thebigpinkHad 90’s era the Chemical Brothers morphed into some shoegazers, they might’ve sounded like rock duo Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell, who comprise the London based band the Big Pink. Their debut record, A Brief History Of Love, is an epic sounding mix of shoegaze, electronica and a keen ear for a pop hook, reminiscent at times of the Church or the Dandy Warhols circa Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, as well as their peers the Horrors. It’s an ambitious record that’s also great fun to listen to, as the band makes the most of their broad range of influences, changing things up enough from song to song to keep the record compelling from first note to last. Standout cuts: “Crystal Visions,” “Dominos,” “Velvet” and “A Brief History Of Love.”

horrorsprimarycoloursPrimary Colours, the new album from UK based the Horrors, begins and ends quietly, but the rest of the album is filled with the droning, cavernous roar of guitars and the piercing wails and washes of keyboards and synthesizers. Hovering over, and sometimes inside, the roar are lead singer Faris Badwan’s vocals, which evoke Peter Murphy and Ian Curtis. It’s part Goth, part punk, part shoegaze and part Wall of Sound fired rock (the latter quality is especially notable on the current single “Who Can Say”). The album is on such an epic scale that it constantly bumps up against the absurd, but never takes a fall into it, mostly owing to the supreme confidence with which the whole proceedings are charged. You know from the opening moments if this album is for you, and once you’re drawn in, it’s hard to set it aside. Easily, their best work yet. Standout cuts: “Who Can Say,” “Scarlet Fields,” “Primary Colours” and “Sea Within A Sea.”

dovesThe fourth album in ten years from UK based band Doves, Kingdom Of Rust, subtly breaks some new musical ground for them, while at the same time further refining their signature blend of foot stomping rock, electronica, shoegaze and psychedelia. They also throw in some elements of 60’s choral pop and some folk, even a bit of dance and funk on “Compulsion,” which adds ever more layers to their dense, sometimes positively cavernous sound. Doves certainly haven’t forgotten how to write pop hooks in the four years since their last album, so it’s easy to get drawn into Kingdom Of Rust, as it contains some of their catchiest, most accessible material yet. The album is not without its flaws, as it has its meandering moments, but for the most part, it works. I think Doves fans will embrace the record most of all, but generally speaking, this is a solid return for a great band. Standout cuts: “Jetstream,” “Kingdom Of Rust,” “10:03” and “Compulsion.”

“You were born on a black day, shot through with starlight…”

After a couple of spotty albums that nevertheless contained some very inspired material, Spiritualized releases their best album since Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, its landmark 1997 release: Songs In A&E (which stands for Accident and Emergency, for you non-UK readers) features a set of music largely inspired by frontman J. Spaceman’s (aka Jason Pierce) near-fatal bout with double pneumonia in 2005. Some of them are stark ruminations on mortality, as with “Death Take Your Fiddle,” a slow burning number complete with respirator sounds, while others are romantic tunes, often done on epic scales, such as the current single, “Soul On Fire” and the most excellent “Baby I’m A Fool,” which builds into a psychedelic folk rock jam. Towards the end, there’s also a spooky and powerful tune called “Borrowed Your Gun,” which may be about inherited familial anger or else family violence, physical or emotional, real or imagined. “Good Night Goodnight” ends the album on a lovely mixture of melancholy and hope. The music features Spiritualized’s usual mix of rock, soul, shoegaze and space rock, along with rousing choral arrangements. J. Spaceman’s often poetic lyrics touches on the album’s weighty themes without feeling cliched or sappily sentimental. Songs In A&E is an important work from one of this generation’s most unique and innovative bands.

First full length album in four years from mercurial Anton Newcombe and his band with the ever shifting lineup, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is 78 minutes plus of shoegaze and psychedelic rock, with some experimental touches thrown in the mix here and there. There are acoustic guitars, electric guitar and synthesizer drones, tambourines, random noises, and vocals that are intelligible, and sometimes not, all those elements carefully assembled, and then again, sometimes not, but somehow it all hangs together, anyway. There are songs with deliberately provocative titles: “Bring Me the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mill’s Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs on the White House),” “Who Fucking Pissed In My Well,” “We Are the Niggers of the World” (a rather nice piano instrumental that nevertheless reminded me, the title, anyway, of “Lick My Love Pump” from This Is Spinal Tap) and “Automatic Faggot for the People.” Some might find My Bloody Underground a bit on the self-indulgent side, while longtime fans might appreciate it more. I’m not sure this would be the album to start with if you’re just coming to Newcombe’s music, but I found myself caught up in it, though the ten minute droning instrumental, “Black Hole Symphony,” that closes the album is something I can’t imagine listening to again anytime soon. (It does, however, have a video, so maybe I’m just a square.) Standout cuts: “Bring Me the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mill’s Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs on the White House),” “Yeah-Yeah,” “Golden – Frost” and “Monkey Powder.”

The Brian Jonestown Massacre Official Site

Antibes, France based M83’s new album, Saturdays = Youth is an ambitious, sweeping paean to youth, with all its attendant happiness, sadness, excesses and grand gestures, all self-seriousness, drama, sexuality, naiveté, and idealism intact. The music sounds like a collaboration between My Bloody Valentine, the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins, shimmering guitar pop on an epic scale with ambient and often decidedly 80’s style electronic flourishes. It’s a lovely, often joyous work with moments of sweetness that border on the syrupy, but never quite cross over. Saturdays = Youth ends on an appropriately introspective note with the 11 minute ambient piece, “Midnight Souls Still Remain.” Standout cuts: “Kim & Jessie,” “Graveyard Girls,” “Couleurs” and “We Own The Sky.”

Portland based band the Helio Sequence mixes up some dream pop, 80’s synth pop, some shoegaze and a couple of stabs at acoustic folk for their fourth album, Keep Your Eyes Ahead. On the final tracks, “Broken Afternoon” and “No Regrets,” they even sound a bit like Bob Dylan and a country blues band, respectively. It’s an appealingly varied album, highlighted by soaring vocals and guitars, the latter of which often recalls bands like New Order or the Cure. I think it’s their strongest album yet, certainly my favorite by them so far. Definitely worth a listen for indie pop fans. “Can’t Say No,” “You Can Come To Me,” “Shed Your Love” and “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.”