Review: Eight albums in and !!! are still as hard to define than the band's name is difficult to say. They've always managed to resonate with the sound and zeitgeist of the year in which they release, and "Wallop" doesn't differ from that modus. An amalgamation of tones at once uptempo and hedonistic yet brutally damaged, it's an electronic album built in the way the genres it pays homage to originally were - blueprint free. We've got dance-rock crossovers, straight up techno (albeit aimed squarely at non-die-hard-heads) and bouncing broken funk-house hybrids, so what more do you want? "Couldn't Have Known" nods to classic Basement Jaxx. "Domino" takes us down an IDM wormhole, where we meet the aptly titled "Ur Paranoid" and its pulsating intensity. Simultaneously referencing Primal Scream, trip hop, Madchester, whatever that track that set the club off last night was while sounding like none of the above, it's archetypal !!! business.
Review: If you're new to the Alex Giannascoli's world then make yourself comfortable - chances are, like us, you'll be here for a while. There are so many tangents, threads and stylistic shifts of shape it's possible to dive into his back catalogue and spend years never getting bored. It's now far quicker to understand what we're talking about, though, thanks to his latest album. There are multiple personalities at play here than you'd think could be coherent, but coherent this record is. Opener "Walk Away" sounds like an overview of the whole thing - growing from desperate cry into a grandiose, captivating thing of real beauty via reversed-out backing track and looped lyrics. All very Beta Band. From there we're locked-in, through the shimmering melodies of "Taking" to "Sugar"'s deep, tense atmospheric crescendos and vocoders. Ending on the stunning brass-accented blues rock of "SugarHouse (Live)", it's as complete a record as you could ask for.
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: 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: 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: When you think of the way we were when Blink 182's angsty punk-pop was tapping the top of the charts one word comes to mind - innocence. Compared to this era of impending existential doom it was easier to work out solutions then, even if solutions weren't put into action. So welcome to the new age, and a new Blink 182 intent on carving a fresh place for themselves in this frighteningly complex point in history. It's as though 2016's "California" was a cathartic and temporary rekindling of old flames, giving closure and helping the band move forward properly. Here they take us into territories barely on their radar before. Not that opener "The First Time" doesn't nod to past glories. "Darkside" brings arty, experimental punk, "Heaven" is a main stage overture, "On Some Emo Shit" is a desperate call for help and admission of the universality of fragility.
Review: If there were still justice in the digital age, and artists really got what was owed to them exposure-wise, Alex Cameron would be a safe bet for leftfield pop sensation. A multi-faceted songwriter, his previous two albums took us through a horror show of horrible characters and their innermost thoughts, twin roads that have somehow veered onto another course altogether for "Miami Memory". Here a much friendlier face is donned. Nevertheless, opener "Stepdad" makes intentions clear, with uptempo keyboard lines invoking the emotional qualities of mid-80s Prince. "Far From Born Again" tells the story of a "her" who's making bad choices, and the potential fallout of that, set to a Bruce Springsteen-sounding chorus, the likes of which can be found again on "Divorce". Not holding back, but instead holding a light up to a different side of his personality, it's Cameron's most positive to date and his best.
Review: You could be forgiven for questioning the Californian roots of Ceremony. Then again, it's a big old state. Big enough, apparently, to hide one of the most vital movements in British music in its midst. Evidently no coincidence that the band's name nods to a seminal slice of Joy Division, while post punk never disappeared this 14-strong collection is enough to trick anyone into thinking they'd woken up in the genre's explosive heyday. "Turn Away The Bad Thing" sets the record straight as album opener. Intense, punchy, visceral and- crucially- incredibly catchy, Ross Farrar's lyrics arrive with rock 'n' roll's unapologetic edge. It's a case of one track and you're in. It's also perhaps the rawest offering here, synths and electronics gradually demanding more attention as the LP progresses. "From Another Age", for example, places bouncing keys centre stage as pseudo-guitar riffs. Basically buy it, buy it now.