Each month we bring you a handy round-up of the most exciting new releases.
This month sees albums, EPs and singles from SLONK, Cousin Kula, The Dunwells, Beans On Toast and loads more.
AOTM – Slonk – Losing My Mind on the Outside of Everything
Self-release | 01.12
Slonk is the fiercely DIY project of Joe Sherrin, known for fronting punk band, Milo’s Planes. Releasing a solo record last year, Sherrin presented fragile and endearing songwriting within rough-edged, spirited noise, a suitable embodiment for the anxious melancholy that fills the thematic air, characterising Slonk as a whole. Now with a new EP, Slonk is showing fine progression, Sherrin identifying the melodic possibilities that can be subtly unearthed from within, while still embracing the brittle nature of its delivery. Losing My Mind on the Outside of Everything is another engaging chapter from a spirit just trying to find their place within the world.
The balance of animation and composure evokes a beautiful atmosphere across the EP’s short twenty minutes. ‘Carousel’ gently explores the cycle of life in pursuit of happiness, full of instrumental swells and slight changes in pace, while ‘Blackboards’ and ‘Die Here’ unearth emotion amongst the progressions, whether uplifting catharsis or reflective disappointment. What’s most striking is Sherrin, delivering with evident subjection throughout as notions lay bare with a graceful detail – it’s a thoroughly compelling listen. Ross Jones
The Dunwells – Colour My Mind
Playing in Traffic | 01.12
Leeds-based quartet The Dunwells have certainly committed to developing their sound since the release of their 2012 debut. This month’s new five-track release, a year in the making, showcases an impressive collection of alt-pop melodies and folk-rock influences, blended with the unquestionable harmonies of the band’s four vocalists.
Title track ‘Colour My Mind’ takes on a gospel-inspired, feel-good atmosphere, straying somewhat from the melancholic tones of the band’s earlier work. A particular highlight by the name of ‘Fire Down’ is seductively aggressive, while the band’s traditional sombre folk arrangements return for ‘Battling Life’, reinventing the signature Dunwells sound that we already know and love. Kelly Ronaldson
Belle and Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems: Part 1
Matador | 08.12
2017 has resounded with human problems. Belle and Sebastian issue the first of three consecutive monthly EPs, the title suggesting a therapeutic instruction manual for contemporary living. On this evidence, nostalgia is a major requirement. ‘Fickle Season’ and ‘Sweet Dew Lee’ recall 70s lounge pop, with a mid-section in the latter like a classic American cop show theme.
‘The Girl Doesn’t Get It’ could introduce an 80s quiz, its ‘My Sharona’ bassline lending a slightly restless groove. Stuart Murdoch goes all Neil Tennant on ‘We Were Beautiful,’ remembering halcyon days to an Emeli Sandé beat. Predominantly-instrumental closer, ‘Everything Now’ is a Chumbawamba-meets-Pink-Floyd chill-out, with Air’s Moon Safari for additional solace. Jon Kean
Pussyliquor – Pussyliquor’s 7″ Wonder
Revulva | 08.12
When your beloved gives you the new Pussyliquor AA-side for Christmas, consider two possibilities. Either it’s loving approval of your fine taste in narky, anarchic Brightonian punk, or, taking the rampant scorn of lead track, ‘Get Out’ as a yardstick, it might be an omen that good will isn’t on the festive agenda.
Pussyliquor’s aim is to put the “amp into tampon,” which sounds painful, but their riotous grrrlhood is truly electric. Second song, ‘Kitty Kitty,’ sticks its claws into cat-callers and draws blood. Short and caustically sharp, this release makes an ideal stocking-filler for all lovers of profanity – and a bracing alternative to commercial radio’s hellish festive musak loop. Jon Kean
Beans On Toast – Cushty
X-Tra Miles Recordings | 01.12
In a typically indignant Frank Turner-esque manner, you feel directly addressed throughout the entirety of this album. The acoustic guitar-driven folk flits from the American to the Celtic, although the jaunty piano later invokes a slight Chas n Dave vibe.
Often sidestepping poetic device for a diatribe of prose, it’s reminiscent in lyrical style to The Streets, yet lacking the wit and playfulness which made them so endearing and entertaining. The socio-political commentary in particular feels awkwardly shoe-horned in and eye rollingly-preachy. This is a shame, as the record does demonstrate some overt storytelling skill, such as on the precise ‘Taylor Swift.’ Stuart Tidy
Ola Szmidt – EP 1
Self-release | 01.12
Perhaps the most stunningly affecting facet of musical exploration is the awakening of sensual imagination through melodic connection. On York-based musician Ola Szmidt’s debut EP, haunting beauty and enigma permeates through every sonic level, plunging the listener into a bewildering and unfamiliar setting of darkness.
Opener ‘Autumn’ relies upon unconventional yet poignant ritual chanting to leave its emotional stain, while Szmidt’s liquid tones are emphasised against an ethereal and jangling jazz background on ‘Moja’. The most spiritually-rewarding moments are experienced through the vocal and instrumental layering of ‘Satellites’, with its deeply evocative effort an encapsulation of the writer’s tender approach. Will Perkins
Hater – Red Blinders
Fire Records | 01.12
Hater are a wonderfully expressive group. Their first full-length, the tender melancholy of You Tried, introduced us to a group with understated songwriting ability and the mysticism of being from a small town in Northern Europe – something that thankfully has not come to completely define who are they are as a group, due to their aforementioned propensity.
New, EP ‘Red Blinders’ – their first for Fire Records – shows a surprisingly immediate development, the group finding the perfect serenity in clarity for their slowly unveiling pop. The EP swells withins its yearning layers of guitar and Caroline Landahl’s startling temperament, all the while displaying their affectionate distillation of songwriting, their biggest asset. Ross Jones
The Spook School – Could It be Different?
Alcopop! Records | 26.01
The choice to be yourself is one that’s made every day, over and over. From the gnarled bounce of ‘Still Alive’ through the sunshine-y relaxation and clear skies of ‘Bad Year’, The Spook School’s Could It Be Different? soundtracks that decision. It celebrates you and all that you stand for.
Furiously angry, but using that fire to fuel something bigger than themselves, this record scratches beneath the surface and shines bright in the face of adversity. Get up and go party anthems fall into quiet reflections and hard-earned lessons, but there’s a resilient spark that beams throughout. The world could be a different, but this record couldn’t be better. Ali Schutler
Tune-Yards – I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life
4AD | 19.01
Tune-Yards is known for using abstract percussive elements which can be equal measures jarring and fascinating. Yet her fourth record stands as the most consistent and upbeat, whether firing out 80s bass slaps in ‘Look At My Hands’ or crooning over grungy sonic atmospherics in ‘Free’.
At the same time however, ‘Coloniser’ holds self-aware observations on race and ‘Now as Then’ scolds needing permission to act like a woman. I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life is urgent and captivating pop music which can be danceable and eerily serene all at once. Oliver Evans
Cousin Kula – Oodles
Chiverin | 01.12
We’ve all got one cousin who’s a little bit weird, an idea clearly embraced by Bristol-based group Cousin Kula on their freaky new EP, Oodles. The five-song effort oozes with seductive versatility, proving reminiscent of Tame Impala’s finest work whilst remaining original enough to avoid becoming a weak imitation, or reliant on clichéd tropes.
Oscillating between the psychedelic bliss of ‘Working For It’, and the funky haze of ‘Off Your Chest’, the release nonetheless flows forcefully, aided by the soothing, mellifluous tones of Elliot Ellison’s distinct vocals, highlighted on standout track, ‘What You Know’ by his wails throughout of “unforgettable”, an apt description of his band’s work. Will Perkins
Dot Product vs The Beamz – Our Love is a Raging Sea
Self-release | 01.12
There are ambitious projects and then there’s this. The Beamz have teamed up with Dot Product to rework material from their original classical production, Russian Winter, a multi-media theatrical piece inspired by Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. The result is a heavy, sinister and stark listen, packed with angst and uncertainty.
Title track ‘Our Love Is A Raging Sea’ is the perfect example of this, making for the perfect soundtrack to a cold Stalin regime. Despite the industrial sensibilities, there’s a lot of space and tension, with eerie vocals building throughout. This is a bold and immersive project taking the idea of a concept album to another level. Rhys Buchanan
Little Baby Sharks – EP 1
Invisible Llama | 02.12
The debut release from Bristol’s Little Baby Sharks, EP 1 proves to be true to the band’s name: Short, snappy and with a little bite. Blending a typical punk urgency with heavy metal influenced instrumental combinations, the three-piece channel an appealing playfulness through their otherwise aggressive sound.
With a precise directness to their work – each track runs just over two minutes – the group switch between the alarming male vocals of ‘Moon Hacks’ and ‘Love’ and the arresting, Americanesque female tones on ‘Riding in Cars’ and ‘Sheep Dog’, powerfully creating an intriguing versatility atop an otherwise consistent sound. Will Perkins
Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
Late Night Tales | 26.01
The sophomore album from Texan trio Khruangbin mixes a diverse set of influences in order to create a satisfyingly whole. Con Todo El Mundo (‘with everyone’), much like the group’s debut, combines Thai funk, American gospel and the instrumental surf rock of Hank Marvin to create a relaxed psychedelia which is very much the band’s own.
Instruments take priority over vocals in the Khruangbin world as the bass, organ and drumming provide a funky yet mellow backbeat for guitarist Mark Speer’s lead licks. The album’s understated cool is a perfect soundtrack for escapism on a cold winter’s night, so pour yourself a cocktail, lie back and let the music take you somewhere warm. Tim Ellis
Dream Wife – Dream Wife
Lucky Numbers | 26.01
Among the outstanding names to continue the legacy of bands such as The Julie Ruin and Sleater Kinney, London punk trio Dream Wife release their self-titled debut next month via Lucky Number. Packed with seductive riffs, punk-infused undertones and an infectious pop nature, the eleven-track record does not disappoint.
Highlights come in the form of ‘Somebody’s memorable chorus and the cheerful girl-band atmosphere of ‘Kids’, but it’s album opener ‘Let’s Make Out’ that takes centre stage here. While the band’s name marks an unapologetic commentary on society’s objectification of women, their sound blends traditional indie-rock with electro-pop vibes, anthemic vocals and a political pop twist – an impressive combination guaranteed to go far. Kelly Ronaldson