March Musical Highlights – Some Easter Listening For You

Hookworms-Pearl-Mysticjohn-grant-pale-green-ghostsLow-The Invisible WayRGC 3Clutch-Earth-RockerKvelertak-Meirmegachurch-2_-judgment-dayDaughter-If-You-Leave-Artwork

Well, we’re a quarter into 2013 if you can believe that and the appearance of good albums shows no sign of dwindling. As you can see above I have a fine clutch of records that you might want to investigate this month and may hopefully help soundtrack what remains of your Easter break! As always Spotify links are included.

I’ll start off with the debut album from Leeds band Hookworms. Pearl Mystic arrived on a wave of critical praise including an impressive 10/10 from DrownedinSound.com. The five piece have had a few years on the live circuit which have garnered them a fair bit of praise and a devoted local following, I have not yet caught them but have a ticket to see them supporting Pissed Jeans in May which, having now digested the debut, am looking forward to mightily! They produce a sound that cannot help but be compared to bands such as Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine and even early output Verve (before they added the “The”). Julian Cope went so far as to call them the “shoegazing Skynyrd” on his blog! The band are quoted as saying they do not want to be celebrities, and are only known by their initials, but on the strength of this debut I’m not sure how long that will last!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgEemfTu_88]

Next we have Pale Green Ghosts, the second album by ex The Czars frontman John Grant. His stellar debut Queen of Denmark that was recorded with input from Midlake only recently came to my attention when it was chosen as the Bella Union album for February’s listening session with the @LPGrp collective on Twitter (where everyone listens to the chosen album at the same time and comments on/discusses it). I’m not sure how I managed to miss it in 2010 especially as it won a few ‘best of the year’ accolades, and when I listened to it I adored it instantly so was looking forward to this one. Although not as immediate as QoD (possibly due to the absence of Midlake on this one) it’s mixture of electronica, folk and John’s gorgeous voice has well and truly got under my skin. I also have a ticket to see him in May, another gig that cannot come soon enough!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekFWPsXXcg0]

And so to the tenth album from Minnesota’s Low. If you know anything about the band then The Invisible Way will not produce any surprises, but again, if you know anything about the band then that will not/should not put you off. It’s another album of beautiful harmonies and slow-burn anthems from man and wife team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. Possibly more accessible and, dare I say it, joyful (in places) than the last couple of albums. It does not have the experimentation of Drums and Guns or the relative bombast of The Great Destroyer, it is just another great Low album and to me that’s no bad thing.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk07lcsYPNo]

While we’re talking of Alan Sparhawk we can talk about his third album with his heavier, almost mirror image side project Retribution Gospel Choir. Following the pattern of previous albums, this one is simply titled 3 but other than that this new one differs quite dramatically in style. Where the previous two were albums containing ten tracks of average length, this new LP consists of just two long extended jams each reaching the twenty minute mark. This makes it a more demanding listen as the first track Can’t Walk Out meanders around with it’s psychedelic squally guitar solos building to crescendo, but despite, or rather because of this it is ultimately more rewarding. Second track Seven tones down the fury, even edging towards the folky delicacy of some of Low’s “heavier” moments. Although RGC’s previous output has been enjoyable I’ve not often felt the need to revisit whereas this one will take a number of listens to fully appreciate and currently that doesn’t seem like an onerous task!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCKrRoDXPL0]

Ok, time to turn up the pace a little with Earth Rocker, another tenth album, this time from Clutch. I have loved this band from the time I first heard their debut Transnational Speedway League in 1993 and although they have naturally changed and evolved their sound over twenty years moving away from the raw violence of their early couple of albums and incorporating a more bluesier element to their sludgy stoner rock, they are deep down still the same. Although I was slightly disappointed with the last effort, Strange Cousins From The West, this new one has reignited the fire in me all over again, they have brought the rock back! This tenth album is more akin to 2001’s Pure Rock Fury or 2004’s Blast Tyrant (my favourite) than the last three albums and for that I am hugely grateful!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lVXVZ5ATwg]

Sticking with the heavy we have Meir, the eagerly awaited second album by Norway’s Kvelertak. You have only to read my review of their gig I did to understand my excitement for this album and although nothing can really match the initial jaw-on-the-floor feeling I got when I first heard their self titled debut, this follow up sure hasn’t disappointed! It differs slightly from the debut with first track Åpenbaring being a quite gentle three minute intro as opposed to the slap in the face of Ulvetid and a few longer songs but Meir (Norwegian for “More”) is an apt title, they haven’t really expanded on what they were doing on the debut and what’s more they probably don’t really give a shit what you think about that! If they really wanted big success across the pond then they would probably sing in English, but that’s not what they’re about, they just want to rock out and party to music they want to make and fuck you if you don’t like it, and for that I love them all the more!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU55r0YT6YA]

Megachurch 2: Judgement Day: “Megachurch are a heavy rock band from Ohio who employ two bass players and eschew vocals in favor of televangelist samples.” that’s a quote from their Bandcamp page, sound good? You’re damn right it does! They rock hard with their tongue firmly their cheek, I mean check out the artwork above, a purple volcano spewing pink lava while a besuited, sword wielding guy rides a fluorescent green dragon, whats not to like?!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ou17Y1rZuI]

We’ll bring the tempo and craziness right down to finish off this month’s post with If You Leave, the debut from London band Daughter. Dark yet delicate, haunting and heart rending, Elena Tonra’s beautiful voice delivering such happy lines as “I wish I’d stayed inside mother, never to come out” on the single Smother. I hesitate to compare them to The XX but there are similarities in the music that cannot be avoided, however to these ears the voice is far more affecting and the whole set up feels less pretentious. Signed to legendary label 4AD they have enjoyed a lot of early hype leading to sold out headline gigs and extensive radio play, whether they can keep it up or whether they’ll burn out pretty quick is yet to be seen, but If You Leave is a pretty strong way to start.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUWrcFpmI5U]
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  1. #1 by Kuz on April 4, 2013 - 9:50 pm

    Some really good stuff here. Kvelertak obviously. Really enjoying Low and RGC (I had never even heard of this before reading this post, yet it’s so good!) also. Have Megachurch and Daughter on my “to listen to” list too thanks to you.

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