New Releases and Reissues: 27 March
We need good music now more than ever, and while there may be shortages of toilet roll on the shelves, there’s definitely not a shortage of hot new releases and reissues. Contact your local record shop to see if they’d be happy to deliver them to your door…
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
When Pearl Jam released Dance Of The Clairvoyants, the lead track from their 11th studio album Gigaton, the hypnotic slice of electro-pop took both fans and press by surprise. It was an unexpected and experimental sound for a band firmly rooted in anthemic rock. However, anyone left feeling estranged by its alien Talking Heads vibe will be heartened to learn that those ripping riffs remain as prevalent as ever – wonderfully exemplified by second single Superblood Wolfmoon, album opener Who Ever Said and heavy hitters such as Never Destination or Take The Long Way.
Pearl Jam aren’t simply plagiarising past glories on their first album in seven years, Gigaton is a record littered with interesting instrumentation and subtle sonic adventures. Quick Escape, possibly the album’s most immediate highlight, is the perfect amalgamation. Traversing the tightrope between PJ past and present, the track features a glorious trademark guitar solo that harks back to 1991’s debut Ten. Typically, Gigaton is not just a full-on rockfest. Pearl Jam take their foot off the gas on six of the 12 tracks here, but the band can be at their most biting when they slow things down.
While they now inhabit a secure echelon, where they’ve earned a loyal fanbase with a solid back catalogue, the fire to create and speak out still burns bright. Tracks like Seven O’Clock and closer River Cross, with its haunting sign-off: “The government thrives on discontent and there’s no such thing as clear, proselytising and profitising as our will all but disappears”, highlight how Pearl Jam’s voice remains vehemently relevant, and we should all be grateful for that.
Nap Eyes – Snapshot Of A Beginner
A step-up in ambition on album four from Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes. Recorded at Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond studio, Nigel Chapman’s meandering sketches have been whittled down to charming indie-folk songs of high calibre. Chapman’s laconic vocals, all extended vowels and Dylan-isms, bring to mind Kevin Morby, particularly on the exultant Primordial Soup, Chapman standing on the rocks whipped by the ‘salt breeze’, pondering life’s big questions. Guitarist Brad Loughead’s effects-heavy guitar is deft and inventive throughout, notably on the lazily contemplative Mystery Calling. Later, he cuts loose thrillingly on the seven-minute Real Thoughts, while on playful takedown Mark Zuckerberg Chapman wonders whether the Facebook uberlord is in fact a ghost. Things move slowly in Nap Eyes’ world and that’s something to cherish.
Little Dragon – New Me, Same Us
If 2017’s pleasing but, ultimately, patchy Season High found Little Dragon struggling to compromise with one another, this time they seem to be all about harmony. New Fiction recalls trip-hop’s early days, its pace more determined than Massive Attack’s early albums but not as cheerful as Morcheeba’s, while its closing piano solo would have suited a Talkin’ Loud release from the same era. Yukimi Nagano is so playful against Rush’s jerky Caribbean rhythms, however, you could imagine Prince digging her scene, and on Another Lover she’s soulfully suggestive of Lianne La Havas at her best. Stay Right Here, too, is perfectly poised, and though Sadness only picks up the pace slowly, its arrangements providing a reminder this is a band, not a bedroom act, there’s no way you’ll answer affirmatively after Are You Feeling Sad?
Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams – Aporia
The relationship between Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams runs deep. Brams is the Lowell of Carrie & Lowell, former husband of Stevens’ troubled mother and co-founder of Asthmatic Kitty. He’s also a musician in his own right, and Aporia marks his second collaboration with his stepson after Stevens previously worked on Brams’ Music For Insomnia. Edited from jams compiled over years, largely instrumental and influenced by Vangelis, Boards Of Canada and Eno, this isn’t a record for anyone hoping for new songs. But for those willing to take a chance on experimental projects, the music here is melodic, assured and at points stately – remarkable considering how few of Aporia’s 21 tracks break three minutes.
Sorry – 925
The musical project between childhood friends Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen is a delightfully wobbly take on guitar-pop music. The London-based band’s early material possessed a groggy, almost druggy-slow creep to it, but via the helping hand of Grammy-nominated producer James Dring, the band have unashamedly tapped into their more hook-centric nature. 925 is an album that is still pleasingly stripped back at times, but it’s also one that feels like it’s pushing for something bigger. On In Unison, the song moves from lo-fi guitar bedroom pop territory to something far more sweeping and grand, somehow merging two opposing sonic styles and songs into one. This dichotomous duality is the essence of what makes Sorry such a charming duo – and the result is a pleasingly unpredictable and multifaceted debut.
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
On her fifth album Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield is freshly sober and searching for perspective. For a long time, the songwriter has found a way of neatly marrying singer-songwriter tropes with an indie/alt-rock grit, but here she seems more comfortable leaning towards the former as she opens herself up for inspection. The album is peppered heavily with country tendencies, both classic and rootsy and contemporary and shiny; the result is her most realised, striking songwriting to date. Her voice seems to slide and glide more freely with this kind of musical backing, the loose unravelling guitar lines and sparse tip-tap drums providing the required room for her to float throughout the record. Transitioning into a kind of Americana pop is something Crutchfield makes seem like the most natural thing in the world.
Brian Fallon – Local Honey
On his third solo outing, the former frontman of The Gaslight Anthem appears to have shaken off the hangover of his erstwhile New Jersey outfit to emerge with eight deeply personal and powerful tracks. There is an understated vulnerability throughout Local Honey, which had not necessarily been so openly exposed on Fallon’s previous releases. From the tenderness of opener When You’re Ready to the concluding reflective personal pen letter
of You Have Stolen My Heart, there is a lo-fi quality to this diary of love songs. Fallon wears his heart on his tattooed sleeve, and Local Honey will satisfy both die-hard and casual fans alike. However, having shed the full-band vibe, you do walk away feeling you’ve finally met the ‘real’ Brian Fallon on one of the most humble and honest records you’re likely to hear this year.
Robert Forster – Danger In The Past/Calling From A Country Phone
An essential part of The Go-Betweens’ appeal was that they were blessed with two uniquely talented yet complementary songwriters. The late Grant McLennan possessed an effortless facility for uplifting melody and romantic, lovelorn themes, while Robert Forster operated in broodier territory – sculpting songs slowly with dark wit and intelligence.
After six albums of memorable, idiosyncratic grown-up pop, the pair disbanded, and solo careers were embarked on. Forster’s first two outings, Danger In The Past (1990) and Calling From A Country Phone (1993), have been long out of press until this welcome campaign from the almost nascent reissue label Needle Mythology. On his stunning opener, imbued with a new sense of freedom and channelling Guy Clark and John Phillips, Forster attempted to record one of those “classic debut albums by singer-songwriters who had ‘lived’.” And he succeeded. Produced at Berlin’s Hansa Studios by Nick Cave’s trusted lieutenant Mick Harvey and with a bunch of Bad Seeds thrown in, Danger In The Past is a wonderful collection of superior songwriting.
Standout tracks such as Baby Stones, Is This What You Call Change? and I’ve Been Looking For Someone are up there with the very best of his canon. Calling From A Country Phone saw Forster return to Brisbane, working in the studio where some of the earliest Go-Betweens recordings took place, and the location switch produced a different record from the first. The introspective coherence of Danger… has evaporated to be replaced by a looser, unrestrained set of songs of no less value. As Forster puts it: “I hear my first two records as a pair. An odd pair but they talk.”
Gary Walker, Gary Tipp, Dan Biggane, Daniel Dylan Wray, Jonathan Wright & Wyndham Wallace