We’ve always been partial to the music of The Notwist, the way they blend those beautiful sad-eyed vocal melodies with post-rock intricacy and krautrock rhythms. They exist in that sweet spot between song craft and experimental composition, always inventive and beguiling in their art-pop explorations.
‘Sans Soleil’ comes from the band’s first album in seven years, Vertigo Days, out January 29th on Morr Music.
Aside from the none too subtle nod to the Sonic Youth icon, this is a heavy slab of coruscating guitars, a rhythm section that twists and tumbles with a gnarled density and vocals that careen across the sonic maelstrom with a howling psych rock nihilism. Think Exterminator-era Primal Scream and you’re heading in the right direction with Gim Kordon.
Given they’re singing in their native Finnish tongue, I’ve got no idea what they’re singing but the the title translates as ‘Concrete Blooms’ and singer-guitarist Aleksi Pahkala explains that “Betoni kukkii is a story of how often life growing up in the suburbs is a roll of the dice, a struggle and trying to get by, but also of how a sense of community in even the roughest areas is so often the only thing that provides a sense of security.”
This is the return of the band, six years after their debut album and a sign of new music to come in 2021.
This recently released track by US group Van Vleck caught our ear with it’s mix of frantic post-punk and a dark gothic sonic aesthetic. It reminded us of everything from Black Angels to Interpol to Sisters Of Mercy in its insistency and doomy yet melodic riffs.
There’s not much else to report about the band, who appear to be a trio who used to operate under the name More and have released the one three-track EP, The Wait, as Van Vleck.
Mantra-like, hypnotic, fluid and rolling. That’s the first impression of Mt. Mountain‘s new track ‘Aplomb‘. It sits in the psych rock camp but it possesses a looseness that’s a defining factor in what makes the song so great. Propelled by some fine bass playing and guitar that is equally important as a rhythmic tool, singer Stephen Bailey intones lyrics over the Krautrock moodiness and warm cymbal splashes below.
The song is the first single from the Perth band’s forthcoming new album Centre (Feb 26th, 2021). The band have shared stages with notable down-under comrades like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and ORB, as well as a long list of international heavy-hitters including Sleep, MONO, Thee Oh Sees, Acid Mothers Temple and Moon Duo.
Cederick Knox hits cosmic mystery mode on this new track ‘Back In The Box’. There’s a shadowy creep to the sound he’s created. Part jazz, part avant-experimentalism, initial drum tracks were recorded with cerebral palsy drummer ’Spack in the Box’, on top of which a series of players (including members of Squid and Pelican Man) were invited to improvise. These recordings were then used as raw material for the project.
You can hear the collaborative process at work, elements feeding off each other, sometimes in harmony, sometime in contrast. The end effect is a hypnotic and transfixing one that pulls the listener in, draws the curtains and frees the mind.
Despite the weirdness and social and political fracturing of 2020, there were still plenty of great albums that saw the light of day – and that light was a salvation for many. You can check out our Post To Wire (alt-country, cosmic Americana & dark folk) Favourite Albums of 2020HERE and Favourite AU & NZ Albums of 2020HERE.
Here are our 40 favourite albums of the year, ranging from alt-country to electronic, ambient to indie rock, post-punk to soul.
* Full disclosure – I worked on the publicity campaigns for the Golden Fang and Buddy Glass albums
On our favourite AU/NZ album of 2020, Thomson delivers his most accomplished work to date… ‘Sunday Girl’ is the closest Thomson’s got to a pop song, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ is smoky, winding blues, while ‘See The Wheels’ could roll on forever with its effortless groove. ‘Fatal Ribbon Highway’ is a dreamy slow dance, cosmic, heavy-lidded and sparkling and just one example of the diversification Thomson has brought to his impressive songwriting on Golden Exile.
9 Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern
A new name for us and what a way to announce your arrival. Restrained songwriting with some exceptional lyrical content, Die Midwestern is built on poetry of the finest quality, delivered in a wonderful roughed-up country voice.
8. Moodymann – Taken Away
We couldn’t stop listening to this when it came out. Like a mix of D’Angelo circa Black Messiah, soul-jazz and futuristic electronic space funk. It was all in the rhythms, the breaks and the soul of it all. Deep hypnosis par excellence.
7. SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is)
An album (and its follow-up UNTITLED (Rise)) completely of it’s time politically and socially, yet timeless in its blend of soul, funk, r&b, trip hop and more.
For us, Isbell was off his game on his last album The Nashville Sound but here he’s fully resumed his mantle of one of the finest songwriters of his generation. Lyrically and melodically there are gems galore right across Reunions. It was one of those albums that constantly inspired repeat listens throughout 2020.
4. Coriky – Coriky
Coriky are half of Fugazi (Ian Mackaye & Joe Lally) with Amy Farina (The Evens) and it’s the iconic DC band that they swerve closest to in the stop/start, quiet/loud dynamics and lyrical repetition, though it’s a less caustic, more intimate and organic vibe overall. Great drum sound on this damn catchy and gently visceral record.
3. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
The Irish quartet sought to find different angles to approach their second album after the success and touring of Dogrel. They were hugely successful too. Widening their palette, going for denser guitar textures and rhythms that dug deeper and with more insistency. The vocals were just as earnest if more detached, observational and aloof. The key success to the album was that they showed they weren’t one trick ponies and look to be in it for the creative long haul.
2. Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways
Once again Bob brought the element of surprise with this immense piece of work. Bold, literary, graceful, funny and highly moving. We thought his muse may have taken an early retirement with the endless touring and American songbook albums taking up his creative real estate. But no, Bob was back, hunched over his typewriter, casting an eye over the last century of pop and political culture, weaving in heartache and devotion. Nobody can bring together universality and the minutiae quite like the master.
1. Young Jesus – Welcome To Conceptual Beach
An intoxicating blend of post-rock and indie rock that in my mind ranged threw up comparisons to Talk Talk, Lift To Experience, Talking Heads, Wild Beasts and Radiohead. This was an album that created a sonic world to escape to, with heady and evocative ideals and some incredible dynamics in the arrangements.
Cable Ties’ debut album introduced a band built on fiery punk passion and melodic post-punk intensity. Now, three years later, they taken that template and made the loud parts louder, the hooks catchier and pushed their visceral and primitive 70s rock shapes more to the fore.
Sonically, the band’s sound still recalls the stinging guitar leads and interesting song shapes of Sleater-Kinney and the brittle energy of Bikini Kill, but things are most interesting when they counter the short sharp bursts of punk energy with deep digs into repetition and heavy riffing. Krautrock insistency combined with the distorted wash of guitars on the seven minute Lani and the pummelling, deconstructed noise aspects of the equally long Anger’s Not Enough make for hypnotic listening.
Jenny McKechnie’s howls of critique and dissent still ring loud and clear, blending with the personal when she sings lines such as “My uncle Pete, he’s complaining ‘bout the Greenies, he says they’ve gone too far and I say Pete, they don’t go far enough.” She’s been writing political songs since she was singing folk songs in her bedroom but now she has the perfect vehicle for them. Far Enough is the sound of a band locked in total unison, taking chances and playing with righteous clarity. Anger is indeed an energy.
“Pull your head in ya flamin’ galah” are the first words you hear on this new track from Sydney band 100. The first release on the new label Endless Recordings, founded by Bad Dreems guitarist Alex Cameron, it rips and snarls like an inner-city delinquent. Part belligerence, part studied sneer. It reminds us a bit of much missed bands like The Scare, and Witch Hats with its sonic swerves and guitar racket that’s as much alt-rock and punk as it is informed by the noisy, dissonant end of shoegaze.
“It is a sort of open letter towards the anti-social behaviour that we’ve seen on the rise in Sydney over the past 10 years” explains Jaryd Lee. He and fellow frontman Rowen Tucker moved to Sydney’s inner west after growing up in Gosford, where they met at high school.