Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
As the title suggests, and its opening line, “to forget you is too hard”, all is not as it seems on this equally brilliant follow-up to the acclaimed 2016 album My Woman.The American singer-songwriter has gradually moved from alt-folk-indie to something altogether bolder, bigger and unpredictable. It might be an actual relationship breakup that fires this endeavour, and the songs Lark and the title track, typify what goes on here – they begin slowly and perhaps sound conventional, but then stir up into a storm of emotion, huge orchestral production and disquieting key changes, shifting styles, oscillating between escape and despair, energy and oblivion. It's a sign of the times - disturbing, dissonant unpredictable change, but captured by an artist who does so with plenty of surprises. Listen out for oddities everywhere, such on the tracks, Spring, What It Is, and New Love Cassette. Out on Jagjaguwar.
Angel Olsen – Lark
Wilco – Ode To Joy
Jeff Tweedy and the Chicago band return with their 11th studio album. It contains mostly slower, more stripped-back material than previous releases, with plenty of acoustic guitar and uniform drumming that plods along in an unhurried way. The music is more reminiscent of Elliott Smith and Teenage Fanclub, and in that prairie space there's oodles of great narrative, intense emotion and memorable lines from that ironic album title, such as, on Bright Leaves: “I never change / You never change / There’s no decision / Sometimes I’m just a hole for you to get in." Out on dBpm Records.
Wilco – Everyone Hides
Chromatics – Closer To Grey
The American electronic music band from Portland, Oregon return finally with their fifth album over a career spanning 18 years. This is low-key, deceptively clever work, with a theme of time slipping away in their 80s pop minimalism, opening the album with a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence, sung in ghostly fashion by Ruth Radelet to welcome in interweaving album of strange warbles, wobbles and wafting air that is never empty, but plays with the genre in a gently disturbing way, from the Pet Shop Boys style of You're No Good to the early 70s folk style of I Want To Be Alone, to the nightmarish nursery rhyme style of Wishing Well. Out on Italians Do It Better.
Chromatics – I Want To Be Alone
The Sherlocks – Under Your Sky
Second album from the young Yorkshire indie quartet has two definite echoes in style to mark a transition from their first, Manchester's James (I Want It All) who are named in a the album, and a touch of big-chorus the Killers such as NYC (Sing It Loud) or Magic Man. This may be partly down to producer James Skelly from the Coral. This combination, although not entirely original, does what it says on the metaphorical indie-rock tin, and might bring them a wider audience. At the same time, with help from actor Thomas Turgoose (This Is England) and others, they attempt to cheekily parody making the big time on their NYC video. Out on Infectious/BMG.
The Sherlocks – NYC (Sing It Loud)
Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿
From 2010's The Hybrid to XXX (2011), Old (2013), and Atrocity Exhibition (2016), Brown has been various annoying, intriguing, brilliant and awful, but it's impossible not to be mesmerised by his voice, and restless inventiveness. This latest, U Know What I'm Sayin?, feels like a manic stand-up comedy of hip-hop styles, echoing voices from the nasals of Digital Underground (Dirty Laundry namechecks the Humpty Hump), Cypress Hill to Outkast, 50 Cent Kendrick Lamar. It's like listening to hip-hop history coming at your at 100mph, chock full with surreal, filthy, extraordinary rhyming ("I eat so many shrimp I got iodine poison / Hoes on my dick cos I look like Roy Orbison" – bewildering but undeniably entertaining. Out on Warp.
Danny Brown – Dirty Laundry
Wives – So Removed
Debut album from the Queens, New York quartet is gritty postpunk that reststs the urge, as many bends do, to bang out their tracks at rapid rates. Instead these songs are varied in pace, power and focused anger such as on Workin', the down-at-heel sneery Waving Past Nirvana, which echoes the sleazy sound of Louis XiV, and the big-chorus sound of The 20 Teens. Out on City Slang.
Wives – Waving Past Nirvana
Penguin Cafe – Handfuls of Night
Fourth studio album by the offspring, but separate band of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. This one is inspired by bandleader Arthur Jeffes’ trip to the Arctic in 2005 and Greenpeace reports on the plight of these penguins in frozen extremes. From opening track Winter Sun to closer Midnight Sun closing, it's an ambient instrumental album that is more atmospheric, intriguing and beautiful than profound on climate change, but has some memorable moments such as the engaged telephone sounds on Pythagoras On The Line and on The Life Of An Emperor. Out on Erased Tapes.
Penguin Cafe – The Life Of An Emperor
Vivian Girls – Memory
After a long break following 2011’s Share the Joy, the American punk-shoegaze trio of Cassie Ramone, Katy Goodman and Ali Koehler get together again, with passion, sonic textures and noise with songs about toxic relationships, the false promise of new love, mental health struggles, but dealing with it. Business as usual. Out on Polyvinyl.
Vivian Girls – Memory
Minor Pieces – The Heavy Steps of Dreaming
Intimate, quiet, often eerie, gently folk-ambient debut album from Vancouver-based Minor Pieces, the songwriting partnership comprising singer/composer Ian William Craig and Missy Donaldson. They utilise guitar, modified tape decks, bass and synths, and their influences appear to be Portishead, Mazzy Star, Cat Power and Talk Talk. They voices intertwine rather beautifully, like branches in the wind. Definitely perfect for a still, quiet, dark night. Out on Fat Cat Records.
Minor Pieces – Rothko
Empath – Active Listening: Night On Earth
Noisy pop-punk debut from the West Philadelphia band featuring members of Perfect Pussy and Waxahatchee (Garrett Koloski, Emily "Jem" Shanahan, Catherine Elicson and Randall Coon) who moved into a house together in 2016. The result captures a big rainbow of guitar feedback chaos a la Sonic Youth, with lusher sounds, catchy, tuneful melodies and wistful, witty lyrics. Out on Fat Possum.
Empath – Hanging Out Of Cars
This week's selection is by The Landlord.
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