Fortnightly Shortbites – An Album Release Round-up (Jan 1st to Jan 14th)

This is a new feature focusing on those albums that never got covered before their release dates. Obviously we can’t cover everything, but we will certainly strive to cover the best and most important releases each fortnight. And please, let us know if you think we missed any great albums. Feedback like that is always appreciated.

Twin Atlantic, a band even keener to wear their Scottish hearts on their sleeves than The Proclaimers, returned on 7th January with their sixth studio album Transparency. It’s an entertaining listen, the killer dancefloor humdingers ‘Get Famous‘ and ‘Young‘ being the obvious standouts, Sam McTrusty’s Glaswegian drawl elevating these songs well above your standard fare. The less in-your-face songs are highly amicable with a lot of heart too. Even if ‘Dance Like Your Mother‘ seems to be trying WAY too hard to be Prince. And the more ’emo’ side of the band doesn’t personally appeal to me that much. But still, there’s enough here to appreciate how good Twin Atlantic are at writing well crafted pop songs and you just have to acknowledge that. 7/10

Also released on 7th January was an EP by Summer Years called You Can’t Live There Forever, which is quite retro in a way that would likely appeal to fans of those old ’emo’ bands of the noughties like Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional and their poppier contemporaries Sum 41 or Blink 182. It doesn’t massively appeal to me, personally, if I’m honest, but they’re clearly good at what they do and there’s certainly a place for them. 6/10

Chicagoan multi-instrumentalist Joe Kenkel‘s debut album, Naturale (13th Jan), takes its lead from some of the big hitting luminaries of the great North American songbook, with tips of the hat to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt and Elliott Smith among a plethora of others. It’s a pretty minimalistic offering production wise, but anyone capable of conjuring up such glorious sunlit car journeys around endless twisting canyons, as Kenkel does on the stunning, warm ‘Sweeping‘, well, they’ve undoubtedly announced themselves as one to keep a firm eye on over the next few years. 7/10

Police Dog Hogan released their fifth album Overground on 14th January. It’s very much what you would expect from them really; as anyone who’s ever witnessed them live will verify, they’re ostensibly bracketed in the Mumford and Sons vein of folksy Brit Americana. Some of you may balk at such an idea but I’ve never really had an issue with that kind of giddy bluegrass and those uplifting choruses that are purveyed by both. Overground has that in spades. 7/10

The remaining releases covered here were ALSO released on January 14th, starting with Brighton’s cult Electronica wizard Bonobo and his seventh full length release, entitled Fragments. I was just about to mention that its opening track, ‘Polyghost‘, put me in mind of waves crashing on the sea, and I then I noticed the album sleeve, which depicts…waves crashing on the sea!  Nice to know that I appear to ‘get it’ then! There are some truly gorgeous numbers here, with lazy, hazy, 3am vocals provided by the likes of Jordan Rakei and Jamila Woods, among others. You remember the first ever episode of Black Books, where Manny (played by Bill Bailey) swallows the Little Book Of Calm? Well this is like the ambient, musical version of that. A wonderful soul-cleanser of a record that’s probably the pick of the bunch here. 8/10

French singer/songwriter Corentin Ollivier‘s latest album, Some More Pieces, sent my mind racing back to Leicester’s sadly long defunct three day festival Summer Sundae, when I used to chase around for the entire weekend trying to cover each and every band that played and get some decent photographs of them too. It was exhausting, and as much as I enjoyed the event every year, I was always grateful for those moments when the dust settled and someone like Corentin would have brought his mellow, gently constructed arrangements to the indoor stage and I could sit on a balcony seat relaxing at last. He would have been a perfect fit for that festival. All very pleasant stuff, especially the striking ‘Oh Dear God I Miss You‘. 7/10

Given the amount of melancholia Elvis Costello has put out in recent years, the thunderous ‘Farewell, OK‘ that begins his latest album with The Imposters, The Boy Named If, comes as something of a surprise. The title track builds ominously and delightfully too and the record has a wealth of great tunes that hark back to his earlier, most commercially successful days. Best thing he’s put out in ages, this. And ‘My Most Beautiful Mistake‘ might even be one of the most affecting songs he’s released yet. 8/10

Melbourne’s Grace Cummings (no relation to our editor) is one of the most distinctive voices out there right now, falling somewhere between that of between Joan Armatrading and Laura Nyro, to my ears. The expansive opening track to her second album Storm Queen – the huge sounding ‘Heaven‘ – is a little misleading though, as the bulk of what’s on offer here is pretty, wintry, theatrical ballads and folksical whimsy. That said, Cummings’s expressive vocalising, complete with frustrated growls and subtle musings, do set her apart from her contemporaries. 7/10

Two further EPs were released on 14th January – first of all the dreamy, shimmering heavenly pop of Norwegian artist Helven on Volume 1. It’s an addictive, highly intoxicating five track record, borrowing elements of 90s pop, trip-hop and chillwave, especially on the glorious recent single ‘U My Homie‘ and my personal favourite, ‘My Love My Love‘, which sounds somewhat wonky, like Madonna having restless, confusing dreams, and what’s not to like about that? 8/10

Secondly, precocious talent Ryan Kaiser, still only in his early twenties has been releasing quality music for a few years now under the banner Yot Club. His new EP, Santolina, begins with the amicable Real Estate like pop jangle of ‘Alive‘ but soon proves, once again, that he won’t be lazily pigeonholed, with ‘Channel 4‘ seeming to take its lead from both seventies funk and early eighties new wave. It’s effective, but best of all is ‘Deer Island‘, Kaiser’s shimmering upbeat guitar work proving a terrific foil for his downbeat, slacker vocal. Lovely stuff this. 8/10

Check back in a fortnight for a round-up of releases from 21st and 28th Jan.

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