We’ve run through a lot of great music on the Beats To The Bar stereo in April. Here’s 6 new releases, from 5 different countries, that made our month.
Alexia Avina – A Little Older
For the uninitiated Alexia Avina is an American singer songwriter who has been steadily releasing records since 2014’s ‘Kind Forest’ EP. Amassing another EP and three albums along the way, ‘A Little Older’ is her fourth album and second via Lost Map Records.
‘A Little Older’ is a continuation of Avina’s gentle and meditative alt folk pop, which displays her complete mastery of her craft.
The album flows together so beautifully from the off, with the minimal yet spacious guitar led ‘Step In Line’ so delicate it soothes the ear into submission. ‘Forgotten Angle’ is melodically glorious. Avina’s voice is pitch perfect and angelic, gently floating above the light instrumental. It’s not all guitar led. ‘I Am Opening’ is an 8+ minute track that, while containing subtle expressive guitar, builds a soft warped synth and vocal drone that is truly hypnotic. It recalls the more delicate ambient works of Animal Collective.
“On The Path”, meanwhile, has a Low-esque sensibility.
The vocal melody and harmonies are gorgeous.
Avina shows she is not afraid to let songs draw out. Whilst lengthy, songs like the aforementioned ‘I am Opening’ and ‘Way Things Grow’ do not feel overlong, such is the absorbing, trance-like quality of this music.
‘Human’ adds a gentle punch with its slightly distorted guitar and clicks percussion that offers a gentle awakening. This neatly sets up the moody and subtly spectacular title track. There is no filler on ‘A Little Older’. Every track seems to have purpose, giving the album all the necessary peaks and changes of pace or technique. The penultimate track ‘Poison’ is the first track with a more standard guitar strum and structure, doing everything you would expect it to do if this were a more straightforward artist. In the context of this album it almost seems strange.
The closer ‘How Can I Learn’ is a return to the drifting and spacious sounds of the first half of the album.
However the reverb heavy vocals are accompanied by a minimal guitar strum and building fuzz and feedback that eventually takes precedence. It’s a surprisingly rock n roll ending adding one final satisfying texture.
You may enjoy this if you like Low, Julia Holter, Animal Collective, Winter
Stephen’s Shore – Green EP
Stephen’s Shore are a five piece from Sweden who specialise in glistening indie pop, just as a band from Sweden should. Following their second EP, 2021’s ‘Brisbane Radio’ and a 2018 album ‘September Love’, ‘Green’ is a new four track EP that delivers with every track. The Real Estate-via-The Smiths jangle of Ocean’s Calling is a joy. The slightly washed out vocals, upbeat drums and sweet guitar interplay add a summery, hazy atmosphere. There’s also a hint of Beck in earnest folky mode here.
‘Carefree Tyme’ is more playful. The exciting rhythm of the intro and chorus give way to an REM-like jangle, and a gorgeous guitar solo adds a sophisticated sheen. ‘Close To A Dream’ initially has a hint of George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’ before it reveals itself as another Real Estate-esque strummer. There is a greater clarity with Stephen’s Shore though. They have more conviction in their songwriting and do not hide so much behind hazy effects and production.
‘Turn Things Around’ is a great closer, with a touch of Pavement, a dash of Teenage Fanclub and a dose of the Byrds about it. The vocal harmonies are beautiful while the upbeat drums add extra clarity. As ever, the guitar interplay is intricate and wonderful, in a similar vain to the fabulous Ex-Vöid.
This is perfect music for putting on a stereo on the beach and soaking up the sun (if you don’t burn as easily as me).
Green EP is out now via Meritorio Records
You may enjoy this if you like Real Estate, The Smiths, Ex-Vöid
Shooting Daggers – Athames
Shooting Daggers are a brutal hardcore inspired punk band from London. ‘Athames’ is the self professed feminist/queercore punk trio’s debut EP and it’s a mighty slap in the face. Full of chunky riffs, ass kicking vocal delivery and thumping drums this is packed with riot-grrl attitude. There are notes of 80s SST hardcore and DC Hardcore, alongside some hefty doomy breakdowns. ‘Carnage’ is a particular case in point. It veers from a slow moody opening into a breakneck riff fest with neat tripped up rhythms. The guitar tones are menacing and drums intense, as they throw in curveball upon curveball. It’s exhilarating.
‘We Will Live’ recalls the menace of The Icarus Line combined with the needly guitar work of Joey Santiago.
This whole EP is a riot.
Tracks fly by at pace making us want to break everything in sight. The live show is undoubtedly something awesome to behold. The message is clear throughout, these are three people not to be f***ed with.
This is one hell of a debut EP that makes Shooting Daggers one of the must hear (and see) bands of 2022. I reached for the repeat button immediately at the end. Very highly recommended.
Athames is out 20th May via New Heavy Sounds
You may enjoy this if you like Black Flag, The Icarus Line, Vexx
Otoboke Beaver – Super Champon
Otoboke Beaver, active since 2009, really broke through in 2017 with a UK singles chart entry and a headline show at London’s Scala. The all female four piece from Japan are now due for a return via the excellent Damnably label (Oddly, Say Sue Me). They’ve lost none of their infectious energy on new album ‘Super Champon’.
They jump into action at breakneck speed with opener ‘I am not maternal’.
The one note verses and nursery rhyme melody of the chorus make for a crazed burst out of the blocks.
This is, naturally, followed by a song apologising for throwing Yakitori into a post box. It’s as fun as it sounds (maybe more). ‘Pardon?’ Is just as enjoyable. The chanted “shut up” backing vocals are a delight. They clearly don’t take themselves at all seriously and exude an abundance of confidence. With the songs barely reaching the two minute mark (and sometimes not even one minute) this is a breathless collection of disjointed and delightful punk. They sit somewhere in between the wild breakneck speed of forebears Melt Banana, the chaotic noise of Afrirampo and the sugar sweetness and humour of Chai.
They’re at their best when all four members join in to chant the vocals, such as on the sheer lunacy of ‘I put my love to you in a song JASRAC’. They indulge in wild swings in rhythm on tracks like ‘Don’t call me mojo’ that recall Mr Bungle, but condensed into a much shorter timeframe. They don’t dwell on an idea for too long and this ensures this remains wildly entertaining. This is put to the test even further later on the album when we’re treated to four songs under 20 seconds long, all of which have clear structures.
This will go down as one of the most enjoyable albums of 2022 upon its release on 6th May.
Shake Chain – Shake Chain Live
Shake Chain are a band we can’t get enough of. Their drunk as all hell debut EP had us immediately hooked so it’s a pleasure to hear something new. This eight track live album features the four crazed tracks from their debut (Highly Conceptual, Copy Me, Big On The Straight and Architecture) so we’ll focus on the four tracks we’ve not heard before. What we should first note is that this sounds fantastic, practically as good as a studio recording, with the added bonus of Kate Mahony’s performative vocals being even more wild and the guitar playing more expressive.
The first of the four new tracks ‘Birthday’ has a moody guitar hook, spiky chorus and some wonderfully skewed keys.
Mahony’s vocal performance is, frankly, mad.
There’s no let up in her glorious atonal shrieking until the fantastic instrumental outro. It builds into an alternation between Nirvana-esque pummelling and rung out chords. It’s easy to get all caught up in Mahony’s performance but the band are equally incredible.
‘Cavalry’ is more frantic. It’s a relentless up tempo assault that buzzes with discordant hooks and a simple but brilliantly meaty bassline. It’s unhinged and highly satisfying. They standardise their approach just a touch on the hip-swinging ‘Mike’. However, Mahony once again throws the whole song off kilter with her intense, pissed shrieks without much care for keeping perfect time (it still fits of course, this is all planned). Following a brilliant cow sample filled rendition of ‘Architecture’ comes the choppy ‘Internet’. It’s no less entertaining, with a kicker of a bassline and a gut wrenching turn of pace in the chorus. That is if you can call it a chorus.
These new songs point towards a great future for Shake Chain. They’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea. They’re simply too off the wall but you simply cannot be bored in the presence of their music. They continue to be one of the best and most exciting bands in the UK right now.
You may enjoy this if you like Sniffany & The Nits, The Fall, Bardo Pond, Life Drawings, The Birthmarks
Luke Lover – Luke Lover
Here’s the last of our 6 new releases we enjoyed in April!
Luke Lover is a solo artist from Switzerland who comes to Hidden Bay Records. This release follows a 2020 debut mini album (or is it a big EP) ‘A Strong Body’. His self-titled new album is a collection of lo-fi indie rock that harks back to early 2000s anti-folk. The album begins with a jaunty short intro of silly gameshow keyboards, electronic beats and warped 8 bit computer game sounds. The off kilter keys remain on first song proper “Crab Sorrow (Part 2)”. There was a part one on the previous collection. It’s an understated slacker indie song with the repetitive vocal line “I see the sunlight in my eyes”. Carried by a repetitive keyboard hook, it slowly build layers of guitar, electronic drums and warbled synth accompaniment.
This is the sort of music that always lends itself to lo-fi recording.
“Weit-Weg” is another instrumental track of lightly distorted piano, droney chords and a touch more of that joyously off kilter keyboard buffoonery.The album is a collection of strange skits that in some ways recalls early Beck. “For Me (slowed)” is literally what the title suggests. A short song that slowed down within its opening seconds, elongating it to a hefty 32 seconds from start to finish. Lover’s deadpan delivery only adds to the oddball quality of this.
The following “I Move On” is a stop start indie song that recalls the jagged approach of Buffet Lunch, Life Drawings and The Cool Greenhouse.
In fact this would probably fit neatly on the Permanent Slump label such is its laissez-faire approach.There are more instrumental oddities in the minimalist “Ich Ängstlich” and “Seq,1” before the almost Captain Beefheart-like guitar line of “Leicht” kicks in. Lover’s spoken word vocal accompanied by cheery backing vocals creates an entertaining juxtaposition akin to The Fall. There’s also a touch of Sebadoh to it.“Ines” offers up another gentle acid-fried instrumental prior to the closing title track, which has an Ariel Pink style silliness about it. It’s a repetitive catchy anthem with a simple Jonathan Richman rock n roll chord structure that sounds like the equipment was on the verge of death. However, again, it needs to sound like this. It’s again lyrically minimal and slackerish.‘Luke Lover’ is a lo-fi gem with a care-free approach. A collection of songs moreso than a coherent album but a fun one nonetheless.
‘Luke Lover’ is out 6th May via Hidden Bay Records.
You may enjoy this if you like The Cool Greenhouse, Buffet Lunch, Let’s Wrestle, Sebadoh