Dropping your album on the same date as Kendrick Lamar isn’t the greatest idea but a lot of artists had pre-planned their release before hearing of it. Swedish electronic poppers Little Dragon did enough with two songs released in advance of their fifth album in singles ‘High’ and ‘Sweet’ that suggested they were going to deliver something you’d come back to. I’d always struggled with Little Dragon’s albums, there are always killer tracks on it but they lacked overall. Season High, on first listen mind, sounds like it might be their most substantial and long-playing yet.
One of my favourite discoveries of the last few years are now streaming their album on NPR a week out from release. I’m surei’ll be writing about it again so I’ll leave the words up to NPR’s Bob Boilen and the news that they play here next month.
It’s thrilling to know that one of the best albums of 2017 is made by two of the best friends you’ll ever witness on a stage. Overcoats’ Young is a record driven by ambition and passion, not craft. That’s not to say Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell aren’t terrifically talented singers and songwriters: What sets them apart is that I believe them. That the emotion in their harmonies and the space they give each other is filled with compassion. I believe their songs of loneliness and doubt.
Favourite tracks: ‘Leave A Light On’, ‘Hold Me Close’, ‘Smaller Than My Mother’
The UK electronic producer and former West Brom football trainee, Actress nearly retired apparently but here he is with his fifth album, released on Ninja Tune. Fans of the producer will be well aware his gift for weaving complex hypnotic electronic rhythms, born from techno, garage and ambient soundscapes and AZD is no different, except with a notable coat of compression (at least on the Spotify stream).
Five years since his last full-length and it sounds like time away has left Fionn Regan with a renewed sense of purpose. The Meetings Of The Waters feels like a stepping stone to a new path for Regan. Ditching the Dylan-influence completely, the album largely features meditative spacious folk music that sustains quietly like smouldering embers and a centrepiece of three songs with more layered rock music-style songs.
Favourite tracks: ‘The Meetings Of The Waters’, ‘Wall of Silver’, ‘Babuska Yai Ya’
I can’t decide if Veronica Fusaro’s vocal likeness to the rekindled Lorde is a bad thing but it makes for a flattering comparison as it’s no easy task writing great pop music with authenticity as Lorde does. ‘Pluto’ is some intro to a new artist who has been working with some top producers and was on Switzerland’s version of The Voice. It’s a confident single from the Swiss artist with modern pop and electronic R&B in its DNA.
Overcoats – ‘Leave A Light On’
It’s an absolute pleasure to hear the progress of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell’s music as Overcoats. Two years ago, the New Yorkers spent the summer in Ireland and made a dent on the scene with their minimal harmonic-lead songs. Now with an Autre Ne Veut-produced album due on Arts & Crafts on April 21st, the duo have bolstered that folk harmony magic with some technicolour magic. ‘Leave A Light On’ adds some urgency to their craft that was missing through its beats and arrangements. It’s the closest these two will come to a banger.
Little Dragon – ‘Sweet’
Two for two from the new album from the Swedish electronic pop group. ‘High’ was a slow reintroduction but ‘Sweet’ has that Little Dragon wonky magic thing going on.
Soulwax – ‘Missing Wires’
From DeeWee, the Soulwax album recorded in one take will be out on March 24th and the Dewaele brothers have shared a second helping from it after ‘Transient Program For Drums & Machinery’. ‘Missing Wires’ is a live playful tune that recalls Soulwax’s earlier guitar-free song-based work.
Here’s the personnel and gear list for the album:
Playing on this record are Stephen and David Dewaele, Stefaan Van Leuven, Iggor Cavalera, Victoria Smith, Blake Davies and Laima Leyton. The instruments used are two Staccato drumkits, one clear crystalline Meazzi Wooding drumkit, one set of Rototoms, various Hofner bass guitars, a Macbeth M5n, an Oberheim Two-Voice Pro, a Two Thousand Six Hundred copy built by The Human Comparator, one Oberheim OB-Mx, an EMS Synthi AKS, an Arp Odyssey, a TB-303 clone, a Mellotron M4000D, a Sequential Prophet 6, a Waldorf Streichfett, a Burns Sonic guitar, a Vox Phantom guitar, one Syncussion clone built by Loudestwarning, various solid state Roland, Peavey and Acoustic amplifiers and a wide range of effects, all going through three Trident Fleximix consoles, straight into Pro Tools.
Forest Swords – ‘The Highest Flood’
Forest Swords, aka acclaimed Merseyside-based producer Matthew Barnes returns to his Forest Sword s project with ‘The Highest Flood’, a song that takes his MO of electronic ambient textures with beats and presents it in the most pristine way. It has an epic sweeping quality that is maybe informed by Barnes’ recent composition work for the Assassin’s Creed game. It’s out now on Ninja Tune and an album is coming.
Frank Ocean – ‘Chanel’
Surprise! Frank dropped his first it of new material since Blonde over the weekend and let’s be honest, any Frank Ocean is good Frank Ocean. After this and the Calvin Harris and Migos’ ‘Slide’, that’s two Frank Ocean tracks in a month.
A companion piece to Chloë Sevigny’s spoken word appearance on Soulwax’s ‘Heaven Scent’, this is Peaking Lights’ version of the project that puts Prayer to Sainte Thérèse to music, which was also done by Johnny Jewel and JD Twitch among others.
1. Flying Lotus 3D Show / Thundercat & Captain Murphy
The Undergrowth Stage: 9:15pm – 10:45pm / 7:45pm – 8:45pm
Stephen Ellison’s music has always had a visual imaginistic quality to it. His jazz-inflected electronic beats conjure up shapes and forms on its own so for him to push it forward into an actual A/V show makes sense. Forbidden Fruit will be the Irish debut of the 3D Show, which is pretty well explained in the video below.
As for Captain Murphy, Flying Lotus’ alter-ego showed he can rap too, as heard on 2012 mixtape Duality, a cult-leader pitched-down collection of Quasimoto-style hip-hop. He’ll be joined on stage by his good friend Thundercat, presumably in his role as a bassist first and foremost rather than a singer or solo performer.
2. Lisa O’Neill
Original Stage, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
One of the most original, idiosyncratic and Irish voices we have in music at the moment, it’s good to see O’Neill get such a prominent slot at an Irish festival. Her second album Same Cloth Or Not, was filled with the Cavan lady’s personality and her colloquial mannerisms. Her folk voice is scrappy yet lilting, tinny yet commanding; that’s to say it’s not for everyone. As a performer though, O’Neill is also commanding, and very funny; she knows how to spin a story or two.
3. Fuck Buttons
The Undergrowth Stage, 6:15pm – 7:15pm
Brutal in its mechanism and industrial in its rhythms, Slow Focus, the third album from Bristol duo Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power was as uncompromising as the pair have got. Previous albums relied on an ambient strain of repetitive euphoria that saw that track ‘Olympians’, wisely enough, used in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012. In a live context, they combine all of that in a barrage of low and high frequencies that leaves you elated and bruised.
4. And So I Watch You From Afar
Original Stage, 6pm – 7pm
Surely you’ve seen ASIWYFA live by now? They’ve been on constant tour since they began that it had to happen. So you’ll know you’ll be at this to witness a set from one of the best live bands in any country – the Belfast lads rip through the instrumental rock rulebook with a fervour that is only matched by their latest album’s sunny uplift – perfect for a festival so.
5. Girls Names
The Undergrowth Stage, 9.45pm – 10.45pm
Also from Belfast, Girls Names’ took a step towards a bolder, more gratifying sound on their album The New Life last year eschewing the jangly surf-rock of previous releases for a more distinctive and thematically unified sonic palette of post-punk, kraut and new wave. It means the band’s live set is a head-nodding mood-piece of some of the most evocative guitar sounds drawn from the late ’70s/early ’80s period of rock music.
The singles are the most upbeat tracks here. Much of the record’s songs are slow jams which were inspired by Yukimi Nagano’s headphone listens to Janet Jackson while walking around her hometown of Gothenberg. So ‘Underbart’ has a clear R&B influence but matches it with a hazy synth electronic feel while the draggy atmospheric ‘Cat Rider’ Yukimi has a very clear close timbre in her singing to Ms. Jackson, which is a style that is all around at the moment in the deluge of electronic R&B around.
Nagano has one of the best voices in music right now, so much so, that it completely embellishes the quietly haunting taut ‘Only One’ and similarly dominates the slow numbers.
Having seen Little Dragon live in the last two years, it was clear they had turned into a formidable sinewy synth-pop beast and Nabuma Rubberband is further proof.
Since seeing Little Dragon at Body & Soul just under two years ago, it was clear that the Swedish band had exceeded the parameters and musicianship of their recorded material. It’s something that’s been increasingly evident through the band’s showing of versatility: working with Big Boi, their new single ‘Klapp Klapp’ and now ‘Paris’, the latest track from Nabuma Rubberband.
Really looking forward to that album now out on May 9th/12th/13th.
I broadcast my first show on new Dublin station 1052 TXFM last night and had a blast. You can tune in every Thursday night at 10pm for two hours of new music at 105.2FM, via the TXFM.ie site, the TXFM app in the iTunes Store or on your TV if you’re on UPC.
This producer / singer paired up on last year’s ‘Bo Peep’ which I wasn’t mad about but this track was kept for their upcoming collaborative EP and it’s the best of both: Shlohmo’s unique twisting production with Jeremih coming close to the sound of The Weeknd. Free download from NPR.
2. Little Dragon – ‘Klapp Klapp’
‘Klapp Klapp’ is the first single from the new Little Dragon album Nabuma Rubberband out in May and sticks to the band’s dizzying synth pop grooves with the always-effective vocals of Yukimi Nagano rising above it.
From David Kitt’s new EP on Permanent Vacation out next week called Made It Mine, comes the percussive house and vocoder track ‘Satisfaction’.
6. The Juan Maclean – ‘Get Down (With My Love)
After the excellent single ‘Feel Like Movin’ , Nancy Whang and John MacLean deliver some euphoric dance music or “saloon house” as one of Holy Ghost! called it. Big bass. A free download, in its radio edit form, from NPR today too. Giddy Up!
First new track from the LA singer since her excellent Cut 4 Me mixtape in October. Production from Gifted & Blessed. I could listen to Kelela all day.
12. Cashmere Cat – ‘Wedding Bells’
I’m stil not sure if Norwegian producer is just an ADD-frazzled kid who is trying to cram every sound into one song but ‘Wedding Bells’ is definitely his most successful attempt and an actual track you would put on regularly. It’s got bells, whistles, flutes, big bass, mad percussion and everything else including the kitchen sink.
Big Boi’s upcoming Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors will feature some fine plinking plonking from Sweden’s Little Dragon. Here’s a live preview of ‘Mama Told Me’. Reaaal nice. Previously we heard ‘Gossip’.