Viagra Boys, Aaron Frazer + more: our five favourite records of the week
08.01.2021

Viagra Boys, Aaron Frazer + more: our five favourite records of the week

Words by Will Brewster

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.

To kick off the new year, we’re spotlighting an absolutely blistering effort from Stockholm’s Viagra Boys and a soulful affair from emerging US talent Aaron Frazer, as well as a phenomenal debut from Efterklang frontman Casper Clausen and new releases from French beatmaker Wax Tailor and Norwegian singer-songwriter Jarle Skavhellen – let’s kick it.

Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz

Three years after the rude awakening of their debut LP Street Worms, Stockholm post-punks Viagra Boys have doubled down on the mayhem for their latest effort Welfare Jazz. A collision of horn-heavy jams, atmospheric synth rock and jagged punk, Welfare Jazz is an absolute hoot of a record that sees Viagra Boys at their most loutish, with frontman Sebastian Murphy proving to be a magnetic, freakish force over the course of the record. 

The glitchy, twisted jazz-punk opener ‘Ain’t Nice’ sets a perfectly absurd tone for the album, while ‘Secret Canine Agent’ pairs a Krautrock groove with rave stabs and bizarre synth sequences as Murphy snarls overhead. Elsewhere, ‘Girls & Boys’ sees Viagra Boys tackle gender politics, while the atmospheric double-up of ‘Into The Sun’ and ‘Creatures’ helps to showcase a different side to the group. Welfare Jazz is a fascinating, wildly unpredictable sophomore release that surely assert Viagra Boys as one of the most exciting groups of their calibre today. 

Aaron Frazer – Introducing…

Branching out from behind the drummer’s chair of Durand Jones & The Indications and linking up with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Aaron Frazer’s debut Introducing… is a warm, danceable debut packed with soulful songwriting and hip-swaying grooves. Opting for a vintage palate of analogue equipment and a sound inspired by Stax and Motown greats, Introducing… is the perfect throwback album for any soul survivor, with Frazer’s gorgeous falsetto adding a striking quality to the record to bridge the gap between then and now. 

Driven by a muted bass line and adorned with jazzy flutes, Hammonds and clavinets, early single ‘Bad News’ oozes out swagger, while the Wurlitzer and horn-adorned bounce of ‘If I Got It (Your Love Bought It)’ showcases Frazer’s tender high register and heartfelt lyricism. Auerbach’s vintage production across the record is nothing short of perfect, with the Black Keys frontman employing old-school session gurus to make Introducing… as authentic as soul gets – ‘Over You’ and ‘Girl On The Phone’ being obvious examples. A must-listen for any funk/soul purist.

Casper Clausen – Better Way 

Best known as the vocalist of Danish indie rockers Efterklang, Casper Clausen’s airy, grandiose singing has been a striking highlight of many of the band’s tunes over the past 20 years. Now, Clausen steps out as a solo artist on the phenomenal debut LP Better Way: a blissful, textural collection of songs that draw from shoegaze, krautrock, psychedelia and ambient that depicts the Danish frontman as an ambitious, refined sculptor of sound. 

Kicking off with the Neü-like motorik rhythms of ‘Used To Think’ before spiralling into the hypnotic post-rock of ‘Feel It Coming’, Better Way is jam-packed with gorgeous lyrics and flourishes of canny sound design, with Clausen’s breathy falsetto hovering over serene synthesisers and programmed drums. Album highlight ‘Little Words’ almost sounds like a lost, hypnotic U2 B Side from 1987, while ‘Dark Heart’ drenches Clausen’s voice in Auto-Tune as he seeks to mend a flailing relationship. 

Ending on a high with the freaky left-turn of ‘8 Bit Human’ and the ambient, pulsing tones of ‘Ocean Waves’, Better Way marks a wonderful debut effort from Clausen that’ll please any self-respecting indie rock aficionado.

Wax Tailor – The Shadow of Their Suns

Five years on from Any Beats Necessary, French trip-hop veteran Wax Tailor for another head-bopping, sample heavy affair on The Shadow Of Their Suns. Meticulously crafted from cinematic soundbites and chopped-up vinyl obscurities, The Shadow Of Their Suns packs an eclectic list of vocal features and some unconventional twists and turns.

‘Never Forget’ stacks endless samples for a hypnotic, snappy affair, and on ‘Everybody’, Wax Tailor sews feature verses from Del The Funky Homosapien and Mr. Lif to a dark funk groove in the vein of Madlib and J Dilla. Inaugural Rhythm & Flow winner D Smoke pops up for a stellar feature on the rollicking ‘Keep It Movin’, while the wah-wah guitars and thumping bass of ‘Shining Underdog’ keep the groove rolling through the record’s middle-stretch. Inspirational fodder for any beat maker.

Jarle Skavhellen – Beech Street 

Roots music tends to be most associated with the American heartland, but on Beech Street, Norwegian singer-songwriter Jarle Skavhellen showcases a unique take on the genre that’s full with authenticity and individuality. 

The shuffled drums and washed-out guitars of ’20 Fathoms Deep’ give ample space for Skavhellen to spin his stories, while on the lush album opener ‘Drive’, gentle steel-string arpeggios build into a surging wall of sound as intricate countermelodies run amok in the background of the mix. 

‘Winnebago’ and ‘Crash & Burn’ sees Skavhellen flex his bluegrass chops with banjos, lap-steels and brushes galore, with the Norwegian troubadour throwing some tongue-in-cheek songwriting into the latter to make for a rousing album standout. 

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