Fortnightly Shortbites – An Album Review Round-up (Late Jan to Early Feb) 2

Fortnightly Shortbites – An Album Review Round-up (Late Jan to Early Feb)

Here’s our fortnightly round up of recent albums, this time released between late January and early February. And my, there have been some corkers. As usual, the reviews were written by me unless otherwise specified. Helping me this time around, I had Trev Elkin, Max Mazonowicz and the man at the top, Bill Cummings.

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For her second album, Nashville singer-songwriter Erin Rae decamped along with production genius Jonathan Wilson to the Californian Bohemian enclave of Topanga Canyon with a host of musicians (including Hand HabitsMeg Duffy, Kevin Morby and Spencer Cullum). The result is a curiously beguiling Country album for those who say they don’t really like Country Music (though not in a Kacey Musgraves way). Rae’s distinctive voice leans toward 70s American folk, carrying the weight of wisdom in her lyrics like someone twice her age. Lighten Up glows with those classic, warm vibes under Wilson’s guiding hands, offering Rae’s songcraft a special sheen and a space to develop its many and varied ideas. We like those citric bursts of 60s psychedelia in ‘Candy & Curry’, ‘Modern Woman’s radio-friendly, gender stereotype-bashing and the sweeping, gorgeous open-heartedness of ‘Mind/Heart’. But, to absorb Rae’s fully sun-soaked, Vitamin D effect, you’ll need to sit with it a few times and let it do its thing. 8/10 Trev Elkin 

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Throughout anna, LA songwriter Ann Grace Gray aka Gracie Gray’s voice rises and falls like a downy feather in a breeze. One minute it hits your ears like a cool, sharp wind, the next it’s a warm flutter. Gray says her debut album, recorded and produced at home, is ‘about holding onto love for yourself through all of life’s changes’, a sentiment that authentically plays out through its often delicate arrangements of acoustic guitar, piano and the lightest touch of percussion and intimate lyrics that cut to the bone. Gray paints in much darker tones on ‘Happiness’, ‘Love You’ and ‘Dig’, which take their cues from grunge, slow-core and folk-drone, with shades of Grouper or Squirrel Flower. Ultimately, anna is a gentle, slow-burning nighttime gem that hints that there is a powerful emotional presence somewhere behind all this, out of sight, contained for now. 8/10 Trev Elkin 

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Japanese band Scandal formed in high school in 2006 and comprise of four young ladies who walk a fine line between classic pop and bubblegum. This means that, on their latest long player Mirror, while you get tracks like ‘Eternal‘, which recalls All Saints, and various other agreeable tunes in the vein of Kylie Minogue or Avril Lavigne, there are at least three that sound uncannily like Pinky and Perky. Needless to say, I prefer the ones that don’t. 6/10

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Washington outfit Datura returned at the end of January with Arcano Chemical, a brooding piece of post-punk Goth meets early eighties New Wave that is somewhere between The Cure in their early days and Balthazar with nods to Visage and Viet Cong along the way. Intense barely covers it. And those icy cold Will Sergeant style guitars are utterly compelling. Tremendous stuff, especially the strangely uplifting ‘Sapphire‘. 8/10

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Beirut‘s Artifacts is a fascinating retrospective taking you – in the sleeve notes at least – right back to the mind of a then 11 year old Zach Condon, some nine years before his 2006 debut album Gulag Orkestar captured the hearts and minds of press and public alike. He seemed way ahead of his time, despite the fact that his music didn’t just dip its toes in the past but rather wallowed in it. And still does, somehow managing to remain fresh and maintain its modern sound. With this collection, Condon has brought together not only early EP releases like Lon Gisland and Elephant Gun, but also utterly beautiful, dreamy curios like ‘Autumn Tall Tales‘ and ‘Fyodor Dormant‘. Perhaps most revealing of all though are those recording from his early teens that should have been an indication, to anyone who was listening, that Zach Condon, most definitely, would be going places. You only need to listen to the wonkily intoxicating romance of ‘Sicily‘ or sombre tones of ‘Napoleon On The Bellerophon‘ to hear that, even if it is clear that, at that point, he appears to have decided he wanted to be Thom Yorke8/10

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At a sprightly 35 minutes the strangely titled The Alien Coast from blues rockers St Paul & The Broken Bones is a bit of a curveball. The band have been pretty consistent in their standard approach to classic rock-heavy soul and blues, but on their first album in four years take a slightly quirkier approach. From the 80 second opener ‘3000AD Mass’ sliding into the industrial electronic sounds of ‘Bermejo And The Devil’ it’s clear this is a band in a different gear. ‘Atlas’ is a dance track in all but, well, in every way, ‘The Last Dance’ has echoes of the soundtrack to Jane Fonda’s latest exercise video; released in 1984. It’d be easy to list each song with its sound as there’s such variety here. It’s an interesting record, and it’s always good to hear a band expanding their sound but this feels like a very different St Paul & The Broken Bones. 7/10 Max Mazonowicz

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If straight pop is what you’re after then Alix Page might be your thing. It’s not bubblegum pop, there’s definitely a rock edge to it, but her EP is four tracks and less than 15 minutes long. Taking cues from American indie pop bands from the late 90s/early 00s, Old News is decent enough to leave you wanting more than an EP at some point soon. 6/10 Max Mazonowicz

Starsailor Love Is Here 20th

Everyone knows ‘Good Souls’, certainly if you were anywhere near a radio back in 2002. More recently James Walsh (frontman of Starsailor) has been doing the rounds solo and you will definitely have seen him if you’ve been to the Isle Of Wight Festival any time in the last ten years. Love Is Here is better than you might remember. It’s not uplifting in anyway, but there is an anthemic quality to ‘Good Souls’ and ‘Alcoholic’ is a decent piano based number, with all the song beats that were popular 20 years ago. This 20th anniversary edition comes with a set of alternative versions (‘The Distillery Sessions‘) of the most popular tracks – which basically make them sound a bit more like spaghetti western U2 – and some other random tracks, including covers of Bill Withers and Gram Parsons. 6/10 Max Mazonowicz


Los Bitchos are a band you really want to like, only there’s something about them that makes you think you’re listening to one long 40 minute song. In a live environment, particularly a festival, they’re great value, but recording the quartet loses a big part of their uniqueness. That’s not to say Let The Festivities Begin is bad, it’s just not great. If you want to get a flavour of what they’re about then give ‘FFS’ or ‘Tripping At A Party’ a whirl – though in all honesty you could choose any song. 5/10 Max Mazonowicz

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South London singer/songwriter Dexy returns with his second album Sleeping Through Summer, and while he’s never going to be heralded as the future of rock and roll, this is undoubtedly a fun album, with tracks like ‘The Dying Breed‘ connecting the dots between Marc Bolan, Alvin Stardust and Dr Feelgood, while ‘Broken Records‘ plants its flag firmly in late eighties, early nineties indie. Some of the slower numbers strike me a little too ‘boy band’ for my liking, in fact I’m sure Dexy could probably make millions penning songs for such artists, as there’s no denying his songwriting chops, at least. 7/10

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If you miss Busted and McFly, you’ll love Kulick‘s Everyone I Know Will Die. Personally I don’t miss them one bit. 4/10

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Lady Wray‘s Piece Of Me, on the other hand, serves up a huge slab of retro-soul that pays equal tribute to the classic vibes of Bobby Womack, Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin as it does to more modern day purveyors of the genre such as Macy Gray, Mary J Blige, Amy Winehouse and even Alabama Shakes. January was a daft time to release it though, as it’s undoubtedly an album for those long hot summer days and nights. It’s a wonderful record by the way. 9/10


Another cracker of an album came in the form of Cat Dowling‘s Animals. It’s one of the most arresting sets of songs I’ve heard in some time, fervently intense on its opening salvo of the title track, ‘All That I Can Do‘, and ‘Trouble‘, and while comparisons with PJ Harvey are probably going to prove hard to avoid, there’s also something delightfully Cure like in Dowling’s brand of ever so slightly dark pop. It’s impossible to choose a standout track here, they’re all as good as each other. 8/10

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If instantly catchy, irresistibly structured pop records are more your thing, you could do worse than give queer music icon Bitch‘s new album, Bitchcraft, a spin. At times it feels like Anastasia meeting Joni Mitchell, with a slightly quirky bent that Lady Gaga would be proud of. A whole album full of songs as infectious as anything ABBA ever wrote, which is some accolade. 8/10

Modern Nature Island of Noise

Modern Nature‘s Island Of Noise is an interesting release, kicking off with the apparent freeform jazz of ‘Tempest‘ and making you wonder if its going to be a modern day Trout Mask Replica. But it’s nothing of the sort. It is an extremely pleasant listen, melding together elements of Belle & Sebastian, Teitur, Tunng and Ryley Walker. And even though nothing really sounds like the last artist I mentioned, he is still the one I draw the closest comparison with, purely for the reason that Island Of Noise is filled with the same kind of rural, rustic warmth that permeated Primrose Green. The only thing that stops me from truly throwing my arms around it, however, is that it’s largely one paced – gentle and mellow. So much so that it’s almost a relief when ‘Masque‘ and then ‘Brigade‘ breaks the silent stillness. A decent album nonetheless. 7/10

Yeule Glitch Princess

Singapore-born, London-based Nat Ćmiel is yeule. Welcome to the experience of the Glitch Princess: a genre less, non binary journey through different environments of their thrilling cyborg pop, ethereal, playful and cathartic, its a magical listening experience that constantly beguiles at every turn. The press release offered Glitch Princess is “the undiluted excerpt of a downpour of emotions following Ćmiel’s experiences with sobriety – a redirection of chaotic energy into verse and the opportunity to confront their own vices.”Electric‘ is a stunning and haunting moment of clarity, the SOPHIE-esque use of postmodern auto tune experimentation, stretches her falsetto and sample laden tapestry into an otherworldly soundscape where nobody can hear you scream, yet it still beats with heart.

Don’t be so hard on yourself‘ flutters with the ghost of early 90s guitar pop, intimate and infectious. ‘Too dead inside‘ skitters like the ghost in the machine, floating around in the ether looking for a way to hold on. For Fans of Grimes and FKA Twigs, but firmly oscillating through their own stratosphere, If Glitch Princess isn’t sitting its rightful place on the throne in the higher reaches of on the best of the year lists by the end of 2022, then I would be very surprised. 8/10 Bill Cummings

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Cate Le Bon has always been a pretty innovative artist and this continues on Pompeii. Its opening track sounds like Nico fronting The Au Pairs, all of them barely able to stand after imbibing some particularly strong mind expanding drugs. ‘Moderation‘ by comparison is a bright and breezy number, arguably the prettiest song Le Bon has put out to date (‘Harbour‘ later on the album could also stake a strong claim for that accolade), recalling both The Primitives and The Cranberries, and, to a lesser extent but still there, Rumours era Fleetwood Mac. Sure, you’re unlikely to be find the likes of ‘French Boys‘, ‘Cry Me Old Trouble‘ or the title track on a karaoke machine, but they have a hypnotic quality about them, which I find to be one of the most common factors of Le Bon’s work. Another worthy addition to the catalogue. 7/10

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Sometimes you meet people who say “I don’t even know what post-punk is.” When you meet those people, simply make sure you have Belgian trio Disorientations‘ new album Memory Lanes to hand. One quick run-through of that and you’ve pretty much played them every (first wave) post-punk band who ever existed – ‘Words‘ harks back to The Cure‘s ‘The Hanging Garden‘, ‘Allied‘ recalls Artery, and many of the compositions herein offer up Bunnymen guitars and the dark beating heart of Joy Division. Oddly though, frontman Niels Elsemans goes from sounding like Interpol‘s Paul Banks to Shed Seven‘s Rick Witter, which somehow scuppered my efforts to enjoy the album as much as I wanted to, even though there’s nothing wrong with either of those bands. 7/10

Big Thief Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You

As prolific as ever Big Thief returned with a huge 20 song record entitled Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.  Dragon… follows the 2020 solo albums of Big Thief members Adrianne Lenker (4AD), Buck Meek (Keeled Scales), and James Krivchenia (self-released), and the band’s 2019 albums U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. There are moments here as good as anything they have produced – the rattling percussion and Lenker’s ‘Time Escaping‘ is possessed with a wistful yet life affirming theme of the transcience and impermance of nature. Elsewhere the country tinged and bittersweet notes of ‘Certainty‘ ripple with a pleasingly heartfelt melody, the reflective widescreen Spud Infinity‘ rolls with harmonica laced mid-period Dylan and reaches towards universal experience. One of the best moments comes with ‘Simulation Swarm,‘ – its spindly guitars, clipped percussion and lucid lyrical imagery gives you a warm embrace, inverting their influences harking back to the most unique BT moments. So there’s much to admire here but its buried, especially in the second half, in so many tracks that it’s hard to take it all in. One can’t escape the feeling too that the record is too long with too many default BT songs, and theres a brilliant ten song album fighting to get out.

As with every Big Thief album Dragon… benefits from repeated plays, with musical nuances revealing themselves and lyrical imagery hitting you on repeated plays, yet unlike their debut or the superlative U.F.O.F it feels like some of these songs we are eavesdropping rather than being addressed directly. Maybe it’s our attention span that can’t maintain it or the songs aren’t as consistent all the way through. Or maybe its the sheer scale of Big Thief’s ambition here? But whatever the case, the over reliance on the Americana sound sadly waters down the end result. 7/10 Bill Cummings

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.