Long Live Vinyl’s pick of this week’s new releases on vinyl, including Ryley Walker’s fifth album, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ first in four years, the return of Ash, and Courtney Barnett’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance

Ryley Walker
Deafman Glance
(Dead Oceans)

Ryley Walker says that there aren’t a lot of (overt) musical influences on this, his fifth album, but the spirit of a variety of 60s and 70s touchstones still endures. Fans will be relieved that, rather than reinvent his sound, he’s just delved deeper into aspects of it, for a complex, varied set that will reward repeat listens. The instrumentation, from a cast of musicians from Walker’s beloved Chicago, contains a few surprises, including synths, flute and even some eerie delayed percussive craziness (on Accommodations). As for the highlights? Despite its more languid guitar lines, opener In Castle Dome has an air of Hendrix’s most universal songwriting about it; Walker’s ability to make disparate styles warm and pliant in his fingertips is evident as Can’t Ask Why’s refracted soundscape intro coalesces gradually into focus; and Opposite Middle and album closer Spoil With The Rest are hopeful tunes, filled with a radiant energy.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle HardStephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Sparkle Hard

It’s been four years since the ex-Pavement frontman’s last album with The Jicks, and the opening Cast Off welcomes the listener back to familiar territory like the warm embrace of an old friend. Malkmus’ distinctive vocals, deft melodies, crispy guitar and idiosyncratic song structures are all present as the opener sets the tone for an album that feels both recognisable and progressive. There’s always an undercurrent of sunshine pop to what Malkmus projects; even at his grungiest and strangest, he still works in sparkling melodies. This is present on the breezy Solid Silk and the very Pavement-y Middle America. Elsewhere, there’s plenty of grit on the chugging Shiggy, as well as nods to Malkmus’ ever-present love of Can on the closing Difficulties/Let Them Eat Vowels. Amid the shift in tone, pace and structure, Malkmus has crafted a pleasingly coherent LP that stands out as one of his strongest post-Pavement releases

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really FeelCourtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel
(Marathon Artists/Milk! Records)

Although Courtney Barnett’s debut, 2015’s Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, earned her a Grammy nomination as Best Newcomer, she’d already spent years perfecting her craft. Taking her time comes naturally: this second album is full of a leisurely charm familiar to fans of late-80s and early-90s American indie rock, something confirmed by 2017’s collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice with the likeminded Kurt Vile. Barnett seems to be influenced by The Breeders, heard in the atonal guitar lines of the accusingly titled I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch, and Hole, whose Courtney Love Barnett echoes. There are also hints of a more polished Pavement in the upbeat City Looks Pretty, not least in her devil-may-care vocal delivery, and on another brilliantly titled tune, Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack Of Self Confidence, which bounces along in a manner far more succinct than its title. There are also nods to Sonic Youth, especially Kim Gordon, on the opening Hopefulessness, a fiery, almost five-minute tune with closing incendiary guitars. The highlight, however, is Nameless, Faceless, in which she mocks online trolls with memorable lines such as: “He said: ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup/ And spit out better words than you’/ But you didn’t.”

Ash – IslandsAsh
(Infectious Music)

The Northern Irish trio’s seventh studio album is an open, honest and autobiographical set that chronicles heartbreak, love, loss and friendship. The album takes its title from its genesis, singer and guitarist Tim Wheeler starting its writing on the Japaese island of Naoshima, renowned worldwide for its modern art installations, architecture and sculptures, taking in further sessions in Mallorca, Santorini and Lambay Island, off the coast of North Dublin. The result is a stirring return to form from one of our most treasured indie bands.

Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! Parquet Courts
Wide Awake!
(Rough Trade)

A.Savage’s New York post-punk garage rockers release their most expansive record to date, incorporating funk influences and electronica, teaming up with A-list producer Danger Mouse. It’s a state-of-the-world album that deals with big themes, such as the first rush of political consciousness on the title track and global warming on the sardonic Before The Water Gets Too High . Get your copy of issue 15 of Long Live Vinyl to read our in-depth interview with the band to find out how they made Wide Awake!

Ash – IslandsMary Lattimore
Hundreds Of Days
(Ghostly International)

LA-based composer and harpist Mary Lattimore has previously worked with Jarvis Cocker, Sharon Van Etten, Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile. She conjures vivid and compelling soundscapes, wordless narratives and indefinite travelogues on her second full-length, recorded in the isolated calm of a redwood barn in the hills above San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a becalming, mesmeric listen that sets her apart from other soloists.

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