Pumarosa – ‘The Witch’ (Fiction Records)
What it is: British five-piece PUMAROSA might not reinvent the wheel of indie-rock with their first full-length The Witch but that that doesn’t make this monster of a debut album less spectacular. For a first impact it’s almost too professional sounding. Carried by the hypnotic and – fitting to the title – almost witch-like voice of leading woman Isabel Muñoz-Newsome the five-piece unfolds a fascinating mixture of alternative pop, 90s post-grunge and psychedelic math-rock with undeniable pop appeal. Get hyped because what you are about to experience is one of 2017’s most impressive debut albums.
Why to listen to it: The Witch is packed with confidence and experience from start to finish, making sure that you don’t mistake PUMAROSA for one of those bands who just play together for the sake of playing together. Muñoz-Newsome and her mates are focussed and quite unafraid to not just walk the easy path. Dragonfly starts the LP in quite a mysterious way before Honey accelerates the tempo to become a joyful piece of alternative pop/rock. The singer plays her part as bewitching master of ceremony with all the toughness it needs to get the job done. It got a certain feeling of longing, fragile appearance and madness that crawls underneath the listeners skin. Other highlights on The Witch include the furious almost eight-minute long psychedelic disco monster Priestess (including a lovely saxophone solo) and Red which might start quite tenderly before exploding into a raw finale. PUMAROSA place themselves in the twilight between FOALS and SAVAGES with clear nods to 90s alternative rock and a couple of other influences. Like most of today’s generation there’s something from everything on The Witch. The Brits however manage to keep it together, create a cohesive musical microcosm and deliver a perfect balance between catchiness and edgy appeal. You better not mess with this witch. (Norman Fleischer)
Aldous Harding – ‘Party’ (4AD)
What it is: The young singer-songwriter from New Zealand, ALDOUS HARDING offers a self-characterized style of ‘gothic-folk.’ Her second album, Party features nine haunting, simple tracks that clearly reflect the promise of this rising young artist. The album was produced in Bristol by John Parish who is well known for his work with British singer-songwriter, PJ HARVEY.
Why to listen to it: Party is an introspective collection of often cryptic musings from the young artist. The album as a whole feels extremely well-organized. There is not much stylistic diversity, but rather a continued flow of dreamy self-reflection that feels improvisatory at time. The album straddles the line between fantasy and reality. The occasion addition of a surprising shout or a breathy horn creeping into the lo-fi texture give a dreamy element to the album that is reminiscent of CAT POWER or KATE BUSH. This is easily one of 2017’s finest hidden treasures. (Jesse Freeman)
Burkini Beach – ‘Supersadness Intl’ (Fleet Union)
What it is: Old-school German singer song writer, Rudi Maier, combines his soft and melancholic voice with folky guitar to create the wonderful alter ego, BURKINI BEACH. After several successful single releases, Supersadness Intl. is his long awaited debut album.
Why to listen to it: As far as debut albums go, this is cracking. Maier vocals create a nostalgic and wistful feeling to his songs, echoing a mix of likeminded Keaton Henson and even at times, Thom Yorke of RADIOHEAD. The combination of Maier’s voice with folky guitar also resembles MIDLAKE, although arguably with a slightly more rocky edge. Stand out tracks include previous singles such as The World At Our Fingertips and Jungle Book as well as new unheard tracks such as Small Talks and Tiny Boxes. It’s chilled vibe as well as its understated beauty makes Supersadness Intl. the perfect album to sit back and relax to on a Sunday evening. (Anastasia Roe)
Wavves – ‘You’re Welcome’ (Ghost Ramp)
What it is: Chillwave surf beach pop from Cali’s best. It is sunshine in a record, but it’s tinging with darkness. It is everything WAVVES serve best, fun pop with deep meaningful longing and desperate love. The debut album, Wavves, taught me everything I know about love and this record has remodelled my quarter century insecurities. Nathan Williams and his gang effortlessly put into art everything you believe and know about the world, partying, love and generally getting fucked up by all three.
Why to listen to it: The lastest record from WAVVES follows the surf pop genre the band has carefully crafted since 2008. Daisy, the opening track, reiterates all the genre defining rifts and longing tones that Williams has served us in the past. But it is more mature, less longing unrequited love to more understanding yet still problematic relationships yearnings. WAVVES continue to be the name in Cali pop and continue to serve up undeniably catchy rifts. When you get hooked by the surf rifts you’ll understand the title, You’re Welcome, as there will be thanks running through your ears. (Hannah Fahy)
The Mountain Goats – ‘Goths’ (Merge Records)
What it is: Depending on how you count and how good you are at retrieving long forgotten tape recordings from creepy dudes on flea markets, this is album no. 21 from THE MOUNTAIN GOATS. A band that covered a lot of ground since 1991 and that’s basically the outlet for principal songwriter John Darnielle and, for a few years now, his compagnon Peter Hughes. Darnielle, who happens to be writer of pretty well-received novels lately as well, formed THE MOUNTAIN GOATS into a distinct but ever-changing voice within the lo-fi-indie segment. Which also led to albums not sounding that lo-fi anymore while still preserving a wicked charm. With Goths, Darnielle and Hughes now once again took a step out of their comfort zone.
Why to listen to it: For fans of earlier MOUNTAIN GOATS, the announcement of an album without guitars might cause some caveat. Recorded in the legendary Blackbird Studio in Nashville and as a four-piece for the first time, the album was mainly written on the piano, even featuring a whole choir. Doesn’t sound like the lo-fi-indie perils we learned to love from TMG. But actually, Goths comes pretty close to the intensity and slightly manic-depressive mood that this band inherited, sometimes more, sometimes less, for more than 25 years now. The opener Rain in Soho already is a pretty bleak statement, underlining the overall Goths-theme. But when it comes to these guys, it’s never the kind of oppressing bleakness – there’s always light, fun and light-footed stupidity in it. Proving the point: The irresistible indie pop vibe of Andrew Eldritch is Moving back to Leeds and later on: Unicorn Tolerance. Even more hilarious it gets if you start digging into the popcultural nerdism highlighted by f.e. Abandoned Flesh: “Robert Smith is secure at his villa in France but the world forgot about Gene Loves Jezebel/However big that chorused bass may throb/You and me and all of us/Are gonna have to find a job“. True story. THE MOUNTAIN GOATS are the kind of band that really can make you understand the old cliché of keeping the inner child – or more like, keeping the inner youth. Goths is a goth rock record for grown-ups. Without the disguise but somehow keeping the spirit. Another nerdy but adorable statement from this gang. (Henning Grabow)