We’ve been rather quiet of late but I like to think that is a reflection of the quality of the music that’s been released so far in 2015, which has demanded serious attention. To bring things up to date we’d like to share seven albums that should be heard, and so to leap straight in…
Kristin McClement – 'The Wild Grips'
There are many folk-influenced singer songwriters producing music right now and sometimes they can all sound alike. But I was really taken with Kristin McClement when I caught her at an in-store performance recently. I walked away with a copy of her debut album, 'The Wild Grips', which has great songs and terrific artwork. From opener, 'Blackfin Gulls' it’s an entrancing journey across quite a barren landscape, evoking a hazy world that might or might not be just a memory.
Must hear: 'Blackfin Gulls', 'The Wild Grips'
Bill Wells And Aidan Moffat – 'The Most Important Place In The World'
This is the second album from Aidan Moffat (formerly of Arab Strap) and pianist Bill Wells. Deceptively simple with quiet melodies and sparse arrangements, it’s a kind of a state of the nation (in this case Scotland) address. Love, sex, work, raising kids, all take their place in a life of exhausted optimism - like a musical conversation with an exceptionally talented taxi driver.
Must hear: 'On The Motorway', 'The Eleven Year Glitch'
Sir Richard Bishop – 'Tangier Sessions'
Instrumental solo acoustic guitar isn’t for everyone. Sir Richard Bishop of Sun City Girls fame makes it as compelling as can be and this series of tunes celebrates a special guitar, which he recently acquired. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy speaks about guitars having tunes in them and here they fall out in a way that defines a location way better than words or pictures.
Must hear: 'Safe House', 'Mirage'
Anthroprophh – 'UFO'
Anthroprophh is The Heads’ Paul Allen plus Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner who are Bristol’s Big Naturals (sic) – a very fine band in their own right. This album, following on quite rapidly from 2014’s excellent 'Outside The Circle', is a series of songs that celebrate, if that’s the right word, known UK UFO sightings, each titled with a specific time and place. It’s creepy as hell and as unsettling a listen as you are likely to experience – that is unless you should actually be abducted by aliens, of course.
Must hear: '22/9/78 Weedon Bec', '14/4/57 West Freugh'
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress'
Montreal’s nine-strong GY!BE are now veterans of post-rock, having been going since 1994 with a lengthy hiatus from ’03 to ’10. This is the follow up to 2012’s Polaris music prize-winning 'Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!'. I think it’s a very worthy successor and demonstrates just how great it is to have them back. Sometime anarchists, GY!BE have certainly mastered the creative energy of the ensemble, making music where the whole is much more important than the component parts. Whereas 'Allelujah!' perhaps ran out of steam after the tremendous opener 'Mladic', this album stays strong to the end and is another mighty tour de force.
Must hear: 'Piss Crowns Are Trebled', 'Asunder, Sweet'
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – 'Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015'
Speaking of veterans Jon Spencer turns 50 this year, something that seems incredible. And more incredible still after 24 years JSBX has produced what may be their best-ever album. Jon Spencer is prone to say the Blues is number one but I can’t help thinking that on hearing 'Freedom Tower', Francis Fukuyama would declare The End of the Blues. Not that JSBX actually play the Blues as such – it’s more a drum & bass driven second cousin to hip hop styled rockabilly. In short there’s no one who sounds anything like them and they are in the happy position of having perfected their very own brand of rock and roll – the videos are amazing too. This album is an absolute knock out.
Must hear: 'Wax Dummy', 'Betty Vs The NYPD', 'Down And Out', 'The Ballad Of Joe Buck', 'Cooking For Television'
Sumac – 'The Deal'
Aaron Turner was the prime mover in a band called Isis – whose hoodie I can no longer wear for obvious reasons – and runs the Hydra Head and SIGE record labels. He is also in Old Man Gloom, whose album 'Ape Of God' featured strongly in our end of 2014 album list. Being prolific can be a curse as everything turns into a side project and when Turner put Sumac together with drummer Nick Yacyshyn it was unclear whether it was a one-off recording project or a live band. I hope it turns out to be the latter as the record they produced – with Russian Circles’ Brian Cook on bass – is a stormer.
Very much at the heavy end of post-metal it is deep in sludge without being muddy. Guitar lines have bite and clarity and the vocals are growled but intelligible – all up, this is heavy as fuck but totally distinctive. I’d love to see this become a permanent gig for all concerned.
Must hear: 'Thorn In The Lion’s Paw', 'The Deal', 'The Radiance Of Being'
Read more from Simon here, and reach him on @nxgater or altrock(at)fadedglamour.co.uk.