Beirut – ‘Gallipoli’
The possibility to travel is priceless. Most of all because it’s one of the most adventurous, enriching and pleasant activities you can imagine. Zach Condon aka Beirut is a vagabond in the true sense whose ongoing love for exploring new places has brought us another album in the early stages of this year. Gallipoli is Beirut’s fifth record to date. An album that invites us to take part in Condon’s trip. A slight detour from everyday life into a kind of shimmering nostalgia. An unknown place full of warmth and majesty that is somehow new and full of nostalgia at the same – very much appealing and tangible from afar and feeling comfortably familiar the closer you get. Even though Gallipoli is very much a real place in the region of Apulia in Italy where Condon spent a good few weeks to record this album, it’s not only the sunny, relaxed atmosphere and the almost inevitable romantic nuances being present in southern Italy that shape the new songs, it is also Zach Condon’s ability to not only travel physically, but on an emotional level as well.
The emerging sounds, always effortless and with a sense of tranquility, feel like little sonic postcards whose journey and captured memories are rooted in the interaction between the various instruments and Zach Condon’s sentimental vocals. Along with arrangements that swell and fade beautifully just in the right way and sometimes even manage to work as instrumental pieces of music alone. Being fed up with life in New York and consequently relocating to Berlin, Zach Condon’s path has lead him to a new piece of the puzzle that he has carefully been working on ever since venturing forward from his first musical steps in Santa Fe. Gallipoli comes with a great deal of the beloved Beirut trademark sound that instantly allows you embrace the new songs. Safe travels for the mind and the heart, but always keeping an eye out on what else might be out there on the horizon. (Annett Bonkowski)
Boy Harsher – ‘Careful’
Boy Harsher aka vocalist Jae and producer Gus emerged in the postpunk/ Darkwave scene five years ago with their Lesser Man EP. The Northhampton based partners stayed under the radar for quite some time, until their music somehow became iconic in the scene, especially with their track Pain (which eventually was remixed by The Soft Moon in 2017 for an extended release of their debut EP). They’ve released two more EPs (Yr Body Is Nothing and Country Girl). After that and touring the states and Europe extensively, the duo now releases their first full-length Careful, being released on their own label Nude Club.
Even though the album embraces the darkness they channeled on their previous work, it also embraces the light. Singles Face The Fire, Fate or tracks Lost and Come Closer could be dark dance floor anthems which sound like they could’ve been released in the 80s. But they also show that the duo has broader influences that don’t just emerge from the dark wave or (post) punk spectrum, as they also include pop references. Other tracks such as Tears, Crush or Careful are weird, experimental numbers that could be highly acclaimed by their long-term followers. Taken en masse, Careful is an album that won’t just embrace those fans, but also newcomers to the Boy Harsher phenomena. And it wouldn’t be a surprise, if the album will help raising a new generation of young post-punk fans. (Louisa Zimmer)
NEØV – ‘Volant’
In many ways the journey of Anssi Neuvonen and his band NEØV has always been one where the path itself is more important than the aspect of actually arriving somewhere. It is okay to actually get lost in time like the opening track of the band’s third studio album. And on Volant this results in an exciting new chapter for the band whose main goal appears to be the ongoing sharpening of their dreamy indie pop. A lot of things have changed since 2015’s Dominique in terms of line-up (from a five-piece to a three-piece), label (From Fullsteam to Clouds Hill) and songwriting. Volant feels more ‘on-point’ than its two predecessors, more focussed but also less edgy. Still, NEØV haven’t yet arrived at a point where their dreamy indie melodies are full-blown radio hits á la Wild Nothing or big stadium anthems like The War On Drugs. They seem to create their own niche, fully embracing this somehow shier and more melancholic approach towards their music.
Volant is an album about flying and width, creating a world where escapism and freedom form one big feeling. The singles Lost In Time and Elyson (and their accompanying music videos) are perfect examples for that. ‘The world out there is a dream that does exist’ sings Neuvonen in the latter one, reminding us all about nature’s power. It’s no naive claim from the songwriter but an honest belief that results from his everyday life in the middle of Finland’s vastness, surrounded by a thousand lakes and impenetrable woods. This is the world that inspires the sound of this band and it’s the red line that runs through the album whether it’s in a psychedelic way (Raindrops) or in a more epic form (Birds Are Late got a guitar solo that would even make U2‘s The Edge jealous). In times like these, daydreaming isn’t a crime; it’s a force to remind us what life should really be about. NEØV‘s vibrant music continues to grow in all possible directions and it’s one worth to be followed. (Norman Fleischer)
White Lies – ‘Five’
Following the furious start with 2009’s debut album To Lose My Life my personal interest in British wave rock trio White Lies somehow slowly and steady declined over the past ten years. 2016’s Friends record as a low point as I didn’t really listen to it. And I really loved the first two records! I can’t really explain what went down and maybe, just maybe, the band also sensed that things needed to change. Together with Alan Moulder – who also produced their first two albums – and iconic producer Flood they approached this new album with confidence and a hunger for new adventures, resulting in a return to form. Five is easily their best release since To Lose My Life. The record sounds like one giant exclamation mark to underline the band’s new-gained confidence. Opener Time To Give delivers seven and a half minutes of dramatic build-up and presents the band’s dark wave rock in all it’s cinematic glory. What a beginning. The song is followed by Never Alone and its driving New Order-reminiscing vibe before the once again places the band in the middle between Depeche Mode and Editors.
It feels to me as if White Lies have finally found their vibe and niche on Five while now also having a sound that underlines this vibe. As a missing link between the sinister edginess of The Twilight Sad and the slick pop/rock of The Killers these guys aren’t afraid to have catchy pop/ rock tunes like Tokyo and Believe It right next to powerful rockers like Denial. The hooks are catchier than before, Harry McVeigh’s vocal performance more distinctive than ever and the rougher aspects of their sound aren’t afraid to show up every now and then. The closing track Fire And Wings is a great example for that – an apocalyptic almost progressive-rock like ode to the world’s end which can’t get bigger than it already is. The opulent extravaganza of White Lies has never been as efficient as in these moments. This is the band that paints our gloomy world in vibrant colours and I’m glad they still do this job so very well. (Norman Fleischer)
Umloved – ‘Heartbreak’
Between Christmas, New Years and the end of January, almost anything can get to much for the sensitive people among us. Sometimes you just need to get away from all the drama and the seasonal madness, but there’s just not a lot of music released during that time (except maybe the annual Michael Bublé best of). In that time, a surprisingly good album such as Heartbreak by Unloved (a newer addition to the stunningly curated roaster by London independent label Heavenly Recordings) comes almost across like a belated Christmas gift. You might have read about the project of vocalist Jade Vincent and producers David Holmes and Keefus Ciancia in our Daily Tunes section.
The second album of the infamous trio (they soundtracked the much acclaimed BBC series Killing Eve and worked on soundtracks of big cinema productions previously) sounds exactly like we would expect a mixture of cinematic adult pop and the necessary dose of heartbreak to sound like. The 13 Heartbreak tracks (among them the charmingly catching Love, the dangerously dramatic Danger or the scenic sentimental closing track If) seem almost more of an arthouse film soundtrack than an actual album. But that’s probably the astonishing thing about the wisely-composed mixture of Vincent’s deep, almost falsetto-like voice and the cinematic production of Holmes and Ciancia. We wouldn’t expect them to top the charts any soon, but they’ll probably fill the overlooked sections of albums in 2019 with Heartbreak. (Louisa Zimmer)