Every Friday, ‘The Album Cycle’ reviews a handful of new releases.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
New Dawn – The Dying Light
New Zealand’s ambient scene has remained in the shadows for the most part, but if New Dawn get the attention they deserve, it won’t for long. The Christchurch duo create ambient soundscapes that are at once beautiful and harsh. If words like ‘textural’, ‘layered’ and ‘cosmic’ give you warm feelings, this five-track project should to be emanating from your speakers ASAP. And don’t fall into the trap of treating ambient music as background music – The Dying Light has melodies, moments… heck, even hooks. Opener ‘The Power of You’ sets the mood at ‘awe’, but things quickly take a turn on ‘Perceiving the Pleroma’ with some dark blasts of noise that would get a respectful nod from Sunn O))). The title track indulges in a drum beat and some vocals, even – it’s pop on a timescale stretched out almost to infinity. Fans of video game soundtracks should give this a go, as it will conjure familiar feelings of pure wonder. – Mitchell Houlbrooke
Various Artists – Our First 100 Days
The first week of President Trump has been pretty rough for a lot of people. If you’re feeling angry but a little helpless and you’ve got $40-odd to share with some of the good organisations standing up for those most fucked-over by the new regime, here’s one easy way to do that and hear a lot of new music while you’re at it. Secretly Group’s Our First 100 Days project is releasing one song a day for the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. The first week has already provided new Angel Olsen and Jason Molina (!!) tracks worth giving a spin, with the promise of artists like How To Dress Well and Toro Y Moi and who knows who else to come. All money raised by the project will be directed to causes working to protect things like LGBTQ and reproductive rights, immigration, the environment… see the full list here. And while we’re at it being philanthropic music fans also check out Is There Another Language? – similar deal with all proceeds going to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union. Peace! – Calum Henderson
CEP – Drawing The Target Around The Arrow
For those not paying super close attention (myself included), Caroline Polachek came to the attention of pop album credits-readers as a co-writer and co-producer of the Beyonce song ‘No Angel’, one of the highlights of Bey’s incredible self-titled album. Anyway, Chairlift, the duo she was in at the time and for which she originally wrote the song, broke up recently, and Polachek is releasing her first album under her own name (or her own initials anyway). Drawing The Target Around The Arrow (free here) is an ambient record of melancholic warmth. More sad than soothing, it surrounds you in loud but softly buzzing synths, melodic percussive pulses. Unless you listen super-closely, this could fade right into half of the other ambient albums that have been finding bigger audiences in these anxiety-ridden times but, in this case, that should be seen (or heard) as a strength and not a weakness. – Henry Oliver
Bash & Pop – Anything Could Happen
When The Replacements fell apart at the start of the ‘90s, it was hard to predict how far their influence would hold decades later. The group were, after all, indie rock’s quintessential beautiful losers – not dropping their opportunities to break it big, but rather drunkenly throwing them over their shoulder en route to grabbing another drink. The band’s stature did indeed grow over the years, and when the remaining members reunited in 2013 it was a rousing success, so much so that the group recorded new music and looked set to deliver a new album. But leader Paul Westerberg delights in upending expectations, and just as quickly as the band were back together Westerberg pulled the pin. This left bassist Tommy Stinson at a loose end, and just like the first time the band broke up, he used it to deliver an album under the moniker Bash & Pop.
This is different from a Stinson solo (or, for that matter, Westerberg solo) project, because it unashamedly sounds a lot like The Replacements. Stinson jumps between raucous rockers like the title track and ‘Bad News’, and the occasional lovely loping country rocker (‘Anytime Soon’ would stand proudly next to Westerberg’s best ballads) with a band who back him with enough ramshackle charm to recall the ‘Mats in their prime. Rather than a canned piece of nostalgia, Stinson comes up with a very worthy replacement for the record that never came, and one that is highly recommended to every fan. – Peter Douglas
Sleater-Kinney – Live from Paris
A big part of the Sleater-Kinney legend has always been their live show, so it is a little surprising that Live from Paris is the first attempt to document the trio’s fierceness on the road. Culled from a Paris date in support of their excellent 2015 comeback No Cities to Love, Live from Paris is cut like an old fashioned live record – songs are edited out of the setlist proper to create a momentum and internal logic more appropriate for an album. This is not the sound of the raucous One Beat and Call the Doctor days, but instead it’s something even better – the sound of one of the great bands of the past 20 years at a peak, ripping through their repertoire with passion, purpose and complete control in front of a crowd of adoring Parisians. It’s a record that makes you cross your fingers that this reunion has legs left in it yet. – PD
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