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.
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.
‘Manifesto’ is the second Sprints track we’ve posted in the last few months and much like ‘Drones’, this one hits in all the right places. Wild guitar noise, mantra-like vocals and a rhythm section that knows its Krautrock and post-punk – taut and unrelenting, funky and tough. This is the title-track from the Dublin quartet’s new EP coming in 2021.
Of the song, singer and songwriter Karla Chubb says:
“Manifesto is all about control, and the seeming lack of it we have sometimes – control over our own lives, our own bodies, our own societies. Written during the time of the Repeal the 8th referendum in Ireland, it’s a call for equality.
Life can feel like it’s unravelling around you. We see our countries fall in and out of economic crisis, we see the homeless crisis worsen by the day, we see the rapid rise of addiction and drug problems, and nothing is being done about, yet when it comes to telling women what they can do with their own bodies, that’s when people (the bigots) step in and show up? It baffled me.
Manifesto is about turning your cheek to the critics and bigots and those who judge and doubt, to try shake the shackles of everyday existence and mundanity and go carve your own path. “
This new track from Brighton UK-based Public Body jerks and twists, shudders and pivots in all the right places. Conjuring up a fractured collection of frantic post-punk rhythms that somehow all come together in a head-nodding, nerve twitching song that digs in deep, both sonically and in its subject matter – capitalism and government hierarchy.
‘Table Manners’ is the fifth in a run of singles the band has released in 2019/2020. Last week the band announced they’ve recorded a new EP which is great news after such a strong bunch of tunes so far.