As always as we enter February, it feels like an eternity since I last did a Tracks of the Month post, and it was, I guess – the last one was on 11-November. In the time since Christmas, too, there has been a glut of new music starting to appear, and here are ten of the best I’ve come across so far in 2015.
It is also perhaps interesting to note that there is already a distinct trend beginning to form for 2015. What else has the year in store, I wonder?
Track of the Month
I was passed a card for this band by a friendly member of them back in Chicago in September, and I must confess that I never quite got ’round to checking them out. A new EP announcement recently jolted my (frequently terrible) memory, and I’m now kicking myself for not paying attention sooner. Much as appears to be the fashion at present, there is a distinct post-punk vibe going on here, but there is also something of a variety in tempo that is so often lacking from their peers. This track in particular is a smoky, decadent joy, smouldering through four minutes of swirling, spacey guitars, rumbling low-end, and the vocals drenched in reverb that blur the focus nicely. Go buy this EP immediately.
The Race for Space
We could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that PSB’s whole concept was one that may not last too long – after all, how long can a band string out one specific concept, particularly their sound, based around taut instrumental post-punk with the titular films of old providing the vocal hooks, if you will. Of course, having the BFI onside always helps, and so they’ve gone to a new theme for the new album – Space.
And you know what? This is fucking great. A glorious, delirious celebration of the first human to go into space, for an essentially instrumental track it is absolutely stuffed with hooks, and the fun, astronaut dance-off video just makes things all the better. It seems there are more joys to come, though – they played another new track, Go!, in session on 6Music last week, that deals with Apollo 11, and is equally joyous and great.
The Day Is My Enemy
The Day Is My Enemy
Nasty was frankly not very good – a last-album offcut that really left me and many others, judging on the comments online, all wondering whether this long-awaited return was going to be worth it. Now, though, all bets are off – the rampaging, snarling title track stomps out of the speakers like it actually wants to be ruling industrial clubs with an iron fist, never mind the dance mainstream. On paper this perhaps shouldn’t work – Martina Topley-Bird’s delicate, smoky voice takes on a Cole Porter lyric, underpinned by a monstrous, machine-tooled rhythm that pummels your ears for four glorious minutes, all sounding a marching army is heading direct for your skull.
The sprawling, epic centrepiece to Björk’s new (rush-released) album is really quite something. Mournful strings accompany her voice in the main, but pulsing beats reappear like geysers at points throughout the ten-minute track. This has been widely trailed as Björk’s “breakup” album, and this is certainly an album bereft of some of the sly humour that has permeated many of her greatest songs, but instead it packs one heck of an emotional hit in the despairing, unflinching lyrics as the story of the breakup unfolds across the album.
Everything Else Matters
Really quite great Russian shoegaze that has been signed by London-based Club AC30, and the album arrived last week (at least in download form, the CD variant is a few weeks away). To a point a cross between MBV and School of Seven Bells, with shimmering guitars and celestial vocals – and as you might expect, working out what the vocalist is actually saying is not especially important. Also unusual – this is shoegaze where you can hear and feel the rhythms rather than just being battered by the effects-laden guitars. The rest of the album is quite lovely, too, but this is by far the most immediate moment on it.
On the other side of the Atlantic to Ganser – and rather closer to home – London’s Desperate Journalist appear now to be making the waves that their music has suggested they might for a little while now (I first covered them eighteen months back). They take a similar source material and make a very different sound with it, though – theirs is a snappy, nineties-alt-rock-meets-post-punk sound, with Jo Bevan’s soaring vocals the star of the show. I’ve noted before that there is a distinct Sugarcubes feel to moments of her vocal performance, and the album makes that all the clearer. Still the pick of the album for me, though, is this wonderful single, which surges forward with an unstoppable momentum for its whole length and has a massive, radio-friendly chorus. I’m not the only one to have said it, but I’ll join the herd: I can’t help but feel that stardom awaits.
Actually, there was another artist I was passed promotional material of while I was in Chicago (and on the same night at Metro, too). Rather different, though, this – industrial rock of the old-school, and this opening track to the album covers a number of bases in four minutes. There are tribal drumming samples, moments of industrial thrash, a mixture of both, and then an almost balladeering breakdown. It actually sets out the stall nicely – kind of a concept of an album where White Zombie enter another parallel dimension, and broaden their minds rather than just existing on a diet of schlocky B-Movies. Needless to say, the vocals don’t half remind me of Rob Zombie (as do the chugging riffs and turbocharged rhythms), but even so this is fascinating, enjoyable stuff.
The first two Soft Moon albums have been smoke-drenched, pitch-dark albums, full of screeching synths, droning guitars and hissed vocals that worked more as texture than anything coherent – this band specialise in some form of terrifying, modern gothic rock. So after a couple of years away, their sound has taken a striking turn into industrial to brilliant effect. Synths swirl like a vortex around a straight 4/4 beat, an electronic death march that sounds all the more omnious as the synths rise in pitch. Even the vocals are vaguely audible. A quite amazing return, the album is out at the end of March.
So good that this elbowed out another song that was pencilled in to make the list this week – and I only heard this last night (thanks Mike T). Another band that fit what is something of a theme this week, they feature a current member of A Perfect Circle (and they appear to have connections to related project Puscifer, too), and there is certainly a relation sonically – there is a shiny, impeccably-produced sheen to the whole affair (song and elegant video all), and the band seem to revel in wrong-footing the listener by frequent breaks in tempo that should destroy all momentum, but instead leave the listener gasping for more.
Finally, the debut release from my old friend Rhys (a live-show member of the now-on-hiatus Modulate), with his new project ded.pixel. The industrial rhythms weave through a distinctly proggy electronic sound, one that projects a deep sense of melancholy, particularly when the piano joins the fray. This is lush, elegant music, and well worth picking up the EP for.