Here’s a run-down of the best or most important record releases in March to April 2018.
The Left Outsides: All That Remains
The Left Outsides are London-based husband and wife Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas (the former the viola and harmonium player in mid-noughties folk-rockers The Eighteenth Day of May and John Peel indie favourites Saloon. This record drifts when you first hear it, beguiling you with its sweetness, before its shadows start to linger, and its darker moments eat you whole.
Leon Bridges: Good Thing
Leon Bridges was still living with his mother in Texas when a couple of guys from indie rock band White Denim helped get his just-so period music out to a receptive world. A restaurant dishwasher, Bridges ended up with two Grammy nominations and a gig playing for President Obama. Good Thing takes some steps forward in time, updating Bridges’s Sam Cooke stylings with a little Usher; the production gently eases its way out of the 60s, too.
After two albums of exhilarating, if slightly derivative, post-punk-influenced hardcore, Copenhagen’s Iceage threw a curveball with 2014’s Plowing Into the Field of Love. This saw them slowing down and expanding their palette with hints of blues and folk, but were hamstrung by a lack of anything resembling a tune. Beyondless builds on Plowing’s change of direction, with far more satisfying results.
Eleanor Friedberger: Rebound
Classy, euphoric electro pop.
Blossoms: Cool Like You
What if the Killers hadn’t grown beards after Hot Fuss, and had instead set about writing 11 new versions of Mr Brightside? Mancunian pop-rockers Blossoms’ second album is your answer.
Okkervil River: In the Rainbow
Okkervil River’s ninth album has a compelling and moving opener, but nothing else here scales the same heights.
Manic Street Preachers: Resistance Is Futile
A remarkable band, still wrestling with the most difficult issues, still searching for beauty in the void.
Arvo Pärt: The Symphonies
Arvo Pärt is now in his early 80s, and firmly established as one of the few living composers whose works offer a bridge between contemporary music and non-specialist concert audiences. This disc, definitively conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, who seems to have become the composer’s preferred interpreter, is the first to include all four of Pärt’s symphonies.
Laura Veirs: The Lookout
Veirs’s 10th solo album is perhaps her most satisfying yet, the deceptively simple songs sketched out on acoustic guitar or piano (the lovely The Meadow is particularly minimalist) and subtly embellished by her band and producer husband, Tucker Martine. Lyrically, there’s a theme of making the most of adversity.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Sex & Food
An anxiety attack inside a disco ball, while Hunnybee – directed at Nielson’s seven-year-old daughter – underlines his versatility and pop nous.
Revamp: Reimagining Elton John
a pair of new albums reinterpret Elt and Bern with a new generation of A-listers. Taupin is behind Restoration, featuring Nashville stars countrifying the catalogue, while John invited his showbiz pals to fill Revamp.
When it’s good, Revamp is very good. When it’s bad, it’s awful. And in between there’s the requisite amount of anonymous competence. Sad to say, the track with Elton’s involvement is the worst – an extremely state-of-the-chart version of Bennie and the Jets led by Pink, with a wholly unnecessary rap from Logic (“Serving food and writing rhymes / For Elton John, the greatest of all time”).
Kylie Minogue: Golden review
Kylie Minogue’s 14th album is the product of two weeks writing in London (before recording it over in Nashville). Yet Kylie opts not for copper-bottomed songcraft, but the unholy intersection of country and EDM.
The Weeknd: My Dear Melancholy
Abel Tesfaye’s surprise EP – the follow-up to the massively successful Starboy – features ghostly and gorgeous production but lyrics that are suffocatingly solipsistic.
The Vaccines: Combat Sports
The extremely high quality songwriting on their fourth album means that their church will surely broaden beyond the indie faithful.
George Ezra: Staying at Tamara’s
Staying at Tamara’s defining mood is one of unchallenging, and unflinching, politeness. It will doubtless be huge.
Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Going On
Sly and the Family Stone’s 1971 album of the same name was a full-on record, reacting to extraordinary times. Yo La Tengo’s 15th-odd offering sounds nothing like its namesake. It too is a reaction to tense times, but a much calmer one.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats: Tearing at the Seams
After a decade spent peddling undistinguished Americana to a largely indifferent world, Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff changed tack in 2015, casting himself as a 1960s soul man. Tearing at the Seams is a collaborative affair, the band writing it together in New Mexico. In places the results are stunning, the horn section giving Coolin’ Out and Be There a real emotional potency. The title track, meanwhile, has echoes of Sam Cooke in Rateliff’s delivery.
Apocalyptic ballads No Sound But the Wind and Belong still sound like wading through molten Tarmac, and some experimentation doesn’t land, but for the most part, Violence is a thoroughly unexpected career peak.
Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
The trio reckon this is their most “linear” album, which seems a stretch. It feels just as estranged of pop’s traditional structures and strictures as they’ve always been. It feels exhilarating; it feels like freedom.
Trembling Bells: Dungeness
Wild and rebellious British folk band enter adolescence with a howl of song and a glint in the eye. Trembling Bells have always sounded quite beholden to their late 1960s influences, but Dungeness plunges us into louder, darker territories. The music is a mixture of avant-garde racket and crossover doom-pop potential – fans of PJ Harvey, Nick Cave or Nadine Shah will find entertainments here.