Review: 'Field Manual' is the debut solo album from Death Cab for Cutie founding member Chris Walla. Known for his production work for his own band
as well as other similarly indie-minded recording artists (Tegan & Sara, Decemberists), as well as for his guitar work and arranging roles in DCFC,
Walla performs all the instruments on 'Field Manual' other than drums, which were contributed by Jason McGerr (Death Cab For Cutie) and Kurt
Dahle (The New Pornographers). After Walla enlisted the help of Canada-based British ex-pat (and Midnight Oil/The The producer) Warne
Livesey, the project hit an unexpected snag when a data hard drive containing critical album files was detained by U.S. Customs on its way back
into the US prior to final mixing. The story of this apparently routine detention led to extensive international press coverage. Ensuing media feeding
frenzies aside, Walla has delivered an extraordinary album of atmospheric and politically-minded alternative pop that displays his singular songwriting
vision while simultaneously showing the degree to which his aesthetic has informed Death Cab's sound over the years. Barsuk's release of 'Field
Manual' precedes the 2008 release of a new Death Cab for Cutie album on Atlantic.
Review: Delivering their second album of 2018 is Leicestershire's own The Wave Pictures whose legacy dates back to 1998, a solid 20 licks. The album, the band say, is dedicated to friendship, happiness and drunken party times and it's no surprise to read Look Inside Your Heart was recorded liquored up somewhere in Stoke Newington, North London. With harmonicas, the odd guitar, chatter of backup vocals and racketty drums abound, the album's that perfect reminder that two's a party, three's a crowd, but more is always merrier.
Review: A vibrant and zesty art-rock quartet from Toronto, Weaves have made a debut that brims with both intent and good old-fashioned fun, a demolition derby of punk-tinged brio and candysweet pop suss. The frenetic air of sonic brinksmanship - with restless rhythms and abrasive guitar scree holding court - might seem at odds with the colourful melodies herein, but Weaves appear to have the nous to make both spark off each other to provide a tonic as likely to appeal to fans of Romeo Void, Erase Errata or Patti Smith alike. Most importantly, in an indie milieu increasingly failling prey to rock classicism, this is band with quirky character and incandescent chutzpah to burn.
Review: Following last year's Volume 1, Hatch records bring us a second collection of live recordings by Leodensian indie rockers The Wedding Present, gathered from various sessions on Marc Riley's popular BBC Radio 6 shows. The set covers twelve career-spanning songs, even including a jagged and roughened cover of The Monkees' 'Pleasant Valley Sunday'. Marking thirty years since their iconic debut 'George Best', this impressive collection shows off how well they've aged, and highlights such as the particularly blistering renditions of 'Back A Bit... Stop' from 2012's Valentina, 'Birdsnest' from last year's 'Going, Going...' prove they've kept their capability and immediacy as a live act firmly intact.
Review: Like a slightly in-tune Nico from her collab with The Velvet Underground, Natalie Mering's vocals have a unique quality to them that shouldn't go unheard. There's an undeniable country music beauty to the notes and instrumentation in both tracks "A Lot's Gonna Change" and "Andromeda", with Mering hitting those high notes more like Father John Misty and Roy Orbison than Dolly Parton. It's here that it becomes obvious why she is such a trusted collaborator with Ariel Pink. Her album as Weyes Blood, "Titanic Rising", dips and dives through a sequence of emotions that from the halfway point soars like a bird in "Everyday" and the Enya-like "Movies" before making its own crescendo down again on "Picture Me Better" and "Nearer to Thee", closing the album with nostalgia-inducing tales.
Review: Texas band White Denim have been kicking around for the past decade with a constant stream of albums released through labels like Full Time Hobby, Downtown, and for a second time, City Slang. "Side Effects" follows up from 2018's "Performance" and the band deliver once more a hotted up selection of rock 'n' roll licks that touch on a grungey sound not too distant from the New York Dolls. Furthermore, White Denim maintain their finger picking, folk and bluesy take on psychedelica, and acid washed or not, the band remain no frills in their musical technique with a subtle but quality touch of glam too. School's out for summer!
Review: London three-piece White Lies have been scripting tales since first being signed at their debut gig in 2009. A decade later, the band unceremoniously crown their fifth album as Five. This time they find themselves on PIAS and bring with them a whole load '80s big band synth, indie and alt rock renaissances. The album sways over scenes of space western funeral marches in "Kick Me" to futuristic night drives along the freeways of a metropolis in "Tokyo". Throughout the LP there's reflections in the best of indie and synth to glam rock and other '80s/2000s memorabilia you could hope to resemble.
Review: Boarding House Reach is the third solo album from Jack White, a man who really should need no introduction by now. Where 2014's 'Lazaretto' was a cohesive and indulgent gothic collage of country, soul, Americana and rock, 'Boarding House Reach' sees White ambitiously add layers of hip-hop, experimental and electronic influences. Twists and turns come thick and fast, from the fuzzy organ soul of 'Why Walk A Dog?', the poetic preacherman monologue of 'Abulia and Akrasia', the jittery and crunchy hip-hop 'Ice Station Zebra' to the stunningly laid-bare folk and wrought piano chords of closing track 'Humoresque'. This breadth of sounds makes the album compelling and unpredictable from start to finish, and a fascinating addition to Jack White's juggernaut of a discography.
Review: From the moment opening track "Giving Up" hits you with its timeless pop rock romanticism you're immediately transported to some bygone era, when the charts really meant something, everything on the radio inspired boy-meeting-girl, vice versa, or indeed non-binary-meeting-non-binary. You know - when things were right with the world. Dangerously close to pastiche, the quality of the songwriting and infectious instrumentation elevate this second long form from Chicago's greatest hope(s) to a whole other level. Listen to the brass work on "Rhododendron", a jaunty walk in the park after that surprisingly good first date. "Valleys (My Love)" anthemic chorus and lilting strings. The crooning guitars of "Before I Know It". These tracks pay homage to golden era love songs, when mainstream was experimental because so little had come before. And yet they all stand up today - mesmerising proof that fashions come and go, but style is omnipresent.
Review: Having made their name as modern-day aesthetes with a series of records that meld the cerebral and the physical with style, 'Boy King' appears to be the point in which the Will Beasts allow their id to run rampant in a way befitting their name. Recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent) it shows them heading towards a notably more aggressive, electronic and masculine sound, at once influenced by the binary thump of Nine Inch Nails and the sonic brinksmanship of 'Yeezus' era Kanye West. Odder still, this gamble has more than paid off, and 'Boy King' is the sound of the band at their most vibrant and persuasive.