If you’re struggling with the genuine first-world problem known as ‘Not being at Glastonbury any more’ this July, then why not hang some speakers out of the window, stand outside, invite loads of people to drink cider in your garden and acquire a t-shirt tan to these releases?
AFRICA EXPRESS – EGOLI
Africa Express Records | July 12th
With such a vast collective of artists in just 18 tracks, you might be forgiven for wondering if the old “too many cooks” saying is true. Thankfully, EGOLI sidesteps the stereotype; it’s jam-packed, fizzing over with the electricity of South Africa in ‘City in Lights’, languishing in the sunshine of ‘Where Will This Lead Us To?’ and fighting revolutions in ‘Africa To The World’. The pre-released single, ‘Johannesburg’, featuring Gruff Rhys unearths novels of African history in its lyricism, while simultaneously feeling light and effortless in its contemporary percussion and rhythms. It’s a great choice for a lead album single; one that balances the customary with the current.
EGOLI as a whole tells a coming-of-age story of the continent. Up-and-coming Afrobeat artist Muzi contrasts the yodels of Zola 7 and Mahotella Queens on ‘The River’ that carry the heartbeat of community-driven music in Africa. He joins Ghetts for ‘No Games’ which features a hook that definitely fits the aesthetic of a Friday night set in Dalston Superstore. Together, the mesh of genres and histories makes for an engaging listen from start to finish.
Damon Albarn – of Blur and Gorillaz fame – and leader of the collective’s efforts, has allowed each track its own sense of ambiguity, meaning you’d do more harm than good in not listening to all 18 tracks in one sitting. Indulge yourself the time to pull at each thread of this tightly-woven tale of African heritage. Caitlin Clark
You can choose your bandmates. You can’t choose your siblings. It’s good fortune, therefore, that Jack and Lily Wolter, half of Penelope Isles, not only tolerate each other, but also collaborate beautifully. Listening to this idyllic, harmonious collection of songs, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine Lily insulting Jack as ‘a man holding a fork in a world of soup’, as Noel Gallagher said about his brother.
Until The Tide is a generous, lively dream-pop offering. Seven of the ten tracks exceed four minutes. ‘Leipzig’, at two-and-a-half minutes, feels substantial (Saxony Tourist Board – take note). They soar like Spiritualized; they simmer and shimmer like Mazzy Starr. On seven-minute epic, ‘Gnarbone’ they go motorik, using found sound like PSB. I’m defo going to the Penelope Isles for my summer holidays. Jon Kean
Texan trio Khruangbin – Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar and Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson on drums – are responsible for helping psychedelia somewhat out of the underground and on to daytime airwaves, thanks to their cooler-than-cool yet accessible brand of exotic funk. Inspired by ‘60s and ‘70s undiscovered soul from Thailand, the Mediterranean and Middle East, you’d be forgiven for thinking Khruangbin’s music is reserved solely for crate-diggers, revelling in the obscure. But moments into Hasta El Cielo – a dub version of 2018’s much-loved Con Todo El Mundo – you’d be hard-pushed to find someone who doesn’t fall for the beautifully-transportative, wavy dub sounds of bumbling bass, gently crunching guitar and tidy drums. Take a moment away from the frantic world we live in to relish the blissful sounds of Khruangbin. George O’Brien
It’s a brave move for an artist to sidestep their usual set up and craft an album made up entirely of instrumentals, but Carmen Villain has good reason on Both Lines Will Be Blue: “Leaving out my voice and lyrics got me out of my own head a bit, which I needed,” she explains on the subject. “Working with sound is to me the ultimate meditation and is a more unconscious way of expressing whatever is going on inside.”
The way she conveys her depth of feeling through soothing tracks such as ‘Are You For Real’ and ‘Sometimes I Love You Forever’ is breath-taking, with much of the journey backed by flute-based melodies and unhinged improv. Perhaps a combination you didn’t know you needed. Lee Wakefield
The Clavin sisters are back with their sea-soaked, West Coast garage punk and a new sense of perspective following their newfound sobriety. As a result, the album is awash with survivor anthems and reflections on their past lives. Lead single ‘Hard To Kill’ is an indie disco bop reminiscent of The Gossip circa 2009, while ‘Heartbeat Away’ possesses the power chord-heavy pop-punk of Charly Bliss and the catchy love-struck joy of Carly Rae Jepsen.
The band cast a wide musical net, incorporating post punk on ‘Get What I Need’ and a dreamy girl group sound on ‘Somebody Dial 911’. Despite the dark times that influenced it, the record leaves one buoyant: a reminder that daybreak is always on the horizon. Stephanie Phillips
Fifty years ago, the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon. This seismic anniversary prompted veteran music-maker Brian Eno to revisit his flawless Apollo soundtrack and create an album’s worth of new material. He needn’t have bothered – Apollo was already regarded as an ambient masterpiece. Recorded by Eno, his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois in 1983, it was commissioned as the soundtrack for Al Reinert’s documentary, For All Mankind. Sure, it’s been nicely remastered (again) but this hardly qualifies it as essential. Meanwhile, the new Apollo songs return Eno to Earth with a bump. Their brittle and oddly poppy approach lack any of the brooding weightlessness of the originals. Sadly, this anniversary gimmick mission should have been aborted. Geoff Cowart
Heading into Weather, opening track ‘Easy’ does very little to win over Tycho’s detractors. Whilst the band’s music swells with a certain cinematic grandeur, it often feels unsurprising – for instance, where one could picture bursting through a layer of cloud cover as the sun births the plane in a fresh light, another sees economy class air travel. Sometimes the destination simply isn’t enough when the journey lacks excitement.
Though this is apparently a false start. When Saint Sinner – aka Hannah Cottrell – crops up, things start to get interesting. Her delicate, drifting vocals aren’t an overbearing presence amidst the heady swirls of Tycho’s instrumentals; in fact, they are the perfect accompaniment, slick and subtle, the missing ingredient that adds some depth and flavour to a somewhat otherwise watery soup. Harriet Taylor
EMILY ISHERWOOD – DISTANT TELEVISION STUDIOS
Breakfast Records | July 19th
Hailing from the Breakfast Records corner of the ring, Emily Isherwood has genuinely suckerpunched me in the gut with her debut EP, Distant Television Studios. Embroidering sublime imagery on a bed of silky-smooth guitar playing and tender vocals, it’s a six-track folk / dream-pop fantasy which cements her as one of the city’s finest songwriters.
Her ability to conjure up stunning scenes through her lyrics is truly a gift, setting her work apart from her contemporaries (see: ‘Tiger’s Coat On A Poacher’s Floor’). However the debut is also expertly arranged, laden with celestial vocal runs, grand, echo-y spaces and a sprinkling of bright guitarwork. I’m also ecstatic that old Nugget-era number, ‘Dormant’, has made the cut and is back bolder than ever. Amy Grace
The aptly-named EP from Bristol’s own Harry Strange, Crying At The Party fuses emotive lyrical concepts with intimate electronic beats, in a unique, pop-heavy style that rivals Billy Lockett and The 1975. He’s never been one to refrain from addressing the struggles of heart-break, and the singer-songwriter’s latest record showcases that perfectly.
Opening track, ‘Sober’, embodies the blurred sensation of intoxication and a distant echo of loneliness, while recent single, ‘Six Feet Under’, deals with the concepts of regret and letting go of past relationships. ‘Steady Unstable’ strips back the musical elements to a delicate synth and piano blend, until the latter half incorporates an impressive fusion of dance-inspired beats and electric guitars. A polished effort from a Bristol artist well worth your time. Kelly Ronaldson
Sarathy Korwar’s extraordinary More Arriving is both thrillingly modern and wonderfully traditional, as though knowing the rules is just as important as breaking them.
Opener ‘Mumbay’ finds Korwar’s dense, bracing sonics used as a foundation for MC Mawali’s lyricism, while bulging brass and corrosive electronics unite against Prabh Deep and Delhi Sultanate on the thrilling ‘Coolie’. Spoken-word artist Zia Ahmed dominates the sparse, percussion-led ‘Mango’, a daring collaboration that recalls the seismic work of The Last Poets while delving into the experiences of the South Asian diaspora.
Pitting a composer steeped in Indian classical music and spiritual jazz against a crack team of Indian MCs, More Arriving is an extraordinary, exuberant exposition of new ideas that deal with the sub-continent’s past, present, and future. Robin Murray
On their fourth full-length album, the Seattle-based indie-rock/garage-pop trio have produced an excellent record that demonstrates range without sacrificing cohesion or quality.
The fuzz-laden guitars and vocal harmonies of ‘Only Wish’ have a stuck-to-the-bottom-of your-shoe catchiness similar to early records by Yuck, while the upbeat tempo of the title track wouldn’t be lost on a pop-punk record. Dude York’s latest shares the energy (and lyrical nods) of influences like The Ramones, but can deftly transition to acoustic introspection, shoegaze and back.
Range aside, this pop-at-heart record – see ‘I’m the 1 4 U’ – is a refreshing all-round album that utilises the infinite fracturing of genre. Albert Testani