Soccer Mommy – Clean

soccer-mommy-lp

 

Weirdly enough, the album I thought I would ‘get’ within a couple of spins actually took a while to sink in and this is totally within my comfort zone. Go figure.

Soccer Mommy is the project of Sophie Allison and it’s a collection of ten confident indie rock  songs with the odd folky moment . Think of Waxahatchee or Mitski or if you want to go further back I am reminded of Mirah.  In one sense the music is excellent – the choruses come at the right time, there are head shaking melodies galore and there are little tricks that keep the music interesting. Plus Allison is a lyricist who is not afraid to bare all . This is an album without pretensions whatsoever.

Yet

Why did it take me such a long time to let Clean to infiltrate my brain? In theory this should be the easiest listen ever, I mean my formative music years were dominated by 90’s sounding alt rock.  Am I of the wrong demographic? Am I growing out of this genre? I still don’t have an answer but I am glad that Clean has sunk in because it is quite a debut.

 

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Everything is Recorded – Self-titled

everything-is-recorded-album-cover

 

Last year I reviewed the rather wonderful Lost Horizons album. This was a recording project helmed by  label owner Simon Raymonde, of Bella Union and featured collaborations by a number of artists on the label’s roster. Everything is Recorded is basically the same idea but a more beat heavy approach.

The supergroup is the project of XL Recordings label head Richard Russell and there are tons of collaborations. Most are from the XL (and sister label Young Turks) roster Such as Sampha, Ibeyi,Wiki and Kamasi Washington. Other guests include Damon Albarn, Owen Pallett, Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside and Peter Gabriel but to be honest these musicians contribute to the music, rather than singing on the album.

The album starts off with a mini mix of the album and it becomes that the moniker Everything is Recorded is no misnomer for throughout the album there’s a mix of styles; there’s the soulful Close but not Quite with Sampha’s mellifluous vocals, honestly the guy could read a shopping list and give the listener goosebumps,She Said has a hip hop backbeat then the reggae lite of Wet Looking Road and back again to soul with standout, Mountains of Gold by then already half the record is finished but it just goes to show how this album flows despite the mixtape feel.

Everything is Recorded reminds me of a modern take of the trip hop albums I used to listen to in the mid 90’s. There’s a distinctly nighttime feel to these tracks, though this is not to say that these songs are sinister but there is a downbeat atmosphere and it is great, the vocal samples weaving in and out of the beats also complements the vibe.

Usually so many collaborations, there are 22 guests on this record, lead to an egofest but on here it’s missing. Each artist has their own space to sing and they use it well, giving it a 100%  saying that Ibeyi is clearly the star as half the album features their vocals but it feels organic and their voices blend in nicely and work well with the other guests and shifting the big name collaborators to the background is an interesting idea that helps push the younger talent on the record.

As this is a producer’s album, the production values are of a high standard. Even after my 10th listen I still am discovering new sounds be it studio dialogue or a beeping noise, Everything is Recorded is a surprisingly busy album but it’s done so well that after a while one notices there’s a lot going on.

Everything is Recorded is an excellent album, filled with many moments that just make the listener shiver. The fact that this project has over twenty guests and it all hangs together in an organic manner gives the middle finger to the cliche too many cooks spoil the broth. Here this soup is probably rich but good for you.

 

 

Superorganism – Self-titled

Superorganism

 

Sometimes you come across a record that matches your personal style. What I mean by this is that the lyrics, melodies and general aesthetic are something you can relate to in a big way. For me, this how Superorganism’s debut record felt to me. It hit me in every single way.

Superorganism are an eight piece band consisting of members hailing from different countries and continents, their style of music is a poppy electronica that also melds guitars with the big beats. The whole project is united by the laconic vocals of Orono. At times I was reminded of the crazy sampledelia of The Avalanches. At other times Fat Boy Slim came to mind, weirdly enough I thought of Aphex Twin and Moldy Peaches as well.

This is a busy record; beats thump,croak, burble, pop and fart. There is also use of found sounds. Sometimes I was sure I heard the sound of people chewing food, children laughing,water flowing, opening cans and typing on keyboards. Despite all these sounds Superorganism is a coherent record packed with enough fun to keep the tunes bright and catchy.  I cannot single out a single track because they are all good. The slacker pop of Everybody wants to be Famous , The cartoony The Prawn Song , The weird lyrics of Nobody Cares, the closing track Night Time flirts with Drum and Bass;  it is  the most colorful sounding album you’ll hear all year.

It was definitely a good idea to release this album during the colder months simply because I cannot wait to listen to this album during the summer season. Superorganism’s debut screams summertime due to the feel good factor this record exudes. In world that plagued with scandals and wars, Superorganism will provide a half hour escape into a more innocent place.

 

Dream Wife – Self-titled

DW

 

After purchasing two albums that were growers, my third pick from my album club pack is complete comfort food. As much as an experimental album is thrilling, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I like good ol’ indie rock and Dream Wife do deliver.

Dream Wife are a trio and they play straight up guitar rock. Thus their debut album is chock full of great riffs, catchy choruses and a rousing sense of fun. There’s a ton of things in these tracks that I like in songs: hand claps, backing vocals ( nothing beats a good wooo on a track) and all three voices singing in unison.

However Dream Wife is not only made up of infectious tunes. The majority of the lyrics have a feminist slant to them and lead singer Rakjel Mjöll likes bark her vocals which reminds me of Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear at times.

As I have said before, After a long hiatus, British indie rock seems to be making a comeback but so far, the ones I’ve heard don’t manage to balance the punchy and melodic as Dream Wife. DW have made an excellent debut that doubles up as a powerful statement and in 2018 where everything as gone doolally it’s good to have a band that can make you forget everything and slyly remind you what’s wrong with the world at the same time.

Khruangbin – Con Todo el Mundo

Khruangbin

Houston psychedelic band, Khruangbin ( Thai for engine fly) have called their second album Con Todo El Mundo, which in English means everybody in Spanish. This is apt as the album has a global feel.

CTEM is a largely instrumental album, in fact the only words are usually just the odd phrases or just a bit of chanting, although Shades of Man has the band explaining to someone on how to pronounce their moniker but words are sparse.

Usually when I’m confronted with record that comprises of instrumentals, I tend to switch off but here its different and I attribute that to the variety of tracks, take bits and pieces from other cultures and create something unique.  Within the record’s 43 minutes I hear elements of middle eastern music, funk, Cambodian rock and on the standout track Evan Finds the Third Room the band play an upbeat fluid funky backbeat punctuated by someone saying yes every few seconds, thus creating a fun goofy track that oddly feels out of place from the dreamy feel of the album and yet it sounds right.

When Con Todo El Mundo sunk in, I was reminded of  my listening tastes of the mid to late 00’s when I was investing in bands who liked to cross cultures within the boundaries of rock music, two bands I was crazy about was Dengue Fever and Fool’s Gold. I’m not saying Khruangbin sound like these bands but personally I would like it if groups who cross pollinate their music styles would make a comeback.

What else can I say about this album? Nothing else really. It’s a great Sunday afternoon record, it flows at a relaxing pace and there’s a lot of interesting sounds to invest your ears in. Excellent.

Nils Frahm – All Melody

Nils Frahm

As modern composer Nils Frahm is known for his different ways of recording an album, So I decided to try an experiment and listen to All Melody on different devices.

Attempt 1 – Playing on a laptop

This was a complete failure, the only sounds that emerged were the electronic ones.

Attempt 2 – Playing the album on a tiny portable stereo

Not too bad. once again certain sounds sounded weak but I got an idea of the basic structure of the album.

Attempt 3 – Playing the album on my discman with headphones ( yes I still own one)

Excellent. Every detail stood out, I could hear the melodies and I was able to concentrate on the music.

Other than Frahm’s rather excellent Late Night Tales mix, I have never heard a proper album by this composer so I was pleased when it was announced as the core album for the month of February by the always excellent Rough Trade Album Club. I need an album that takes me out of my indie rock comfort zone.

I know much has been said about the recording of this album: mostly done in one take, built a studio, replaced certain instruments with others, including toys in order to fool listeners. By not having an overall concept, Frahm’s managed to let all the restrictions he put on himself in the past (obviously excluding the Screws album, where he broke his piano playing fingers and had to improvise) and create a more relaxed album.

All Melody is a song cycle. Repetitive motifs weave in and out of sparse piano based tracks, some electronic ones and then there are choirs. Frahm always keeps things interesting by adding new instruments to the mix. Sometimes you’ll hear a flute, clarinet or a marimba. As the album’s title states there is an emphasis on melody but none of these tracks are instant earworms. These twelve tracks need time for their presence to be felt. Saying that the second I heard the album in my earphones I was naggingly hooked. It is no exaggeration that I am still playing All Melody at any opportunity I get and with each spin yields new discoveries. However the album has to be taken as a whole. It’s not easy to sit through a 75 minute album but this type of music demands that you take time to listen to it and it is rewarding.

It’s strange how these instrumentals manage to feel intimate and personal yet retain a playful atmosphere. I cannot say that this is Frahm’s best album as I have not heard enough but I can definitely say that All Melody is a piece of work that will resonate with you for a very long time.

 

 

Wiki – No Mountains in Manhattan

no mountains in manhattan_wiki

Although I do like hip-hop, I find it difficult to review as I tend to focus on the same aspects and I think my knowledge isn’t strong enough to write about it and it takes ages for the album to click. Anyways, here goes….

No Mountains in Manhattan echoes a lot of things that I like in a hip hop album; basically  big beats, a lot of samples, and creative rhyming. In other words there’s roots in the golden age of hip hop era and Wiki does have an old skool feel to the 18 tracks on this album. There’s also some new touches as well. Made for this and Pandora’s Box have a bit of a club vibe but Wiki is at his best when he’s in soulful party mode , which one can hear on Mayor.

There’s also a small but impressive roster of guests: Ghostface Killah , Ukranian rapper Your Old Droog, Antwon Earl Sweatshirt and Lakutis, not to mention a handful of producers helmed this album: two major names being XXXChange and Kaytranada  . There’s a lot going for this record and it does pay off.

Rather than being a fun album No Mountains is admirable for its eclectic nature: there are jazz numbers, Klezmer music, big beat, soul and some gritty beats. It’s an interesting listen that may seem heady at first but once things settle this album yields a lot of new discoveries.

What else can I say? I would not recommend this for someone who is new to the genre due to the length and scope of the record but if you’ve worn out your Madlib/Quasimoto albums then Mountains in Manhattan is great.