Death From Above 1979 – ‘Is 4 Lovers’
Is 4 Lovers, the deceptively titled new outing from Indie-Rock darlings Death From Above 1979 is a welcome assault on the senses. Layers of distorted bass hit like mortar rounds, anchored by heavily filtered vocal lines and surprisingly danceable drum beats. First single and standout One + One is about as clear a mission statement as those things get: groovy, fuzzy bass riffs wail and roar over a catchy breakbeat, the whole song rising and ebbing like a stormy sea. The record keeps this tempo consistent across its runtime, except for the delicious red herrings Love Letter and Glass Homes. This is still very much the same band that unleashed You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine onto the world in 2004, but the presentation has changed. Gone are the stoner rock grooves and the punk attitude; Is 4 Lovers is clear, direct and combative, a far cry from the comparatively laid-back swagger of tracks like Going Steady or Black History Month.
The biggest surprise is the drum grooves. Apparently inspired by a comment from drummer Sebastian Grainger’s wife, the beats are noticeably more diverse and infectious with a notable disco influence. Syncopated kicks and swinging rides abound, and push the sometimes overwhelming sonical assault in a more tangible direction. In the end though, this is still very much a record from one of the best (and last) rock duos to ever do it. If you long for the mix of bone-breaking heaviness and effortless cool that made the band a household name to begin with, then Is 4 Lovers will welcome you with open arms. Just don’t expect it to hold your hand. (Nils Heutehaus)
Flock Of Dimes – ‘Head Of Roses’
Jenn Wasner (usually also part of Wye Oak and recently Bon Iver‘s live band) has taken the opportunity in her second solo record to sit and mull over the complexities of heartbreak. As a record, Head of Roses dwells on the experience of being heartbroken, but also the journey of breaking someone else’s heart. If this introduction sounds wistful, that’s because the album can also be described in such a way. Full of sweeping melodies and pensive lyrics, Wasner has taken her sophomore album to the next level by reaching out to friend and producer Nick Sanborn after recording her first album primarily solo. Flock of Dimes has been carefully woven together to form a kind of story; containing electronic textures as well as country notes. One of the most pleasant parts of the album is how each song seems to fit together, containing no awkwardly misplaced parts sitting too heavily on the listeners ears. At the same time, each song is distinctively its own – such as Lighting, which is dressed in clean electric guitar contrasting with Awake for the Sunrise, itself a country ballad at heart.
Head of Roses is Wasner’s attempt at creative collaboration, having written, recorded and produced every song on her first record, If You See Me, Say Yes solo. She is, as it turns out, better for it, the songs on Head Of Roses sound at once more intimate and heartfelt, whilst also encompassing and showing off her impressive range for different styles and sounds. Like many musicians stuck in a touring paralysis at the mercy of seemingly never-ending lockdowns, Wasner has taken the time to look inward and create music that reflects this imposed soul searching with a small collection of trusted collaborators. This, combined with her long practiced and deft artistry – from instrument playing to lyric crafting, makes this record well worth a listen to. For those that like to dwell on their heartbreak, there is a sense that Flock of Dimes is overall slightly cultivated, it rarely goes much further outside the parameters it has set for itself. Within those parameters however, the record does what it sets out to achieve, and does it with a sophistication many musicians would aspire to. (Tamsin Paternoster)
Dry Cleaning – ‘New Long Leg’
Already their name fits into the image this band creates of self-irony and observations of the absurdities and peculiarities of daily life; Dry Cleaning. With screechy guitars, steady basslines, and a driving drum beat they at first seem to fit the scheme of most post-punk bands but here is where vocalist Florence Shaw comes in. Her monotone spoken-word style recitals dissect and observe life as we live it with witty cynicism. The vocals melt into the arrangement like another instrument and function as the glue between the other elements.
Scratchcard Lanyard opens the records and sets the mood with the line “do everything and feel nothing” – symbolic for the generation that is paralyzed by options and overwhelmed by influences. The noisy chorus of Unsmart Lady screeches in cacophonic yet controlled guitar riffs that come together to a dynamic storm of distortion. On the psychedelic-tinged reverbed Her Hippo, Shaw sings of accidental electrocution and running away together but not with “those loafers”. Florence Shaw does not really sing as much as she recited the wryly funny lyrics relatable in their banality. But that makes Dry Cleaning so irresistible, they will make you smirk while listening and the monotony of the recited words fits into the steady post-punk instrumentation creating an almost claustrophobic vibe. The sound of Dry Cleaning is condensed on ALC, a stripped back song, reminiscent of Patti Smith’s early performances. Guided by the vocals, the instrumental arrangements fall into place, unhurried and loose, but intense when they are allowed to. (Liv Toerkell)
The Natvral – ‘Tethers’
Sounds like … one of indie music’s finest songwriters embracing adulthood.
After over ten years of late adolescent celebration with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart a change was inevitable for the band’s mastermind Kip Berman when he became a father and moved out of Brooklyn to Princeton. Long gone are the days of teenage longing and touring van craziness – Berman has settled for a life in the suburbs where writing songs and playing music don’t play a major part anymore. That might sound like an anticlimax but Tethers, the first full-length of his new alter ago The Natvral, is anything but that. It’s a triumphant and easy-going celebration of adulthood and maturity while still not losing the fun in music. In the press release Berman sums up the issue in fitting words when he says: “Before my daughter was born, I was afraid she would take me away from music. When she was born, I was afraid music would take me away from her. But now I know I need both to continue to grow as a parent and an artist.” So, yes the days of shimmering 80s-infected indie/wave pop are gone but instead the songwriter welcomes us to a world of raw American folk, a bit glam rock and a less slick approach towards his still very captivating songs.
Tethers was recorded over 7 days with producer Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine, Black Country New Road), not because Berman wanted it done so quickly but because it was the only possible time window. Right from the furious opening Why Don’t You Come Out Anymore? he leaves no doubt that this is an entirely different world than his previous band. No effect pedals, overdubs or even a metronome – the songs all come with this joyful live vibe that recalls the sound of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Tender folk ballads like New Moon meet groovy glam rock smashers like Sun Blisters. There’s even room for an uplifting sing along in the end of the joyful New Year’s Night. Berman might have changed the musical setting of his songs but the quality and his melodic strength are still there. Sylvia, The Cup Of Youth comes with one of his typical catchy pop hooks and clever lyrics. Tethers became a raw and reflective new chapter in the musical journey of Berman. It might be the start of an interesting new journey but could also work as a sweet reprise to a still way too underrated songwriter talent of his generation. Growing up might not be easy after all but The Natvral surely makes it sound like fun anyway. (Norman Fleischer)
Servicio al Cliente – ‘Servicio al Cliente’
Sounds like … late night skinny dipping on a private beach with your besties.
From IMARA, another imprint of Cologne’s much appreciated Kompakt label comes a bunch of otherworldly grooves that help us overcome the last cold days before summer. Like this charming pigeon on the cover, lovely but a little weird, that Servicio al Cliente record flew over our desk and cheeky claimed its space between the other birds. Servicio al Cliente is the moniker of Juliana Martínez, a daughter of two psychiatric doctors who grew up in Colombia. Martinez’ isn’t new to the game, diving deep down the early recordings of her former band Las Palabras Correctas can give you a glimpse of her creative roots. And let me say, if you got a special interest in some south american flavoured lofi-bedroom-pop from the early 2000’s, it’s definitely worth a listen.
Now based in Berlin things have changed a little and so does her audible microcosm. The laid back, surprisingly eclectic songs on her self titled debut form a well-rounded album that you’ll keep playing over and over and over, once you gave it a listen. Softly sequenced off-beats keep working their way through the little soundscapes, while Martinez’ voice always finds a way to catch you. In between she spices up the scenario with modular bleeps and spacey pads from another world. No matter if you opening or going to prepare the afters, this record gets you through the night. Martinez’ vocals are close to speaking, pure and undisguised but still disconnected from reality, while her dreamy melodies floating through time and space, your heart and soul and love and pain. Servicio al Cliente became a timeless but never out of date collection of songs that carries the artists cultural heritage without any cliché, or in her own words „(…) is full of a South American nostalgia“. This is an album that badly needs a space in your record shelf — sort it somewhere between Antena’s 1982 debut Camino del Sol and Discovery Zone’a Remote Control. (Stefan Ibrahim)