Friendly Fires – ‘Inflorescent’

Sounds like … throwing a tropical house music party to celebrate life.

How the world can change within eight years. When Friendly Fires left us in 2011 we were all a bit younger, a bit more hopeful and optimistic especially after their sophomore record Pala became such an outburst of optimism. At the end of the decade the world looks a bit bleaker and that does the overdue third album Inflorescent? Right, it simply continues the Pala party and invites us back to the tropical island of Ed Macfarlane, Jack Savidge and Edd Gibson. Following a few years dominated by burnout, other projects, a bit writer’s block and a probably way too perfectionistic production process the follow-up is right here to remind us that these guys are a way too underrated pop musical force. Can’t Wait Forever throws us right into the colourful pool party, delivering a comeback of all the well-known Friendly Fires ingredients – the house piano, the brass section, the funky basslines and Macfarlane’s ‘Ba-ba-da-ba-da’ sing-alongs. ‘I can’t keep waiting forever’ he sings, greeting those who waited eight years for this album with a big grin. From here on Inflorescent is a fun summer party that really, really wants the listeners to have the time of their life. The Disclosure-collaboration Heaven Let Me In speeds up the tempo while Silhouettes is a percussive-driven sunset party smasher that was designed to put a smile upon your face. Well, actually that goes for the entire record.

Friendly Fires were never a band for mellow moments, they want to celebrate life, dance and the glory days of late 80s and early 90s house pop culture in all it’s shimmering beauty, even if that whole idea is sometimes simply overbooked. Inflorescent continues the slightly ‘over-the-top’-notion of its predecessor and you really hear how much effort the guys put into the best possible production here. They are the sort of group that thinks about the right snare drum for an entire week and that partly explains the delay of Inflorescent. Sometimes stuff gets a bit housier like on the cover of the Charles B and Adonis club classic Lack of Love but there’s also room for smooth Balearic break beats (Sleeptalking), a trippy sort-of-ballad (Cry Wolf) and power disco (Almost Midnight). In the end, the closing Run The Wild Flowers even gets a bit melancholic. If the house is burning I don’t want to be the last one out,’ sings Macfarlane, maybe hinting on an endangered paradise. Well, or maybe I’m reading too much into this. In the end, Inflorescent became a colourful comeback that celebrates life, love and dance in stubborn yet really honest perfection. And there’s not much bands left who can do this with dignity these days. (Norman Fleischer)

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Shura – ‘forevher’

Sounds like … sweet newly found love. 

Do you remember the feeling of falling in love for the first time? The very beginnings of a new and exciting relationship? The dizzying feeling you get when you meet your significant other? With exactly that feeling in her heart, the British singer and songwriter Shura went to work on her second album forevher and she managed to catch the impression perfectly.

The thrilling of the first kiss and the constant longing for the other, she displays on ‘religion (lay your hands on me)’. The groovy track almost sounds like something that grew on Prince’s turf and with Shura’s sweet falsetto vocals she turns it into an intoxicating and uplifting listen. Delicate wordplay with the concepts of religion applied to love make this one witty and clever. ‘BRKLNLNDN’ is a sensual ode to the time the singer and her, now, girlfriend spent in a long distance relationship while Shura was still living in London. Dipped in blue light and mellow beats, she croons ‘this isn’t love, this is an emergency’ displaying her desires openly. While most of the tracks are smooth and laid-back RnB and pop fusions, ‘skyline be mine’ takes a more electric turn. With ethereal sticky-sweet vocals and a heavy beat it almost sounds like a modern mellow take on 90s trip hop. It takes a darker twist at love turning into an obsession, than the other playfully flirty songs do. With forevher – a fusion of ‘forever’ and ‘her’ – Shura takes the personal songwriting to a new level as she retells the sweet love story of the couple. Let’s wish the couple all the best because obviously being in love has inspired Shura to write a new level of mesmerizing songs. (Liv Toerkell)

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Sleater-Kinney – ‘The Center Won’t Hold’

Sounds like … as affecting and relevant as they have always been.

After the much loved Portland, Oregon rock trio Sleater-Kinney reformed after a nine-year hiatus for 2015’s No Cities to Love, there was a palpable renewed sense of excitement. The band not only managed to successfully tour in a non-tacky way (during a time filled with the opposite) but backed it up with an excellent record. The news that their next album, The Center Won’t Hold, was being produced by St. Vincent practically led to fever-pitch levels.

However, by the time of the album’s release this week, things have changed. Janet Weiss, the band’s long-serving and much-respected drummer, suddenly left during the album’s promotional run citing displeasure with the “direction Sleater-Kinney‘s music is heading“. Couple this with the reception of the record’s lead singles ‘Hurry on Home‘ and ‘The Future Is Here‘ has led to a potentially nasty backlash, with Annie Clark coming under particular fire.

Thankfully, this is a misconceived notion. While St. Vincent’s influence can be keenly felt over The Center Won’t Hold, this is still very much a Sleater-Kinney album. Yes, the synths rumble on brooding tracks such as the opening title track or ‘Ruins‘ but then there are the self-referential ‘Love‘ or ‘Reach Out‘ which are pure S-K. Not everything works brilliantly, but the anger, lust, and frustration conveyed by the band’s dual front women Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker is every bit as affecting and relevant as they have ever been as they roll with the punches like they always have. (Adam Turner-Heffer)

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The Murder Capital – ‘When I Have Fears’

Sounds like … an intense dive into the post-punk abyss.

On paper the ingredients for a solid post-punk record sound pretty obvious but when it’s the moment when you mix them together that makes the difference between a pretty okay album and an extraordinary experience. And in the case of Dublin’s The Murder Capital they did everything right, partly also thanks to acclaimed producer Flood who helped them to record this pretty impressive debut album which arrives after only one or two songs in advance. When I Have Fears is an intense right into despair and desolation, carried by a band that’s bursting of energy and adventurous energy. Every note on that rollercoaster ride towards the heart of darkness shows the group’s skills and playfulness, making it a pretty impressive first release. For Everything starts the album with warning sirens before a thunderstorm of guitars, bass and drums lets to an epic build-up in the final minutes. Anger and determination dominate the voice of singer James McGovern that sometimes channels Ian Curtis (Feeling Fades) sometimes also Nick Cave… or maybe even a way too drunken Leonard Cohen in the crooning How The Streets Adore Me Now.

The Murder Capital try to avoid a too slick musical outfit for their debut album, the guitars remain raw and slightly out of tune every now and then while Flood tried to give them a gritty ‘rehearsal space’ notion you really sense on tracks like More Is Less and Feeling Fades. The two-parted Slowdance is the centre and highlight of this album, a nocturnal waltz with McGovern’s demons that gets louder and louder in the end. The Irish five-piece really understands how to build up drama and intensity over the course of a song, also allowing longer tracks like Green & Blue to come with the shame intensity like the shorter ones and that helps to keep this record pretty interesting as it’s not just about delivering furious two-and-a-half-minute garage rockers. When I Have Fears is an existential affair, a raw diamond that instantly catapults the lads into the first class of exciting new post-punk bands hailing from Post-Brexit Britain. Shame, IDLES and Fontaines D.C. are already fans of these lads and if you happen to have at least a little love for this subgenre you’ll fall for its sinister spell immediately. (Norman Fleischer)

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Press Club – ‘Wasted Energy’

Sounds like…a bold and honest statement made for an energetic live performance.

The second record after the self-released debut Late Teens from of the Australian four-piece Press Club is released via the London guitar fanatic label “Hassle Record”. With bands like Brutus, Petrol Girls and Pagan they are in good company when it comes to confident, female singers. Furthermore, their label mates The Joy Formidable share a similar sound concept with them. At least, when you listen to Wasted Energy’s lead single “Thinking About You”, which is melancholic, melodic, and energetic and the same time.
The energy level stays high during the twelve song on Wasted Energy. It is a fusion between hymnic punk-rock à la PUP, edgy indie-rock, and garage. Natalie Foster does not just sing, but screams and yells her heart out. “Same Mistake” is the closest they get on to a sentimental one. But even here the band accelerates towards the end. You really get an idea, why and how Press Club have gathered a reputation as one of Australia’s finest-live bands. “We only write and record what the four of us can replicate on stage. I think real human emotion in music resides in the minute imperfections of a performance.” bass player Ian McRae describes their approach at music making. This honest, punk-infected work ethos is displayed musically, as well as lyrically. Natalie Foster stated: “Lyrically this album is more direct. Maybe that’s come from being more sure of myself as a person and us as a band. I don’t feel like I’m hiding anything anymore.” This attitude comes across especially on “Behave“, a verbal rage against society’s expectations. Yet, “Separate Houses” is probably the strongest track on the record. It is a totally honest, emotional, and brave display of personal mistakes. With this naked honesty and unstoppable musical energy, Press Club secure themselves a spot next to American emo-infected punk rock band Mannequin Pussy. This record is everything but a waste of energy. (Abhilash Arackal)

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