The best things we heard in October…


James Spearing: There was little doubt, from me anyway, that the Hot Chip installment of the Late Night Tales series was going to be great. Charlotte Adigery’s ‘1,618’ still manages to stand head and shoulders above the rest. She does lyrics, vocals and bass like nobody else.

I described Marie Davidson’s Renegade Breakdown as “entertainingly bonkers” on first listen. No two songs sound the same as she packs in lounge jazz and church organ amongst others on a album which is never less than exciting. Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ meets Justice’s ‘Phantom Pt. II’ combined with her  unique Québécois take on sprechgesang on the title track.

Ex-NYPC keyboardist Lou Hayter, it turns out, has been making music ever since her time with that band ended (leading me into an enjoyable journey through her back catalogue) but is releasing her first solo album in 2021. If the rest is as good as her 80s tinged (Nu-Shooz, Kylie) electro-pop anthem ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’, then we are in for a treat.

Any Bicep fans out there should also give Daniel Avery’s ‘Lone Swordsman’ a listen.

Nick Parker: This was one of the best months for new music (to me) in a long time. Top of the list though, is Tricky’s 1:44 track, Running Off’, from his new album Fall in Pieces. In such a short track, Tricky and vocalist Oh Land seem to take a couple of dramatic turns that I really love, settling in the kind of really sinister musical space that Tricky has been creating for decades. After a couple of lacklustre albums over the last couple of years, this album, and this track in particular, show that he really does still have it.

Fran Slater: I’ll be honest, it’s been a bumper month for the kind of miserable-tinged music that really speaks to me. I fell in love with albums from Sevdaliza and Che Noir on the latest podcast. Kevin Morby and Adrienne Lenker both released their best solo offerings so far, making me shed a couple of bucketloads of tears in the process. And Mina Tindle and Metz both screamed sadness in two totally different, and equally affective, ways. 

This is the Kit’s Off Off On added a bit of brevity but even there there seemed to be a little more melancholy than usual. Standing a rung or two above the rest, though, was king of misery Mr Matt Berninger. I have a review of Serpentine Prison incoming so I won’t say too much here, but I will say that I had been keeping my expectations about The National frontman’s first solo output firmly in check due to previous disappointments when frontpeople I loved had stepped out on their own. I needn’t have been so careful. This album is superb. 

Sam Atkins: A month that included one of the best Pop albums of the year – Dagny’s Strangers/Lovers – I was also half tempted to choose the compilation of songs from the Hideo Kojima videogame Death Stranding that I finally completed this month. Songs from the likes of CHVRCHES, Low Roar, SILENT POETS and Apocalyptica feature heavily in the game itself and I’ve really been drawn to the tracks by Low Roar especially this month.

But I have to choose the new track from The xx’s Romy; the absolutely banging ‘Lifetime’. Like a song pulled from the depths of CD2 of a Now compilation in 1996, ‘Lifetime’ is pure 90s dance euphoria. As a debut single from a vocalist we all thought we know what to expect from, ‘Lifetime’ feels like the steady build up of low-fi, minimalist pop music from The xx has exploded into one single dose of exhilarating dance music. At a moment where the last time any of us were in a club dancing to music like this is a distant memory, the delivery of ‘I wanna be there with you’ before the chorus kicks off is pure genius from Romy.

Constantine Courtis: For all major new releases, of which there have been a few, I continuously find myself revisiting old ground. Maybe I’m looking for something familiar, cosy, and safe during this period of chaos and uncertainty.

But a couple of things, one of old and one new, have stood out recently.

‘My Mom’, by Chocolate Genius Inc. is one of the most personal and sad accounts of senility. Working with Marc Ribot (famously the guitarist of Tom Waits), this is an abstract piece of music, with a beautiful jazzy feel, that only comes together by an extraordinary performance by Marc Anthony Thompson. If you can get all the way through the ‘Golden Girls’ lyric and not be overcome by emotion, you’ve got no soul.

To balance out the emotional weight of Chocolate Genius Inc., I have mostly depended on Sault’s latest album, Untitled (Rise). Politically charged and written in response to the recent social unrest in the US, the album is exceptional. My favourite is ‘I Just Want to Dance’, although the whole album is great. So catchy and dance-y, I love the carnival-style drums of the song’s final third. It’s such a shame I can’t throw a house party and dance to it any time soon.

Let’s see what November holds. Winter is upon us and my mood may be further affected by what happens across the pond this coming month….

Pete Wild: I have mostly been listening to the new Laura Viers album My Echo which so far is more of a grower than a show-er. I’ve been playing the Matt Berninger album and not really warming to it. My daughters have got me into Girl in Red so I’ve been over listening to random songs there. New Fleet Foxes has had a few plays (which have in turn sent me back to their debut). But all in all, a bit of a restless month in which nothing is quite scratching the proverbial itch.

Kathy Halliday: Cosmo Sheldrake – Wake Up Calls – Around 6 years ago, I went to see Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit play at Fibbers in York – an intimate little venue which unfortunately no longer exists. I knew nothing of the support act, Cosmo Sheldrake, which at the time I thought was just a quirky stage name. I didn’t expect to enjoy him as much as I did, what with electronic type music not really being my ‘thing’.

Turns out he has a bit of a cult following (for songs like ‘The Moss and Rich’). I really enjoyed his set and have been dipping in and out of his music ever since. So when Spotify suggested his new album on my way to work, I thought it was worth a listen. Again, I really didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have done. It just goes to show that sometimes relatively simple concepts – in this case, the recording/mixing of endangered UK bird songs over tracks – can be really effective.

It’s a beautiful little album that’s brought some welcome respite at the end of a few turbulent months. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re interested in the natural world it’s worth devoting some time to. My favourite tracks are ‘Nightjar’, ‘Sky Lark’, and ‘Owl Song’. Note of caution: don’t listen to this with pets present, they’ll go crackers. Our dog spent a good half hour chasing imaginary birds… 

Will Collins: My favourite two releases this month are cut from different cloth, but both are beautiful in their own right. The first is Svalbard’s album When I Die, Will I Get Better? It was released in September, but I only got around to listening to it this month. At its heart, it’s pummelling hardcore. But woven into the sonic template are elements of shoegaze and post-rock, resulting in a sound as delicate as it is heavy. Ethereal vocals and Explosions In the Sky-esque guitar work are married to blast beats and down-tuned riffs. Think a slightly less strange Rolo Tomassi and you’re not too far wrong. It’s like a punch to the face from a perfectly manicured hand. 

The other record that I’ve loved this month is In Memory of My Feelings, the new collaboration between Catherine Anne Davies and Bernard Butler. This one is beautiful in the more conventional sense. Butler’s guitar work is the best since his Suede heyday and sounds exactly like you want it to. Here it’s married perfectly to gorgeous arrangements of pianos and strings and Davies’s commanding vocals. The song-writing harks back to the 60s and 70s without sounding like pastiche or imitation. The production is absolutely stunning too – every instrument is captured perfectly in the mix. This is one to listen to on a decent pair of headphones.

Tom Burrows: Roísín Murphy – Roísín Machine – Roísín Machine is essentially Roísín Murphy’s tribute to a life spent on the dancefloor. Through the prism of house and disco music, she celebrates the joys of dancing while lyrically ruminating on life’s lessons. The juxtaposition of irresistible tunes and soul-searching words makes the songs really resonate. It’s a terrific album full of expansive highlights. ‘Something More’, for instance, is a soothing house number that has Murphy pondering fulfilment and desire. ‘Murphy’s Law’ is both a tongue-in-cheek appraisal of her relationships and a disco stomper. And my personal favourite ‘Shellfish Mademoiselle’ is Murphy fighting against a quiet life over one of the best pop tunes of the year. As James said in his review, it’s an incredibly consistent album with plenty of substance – the culmination of an interesting and varied career. It’s still very much on repeat for me.

Fat Roland: John Frusciante – ‘Maya’ – A man in a cardigan stands behind a teapot stall at a car boot sale. “I am going to sell lots of teapots,” he says smugly to himself. He looks up at the sky to check the weather. A massive turd hits him squarely in the face. He wipes off the muck with his cardigan. Another turd falls from the sky and smashes a teapot. And another. Turds fall fast and stinky, exploding on the car boot sale like fat brown raindrops. Stallholders scatter for shelter, but the man stands firm. “Nothing will stop me selling my teapots,” declares the man. He looks at the delicate teapot he’s holding in his hand. It’s not a teapot: it’s a turd, flat like a cowpat, spotted with sweetcorn. “Hmmmm,” hums the man as he takes a bite of the plop. It tastes of vanilla and honey and paprika and happiness. He bites deeper into the lump of bum waste. “It’s delicious!” he trills. Teapots forgotten, the man dances in the torrential turds, chomping with dirty delight.

After a career hurling brown lumps of steaming Chili Peppers crap at us, John Frusciante’s move into electronic music was a tasty surprise. His new ‘Maya’ album, dedicated to his cat and released on Venetian Snares’ Timesig label, is especially delicious. It’s Aphex Twin smushed with Squarepusher with all the energy of early Prodigy or Moby. An absolute teapot-smashing, cardigan-ruining joy.

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