Deerhoof – ‘Future Teenage Cave Artists’

Sounds like … an experimental exploration of the future of music and society.

The San Francisco quartet Deerhoof have already been to future and back. Future Teenage Cave Artists is written from the perspective of someone who has already given up on anything good to come. Facing the uncertainty of the future, Deerhoof say “young rebels are the ones trying to save us” and that is who the record seems to be dedicated to. The band is a step ahead of all of us, imaging the future beyond and the LP is a musical instrumentation that pushes the boundaries with its experimentation.

The band merges familiar elements, slide-guitar, noise rock, RnB, and 70s funk to a new creation of their own. Topped with the vocal harmonies of the three singing members, the dynamic shifts within each track are sometimes not easy to handle. From the cacophony of Farewell Symphony over a steadily rolling drumbeat, to the Berlin underground techno infused experimental RnB of New Orphan Asylum for Spirited Deerchildren, it is a ride. And the record closes in the unexpected but strangely fitting I Call on Thee. The piano-only ballad simultaneously seems to mourn the ashes of what has passed and admire the phoenix to rise from them. In tearing it all down Deerhoof create something new musically and, what at times seemed to be a dark vision, carries positivity and excitement within. (Liv Toerkell)

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PINS – ‘Hot Slick’

Sounds like … girls just want to have fun AND kick some butt.

For almost ten years Manchester-based three-piece PINS have been a loud and reckless force of the British indie music scene. Faith Vern, Lois MacDonald and Kyoko Swan charmingly call themselves a girl gang and it’s that fearless and unapologetic attitude that has defined their music right from the start. Don’t ever mistake them for a charming girl band … if you do there’s a high chance of getting kicked in your butt. And while this attitude is still very much alive like it was on their furious 2013 debut Girls Like Us the sound and aesthetics of the trio has surely changed over the years. Their third full-length Hot Slick might be the most drastic change in style and sound so far. It marks a fresh start for PINS after a few years of radio silence. A few changes in line-up and life later, the remaining gang members embraced the new roles which actually implied the absence of roles. Any instrument, any idea was welcome and the result sees a record that is less dominated by the post-punk vibe of the early days but a love for new wave and disco that sees the group channelling influences from New Order to LCD Soundsystem. They got new people on board to help with the record, most famously The Kills‘ Jamie Hince and Nathan Saoudi of Fat White Family. The result is a partly slick, yet heavily stubborn, fuelled by the determination of the protagonists.

“Good girls go to heaven, that ain’t where we are headin'” is a fitting credo they shout out on Bad Girls Forever, a song that feels like a “cheerleader goes disco”-anthem. Tracks like the opening After Hours or the catchy Ponytail aren’t afraid to be cheesy. They use big gestures and transport it via cocky lyrics that aren’t even trying to take themselves too serious here. It’s electric escapism but if you like to you can also label it as “feminism with fun”. It’s this charming “stiff-upper-lip-yet-not-too-serious” vibe that PINS still transport despite the musical change they underwent. However, that hunger for experiment results in some really sweet new musical adventures. The acid-dripping Ghosting, for example, always feels a bit like a Soulwax tune while the charming Daisies really recalls some 80s Factory Records vibes in here. PINS are not about lyrical depth, they are all about confidence and self-esteem. That’s the message they want to send to all the girls out there who are still looking for a gang to join. That’s easier said than done, right? Hot Slick might not deliver life-changing musical material but it’s life-affirming charm; a much-needed mood lifter that reminds us about the joy of togetherness. And if that’s not something worth fighting for these days I don’t know what else is. (Norman Fleischer)

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Flying Lotus – ‘Flamagra Instrumentals’

Sounds like … a boundless journey through funk and electronica.

In Flying Lotus, Warp Records have undoubtedly hooked one of the most prolific and uniquely talented producers of the last ten years. Ever since he burst into the collective consciousness with Cosmodrama in 2010, he’s been dropping effervescent and boundary-pushing albums regularly with You’re Dead clearly his masterpiece. It’s also the album where he first released an alternative version to the original body of work and a year on from his 2019 album Flamagra, he’s indulging in the same trick.

The original album was awash with who’s who in music right now. Collaborations with Anderson .Paak, Solange, David Lynch and of course, long time funk aficionado, Thundercat. The new album takes a lot of these names out of the equation, as he opts for an instrumental take on the project. As always and as was the case with the original, it’s an epic piece of production from a genuine master in his field. There’s high tempo, high energy output in the form of Pilgrim Side Eye and Takashi, with his trademark wonky hip hop stylings in Capillaries and Black Balloons Reprise. As much an exercise in masterful sound design as songwriting, the layers he brings to his work are quite something. It’s necessary though, to caveat this by saying, the original album with the vocalists involved, beats the instrumental hands down. Listening through, I found myself missing Paak’s vocals on More and found Land of Honey a tad lifeless without Solange. I’d conclude that, Flying Lotus’ production & instrumentation stands out throughout his albums regardless, so i’m struggling to see the point of an instrumental album here. It’s still pretty solid work however although I strongly recommend you to listen to the original version of the record first. (Aidan Grant)

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Sébastien Tellier – ‘Domesticated’

Sounds like … synth-infused tales about the bliss of growing up.

It is rarely a good idea to make assumptions from a record’s title back to the actual life of an artist, but in the case of the new album by Sébastien Tellier it might actually help understand the work a little better. A set of just eight songs, Domesticated is the product of round about 200 song ideas, the Parisian songwriter and synth-pop troubadour has worked into a mellow musical journey rich of pleasant melodies and warm electronic symphonies. It is also an attempt of putting into music his personal journey from a „lone wolf“ to someone who has become a husband, a father and who has traded in the wild extravagancies of youthful living for a lifestyle more calm and down to earth. „Domestication is something universal: an experience we all share“, Tellier says in regard to the thematic frame of the record. On his sixth major release, he dedicates himself to exactly these changes. And he does so with dreamy, electrified harmonies that are captivating and refreshing.

Contrary to the routine that the idea of domestication might evoke, the songs on here do not fall into that trap: From the opening A Ballet, a delightful and mellow synth ballad up to the final Won, a tender finale that reveals the ultimate point in the movement from rebellious teenage spirit to a more reliable being and unites smooth vocal sections with airy ambiance and an electrifying sound array. „It’s about transforming the mundane into something extraordinary“, Sébastien Tellier is keen to emphasise. And the tunes follow that principle while still presenting a distinct gentleness that will draw you in their gaze. Stuck In A Summer Love is a fine example here. A soft drum pattern and dynamic synth arpeggios lead the way into a tune that tells the story of someone „stuck in the past“, a teenager uncontrollably driven by his lust to love and to be loved in return. And while the punchline „can’t stop loving you“ keeps ringing in your ear, the piece carefully frames the dynamics of youthful desire into a flux of tension rising and falling. The result in the end is a hazy, melodious pop-paradise full of emotional richness that invites you to sink in and maybe even stay a while and get entertained. (Andreas Peters)

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School Of X – ‘Armlock’

Sounds like … darkened pop dreams with a hopeful ending.

Let’s talk about death, shall we? It still appears to be common sense in our Western civilization to ignore that topic although we’ll face it one day. For Rasmus Littauer death is more of a motivation behind his work, somehow forcing him to finally pursue his dreams. And releasing a full-length album by his alter ego School Of X was definitely one of those dreams. Littauer played an active role in the background over the past ten years, mostly as part of ‘s live band. Armlock follows last year’s Destiny EP and years on the road which directly let him to these morbid thoughts. What if death is just around the corner and he never get to do all the things he always wanted to do? Recording Armlock the Danish artist realized that his devotion to music barely leaves much room for his dreams of sailing the world or owning a bohemian cafe in South America. He found himself trapped in an armlock, unable to pursue every dream and that realization is manifested on these nine little gems that mix this sinister notion with a more hopeful approach. The sound from School Of X doesn’t stick to simply one genre, it circles around multiple ideas although there is a charming melancholic red line running through this record.

Where Do I Start opens the album as a dreamy folk anthem in which Littauer calms down likeminded listeners – “sad boys and sad girls, we’re all the same” he sings and yes to this. Bad Love follows as a sinister tribute to a toxic relationship before Believe It introduces a more prominent guitar to the instrumentation. There’s room for a gentle R&B-inspired duet with Soleima (Parking Lot), ambient-fuelled ballads (Forgot Me On the Moon), laidback breakbeats (Collarbone) and a great cinematic finale via Blood Flow. This record shows the immense set of skills by Littauer in terms of songwriting, composing and production. Armlock is a slightly darkened yet strangely uplifting take on pop, one that encourages the listener to greet death with a much needed smile. School Of X earned his spot in the frontline of exciting new Nordic acts and this isn’t the worst dream one could pursue. (Norman Fleischer)

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