Courtney Barnett – ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’
The charming leading lady of independent rock is definitely in for the long run as she adds new facets to her sound.
Courtney Barnett is, by now, indie royalty. When I was 16, she emerged and took us all my hands and hearts and here she is again, softly telling us why she is the Don of modern indie music. One time when I was in a bar, a dude told me ‘usually girls don’t make good music.’ At first I pulled that scrunched up face every woman is familiar with when they hear these outbursts and then I thought about how awful his record collection must be. I singled out Courtney Barnett as an example (not that I should have even wasted my breath) but he agreed and how could he argue.
It is almost like she answer his ridiculous outburst in Nameless Faceless where she projects ‘Don’t you have anything better to do/I wish someone could hug you.’ Whilst this track is of a solemn theme the words and upbeat tune juxtaposes how this kind of sexism is normality. The whole record is protesting and telling you how she needs a little relief for all this, none more obvious that in Need a Little Time. This whole record accurately depicts what life is as a 30-something girl in the world. It is full of doubt, confidence and reality. It really is here telling us all how she really feels and it’s awkward, captivating and doubtful. It is, in short, awkward brilliance. (Hannah Fahy)
Parquet Courts – ‘Wide Awake!’
On the New York indie-rock maestro’s 5th full-length, the band recruit an unlikely source behind the desk in Danger Mouse, to create their most socially rich record to date. And fuck Tom Brady.
In our current, increasingly insane decade, Parquet Courts have been one of the few constants. Right from their 2012 break-out Light Up Gold, they have released the most consistently exciting, intriguing, challenging, entertaining ‘guitar-rock’ music bar perhaps Detroit’s Protomartyr. Through their ‘main timeline’ (as detailing all their EPs, collaborations and off-shoots would take all day) of Sunbathing Animal, Human Performance and now Wide Awake! Parquet Courts have successfully managed to keep themselves fresh and brimming with new ideas as they attempt to top themselves with each release. With that in mind, perhaps bringing in a left-field choice of producer such as Danger Mouse isn’t such a terrible idea to keep the band relevant.
On Wide Awake! the band jump around different genres such as dub and carnival in the places where Danger Mouse’s presence is most felt, but also don’t forget to write the straight-up rockers that have made them such a notoriously entertaining band in the first place, in which real name Brian Burton keeps things to the band’s liking. Lead singles ‘Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience’ and Wide Awake! are good examples of this album’s at times schizophrenic nature, but never does it feel ill-fitting or contrived. Once again, Parquet Courts have produced something full of simultaneous humour and anger, as is apparently the only way to survive these crazy times. (Adam Turner-Heffer)
Forest Swords – ‘DJ-Kicks’
The acclaimed British producer takes you deep into the twilight with this mesmerizing mixtape.
The great thing about a compilation series like the ongoing DJ-Kicks one by beloved label !K7 is the way how each curator managed to give it its own twist in the end. And of course, if you give somebody like Matthew Barnes the chance to compile his own selection you can expect a lot of things… well, except for a predictable DJ-mix. Over the past decade Barnes’s musical alter ego Forest Swords delivered haunting and cinematic electronica on a regular basis, breaking genre limitations while creating his own dark microcosm. Barnes isn’t interested in mainstream appealing club music, instead he’s fascinated by moods, a certain narrative frame and in surprising the listener. His DJ-Kicks delivers just that feeling in the form of 27 carefully selected tracks that invite the listener to an over sixty minute long journey into the sound that inspired Forest Swords.
Obviously, the start isn’t quite ‘in your face’ as Barnes opens the album with a mysterious voice memo he recorded by himself. Tracks by Anna Homler, Steve Moshier and Kara-Lis Coverdale take us to nocturnal ambient-territory before Best Friend by Rhythm & Sound brings a slow grooving rhythm into the mixture. Anna Domino’s sensual With The Day Comes The Dawn takes us into psychedelic territory before classics by Neneh Cherry and Dead Can Dance slowly but steady speed up the tempo. Crow, an exclusive new Forest Swords piece, is perfectly placed in-between that selection. Barnes’ DJ-Kicks prepares itself for the club, although the producer is wise enough to no go for the obvious ‘four-to-the-floor’ picks here. Instead, it’s a wild and hypnotic, almost tribal-like selection of different speeds and genres before The London Bulgarian Choir suddenly breaks the chaos and slows everything down to a more chilled finale of this adventurous sampler. Just like his own music, the DJ-Kicks of Forest Swords is a wonderful experience for those who’d love to get surprised by new and exotic music and appreciate to get that music delivered via a story. (Norman Fleischer)
Örvar Smárason – ‘Light Is Liquid’
The first solo output by the acclaimed Icelandic artist is a fascinating journey through electronic variations.
After having released roughly twenty albums with various musical projects, it’s quite surprising that it took FM Belfast and múm mastermind Örvar Smárason almost two decades to finally release a solo album under his own name. Besides being an acclaimed writer and poet in his home country, the Icelandic musician has been carefully perfected his own mixture of folk, electronica and ambient which now unfolds its full potential on these eight songs. The majority of Light Is Liquid was recorded before last year’s musical longtime project with Sóley and Sin Fang but you’ll sense similarities (partly because the two are also featured in minor roles here). With the help of a few friends like Sillus and JFDR Smárason creates a vibrant and boundless atmosphere on Light Is Liquid which indeed feels like all part line up to one delicate stream of consciousness.
Photoelectric delivers a tender and playful start with vocals by Sillus before Tiny Moon takes a slightly darker turn as it sees JFDR riding on a tender groove. Örvar Smárason himself uses the vocoder to express his singing which creates a strange feeling of warmth but also alienation, something that’s sensible at various points on the record. The soft electronic sound transports the typical Icelandic melancholia into a futuristic setting, making the borders between men and machine disappear. The fact that Smárason‘s lyrics reference dark regions on faraway planets, scientific phenomena and other unsolved mysteries of the universe underlines that feeling. Light Is Liquid is a singer/songwriter album with science fiction DNA and a transcendental testament of the artist’s musical qualities. (Norman Fleischer)
Maximilian Hecker – ‘Wretched Love Songs’
The tender troubadour with the comforting voice returns with another delicate selection of sparkling songs.
Maximilian Hecker‘s Wretched Love Songs is his first album since 2015’s Spellbound Scenes of My Cure (at least if you count out 2016’s ‘The Best of Maximilian Hecker’). It thematizes Hecker‘s difficulties to form romantic relationships, his childhood and the birth of his severely disabled sister. The album was produced by the arists’s live guitarist Johannes Feige, who also produced the last album. What is outstanding about Wretched Love Songs are it’s beautiful melancholic piano arrangements that were made by both Hecker and Feige.
While the first songs are dominated by those piano arrangements, Paradise on Earth is a beautiful pop song that is more forward-going than melancholic. Compared to that, Xanax Child is a dreamy electronic song. On Sea Of Silence Pt. II and My Wretched Love III Maximilian Hecker returns to the piano ballads that made up the first half of the album. Wretched Love Songs is a beautifully sad album full of brillant atmospheric pop songs and piano arrangements. It helps to portray love in a different and more authentic way than it’s usually portraited in pop songs. (Louisa Zimmer)