Methyl Ethel | Everything is Forgotten (4AD) | Rated: 8
Western Australia’s Methly Ethel release their second album, following their hit-and-miss 2015 debut. Everything is Forgotten is a much stronger album overall, but it doesn’t reach the very high points of Oh Inhuman Spectacle, such as the excellent “Idee Fixe”.
The album feels less weird than its predecessor, which isn’t always a bad thing. It does at times feel a little like a Hot Chip record – again not necessarily a bad thing. But I had hoped that it would keep the special weirdness of the first record and make it more consistent. It sounds (for want of a better word) a little more “mainstream”.
Ultimately though, it makes for a consistent, enjoyable and compelling record. The thumping bass on “Ubu”, the synth driven “L’Heure des Sorcieres” and the incredible, leaves-you-wanting-more crescendo on “Femme Maison/One Man House” are great examples of where the band has matured and refined their sound.
Favourite track: “Femme Maison/One Man House”
Sun Kil Moon | Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood (Caldo Verde) | Rated: 6
Everything about Sun Kil Moon’s album is long. The songs. The title. It’s runtime. Some of the tracks last over ten minutes, and the whole record finally closes having somehow kept going for more than 130 minutes over 16 tracks.
You have to admire the sheer amount of “stuff” that Mark Kozelek has crammed into this record. The ills of social media, David Bowie’s death, Lemmy’s death, Sean Penn meeting El Chapo, the South by Southwest music festival. And that’s just in one track, “Philadelphia Cop”. The problem is that the track itself runs to over ten minutes long and you grow tired of listening to it after five minutes.
It’s difficult to work out whether or not to admire some of the more unusual elements of the album, for example the detailed Serial-like spoken word elements, where Mark Kozelek focusses on several murders, including at least one which appears totally made up, yet includes details such as a the killer’s collection of CDs being found still in the shrink wrap (apart from a Hot Hot Heat record, which was opened). The detail is at times wonderful, but over time it is wearying, with the album made stodgy by its sheer length and content.
In that time, Kozlek has clearly tried to tell us something. He ruminates on society’s need for instant gratification, the reasons that Donald Trump was elected and transgender bathroom laws. The problem is that it could have been done so on a shorter, more concise album, and one that perhaps didn’t need to sound like a podcast at points. A stream of consciousness in need of serious editing.
Favourite track: “Bergen to Trondheim”
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François and the Atlas Mountains | Solide Mirage (Domino) | Rated: 7
Merging mainly French lyrics over African rhythms, this is band’s fifth album. It has beautiful moments, with François Marry’s voice at times sounding romantic and airy, yet precise.
Aside from the jangly Afropop early in the album, there are subtler moments such as “100 000 000”, all swirling synths and delicate vocals. “1982”, the lead single from the album, is similarly slower-paced and beautiful for it, with Owen Pallet’s work on the strings paying off.
Some of the slower tracks are a bit forgettable. But the album opener Grand Dérèglement and the album highlight “Apocalypse a Ipsos” are well worth listening to.
Favourite track: “Apocalypse a Ipsos”
Ibibio Sound Machine | Uyai (Merge Records) | Rated: 9
Sometimes you start an album and wish that you were hearing it live. You will the music to move from your headphones to a stage where the band are having a great time, the audience too, and the music is all the richer for it. This is one of those records.
British-based Ibibio Sound Machine’s take on Afrobeat is special – a mix of synth and live instruments working together to provide a music of real vitality. Any fans of the first album will be pleased that, if anything, this record is an improvement on what was already great music.
Opening with “Give Me a Reason”, a pacy, synth driven track, the album continues, with few exceptions, at a great pace. Tracks such as “The Chant (Iquo Isang)” are infectious, fun and can’t fail to make listeners want to dance – especially when the chorus hits. An album guaranteed to raise a smile.
Favourite track: “Give Me a Reason”
Deep Throat Choir | Be OK (Bella Union) | Rated: 7
The East London based choir’s debut is a fun listen, an album made up mainly of covers, with a few original compositions. It’s a shame more of the album isn’t original, as that’s where the real quality lies.
The singing is excellent, and, in particular on the cover of Sylvan Esso’s “Hey Mami”, the instrumentation is excellent too; cowbell, drum and bass guitar joining the choir turning it into a vibrant track you want to dance to. It’s the sparseness of instrumentation which marks the album out – in the main, it only uses percussion.
“Be OK”, the album standout, is an original track penned by lead vocalist and founder Luisa Gerstein and only serves to highlight that the choir is all the better on originals. Some of covers are good fun and can be quite moving, as with the cover of the Bjork track, “Stonemilker”, but others, such as the Amy Winehouse cover “In My Bed” sound far too close to the original.
Favourite track: “Be Ok”
New Tracks of the Week
Lorde: “Green Light” – New Zealand’s second greatest export returns
Calvin Harris t. Frank Ocean & Migos: “Slide” – universally adored singer joins critically not-adored DJ to create excellent dance tune
Simian Ghost: “Stop Moving” – Disco made new, with a nod to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”.
And here’s the full Picks of the Week Playlist from Reaction