They Also Ran – Albums Roundup, January 2019

They Also Ran – Albums Roundup, January 2019


If you’re wondering why I’ve chosen a photo of Bertie the cat for our main image here, it’s because he’s pulling the EXACT same expression as i had when I listened to some of these…

There are so many albums released in each given month that it just seems such a shame to overlook anything. To that end, I have bundled the ones that went begging, unceremoniously, into a great big melting pot with a few choice words for each and every one. Many of my meanderings here are based on just one or two listens, so it’s quite feasible that, by the time it’s published, certain albums will have grown on me or indeed, not seem as good as I first thought. But hey, most records are listenable at worst, so without further ado, let’s get down to the nitty gritty…

Go Dark have been making big strides of late, and their debut album, Neon Young (Bella Union) is like the electronic side of Kylie partying with Do Me Bad Things. It’s just as frustrating as the latter band always came across to me, feeling like they’re capable of making a classic record but never quite reaching the dizzy heights you suspect they perhaps should. The laid back ‘Violetest Red‘ is probably the pick of the bunch but I have a hunch there are better things to come. 6/10

Similarly The Steel Woods are adept at what they do but nobody is going to accuse them of tearing up any rulebooks. Their sound owes debts to the Southern rock of ZZ Top or Montrose (yes, I know they’re from California, you needn’t write in to correct me), and even suggests they’ve been paying attention to Jason Isbell‘s last few records. Old News (Thirty Tigers) is a decent stab but some way to go before they’re even starting to lace the former Drive-By Truckers man’s boots. 6/10

Fredfades & Jawn Rice make luscious, smooth beats that come across like the perfect soundtrack to watching the early morning sunrise with your arms around a loved one. Jacuzzi Boys (Juno Records) is a minimalistic but sweetly captivating release worth anyone’s time. 7/10

Dodie‘s Human (Dodie Records) begins with merely the vocal harmony of ‘Arms Unfolding‘ and calls to mind both The Staves and Simon and Garfunkel, though the rest of proceedings are made up of enjoyable, slightly off kilter pop. 7/10

Altitudes & Attitude is a superduo of sorts, featuring Megadeth‘s Dave Ellefson and Anthrax‘s Frank Bello. That’s pretty much all you need to know. It sounds exactly how you’d expect it to. Get It Out (Megaforce) is not entirely my bag if I’m honest, but I can appreciate that they do what they do very well. 6/10

Machinefabriek‘s With Voices (Rough Trade) is like the soundtrack to a Dario Argento horror flick. It’s deep and intense, but I fear you’d have to be borderline psychopath to want to play it regularly. 6/10

Geppetto and the WhalesPassages (PIAS) is pretty but pedestrian. It’s nice enough but roughly half as exciting as Turin Brakes. 5/10

Evocative French singer Pi Ja Ma calls to mind Big Thief on ‘Pixies, Sylphs And Fairies‘ but then goes all Phil Spector produced girl band on us for ‘I Hate You‘, which is a terrific song. I can’t help feeling the whole thing is a bit too lightweight at times, but the good outweighs the twee in general, so Nice To Meet U (Wagram Music/Cinq 7) is worth a spin or two. 7/10

Kele Okereke‘s soundtrack to his own Leave To Remain play, released on The Orchard and focusing on gay marriage, is a million miles away from his formative years in Bloc Party and delivers the necessary pathos without ever descending into schmaltz. 7/10

Like the pitter patter of rain on your bedroom window, French-Cuban jazzmeisters Que Vola? set their stall out from the off with ‘Calle Luz‘, but if you’re not already a fan of the genre, later on their self titled album starts to grate after a while, like Beirut before the anti-depressants kick in. But what do I know? I can count all the jazz albums I own on one hand. 5/10

Trapper Schoepp is more of an inoffensive MOR pop affair, as evidenced on new record Primetime Illusion (Xtra Mile Recordings). Catchy tunes, and pleasant enough, but as cutting edge as Del Amitri attacking you with a plastic teaspoon. 6/10

Thank heavens then, for Toy, who have undoubtedly produced their best work to date on Happy In The Hollow (Tough Love). ‘Sequence One‘ is reminiscent of Clinic, while ‘Energy‘ bristles with vitality, rather aptly and ‘Last Warmth Of The Day‘ re-imagines Urge Overkill‘s version of
Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon‘ if Portishead had got hold of it. A wonderful mixture of styles, with several nods to the 60s along the way. Album of the month, as far as I’m concerned. 9/10

Dream Nails prove their versatility on live acoustic album Take Up Space (only available on bandcamp), calling to mind many references such as Courtney Barnett, The Lovely Eggs, Operator Please and Deaf School 7/10, while G.S. Schray‘s sombre meanderings on First Appearance are part Local Hero and part The Durutti Column‘s Someone Else’s Party. 7/10

Sunflower Bean‘s tunes can be as anthemic as Rainbow at times, and that seems to be the main touchstone on their King Of The Dudes EP (Lucky Number), along with, on ‘Come With Me‘, Prince, somewhat surprisingly. 7/10

Uruguayan guitarist and singer Juan Wauters conjures up big, dreamy nuances on his first Spanish language album La Onda da Juan Pablo (Captured Tracks), such beautiful imagery of Latin America being effected along the way. 8/10

Despite possessing a moniker that suggests she would be right at home with the beard scratching folk elite, Maggie Rogers is very much aimed at the commercial Radio 2 market, and let’s be fair, on Heard It In A Past Life (Polydor), she pulls that Sophie B Hawkins style appeal off rather well – these are warm, well crafted pop tunes that I don’t doubt we’ll be hearing in heavy rotation on Ken Bruce’s show as Record Of The Week between Popmaster rounds. 7/10

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have been baffled by the inordinate success of Thunder during the 1990s, as the London rockers seemed to infiltrate the UK Top 40 practically every week. Please Remain Seated (BMG) goes some way to explaining the success, full of reworked songs from their back catalogue. So ‘Bigger Than Both Of Us‘ becomes the kind of good time honky tonk beloved of Jools Holland on Later… and often The Eagles spring to mind. It’s still not entirely my bag, but at least now I GET it. 6/10

Eerie Wanda‘s wistful, twee pop of Pet Town (Joyful Noise) washes down quite easily, the gently affecting melodies quickly burrowing into your brain, redolent of some of the great female singers of the fifties. 7/10

Blood Red Shoes made a splendid return with the excellent, often brooding beast that is Get Tragic (Jazz Life). Some of it is like ‘indie Kylie‘ at her best, but the best thing about it is the depth of emotion, whether it’s Carter or Ansell at the helm. Scintillating stuff. 8/10

You could put the thinnest wafer between the songs on Snacks (Polydor) by Jax Jones, given their uncanny similarity to each other, but why waste that wafer? 2/10

Sticking with the chart type stuff, there are actually some decent tunes screaming to be heard on Future‘s new album Future Hndrxx Pts The Wizard (Epic/Freebandz) but it’s rendered nigh on unlistenable by an obsession with vocoders that would disturb even the most avid collector of other people’s blisters. 3/10

Swindle‘s No More Normal (Brownswood Recordings), meanwhile, is a masterclass in how to do crossover appeal. Rap, grime, R&B, hip hop and classic pop combine to mark the erstwhile Cameron Palmer as a real force to be reckoned with right now. 7/10

There’s nothing as immediate on Balthazar‘s latest, Fever (PIAS), as there was on Thin Walls a few years back, from the Depeche Mode-lite feel of the title track to the ominous brooding of ‘Whatchu Doin‘, but perseverance is key as the songs here build quite nicely. I’ll probably like this more, come Wednesday. 6/10

Who Do You Trust? (Eleven Seven) ask Papa Roach. Well, the simple answer is that you can trust Papa Roach not to make an album full of kazoo cover versions of Napalm Death songs. Maybe they should. This sounds exactly how you’d expect a Papa Roach album to sound. I think they may have fallen in love with their own reflection. 5/10

If Tears At My Age (Ex-Local) was the first thing you ever heard by them, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a tad surprising 4AD haven’t been clamouring to sign Hockeysmith. Their lush, expansive off the wall melodies you’d think would be right up their street. Elements of Cocteau Twins and Curve abound on the title track, but then they go all 80s disco on us with ‘Lonely Loving Me‘ and we spent the rest of the EP in legwarmers and headbands. Good though. 7/10

It’s all very well taking some influence from Joy Division, but surely Ist Ist are merely parodying them on Everything Is Different Now. You thought Editors and Interpol perhaps aped them a bit too much? Pfft. These guys are practically Ian Curtis incarnate. 6/10

Sneaks remains something of an acquired taste. Highway Hypnosis (Merge) begins with the title track, its vocal percussion gently entrancing you but the squeals of “Oh my GOD” quickly become as grating as Zappa‘s ‘Valley Girl‘. The rest of the long player is frustrating in its inconsistency but mostly just not exciting enough to fill the void. 5/10

Melbourne’s Press Club make glossy punk with a Springsteen like sheen. Their new album Late Teens is loaded with infectious ballsy tunes, even if they do tend to overdo the dramatics at times. 7/10

Lying somewhere between Marc Bolan and Pavement with a sprinkling of Conor Oberst and Ted Leo, Cat’s Game (Bad Paintings) by Dylan Rodrigue is a real ‘songwriter’s record’ and easy to embrace, especially when he puts his foot to the floor on the thrilling, ‘Gearjammer‘ like ‘The Money Game’. 7/10

The chilled out instrumental vibes of VAAL‘s Nosferatu sound great while you vegetate on top of your bed in total darkness (naturally) 7/10 while Sister John‘s country tinged rock insist you at least have the lights on dim; it’s released via Last Night From Glasgow, and nice enough, if not exactly scintillating, though the Velvet Underground like ‘I’m The One‘ is one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year. 7/10

Bring Me The Horizon‘s number one smash hit album Amo (RCA) opens quite tenderly with ‘I Apologise If You Feel Something‘. The rest of it is standard metalcore fare. I apologise guys, I didn’t feel a thing. Obvious jokes aside, it was better than I expected. 5/10

Remember how earlier on I said Trapper Schoepp’s album was like Del Amitri attacking you with a plastic teaspoon? Well, The Yacht Club‘s album, The Last Words That You Said To Me Have Kept Me Here And Safe (Beth Shalom Records) is the same, except this time they’re attacking you with Play-Doh instead. 5/10

Carson McHone‘s Carousel (Loose) is a faithful nod to the Country artists of a bygone era, her aching tones and sun-kissed, blissful Texan musical landscape not too far removed from that of Shelby Lynne. 7/10

K Michelle Dubois, meanwhile, released Harness, an enjoyable album that is somewhere between The B-52’s, The Bangles and The Breeders. Perhaps she never got any further than ‘B’ in her record collection before deciding to make her own music? 7/10

If you like instrumental guitar music, William Tyler‘s latest recording, William Tyler Goes West (Merge) should satisfy your appetite, and does exactly what it says on the tin. 6/10

Rudimental‘s Toast To Our Differences (Asylum) is a mixed bag. You’ll already know the gospel tinged, Jess Glynne and Macklemore featuring ‘These Days‘, and those poptastic heights are scaled again here and there, most notably on the Rita Ora collaboration ‘Summer Love‘, but it’s ultimately let down by the horror of tracks like James Arthur‘s contribution. Maverick Sabre‘s one, ‘They Don’t Care About Us‘, however, is a cracking slab of soul though and perhaps a Rudimental career best. 6/10

OGRE and Dallas Campbell released their fictitious All Hallows II soundtrack, paying homage to the horror themes of the late seventies and early eighties, most effectively evidenced by ‘Last Rays Of Sunlight‘, which treads a similar path to the popular Netflix show Stranger Things, and is just as wonderfully atmospheric. 7/10

Of all the boy bands, it was always Backstreet Boys who seemed the most capable of coming out with a killer party hit, such as ‘Everybody‘ or ‘Larger Than Life‘. A quick listen to DNA suggests they’re no longer capable. Horrible wishy washy bollocks. Frankly it’s embarrassing. 2/10

Mara Simpson‘s 285 Days begins well in winter’s grasp, but the warm soul of ‘Don’t Know Much‘ is like a roaring fire indoors during a blizzard, and the beautifully delivered vocals are full of naked emotion throughout. A beautiful album indeed. 8/10

So, that’s it for now. If there are any you think should have been included that weren’t, please let us know. Likewise, if you’re angry about any of my views on these records, well, I have the number for Samaritans if that helps? In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a track from my favourite January release, Toy’s Happy In The Hollow…

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