Albums Of The Month: Music We’ve Loved This May

Some of May’s finest noises, sunniest releases and most pleasing melodies. Chosen for you in the tQ office by Luke Turner, John Doran, Patrick Clarke, Anna Wood and Christian Eede

‘May Be’ by Lisa Cradduck

Summer is softly saying hello, roses are in bloom, people are getting pedicures, and there does seem to be a particularly beautiful and varied crop of new releases this month. The fully magnificent Junglepussy, the sweet sardonic Half Man Half Biscuit, righteous pulverising from our beloved Gnod, righteous cacophony from our beloved ILL and, perhaps most extraordinary of all, an album from Arctic Monkeys that is most definitely Not Shit. All this awaits you, and more – keep scrolling for the Tracks Of The Month which is mainly, this month, absolute glorious bangers.

Albums Of The Month

Half Man Half Biscuit – No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut’

On track titles alone, the new Half Man Half Biscuit LP delivers. ‘Swerving The Checkatrade’, ‘Bladderwrack Allowance’ or ‘Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert’, for example, or the album’s full title: No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut. Musically the band are on their usual form, delivering crisp and brisk low-key rock, but as ever it’s their leader Nigel Blackwell’s sardonic, cantankerous polemics that are the record’s focus. ‘Renfield’s Afoot’, for example, sees his incandescent pen turned towards attempts to organise an official, book-in-advance bat walk at Royden Park in Frankby, Wirral. “Who the fuck are you, trying to be the big I am?”, while ‘Knobheads On Quiz shows’ seems mainly directed at the Armstrong/Osman fronted Pointless, the BBC One teatime stalwart. ‘What Made Colombia Famous’, meanwhile, “has made a prick out of you,” he sings on the track’s righteous rant against the coked-up pub whoppers of suburbia.

As ever, Half Man Half Biscuit are deeply, genuinely funny, but beneath the wit and one-liners there’s that depth that have always set them apart. ‘Terminus’, for example, is as touching and poetic a muse on the creeping loneliness and decrepitude of old age as any could produce, filtered through the prisms of football and the bus: “Still thought I could play out, felt sure I could stay onside / but stiff limbs and a shin which looks like Inter’s end on derby day says / time’s crept up unseen, and it’s stuck me back at the front of the bus / bound who-knows-where, free of charge.” Patrick Clarke – read the full review next week

Junglepussy – JP3

Shayna McHale has repeatedly proven her varied talents – club anthems and braggadocio among them – since the release of her 2014 mixtape Satisfaction Guaranteed, and expectations are high for JP3. And good God, does it live up to those expectations. This album successfully harks back to her magnificent forebears while displaying McHale’s unique skills and style. It’s lean, at ten tracks, filed down to the absolute essentials with only its best ideas on display. Michael Siebert – read the full review here

Gnod – Chapel Perilous

This album is sequenced like a pulverising futuristic space-rock version of Reign In Blood: bookended by overbearing monolithic structures that initially cast shadows over the relatively hard-to-penetrate middle section. It’s great to finally hear ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ in a home setting. While it still slaps hard – and oh, sweet lord Jesus and all of your apostles, that drop – Raikes Parade’s masterful dub creates abyss-deep currents of echo and sky-scraping vapour trails of reverb. It is no longer merely a blunt instrument of godlike destruction; it is a blunt instrument of godlike destruction that seethes with detail. And as a bonus, this song contains one of rock music’s hardest won and most justly deserved key changes since Hawkwind’s ‘Space Is Deep’. John Doran – read the full review here

Aïsha Devi – DNA Feelings

DNA Feelings continues Devi’s pursuit of transcendental sonic experiences. The record consists of cavernous spaces and ethereal, quasi-psychedelic ambience. Devi flirts with a range of processing, from auto-tune to pitch-shifting, at times dropping hints of more organic sounds. Vocals shape-shift nimbly, slithering between sweet and sour, and this ambiguity is one of the record’s strengths; another is how much more dramatic her arrangements have become since the last record. Mollie Zhang – read the full review here

Gabor Lázár – Unfold

Hallmarks of his sound heard on those previous The Death Of Rave releases, as well as last year’s Shelter Press-released Crisis Of Reputation, still remain, though meshed ever so satisfyingly with beats that sit somewhere between 2-step UK garage and early grime. ‘Squeeze’ melds a screwface-inducing bassline with a beat that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a classic Ruff Sqwad mixtape, while closer ‘Overall’ comes across like a skewed take on the UK techno of labels like Livity Sound and Timedance with its starry synths and swung drums. Christian Eede – read the full review here

Jenny Hval – The Long Sleep

There is, as you might expect from the title, something dreamy about this EP. Dreamy in the sense that it’s soft and hard to translate into sensible waking language once it’s over, but also weird-and-Jungian dreamy. Things are going on, messages from your elsewheres and your submerged corners; it’s wispy and you can’t grab hold of it, and what’s it trying to tell you? It opens like a jazzy, frazzled sunrise and from there we’re in a world of woven stories and fragments and pleasing nonsensical images (“you are your own disco ball”), with Hval’s voice clear and honest and just extraordinary, plus sweet strange piano and silky strange harmonies and bubbling percussions, and a sense of ineffable, indestructible wellbeing. Anna Wood

ILL – We Are ILL

Their sound doesn’t conform to any one genre – it’s a definite cacophony of kitchen-sink fuck-punk-funk all over the place with hyperactive noise pop overtones – but ILL are definitely part of a proud lineage that stretches from The Slits, X-Ray Spex and The Raincoats through riot grrrl and queercore, via garish pop explosions such as Shampoo, Kenickie and Fuzzbox, taking a swerving detour with a hefty slab of gobshite gravy surrealism that you’d expect from The Fall and Eccentronic Research Council. As such, We Are ILL is all abrasive guitars, chunky wedges of grumbling bass and off-kilter organ synths. They can pretty much out-scream any edgelord ‘extreme’ noise acts, but they also have actual songs that you can thrash around to with wanton abandon. Bob Cluness – read the full review here

Modern Studies – Welcome Strangers

With a visual aesthetic that encompasses the pastoral brutalism of tank trap blocks crossing a lonely moor and a video shot in the ruins of the late studio of designer Bernat Klein, Anglo-Scottish group Modern Studies live up to their name with an air of quiet sophistication. Pleasingly, this extends to the music across this excellent second album, all subtly energetic rhythms, and just-so flourishes of brass and strings, a very contemporary-feeling blend of Scottish-hued indie, jazz, folk, tropicalia – you name it. The surging salmon-run kosmische of ‘Mud And Flame’ will appeal to those fans of British Sea Power’s most expansive moments, while opening track ‘Get Back Down’ is a pure lounge pop, drifting past in a smoke and whisky fug. If there’s anything comparable to this record it’d be The Delgados’ 2000 masterpiece The Great Eastern – like that album, this proves that smart indie pop can be so much more than staring at feet pointed together in earnest whimsy. Take, for instance, the jauntiness of the chorus “horns of plenty and trumpets of death” in ‘Horns And Trumpets’ or the panache of ‘Fast As Flows’, with its chugging groove, elegant string arrangements, and surges of brass. Throughout, the dueting male-female vocals are what really makes Welcome Strangers stand out, sounding like two itinerant folk singers picked up from the side of the road in some purring chrome beast on four wheels, and whisked off down the tidy motorways of an imagined future Britain. Welcome Strangers – stay a while. Luke Turner

The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer

Despite shedding metal’s generic trappings almost completely, The Body have created some of the heaviest and most intense music we’ve heard this year, a devastating multi-faceted gut-punch of a record that asks you to come face to face your most primordial, deep-seated fears, acknowledge and accept your failings and emerge from the experience a stronger person. And if that’s not metal, then frankly, we don’t know what is. Kez Whelan – read the full review here

Ben Vince – Assimilation

Overseeing a cast of collaborators that includes Micachu, Rupert Clervaux and Cam Deas, Ben Vince pulls proceedings together on Assimilation via his stunning saxophone arrangements. It’s a set-up which sees him thrive off the contributions of his co-conspirators, from the sleazy skronk of opener ‘Alive & Ready’, which features the shapeshifting vocals of Merlin Nova, to the more minimal, lithe territory of the Micachu-featuring ‘What I Can See’ which pairs little more than Vince’s sax, Mica Levi’s low register vocal and a healthy dose of reverb. Instrumental title track ‘Assimilation’, attributed to Vince alone, closes the record with a volley of wailing sax tones, a recurring bassline and a simple kick drum loop, surmising Vince’s ability to make striking music from the simplest of tools. Christian Eede

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Bass Hotel & Casino

It’s five years since the release of the QOTSA- and hip hop-inspired AM, a gap that few groups have the luxury of taking these days. That, and all indications noted above, suggested that Arctic Monkeys were about to take the first ship to Planet Hubris, a place that, unlike nearly all of their predecessors or peers in the curious realm of fairly blokey indie rock, they’ve commendably avoided. Now based in Los Angeles, that capital of vapidity and excess that has a habit of warping English imaginations in unpleasant ways, they exist in some bizarre world where you might easily acquire the delusion that you’re a modern-day Elton John, even if on a slightly lower budget – much of this record was inspired by Alex Turner being given a Steinway Vertegrand piano (they retail for upwards of eight grand) for his 30th birthday in 2016: “I arrived back off holiday and it was sitting there,” he’s said. "The addition of the piano to this room was definitely a huge part of the making of this album, because that suddenly became the centre of it.” Thankfully, instead of bloated and arrogant wranglings with fame and fortune, this is a concise and clever record. Luke Turner – read the full review here

Soccer96 – Rewind

Soccer96 brings contemplative electronica infused with freshest creative vitality, audacity and plurality of ideas and perspectives. These psychonauts are creating highly intoxicating blend of cosmic jazz, psych synth, retro-futurist organic electronica, giving nods to a dazzling diversity of influences. They also excel in erasing the conceptual boundaries in our minds between the personal and universal as they slam and jam together. Danijela Bočev – read the full review next week

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids – An Angel Fell

The band started 46 years ago, disbanded for decades and then reformed, but their music has lost none of its potency or political relevance. The music that Ackamoor was making in the 1970s came out of intense social and racial tension, and that commitment to addressing the world’s ills through music remains. The arrival of the LP feels timely: Ackamoor stated that “loss of innocence and separation” were two themes guiding its development, as was a belief in the healing power of music. Humanity in 2018 could certainly use some healing, and it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the return of politically engaged jazz has come at a time of renewed global conflict. Adam Quarshie – read the full review here

Tracks Of The Month

Flohio – ‘Watchout’

SE16’s greatest with a colossal dark banger draped in anger and grit. PC

Gazelle Twin – ‘Hobby Horse’

The first bit of evidence that Elizabeth Bernolz’s next album Pastoral – due out in September – could be her best to date. JD

The Mon – ‘Relics’

Seriously gothic synth track which tickles you with groovy and then turns round and eats you. From the solo project of Urlo, aka the singer-bassist-synth player in Ufomammut. AW

JK Flesh – ‘Wasplike’

JK Flesh delivers a banger of the most blistering order. PC

Joy O & Ben Vince – ‘Transition 2’

A first-time collaboration between Joy Orbison and saxophonist Ben Vince, ‘Transition 2’’s reedy funk is primed for ecstatic dancefloor moments. CE

Prostitutes – ‘Shroud Of Cellophane’

What you don’t have enough of in your life is gabber. And if you go jogging more often than you dance on podiums, this 160bpm no-messing beauty will still be handy. AW

Chromatics – ‘Black Walls’

First new track in ages from everyone’s favourite cinematic cocaine-and-sadness pop group, from their much-anticipated upcoming album Dear Tommy. LT

Roísín Murphy – ‘Innocence’

Maurice Fulton’s bombastic, distinctive percussion on production combines graciously with Roísín Murphy’s velvety vocal. CE

Sly & The Family Drone + Dead Neanderthals – ‘Flesh Logics’

The Basingstoke destroyers and the Benelux bastards team up once more for another God Unknown white out. JD

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