Best things we heard in August…

Lisa Whiteman: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F # A # °° – This month, I have mostly been listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F # A # °°. I love these noise wallers with all of my dark heart, and this started out as a small revenge mission against the loud bastards who’ve moved in near me. But they don’t deserve this beautiful, ear- and mind-bending deliciousness. ‘The Dead Flag Blues’, ‘East Hastings’, and ‘Providence’ are theatre on record. 

James Spearing: Billy Nomates – ‘Hippy Elite’ – The cynic in me is still trying to resist the hype, but sometimes a song comes along with a social observation that hits the nail on the head so perfectly that you have to give in. If you’ve ever been frustrated by virtue signalling, your own helplessness in the face of abstract global issues while dealing with your own very real ones, or illusory lifestyles created by the privilege of wealth, then Billy Nomates’ ‘Hippy Elite’ is for you. I’ve also been enjoying new albums from Cut Copy and Nubya Garcia.

Fran Slater: Billy Nomates – Billy Nomates – I’m gonna have to jump on the Billy Nomates train with James as it is pretty much the only thing I have listened to in the last few weeks. But I see no hype here. Tor Maries is the real deal, and Billy Nomates is one of the most exciting records to appear in 2020 so far. Storytelling to rival early work from The Streets, similar soundscapes to Sleaford Mods (at times), and with political nuance to rival recent releases from the likes of IDLES, Nadine Shah, and Kate Tempest. But despite all of these links that I see, Billy Nomates also feels like one of the freshest pieces of music I have heard in a long time. If you just want one song to give you a sample, then have a listen to ‘No’ – it’s a great example of the jagged and enthralling sound that exists throughout the LP.

Read Fran’s full review of Billy Nomates.

Will Collins: Tricky – ‘When We Die’ – My shout for August is an old(ish) song by Tricky. He did actually release a new song this month – ‘I’m in the Doorway’, which you should definitely check out. But listening to it made me realise that since watching a characteristically confrontational set from him at Bestival in 2010, I hadn’t really followed his new releases. My attempts to rectify this eventually led me to ‘When We Die’, the closing track on his 2017 album ununiform. It completely passed me by at the time but is easily as good as the best of his 90s work. Unsettling pitch-shifted voices, ominous, bassy synths and a sparse drum part combine with Tricky’s words to produce a meditative, claustrophobic slice of trip hop. The presence of Martina Topley-Bird, vocalist on Tricky’s classic work, is the icing on the cake; her ethereal vocals paint an engrossing picture of loss and longing to accompany his verses. It’s discomforting, beautiful and beguiling and I’ve had it on repeat since first stumbling across it.

Tom Burrows: Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death – A Hero’s Death’s title track ends with a barely audible line: “That was the year of the sneer now the real thing’s here.” It functions as a mission statement; by releasing their follow-up to breakout debut Dogrel so soon, the Dublin five-piece are eager to prove that there’s more to them than catchy post-punk anthems about their hometown. Well frankly, it’s mission accomplished. 

While Dogrel was a tightly constructed series of quick tempo tunes, these songs feel more fleshed out, exploring different textures and moods. Highlights include ‘A Lucid Dream’, which approximates the turbulence of their sudden rise; the meditative ‘Oh Such A Spring’, and the beautiful ‘Sunny’, whose careful instrumentation and wistful harmonies illustrates the extent of the Beach Boys’ influence.

And that’s before mentioning the superb lyricism, exemplified in ‘Televised Mind’’s opening lines (“swipe your thoughts from Broadway / turn ideals to cabaret”) which succinctly offers a withering critique on those who think performatively and not for themselves. It’s a fine record.

Read Fran Slater’s full review of A Hero’s Death.

Kim Fernley: Deftones – ‘Ohms’ – They are back! And god, I can’t wait to hear their new album. Deftones have released the first single ‘Ohms’, which I’ll be honest, on the first listen I wasn’t overly excited by. It felt kinda lacklustre (for Deftones, anyway). But it’s definitely a grower. I’m not a fan of the guitar at the beginning, it feels a bit tacky, but not to worry, as it soon finds its feet. I’m hoping there will be other songs on the album with a bit more of that Deftones power and rawness. But it’s a promising taster of what’s to come.

Fat Roland: Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song – There are three reasons to like this album. Firstly, it features an especially woozy performance from the Velvet Underground’s John Cale. This means little to me: I wouldn’t recognise the Velvet Underground even if they perched their hot air balloon on my head and unfurled a tatty banner saying HELLO FAT ROLAND WE ARE THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. Secondly, there’s a deliciously bleepy cover of a Radiohead song. I’m fond of the ‘head, but I consider them to be old hat like, er, an old hat. A faded fedora, perhaps, or a disappointing fez. Thirdly, Inner Song’s binary mix of hazy torch songs and grubby 3am techno is breathtaking. Its alternating currents of melody and rhythm make this a Baked Alaska of an album: half hot and half cold and as tasty as heck. Not just a highlight of August 2020, but something that marks out Owens as one of the best producers of the year (take THAT, Jon Hopkins!). I’d doff my slightly weathered trilby, but there’s a stupid hot air balloon weighing it down.

Matt Paul: Car Seat Headrest –  Making a Door Less Open – Sparked by the impending Mercury Award, I decided to start making my own list of favorites for 2020. Since putting that list together I have been listening to one album a lot. Car Seat Headrest’s Making a Door Less Open. It’s weird and angular.  And definitely a bit of a leap from the last album. They have not gone the whole hog and “sold their guitars and bought turntables”, as James Murphy would say. But they have definitely evolved from a very good (if not generic) indie-rock band, to something a bit more interesting. And I’m a fan.

Sam Atkins: My pick for best thing in August was something I found by watching a Twitter repost of a TikTok of a live performance from rapper CHIKA. I don’t even think I can find the clip now, but I was stunned by her flow and engaging rap style.

After adding everything she’d ever released to my Apple Music library I remembered that I knew her from the JoJo track ‘Sabotage’, but her own music, specifically EP INDUSTRY GAMES is something else. 20 minutes of the best rap performances you’ll hear in 2020; CHIKA manages to be funny, exciting, unexpected and, daring across these tracks. I can’t wait to hear what she does next.

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