SCM Music’s Album Picks: January to March – Foals, Toys and Community Centers
AS WE CREEP into 2019, the musical ball begins to roll. This year has been slow to start; 2018 was such a strong year for music, maybe the world just needed a second to catch up. Still we’ve seen some decent releases in the past 3 months, and for those of you who are still reeling from last year, here’s a round up for you…
Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center
The collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers sees the duo moving away from where their previous solo albums have seen them venture. BOCC is a colourful, vibrant record that dips its toes into elements of Indie, Folk and Alternative Rock. Frills include a great use of effects, synthersizers and, of course, the lead singer’s distinctive vocal deliveries. Highlights include ‘Dylan Thomas’, ‘My City’ and ‘Didn’t Know What I Was in For’.
James Blake – Assume Form
James Blake’s last studio record, The Colour in Anything, was disappointing and bloated. But on Assume Form Blake seems to have pulled it back, with some passionate, wonderful pieces and excellent features. Highlights come from Rosalía (‘Barefoot in the Park’), Andre 3000 (‘Where’s the Catch?’) and, of course, Blake himself, who gives us one of his most beautiful performances on the astoundingly beautiful ‘Can’t Believe the Way We Flow’.
Easily the best Foals album since Total Life Forever, Everything Not Saved… shows Foals returning in part to a sound they worked on way back on Antidotes. This is most evident on the elctro-punk of tracks such as ‘Exits’ and ‘In Degrees’, both of which trade brawn for technicality. Elsewhere, ‘Moonlight’ is an enchanting opener, while the monolithic ‘Sunday’ rounds the album off excellently. It’s great to see Foals at the top of their game, here’s hoping Part 2 is just as good.
Ariana Grande – thank u, next
With thank u, next, Ariana build upon the groundwork she laid in Sweetener, and arguably created a better album. Concise at 12 tracks long, the record produces some of most well crafted Pop music of the year thus far, including ‘NASA’, ‘Bad Idea’ and the title track. Ariana also gives us some really excellent lyrics that touch on the Earth shattering events that occurred during the writing of this record. Perhaps the finest example of this is the track ‘Ghostin’, which is classic tearjerker.
Julia Jacklin – Crushing
Crushing is an apt name for Julia Jacklin’s second album. There’s little joy to be found on this record, instead, Jacklin delivers a stream of deeply honest, brutal and heart wrenching stories. From the opener ‘Body’, a song about escaping a toxic relationship, the wound barely has a chance to heal before launching into such raw cuts as ‘When the Family Flies in’ and ‘Good Guy’. This is not an upbeat album, but neither is it meant to be. Jacklin here gives us some painful truths about love in 2019 through the form of fantastically written songs.
Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
With both artists being relatively quiet recently, at least on the performance front, it’s nice to see Danger Mouse and Karen O producing a pleasant little record together. Lux Prima doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but does give us ten well written, catchy, and fun pop gems to enjoy. The performance is, as you’d expect, pristine, and Karen O gives us another fine performance that compliments the instrumentals nicely. This record is definitely one for the Danger Mouse and Karen O super fans.
Little Simz – Grey Area
Grey Area shows that Little Simz can go toe to toe with the best of them. Easily the finest Hip Hop album to come out of 2019 thus far, any competitors are going to have a hard job topping Little Simz’ bars. Bars that stem from tracks such as ‘Offence’, where Simz proclaims “I’m Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days”. To the point at only ten tracks and with no other rappers featuring on this album, Grey Area is the perfect platform for Simz to show off exactly what she can do.
Sean Price & Small Professor – 86 Witness
Producer Small Professor teams up (posthumously) with Sean Price on this funky, catchy Hip Hop album. Price’s vocals are as powerful as they ever were, and Small Professor blends smooth samples and beats seamlessly with vocals that pull heavily from 80’s culture. At only ten tracks and 30 minutes in length (that’s including one remix) 86 Witness doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but gives us a great collaborative record that does justice to Price’s legacy.
Threatmantics – Shadow on Your Heart
The new album from Cardiff’s Threatmantics is a kaleidoscope of dark whimsy. With pounding drum and bass, chirpy violin features and morbid vocal performances, Shadow on Your Heart is excellently written record. With elements of Punk, Alt Rock and Stoner Rock, Shadow of Your Heart is without a doubt one of the better rock records this far into the year. Highlights include ‘First Things’, ‘Who is Afraid of Patrick Wolf’ and the climactic closer ‘Little Johnny’.
Toy – Happy in the Hollow
While the latest album from Brighton’s Toy may not re-invent their Shoegaze, Indie, Psycheldeic inspired sound, it does produce a solid set of 11 songs that show some of the group’s best songwriting to date. From the electric opener of ‘Sequence One’, to the haunting acoustic number ‘Charlie’s House’ there’s a lot on this album that will please both long time fans of the band, and newcomers to their discography.
Xiu Xiu – Girl With Basket of Fruit
Xiu Xiu seemingly reinvent themselves with every new release, and Girl With Basket of Fruit is no exception. From the shining Art Pop of Forget, Jamie Stewart and co. deliver a chilling nine tracks that sway towards the off kilter and avant garde. Perhaps the most unsettling of these is ‘Mary Turner Mary Turner’, a track about a pregnant woman who is burned alive whilst being lynched and… well, safe to say the rest is even more disturbing. Not a listen for the faint of heart, but an excellent one nonetheless.
American Football – LP3, C Duncan – Health, The Coathangers – The Devil You Know, The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared, Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs, Ibibio Sound Machine – Doko Mien, Pond – Tasmania, Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs, Solange – When I Get Home, Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow, Weezer – Weezer (The Teal Album).
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