Five Things We Liked This Week – 20/04/18

Further Listening:

5. Jim James Plays The Fool

As the frontman of My Morning Jacket, a member of Monsters Of Folk and a successful solo artist in his own right, you’re almost certainly already aware of the music of Jim James. Jim is set to release his third album, Uniform Distortion, in June, and has this week shared new single, Just A Fool, and equally intriguingly the story of the album’s artwork.

The image is lifted from The Last Whole Earth Catalogue, a magazine of sorts that Jim describes as, “the internet before the internet.” The image moved Jim instantly and he requested to use the image, a request originally rejected by artist Duane Michals. Unperturbed, Jim wrote Duane a letter, that details his desire to get off the grid, as he explains, “more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth.” Don’t turn your computer off just yet though, there’s four songs to go and we should probably mention that Just A Fool might be Jim’s best track to date, all buzz-saw distorted guitars, bouncing rhythms and that always wonderful soaring vocal sharing an awful lot of self-doubt for such an established musician. He might be, “just a fool doing alright”, but Jim James remains as fascinating as ever.

Uniform Distortion is out June 29th via ATO Records. Click HERE for more information on Jim James.

4. Dive Into Phalcons New Single

It’s probably mentioned in every review you’ll ever read about Phalcons, but yes, they really do sound incredibly Welsh. Hailing from Snowdonia, the Libertino Records signed quartet deal in the sort of wistful, psych-pop brilliance that H.Hawkline and Euros Child have been doing so well with in recent years. This week the band have shared their second single, Swim Away.

The track was inspired by an anxiety dream that chief songwriter Ben Ellis had as he prepared to leave his childhood home for the first time. His mind took him to a beach and, in his own words, “I waded into the sea, and just started swimming. I have no idea where I was going, but I knew that if I kept going in the same direction, I’d get to where I needed to be. Maybe it was home?” The track seems to tap into the dichotomy at the heart of any major life decision, a reluctance to change and a desire to see whatever comes next. Musically, there’s a touch of the West Coast of America and acts like Chris Cohen or Lionlimb in the jangly, distorted guitars and easy rhythms, although Ben’s gorgeous, lilting vocal just pulls you straight back to his homeland. The perfect soundtrack to hazy, Spring evenings, you won’t hear a better timed release all year.

Swim Away is out April 27th via Libertino Records. Click HERE for more information on Phalcons.

3. Fall (Apart) For The New Single From Sons Of An Illustrious Father

We’re probably coming at this the wrong way round, yet we first heard about Sons Of An Illustrious Father courtesy of the solo project of their member, Lilah Larson. After releasing Pentimento, one of our favourite album’s of last year, Lilah is now back to the day job, and Sons Of An Illustrious Father have this week announced their intriguingly titled new album, Deus Sex Machina: Or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla. Ahead of the album’s release in June, the band have this week shared new single, When Things Fall Apart.

A New York-based trio, Sons Of An Illustrious Father formed out of, “an inherent need to represent Otherness within personal identity.” Writing songs about “socio-political ideas and sprawling gender theory”, Sons Of An Illustrious Father have created a record they describe as, “a funeral march for our world we have lost.” On When Things Fall Apart, the band manage to create something important, compelling and entirely without cliché. The track flutters through genres, starting off as a slinky keyboard shuffle, before shifting into vaudevillian theatrics then sailing off into an anthemic, almost gothic outro. With the powerful combination of a sound entirely their own and an awful lot to say, Sons Of An Illustrious Father have never been more vital and never sounded this good.

Deus Sex Machina: Or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla is out June 1st. Click HERE for more information on Sons Of An Illustrious Father.

2. Izaak Opatz Has Really Got To Us

Not all songwriters are obviously a product of their surroundings, but in the case of Izaak Opatz, it seems to be key to his very identity. Growing up, “at the foot of a mountain couched between Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest”, how could it not? That influence and inspiration have in many ways shaped his debut album, Mariachi Static, which is coming on Mama Bird Recording Co. in July.

The album’s opening track, and first single, Got To Me Since, perhaps isn’t obviously influenced by the Montana wilderness. There’s a touch of the East-coast to it, the easy-going shuffle and wistful vocal giving it a shimmering outer coating; dig into it though and this is a tale laced through with emotional turmoil. As Izaak explains the track, “wrestles with the frustration, not to mention embarrassment, of being unable to move past feelings for an old love, long after the acceptable emotional recovery window has closed”. Lusting over your ex is no new subject for pop-music certainly, yet Izaak’s take is particularly wonderful, he captures that sensitive, all-encompassing feeling of not being able to move on, even the hypnotic repetitive feel of the music seems to tap into sleepless nights and endlessly going over the same old heartache. Izaak might sound positive but as he sings, “I’d rather not know you, than have to go through what I did, but I will if you just say the word”, you just know he’s considering running back to the safety of passion. Bruised, nearly broken, but Izaak lets it all drip onto the tape, and in doing so creates something musically ambitious, beautiful and quietly compelling.

Mariachi Static is now available digitally via Mama Bird Recording Co. with a vinyl and CD re-release out July 20th. Click HERE for more information on Izaak Opatz.

1. Borrow A Cup Of Honey Of Your Neighbor Lady

Those of a keen memory will recall a few weeks back we shared the excellent Let It Bleed, the first offering from the upcoming debut album by Atlanta’s Neighbor Lady. We wouldn’t normally resort back to re-raving about a band quite so quickly but, Neighbor Lady are no normal band.

This week the quartet have shared their second offering, Oh Honey, and it’s something of a departure from the almost bleak, emotionally draining brilliance of Let It Bleed. Here there’s more of a classic pop feel to proceedings; the pronounced, percussive piano, intricate country-influenced guitar work and propulsive drum beats could almost lure you into thinking this is actually quite upbeat. Thankfully, like, let’s face it, nearly all the best music, there’s still a touch of the darkness, Emily Braden’s stunningly melodic vocal, think Natalie Prass meets Alynda Lee Segarra, sharing a tale of a friendship fallen apart at the hands of a shared romantic interest. A mixture of barbed put downs and genuine regrets, it’s a track that walks from guilt to defiance and back again. Neighbor Lady are only two tracks in, yet we haven’t been this excited about a new band in quite some time.

Maybe Later is out May 11th via Friendship Fever. Click HERE for more information on Neighbor Lady.

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