A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead
Well, it was bound to happen, really. The best thing Radiohead could have done to meet the huge hype was to not do what was expected, or what was not expected. Think of it as a semi-sequel to Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows, effortlessly combining the acoustic and electronic elements that they’ve polarised so often and making songs that don’t directly say anything, but are subtle both lyrically and instrumentally. Saying less and making less noise might look like a cop-out, but they do so much with that new space. The roles of the Greenwood brothers are amplified, from Colin’s bass input on ‘Identikit’ and ‘Decks Dark’ to Jonny’s work on film soundtracks being translated to ‘Burn The Witch’ and ‘The Numbers’.
Listen To: Daydreaming
Adore Life – Savages
In response to the tight and tense music that their debut album showed off, Savages got louder and covered a topic that not many would associate with moody post-punk – Love. But the way Jehnny Beth sang about it; it was like a horror film with the murderer always around the corner ready to pounce. It was monolithic and feared, and even when it was accepted, it was on her own terms. A unique perspective only matched by the jackhammer bass and drums of Ayşe Hassan and Fay Milton.
Listen To: Adore
Rot Forever – Sioux Falls
One of the most enjoyable debuts to come out so far this year, Sioux Falls went overboard on their 72-minute first impression. It had more than a whiff of Modest Mouse, but frontman Isaac Eiger specifically mentions making Modest Mouse mixtapes in highlight ‘In Case It Gets Lost’. It’s clumsy, chaotic rock music that spills over usual time limits and restrictions into making an album that matches Eiger’s lyrics. Plus, the drumming is great.
Listen To: In Case It Gets Lost
Human Ceremony – Sunflower Bean
‘Easier Said’ is Sunflower Bean’s best song, yet it’s unlike any other. On ‘2013’, ‘I Was Home’ and ‘Creation Myth’ they blend hard rock with psychedelic music, but on ‘Easier Said’ it’s a pretty little pop song with Julia Cumming, bassist, leading the vocals instead of the band’s other vocalist, Nick Kivlen. It was probably a coincidence that Human Ceremony and Leave Me Alone by Hinds arrived around the same time, but both of those albums were genuinely surprising for debuts by bands that had been pegged into a certain sound. Apparently Sunflower Bean are good live as well, and they refuse to stop touring, so give them a go.
Listen To: Easier Said
When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired – Mothers
Mothers continue the flow of folk/singer-songwriters around right now, from Angel Olsen, Eskimeaux and Frankie Cosmos. It originated as a solo project from Kristine Leschper, but the full band backing gives ‘It Hurts Until It Doesn’t’ and ‘Hold Your Own Hand’ a life beyond quiet folk. Leschper’s voice is the centrepoint; an emotive and sharp performance that aims for the heart like any good folk music.
Listen To: Too Small For Eyes
Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest
Here’s an underdog story waiting to happen. Will Toledo makes loads of Bandcamp albums and gets a record deal with Matador, puts out a compilation of his best tracks so far and then, on his first Matador album of original material, makes one of the best albums of the year (not without some copyright issues along the way). It might sound a bit like the resurrection of peak-Stephen Malkmus, but Toledo’s relentless self-referencing, concepts and dry humour are just what indie-rock needs to sound important.
Listen To: Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Human Performance – Parquet Courts
You could be worried about Parquet Courts easing into their cynical comfort zone, but Human Performance took some of the pressure off lead vocalist Andrew Savage and gave more time to the other band members. The extended jams mostly went out the window, and in came the Velvet Underground and country-tinged indie-rock, something that Parquet Courts always hinted at but never fully captured. They’re finally where they should be.
Listen To: Berlin Got Blurry
Lemonade – Beyoncé
No doubt an album that will be on many peoples’ year-end list already, Beyoncé topped her self-titled fourth album by heaping on more of that artistry and auteurism that Rihanna and Zayn Malik have hopped on. Beyoncé didn’t forget to leave out the big songs with ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’, but it’s the narrative that many came for. It became clear that Lemonade was about a break-up, whether that was a story or reality is yet to be known, but it made for a compelling arc. You could follow the story whilst listening to the best pop music right now. It’s the reason that mainstream and underground and becoming increasingly blurred.
Listen To: All Night
Leave Me Alone – Hinds
A record that should have been released in summer instead arrived in chilly January to start the year off strong. We were worried that Hinds were one-trick-ponies but when ‘Solar Gap’, ‘And I Will Send Your Flowers Back’ and ‘Warts’ came along with the hits it proved us wrong. It’s music to put on with the sun shining and not worrying if that verse was a bit awkward or they can sing pitch-perfect. Perhaps it’s the isolation from the self-appointed indie-rock headquarters of the UK or US, but Spain is looking pretty special right now with Mourn and Hinds spearheading some great rock music.
Listen To: Garden