Category Archives: Album Reviews

Sacred music for sceptics

The collection of Alice Coltrane’s most devotional music in one landmark release opens up a mysterious period of her life, and some home truths contained within mine. Continue reading Sacred music for sceptics

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There she goes, my ugly world

Anohni (f.k.a. Antony Hegarty) and Hayden Thorpe are owners of unforgettable voices. In the past, their respective œuvres were musically distinctive too. As Antony and the Johnsons, there were four albums of East Village baroque pop, ripe with violin, cello and hollow-bodied electric guitar. Thorpe, with his band Wild Beasts, released an imperial brace of manicured art rock, heavy on carnality, sensuality, and bongos. Continue reading There she goes, my ugly world

The Commontime gents

It’s no secret that I love Field Music, through their fits and starts and hiatuses and occasional missteps (2012’s Plumb being a bit morose, in this author’s opinion, though it won the Brewis brothers an overdue Mercury Prize nomination). The four-song stint stretching from “Effortlessly” through to “All You’d Ever Need To Say” on Field Music (Measure) is one of the great art rock suites of our age—though on vinyl it is inexplicably torn between two sides—and I told the band as much when I met them in Canonbury’s Myddleton Arms, over several G&Ts, back in March. Continue reading The Commontime gents

The Antislacktivists

I’ve written previously about sprezzatura—the hard labour undertaken in order to appear carelessly stylish—in relation to Spoon’s underappreciated 2020 LP, Transference. But Brooklyn immigrants Parquet Courts achieve what might be considered sprezzatura‘s opposite on their latest work, Human Performance: casually executed precision. The end-product resembles a cocktail of rock canon greats—Velvet Underground, The Clash, and The Kinks, primarily—but with a somewhat nihilistic worldview that’s cleverly updated for this millennials’ age. As Brooklyn transplants, and subterranean romantics, they bring an outsider’s perspective to the most happening scene in the most happening city on the most happening planet in the galaxy. Their surface scruffiness is shot through with a surprising amount of melodrama and trickery. And their facility with non sequiturs and Dadaist slogans lends their work a cheerily surreal swerve. Continue reading The Antislacktivists

20 in 14

Here are some albums from 2014 that I enjoyed in 2014. Ranking everything in one list would be arbitrary, so I didn’t. There’s a Spotify megamix containing some of the songs I mention, and some I don’t, here. Continue reading 20 in 14

Sow seeds, reap harvest

The narrative seems straightforward enough. Band releases low-key follow-up to a strident, populist career-best. One of the band passes, tragically, nine days after the album’s launch. Three years later, the band regroups with a contemplative effort dedicated to their lost friend. Continue reading Sow seeds, reap harvest

Our love, our music

For anyone with more than a casual acquaintance with Aphex Twin‘s 1990s output, the first hearing of “minipops 67 [120.2] (source field mix)” is a sobering experience. There’s the healthy dose of weirdness—disembodied voices, a constantly shifting structure, wonky tunings and a random diversion into jungle—that denotes this is the work of Richard D. James. But there’s also a classical sense of proportion and beauty—think of those celestial synths, the timely intervention of piano—that feels unexpected, and unexpectedly comforting. Continue reading Our love, our music

Spoon don’t need your soul

…because they’ve got plenty of their own.

Four years ago, people found Transference off-putting: long, melancholy songs riding on seemingly-endless grooves before cutting out mid-phrase; sparse demos peppering a nocturnal landscape of blank-eyed art rock. They were mistaken, of course, but let bygones be bygones. Continue reading Spoon don’t need your soul

Eternal summers turn to fall

A friend’s sister has been in town, visiting from the Garden State. She brings with her the baggage of a gentler pre-campus life: sprinklers on lawns, the station wagon, and the sodium-glare of streetlights on wide tree-lined avenues. Nothing evokes endless estival evenings like Real Estate‘s second album, Days. But at a certain point, I had begun to wonder if Matthew Mondanile’s plangent, cyclical music would overwhelm the elegant simplicity of his childhood friend Martin Courtney’s lyrics, which are lifted wholesale from the imagery of dusky suburbia. Continue reading Eternal summers turn to fall