Jack White – ‘Fear Of The Dawn’

Sounds like … Mr White has no fear to test the speed limit with his invigorating sound.

2022 is going to be a big year for Jack White with not only one, but two albums being released as well as an extensive tour having been scheduled to bring both works to stages around the world. Fear of the Dawn, which is released today, marks the first chapter with Entering Heaven Alive following in July only a couple of weeks later. Sonically diverging in the most eclectic way, Jack White is showcasing his artistic range as a songwriter starting with a vibrant and energizing selection of songs on Fear of the Dawn that is setting the bar high whereas Entering Heaven Alive will be much more mellow according to its first taste, the soulful acoustic ballad Love Is Selfish. Leaning towards his unbroken love for heavy guitar riffs and an unmatched immediacy, White is clearly enjoying every fierce chord that he is breathlessly releasing from his guitars – raw, squeaking and shredding in the best possible way like in the album’s title track. The loud and stomping nature of the song indicates well what the listener can expect over the course of the album that is full of overloaded guitars, vocal and pedal effects, overdubs and most of all White’s perpetual drive that seems to fuel every second of his latest work.

A sonic development we have already seen to a certain degree on 2018’s Boarding House Reach, however in a much more controlled dose. Fast forward to 2022 and White’s return with Fear of the Dawn, he is not holding back in the slightest way fully giving in to his freethinking nature and an urge to write uncompromising songs at this point in his career more than ever. Songs that sometimes feel like impulsive jam sessions led by the always technically gifted White that can’t be stopped and obviously doesn’t want to be stopped by anyone. Fear of the Dawn may offer more fun than depth compared to previous releases, but the overall vibe blurring the lines between blues-garage-rock, hip hop and electronic influences is exactly as playful and wild as it sounds – and White intends it to be. After all, there is still Entering Heaven Alive coming up with a more settled and probably more tamed atmosphere. For now, we get to experience the maximum distortion of White sawing everything up in an instant and it feels exactly as invigorating as it should be. (Annett Bonkowski)

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Kae Tempest – ‘The Line Is A Curve’

Sounds like … heaviness unravelling.

Kae Tempest presents another lyrically meticulous piece with The Line is a Curve, not deviating from the topics that have always centred in their work: identity, the lights and darks of life, socio-cultural construction of emotionality in relation to the individual, and connection – a topic they explored in their latest work of non-fiction On Connection; an essay which draws on C.G. Jung’s The Red Book and the concept of different spirits present in one human. Tempest continues a less concept-driven and personal exploration which started on The Book of Traps and Lessons from 2019 which saw instrumentalization withdraw to make room for voice and semantics that is taken further this time. Another part of this coming to culmination is a photo of themselves on the cover, an important decision for someone who is keen to let the work shine for itself. 

Priority Boredom opens fast and urgently melting into I Saw Light and the first feature of which there are many on this record in comparison to its predecessor. Fontaines D.C’s Grian Chatten with his North-Dublin accent joins to contemplate the melancholy of city lights passing by like moments of joy. This is followed by the highpoints of The Line is a Curve with Nothing To Prove bringing the sharpest and catchiest hook: “Nothing to hold but tight / Nothing to make but night / Nothing to hate but life / Nothing to want but more / Nothing to take but time” – it is the closest reminder of the energy carried on 2016’s Let Them Eat Chaos. On No Prizes fellow London-born Lianne La Havas adds softness to the stories of ambition and (un)fulfilled dreams, devising three characters to tell their story. Since Kae Tempest’s voice and cadence is what defines their output, there are two tracks musically venturing out of the predominantly electronic or hip-hop beat realm which are These Are The Days with its cascading e-guitar and More Pressure, essentially a pop song accompanied by recently split-up Brockhampton’s Kevin Abstract, a feature arranged through their shared connection with Rick Rubin. Beside these explorations, opening with a phone-recording from their last tour Smoking with Confucius MC feels like coming home to long-time fans, catching a breath while diving deeper into the artist’s mind. The last song Grace connects this record to the last one even more in two ways – it is just as stripped back as People’s Faces, closing track of The Book of Traps and Lessons and it references the opener Thirsty by repeating its very first line “I came to under that red moon”, reminding everyone that when one moves steadily and true to oneself through life’s recurrent nature it can bring forth honest connection and beaming art. (Anna-Katharina Stich)

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Wet Leg – ‘Wet Leg’

Sounds like … cathartic party anthems for sad people.

The Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg made an appearance with a big roar just last summer, and it seems that bangers like Chaise Longue and Wet Dream did arrive just in time for a resurrected concert and festival season of 2022. The hype around Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers was a huge one prior to the release of their self-titled first full-length LP, so it is quite astonishing to see how the indie rock act lives up to these expectations in a way only Wet Leg can. Incredibly boisterous, explosive and garnished with all the wit and ease a debut like this deserves, the first album of the rising indie act comes and goes with a bang, and it shows that fears and pain are met best with a well-dosed amount of humour and joy.

Coming-of-age topics do build the lyrical root of the twelve songs – be it youthful fears about life’s uncertainties, handling love and relationships or oppressing existential angst – but that doesn’t keep Wet Leg from having a good time, quite the opposite indeed. Chaise Longue ranks among the memorable pieces and cranks up its game from thudding bass lines to a full-blown punk rock item that plays along the lines double entendre and subverting educational ideals. Angelica follows that spirit in equal fashion and performs how to have “good times / all the time” when things clearly do not look that bright. The virtue to not take themselves too seriously then dominates the lot of the record, as bangers like Wet Dream or Oh No easily demonstrate. And it’s not that it all comes across as a mere defense mechanism towards life’s hardships, but a very satisfying way of confronting these. “We knew it had to be fun”, front singer Rhian clarifies in our recent interview – well, if this ain’t fun, then I don’t know what is. (Andreas Peters)

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Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys – ‘Teen Tapes (for performing your own stunts)

Sounds like … fuzz-drenched routes into the twilight.

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys started their Tapes cycle back in 2019 with Sleeping Tapes for Some Girls and with the recent Teen Tapes (for performing your own stunts), the trilogy reaches its temporary conclusion. “If Sleeping Tapes is closed-eyed”, Lucy Kruger remarks, “Transit Tapes slowly looks up, and Teen Tapes meets the gaze of another”. While growth has naturally inked the progression of the trilogy, the latest edition of the tapes sees the act expressing a desire to move out of the shadows into the open. “Now I wanna learn how to play” she sings on the fuzzy Play, rousing both an air of courage and hope that the light of day will await her at the end of each tunnel.

Fuzzy and soaked in pools of distortion, Warm I and Risk quickly establish an atmospheric heaviness as starting point into the ten tracks, and yet weight is not everything we likely feel, as lighter harmonies reward the ear, for instance on the swelling Spinning. Lucy Kruger manages to navigate that thread up and down, as in the doom-esque Play or the slow-burning sonic flares of Amsterdam. The roaring and kicking Autobiography Of An Evening at the heart of the album feels like the ultimate dare – almost like a dialogic battle between ennui and courage (“Let’s sharpen our knives / For the pillow fight”) the dramatic storyline unfurls towards expressions of ultimate confrontation, reaching a breathtaking peak of poetic artistry: “Hold me close as my feathers come undone / And your fingers find the glue / And the curtains find the sun / And the dust of something new / Brings a memory like a bruise”. As the Teen Tapes come to a close, liberation and awe is one thing to be felt, another might be the still-residing gloom about the roads travelled, what is certain though is that it all amounts to an experience of serenity and comfort. (Andreas Peters)

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Daniel Rossen – ‘You Belong There

Sounds like … an afternoon tempest spent in the cabin.

Despite being best known for his engagement as co-singer, co-songwriter and guitarist for Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear, Daniel Rossen has had a prolific career outside the critically acclaimed four-piece group. His 2008 collaboration with once-roommate Fred Nicolaus on the Department of Eagles sophomore In Ear Park – a solo album in all but name – enlisted two of his bandmates for a lush, 60s-tinged collection of baroque pop songs that were left aside by his main band. By 2012, when Rossen’s proper debut EP Silent Hour / Golden Mile dropped, his style of harmonic, vibrant guitar voicings and pleading vocal delivery had become an instantly recognizable hallmark. He had also abandoned the Brooklyn scene for the countryside of New York, and it is there and in New Mexico that – following the indefinite hiatus of Grizzly BearDaniel Rossen has laboured on the difficult task of crafting his first full-length album all by himself.

His result, You Belong There, breathes the spirit of the countryside he wrote and recorded in. Devoid of most forms of electronic instrumentation, the ten tracks sound calm but not calming, atmospheric but not idyllic. Rossen makes frequent use of a nylon-string guitar – an unusual choice in American folk – and a barrage of woodwinds and bowed instruments that envelop songs like Tangle and lead single Shadow In The Frame in a delicate if not menacing ambiance. Listening to the record evokes distant memories of old Disney movies and moody soundtracks, but there are two reasons why none of the references stick. One is the astonishing playing of Grizzly Bear drummer Chris Bear, one of the few collaborators on this record. His jazz-tinged, inventive rhythms add not just a layer, but a whole new dimension – Bear uses his space wisely to set a driving beat or crash and roar, switching within the flick of an eye. The other key element is Rossen’s guitar, the heart of most of these tracks. As I learned to play the standout Unpeopled Space, I realized how much of its spirit and power is contained in the elaborate pickings, the unexpected harmonic movements. “Words fail / And they’re failing / they fail me now” sings Rossen, and I am afraid that he is right – You Belong There is a hard and solitary experience, but ultimately a rewarding one. (Igor Franjić)

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