New music playlist 2015//13

The new music playlist for week 13 covers another pretty fantastic week of new releases across the usual wide spectrum of styles and sounds: from electropop to indie rock, from electronica to freak folk, RRP has you covered.

Idea The Artist – Seafloor

Seafloor was the last of three singles released in advance of an album of the same name on March 24th by singer-songwriter Inés Beltranena, as Idea The Artist. Using the seafloor as a metaphor for the lowest place in which a person could find themselves, the track navigates its own deep waters through a combination of an almost constantly present guitar droning like an unanswered scream, layers of backing vocals and strings, and Beltranena’s strong lead vocal on top.

The video is an animation based on recent watercolor paintings by Beltranena of shipwrecks and underwater labyrinths.

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Lisa Alma – Fine

Due for release next week, “Fine” is the latest single from Danish alt pop singer and song-writer Lisa Alma. Another track taken from her forthcoming album Sweater (see also the mesmerising “Man”), it’s further evidence that Alma is one of the most exciting new artists around. Smooth and tranquil on the surface, with exquisite vocals over a spacious electronic arrangement, Fine is at times tantalisingly slow and sparse. It’s a measure of how well the mood is set that the calm never needs to be followed by a storm, but the lush entry into the chorus is still a welcome release and relief.

Sweater is out on April 21st, via Dumont Dumont. Pre-order link: http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/92055

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update, March 14th: The video for “Fine” just went live on youtube.

https://youtu.be/Qojj3pdrJx4

Happiness is hard to pin down

He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life. Nicomachean Ethics, 1101a10

Last Friday was International Day of Happiness. In case you missed it while you were doing your best to stay ahead in the nasty, brutish, but never quite short enough rat race I’ve put together a playlist to act as a sort of seven-day delayed cure for the common chore. Anyway, how bad can work be? Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…

20 songs, then, from indie underachievers The Mock Turtles (proving they did have other songs besides “Can You Dig It?”), the matchlessly poppy Ian Broudie and The Lightning Seeds, The Animals, The Cure, The Wonder Stuff and more. Some you might not expect to find on a happiness playlist, and perhaps you’d have a point. Some of these songs are not all that upbeat, but hey, at least they’re not singing about you, right? And there’s another reason to be happy right there.

Anyway, you can but admire Guy Chadwick’s ability to write a song called “Happy” and then infest it with so much bitterness, and the way Ride sing a little ditty called Making Judy Smile with such splendid melancholy.

Let current RRP faves Seattle Yacht Club cheer you up with Feeling The Sunshine, let the Housemartins remind you it’s time to clock off, and if it’s cheesy happiness you’re after, Blood, Sweat & Tears have you covered.

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Horace

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Step Brother City

“Step Brother City” is the new single from the lengthily but brilliantly named Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Taken from their forthcoming album The High Country, it’s a solid roller-coaster ride of power pop chords, hearty “woo-ooo”s and wry lyrics (“All the good songs and poems are all about you / And all the bad ones, too”).

SSLYBY recorded The High Country as a power trio consisting of Dickey, guitarist/vocalist Will Knauer, and returned founding member and bassist Tom Hembree. Recorded at Seattle’s Hall of Justice with engineer Beau Sorenson (Superchunk, Garbage), the three chose the album’s title on the basis that it just sounded pretty good, which is a neat metaphor for “Step Brother City”, and perhaps the band’s approach and output in general: don’t sweat the deep meaning too much, just enjoy the trip. Ride the waves of those crunching power pop chords now, savour the meaning later.

Or, in the words of guitarist/vocalist Phil Dickey:

We’ve always cranked our amps up in practice and at shows, but we always kept it off our records…This time we wanted to go beyond our mid-tempo tendencies and make something really satisfying.

Nailed it.

The High Country is out on June 2nd via Polyvinyl Records. You can pre-order the album in the usual formats, along with album and t-shirt bundles over at Polyvinyl’s store. Click HERE.

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Beach Baby – Bruise

“Bruise” is the flipside to the frankly fantastic and song of the year contender (and so soon, too!), “Ladybird”, by Beach Baby. It rounds out a very impressive debut release for the London-based band. Its lo-fi mask, distorted tape and gauze-filtered guitars are cut through by some heavenly old-time backing vocals, resulting in a cloudy/sunny palette you’ll want to savour for a long time.

“Ladybird” / “Bruise” is out next week, March 31st, on B3SCI Records in the US and Chess Club Records in the UK. Buy the vinyl HERE.

Beach Baby are off to France in a couple of nights time, supporting Jungle. After that they have a series of UK dates lined up. Details below.

March 29 – Paris, FR – La Cigale*
April 8 – Brighton, UK – The Prince Albert
April 9 – Manchester, UK – The Eagle Inn
April 11 – Cardiff, UK – Dim Swn Festival
April 15 – London, UK – The Courtyard

* Supporting Jungle

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Femme – S.O.S

At some point it seems inevitable that Femme is going to blow up. S.O.S, her fourth stellar single release – after “Educated”, “Fever Boy” and “High” – could just be the moment it happens. And let’s not forget an Ace of Base mashup that threw Fever Boy and snatches of new single S.O.S into a wonder-what-would-happen blender along with “All That She Wants”. It was an act of insane genius, but you can judge that for yourselves here.

And now comes the full single release of “S.O.S”. More brilliance, more big chorus, more production magic, more reason to love Femme before everyone else discovers her.

Not that you’ll need any more convincing by this point, but it’s worth stepping back a couple of years as well, to a time just before Femme became Femme, when she was recording under her real name, Laura Bettinson, as part of Ultraista, the project formed by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. Here they are, along with drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M., and a host of others) performing “Bad Insect” live on KCRW.

“S.O.S” is out on May 4th. A launch show for the single will take place the week before at The Lexington on April 29th. Buy tickets HERE

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Slug – Greasy Mind

“Greasy Mind” is a new single from Slug, the band formed by Ian Black, previously bass player with Field Music. Supported by former band-mates Peter and David Brewis, along with Andrew Lowther and Rhys Patterson, Black is carving out a sound that, while leaning to a degree on the angular art-rock of Field Music and its already existing offshoots The Week That Was and School of Language, forges an organic character of its own through earthier lyrical tendencies and a brief guitar freak-out that you probably wouldn’t find in the clean-cut world of Slug’s sibling groups. The video for “Greasy Mind”, meanwhile, is a riot of colour clash and VHS tracking fuzz that might forever burn cyan on your retinas if you stare at it for too long.

Ripe is available for preorder on white coloured gatefold vinyl (with a download code) and CD direct from the band – HERE. You can also pre-order from iTunes.

Tour Dates

Catch Slug on their UK tour this Spring

27 March – The Ritz, Manchester, with Dutch Uncles TICKETS
04 April – Stockton Weekender, Stockton
12 April – The Cluny, Newcastle TICKETS
13 April – The Lexington, London TICKETS
15 April – Mono, Glasgow TICKETS
16 April – Soup Kitchen, Manchester TICKETS
21 August – Green Man Festival

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Strangely Alright – Come On

If David Bowie, The Replacements and Cheap Trick all hung out for a night to party and Rick Springfield stopped by drunk and cranked his amp to 10…

Strangely Alright are a five-piece power pop Band from the Seattle, WA area whose members can variously boast or at least call upon any or all of the following: 80’s pop star experience, hard rock, late ’90s grunge, prog rock, and crunchy white boy blues. Their latest single, “Come On”, does most of the above, in the process creating a rollicking kind of drive that’s got a little bit of Feeder about it. And let’s all be honest together, and admit that we quite like a bit of that, no matter how cool we want to appear.

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Cotton Claw – Grainy

Cotton Claw is a new French electro project that draws four producers together. The four – Lilea Narrative, Zo aka La Chauve-Souris, YoggyOne and Zerolex – released their debut EP, Dusted, in 2014 and are now on the verge of releasing their first full length album, Volutes.

“Grainy” is the first taste of the album. It’s smooth, warm and alive in a way that you might not expect from four producers with 64 pads. But then these guys play live with no sequencers so maybe now you can imagine that slightly organic feel a little more. Oh, just press play already!

Volutesis out on May 8th on Cascade Records. The album will be available on 2xLP vinyl with full color sleeve, Digipack CD and digital format.

You can order from iTunes, Bandcamp, and Cascade.

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Big Data – 2.0

Big Data released the critically acclaimed single “Dangerous” featuring electro-rock band Joywave in early 2014. The album 2.0 was finally released yesterday after over a year of teasing songs. It features an all-star cast of collaborations: Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Twin Shadow, Kimbra, and Bear Hands among others.

Big Data, an electronic music project helmed by producer Alan Wilkis, uses flashy electronics with a dark thematic tone. Lyrically, Big Data portrays a world in which we are being followed; this paranoia is most evident on the best song of the record, “Snowed In”, an opus about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Featuring Rivers Cuomo on vocals, it is key to both facets of Big Data’s approach that recur on the album: it has fierce, pounding synths and builds up to a flighty, radio-friendly chorus.

“Dangerous” is another highlight. It’s an anthem as claustrophobic as Rodwell’s classic “Somebody’s Watching Me”, but it speaks to something larger than just being watched: it’s about being watched by an entity, whether it be governmental or corporate. In an age where data collecting is a norm, many people are asking, “What do they want from me?”

“Sick For Me” features Bear Hands, another up and coming alt rock act who themselves had a minor hit last year with “Giants”. It starts off with a pulsating beat reminiscent of Peter Schilling. Rarely does synth-rock find the golden mean between pounding, but beautiful electronic music and accessibility. Whenever an act achieves this, musically it’s a revelation.

White Sea, aka Morgan Kibby, a former collaborator with M83, has a star turn in “The Business of Emotion”, which was released as the second single from the album. It is beautiful and is about preying on the emotions of others for personal or financial gain. It has an absolutely bombastic beat and is brimming with soul and compassion.

So what to make of all this paranoia? Although one can argue that it’s a silly concept, 2.0 brings depth to what is usually a skin-deep enterprise. Some people will embrace the message, others will just shrug their shoulders. The beauty in this album is that it is so good, you can ignore the big ideas if they don’t suit you.

Kid Astray – It’s Alright

Kid Astray have already charmed us into submission with previous single “Still Chasing Nothing”. Today, the Norwegian 6-piece have repeated the trick (and then some) with their new single “It’s Alright”. Taken from the band’s forthcoming debut album Home Before the Dark, “It’s Alright” is a bright fluffy cloud surfing a belt of electropop through a blue indie-dance sky that dares serious music fans not to be scared as they stand at the crossroads between proper, you know, real alternative music, and bubbly pop songs for everyone else.

Kid Astray’s debut album Home Before the Dark is out on June 15th, on Cosmos.

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