Yes, we’re already over halfway through 2023, and here is a selection of the albums we have been loving so far here at God Is In The TV. By no means definitive, it’s an eclectic list of long players that have been exciting us across every genre you can imagine. Enjoy!
Cosmic Crooner – The Perks of Being A Hypocrite
Poser and unrepentant music snob Joep Meyer’s debut album, The Perks of Being A Hypocrite is a sophisticated, stylish tongue-in-cheekbones journey in classy classic pop, fired up by gadding gaily around Europe and a lust for Serge Gainsbourg’s wonderful Melody Hotel. Cosmic Crooner is great fun. His exquisite cultural tastebuds in singers – never vocalists – doo-wop pop, and European film resulted in an ambitious and adventurous record. Lyrically delightfully bitchy and judgemental – ‘Spoiler Alert’ is a case in point- but on the flip side, the Crooner is unafraid to let his guard down and shows he’s a big ol’ softie after all, in the sensual ‘Bolero’ and ‘Goosebumps On A Tuesday Night’ – a song for the lovelorn everywhere.
Read our interview with Joep here. (Cath Holland)
Sweet Baboo – The Wreckage (Amazing Tapes from Canton)
Sweet Baboo’s return in the opening weeks of the year brought with it a sense of thank-goodness-for-that relief, The Wreckage is a collection of songs carrying familiar, much-loved quirky weariness and childlike mischief. Steve Black may claim he runs out of things to write about, but we challenge this discourse; his reflections of the everyday in songs are pockets of sheer joy.‘The Worry‘ is a special favourite, a reassuring bop; ‘Left Out The Door‘ simple voice, piano and clarinet invites us to go on a delightful wander; ‘Hopeless’ with its bossa nova beat is anything but. The Wreckage contains songwriting and lyrical contributions from pals H. Hawkline and Georgia Ruth, but we argue – loudly – that Sweet Baboo has lots to say and we are totally here for every word and note.
Read our interview with Stephen Black here. (Cath Holland)
Body Type – Expired Candy
Body Type say their new album Expired Candy is “filled with hope, love, and danger, dancing with delicious uncertainty.” Aussie girl gang Body Type live up to their promises because Expired Candy is a riot of garage punk rock delivered with a sly grin; pointed arrow to the heart.
Forged in lockdown it consumes the chaos of a world swirling with division, break ups and breakdowns, populists and narcissists, and delivers an attitude, crammed with heart, intellect and hooky tunes! Big tunes like life-affirming opener ‘Holding On’ is a soaring, hook-laden track, smeared in hopeful, knowing melodies and sprinkled with jousting, joyous life-affirming choruses, where the protagonist’s longing and messy “monsoon” emotions are kept afloat by friends and aphorisms passed down by family members. Also ‘Weekend’ that’s bittersweet garage-pop jumps head first into a juddering rhythm and sing-along melody that’s almost Broadway-worthy.
‘Miss The World’ is a centrepiece, a razor-sharp garage-pop anthem born of the COVID pandemic, with scurrying Batman-theme-like guitars and pummelling drums, laced with lead vocalist and guitarist, Sophie McComish’s urgent vocals, that are both an insidiously hooky lament and a spitting ball of frustration, swirling with the tumult of isolation, claustrophobia and the absurdity of our society and culture, raging at the “unquestioning compliance and the ascent of tyrants, told through pre-teen anarchists, bichon frises, and a drum beat based on a Gwen Stefani song.” For fans of the Breeders, Courtney Barnett and Sleater-Kinney, Expired Candy is quite frankly unstoppable, the ace soundtrack to hanging by our fingernails and doing it anyway. (Bill Cummings)
billy woods and Kenny Segal – Maps
Is it a road map, a travelogue, a sprawling concept album, or of the above? Maps is the new album from NYC rapper billy woods and LA producer Kenny Segal, their first full collaboration since 2019’s Hiding Places. Woods delivers iridescent testaments that are intricate, poignant and painfully prescient riding a tapestry of woozy stripped-back hip hop decorated with samples, jazz sewn instrumentation and underpinned by chunky bass and a constant beat like the continuation of a life that waits for no man.
‘Soft landing’ is an astounding contemplation that’s stumbling lysergic beats, decorated by hazy guitar strums and riddled with streams of consciousness flow and fragments of singalong, as a form of beat poetry that tackles the contradiction of taking off from the life you knew, police incarceration and meditating on mental struggles, and the tensions of the America below. It is an album about trying to find your way home, after making your home wherever you lay your head.
The brooding ‘Year Zero’ consumes the chaos injustice, police shootings and gang warfare of a broken America, burrowing into existential depths that most hip hop albums fear to tread down. These bars are so intricately and tightly packed and rhythmic that you discover on each listen, there’s a poeticism gleaming through each stanza delivered with irony, surreal bursts and intense personal revelations, bristling with the trauma and tragedy of life and growing up amidst the tumult. Maps to the heart of our fractured worlds. Fantastic. (Bill Cummings)
A.S. Fanning – Mushroom Cloud
What a gorgeous record this is; the third from Berlin-based Irishman Steve Fanning. Emboldened by strings and warm arrangements, the drama and dark romance is aided by his glorious baritone taking us on an emotional journey; one well-travelled. Fanning describes the work as an “anxiety album’” from a personal perspective, but song by song it serves to take us all through the life’s inevitable troughs – and beauties. The title song starts dissonant but turns bloody epic and heroic. ‘Sober’ cleanses the palate, ‘I Feed Bad’ is real and relatable to those who hobble along with an omnipresent emotional stone in their shoe. The record concludes by offering up hope with the pink-tinged beauty of ‘Magic Light‘.
Read our interview here. (Cath Holland)
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – The Future Is Your Past (A Records)
BJM‘s 20th album – and second in the space of a year – is triumphant and defiant in tone and attitude. The series of affirmations as Anton Newcombe views them gives sage advice in looking forward, but shows elements of sweet melancholy too. Take ‘Fudge’ and ‘Cross Eyed Gods’ as examples of that. ‘Nothing Can Stop The Sound’ is a personal favourite here at GIITTV Towers, the swirling twirling organ in a cloud of purple smoke; ‘All The Feels’ is a country-tinged inspiration and really quite beautiful and vulnerable. Akin to 2022’s ‘Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees’, ‘The Future Is Your Past’ is a continuation of Anton Newcombe’s work ethic and industry, writing and recording a song each day during lockdowns, putting each up on YouTube as a work in progress. ‘I felt like everything was so sad and hopeless, but I am not helpless. I decided to sing anthems to empower me, to remember, to fight the beast until it dies, to give it everything you got because that’s all there is to give…these were not songs for covid times, for these times of war and crisis after crisis, these are songs for all time.”
Read our interview with Anton Newcombe about the record here. (Cath Holland)
Tom Rasmussen – Body Building
Author, artist and all-around creative, Tom Rasmussen has become a staple name in the LGBTQ+ community. A couple of weeks after their lengthy tour across the UK with Self Esteem, they released their debut album Body Building via Globe Town Records and it’s as euphoric as their live show. Though the album features an array of tracks that are drowning in punching beats and catchy vocal lines such as ‘Dysphoria’ and ‘Look at Me.’ Tom’s talents don’t end there and the album showcases their versatility, with tracks of a more delicate nature, including ‘Dial 9’ and a moving cover of Arthur Russell’s ‘This is How We Walk on the Moon’. A celebration of self-acceptance and freedom, Body Building is one of the most important albums of the year. (Laura Dean)
The Lottery Winners – Anxiety Replacement Therapy
The first half of 2023 has been spectacular for The Lottery Winners. After a support slot with Frank Turner and a huge headline tour, they released Anxiety Replacement Therapy, achieving their first number one album in the process. Described by frontman Thom Rylance as a “self-help tape” for those struggling in life, the album tackles a multitude of issues, including austerity, mental health, personal development and anxiety. With catchy choruses, honest lyrics and collaborations galore from Boy George, Shaun Ryder and Frank Turner, Anxiety Replacement Therapy is everything we wanted from the follow-up album to 2021’s Something To Leave The House For – and more. (Laura Dean)
Lankum – False Lankum
Dublin’s False Lankum feels like it has been dug up like hidden treasure beneath the belly of the bog, so raw and visceral, gleaming beneath the earth like a Celtic axe, cutting to the core of the human condition. It will take you on a Shamanic journey so intense that you will come out the other side feeling like your soul has been in a speed wash – in a good way. The first track ‘Go Dig My Grave’ is so visceral that it will shake you to the core. A reworking of an old folk song with several incarnations Lankum have constructed the piece so cleverly that it grips and tricks the listener with a haunting narrative, swelling like a Celtic demon layered on a dark bed full of drones and dulcimers, putting a shiver down your spine. Breathing space comes in the swell and sway of ‘Clear Away In the Morning’ followed by the first of three ambient Fugues. In ‘Master Crowley‘s’ trad instrumental you can hear every wheeze of the living and breathing concertinas, leading to an unexpected demonic siren swirling and pulling the listener slowly underwater. Just when you start to feel comfortable, they take the listener down another spiral, creating a purposeful sense of disorientation, but trust the journey and you will soon arrive at the stunningly accomplished ‘Netta Perseus’ with unexpected shadows in the soundscapes.
Lankum is pure punk, pushing the genre to its limit, amalgamating the best of folk with elements of metal, krautrock, punk and psychedelia, creating a new genre of its own, transcending cultural boundaries using Indian harmoniums, echoing the drones of the uilleann pipes perfectly and bringing a depth and harmony to the tracks and recognition of the universality of the human condition. It’s as twisted and beautiful as a Celtic Knot. As the legendary Irish singer Frank Harte said, “Those in power write the history while those who suffer write the songs.” (Carmel Walsh)
The Murder Capital – Gigi’s Recovery
There’s nothing quite like the intensity of The Murder Capital’s live shows. In their second album they have taken that raw punk energy, so viscerally expressed in their debut, When I Have Fears and let some blades of light in, honing their craft allowing the lyrical and sonic textures to naturally ferment into a rich, sumptuous palette. In Gigi’s Recovery, the Irish quintet have sculpted an intricate alchemy of tender, brooding, raw, euphoric and edgy soundscapes that are almost operatic in their emotional range. It’s a dark, opulent work of art.
They now feel like a mature and sophisticated band that has honed their craft beyond their years with motorik grooves and heavy guitars weaving between, whirling surrealist loops and discordant rhythms. It’s a cinematic album bookended by short concept tracks ‘Existence’ and ‘Exist’ marking the beginning and end of the record, echoing the cathartic journey from darkness to light and recovery. The soaring choruses of tracks like ‘Ethel’ and ‘Return my Head,’ were made to be sung live with cathartic triumph while the sun-soaked soundscape of ‘Only Good Things,’ sees the band kicking against their post-punk pigeonhole with full force. With a labyrinth of textures and ideas to explore through the shadows, this is ultimately an album of hope. If the first album was about the nature of death, then the second is more about life and love, echoing the ebb and flow of life itself. (Carmel Walsh)
The St Pierre Snake Invasion – Galore
Turns out, anyone who thought The St Pierre Snake Invasion had peaked creatively with their 2019 second album Caprice Enchanté, had underestimated what the Bristol five-piece were capable of. With Galore, they have redefined their own boundaries, with spectacular results.
Like its predecessor, Galore displays a mastery of hardcore and math rock that few others can achieve. Opener ‘Kracked Velvet’ is a fine example of this, effectively several songs rolled into one, starting with quirky and jerky styling before opening out into some fabulous roaring riffs in the second half. There’s more content in this one song than many bands manage in an entire career.
The riffage on display on this record is right up there with their best.‘To Sleep Well’ is a slice of chaos over a grinding bassline, and ‘The Overlook combines some jittery harmonics with one of the most memorable lyrics of 2023 so far. “Life is a thorn in the side of growth, spite is a knife in the spine of progress.” Magnificent.
Where Galore somewhat surprisingly shines through, though, is with the addition of an element that maybe hasn’t historically been associated with this band – tenderness. Vocalist Damien Sayell has become a father since the band’s last album, and his new perspective on life shines through clearly on the sumptuous ‘Apex Prey’. The main lyric on this track, “You count your blessings, and I count the days,” is one that every parent can surely relate to.
By Sayell’s admission, this is a much more forward-looking album than its predecessor, thinking about the future and how we shape it. The broader subject matter is echoed by an enhanced musical approach, which is much more expansive, and better for it.
The range of emotion and style on this album is quite astonishing, from the minimalist ‘Midas’ to the synthesised chaos of ‘That There’s Fighting Talk’. This is a hugely ambitious record, but it flows effortlessly and every track hits the mark. Truly an incredible piece of work. (Simon Moyse)
Bad Pelicans – Eternal Life Now
Three years after it was recorded, the second album by Paris punks Bad Pelicans finally made its way out into the world in February, and boy, was it worth the wait.
Where the band’s debut, Best Of, had been a fine slice of surf/psych punk, Eternal Life Now is an altogether more ambitious affair, which proved that the Pelicans are much more than just a jaunty knockabout. They are truly one of the best prospects to come out of the French scene in quite some time.
The album opens with the menacing art-punk of ‘Paris’. Ostensibly a celebration of their home city’s many touristy wonders. The dark, brooding video tells the real story. This is the Paris of La Haine, not the Paris of the Champs-Élysées.
This duality of purpose is repeated throughout the album. ‘Dance Music’ is indeed a number to move your body to, but nobody is mistaking this for a party anthem. Driven by a fabulous, rumbling bassline, this is dance music for a post-apocalyptic world. Similarly, ‘Best Friend’ has a fierce, angular guitar line that demands your attention.
This duality of purpose is repeated throughout the album. ‘Dance Music’ is indeed a number to move your body to, but nobody is mistaking this for a party anthem. Driven by a fabulous, rumbling bassline, this is dance music for a post-apocalyptic world. Similarly, ‘Best Friend’ has a fierce, angular guitar line that demands your attention.
This is an album that never lets you get comfortable. ‘2 Kool 4 the Wavpool’ is a chirpy track on the surface, but in reality, is a metaphor-laden expression of the challenges the band faced with their new direction (“Here is my new sound, and I hope that you’re into it; in the underground, they would never let me do it”). ‘Supercop’, meanwhile, is a savage piece of noise-rock that is surely destined for a Robocop remake one day.
The best, though, is left for the end, with the sweeping post-punk of ‘Home’ and the jerky chaos of the title track. In true Parisian style, this is an album of great inspiration and effortlessly cool, but it has a dark underbelly too. Don’t be surprised if we hear a lot more from this band. (Simon Moyse)
Tigercub – The Perfume of Decay
Brighton three-piece Tigercub have been around for nearly a decade now, and with their third album, The Perfume of Decay, they have finally delivered the record that they have always promised. Don’t get us wrong, they have always had immense talent, but their previous output has always lacked a little in terms of focus. Their first two albums had some great songs, but the overall product just felt like it slipped through the cracks a little, not prepared to commit to what it wanted to be.
This record is a different story, though. Having signed to Loosegroove Records, the label founded by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, in early 2022, this is a record that puts its eggs firmly in the hard-rock basket. The result is a much more cohesive piece of work that lets all their undoubted skill flow through.
The first half is a behemoth of stoner rock. The title track has an absolute juggernaut of a bassline, overlaid with chaotic, jittery guitar and some great lyrics like, ‘I shake, and I shiver when my back’s against the wall.” ‘Play My Favourite Song’ is in a similar vein, a cracking homage to the way we use music to help us through tough moments, while ‘The Dark Below’ is a punky thrill ride about escaping from dark thoughts.
As the record progresses, we see some calmer elements enter the fray, notably on the aching ‘It Hurts When You’re Around’ and the poetic closer ‘Help Me I’m Dreaming’. There are plenty of great riffs in the second half too, though, particularly on the pounding chorus to ‘You’re My Dopamine’.
The best track of all, though, is the sweeping ‘Swoon’. Using the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic of the grunge era incredibly effectively, the sweet melody of the verses opens out into an absolute explosion of distorted noise in the choruses. The guitar sound here will echo around your brain for weeks, and you’ll be happy to have it there. (Simon Moyse)
Andy Shauf – Norm
The story of Norm is told from the perspective of three beings that could be as seen as embodying selfishness: 1) a creepy stalker called Norm, 2) the self-interested ex-boyfriend of the victim and 3) the omnipresent yet half-interested God. Listen to the album chronologically from start to finish because the story has revealing twists and turns, which are helped by the fact that the unifying nature of Andy Shauf’s serene folk makes the album feel like one singular piece of art. The leisurely pace of Norm’s songs also portray the realistic cautious approach that the stalker may have when tip-toeing planning an attack over time, as well as the realistic it-could-happen-to-anyone scenario, as opposed to over-dramatical music that usually accompanies a movie thriller. Add to the fact that the victim is never named or given a perspective as if she is just another forgotten missing person, gone but the daily winds of life continue to breeze.
Norm climaxes with ‘Don’t Let It Get To You’ and ‘All Of My Love’. Two tracks show the non-plussed care of God, his twisted view of love and how the cyclical nature of the whole incident will happen again. As ‘All Of My Love’ sounds like the album opener, the album could be played in a loop, conceptualizing that there will be other normal-appearing Norms, other selfish ex-partners and other helpless murder victims. And yet the café’s radio could play the album endlessly with listeners none the wiser to the record’s true meaning. (Matt Hobbs)
bar italia – Tracey Denim
There is something unshakably cool about bar italia. Maybe it’s in the name. Is it coined from the Pulp song? Will we ever find out? Maybe it’s their aloofness and air of mystery that attracts me so. The moniker does conjure thoughts of European cool, opening track ‘guard’ has the atmosphere of a French cafe, café au lait, cigarillo, sun glasses and insolence.
‘Nurse! ‘ is just lo-fi perfection, with it’s scuzzy, fuzzy guitar, melodic bass, simplistic but utterly ideal drums and dualling vocals. ‘punkt’ comes on like Justine Frischman has murdered Julian Casablancas and replaced him in The Strokes and then roped in Charlie Steen to add co-lead vocals. ‘changer’ is a moody masterpiece with echoes of The XX at their best.
Tracey Denim sounds like the best case of insomnia you’ve ever had. When you’ve had a few drinks to take the edge off, you’ve had one too many cigarettes, your voice is a bit hoarse, your head is a touch woozy and you think you should be ready to fall asleep but something is keeping you conscious. For just one more song. (Jim Auton)
Bethan Lloyd – Metamorphosis
Bethan Lloyd released her excellent debut album Metamorphosis earlier this year. She is a Welsh artist whose roots are deep. Her sonic exploration has taken her from training as a classical singer, immersing herself in Berlin’s experimental music scene, to learning with magicians, masters and the ancient teachings of the natural world. Producing alongside Jet Pack Dog bandmate and master of noise, Isaac Ray. It’s a soundscape that is rooted in a forgotten past and folklore but also has adventurous electronic sounds. The album explores the cosmos and the dark euphoria within it, the themes of mind control and diluted society and asks a question about where we are heading as a collective. This project delves into the philosophy of animism, guiding humanity back from its abusive relationship with nature.
On the positively transcendental ‘No Umbilical’ she offers a mantra entwined with swooping choral lines and cut-up electro-pop tapestries that body pop. It has pleasing elements of early Bjork as she clambers across European terrains to connect with a deeper force. ‘Cutting Circuits’ is a deeply emotive swirling electro-pop song that fuses Lloyd’s folk-influenced, pagan like refrains that gradually creep from personal and enveloping to swooping awestruck call to the heavens, underpinned by an intricate and pulsing tapestry of shadowy electronic sounds. (Bill Cummings)
Tape Runs Out – Floodhead
I have given these cats a fair amount of plaudits this year, but this record keeps giving. It feels like every time you stick the needle down on this LP there’s another envelope opened with something new inside. This is a musical journey with layers of instruments and instrumentation that needs to be peeled back and examined over time. From the majestic ‘Ark’ to the epic ‘Overseas Assignment’,’ through the lush ‘The Garden‘ in two suites, and to the finale of ‘Pillowtalk’ this is a secret worth talking about it until the world knows.
I said in my review back in April “Floodhead is genuinely a monumental achievement. Distilling everything that lead up to this in over a decade of smaller but not insignificant releases, however it feels like it was building up to this. This is a stunning record, one that needs to be heard, preferably, on your own, on repeat, as night turns to day, turns to night, and to day again. Have a good wallow. Find your clarity”. I stand by that. (Jim Auton)
National Honor Society – For All The Distance Between Us
A new kid on the block. Seattle’s National Honor Society only appeared on my radar when we had head honcho Coulter Leslie come on our Show Me Magic podcast recently, but I have been playing their new LP ever since. It’s the soundtrack to your summer you didn’t know existed or that you needed. Straight off the bat there’s an infectious riff that you’ll be humming till the clocks go back, on ‘As She Slips Away’.
Coming from the North Western States more known for having a climate similar to ours but just with even more rain, they’ve found the cracks in the clouds. They’re also self confessed Anglophiles, and you can certainly hear the influences scattered across the LP in jangle pop from the 80’s and 90’s, but there’s also a big slice of a certain close harmony group from the 1960’s that spent a fair bit of time surfing on the same west coast but just a bit further south where it’s warmer and sunnier most of the time. A close contemporary reference would be We Are Scientists, their ear for pop hooks with indie rock sensibilities. ‘Jacqueline’ has a distinct Mop Top feel to it, right down to its guitar solo that The Hollies might have written themselves.
There are so many highlights to this record, ‘The Following’ has a psychedelic edge but then brass chimes and they croon their way home. ‘The Trigger’ has something of Dodgy about it. The harmonies are more layered and has a cyclical lyric that spins and spins without out staying it’s welcome. Their debut was one of the unlucky ones to appear in the depths of the first lockdown and now their second album has the feeling of the release of those shackles, a brighter, sunnier outlook, like those 90’s summers that went on forever. (Jim Auton)
Bob Dylan – Shadow Kingdom
What the world probably doesn’t really need right now is yet another Bob Dylan album. I mean, the one-time peak-capped folkie has released about 40 of the buggers in what seems like an aeon and here he is churning out yet another. His latest offering is the soundtrack to a film that originally appeared on the Veeps live streaming service in May 2021, to tie-in with Dylan’s 80th birthday. To give the film, and by association the record it’s full title, it is called Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan.
This, in itself, is rather misleading as none of the 13 songs that appear on the record are drawn from any of his first four albums, and the ones that do make the final cut are actually re-interpretations of older material. Now, over the years we have become accustomed to Dylan taking a scorched earth policy to much of his back catalogue in concert to a point whereby they become almost unrecognisable, but here he shows remarkable restraint, and no little invention as he transforms these songs for the present day. They still remain unerringly timeless but have had precious new life breathed into them, probably no more so than on ‘What Was It You Wanted’ – taken from his 1989 album, Oh Mercy and the most recent song on the record – where the gravitas of Dylan’s words and the enunciation and clarity of his voice haven’t sounded this good in years. (Simon Godley)
Lael Neale – Star Eaters Delight
Forged in isolation, Star Eaters Delight is a vehicle for returning, not just to civilization, but to celebration. A record concerned with binaries – country vs. city, humanity vs. technology, solitude vs. relationship – the intention is to heal our divisions and realise what matters most.
The album is her second for Sub Pop and sketches wider vistas in her sonic collaboration with producer and accompanist Guy Blakeslee, Neale’s is a voice that has known pain and experienced it but still holds onto self compassion. The palette is more cinematic, still sparse yet riven with more detail. The trademark omnichord is still there on the excellent opening track. ‘I Am The River’ that’s minimal beat and tremulous guitar notes that splatter patterns across a canvas are like Suicide if they were given a wider palette. Framing Neale’s wonderful vocal, her melodic stream of consciousness reminds one of Patti Smith. It is at once personal and universal with a gifted warmth enhanced by a nagging ominichord, hoisted to new heights on the back of a repeated “ba ba da da da do na um” refrain that flows right through you. It’s bloody fantastic.
WIth her exquisitely drawn, character laden songs, and a voice of experience, Lael Neale is opening a fascinating window on her world, a world that craves human touch, longs for nature’s beauty and her spiritual quest to hold onto sovereignty over her own mind. Lael still has a flip phone and there were no screens involved in the creation of her new record, Star Eaters Delight. In a time when our devices are constantly flooding us with information. Neale offers “not because I don’t like things, but because I value freedom more.” We are in awe of your power Lael. (Bill Cummings)
Kelela – Raven
To emotionally keep one’s head above water as the rippling waves mercilessly attempt to drown your soul is a difficult task even for the most spirited. It’s a mission that ground-breaking experimental R&B singer Kelela Mizanekritos – who mixes R&B with innovative electronic production techniques – believes can be achieved and embraced, and provides her perspective in various ways on long-awaited third album Raven. This ideology is conveyed literally on Raven’s album sleeve, with the 39-year-old’s face just about visible within its grayscale photography. However the waves that desire to consume Kelela and the African-American queer community – to which she belongs and is specifically speaking to on her musically exploratory, seductive and hypnotic record – can take many forms.
The most satisfying moments on Raven are when it is irresistibly blissful and when the setting seemingly takes place in an erotic bedroom escapade. Kelela continues to use her smooth vocals but pairs them with slow and patient builds up of creaking nocturnal electronica (‘Fooley’), 80s drum machine (‘Let It Go’) and warping bass (‘Holier’). The highlight undeniably being ‘Sorbet’. Imagine Little Dragon mixed with Sade, as Kelela paints how the sugary ecstasy of an affair can be so intense that time and place become irrelevant: “Start with my hand on your skin (My hand). Only a touch, and we get into it (A touch). We start, where to begin? No need to rush, it nеver ends (It nevеr ends) It never ends. I don’t know where we are though (Where we are, where we are). It never ends” . (Matt Hobbs)
Fever Ray – Radical Romantics
There is already a lot of analysis of this brilliant album out there (in particular Sasha Geffen‘s interview for Pitchfork goes deep into its origins) but it’s important to say first that it’s great to hear another Fever Ray album after six years. In parts it’s also the nearest-sounding thing to The Knife in almost a decade. However, while Dreijer’s brother and fellow The Knife member, Olof Dreijer co-wrote and co-produced the first four tracks, Radical Romantics is most definitely a Fever Ray affair, despite all its familiar beats and nostalgic synth shimmy. Here, Fever Ray also pitches in with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Portuguese DJ Nídia, Bristol’s Vessel, and Pär Grindvik and Peder Mannerfelt‘s faustian techno-pop project Aasthma, who also featured on 2017’s Plunge.
At its heart Radical Romantics is a love album, but not in any traditional or hetero-normative sense. With Plunge, Karin Dreijer’s urgency to embrace life in all its fully-realised queerness created a rhythm-driven, sensory spectacular. Love and lust was grabbed in fleeting snatches across its experimental and head-spinning tracks. Radical Romantics burns much more slowly. It’s a more vulnerable creature, being both candid and mysterious and scarier for it. The songs lean more on Dreijer’s play on gendered vocals. Their formant voice effects transform them into a multitude of characters whose dramas unfold seductively, or remain abstract and hidden among cryptic lyrics and imagery. In turns we meet a parent vowing violent revenge on their child’s school bully (‘Even It Out’), a survivor holding their feet to the emotional flames of therapy (‘North’), a lover consumed by doubt, yearning for but sabotaging true intimacy (‘Tapping Fingers’). Each weird, beautifully ugly persona Dreijer’s voice inhabits seems at odds with the next, but they share one trait. Implicit in each of their breaths, sighs or screams is the fear of losing everything. (Trev Elkin)
Water From Your Eyes – Everyone’s Crushed
On Everyone’s Crushed, Brooklyn duo Water From Your Eyes continues to carve out a distinctive path with a refreshingly original album that feels much more like a storming debut than their sixth full-length.
Nate Amos and Rachel Brown started writing music together in Chicago, 2016, over a conversation about Power, Corruption & Lies. Since then, Water From Your Eyes’ evolution has amassed a back catalogue which capably covers a ridiculously broad range of genres, from electronic dance, folk, jazz, beat poetry, indie rock and more. Their breakthrough album, 2021’s Structure, hinted at great things to come with a killer combination of silliness and fatalism intertwined with left-field pulsating rhythms and deadpan lyrics. Everyone’s Crushed feels much more than the culmination of these past releases though, with confident strides toward a sound that is uniquely their own: an electrifying bricolage of industrial polyrhythms, chunky bass lines, ambient drones, synth strings and neat microtonal mini-riffs, all sliced, diced and repurposed into unconventional song structures. In short, Everyone’s Crushed swells and swoons with an experimental sound that is both beautiful and violent, and like nothing else you will hear this year. (Trev Elkin)
Susanne Sundfør – blómi
Five years removed from Music for People In Trouble, Norwegian artist Susanne Sundfør reconnects with her deep rooted personal mythology on the exquisitely drawn and soul-bearing blómi “to be in bloom” in Norse. A masterclass in wonderful song writing but also a heartfelt love letter to her young daughter, a missive to a precious new life entering an unstable world, that pairs Sundfor’s glorious voice with a tapestry of soulful, piano led songs that strips it all back to the source of family, community and the dawn of civilisation. There’s the delicious soul of ‘fare the well’, the jazzy sway of title track ‘blomi” with its flights of brass, that offers a haunting and yet comforting hand in times of distress, she says: “A lot of us are really yearning to have local communities again because everything has become so globalised and digitised. Socialising is through screens, and I think that’s detrimental to our health. We’re a very social species and that’s how we evolved. We’re dependent on each other and I don’t think a screen can replace physical contact with a human being.” The stunning and timeless peaks of the epic ‘alyosha’ is a standout. Its tenderness is a cry for humanity. It’s another triumph from Sundfør, it’s an extraordinary piece of work. (Bill Cummings)