Sleaford Mods – ‘Eton Alive’
Sleaford Mods are Sleaford Mods are Sleaford Mods. Two men, one laptop and a big portion of anger catalyzed in party humorous, partly dead serious but always honest lyrical outbursts. So, nothing new then on that front, besides the fact, that Eaton Alive is the first record, that the semi-political duo consisting of singer Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Robert Lindsay Fearn from Nottingham released on their own new found label ‘Extrem Eating’, after parting ways with Rough Trade Records. Eaton Alive is, like previous their previous releases, dominated by minimalistic beats, overlaid by simple and ludicrous electronic sequences and bass lines, with playful und unconventional musical gimmicks sprankled throughout the record (like a kazoo hook line in O.B.C.T.).
Jason Williamson’s thought-provoking, early Hip-Hop infected style of articulating his mind – that tend to be surprisingly melodic in some songs on Eaton Alive – is still directed at many: Pop and consume culture, the establishment in the British parliament, some random dickhead in the streets or the food the other night, that just didn’t taste right. Phrases like ‘Graham Coxon looks like a left-wing Boris Johnson’ (Flipside) or ‘It’s not enough anymore to want change, you have to do change but the only change I like sits in my pocket. I’m a consumer. I’m the systems rocket and I like my launcher!’ (Subtraction) display Jason Williamson’s street level speaking without holding anything back, neither from others, nor from himself. Although the two never wanted to be perceived as being the voice for anything or anyone besides themselves, it is especially this down-to-earth nature and rejection of glorification, that justifies the imprint given to them by the media. Speaking the language of the average working folk and authentically representing these on the musical landscape, they meet the desire, for honest, authentic and at the same time smart approach to a world, that many seem to get lost in. Smart, without being intellectual, simple, without being dull and honest, without the fear of scaring people off. The phenomena Sleaford Mods opens a new chapter in their verbal outlash against pretty much everything that’s fucked up in this world and they continue to do that in the most entertaining way. (Abhilash Arackal)
Modeselektor – ‘Who Else’
Despite a long lasting reputation in the electronic music scene Berlin-based electronic duo Modeselektor hasn’t released a proper studio album in eight years. In many ways Who Else is not only a comeback, but also a statement á la ‘Where’s the goddman throne? The king’s are back in town’. While we all enjoyed the last two Moderat records in their musical beauty there wasn’t much space for the craziness Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are famously known for. So, in many ways their fourth full-length is a counter movement to their work with Apparat: It’s wild, adventurous, unpredictable and ugly in a beautiful way: It’s an overdose of Modeselektor and a joyful party for those who like their electronic music a bit more fearless. One United Power starts the record with breaking beats and synth trumpets, documenting the return of the dynamic duo before their Flohio collaboration Wealth already marks the first turning point as it delivers an electrifying dancehall/ hip hop vibe you didn’t see coming.
Quite quickly Modeselektor speed up the tempo. Prügelknabe (German for ‘scapegoat’) delivers the hard stuff in form of a pumping and distorted kick drum. It’s followed by Who, a collaboration with buzzing Estonian rapper Tommy Cash. The kick gets even harder here but … well, out of the blue a children’s choir arrives. Well, you never know what you get with these guys. Who Else is quite easily the duo’s most uncompromising work so far, a post-techno playground with punk attitude. More ‘traditional’ techno pieces like WMF Love Song are in the minority or happen in a very extreme form like I Am Your Good which sounds like a forgotten underground tune from 1994. It’s all about the right bass, the pumping kicks, the right clicks and effects that make the listener go ‘What the f…?’ Who Else is Modeselektor on steroids, aggressive, adventurous and ready to reclaim the throne as one of electronic music’s most exciting acts. (Norman Fleischer)
Desperate Journalist – ‘In The Search Of The Miraculous’
What’s the place for a band like Desperate Journalist these days? The charts? Probably not. An educated underground? Sure. It would be most poetic though to place these beloved lads in the International Waters in between shores. Just like the song of said name depicts: ‘What’s the point in borders?’. The beauty of Desperate Journalist is, and it has been since their acclaimed self-titled 2015 debut album, their carelessness, always verging on the edge of naivete. In Search of the Miraculous proves that while their pop-infected post punk is nothing new per se, they constantly evolve as a band and by that, despite all the gloomy show and shine, this is a ray of light, actually.
Murmuration not even tries to act subtle and opens Miraculous with epicness. From there on on, Desperate Journalist present pop within the storm, clean guitar lines within white noise, and with Jo Bevan a singer, whose voice sounds more refined than ever. In all that, this is a very British record in the best sense. A song like Jonatan really highlights Bevan all the way through without watering down the constant musical turmoil underneath. This record draws a lot of influence from Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader who was lost at sea in 1975, attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the American coast to England sailing in a performance called, guess what, In Search of the Miraculous. It’s that aim for the big gesture and the simultaneous awareness of fatal failure that makes this record instantly appealing. Honestly? I don’t need a new White Lies record if there are Desperate Journalist now. (Henning Grabow)
Julia Jacklin – ‘Crushing’
‘I don’t want to be touched all the time/ I raised my body up to me mine’, Julia Jacklin sings on Head Alone off her third album Crushing. But Jacklin doesn’t deliver that message in a fuming style but in an sweet and melancholic folk rock anthem. The central focuses on the album are long-lost relationships and the relationship to one’s body.
There’s fast and forward tracks such as Pressure To Party or You Were Right, but also sentimental and introverted tracks like Turn Me Down or Convention where you can barely hear more than Jacklin’s voice. With Crushing, the Australian singer-songwriter moves into a direction which is at times similar to Angel Olsen or Sharon van Etten, but without losing her unique style. Crushing might be the perfect album to welcome the first days of spring or – if necessary – dump your lover. Julia Jacklin has got the perfect anthems for both scenarios. (Louisa Zimmer)
Bilderbuch – ‘Vernissage My Heart’
The story of Austrian four-piece Bilderbuch is a fascinating tale of change, bravery, stubbornness and a constant hunger to adapt new ideas and free themselves from any expectations. Ever since their 2015 record Schick Schock saw them breaking with their old indie rock roots and embracing a more glamorous and urban sound they are not only took all German-speaking countries by storm but also continue to shape a pretty unique musical cosmos. 2017’s Magic Life record was already a progressive step away from catchy hit singles but now they take it even further. In December they already surprise released their LP Mea Culpa, a quite hazy and introspective reflection on the end of a relationship as it appeared. Now, the follow-up arrives and it’s a return to the light for Bilderbuch. However, it’s better to enjoy both records together so you should really give the predecessor a few spins before embracing Vernissage My Heart to fully understand the whole story.
The new record is less introverted as its predecessor but it still shows the band’s reckless love for experimentation in terms of sound, language and song structures. They aren’t interested in delivering more hits in the style of Maschin and Bungalow but take it more subtle. LED go and Mr. Supercool take things smoother and sensual and are the closest Bilderbuch are getting towards a ‘hit pop song’ on Vernissage My Heat. Apart from that the Austrians deliver a smooth and summerly melange of glam, R&B, hip hop, electronic sounds and stunning guitar solos. It’s impossible by now to label their sound, so let’s just stick with ‘pop’. Singer Maurice Ernst however continues to stretch the possibilities of his singing. He sounds rougher and more adventurous and partly appears to be establishing a meta-language that isn’t limited to just German. There’s the notorious Austrian accent but he’s mumbling more, letting words blend into each other while dropping English phrases and lines like it’s the most natural thing. It helps if you speak German but it’s actually not necessary to enjoy the vibe of this summerly LP. Maybe the next Bilderbuch record will be an English one after all, maybe not. They think beyond borders anyway, musically and politically. The epic final track Europa 22 is an ode to the continent’s fragile unity. And that’s one reason why they’ll continue to shine. (Norman Fleischer)