Top 5 New Releases – 13th September
Not sure what’s on the shelves? Here’s Long Live Vinyl’s comprehensive guide to this week’s new releases…
Three albums into their second incarnation, news of a new Pixies record might not be greeted with the same hysteria as it would have been 30 years ago. That doesn’t mean the quality has lessened. Head Carrier was a marked step-up from the understandably cautious Indie Cindy. Beneath The Eyrie continues the upward curve. More than its two predecessors, it knows what people want from Pixies and gives it to them while playing with those expectations. The band make it clear that they’ll still go wherever the damn hell they choose.
Lead singles On Graveyard Hill and Catfish Kate are from the more reliable end of the album: much talk lyrically of “witchy powers” and Joey Santiago’s guitars best described as stately, finding band and listener in Pixies’ comfort zone. They’re both hugely enjoyable, especially Paz Lenchantin’s harmonies on Catfish Kate, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. It certainly doesn’t prepare you for the ferocious assault of Long Rider that opens Side Two – here is where Santiago’s guitars and Lenchantin and David Lovering’s rhythm section are unleashed. Why are Lenchantin and Black Francis growling, “I believe” just under the surface? Lord knows, but it’ll feed your nightmares for weeks.
Better still is St Nazaire, a relationship breakdown rant that’s Pixies’ first successful rockabilly riot. Done with in under two and a half minutes, when Francis hollers, “I’m all done talking to you” it’s as violent and menacing as Pixies have ever been. Impressive, from a band whose music has been violent and menacing from the start. For the first time since the late 80s, Pixies have got their gang mentality back. The menace is shot through the barely controlled fury of This Is My Fate and Ready For Love. The former is particularly fascinating, as Francis gleefully intones “Take a drink, it’s alright” over Lovering’s manic percussion. A reminder: a newly clean Santiago says Beneath The Eyrie is the first Pixies album he’s recorded sober.
Despite, or probably because of, its superficially cutesy sitcom theme backing, Bird Of Prey is even more sinister. As close as Pixies have got to an all-out pop song, its opening line is “Set my broken bones with a twist and a crack”. They’re not quite ready to join Linda Perry and Greg Kurstin as pop writers for hire, then. Only Daniel Boone, five trudging minutes in search of a point, doesn’t deserve to rate highly in what Francis wryly calls “The canon of the Pixies”.
If the music’s not enough, Beneath The Eyrie offers one of the most appealing vinyl boxset options of the year. Often, “a second disc of exclusive vinyl” is a couple of demos or remixes of existing songs. Here, there are nine additional songs from the album sessions. It’s your chance to compile the definitive Pixies 2019 album, swapping out any duff songs for those on the bonus disc. More than ever, Pixies seem at ease with themselves. Turns out being relaxed doesn’t make them any less exciting.
02 Metronomy – Metronomy Forever
Last time out, the practicalities of new parenthood meant Summer 08 was a Joe Mount solo album in all but name. The new Metronomy album was nearly much different, too – Mount delivered a more concise wannabe pop record to Because Music before deciding it wasn’t good enough. Making Metronomy Forever more sprawling and adventurous on their second attempt works in the band’s favour – the handful of shorter tracks allow room to breathe among their more traditional all-out bangers like the frothy Salted Caramel Ice Cream and hectic Insecurity. It’s also unlikely the original all-pop formula would have found room for the delicious silliness of Sex Emoji or grungy Upset My Girlfriend.
Seeking to capture the feeling of his favourite playlists, Mount and his bandmates succeed. For every route-one banger like Miracle Rooftop there’s something unexpected and atmospheric. In The Light, Mount pleads “Help me feel alright” over a low-slung bass and shuffling drums like a Madchester comedown.
Metronomy have returned with all their component parts working as slickly as before. Crucially, the time away seems to have given them new flavours to experiment with.
03 Alex G – House Of The Sugar
After the delectable country-tinged pop of 2017’s Rocket, Alex G returns with a slightly more skewwhiff and experimental album. There are plenty of the Elliott Smith-esque acoustic-led moments that he’s become so synonymous with – and many of those moments remain as seamless and beautiful as ever – but at times it veers into Bon Iver territory with heavily distorted and vocally manipulated tracks such as Project 2. It also straddles that line between DIY bedroom pop (where he began) and the more expansive big-budget production he now has access to, resulting in a record that is wonky at heart but sounds more fully realised and grown. The album is a pleasing amalgamation between a pre-existing familiarity of his work and a voyage into new territory.
The first rock act to win the Critics’ Choice prize at the Brits in its 11-year history, Geordie singer Sam Fender worships Bruce Springsteen and shares his ability to empathise with emotional frailties, describe everyday dramas too often overlooked by songwriters and wrap it all up into bloody massive four-minute anthems. Fender is already progressing superbly. Past singles such as the catchy Friday Fighting are omitted to make room for the sinuous groove of Two People, while White Privilege adds a Billy Joel flamboyance. Call Me Lover is the only straightforward ballad here, and even that has a sublime chorus. With the self-belief of a veteran, once heard you’ll feel like you’ve known Fender’s talent for years. All this and an eye-catching “Cornetto-coloured” vinyl edition, too.
05 Alasdair Roberts – The Firey Margin
Scottish singer-songwriter Alasdair Roberts has ploughed the folk furrow for some time now, with The Fiery Margin his 12th release for Drag City. Roberts’ albums tend to alternate between self-penned material and traditional songs, with this occasion being the turn of the former. With the help of Trembling Bells’ Alex Neilson, bassist Stevie Jones and Irish violist Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh, he sidles gently away from the folk-rock leanings of previous album Pangs to reveal a gentle set of intricately crafted fare. A songwriter of some deft substance, at their best his compositions manage to simultaneously shimmer and pack a punch. Multi-layered lead single The Evernew Tongue, based on the inspiration of a Medieval Irish account of the mysteries of the universe, sets the tone.
Gary Tipp, Daniel Dylan Wray, John Earls
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