In what will hopefully be a monthly feature, I have compiled a short playlist and accompanying review of some of my favourite songs released throughout the last month. The playlist is only available through Spotify, although I have also linked to YouTube tracks where available in the review below for those who don’t use that service:
from Les Revenants EP
Everybody’s favourite Glaswegian post-rock band Mogwai have released a small sampler EP of their soundtrack for French zombie show Les Revenants. The other tracks on the EP are more or less background music, but moody opener “Wizard Motor” felt like the perfect way to open this playlist. A full OST is arriving later in February, and hopefully the TV series also becomes (readily) available outside of France at some stage.
Yo La Tengo
“Is That Enough”
Genre: Indie Pop
This sweetly solemn song is just one of several highlights from perhaps my favourite release from January. Other standouts include the muted “Well You Better” and the fingerpicked “I’ll Be Around“. The rest of the album is mostly just as relaxed as this tune though, so be sure to check it out if you enjoyed it.
from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Genre: Psychedelic Pop
It would be so easy to dislike the hopelessly retro We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic if only it wasn’t so genuine. The album is a less-than-subtle homage to the great bands of the 60s/70s – “No Destruction” sounds almost more Dylan than Dylan himself, and try humming “Suspicious Minds” during the refrain of “On Blue Mountain”. But don’t try to tell me that you didn’t smile at the back-up vocals of “San Francisco”.
Toro y Moi
from Anything in Return
Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy Anything in Return quite as much as I had hoped, especially considering it arrived right in the middle of the Australian summer. After a few tracks, the album felt like it would never end as each song blended together into some sort of soulless nightmare. Luckily though the first few songs are enjoyable enough, with “Rose Quartz” and “Say That” being standouts.
from Signed & Sealed in Blood
Genre: Celtic Punk
Continuing with the ‘rose’ theme are celtic punk legends Dropkick Murphys with “Rose Tattoo”. I think how much you will enjoy their newest album is directly proportional to the amount of time since you have actively listened to the band. Luckily for me, it’s been about five years, so each boozy chorus and infectious celtic melody was just as good as ever.
from Lady from Shanghai
Genre: Experimental Rock
From the deranged re-imagining of the classic “Ring My Bell” on album-opener “Thanks” to the desperate pleading of “Mandy”, everything stays sufficiently weird throughout the band’s newest album. I’ve never heard any of their other material so I can’t comment on how this compares, but it has definitely got me interested.
Esben and the Witch
“When That Head Splits”
from Wash the Sins Not Only the Face
Genre: Ethereal Wave
Although I generally don’t like music of this sort, I found myself genuinely enjoying Wash the Sins Not Only the Face. ‘Ethereal’ really is the only word to describe its floating vocals and reverb-laden atmosphere adequately. Bonus points for perhaps my favourite album cover from January too.
Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory
from Elements of Light
Genre: Minimal Techno
One of the most interesting albums of the year so far would have to be Elements of Light; a melting together of minimal techno with an orchestra of bells. Although the album flows tranquilly as one piece of music, the 17-minute track “Spectral Split” is a nice summary of the project as it gently builds its shimmering layers into a cohesive dance rhythm.
There were also several other notable releases in January that should be mentioned. Tomahawk’s Oddfellows should appease the multitude of Mike Patton-ites out there, and any fans of blues/soul should check out Ben Harper’s excellent collaboration with Charlie Musselwhite on Get Up!. I have also just just discovered an ‘experimental big band’ album released earlier in the month by Fire! Orchestra called Exit which sounds amazing and I must check out very soon.
Looking forward, February is shaping up to be quite a big month of releases. My Bloody Valentine released m b v yesterday (albeit with some minor technical issues), so it will be interesting to see if it can live up to 21 years of anticipation. Other notable releases from Grouper, Jim James, Eels, and Steven Wilson should round out the month quite well, along with plenty of other acts I’m sure.
Until then, be sure to let me know your highlights from the past month.