Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Stars Around My Heart: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Steve Mason (The Beta Band)

That Steve Mason was in The Beta Band is relevant information for a potential listener to this record, surely. However, that fact shouldn't predispose you to judge his record, About The Light, out on Friday via Domino, a certain way prior to hearing it. In reality, for all the creative anarchy that the Betas unleashed in the studio, and spilled onto tape, About The Light reveals that Mason was always trying to write a great, big tune, even as the Betas sounded as if they were flailing about and splicing reels half the time. Which is another way of saying that About The Light is a great, direct pop album, no matter what you thought of The Beta Band.

Opener "America Is Your Boyfriend" offers up the sort of thing that Graham Parker once routinely cranked out, while the peppy "No One" is more straightforward alt-rock, with soaring hooks and big drum fills. Mason worked with Stephen Street here and, as a result, it makes sense that About The Light benefits from that partnership, with single "Walking Away With Love" a near-Britpop classic, while the title cut is a loose, flowing ramble with hints of both Traffic and late Blur about it. At his best here, like on the tighter "Stars Around My Heart", Mason marries an instrumental confidence with an easygoing charm, the sort of thing that suggests (somehow) a mix of the Beta Band and solo Noel Gallagher. Now, trust me, it works, as most of About The Light is remarkably tuneful, and the sort of release that offers up superb, modern indie-pop.

About The Light by Steve Mason is out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Steve Mason via his official website, or via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo image from Steve Mason's Facebook page]

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Celebrate: A Quick Review Of The Debut Full-Length Album From Angelic Milk

There's something approaching a PNKSLM sound. To say that is not to suggest the kind of overarching sameness that one found on, say, 4AD right before the label signed Throwing Muses and Pixies, but, rather, to highlight that this label has an aesthetic. And the folks at PNKSLM pursued that vision perfectly when they signed Angelic Milk.

The Russian band has released a few things already, but this Friday sees the four-piece drop their debut full-length release. Divine Biker Love is, as its title suggests, the finest sort of glam-smash mash-up one could possibly envision coming from these musicians. As "Acid and Coca Cola" rockets out the speakers, equal parts Transvision Vamp and Phil Spector, a listener is knocked on the heels. The sound here is at once pop and the deconstruction of pop music. Nay, it's the obliteration of the form and reconstruction of it all at once. If a number like "Ball Gag Ki$$" suggests The Glitter Band covering early Siouxsie, it's also a superb rock-'n'-roll number, equal parts snarling and seductive. Elsewhere, the bright "Celebrate" sees Angelic Milk offer up something that sounds like The Cure circa-Head On The Door mixed with The Primitives. Lush and catchy, this is one of the best tracks this lot have offered up so far, and an indication of some subtle progression in their approach.

Divine Biker Love stands on its own as an excellent record. And for those of us who already loved this band, it reveals a refinement of the act's attack. "When The Limousines Pass By", for instance, is elegant and stately, even as "Black Flaming Hotel" nods directly back at The Jesus and Mary Chain. I suppose name-checking other acts is a futile cause here as so much of Angelic Milk's music is beyond easy description. Sure, stuff like "Winona" chimes with a certain indie familiarity, but the rest of Divine Biker Love stands as truly original in an era of safe approximation. There's something genuinely dangerous bubbling under here, and yet Angelic Milk have managed to craft something divinely catchy on this album. Divine Biker Love really is one of the best long-players I've heard yet from PNKSLM and I can think of no higher praise to offer than that.

Divine Biker Love is out on Friday via PNKSLM Recordings. More details via PNKSLM's official Facebook page.

More information on Angelic Milk via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Best Thing I Have Heard So Far In 2019 Is This New Single From Brighton's Winter Gardens

Brighton's Winter Gardens wear their influences on their sleeves, and, yeah, lots of new bands do. What Winter Gardens do that is so remarkable is blend those influences into something unique that stands on its own. The band's new single "Coral Bells", set to drop on Austerity Records next month, is a superb debut record, and the sort of thing one wants to play about a dozen times in a row after a first listen.

The players here -- Ananda, Jim, Matt, and Alex -- positively soar on "Coral Bells", and if a listener (obviously) thinks back to mid-Nineties-era Cocteau Twins stuff thanks to Ananda's incredible vocals, one should also notice how easily the other three players here have mastered this sort of thing. Shades of classic 4AD bands abound -- it is worth noting that the band has opened for Modern English already -- but flashes of "Spellbound"-era Siouxsie and The Banshees are also apparent, along with rhythmic lines reminiscent of early singles from New Order.

This is an absolutely fantastic track and I cannot wait to hear more from this band.

More details on Winter Gardens and the whole Austerity Records roster over at Austerity Records, or the label's Facebook page.

For more on Winter Gardens, head over to their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]