It’s been a while since I’ve done any updates but there have been a whole host of superb albums released in the past few weeks so I’ll kick off with a couple of highlights from the (recent) past. The newest outing from Australian slacker-indie of Courtney Barnett and the incendiary raucous punk adjacent power-chord heft of Idles are both not to be missed, not to mention Piccadilly album of the year winners WH Lung’s newest outing, and a killer release from Cleo Sol of Sault with her most recent, slightly more subdued lounge soul grooves. Top that off with Manchester’s own Elbow and a lockdown-crafted swooner and you have a great couple of weeks (what a time to take off eh?)

Courtney Barnett – Things Take Time, Take Time

It seems surprising that this is only Barnett’s third album proper, with the first couple of EP’s being collected together into a frankly stunning double LP, and a couple of collaborative outings with Kurt Vile and a live album both hitting the high notes and selling plenty over the counter. Where the loose swoon of ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think..’ gave way slightly to the more punky ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’, this newest LP takes elements of both while leaning slightly more towards staggered balladry and softly spoken confessionals. It’s deeply personal and as meticulously crafted as ever, classic Courtney. 

W.H. Lung – Vanities

‘Incidental Music’ proved a hit with all the staff, taking the number one spot in 2019 for its cunning mix of kosmische groove and bombastic neon synth blasts. Their latest outing is (if possible) even more accomplished, sporting a ton of the things that made that 2019 LP such a big hit but refined down into a wonderfully complex, but constantly evolving behemoth. Neon synth swells give way to gritty electronic percussives and soaring, chorused guitars all ridden with that insistent and wonderfully powerful vocal performance. One of the greatest bands to have come out of this side of the country, and if they keep going like this, there’s no predicting how far they’ll go. 

Cleo Sol – Mother

‘Mother’ takes all of the elements from her 2020 hit ‘Rose In The Dark’, resplendent with syrupy soulful vocals and smooth funky instrumentals and tones it down a notch into an almost horizontally relaxed distillation of that soulful sound into a near-ambient gospel confessional, It’s intimate and beautiful, a perfectly crafted dedication to Sol’s newly attained motherhood, and clearly influenced by the serenity and joy of bringing a new life into the world. Every bit the worthwhile purchase, and without a doubt one of the greatest soul records for a good while. Utterly unique and wonderfully crafted throughout. 

Idles – Crawler

It’s not hard to believe that one of the most loved bands in the shop (and elsewhere) should elicit a fervent dash to get their newouting, but crawler in particular has captured the minds and ears of people in the shop like very little else. It could be to do with their famously incredible live shows, or their wonderful past material but Crawler lives up to the hype wonderfully. Brilliantly energetic and wonderfully nuanced, there are moments here of quiet like there are moments of brain-melting heft, but both are constantly bathed in the uniquely ferocious glow of a band who know exactly what they’re doing. A superb return for one of the most energetic and uncompromising bands in the ‘biz. 

Elbow – Flying Dream 1

I know, you already know about Elbow. ‘WE ALL KNOW ELBOW’ I hear you scream, and I know, but hear me out. Elbow have some wonderful tunes to their name, but I’d just kind of given up a little bit on them. Whether that was because I had to hear ‘One Day Like This’ in every bar and supermarket for about a decade is undecided (it almost certainly had something to do with it though). My point is, ‘Flying Dream’ has a wonderfully downplayed melodicism and a really beautiful flow to it. I mean, it’s elbow and it sounds exactly like elbow, but there are a lot more moments of tender beauty resting amongst the famously syrupy vocals of Garvs’ and the brilliantly constructed instrumental backbone. It’s fresh, and it’s beautiful and EVEN if you’d given up a bit (sorry), it’s ABSOLUTELY worth your time to dive back in. It’ll make you realise you’ll never forget Elbow, and indeed, why should you.