The cream of the crop.
Friday is here, which means it’s release day for a bunch of artists at home and around the world. With so many hot releases out there to tuck into, we’ve compiled some of the best to present to you for the weekend.
For this week, we’ve got a gnarly double header of blistering UK punk from shame and Sleaford Mods, plus new ones from Pearl Charles, Midnight Sister and another taste of the genius of Tommy Emmanuel.
shame – Drunk Tank Pink
Hailing from South London, shame are a shining example of the new vanguard of post-punk. Fusing pounding rhythms with jolting guitars and the visceral vocal performances of frontman Charlie Steen, the band’s 2018 debut Songs Of Praise was celebrated as one of the year’s most promising guitar records, with tracks like ‘One Rizla’ and ‘Concrete’ packing an infectious energy without compromising on the band’s punky ethos. Now, the UK group have followed up on that promise with their latest effort Drunk Tank Pink: a record that’s far more twisted, deranged and fascinating than their debut, and all the better for it.
Recorded with Foals and Arctic Monkeys producer James Ford, Drunk Tank Pink is simply visceral – the production is phenomenal, and shame’s performances over the course of the album rip. The chaotic structures and effects fuckery peppered across ‘Born in Luton’ sets a stellar tone for the record, while the influence of Talking Heads oozes out of recent single ‘Nigel Hitter’ in abundance.
Meanwhile, the breakbeat-driven ‘Snow Day’ sees Steen deliver one of his most captivating vocal performances on the record, with the song fluctuating form with reckless abandon to dizzying effect. Make sure you remember this one – there’s every chance it’ll be scattered across best-of lists again in eleven months time.
Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs
A riotous presence in today’s musical landscape, electro-punk duo Sleaford Mods are back again for their 11th full-length album in the form of Spare Ribs. Recorded in the span of three weeks amid Britain’s first COVID-19 lockdown, Spare Ribs sees vocalist Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Fearn deliver another scathing take on the socio-economic issues that run rampant in the UK today, addressing austerity, Brexit, class conflicts and the country’s maligned approach to managing the pandemic.
On ‘Nudge It’, twinkling pianos, angular guitars and a thumping 808 underscore Williamson’s fiery microphone presence, with a surprise feature from Amyl & The Sniffers’ Amy Taylor elevating the track to new levels of intensity. ‘Elocution’, meanwhile, sees Williamson flirt with a hilarious upper class accent over a beat that verges on mid-’00s ringtone territory, while ‘Mork N Mindy’ features one of the record’s most ominous compositions, made all the more sinister by an appearance from Billy Nomates. Keep your ears out for the title track, too – it’s an absolute synth-punk banger.
Whether dabbling with all-out industrial, rambunctious electro or barebones appraisals of the UK’s flailing social structures, Sleaford Mods never lose their flame, and on Spare Ribs, their power is proved in its droves.
Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror
Combining breezy Americana with Motown grooves and hints of playful psychedelia, LA-based singer-songwriter Pearl Charles’ latest album Magic Mirror is brimming with sensational songwriting and wonderful arrangements alike.
Beginning with the ABBA-invoking disco rock of ‘Only for Tonight’, Charles kicks off Magic Mirror with a bang, and from there, the record just doesn’t falter. The shuffling drums, sly bass lines and triumphant horns of ‘Imposter’ help colour Charles’ tale of imposter syndrome – supposedly written while tripping on magic mushrooms on Nantucket Island – with the following track ‘Don’t Feel Like Myself’ mirroring that exact sentiment in the form of a gorgeous lap-steel assisted pop ballad.
Elsewhere, the harpischord-imbued ‘Sweet Sunshine Wine’ bridges the gap between country and baroque pop, while ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ carry all the hallmarks of a ’70s radio classic. All-in-all, a wonderful road trip record, and one that’ll definitely warrant repeat listens.
Midnight Sister – Painting The Roses
A collaborative duo between multidisciplinary LA artists Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian, Midnight Sister specialise in blissed-out hooks, subtle grooves and an instantly recognisable visual aesthetic. On their new album Painting The Roses, the two showcase their talents over twelve tracks that are as eccentric as they are effervescent, making for a curious listen that’s certainly not short on inspiration.
Built around a canvas of mellotrons, sweeping string arrangements and vibraphones, Painting The Roses remains sonically cohesive throughout the entirety of its runtime, letting Giraffe layer her captivating vocals with relative ease. The spacious, funky psych-pop of ‘Escalators’ and ‘Sirens’ prove to be two of the album’s more accessible moments, but it’s on songs like ‘Dearly Departed’ with its cosmic saxophone and the minimal, Nico-invoking ‘Tomorrowland’ that showcase Painting The Roses’ most exciting moments.
Tommy Emmanuel – Imagine EP
By far the most talented Australian guitarist of all time, Tommy Emmanuel has offered a brief reminder of just how clean of a player he is on the short-yet-sweet EP Imagine. Featuring an instrumental cover of the famous John Lennon anthem and two original compositions from Emmanuel, it’s yet another wonderful release from the local virtuoso, and should serve as essential listening for any keen finger style player.
Originally recorded for his 1999 LP Only, ‘Since We Met’ and ‘I’ve Always Thought Of You’ demonstrate Emmanuel’s knack for plucking out romantic melodies and fusing them with tender chordal arrangements. They’re both precisely performed and emotionally potent – it’s easy for guitarists to opt for just one and not both – while his cover of ‘Imagine’ is just as magical as you’d expect it to be. Another fine outing from one of the best to ever do it.
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