Back to normal-ish after fun times in Chicago (full write-up yesterday), it’s another month…
So here are the best songs of the past month. Just one more round-up like this to go in four weeks time, before I start thinking more about the best of the year, already!
Track of the Month
Bright Like Stars
A Line That Connects
Lycia build on their brilliant return (Quiet Moments) a few years back with an extraordinary follow-up that sees them expand beyond their sonambulent trademark sound. Not that this is obvious from the outset, with the first half of the album being much as before, before a striking, unexpected changeup mid-album that sweeps into a number of glorious, goth-rock-esque tracks that suit Mike VanPortfleet’s voice even better and leave your jaw on the floor. This track is the best of them all, though – a rumbling bass drives a shoegazy, woozy song forward with a beautiful female vocal drifting through the sound like wisps of fog. The sound of dark, bleak despair never sounded so alluring.
Enjoy More [single]
Finally getting a proper single release, this was actually released much earlier in the year as a contribution to a compilation. It’s well worth a proper release, too, as their high-profile remix work for various artists (3TEETH and Cyanotic for starters) has really widened their fanbase and increased interest – thundering EBM-industrial beats with sampled vocal snippets encouraging the Gordon Gecko adage of “Greed is Good”, and proving that sadly some concepts from the eighties, in this case materialism, are not going away anytime soon. Their live appearance in London this coming weekend – supporting 3TEETH, no less, will not hurt either. (See my review of the first ever R&M gig here, from back in February)
Highly Deadly Back Tarantula
I was rather a fan of their last album MASTER in 2013 (#2 album, #3 gig), and if this track is anything to go by, imminent new album Highly Deadly Back Tarantula is going to be as good. TotS don’t really fit in any pigeonhole, and I’m sure they’re happy with that – swaying from psychedlic rock to post-rock to post-metal to electro to metal, sometimes in the same song. This track has an ominous synth line repeating through it, howled, wordless vocals, horns, Jarre-esque synths, drum solos, and I’m sure I heard the kitchen sink in there too. Either way, it’s an enthralling listen and I’m going to try and catch them live again in November too.
The peak of Ant-Zen’s releases was probably a long time ago now – it’s amazing to think that the boom in popularity of their noisy industrial catalogue was now well over a decade ago (I Die:You Die’s take on Converter recently on their We Have a Technical podcast is well worth listening to) – but this year has perhaps seen renewed interest again as two of their most prolific and interesting artists reach their twentieth anniversaries. Klangstabil marked theirs with an expansive, two-CD compilation that was enthralling for it’s variety as much as the quality of the tracks within, while Synapscape have simply continued moving forward, with their new release Rhythm Age. As the name suggests, it sees Synapscape very much exploring rhythm in industrial, with complex, pounding beats dominating many songs but never becoming boring. The single, Loop, is actually one of the more restrained tracks – a slower pace, distorted effects and near-unintelligable vocals might sound like a difficult concept to enjoy, but it really is quite brilliant. Not to mention a great video to accompany it, too.
What Kind of Friend?
Smoke and Mirrors
A warm welcome back to one of the UK’s best synthpop acts, in the form of Essex band Tenek. They stole the show at Infest a few years back, have a whole back catalogue of fantastic pop songs, and their new single adds another to the canon. It isn’t reinventing the wheel, sure, but why fix it… Geoff Pinckney’s vocals have an edge to them here, one of anger and revenge, and the electronics seem to have a sharper edge underneath the pop sheen, too. See you all at the album launch show in November, right?
Things I Would Do
With grateful thanks to I Die: You Die for highlighting this one – as they noted, this is probably the closest anyone has got to the *feel*, not just the sound of classic Depeche Mode. A driving beat, all kinds of synths and samples firing off in the background, and a stellar chorus that hints at all kinds of darkness and lust (The titular line “the things I would do…” being the key line in the chorus). The fact that it is also catchy as hell doesn’t hurt, either.
Talking of Depeche Mode, actually, Dave Gahan has returned to work with Soulsavers for a second time after that great first album a few years back. As was the case then, this is vastly better than the DM album released since, and it’s relaxed, tinged-with-sadness style seems to fit Gahan’s elder-statesman croon so much more than it does with Martin Gore’s compositions nowadays. This song is organ-drenched, a subtle drumbeat is pushed to the background, to give maximum space to Gahan’s instantly recognisable voice, and later in the song gains a quasi-gospel backing, and the result is impressive. This is twenty-first century blues and it is fucking great.
Hours in Chaos
Razed To The Ground
The return of VoD a few years back was better than almost anything they’d put out before (and allowed me to scratch a long-standing itch by finally seeing them at the Underworld), and this song has me pretty stoked for the new album, too. Clearly revitalised by the reformation and the reception to that last album, this track seems even heavier, with beatdowns galore, gang vocals and some ripping riffage. And that chugging breakdown for the bridge…man, I love it when hardcore is this good.
Last album-but-one Union Black – and particularly the roof-raising single Warning – seemed to finally have pushed Benji and Skindred into the big time at last, after years of them being a band on the cusp of success. So it’s not really surprising to find that the first single from upcoming album Volume doesn’t especially deviate from the path set by that album and Kill The Power. At least on the face of it, it is still the same radio-friendly, ragga/hip-hop-influenced groovy-as-hell (as opposed to groove) metal, but it does seem here that some fairly stark political comment is seeping in, too, which is no bad thing. Either way, seeing Skindred live is always a pleasure, so that’ll be on my calendar in time I’m sure too.
We Are Dreamers!
The Waiting Room
As we shuffle into the shorter nights of autumn, and the rain sets in, what better artist to release a new single than Tindersticks. Stuart Staples and his bandmates are not a band for summer days, instead much more suited to those dark times when there is too much to contemplate, and not enough light to brighten the corners. This is absolutely one of those songs. Featuring Jehnny Beth from Savages, apparently, but Staples’ gravelly, teetering-on-the-edge-of-despair voice owns this song, given even more chance for centre stage by the almost whispered instrumentation behind him. More glories await, I’m sure, when the album arrives.