Bass-wielding, jazz-loving, techno-deconstructing Essex nutter Tom Jenkinson’s 15th LP Ufabulum – which drops in a fortnight on long-term label Warp – is part of an ambitious multimedia project that also includes an elaborately-lit live show and specially commissioned visuals for each track. It’s also his best album since 2001’s Go Plastic, melodic and aggressive in equal measure, as “Dark Steering” suggests.
It’s unclear exactly what kind of existential crisis led Joshua “J.” Tillman to quit his position as drummer with Fleet Foxes, load a van with magic mushrooms and leave Seattle to write a novel in California, but as he confesses on “Everyman Needs A Companion” he “never liked the name Joshua, and (I) got tired of J.” And so, for his eighth solo album Fear Fun (out April 30 on Bella Union in the UK and a day later on Sub Pop in the US), Tillman becomes Father John Misty, a modern day Laurel Canyon storyteller whose surreal, witty narratives seem a million miles away from the frosty folk of previous efforts. Co-produced with Jonathan Wilson, the album’s sunny ’70s-influenced soft-rock is a look that suits Tillman very well indeed; take a listen below.
Regardless of what you might consider your “kind” of music, everyone knows you can’t beat a good pop song, and this is a very good pop song. Better still there are two more that are as easily as good on Brit duo Aluna Francis and George Reid‘s new EP for the Tri Angle label, You Know You Like It, available digitally now. Fans of late-90s R&B girl groups and contemporary bass music, you’re going to want to get on this shit right now.
Right at the start of “A Certain Person”, the opening track on Light Asylum‘s self-released 2010 four-song In Tension EP, is the sound of a horse whinnying. It’s an initially odd choice of sample, especially given that it would serve for most as an impression-forming first introduction to the Brooklyn duo, but it’s one that plants a couple of apt subliminal images; of warriors riding into battle, and of fast-approaching harbingers of the apocalypse. Fittingly, although all four songs from that disc were equally worthy of A-side status, “A Certain Person” is the only one that reappears on the group’s eponymous debut album, out next week on the Mexican Summer label (who last year put out a re-mastered version of the aforementioned EP): this music to soundtrack a retro-futurist armageddon, songs to sing while the world burns all around. Much of this fiery, dramatic vibe is down to vocalist Shannon Funchess, a ready-made superstar-in-waiting who has previously graced recordings by TV On The Radio, Ford & Lopatin and Teengirl Fantasy, and whose lioness roar shares as much common ground with hardcore punk as it does with R&B or pop; think Grace Jones in Tina Turner’s Mad Max role crossed with Arnie in the original Terminator and you’re part way there. Sounding – and looking – as though she would just as soon head-butt you as give you the time of day, Funchess bellows out nihilistic mantras (“Nobody’s innocent!”) and bleak poetry (“Face down in the river, my love”) over Bruno Coviello’s stark, brutal backdrops of overlapping coldwave synths and steam-driven drum machine beats, refracting post-punk and goth shapes through old-skool rave and industrial filters to produce epic black-lit jams like “IPC” and “Hour Fortress” that bridge the gap between The Hacienda circa 1988 and the underground sleaze-dens of any modern metropolis. But beneath the studded leather-clad exterior is a keen pop sensibility and soul to spare, and it’s actually the moments where Funchess’ tender side is exposed that echo longest; the hypnotically looping “Angel Tongue” touches on minimal techno’s blissful repetition, while the stereo-panning slow-motion drum circle “Shallow Tears” and “A Certain Person” are glorious in their elegiac beauty.
Light Asylum is out May 1 on Mexican Summer
I really have no idea how these guys managed to pass me by for so long; I mean, a band named after two Prince songs was never going to be less than brilliant, right? Anyway, I may be late to the party but now I’m here I never want to leave. Tracks like “Somebody” show that Swedish duo Niki And The Dove clearly worship at the altar of The Purple One, but on debut album Instinct, out May 14 on Mercury (and Sub Pop in the US) you’ll also hear echoes of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper in singer Malin Dahlstrom’s kooky/ sensual vocals, as well as more contemporary influences like The-Dream in Gustav Karlof’s sleek-but-tough electro-R&B production and huge, anthemic choruses. For fans of Robyn, Florence and – as you’ll hear on “Tomorrow” – big-haired, windswept ’80s MOR pop.
Following last year’s Empire Sound EP on No Pain In Pop, a guest appearance on Grimes’ Visions and a collaborative LP – Phedre – with members of Hooded Fang, Canadian bedroom producer Airick Woodhead, AKA Doldrums, has signed to the blossoming Souterrain Transmissions label. An album of Kraut-popping electronic psychedelia is apparently in the works, but for now take a listen to the epic lead track from his forthcoming 12″, out June 4.
Dan Mangan had a pretty good night at Canada’s Juno Awards recently, winning New Artist Of The Year, Songwriter Of The Year and Alternative Album Of The Year for his third long-player Oh Fortune. To celebrate his success, as well as the release of new single “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” (out April 30 on City Slang) and next week’s UK tour, he’s posted this mini-documentary, filmed by Annikki Heinemann and featuring some beautiful Canadian scenery as well as some lovely music. Award winning song below.
If there was an award for “most improved player” given out to musicians, Jana Hunter would surely be among the front-runners for the prize. As part of the same “freak folk” movement that spawned CocoRosie and Vetiver, in 2005 the Texan singer was the first signing to Devendra Banhart’s Gnomonsong label, but never became as prominent a fixture on the musical landscape as her most successful contemporary Joanna Newsom. In fact, despite a string of solid releases, to say that Hunter’s impact on the scene was minimal would be overly generous, which might explain why she chose to re-position herself as front-woman of Baltimore-based experimental rockers Lower Dens. Following a promising debut (2010’s Twin Hand Movement), sophomore album Nootropics – named after the process of using technology to extend human capabilities, a theme explored in a few of the record’s lyrics – sees Hunter progressing from mere vocalist to the band’s main focal point; here like never before, Hunter simply commands attention, her vocals captivating but never showy, murmuring sensual incantations as though she were casting a spell over the listener. Combining gauzey atmospherics (“Propagation“, “Nova Anthem”) and post-punk gloom (“Lamb”) with a rhythmic sensibility rooted in electronic and industrial music (“Candy“, “Lion In Winter Pt. 2”), the group’s arrangements suit Hunter’s witchy vocals perfectly, with lead guitarist William Adams and new recruit Carter Tanton (keyboards/ guitar) weaving intricate spiderwebs of sound around layers of concrete noise that recall fellow sideways-thinking darkness-dwellers like Liars and even – at times – Radiohead. But it’s the rhythm section that comes closest to stealing the spotlight away from their singer; on the fantastic opening tryptich of “Alphabet Song”, “Brains” and “Stem“, bassist Geoff Graham and new drummer Nate Nelson lock into a series of minimal but mesmerising grooves that flutter and pulse like something straight out of the Can/ Neu! school of Krautrock, driving the tracks relentlessly forward whilst simultaneously instilling a sense of uneasy stasis. With Hunter’s nursery-rhyme melodies drifting like a cool breeze, these otherworldly pop gems make for the best start to an album you’ll hear all year, and although the momentum inevitably drops along with the tempo later on, the standard remains impressively high throughout. Nootropics exceeds expectations, and raises the bar for the band’s contemporaries; this is turning out to be one hell of a reinvention.
Nootropics is out April 30 on Ribbon Music
Nice to see this album getting some love from Pitchfork… Daughn Gibson is the drummer with on-off stoner-metal trio Pearls & Brass, but his debut solo LP All Hell – just released on vinyl by White Denim (the label run by Pissed Jeans’ Matt Korvette), with a CD version to follow May 4 on Mistletone Records – focuses on a different kind of heavy. Showcasing a rich Scott Walker-meets-Stephen Merritt baritone, Gibson here plays the modern country crooner, spinning darkly-humourous tales of smalltown tragedy over a backdrop of sparse, gothic Americana and sample-heavy electronic soundscapes. Spooky and beautiful in equal measure, with quirky twists at every turn, it’s a rare treat; take a listen to “In The Beginning” below.
“I don’t got no Abba/ I don’t play no gabba/ I like Zapp not Zappa/ So please quit your jibber-jabber.”
Squelchy funk bassline: check. Techno bleeps: check. Disco beat: check. Cheeky lyrics: check, check, check. “Night And Day” is the first single from Hot Chip‘s forthcoming fifth album (and Domino debut) In Our Heads, out June 11. Sweat to this.