SCM Music’s Album Picks: April to June – Rewards, Keepsakes and Big Wows
SLIGHTLY later than usual, here are our top albums of the last few months! Here come some good ‘uns, make sure you give these a listen!
Baroness – Gold & Grey
Gold & Grey ventures into new territory for Baroness, and at 60 minutes long the band do a fine job of keeping the listener entertained. Their fifth album, of course, shows the band’s usual blend of Hard Rock and Metal, but there’s also elements of traditional Folk music and Indie music. These are usually presented through vignettes that pop up throughout the record, giving the album a pleasant flow and adding to the already epic proportions of the record.
Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
U.F.O.F. shows Big Thief stepping up and meeting the hype that has surrounded them over their previous couple of records. This is a spectacular album with the band producing some beautifully tender Indie Folk songs with often an unsettling edge. Tracks ‘Orange’, ‘Contact’ and the title track are particular highlights on an album that has received near universal acclaim. This is truly the album to convert listeners sceptical of the band’s output thus far, and is without a doubt one of the albums of the year, perhaps even the decade.
Cate Le Bon – Reward
While there are no doubt shades of her past work on Reward, it also sees Cate Le Bon conjuring up her magic once more and creating an album that sounds singularly unique. Reward features more synths, saxophones and solo vocals from Le Bon. The wonky awkwardness of Crab Day and tight Pop tunes of Mug Museum have been largely replaced with the aura of a matured singer-songwriter; one with integrity but won’t play by the rules. Think Frank Zappa, or Gruff Rhys. As always, it’s great to see what Cate presents, and watching her style change.
Denzel Curry – ZUU
ZUU is a shotgun blast of hardcore Hip Hop, with elements of Pop Rap in places, falling in at just under half an hour. It’s shorter and more concise than TA13OO, but doesn’t show any signs of Curry holding up. He’s just as assertive and cutting critique that Curry has gladly presented onto his previous releases. At it’s hardest, ZUU is intimidating, but at it’s lightest it’s an album that incredibly accessible and may even see Curry access a wider audience.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Recent Heavenly signee Hatchie has released her debut album. Brimming with colourful, sugary synths and bittersweet lyrics, Keepsake is nostalgic and melancholy. Sad, yet hopeful. It’s the sound of a singer looking back on her past through a filter of My Bloody Valentine, mixed with Carly Rae Jepsen, with perhaps the slightest smattering of Kate Bush. If you like your Pop music Indie, with exceedingly fun hooks, Hatchie may just be for you.
Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
Hot Chip’s new record is another outing of mature, infectious synth pop. A Bath Full of Ecstasy is more coherent than 2015’s Why Make Sense? And working with the late Phillippe Zdar gives the tracks an even more danceable edge. Singles ‘Hungry Child’ and ‘Melody of Love’ are perhaps two of Hot Chip’s best, while deeper cuts ‘Positive’ and the title track are just phenomenal. While some hardened listener’s might be thrown by the band’s slight change of approach, A Bath Full of Ecstasy will no doubt go down as one of the band’s crowing moments.
Jai Paul – Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
At long last, Jai Paul’s leaked 2013 record gets a proper release. While obviously baring some marks of incompletion, there’s no denying that Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) is a fantastic piece of British Pop and R&B. While it’s effect has already been felt across the wider industry, this official release feels more like a solidifying it’s place in history, and showing it in the way that Paul intended it. By doing this, it also allows a wealth of new artists to enjoy and appreciate some great tracks as ‘Jasmine’, ‘BTSTU’ and ‘Str8 Outta Mumbai’.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Fishing for Fishies
After releasing five studio records in 2017, King Gizzard took a year off, before returning with Fishing For Fishies. An album with an environmental message at it’s heart, it’s sonically routed in Modern Blues and Boogie music, creating some of the band’s most danceable rhythms to date. It’s also heaps more fun and accessible than anything released during the bands jam-packed 2017, whose experimentation could at times be a slog. Highlights include the title track, ‘Plastic Boogie’ and closing track ‘Cyboogie’, which features, yet strangely catchy robotic vocals.
The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
The Raconteurs’ first two records were both released when Jack White was in his prime. One might therefore expect this new release to be someone lacklustre (see: The Dead Weather). However Help Us Stranger contains some really well written Alternative Rock. There’s enough quirks in there to keep the music interesting, and couple that with a really great Donovan cover, and you’ve got yourself an album that could have been released 10 years ago. Definitely one for long-time fans of the band.
Stealing Sheep – Big Wows
Stealing Sheep’s new record is a shining example of how to write great Pop music. Big Wows not only works as a coherent album, but also produces some excellent singles. ‘Show Love’ is a peppy, lovesick, wondrous opener. ‘Jokin’ Me’ contains perhaps the catchiest beat of the year with a killer vocal hook to match. The title track is also a total bop, with a methodical bass and drum beat coupled with distorted vocals. Stealing Sheep have written their best album to date – all through the kaleidoscopic lens of 2019 Pop.
Tyler, the Creator – Igor
Flower Boy doesn’t outstay his welcome, and Tyler, the Creator, is quick to move onto his next alter ego. The result is Igor, an album that will surely become a legendary break up record. Igor contains elements of lo-fi Hip Hop and R&B, with some unexpected appearances and cameos from various singers and rappers. Igor shows Tyler at his most exposed; gone is the bravado of his previous releases, here the rapper is shown pouring his heart into his verses, notably on the tracks ‘Earfquake’ and ‘Are We Still Friends’.
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Natalie Mering stepped up her game from 2016’s impressive Front Row Seat to Earth. Titanic Rising is a beautiful, yet apocalyptic, record of chamber pop that contains some of Weyes Blood’s finest songs to date. ‘Movies’ is a uplifting, wonderful song that sonically pays homage to the golden age of cinema. ‘Everyday’ is a Beatles-esque pop tune that may be Mering’s most upbeat to date. Meanwhile, ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ shows one of Mering’s most passionate and heartbreaking vocal performances. Don’t let this record slip you by.
Bitw – Bitw, Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Hiding Places, The Black Keys – Let’s Rock, The Chemical Brothers – No Geography, Mac Demarco – Here Comes the Cowboy, Flamingods – Levitation, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana, Damian Jurado – In the Shape of a Storm, Anderson. Paak – Ventura, Mavis Staples – We Get By, Thom Yorke – ANIMA.