Ásgeir – ‘Bury The Moon’
While working on his new album Bury The Moon, self-confessed introvert Ásgeir went full-blown reclusive loner to create his latest project. Locking himself away in the idyllic, Icelandic countryside; the album is the result of nearly a year of reclusive songwriting and minimal contact with the outside world. I can’t help but feel for his record label on that one, but it’s an approach that’s resulted in an outstanding piece of work.
As with many scandinavian artists, he found success in his native country long before his releases landed across the globe. As a result of his global popularity, for the new album he’s worked with the mighty John Grant on the English translation. The album opens with the lead single Pictures and we instantly realise we’re in for a sultry heart-warming treat of a record. As the lead single brilliantly juxtaposes a heart-warming and chord structure, with a poignant lyrical content. Without sounding too pretentious, or looking for meaning that’s not there, you can’t really imagine this album being written anywhere other than the bitterly cold countryside, somewhere in Scandinavia. There’s references to snow, water and nature throughout the record and a consistent theme of loneliness in the lyrics. Keen to branch out of the traditional folk genre, Ásgeir employs synth elements and an electronica feel in the later tracks Rattled Snow and Turn Gold Into Sand. It’s a necessary break from the norm in the tracklist, providing an injection of energy into an otherwise sombre, heartfelt recording. (Aidan Grant)
Poolside – ‘Low Season’
Sounds like … a sun-drenched pool party, far away from the real world’s problems.
If the world would be like the music of Poolside I’m pretty sure we would’ve already reached utopia – the sun was constantly shining, the waves are crushing at the shore, everybody’s got a cool drink with a little umbrella, would shuffle their feet to smooth beats while enjoying each others company and unconditional love. Yeah, mastermind Jeffrey Paradise would be the perfect master of ceremony here. For a decade now his project Poolside is a constant force of sun-drenched feel good vibes and their third album Low Season makes no difference here. Poolside famously labelled their music ‘daytime disco’ a few years ago and that’s exactly how it sounds like – laidback beats, warm synths, smooth vocals and just the right amount of groove to keep your feet moving while not having any ambitions to head for the dancefloor. Their sound is more driven by a soulful and relaxing spirit that mixes the late 60s/ early 70s West Coast vibe of groups like Fleetwood Mac or Hall & Oates and mixes them with slowed down nu-disco vibes, all in a very dreamy and organic way. There’s a reason why this band is called Poolside… because that’s how they actually sound.
Compared to 2017’s album Heat this record is a more compact affair, delivering eight new sun-drenched pieces of pop but the familiar tropical vibe you expect from this band. That’s why you are probably not that surprised when an instrumental saxophone piece like Abandoned Tunnel starts the album. The appearance of fellow nu disco pop colleague Ben Browning (of Cut Copy) is also not a total surprise on the following I Feel High. Mr. Paradise and his band keep the vibe relaxed and soulful while also creating pretty catchy hooks like in the singles Can’t Stop Your Lovin’ and Around The Sun. Over the course of the album there are also a few instrumental moments like the gentle title-track which ultimately result in the epic closing track Sunrise Strategies, a seven-minute long escapism anthem that could actually last even bit longer. That also goes for the entire record but maybe that’s also helpful as it prevents the listener from staying a bit too long in this little utopian bubble. If you’re still looking for a fitting pool party soundtrack this year, Low Season might be your ideal musical partner. (Norman Fleischer)
Mighty Oaks – ‘All Things Go’
Sounds like … folky harmonies for breezy summer nights.
It is not exactly easy to stand out as a group in the area of handcrafted folk music. Especially when you want to stick to these roots as strong as the multi-national three-piece Mighty Oaks. With tightly knitted vocal harmonies, and mellow, acoustic-driven folk hymns, which, at one point or another, just make you want to sing along to, there have often been drawn comparisons to the likes of Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers or Fleet Foxes. Just with a more pop-like approach, however. No doubt, the pieces are arranged as straightforward folky ballads that rarely go beyond their expected simplicity. And yet, the songs come from an enchanted place, propelling forward the beauty of freedom, ease and joy through music. After ten years as a band, two albums and countless touring around the globe, the Berlin-based trio is now about to drop their anticipated new record All Things Go.
Mighty Oaks are best when sticking to stripped down arrangements, centering around their voices and straightforward guitar-based song structures. The album opener All Things Go, a haunting tale of love, loss and the transience of life, is exactly that. Uncovering the story of how his parents met, singer Ian Hooper takes us on board a personal journey into his own past, delicately emphasising the beauty of the here and now. In the same vein, songs like Forget Tomorrow continue to embrace this notion. Essentially a song about the hardships of leaving a loved one behind, the tune certainly has its kitschy moments: “No matter where I go I’ll hold you / Gonna hold you in my mind”. While this still has its appeal, it occasionally seems like the folk outfit felt that less is not always more. By adding more rhythm structures to the songs and by increasing the means of instrumentation as well as complexity, also to be experienced in the fairly upbeat What You Got, the band voyages into an even more pop-infused realm than the sophomore LP Dreamers had been. Yet, it is pieces like the guitar-driven and vocal-soaked Lost Again and Fly To You, where the balance of soothing harmonies is eventually restored. In the end, All Things Go is an inspiring record that in many ways takes the virtue of Mighty Oaks a step further. Once in the fascination of entangled harmonies, it really doesn’t matter if they are interpreting lovelorn folk ballads about feeling lost in life or lighthearted pop tunes about the captivating beauty of life’s decisive moments. (Andreas Peters)
Shopping – ‘All Or Nothing’
This album is a must for any bass-fan. Bassist and singer Billy Easter drives the new release by Shopping with her ever present groovy basslines. The British post-punk trio found back together after being dispersed across the entire planet to create another record based on their common understanding of music making. Pumped out within a short time, All Or Nothing does not sound like that at all but reflects the thoughts and inspirations the musicians have probably been carrying around with them for a much longer time. Over a period of two weeks Rachel Aggs, Billy Easter and Andrew Milk poured their everything into the record – hence the fitting title.
Set under the motive of creating music that makes people dance, the album balances between light-hearted groovy beats and existential messages. ‘We found ourselves singing about being true to yourself, in an often binary and belligerent digital age, and reclaiming agency when it feels like our personal freedom and privacy is constantly eroding,’ Shopping say about the release. With all three of the band members taking to the mic, the vocals are versatile and as punky as ever. However, the instrumentation leans more towards the pop genre and even seems to find some influences in retro synths of the 80s, as well as, the quirkiness of ska. All Or Nothing is a short and spicy ride and especially impressive considering the circumstances of its making! (Liv Toerkell)
XOROS – ‘XOROS’
Sounds like … a futuristic approach to experimental ambient music.
No solid ground to start off from, no point of orientation, no fixes structure. As much as this records creates a fascination of its own, it is hard to bring it down to words. The debut record of electronic duo is more like a feeling: Like being peacefully anxious, floating beyond time and space. Listening to this record you get lost without leaving your home and found, without knowing to be lost.
XOROS, a name taken from the ancient Greek word for a circular dance, is a new name in the ambient universe, consisting of the two musicians Will Ward and Jack Wyllie who also plays saxophone in the experimental jazz formations Portico Quartet and Szun Waves. And as unlikely as it seems, the saxophone was the starting point for this project. The aim to create a textural landscape only by using this instrument resulted in a record brought to life by the atmospheric fundament created by even this. Over that layer after layer – sometimes more than hundred different parts – of looped synthesizer sounds and field recordings were put to build a futuristic sound concept. The eight tracks on XOROS don’t follow any structure. No repetitive elements to hold on to, not even clear melody lines or rhythmic patterns. In fact, the 42 minutes of the record remain beat-less from the first Opening to the last Futures while constantly playing with the suspense of a beat about to drop. The nervous pulsation in the first track or the marimba-like sounds in the transendental Cascading is the closest as it gets to something like a groove. The rest consists of a seemingly endless landscape of sounds waves. A record as a fine combination of artistic merit, technical finesse and sound-design thinking. (Abhilash Arackal)