Jockstrap – I Love you Jennifer B (Rough Trade)
As we all know, there should be no rules when making art. That said, few musicians and songwriters adhere to that philosophy and often fall into clichés or tread well-worn paths. Not so Jockstrap. Take their mere name alone, they obviously delight in upsetting the apple cart of what’s acceptable and throw convention to the wind. The London duo splice together acoustic guitars and distorted beats; delirious synth-pop and inverted indie-rock; cut’n’paste sampling and neo classical swoon. Frankly it’s all over the shop, and thrilling as a result. From self-released singles to a brief period on Warp Records, now finding their home at Rough Trade; they’ve finally unleashed a debut album that is as uncompromising and multi-dimensional as you might expect. Don’t assume this is atonal experimentalism however, ‘I Love you Jennifer B’ is truly a melodic and rhythmic feast for the ears.
Kapil Seshasayee – Laal (Self Released)
A veritable polymath, Kapil Seshasayee is a singer, songwriter, producer and guitarist extraordinaire as well as being a modern day activist. On his debut album ‘A Sacred Bore’ he wrote about the oppression of the Indian caste system across an electro-acoustic collection of off-kilter art-rock that brought to mind the awkward beauty of John Fahey at times. On this new collection ‘Laal’, he pushes further forward incorporating synth textures, hyper-pop, neo-soul, prog-rock and Indian Classical influences on what has to be one of the most original and unique sounding albums you will hear in 2022. Overflowing with swirling ideas, including twin drummer syncopation; lyrically the album concerns itself with the abuse, censorship and nationalist pride within the Bollywood film industry. From start to end, this is an astonishing, ambitious record!
The Black Angels – Wilderness of Mirrors (Partisan)
First dropping their lysergic sonics on the general public in 2004, Austin Texas rockers The Black Angels have been front and centre of the modern psych revival. Not only have they released 5 albums, but also helmed the renowned ‘Levitation’ festival in their home city, spawning myriad offshoot psych-fests all over the world. On this their 6th long-player, their deep love of fuzz and drone is very much represented, but with added krautrock, surf and eastern influences creeping in across the 15 tracks. This is most definitely Americana, but taking its cues from the mid/late 60’s counter-culture with Austin’s favourite son Roky Erickson the poster-boy for countless troubled, tripped-out minds in every garage around the globe. 5 years since their last album, this one might be their best yet.
Unloved – The Pink Album (Heavenly)
There’s no stopping Homer… Belfast legend David Holmes is a producer, DJ, film score composer and a recording artist in his own right. As part of this Los Angeles trio however, alongside musician Keefus Ciancia and singer Jade Vincent, he’s making some of his best work to date. As well as their 3 albums, they have helped underscore the hugely successful ‘Killing Eve’ television show. So if you’ve seen that programme, you have already heard Unloved whether you know it or not. Theirs is a retro-futurist netherworld that pulls in 60’s girl-groups, 90’s shoegaze, electronica, hip-hop and the darker side of dramatic chanson. Vincent’s sultry, deadpan vocal belies the emotional and confessional heartbreak at the centre of most of their songs. These are raw, honest soundscapes that deal with love, sex and death – what else is there? ‘The Pink Album’ is a luscious 22 track epic, documenting their bittersweet worldview.
The Strange Blue Dreams – Simple Machine (Holy Smokes)
I once described this band as a ‘Glaswegian version of the legendary pop, Rock’n’Roll and country A-team session aces of the late 1950’s’, and this new album definitely cements that reputation. Their 2nd album bristles with deft musicianship and the kind of songwriting rarely heard in the 21st Century. Beautifully accomplished roots music, ‘Simple Machine’ sees the group rifle through any golden age, genre or style they so choose – Tin Pan Alley, 50’s doo-wop, gypsy jazz, surf twang, country swing and 60’s balladry is all up for grabs. Sidestepping the mainstream and creating their own world of retro pleasures, the songs on this album are so immediate and infectious that their burgeoning fanbase and status is truly deserved. Check out ‘A Good Day’, ‘Man’s Game’, ‘Strange Paradise’ or the title track for absolute proof of their sweet reverie – not so simple, but very effective.
The Heads – Under Sided – Deluxe (Rooster)
Loved by John Peel, Stewart Lee and Mudhoney – do you need a better recommendation? The Heads are the secret heroes of high-octane, acid-tinged, wild-man, Rock’n’Roll freakout; formed in 1990 in the shadow of fellow psych-lords Spacemen 3, Thee Hypnotics and Loop. This massive reissue, across a boxset and 2-disc vinyl and CD sets, revisits their seminal 2002 album on its 20th anniversary. For the uninitiated, there’s pinch of the MC5, a soupcon of Hawkwind, and a liberal sprinkling of Blue Cheer. If you like it loud, despondent and unrelenting then this band are for you. Occasionally taking to stages once again (they supported fan-boys Mudhoney recently), the Bristol cult heroes are hopefully about to gain the respect they deserve and also wreck the eardrums of a new generation of stoner-rock fanatics. Get something feral and untamed in your collection.
Port Sulphur – Speed of Life (Creeping Bent)
With Scottish post-punk Svengali, label-boss and now author (check out the recently published ‘Hungry Beat’) Douglas McIntyre at the helm, Port Sulphur are a collective of musicians on a mission to sail their own sea. Following their ‘Compendium’ release (made up of the ‘Paranoic Critical’ album and 2 EP’s) that saw visionary collaborations with the likes of Alan Vega, Gareth Sager, Vic Godard, Davy Henderson, James Kirk and others; this new work was written ‘automatically’ with first ideas kept, no rehearsals undertaken and an immediate recording laid down on tape, using Lou Reed’s ‘ostrich’ guitar tuning. The results, almost entirely instrumental, are electrifying. Motorik rhythms, surf guitar twang, propulsive synths and rich melodies throughout make this a surprisingly concise, succinct and inspiring listen. The spirits of Bowie, Neu! and Magazine haunt this brilliant album, so hop on board and enjoy a ride in the fast lane.
No Age – People Helping People (Drag City)
Now reaching band ‘adulthood’, having formed in 2005, Los Angeles duo Dean Spunt and Randy Randall continue their wayward, psychedelic journey on their 6th album. Theirs is a world of DIY art-punk that draws on guitar and drum thrash one moment and washed-out, sampled ambience the next. Spoken word, musique concrete and Wire-esque blasts of minimalism punctuate their freeform noise-pop. Continually pushing in all directions, this new collection brings to mind Cosmic German pioneers Faust and Harmonia on certain tracks, and a young, angry Lou Reed on others. It’s certainly an eclectic collection, with the duo recording and self-producing throughout. You can almost physically feel their constant search for freedom on each cut. Utterly uncompromising and raw, this album is a lo-fi lesson in sonic deconstruction.
Dehd – Blue Skies (Fat Possum)
In the increasingly crowded world of indie-rock and post-punk in 2022, bands now need to bring something new to the table or at least write, record and perform with a heartfelt passion. Dehd do a little of the former and lots of the latter, relying heavily on minimal drums, reverb-drenched neo-surf guitars and singer Emily Kempf’s untamed holler high in the mix. Although sparse and skeletal in structure, the songs frequently sound like mini classics, occasionally tapping into familiar 50’s and 60’s shapes but bringing a modern chant-a-long, anthemic quality to them. In amongst the shared call & response vocals, Kempf channels Patti Smith at times, whether on purpose or not, and the songs sometimes resemble Galaxie 500 taking on Springsteen at his most primal. It’s an oddly addictive concoction they create, and is paying off as their global audience grows. ‘Blue Skies’ follows perfectly on from their 2020 album ‘Flower of Devotion’ and deserves your ears.
Hailey Beavis – I’ll put you where the trombone slides (OK Pal)
Against odds and obstacles, Edinburgh based songwriter Hailey Beavis has secreted herself away to work on this debut album for a few years, having reinvented herself as an artist after experiencing a darker side to the music industry. Emerging stronger and more focused, this intriguingly titled album displays a confessional songwriting, housed in beguiling and unusual arrangements. At the heart of it, she is an acoustic performer and fits the ‘indie-folk’ genre loosely. However, the varied instrumentation and sounds on display show her ambition and foresight – strings, electronics, synths and distorted guitars all enter the fray and the results bring to mind undoubted influences such as Kate Bush, Jeff Buckley and Tori Amos. Beavis has her own take on things however, drawing you into tracks such as ‘Crow’, ‘Anything that Shines’ and ‘Back to the Water’. An album that is assured, inventive and full of emotion.