5. The Names Ben – Mr Ben & The Bens
Active for the last decade, the always busy Mr Ben & The Bens are already approaching their twentieth release. This week they confirmed that would arrive in the shape of their new album, Good Day For Drying, described as, “just over forty minutes long”, and out in November via Bingo Records. Marking this week’s announcement the band shared the opening track, and first single from the album, When They Hear Your Name.
Good Day For Drying is a collection of songs that Ben suggests, “have dwelt in his head for a while”, a collection of tracks, “that have been waiting for a day when they can be put out there, on show, and left subject to the volatile weather of public opinion”. The first to be thrown open for judgement, When I Hear Your Name is a song of subtle evolution, exchanging some Yorkshire grit, for a sound that while not quite going full California, definitely feels a bit more coastal, as if The Byrds had emerged from Skegness or Weston-Super-Mare instead of LA. Atop guitars breezy enough The Shins would be proud of them, Ben introduces us to a series of forgotten characters, Nicholas the child tractor driver, Kirsty who’s, “born into a firing squad” and having beans for tea, or Christopher who wets himself playing on the rope swing. These are a series of outsiders, people not so much disliked as just unseen, just waiting for the day to come, “when they hear your name”. In their typically understated way, Mr Ben & The Bens return is a real triumph, timeless sounds for a world that is always in a hurry, A Good Day For Drying might just be their best day yet.
4. Young Jesus Is Walking On Oceans
Chicago-born and now based out of Los Angeles, Young Jesus are led by the songwriting of founding member John Rossiter. The band formed back in 2009, and have gone on to release five albums, the most recent of which was 2020’s Welcome To Conceptual Beach, their third for the Saddle Creek label. This week the band announced the September release of their new record, Shepherd Head. as well as sharing the first single from it, Ocean, featuring the vocals of labelmate Tomberlin.
Coming in the aftermath of the death of one of his closest friends, Shepherd Head marks something of a departure for Young Jesus, while it delves into themes that have always inspired John’s songwriting – love, loss, faith – this a record of growth, pushing into the future as you try to make sense of the pain that so scared your past. Musically too this is a more experimental side to Young Jesus, programmed percussion is overlain with found sound, with footsteps and crunching leaves as crucial to the song’s feel as the gorgeous looping bassline or Tomberlin’s soaring, gossamer backing vocals. Lyrically, the track seems to touch on the idea of letting yourself go and trusting the world to guide you back, “give you life unto the weave, to the fabric and the seam, to the drift of what you’ll be, like the wind run through the leaf”. The song ends not with a sense of a completed journey, instead, it is a first step on the right path, “walk a fragile path to peace” John sings, before the whole thing, entirely fittingly, drifts away like a piece of driftwood bobbing wherever the current decides to takes it. Young Jesus’ music has always been beautiful, yet here it seems to dig deeper, tapping into some primal swell, creating a connection like never before, wherever Shepherd Head’s journey takes us, it feels like it’s going to be a destination that’s very special indeed.
3. Former Champ Arrive With A Bang
A supergroup of sorts, Former Champ have only existed up until this week as a word-of-mouth phenomenon in their native Glasgow, playing the odd show, a name you heard, “out and about, mentioned at other gigs, in a gaff after a night out”. This week the band, which consists of members of Savage Mansion, Martha Ffion, Catholic Action and more, changed all that with the release of their debut single, the fittingly explosive, Grenade.
Former Champ seems to instantly dial up their love of garage rock, their wiry guitars and clattering drums channelling the spirit of Television or The Strokes, a rush of melody and intent tapping into an almost primal instinct present to anyone who grew up in the early noughties indie-boom to rush to a dance floor and pogo like a loon. What raises this above pure nostalgia though, is just how fresh it sounds, Martha Ffion’s vocal serves as a beautiful counter-point to the angularity and drive elsewhere, as she keeps her cards close ready to destroy you later, “I keep it all in the back of my mind, a hand grenade to throw when the time is right”. This is an intriguing introduction, the perfect aperitif to get the listener excited for whatever they’re going to bring out to entertain us next.
Grenade is out now. For more information on Former Champ visit https://www.instagram.com/former.champ/.
2. Eerie Wanda Are Here For A Long Time And A Good Time
Back at the start of July, Eerie Wanda, the project of Dutch/Croatian musician Marina Tadic, appeared on this page as she announced the September release of her third album, Internal Radio. The follow-up to 2019’s acclaimed Pet Town, which was her first release for Joyful Noise Recordings, Internal Radio was recorded at her home in the Netherlands. After introducing the record with the opening track Sail To The Silver Sun, this week Marina shared the second taster of the album, in the shape of her new single, Long Time.
Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Marina suggests it is a track about longing to belong, yet also, “about letting go of the past and the growth that comes from that”. A song described by Marina as the excellent combination of, “dreamlike and sassy”, Long Time enters in a fog of hazy synths, before gradually resolving into a Beach House-like drift as steady drums and strutting guitars come to the fore. Lyrically, throughout Marina seems torn between clinging to a desire to be noticed and the anarchic thrill of letting the whole thing go up in flames, one moment singing, “I wanted you to see me, make me happy in the sun”, the next straight-shootingly noting, “I’m over you, I’m over it, I’m over everything”. As the track fades out on a particularly beautiful instrumental section, all fluttering woodwind, flourishing pianos and a brilliant bit of slide guitar, it’s the latter thought that wins out, there’s no doubt in the moving on, it’s as if she’s thrown the windows wide and let the freshness of a new day, and a new start, in. Speaking about Internal Radio’s creation, Marina says, “I’m more in touch with my own visions“, here that’s so evident, more than ever she invites us in and lets us see the world from her eyes, and while it might not always be easy or straightforward, from this viewpoint, it does look rather beautiful.
1. Sister Wives Make Their Bid For Greatness
An Anglo-Welsh quartet formed in 2017 and based out of Sheffield, Sister Wives’ roots are in the UK’s punk and DIY scenes although their collective sound is altogether more experimental, taking an open-minded approach to create a sound entirely their own. The members share vocals and instruments, lyrics flicker between English and Welsh and inspiration is as likely to come from natural phenomena as it is from what sounds like a vast array of musical inspirations. It was a trip to Anglesey in the Summer of 2021 that inspired the band’s debut album, Y Gawres, which they announced this week, there the band explored an ancient burial site Barclodiad y Gawres (The Giantess’ Apronful), a monument to nurturing and awe-inspiring feminine force. With the album out via Libertino Records this October, this week the band shared the first single from it, Greater Place.
Greater Place is as Sister Wives put it, “our love song to joy”. The chorus. written by drummer Lisa O’Hara, serve as a celebration of the hope and safety the band provide, while the verses are a tribute to guitarist Liv Willars’ infant son, born just at the start of lockdown, and serving as a beacon in the dark, Liv recalling how, “even being alone at home during such a dark time, joy still managed to tear through”. Ultimately despite exploring specific moments, Greater Places is bigger than that, it’s an exploration of all those emotions and discoveries, of those moments where as they put it, “there’s a giant, positive shift and suddenly our world feels renewed”. Musically, the track is fittingly vibrant, as clattering drums are overlain with cascading synths and walls of fuzzy guitar noise that Savages would be proud of. The whole thing serves as a reminder that joy can come in many forms, whether it’s gentle comfort, or as expressed here spikes of intense elation, “I watch your breath, whilst holding mine, the sweet soft joy is too sublime”. By their very existence, Sister Wives push against expectations, “we think it’s important to be visible as a band of women in our thirties who are still playing gigs and making noise, rather than retreating into more socially acceptable roles and hanging up our instruments”. Making a noise this intriguing, distinct and thoroughly wonderful, I can only hope they never stop defying the world’s expectations.
Header photo is Sister Wives by Laura Merrill.