5. The Ballet Have Too Many Boyfriends
Formed the best part of two decades ago, The Ballet are principally the duo of Greg Goldberg and Craig Willse. Based between LA and New York, the band self-released two albums, before teaming up with the much-missed Fortuna Pop! label for their third album, I Blame Society. Their most recent offering, 2019’s Matchy Matchy, was their first for their current home, Fika Recordings, who this week announced that May will see the release of The Ballet’s fifth studio album Daddy Issue, which they previewed this week with their new single, Two Boyfriends.
A typically playful title, Daddy Issues is a deliberate double-meaning, a reflection on both the attempt to replace father figures in romantic liaisons and also the issues of the so-called, “daddies” of the queer scene, older gay men who are often lumped into somewhat stereotypical roles. Two Boyfriends is a song heavily routed in gay culture, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reflection on non-monogamy and promiscuity, reflected in the lyrics, “it started with a hook-up, and then another few, the problem was I liked him enough to see it through”. From there to a soundtrack that’s the middle ground of The Magnetic Fields and New Order, Greg struggles with commitment, decision making and most of all with his own tendency towards problems, ultimately he bows to his own pot-stirring tendencies, “monogamy is boring, though not intolerable, I’m collecting boyfriends, must mean that I love trouble”. Daddy Issues is the latest glimpse into The Ballet’s world, one where gay characters are presented with rare nuance, promiscuous late-night ravers, who are also sometimes lonely, self-loathing and tender, ecstasy and agony presented in beautiful technicolour humanity.
Daddy Issues is out May 26th via Fika Recordings. For more information on The Ballet visit https://linktr.ee/theballetnyc.
4. Trust Fund Bring Out The Animal Inside
I recently had the pleasure of seeing the new look Trust Fund live show, after Ellis bid farewell to the full band Trust Fund thing back in 2018, he has returned now in an altogether more stripped-back-setting, a raw acoustic-guitar wielding troubadour, only with all the great hooks and songs from his enviable back catalogue. One thing that really shined on the occasion was what a fabulous guitarist he has become, at times I was put in mind of Bert Jansch or Leo Kottke, not really the sort of thing you’d expect for an artist so regularly burdened with the indie-pop marker. Showing off all that guitar virtuosity, this week Ellis shared the latest Trust Fund single, Animals In War, featuring backing courtesy of the Ex-Vöid/Joanna Gruesome duo, Lan McArdle and Owen Williams.
Animals In War is Trust Fund at their most stripped back, largely Ellis’ guitar does much of the heavy lifting, adorned with sporadic tumbles of keyboard and latterly probably the most minimal use of strings I’ve ever come across. Particularly wonderful throughout are the trio of vocals, which entwine then part, like dancers at ceilidh doing some sort of elaborate partner-swapping routine. There’s even room for a particularly wonderful blast of flamenco guitar, Ellis coming across all Seu Jorge as he swaps Sheffield stone for the red clay back streets of Seville. With a string of tour dates on the horizon, Trust Fund’s sparkling return is gathering momentum with every week.
Animals In War is out now. For more information on Trust Fund visit https://trustfund.fun/.
3. The Life Aquatic With Tugboat Captain
Tugboat Captain first hauled anchor back in 2017, then under the solo stewardship of London-based multi-instrumentalist Alex Sokolow. Three albums later they’ve gone from recording in their front room to Abbey Road, and caught the ear of an ever-growing audience with their ambitious indie-folk turned baroque-pop stylings. January saw the band share their first material since 2020 studio-debut Rut, in the shape of the single Flash Of Light, and this week they followed up on it again with their fabulously fresh new track, Deep Sea Diving.
Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Tugboat Captain suggest it was influenced by, “polymetallic nodules found on the ocean floor and the anxiety of impending ecological collapse”, because what else would any anxious popster worth their salt write about in 2023? The song finds Alex diving off the side and going where, “there are no stars shining”, as he’s accompanied by a backing of bright piano, tumbling bass, swelling strings and triumphant brass, like the middle ground of BC Camplight and Big Star. Initially, the worries are planetary in scale, with Alex asking, “maybe we’re on running borrowed time?” Ultimately like all the best songwriters though, he brings things back to himself, as his fears of the future shift from the global to the personal and he sings, “I don’t know what they’re on about, but I guess I’ll try my best to figure out a way to get the feeling that I’ve got go away”. Sure the future of humanity might be teetering on the edge of the void, yet for Tugboat Captain the road ahead looks as bright as ever and it’s hard not to feel they’re one decent bit of luck away from well-deserved DIY levels of stardom.
Deep Sea Diving is out now. For more information on Tugboat Captain visit https://linktr.ee/tugboatcaptain.
2. Wednesday Are Pumped Up
For Wednesday, the Asheville, Northa Carolina quintet formed around the songwriting of Karly Hartzman, things are going rather well. Recently signed to Dead Oceans, their shows keep selling out, their music keeps getting rave reviews and they have quite possibly the busiest touring schedules of any band going. Listening to the music we’ve heard from their upcoming album, Rat Saw God, it’s easy to see why, this is a band refining their sound without losing any of the thrilling essence that made them one of my favourite bands in the first place. With the album now just a few weeks away, this week Wednesday shared their latest offering, TV in the Gas Pump.
Described by Karly as, “the first song I’ve written about being on the road”, TV in the Gas Pump is a song of imagery and the strange Americana you ingest along the way, from, “the dystopian gas pump advertisements”, through to, “a story of coming up from taking what you thought was a microdose of shrooms in a Dollar General”. The closing track on Rat Saw God, TV in the Gas Pump starts with a classic Wednesday feedback squall, yet from there showcases their newfound tendency towards the melodic, Karly’s words painting pictures of urgent, almost The Strokes-like guitars and the biting snap of the snare drum before the whole thing collapses to just bass before roaring back into life and ending as it came with the purest of howling noise. There’s a tendency to over-hype a band’s breakthrough moment, to declare it their finest work to date, yet in Wednesday’s case perhaps I should just say it’s sounding as good as usual, and as anyone who loves them already knows that’s very high praise indeed.
Rat Saw God is out April 7th via Dead Oceans. For more information on Wednesday visit https://www.wednesday.band/.
1. I’ll Be Ther With You
As well as being an absolute nightmare for auto-correct software, ther are also a West Philadelphia-based slowcore band led by Heather Jones and including members of Sadurn and Crooks & Nannies. The band recently announced their lengthily titled new album, a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy, which is out next month and is the band’s first since their 2022 debut, trembling. Following on from the excellent first taste of the record, impossible things, this week the band shared the album’s penultimate track, with you.
Instantly gripping, with you, sets out to explore grief in all its messy non-linear ways, as Heather explains the track is about, “going missing in 2021, about a year after someone else dear to me disappeared and never came home. I was holding a lot of grief–some anticipatory, and some old–and unable to hold much else“. Listening to with you, it’s striking how well it soundtracks the ebb and flow of loss, at times it overwhelms a crescendo of noise and pain, yet at other times there’s quiet contemplation, even beauty in the reflections, mirrored here in the flutter of Keaton Henson-like piano. Throughout the lyrics seems to mirror the music, with brief moments of progress, sent crashing suddenly back down: “everything is smaller now, except for a whisper that roars so loud”. Ultimately with you is a dirge, in the original meaning, a song of mourning, performed as a memorial to someone who’s died, as Heather more poetically puts it, “sometimes singing about people can honor them. I hope I did that with this song“, a job well done I’d say, this feels like the sort of beautiful tribute anyone would be proud of.
a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy is out April 14th. For more information on ther visit https://linktr.ee/ther_ther_ther.
Header photo is ther by Kati Malison