February was a very interesting month indeed. We’ve seen a nation’s people take on the government and win. We saw some extreme sporting events thanks to the Sochi Winter Olympics and we saw people whipped as they protested outside the games. Closer to home, we saw Osbourne and Salmond retort one another’s arguments as the Scottish independence referendum nears.
Things were also interesting on a musical front with some brilliant albums being released this month. Sun Kil Moon’s Benji is a record full of tales from everyday life. The mundane nature of the lyrics generates something truly heartfelt. The folk stylings of the ex-Red House Painter’s frontman are what really make this album worthwhile, it’s a relaxing moment of real tenderness.
St. Louis born Angel Olsen is reaping the praise thanks to her amazing second album Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Masked behind layers of psychedelic beauty, her blend of folk and country rock is really something to behold. Her vocals have a timeless nature that suit the fuzz of her distorted wahwah as much as her soft acoustic finger picking. With dates on her upcoming European tour already sold-out, Angel Olsen is definitely one to watch.
Marissa Nadler is no newcomer to the music scene with six studio albums in under a decade, the last of which, July, is a very welcome addition. Nadler seems to be finally collecting the rewards for all her hard work, having signed on Sacred Bones (USA) and Bella Union (Europe), two of independent music’s most respected record labels. July sticks to her usual sound and is as consistent as she always is. It may take a couple of listens to truly grasp the beauty of it all, but it’s well worth the effort.
It’s been a big month for folk music with iconic indie hero Beck releasing his 13th album, Morning Phase. The music here has a very closed feel, adding a sort of compression to the grand overall instrumentation. It’s in no means his best material to date, but it is a very solid listen and showcases some very well worked orchestration. Definitely one for the fans to grab without question, but also a great introduction for those who are not familiar with this living legend.
If you are looking for some solid indie rock, then be sure to check out Cheatahs’ self-titled debut album. Anchored in the sound of 90s shoegaze a la My Bloody Valentine, Cheatahs offers a touch of variety through its pop sensibilities. With elements of grunge, post-punk and even pop punk sprinkled throughout the 12 songs, it’s an album that surprises at every turn and which doesn’t get boring after repeated listens.
Pop punk kind of lost its way in the 00s with the whining perfectly groomed fringed emo kids playing for thousands of screaming girls and boys. Seattle’s TacocaT really do bring the genre back to its roots. With their whacky surf rock inspired sound, they tell of the annoying elements associated with living in the cold state of Washington and the use of weed to escape its dreariness. They also bring up some of the troubles linked with being a woman, it’s feminism in its positive form. One rarely attributes the political side of punk to the pop punk scene, but TacocaT do reveal an Egalitarian stance when they sing about everyone moving to the warmer sunnier Hawaii.
With a sound deeply set in the psychedelic scene of the 60s, Temples’ debut Sun Structures is a very well crafted piece of retro art. With a wide diversity of tempos and approaches, Sun Structures is a real journey that will be sure to please fans of bands ranging from The Beatles to Jefferson Airplane and countless others along the way. There’s only one thing to do, go down to your local vintage shop, acquire some trendy attire and jump on your Vespa, how else would you be able to appreciate the music with the same accurate authenticity from which it is produced?
From retro to futuristic, St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth studio album really does project itself into unheard territory. St. Vincent manages to disguise her clear references with an alien guitar sound that sounds like nothing you will have heard before. The effect is impressive as the organic instruments sound robotic and mechanic. There are some flaws, as you would expect from an experimental venture, but there’s enough quality to warrant everyone’s attention.
For those who digg a bit of hip-hop every once in a while, why not check out The Doppelgangaz and their new album Peace Kehd? It’s set in the sounds of the 90s but with a production that feels fresh and contemporary. If you are fed up with the megalomaniac nature of today’s rap scene, then this will set you right, there’s still great hip-hop out there, it’s just not getting the exposure it deserves. So if you want songs about the hardships of life with a positive twist and a summery feel, you now know where to look.
Finally, if you are more of an adventurous music listener, then I have a very nice surprise for you. Tinariwen are a band that originate from Mali where the Sahara delivers its fair share of hardships. These guys have managed to create something positive from this, a musical style know as Tishoumaren, a genre that blends the traditional Tuareg music of the Berber people with Western blues. The result is a highly relaxing and almost psychedelic sound that feels familiar yet very distant. The band’s sixth studio album Emmaar is one for those lazy chilled sunny afternoons.