Difficult to know what, when, how much to post these days. We find solace in music, and hope that you find some somewhere amongst these new lists. Curated over the past several, bewildering weeks, there’s a range of emotion on display, which seems appropriate.
We also now have a Spotify page, so click the button top left of the homepage if you’re into following. Thanks, and stay safe.
Part the second of our ‘apology tour’, in which we continue to dig through the list of records that touched us last year and make sure that we spread the good word.
Salad Boys, This is Glue (Trouble in Mind)
Christchurch, New Zealand’s Salad Boys returned last February with their latest album, This is Glue, and it’s a thrilling listen. Opener, “Blown Off” lifts off with a thrum like a motorik “Kids in America”, before dissolving into a blissful Buzzcocks charged guitar run, and the remaining tracks employ shades of indie disco, the purest power-pop, pearlescent strum-pop (“Exaltation”), orphic psych and early REM jangle (“Psych Slasher”). It’s lush, without being cloying; polished, but still retaining scuff and patina. Highlights include: “Psych Slasher”; “Right Time”; “Going Down Slow”.
Also released last February, Pinned, the latest from C.A.R. (the recording project of London-based Franco-Canadian Chloé Raunet) features elements of icy, Yaz(oo)-like new wave sensuality, post-punk empty spaces, and dubby trip-hop – all blended into transportive art-pop. There’s a Nina Hagen art-bounce meets Grace Jones cool on tracks like “Heat”, “Growing Pains” gradually adding gorgeous layers of glacial synths and ethereal background vocals to a stark bass/drum combo. C.A.R. has since released several remixes (I particularly enjoyed Peaking Lights’ remix of ‘Daughters’), one of which included a new song, “All But…”, as a b-side. Highlights include: “Growing Pains”; “Heat”; “Cholera”.
Ravyn Lenae, Crush EP (Atlantic/Three Twenty Three Music)
Ravyn Lenae hails from Chicago, and released a smoke bomb of an EP last February called Crush. Lifting off even higher than her dizzying 2016 debut, Moon Shoes, the EP provides an intoxicating cache of silky smooth, new-old school r&b tracks. Lenae’s effortless voice balances featherweight highs and funky gnarl, moving stealthily through hazy grooves that evoke everything from Funkadelic, the Isleys, Erykah Badu, and Prince. Steve Lacey’s head-swimming production provides highlights as well (see the introduction of the bass in “Computer Luv”, on which he also provides vocal accompaniment). More of this, soon, please and thank you. Highlights include: “Closer (Ode 2U)”; “Computer Luv”.
Sometimes, an album comes along whose constituent parts may seem familiar, but taking a step back to view the entire picture reveals something new and difficult to describe. A Ghost, A Beast, the debut full-length from Zed Penguin – the musical project of Edinburgh-based Australian, Matthew Winter – is such an album. The shapeshifting arrangements meld psych, chamber-pop, the wry, arty-rock of Zevon, and tensile post-punk, Winter’s tremulous tone recalling a mix of Joe Jackson and Ian McCullough. Some moments transcend – to wit, the glorious ‘End of Time’, with it’s shimmery jangle. Highlights include: “End of Time”; “Wandering”; “Violent Night”.
Our Arkansas pals in Ten High released the Autobondage EP this past October, and it slays. Five fuzzed-out, gonzo tracks held together by a steady, powerful bass/drum battery. The roiling opener, ‘Dr. Choice’ (featuring vocals by drummer Devan Theos) couldn’t possibly be a more apt, ‘in the red’ introduction to the splendor on show here. Trading in the same gloriously trashy garage/blues/punk sleaze as debut, Self-Entitled, these tracks manage to tighten things up a notch, without losing any of their edge. Highlights include: “Dr. Choice”; “You Want It”.
L.A.-based quartet Smokescreens released their latest, Used to Yesterday, last summer. Appropriate to that season, the album is jam-packed with absolutely gorgeous power-(psych)pop and Paisley Underground-style hooks. The band’s online bio mentions a mutual admiration for Dunedin sound between founders Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham, and you can hear it loud and clear on tracks like ‘Buddy’. But there’s also a US spin on things, with ‘Steel Blue Skies’ adding a slacker-y take, and the band channeling the Velvets on ‘Fool Me’. Highlights include: “Steel Blue Skies”; “Jolly Jane”; “Used to Yesterday”.
Zerodent is a four-piece band out of Perth, Australia. Formed way back in 2015, their excellent self-titled debut came out last year on German label, Alien Snatch! and, lo and forsooth, a new three-track EP, Soul Mender, is upon us…and it is good.
There’s a righteousness inherent in a lot of the best punk, and it’s on full show here. Mixing classic ℅ ’77 sounds of bands like The Saints and Buzzcocks (the opening riff of the title track reminds of “Harmony In My Head”) with garage, SoCal h/c gnarl and a bit of maximum r&b, the EP is an absolute rush from start to finish. Vocalist Lee Jenkins spits, snarls and wails, driving the service to completion with the rollicking “This Time” (personal fave, though it’s hard to choose). Pass the fucking plate. The only gripe is it’s too short.
Soul Member is out now, via Almost Ready. You can catch up with all things Zerodent on their fbook, and peruse their catalogue on bandcamp. Don’t see any tour dates up yet, but hopefully that will change soon.
Frank Moka is a Dallas-based percussionist who, as a member of The Funky Knuckles, has played with artists like Erykah Badu and Stanley Clarke. His new track, “Nation Time”, is a tight blending of hook with message; groove with theory. Starting off like the feel good hit of the summer, its glistening, sunny piano chords and straight, snappy rhythm making you wish you had that cabriolet, the lyrics kick in and demand your attention – “now you got your shit together/what are you gonna do?” the opening question/salvo. While the song continues to feel airy and light, weighty topics abound: race, (comm)unity, police brutality, misogyny – the message is woven, and it’s impossible to ignore the pattern. With a title that seems to reference Amiri Baraka and/or Joe McPhee (I don’t know if it is intentional), this should maybe not be surprising.
On his SoundCloud page, Moka describes the song as “a Hip Hop/Pop track with a very powerful message”, and he is being understated. Along with other new artists like Jamila Woods, Frank Moka shows that songs with undeniable hooks need not also be vapid. Points can be made while the groove moves you – open the windows, drop the top, and spread the word. In addition to SoundCloud, you can follow Frank Moka on fbook and the twitt. Here’s hoping for more from him soon.
Hailing from Leeds, UK, Galaxians are Jed Skinner (synthesizers, programming) and Matt Woodward (acoustic drums, more programming), together with vocalist Emma Mason. They’ve been releasing records since 2012, and I feel a bit disappointed in myself, to be honest, to have only just discovered them, courtesy of storming new joint, “Street Level”.
Released as part of a collaboration between Leeds-based label, Youth Club Sounds, and promoters, Super Friendz, “Street Level” is a movin’, groovin’, burning 80s throwback r&b/electro-disco jam. Like a riposte to the classic D-Train track, “You’re the One for Me”, Mason roars the opposite while standing on the shoulders of greats like Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King and Teena Marie (the group’s site also references Gwen Guthrie…we can dig it). Behind and all around her, a driving beat, slippery bass and squishy leads – the arrangement is fantastically dense. It’ll put a smile on your face after a hard day, even if you’re a weekend girl or guy (look it up, young’uns). Get up and dance…dance, I said.
“Street Level”, as well as other Galaxians cuts, can be found on the Super Friendz/Youth Club Sounds “Collaborationz” (so many zeds!) mixtape, which can listen to here and purchase on the Galaxians’ bandcamp page (where you can also check they’re upcoming live dates). Hail Galaxians on fbook and the twitt.
Great new soul/r&b/pop from Pheeyownah, a Stockholm, Sweden-based singer and multi-instrumentalist.
She’s also an artist and dancer, and movement, atmosphere and expression is everywhere in evidence on her new ep, zero9zero9. Synthesized melodies swirl and sway betwixt and between multi-tracked vocals and churning rhythms in a manner similar, in style and tone, to Fade to Mind crew standout Kelela and other modern soul artists like Sza. Where those artists have a foot in both psychotropic “modern r&b” stylings and 80s/90s throwback rhythms (Janet Jackson, vocally, often seems a particular influence), Pheeyownah also folds in trip hop’s hypnotic, liquid soul and rhythmic ominousness – early Bjork (highlight “Mountain Peak, Sea Deep”, in particular, seems unearthed from a Nellie Hooper vault), bands like Massive Attack, GusGus and Lamb cast long shadows.
Be not afeared – this is a good thing. Senses are worked overtime across the ep’s four tracks, while there’s even a hint of a dancefloor banger unfurling in the insistent closer, “Cold Black Deserts”. Three of these tracks look to have been self-released previously on the Under the Dock ep, but have now been repackaged by fantastic Swedish label Labrador; hopefully, they’ll reach a wider audience.
zero9zero9 is out now. Check out more about Pheeyownah on fbook and her site. You can also find her prior, self-relead eps, on iTunes (“Pretty Lights”, from 2012’s City ep, is well worth a listen for a glimpse of a lighter side to her musical persona).
Jamila Woods is a Chicago-based poet, educator, playwright, and community activist. As if that weren’t enough, she’s also a singer possessed of an airy, languid voice that is the centerpiece of a fantastic new track, called “Heavn”.
Woods enters cooing modified lyrics from The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”, calling for a “trick” that “makes you love someone”; that “makes the winters warm”. The response is a paean to the joy of lasting love, free of (and in the face of) societal constructs and restrictions. Taking a hand, Woods leads a dynastic journey to a past where “great-great-great-great-great-great” grandparents “didn’t need a ring or a broom” to make their love eternal, the refrain “I don’t want to run away with you/I want to live our life right, here” providing comfort.
The track is a welcome throwback to the early days of the so-called ‘neo-soul’ movement, at the intersection of spoken word and hip hop. “Heavn” glides along a looped, propulsive tribe vibe instrumental sampled from The Roots’ DillaJoints cut, “Eve”, the mix reminding me of personal favorites like Ambersunshower, touching down via a prolonged outro. Transportive.
“Heavn” looks to be the title track of Wood’s forthcoming, debut record on Closed Sessions. Can’t wait to hear more of this. You can do the following thing on fbook, her site, and SoundCloud.