These past few weeks have been a bit of a nightmare away from writing about music (my father has been, and still is, very ill in hospital), and perhaps, giving myself a bit of a distraction in writing about music again is what I need.
So I’m back to writing about the best tracks I’ve heard lately. Based on the first two months of this year’s /Tracks of the Month roundups – where I’ve had so many tracks to consider that I’m having to leave some aside each month (and never mind ten, there were eighteen tracks featured last month, and fifteen this month) – I’m going to be busy trying to keep up all year long. Anyway, here’s this month’s roundup. Also, look out for tonight’s Livestream: /TheKindaMzkYouLike/017, where Daisy and I dig into Alternative 90s music and much more.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook. The full list of the entire /Tuesday Ten series can be found here.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Track of the Month
/Someday I Will Bask In The Sun
Kennedy Ashlyn’s return ahead of their new, upcoming album is a dazzling blast of hope. Gentle breakbeats and droning synths provide the featherbed for Ashlyn’s gorgeous voice, as they accept what has happened in the past – as well as the universal difficulty of the past couple of years, as we’ve had restrictions of various kinds on our movements and lifestyles (for good reason, mind) – and prepare to move on. This song feels like the blinding burst of summer sunshine as it crests the horizon to a new day, and by a country mile the greatest piece of music Ashlyn has put their name to.
/M W W B
In one of the more heartening returns for 2022, the mighty (slightly renamed) space-doomers M W W B have, at last, announced their much-delayed new album. Many bands had their plans torn apart by COVID, but it seems M W W B were hit worse than most, with guitarist “Dave” Davies suffering a “severe” stroke after contracting COVID early last year. The understandable decision was made to postpone the album until Davies was recovering, and they are now “good to go”.
The good news doesn’t stop there, as the title track is a monster. Nine minutes of blistering, titanic riffs interspersed with mellowed-out sections of glacial beauty, with Jessica Ball’s graceful vocals continuing to confound the initial scepticism that this style of vocals could work with such crushing doom metal – in fact, it’s a wonder more bands haven’t tried this. Not a lot has changed from Yn Ol I Annwn, but why should it? They’ve simply made it bigger, better and louder.
While Fiona Dickinson may be Michigan-based these days, this musician and educator still sounds very much English through her musical voice, for the most part. Her latest album is a stark, beautiful piece of work, that leans into dreampop and gentle shoegaze textures and at points, feels like it is taking up the threads Mazzy Star left behind when David Roback died, but elsewhere takes songs into, shall we say, more energetic realms. One particular sound in the mix is really striking – the kick drum is mixed so that it pulses out of the speakers at such a low frequency that you feel it more than hear it, and I can’t recall hearing such a treatment on any other release. Pick of the album, though, is the laid-back country-dreampop of Pillow, full of sweet melodies and wistful abandon. I can’t recommend this album enough.
/Revenge At All Costs
The very definition of metal lifers, really: Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani have endured jail and solitary confinement in Iran before claiming asylum in Norway, simply for choosing to be part of a metal band (and releasing some relatively critical songs about their native Iran). This is death/thrash with a purpose, then, and it is very good indeed. The fury about their treatment and what they’ve endured is palpable in every second of the album, but particularly in the savage, heavy riffage of EVIN, which details the time spent in Evin Prison. For metal that truly means something, this is well worth your time.
/Faceless (feat. Alex Hedley)
One of the underground buzz bands of recent times – particularly thanks to their rapturously received live shows, that friends of mine still talk about in hushed tones – have been relatively quiet over lockdown, and here’s why, as they prepare to release their latest album this week. There is a stately grandeur to the sound of this album, too, and for me distinct echoes of 65daysofstatic around the One Time For All Time era, when they were making notable use of pianos as part of their sound. This track, though, one of a couple with regular collaborators on vocals, seems to answer the unexpected question of what a post-rock power ballad would sound like. The answer? Extraordinarily moving. Coupled with the intriguing video that I suspect I’m going to need a few watches to fully digest, consider me signed up for the upcoming tour.
/Are You Better Now
/Notes From The Universe
A new release from Collide is always welcome, although I was a little surprised to realise that it is already four or five years since their last new album, Color of Nothing – it might be the release of remix album Mind & Matter, and the lavish, generous reissues of landmark albums Chasing the Ghost and Some Kind of Strange that has distorted my sense of time here. But then, why should kaRIN and Statik rush? They have always kept total creative and commercial control of their music, and so it can be done at their own pace, and their regular collaborators (and live band when they’ve done their very occasional shows) are all present as usual too.
Are You Better Now is their first single proper in many, many years (Mind Games a decade ago was their last, I think?), and this sharp-edged track deserves the fanfare. The usual languid pace surges like a jolt of electricity into a swirling, toothy chorus that is instantly memorable and has the distinct feeling of kaRIN checking in on her listeners two years into the pandemic, ensuring we’re all still with them.
I’ve slept on this artist a bit, it seems, but even now, in 2022, I know absolutely fuck all about them, other than that they are signed to old friends Armalyte Industries – which is usually a sign of it being something I may well like. And from the first seconds of this ripping out of the speakers, it confirmed that it is indeed something I like. A lot. Snarling industrial rock that does quietLOUD dynamics very well, it is sweary, angry and nihilistic. More like this, please!
I first discovered Dutch band De Staat well over a decade ago, having seen them on tour with dEUS a couple of times, and back then, they were a (relatively!) normal alternative rock band. A decade on, they’ve evolved into a slick, whip-smart band with a host of outstanding videos (particularly the really damned clever KITTY KITTY and Witch Doctor videos), but crucially, never forgetting that they need great songs with those videos too. They also now seem to have eschewed albums, instead releasing songs along a colour theme, with each of yellow, red and blue meaning something different (apparently: “Red for tracks fueled by rock and roll aggression; yellow for funk, dancing and primal joy; blue for big-scale melodic rock songs that wear their heart on their sleeve.”). Numbers Up is the first of the “yellow” songs, and is a deeply groovy, alt-funk track that has stuck in my head for days. They play in London later this month but I don’t think, sadly, I’m going to be able to make it.
/Echo In The Memory
A new artist to me, although I’m sure a number of my readers are already familiar. Apparently upgrades to technology used have resulted in something of a leap forward here, and certainly this is a bracing, unusual listen. Synths and guitars/bass through FX pedals are the order of the day here, and the result is a chilly, stark minimal synth-leaning early industrial sound drenched in shoegazey squalls, and the hand of Oliver Ackermann (A Place to Bury Strangers) in the mastering is perhaps evident, too. The nagging pulse that runs through the track, too, feels like the omnious build of a slasher horror flick.
/The Buried Storm
Jayn Maiven – for she is DARKHER alongside Christopher Smith on drums – made quite a splash with her first (excellent) album Realms back in 2016, and the second album has taken a while (which with COVID inbetween, is perhaps understandable). The first track released from the upcoming album The Buried Storm feels, to begin with at least, tentative, as if Maiven needs to feel her way back to the dark places she found so readily on Realms, but the track unfolds and rolls into a doom-laden work of beauty.
It is a long time since Skunk Anansie reminded us that Yes It’s Fucking Political, and as we edge in 2022, I’m heartened that the rejuvenated band have not lost one iota of their political fury. Squelching synths accompany the powerful, downtuned rhythm, and Skin spits out her searing take on British exceptionalism and political blindness – oh yes, Skunk Anansie are back and ready to take on the world. Also of noting is the thundering breakdown that ends the track. They play Folkestone in April, as it happens – will be a great first gig for me at the Leas Cliff Hall, that’s for sure…
/We Suffocate on the Violence of Light
/Phase Three EP
An artist that I’ve seen mentioned on I Die: You Die before, and then this past week, played on daytime 6 Music! This Vancouver-based artist dabbles in more than industrial techno, that’s for sure, this new track demonstrating a wide palette. Skittering drum’n’bass gives way to thumping techno and euphoric trance synth leads, and this fascinating five minutes is the best advert for going clubbing again I’ve heard in ages.
I must confess I’d not noticed that London promoters Snap, Crackle & Pop have also been releasing records, at least until this one dropped into my inbox. This is another industrial techno release – with some excellent remixes too (especially the outstanding New Beat workout by The KVB) – but lead track You Are Mine takes us into darker corners, with Moriccone-esque twangs of sampled guitar and drowsy vocals over a leisurely, heavy rhythm that suggests smoke-drenched trip-hop by way of 80s New Beat.
/BATTERY NOT INCLUDED
I haven’t always been taken with what Ho99o9 have done in the past – and going on the reports I hear about them live, clearly the time I saw them was an off-night – but this new single is a barnstormer. The way this track suddenly erupts into life makes me think of what would happen if grindcore loons Pig Destroyer decided to lean into industrial metal (it has that kind of savagery to the sound), but then they wrongfoot us by a melodic, a capella breakdown, before normal service is resumed with a grimy violence to the closing coda. That upcoming second album should be fun, then.
/Good Morning (red)
What interesting timing. This song was apparently written as far back as the aftermath of the 2017 General Election, where Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn hit their zenith, as they unexpectedly surged to leave the Tories in control in a minority Government – and members of this band reputedly canvassed for Corbyn. Labour are now being led by Sir Keir Starmer after Corbyn’s Labour was routed in the 2019 GE (and Corbyn lost the Labour Whip after questionable decisions around anti-semetism in the party), and as I write this, are some way ahead in the polls – and PM Boris Johnson is clinging onto his post for dear life – but we’re still some time out from a future election.
The song itself is gentle, pastoral post-rock, the kind of piece that Mogwai used to pepper their earlier albums with to give a break from the brutal hurricanes of noise that they were known for, and has a gentle sense of optimism that makes it a pretty song. Still kinda weird hearing even a reference to politics in post-rock, though (the mighty Godspeed You! Black Emperor aside).