Review: Taking inspiration from the sonic lawlessness of the city they live, New York's B Boys deliver a third studio album for Brooklyn indie Captured Tracks. Described as exploring solitude and self-reflection through sharp, high-energy shouts and melodic mediations, Dudu keeps their post punk sound of lo-fi drums, jangley, distorted guitars and quick fire rhythms fresh! The music of B Boys shares a close proximity to what was coming out of the UK scene during the 2000s with "Closer", "Instant Pace" and "Another Anthem" really saddling up to this aesthetic, which should bring some nice memories to fans of bands like King Krule, The Rakes or even At The Drive In.
Review: Southampton's own bones brigade, Band Of Skulls, return with an epic fifth studio album, delivering a sweet selection of alternative pop rock versatility. The album opens with a salvo of heavier, more motley rock sounds before hitting its catchy title track halfway through the A-side. "Not The Kind Of Nothing" and "Cool Your Battles" turns out the A-side from anything too soft, with the band serving up a cooing, more contemplative and ethereal number in "Sound of You" that opens the second disc. The slightest of country and folk inspirations waver in and out of "We're Alive", with the emotional wall of sound that is "Speed Of Light" a true highlight, alongside the jamming post-punk hit: "Gold". Like James Murphy dressed up as Nikki Sixx.
Review: Where would we be without our mothers? Literally nowhere, of course, given the medical facts of life. But psychologically and spiritually somewhere very different, too. Just ask Devendra Banhart, whose latest, heartbreaking and poignant LP packs intimidating strength and thoughtful themes by the birth-giving load. Here the synths that dominated more recent albums are replaced by instruments best described as "a bit earthier", with strings and woodwinds joining brass and keys. Despite its title, this album is less a dedication to motherhood itself and more a meditation on emotional ties and links in general. "Memorial", for example, is about the death of Banhart's father, while elsewhere we are told love is like "crowd surfing in an empty club". As per usual, Banhart's songwriting verges on mania, recalling the late-Daniel Johnston's razor sharp observations wrapped in innocent imagery, while the instrumentation conjures Burt Bacharach and the like.
Review: Don't believe everything you read - the fifth Bat For Lashes album confirms this girl (or woman) found herself musically and thematically some time ago, freeing up creative energy to explore new approaches to deliver her often mournful, always heartfelt songs inspired by personal crises and private longings. On this outing there's more than a hint of 1980s pop evident in the mix. Shades of Prince ("Feel For You"), Madonna ("So Good"), Bowie's Berlin days and electro-era Gary Numan (the stunning, infectious instrumental "Vampires") cast the record in a nostalgia that suits the sense of yearning that always seems to pervade Natasha Khan's work. Simply name-checking reference points is lazy and unfair, though. This is an incredible collection of tracks moulded in the artist's own image - bold, beautiful and instantly captivating. Then again, it would be surprising if anyone had expected anything less.
Review: In the aftermath of the Brexit vote the question on many people's minds is 'what's going to happen'...well an answer for some, at least, was a new BC Camplight album, fittingly named, Deportation Blues. Recording in Liverpool's Whitewood studios, Brian Christinzio is said to have locked himself in a windowless studio and recorded all songs almost exclusively in the dark. With title track Deportation Blues its most illuminating result, the album overall is a more electrified opus, musically speaking, than his previous long players How To Die In The North and Blink Of A Nihilist. Featuring Luke Barton on guitars and synth, alongside guitarist Tom Rothery and multi-instrumentalist/ backing singer Ali Bell, BC Camplight lights it up again.
Review: It may be debatable whether B-sides still exist in the here and now, yet beneath the very slightly prosaic title of this compendium lurks the work of an outfit who - despite having essentially surfed along a very definitive wave of sun-dappled languour since their inception - are capable of delivering offcuts that are every bit the equal of most folks' hits. True, the Spinal Tap insult of 'the musical growth rate of this band cannot even be charted' could be applied to Beach House, but when their catalogue over the ten years of their existence esentially consists of a variety of themes on opiated bliss, we're only too happy to embark on the ride.
Review: Thirteen studio albums in, and 'Colors' sees Beck maybe at his most playful and upbeat since the late '90s. Title track 'Colors' opens the albums with an immediacy that bursts out like a heavily polished 'Devil's Haircut'. The album veers off in all kinds of pop directions, from the anthemic 'Seventh Heaven', to the almost trap-like 'Wow', Beck shows he's willing to experiment and wrangle as much as possible into an album. It might not be his most contemplative record, but it's definitely his glossiest and most entertaining in a while, and promises a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
Review: As Zach Condon prepares to embark on a mass trans-atlantic tour in support of this Gallipoli LP as Beirut, all the fanfare of his horns, bells and whistling croons are once again to be enjoyed in full for a fifth time. Debuting back in 2006 with Gulag Orkestar, Gallipoli adds to the band's stream of albums these past 15 years and presents the singer-songwriter's second appearance on London's great 4AD. Inspired by a chance encounter with a brass band procession on the fated Turkish peninsula which reminded him of the Italian films from his childhood, he named the album and title track after small, coastal town in Apulia, southern Italy. These influences can be heard across Gallipoli alongside the sweet screams of synths and chimes that adorn the others, to spates of bluesy tropicana and the sweet, melancholic and trumpeting tones the band are most cherished for.
Review: Considering their penchant for spinning yarns and the cinematographically-suited nature of much of their work, it's surprising "Days Of The Bagnold Summer" is only Belle & Sebastian's second shot at a movie score. The last was 2001's '"Storytelling", accompanying Todd Solondz's movie of the same name, and they certainly did a good job then. So, high expectations this time round. For those unfamiliar, their latest foray into the film world partners the directorial debut of Simon Bird, best known to many as one of "The Inbetweeners". The flick, an adaptation of Joff Winterhart's 2012 graphic novel, chronicles the life and times of a teenage metalhead and his single mother. The album perfectly accompanies but also contributes to that tale. Highly emotive instrumental tracks and classic B&S songs-proper, this OST is destined to go down well with the band's true believers.
Review: American singer-songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst are two accomplished musicians in their own right, with the latter largely known for his role in Bright Eyes and other bands, with an enviable solo discography too, while the former, after a slew of singles, released her debut album Stranger In The Alps in 2017. Together the pair form Better Oblivion Community Center, who recently scored some airtime on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert with a beaty rendition of their dust-kicking vocal number "Dylan Thomas". The album delivers a bevy of duets and folk-tales with references to '90s pop rock and grunge never that far off, and it's best heard on "Dominos" and the cutesy synth-play of " Exception To The Rule".
Review: Listening to the awaited full length of The National's Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon's (Bon Iver) Big Red Machine project and it's hard not to think they've invested themselves in discovering deeper strands of electronic music, or production... if the sporadic drum machine work of "Deep Green" is anything to go by. "I Won't Run From It" however sees the pair back in their full choral beauty, presenting a song for thousands to potentially wave their hands this summer. This Big Red Machine was produced over the past two years involving many-a collaboration from New York and its artistic community, with the band themself saying: "this feels like something new-the process felt different and the outcome felt different." Check it.
Review: It's not hard to understand why people so often ignore album release blurb. Sales-y, hyperbolic, and on more than the odd occasion rather poorly written, it's hardly required reading in order to get the most out of the record. That is unless it's Big Thief's 'Two Hands', a collection of music that genuinely makes more sense when you know the back story. For one thing this long form offering is arriving just months after its predecessor, which is always either the sign of a band that don't need big ideas to facilitate rapid-fire output, or a band that have so many big ideas they literally can't stop the momentum. This is a case of the latter. Timescale aside, "Two Hands" genuinely feels as though it was born in the Badlands, epic songs that invoke endless vistas across barren settings in a way that makes you feel as small as you actually are in a global context. Like cosying up in a log cabin away from the chilly endless dark of a desert night.
Review: There's plenty of anticipation around Big Thief's third record U.F.O.F., and we can say with confidence that it delivers on every front. A solid expansion of their last record, Capacity, U.F.O.F. for the most part goes deeper into diverse sonic territories that's emotionally raw and rich, calling to mind Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell and various other accomplished singer songwriters especially in songs like "Contact" and "Cattails". Elsewhere, "Strange" and "Orange" provide a backing that seems more upbeat on the surface, yet the varied vocal technique of Adrianne Lenker, ranging from a whisper to a vulnerable bellow keeps us firmly captivated. The album really shines through when it reaches for slightly louder soundscapes, best heard on "Terminal Paradise" and "Jenni" (with the latter reminding us of "Washer" by Slint). All in all, U.F.O.F. will be a record that entrances you with its subtle yet haunting charm.
Review: Providing continual evolution to the greater aspects of how original folk music can be heard, sung and played, Andrew Bird's run of album's since Echolocations (2015) sees his character and sound venture in a world hallowed only by the likes of Father John Misty; that echolich ability to notate the sweet spots in notes with pangs of nostalgia. Alongside strings of country refrain and minimalism, folk guitars and dandy whislisture, there's a code to be cracked within the thematic of the album, putting paid to suggestion that Andrew Bird's latest work might actually be his best.