged that sounds, so apologies to anyone who's offended by that.
I also want to have a farm in Canada, so I can spend more time with my parents. I’m very close to my parents and I need some of that, as not being able to see them for much of this year has been difficult. I want to find a country property in Europe to have a home base there. I’m looking at different properties to see what’s big enough.
I want a place big enough so 150 people can come visit for open-air shows. If it was in England, me and my sister spent a lot of time in Sussex. My sister went to school at a castle there, and I mixed Blood right beside it, which was a weird coincidence. We’d share pub recommendations. I had this scone at a small town in Sussex and I was “I finally understand scones!” Out of the oven, with the cream and jam on, I was “Wow!” It was an exceptional experience. Every meal I’ve had in England is amazing, the country pubs have incredible food that has that satisfying home cooking thing. England got a bad food rap in the 90s and people outside the UK don’t talk enough about how good it is now.
Let The Records Show: Going behind the myths about vinyl
This week: Print v poly on the inner sleeve
To the outside world, one of the most incomprehensible debates among hardcore vinyl collectors is the inner sleeve.
Some people prefer extra information on an inner sleeve: more photos, the lyrics. Some, however, insist the inner sleeve should serve its original primary function of keeping the record itself in pristine condition. To those collectors, only a black or white paper inner sleeve lined with poly will do.
Both sides have their merit. The album could always feature the additional inner sleeve info in a booklet, or a print-style extra. Does a poly inner keep the record in better condition? As anyone who's tried to battle with getting a record out of an especially shiny printed inner sleeve will attest, yes, it can make a difference. The ideal solution, as collectors of David Bowie and U2 vinyl albums, know is to include both poly and printed inner sleeves. Let each collecting faction choose. Of course, not every artist has Bowie and U2 levels of finance....
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: Unearthing hidden treasures on the shelves This week: I Like Trains - Kompromat (Atlantic Curve) Buy Kompromat here
Local Leeds favourites, I Like Trains emerged in the mid 00s with mordant orchestral songs about chess champion Bobby Fischer, The Beeching Report and other regular subjects of toe-tappers.
Just when it looked like they'd run out of steam, after eight years away last year's Kompromat was a stunning return. More like Death In Vegas and Neu! than their previous classical influences, singer David Martin's tomb-deep voice was perfect for expressing the paranoia about the state of the world.
What could have been too unremettingly intense is offset by the heft of their motorik grooves and Martin's flirtatious wit under the Sisters Of Mercy-style vocal intonations. A first class return.