Elbow – Giants Of All Sizes
After more than a decade of songs of gentle beauty that very much but them in the mainstream, such as One Day LIke This, to Grounds for Divorce, and meteoric success since winning the Mercury Prize, Guy Garvey and co come back with an altogether angrier, edgier record and channeling something proggier. Fuelled by events from Brexit to the Grenfell Tower tragedy to the death fo love ones connected to the band, including Garvey's father, this latest release is not a singalong, orchestra-friendly work, but one of disquiet and sometimes self-ridicule. "Who am I? Some blarney Mantovani with a lullaby when the sky’s falling in," sings Garvey on White Noise White Heat. This is an album that seeks to find a way through "these faith-free, hope-free, charity-free days", with songs that aren't comfortable to listen to, but still have weight of honesty moments of melodic beauty, such as Seven Veils and My Trouble, or weird electronica such as the parenthood song, On Deronda Street. Bleaker, rawer and barer, feelings are hung to to dry … in black and white. Out on Polydor.
Elbow – White Noise White Heat
Richard Dawson – 2020
The Newcastle musician who brought out the fantastic Peasant album in 2017, ago, and more recently has worked with Hen Ogledd, now returns with a new solo album of wonderful pathos, emotion and oddball lyricism, with narratives from the point of view of different characters living difficult, often isolated lives. Dawson has moved slightly from his folk stance to something that's slightly more accessible and pop, but just as strange and original. Dawson's style is to fit in lyrics that is more prose of various line length, but does to that seems a perfect fit with a droll but moving delivery. He is a Robert Wyatt of another hue. Jogging is perhaps the most accessible and rock-pop and tuneful, about a depressed person who finds fulfilment in solitary runs, but there are many other moving gems, from Fulfilment Centre, about a trapped factory packer, Two Halves, from the view of a footballer who disappoints his dad, or Black Triangle, where man becomes a UFO enthusiast after seeing a silent shape in an Aldi car park. This album should definitely run and run. Out on Domino.
Richard Dawson – Jogging
Big Thief – Two Hands
From the heavens to the earth. UFOF, the album the New York grunge folk band released in May is described as the “celestial twin”, to this second release of 2019, from spaced-out distortion and otherworldly lyrics, Two Hands digs in the dirt with a more guttural, brutal yet tender style via the breathy, emotionally fragile vocals and lyrics of Adrianne Lenker. Powerful, emotional songs range from Forgotten Eyes, the delicate Those Girls, powerful Shoulders and beguilingly beautiful acoustic Wolf and more on this album of wonderful consistency. Out on 4AD.
Big Thief – Not
Kim Gordon – No Home Record
The former Sonic Youth frontwoman is never complacent, and this, her first solo album, after working with Bill Nace on the project Body/Head, is one noisy, almost industrial sounds spits and turns like a rusty wheel about all kinds of issues, whispering and shouting twisted contempt about many matters including Air BnB, work sexism, consumerism and more, from the pumping Don't Play It, to Murdered Out, Sketch Artist and the almost unfathomable sound on Cookie Butter. It's a challenging listen at times, but with Gordon's searing intelligence, a fascinating one. Out on Matator.
Kim Gordon – Sketch Artist
Blackwater Holylight – Veils of Winter
A big dash of Black Sabbath and a sprinkling of Sonic Youth colour this psychedelic female quintet's with riffs hewn of rich, dark rock and mesmeric, almost angelic vocal harmonies. Feel those gloriously shuddering amps. Out on Riding Easy Records.
Blackwater Holylight – Motorcycle
Bodega – Shiny New Model
A mini album by the dynamic postpunk Brooklyn band following last year's fabulous Endless Scroll, the songs here have developed through their live work, and include themes of modern consumption, adultery via sexting, and a song set inside an actual bodega. Intelligent, angry, sharp. Out on What's Your Rupture?
Bodega – Shiny New Model
Maz O'Connor – Chosen Daughter
Exquisite folk singer-songwriting from the artist who focuses on the stories of female figures in history or literature, well known or anonymous. This one includes Cordelia from Shakespeare's King Lear, but more powerfully on the tough lives of her Irish grandmothers who suffered abuse in domestic service, forcible adoption and, in the case of a great aunt, emigration to the US as a nun in return for the welfare of her sisters. Her voice soars, as much as any other singer around, like Joni Mitchell. Out Restless Head/Hudson.
Maz O'Connor – San Francisco
Stephen Mallinder – Um Dada
First solo album in 35 years from the co-founder and frontman of the Cabaret Voltaire who has more recently been releasing wonderful electronic work with his band Wrangler and in collaboration with John Grant under the name Freak Show. Fabulously catchy, intricate and with that voicebox, his trademark sound his here, reminiscent of other artists such as Matthew Dear, Tiga, and Daphni. Impossible not to nod the head to this. Out on Dais Records.
Stephen Mallinder – Working (You Are)
This week's selection is by The Landlord.
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