Another one a week later than usual, but then, life is weird and really damned busy right now. Here’s the latest slab of tracks of the month – with a bonus eleventh because it is late.
There is only one more /Tracks of the Month post to come this year, in early November, before I wrap up the year with /Countdown/2021 in early December.
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.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. 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).
We’re still waiting for the confirmation of the long-trailed new album TWO, but on the evidence of the trail of singles so far, we’re once again in for a treat. Tectonic Plates is the pick of them so far, too, a punchy, exquisite synthpop song that couples a darker electronic – and, dare I say, funky – sound than many Dubstar songs with Sarah Blackwood’s sweet, world-weary vocals. The lyrical conceits, entwining relationship breakdown with tectonic metaphors, is a smart touch, and only reminds of the continually underrated brilliance of this group.
/Engine of Hell
I rather slept on Emma Ruth Rundle – despite being told repeatedly by people whose musical taste I trust implictly that I should listen – until I heard their exceptional collaboration with THOU. This first track from her upcoming album, though, couldn’t be more different to the formidable guitar-led power of that collaboration. Return is a piano-led ballad, that drips with darkness and abandonment, while tying in themes of hell and damnation to great effect. I’m honestly not sure what to expect from the new album, but I’m certainly hankering for more.
Talking of collaborations, The Body’s latest such work is with Montreal post-metal/drone experimentalists BIG|BRAVE – and if you were expecting an album of sheer force and volume…you’d be very wrong. Instead, they’ve dug into an apparently shared history and love of the folk song, for an intriguing, unusual take on such songs. The striking opening song is a take on an Appalachian folk song (that apparently has Irish or Scottish roots) that revolves around the idea of a final parting, and it is a gorgeous, pitch-dark lament.
It has been six years (and more) since the last Gilmore Trail album, and that relative silence is finally broken in the new year by the release of Impermanence – and firstly, epic new single Ruins. Like the best of their post-rock peers, Gilmore Trail have an unerring ability to use where the music isn’t to create atmospheres of vast, bleak space within their compositions, and this eight-minute piece is another expert demonstration of such. Where some other bands would stamp on the pedals and result in deafening climaxes, here restraint is exercised for the most part, and you’re made to wait that bit longer. When the rolling peaks do come, though, there is still a downbeat, muted tone to it, as if any form of celebratory event still needs to be tempered at the moment. This is beautiful, elegant stuff.
/Steal Away EP
The main event from Barry Adamson right now might be his memoir Up Above The City, Down Beneath The Stars – a book I must get ’round to picking up, as I suspect it’ll be quite the tale – but he also has a new EP coming early next month. Broken Moments from it has an airy, sixties-pop feel to it, full of vocal harmonies, a gentle pace and that subtle darkness to the lyrics, as if you only scratch the surface and all the filth and grime of real life come oozing through. But then, that’s Barry Adamson at his best. Taking you into the escapism of cinematic, exciting sounds, but always reminding you are never out of reach of the horrors real life can bring.
/Roaring 2020s (RenaiDance)
To perhaps no great surprise, one of the bands raring to go as musical life tries to return to normal in the wake of COVID – even if some of that optimism seems a little misplaced yet – is Gogol Bordello. Much of their appeal is down to their wild live shows, that are never anything other than a glorious, mad party, and this recent single feels like one that’s ready to kickstart the party again. Taking up a theory that a number have been considering – maybe the 2020s might be the crazy baccanal and time of social change and advance that, for some, the 1920s was – Gogol Bordello have unleashed their best song in an age, a booze-drenched, escapist anthem that ticks off all the bits I love about the band, with a feeling of genuine positively and party-bound chaos. I can only hope they are right.
/Never Trust A White Man
Remarkable survivors, Italian EBM-pioneers Pankow have enjoyed something of a critical and sonic renaissance in the past decade or so, with a number of excellent albums – and a well-deserved reputation for outstanding live shows, too. The new album – already available digitally but the physical versions, as is common these days, will come later – is yet more evidence of their continued relevance, and opener Universal Kuntz leaves you, the listener, in absolutely no doubt of their left-wing, anti-capitalist stance, as they absolutely tear into various appalling types of people that are dead set on getting ahead of the rest of us, at any cost. The track itself is stark, irresistable EBM that dares you not to move your body to it.
/Pink Champagne Blues
/La Mort Du Sens
GNOD have a bewildering back-catalogue, with a host of albums and other releases that means it is difficult to keep up (their Discogs page shows thirty-six albums as well as nine singles/EPs! My introduction to the band was on the fabulously caustic power of Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine in 2017, and I think I missed their last album “proper”, Chapel Perilous. This new album translates as “The Death Of Meaning”, perhaps the best description I’ve heard for the past five years of life in the UK. This lead track is a ferocious noise-rock attack that uses two drummers, guitars, bass and, I’d hazard, a number of FX pedals, and it sounds fantastic. The batshit video, involving skateboarders doing tricks across Sheffield (indeed I spotted an old house of mine in one shot!), is well worth your time, too.
The Mexican aggrotech pioneers dabble with…drum’n’bass? Well, this is unexpected, and actually pretty good. I’ve long left aggrotech behind – tiring of a host of bands who basically all began sounding the same, not to mention the all-too-common misogyny and references to violence (and sometimes sexual violence) against women that became ever more prevalent. That said, Hocico – for the most part – kept themselves away from that, and continued to try and do something with their sound. But I wasn’t expecting this – although that said, I’ve not really listened to their last couple of releases. The ghostly synths and harsh vocals remain, of course – it wouldn’t be Hocico without them – but the big change is the lean into drum’n’bass breakbeats that suit their sonic atmospheres surprisingly well. I am fascinated to see whether this is a new beginning, or just a one-off experiment.
/Speaking with Trees
/Ocean to Ocean
Aside from a Christmas EP, the new album Ocean to Ocean is the first new Tori Amos album since 2017, and by some distance the longest gap between albums that she’s ever had – but then, the past two years have been different. Then, perhaps, the past decade for Amos has been different, too. She’s experimented with classical-based influences and sounds – to spectacular effect, frankly – and returned to engaging with politics in song again, and this album appears to be continuing the latter. An album that deals with loss – and how we deal with that loss – and apparently, too, a reaction to the Capitol Riots in January, too. The electronically-assisted Speaking With Trees is the first taste from the album, and it is clear from the lyrics that this song is absolutely about the loss of someone, and likely someone close. It has an elegant lightness of touch in the sound, and more than a bit of a feel of harking back to material on Under The Pink, which in this house is no bad thing at all. I absolutely love this.
Another band making a return after a similar amount of time since their last album are TWIABP, whose soaring post-rock-meets-emo-sentiments remains a bracing, surprising sound. Nowadays pared down to a five-piece, rather than the larger collective than they used to be, there appears to be no paring back of their vast, widescreen sound. Especially on the final two tracks – which expand the mini-epics that precede them into gargantuan pieces that last sixteen and twenty minutes respectively. That closer, Fewer Afraid, is a staggering, beautiful piece of music, one that begins with sampled spoken word, swells into a roaring, seismic musical force, and then drops off into self-referential, fourth-wall breaking vocals and a gentle, steady rhythm… and yet they aren’t done even then. Katie Dvorak’s strident vocals for the coda are the crowning glory, frankly, as the band offer a message of surprising clarity and hope, a rallying call for those of us that maybe are beginning to give up hope that the world will ever be a positive place to live again.