Monday, 20 December 2021

20 new songs by 20 new acts in 2021

All bangers, all classics (some written in attics, some recorded in garages or damp basements) and all new. Some of these acts didn't debut this year (or even this century in the case of Sheila Brody) and Malady slipped out at the end of 2020, but it was released on 7" this year so that makes it real, right?

First year ever without a new Australian band. I must have missed something. You know where the comments box is. San Francisco is disproportionately represented, but if bands from there keep being brilliant it only makes sense.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

The New Existentialists - Poetry is Theft

I have this fantasy of what the perfect Julian Cope album might sound like. It would draw on his ancient past (melody and melodrama), distant past (big-hearted rock with no pomp) and the past he often captures better when writing about it than drawing from it (Japanese psych and motorik propulsion). That album's not going to happen, but it happens, sort of, in Poetry is Theft.

Because The New Existentialists synthesise those influences and go somewhere else. Sometimes by imagining where Roxy Music might have gone with those reference points. But The New Existentialists are led by The Puddle's George D Henderson, so this theatrical romp is intoxicating and makes you realise after a few plays that what you thought you were listening to is something different, something better still.

So I might have been listening to a darkly atmospheric, richly melodic and casually louche XTC playing Microdisney. Or I might have been listening to what the third Only Ones album, Baby's Got A Gun, would have sounded like if it hadn't been cursed by major label interference and narcotic over-indulgence. And if Prince had been in the sound booth.

I'm still not sure what I'm listening to, other than something mad, captivating and wonderful.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Friendly Boyfriend - Pick Up!

From Gothenburg - where else? - Friendly Boyfriend are sleazy Vaselines noise (cheap keyboards, instant tunes and the possibility that just maybe "Julie's Head" is a euphemism), seasick Beat Happening guitars tuned to the key of what the fuck, and in Sleeping (On Your Couch) the numb despair and desolation of Television Personalities' Far Away And Lost In Joy. Or maybe they were thinking Big Star's Third. Same difference.

And? And they cover The Clean's Beatnik if you had any doubts where their hearts truly lie. Four songs, one 7" single. All excellent. Any serious conversation about 2021's single of the year has to include this. Buy now before it starts trading hands for silly money.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Poster Paints - Number 1

Remember about 12 years ago when it seemed like every kid in Brooklyn and San Francisco discovered the Shop Assistants and formed a band? We're happily back there again, only the revival is close to home courtesy of Glasgow's Poster Paints.

Number 1 does exactly what you expect, only better: Spector echo, Mary Chain demonic snarl and Aislers Set pop bite with the guitar fx set to fuzz and reverb. And that's their entire output. Everything crossed that there's more to come, because this is pretty special.

My gut tells me they're closest to the Vivian Girls from the last Shoppies revival, so I'm expecting 60s girl group melodrama meeting thrift store shoegaze. But I'm open to whatever comes next.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

The Midnight Steppers - Isolation Drives

Shitgaze isn't exactly back - Isolation Drives was recorded between 2007 and 2019 - but The Midnight Steppers have got the core uneasy listening sound of vital early post-punk releases from Flying Nun played fast and fucked up. Think of the corrosive barbarism of The Gordons and the jaggedly caustic tunes of The Clean recorded on a primitive Dictaphone.

Recording 12 songs in 12 years seems antithetical to the shitgaze ethic of feeding early Pavement songs through a two-dollar amp and beating them to a bloody pulp in a damp garage. You'd think they could have done this in a weekend - nothing about this raw feedback and breathless invigoration suggests that much time was spent on refinement.

But if you want a band playing fast and loose with sonic intensity and melodic bloodlust, who call their last song My Broken Guitar (no kidding, you broke it before the first song) then Isolation Drives is your next essential purchase. It came out on tape (of course it did) last year, and there's now a vinyl issue. UK buyers, head to World Of Echo.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Dolour - Televangelist

Shane Tutmarc's mission is to write the songs Paul McCartney forgot to in 1967 and make a perfect facsimile of the Raspberries recording them in 1972.

Televangelist is a modern powerpop classic, with enough deft touches - harmonic soft pop and baroque pop grandeur - to transcend genre or be a period piece.

This album is theatrical, tender and melancholic, and even manages a pagan tribute to Tom Petty (The Day Tom Petty Died). It's basically classic songwriting - I feel certain My Sweet Darlin' is from the great American songbook. But Google's no help, so this must be a Dolour original. Expect 1,000 covers of it in the future.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Take A Seat EP by Nia Wyn

Come Home To You has a massive pop hook, an irresistible groove, all softly punching horns and group soul harmonies. If Mark Ronson had been in the studio, you'd have heard this at least a thousand times and people would be saying 'the new Amy Winehouse'.

You should have heard it a hundred times at least from open windows, shop radios and passing cars. It's that sort of immediate big party tune. Not sure why that hasn't happened yet, but we live in strange times.

I've had this record a month or two and played it more than any other 2021 release. That doesn't mean it's the best - although, come on, if you've know of a better one, give it to me - but it does mean there's more going on in these 8 songs than in other records.

There's skinny guitars (Imma Be Honest sounds like a great lost TLC track), Frank Ocean neo soul (Muzzle), Labi Siffre folk-flecked soul (Who Asked You) and political anger about the NHS (Such A Shame). Take A Seat is a mod record - or, if you like, a distillation of Paul Weller's aims and ambitions, merging the old and the new, creating something very special of her own.

You can still say the new Amy Winehouse if you like, even though she's as much as common with Michael Kiwanuka. On this evidence Nia Wyn easily has enough talent to go where she likes on her own terms. We'll be seeing her name in lights soon enough.