Five Things We Liked This Week – 08/05/20

Further Listening:

5. The Truth Is We Like Trains

Somewhat surprisingly, to us anyway, it’s been a full eight years since the last album from Leeds’ cult-favourites, I LIKE TRAINS. That record, The Shallows, was followed by the brilliant and un-flinching documentary, A Divorce Before Marriage, a story of lost record deals, day jobs and re-inventing what is it to be a band in the modern musical climate. This week, the next chapter in the I LIKE TRAINS story began to take shape as the band shared a brand new single, The Truth, the first offering from their upcoming record, KOMPROMAT, which will arrive in August.

Discussing the inspiration behind KOMPROMAT, it is clear that its every bit as conceptual as you’d expect from the band, as vocalist David Martin explains, “an I LIKE TRAINS record doesn’t really start to take shape until there’s a theme…that point came following Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks in 2013″. The result is a record about the rise of populism, from Brexit to Trump, Cambridge Analytica to Russian interference, and for that record there could be no more fitting introduction than The Truth. To a backing of relentless, surprisingly danceable drums and pulsating bass, equal parts Chemical Brothers and The Rapture, Dave spills out his own mangled version of the truth. The lyrics came from Dave trying to plot the course of political discussion across the world, as he explains, “I would follow the news and social media and add a line or two a day, so that it ended up plotting the news cycle over that period”. It plays out here with a knowing nod to Gil Scott-Heron, (“the truth will not be televised”) as Dave speaks out his never-ending narrative, battering the listener with repeated definitions of the Truth, each seemingly taking you further from the actual reality, “the truth is no longer concerned with the facts”, “the truth is I hold all the cards here”, “the truth is I am the truth”. It’s an utterly fascinating return for the band, simultaneously a logical next step and bold departure, from one of the most literate, thought provoking bands our country has to offer, did you expect anything else?

KOMPROMAT is out August 21st via Atlantic Curve. Click HERE for more information on I LIKE TRAINS.

4. Why Not Float Off With A Good Dog And A Bumblebee

While the name might be new to you, the relationship between Good Dog and Lost Map Records actually goes back quite some way. Good Dog is the new project of one Susan Bear, former member of Tuff Love and collaborator with the likes of Martha Ffion, Pictish Trail and Malcolm Middleton. Susan is a stalwart of the Scottish music-scene, and in the labels own words, “a lynchpin of Lost Map Records”. With the debut Good Dog album, Creature, arriving later this month, this week they’ve shared the first taster of it, double-A single Floating/Bumblebee.

Discussing Creature, Susan has suggested it’s, “kind of a diary of my 20s”, tracks that were written over a number of years, and were originally likely to remain on the home computer they were recorded on. However, with a desire to put a line under these recordings, and move on with newer projects, Susan has decided to put them out into the world. The record reflects on themes of loss, mental health, being a queer person in the modern world and, “trying to evolve into your final form as an adult”. On the evidence of Floating and Bumblebee, Good Dog’s sound is perhaps more inward glancing than Tuff Love ever were, both songs feel intimate and enticing, the hushed reverb laced vocals accompanied by washed out accompaniments of guitars, keys and steady pulsing rhythms, nodding to acts like Florist or Hand Habits. More than anything it’s just a delight to see one of Scotland’s most talented musicians once more focusing on producing their own works, and with the promise of more to come, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited for this Good Dog.

Creature is out May 22nd via Lost Map. Click HERE for more information on Good Dog.

3. Mt Doubt Are Worth Dragging A Caravan Up A Hill For

A band we’ve found ourselves coming back to an awful lot over the last few years, Mt Doubt are an Edinburgh based act led by the songwriting of Leo Bargery. The band first emerged back in 2015 with their debut, My Past is a Quiet Beast, which has been followed by a series of EPs and singles. The band are currently building up to the September release of their third album, their first for the excellent Last Night From Glasgow. Ahead of that release, this week the band have shared their brand new single, Caravans On A Hill.

While Mt Doubt have tended towards the rockier side of indie on previous releases, here Leo seems to dive into something a little more subtle, without ever losing his flair for a melody. The track’s intro is particularly intriguing for those already familiar, we almost felt like we’d stumbled onto the wrong song as a gentle meander of guitar greets us, before that familiar vocal comes into earshot, a comforting thrill that never loses its appeal. While the drums pick up, and the backing vocals add a certain familiarity, the wiry, unease of the guitar remains throughout, sketching its own path, always dragging the band with it on its journey. This feels like a band at their most exciting point, stepping out of the shadow of their influences and walking a path entirely of their own choosing, Mt Doubt have never sounded more certain.

Caravans On A Hill is out now via Last Night From Glasgow. Click HERE for more information on Mt Doubt.

2. We’ve All Been Wondering About Anna Leone

Anna Leone grew up with four sisters in a quiet suburb of Stockholm. A self-confessed introvert, obsessed with video games, Sci-Fi and comic books, Anna quickly found her own way to make sense of the world. After watching two of her sisters join a Swedish-pop band, Anna bought a guitar, while initially aiming to perfect her favourite songs from the likes of Bon Iver and Laura Marling, Anna quickly developed a knack for writing her own. The result was her 2018 debut EP, Wandered Away, which took Anna onto an international stage, catching radio play and blog coverage across the globe. Some two years on, Anna has this week shared the first new material since that release, her new single, Wondering.

Produced by Paul Butler, known for his work with equally emotionally resonant songwriters like Michael Kiwanuka and Hurray For The Riff Raff, Wondering is an intriguing next step for Anna. While the bedroom-pop qualities of previous output are still present in the songwriting, the production is bolder and more expansive, the warmth of the vocal accompanied initially by buzzing atmospheric guitars and meandering flourishes of piano. The whole thing swells on the arrival of the backing vocals, the rich, almost choral quality adding a sense of grandeur while still keeping the volume barely above a whisper. Lyrically, the track seems to muse on ideas of letting yourself go, of trying to be the open, free person you want, yet always falling back into insular habits, as Anna sings, “well I felt the wind it blew and I could’ve sworn I flew why can’t it always be that way”, you can feel the internal demons raging unable to quite embrace life in the way she wants to. This feels like a big moment for Anna Leone, returning to a musical landscape that’s shifted since last she was part of it, yet somehow this seems to almost resonate more, it feels slightly out of step with current trends, and feels all the more compelling as a result.

Wondering is out now via AllPoints / Half Awake. Click HERE for more information on Anna Leone.

1. We Can Take Or Leave The New Squirrel Flower Single

While it might not feel like it right now, 2020 has been a somewhat triumphant year for Squirrel Flower, the musical project of Ella O’Connor Williams. January saw the release of her debut album, I Was Born Swimming, an early contender for the album of the year that remains high up in our estimations. With her tour dates currently on an inevitable hiatus, Ella has wasted no time in putting new creativity out into the world, and this week shared a brand new single, Take It Or Leave It, alongside a sublime cover of Caroline Polachek’s track, So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings.

Take It Or Leave It first appeared on a 7″ released alongside I Was Born Swimming, yet feels anything but a side show. Here Ella shows a somewhat different side to her music, while I Was Born Swimming had a certain melodrama, Take It Or Leave It seems to strip things back. The track builds around a fluttering of a nylon-stringed guitar, adding a touch of Leonard Cohen-like elegance, and as the distant drones of an accordion enters you realise just how perfectly sparse the whole track is. As for the cover, So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings is a fitting choice for a B-side, it was the last song Ella played live with her band before social distancing measures cast them apart, adding a certain gravitas to the line, “damn I miss you tonight”. A wonderful aside, in a year that has seen Squirrel Flower go from strength to strength, already we can’t wait to see where it takes her next.

Take It or Leave It / So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings is out now. Click HERE for more information on Squirrel Flower. 

Header photo is Squirrel Flower by Maria Gelsomini.

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