Album of the week: From Little Barrie to Toro y Moi
The Haim sisters mark their return with Something To Tell You, Little Barrie unveil their fifth album, and singer-songwriter in Toro y Moi drops Boo Boo.
HAIM — SOMETHING TO TELL YOU
Four years after blowing up with their polished yet youthful debut, the trio of LA sisters return with Something To Tell You.
Recorded mainly in their parents’ front room, the songs are layered high — sometimes too high, in fact, particularly in the case of the final track, Night So Long. Heavy-handedness in the studio is apparent throughout, but there is obvious catchiness with Want You Back and Little Of Your Love.
Despite its shortcomings, expect this record — and Danielle Haim’s rich American vocals — to further increase their growing influence here and in the US.
Whatever fans make of this album, Courteeners’ frontman Liam Fray may have gone too far with his assertion on Twitter earlier this month that Haim are “one of the best and most important bands” of the past two decades.
TORO Y MOI — BOO BOO
Interestingly, for an artist that has tended to operate on the fringes of big commercial success, Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick) says the genesis of his latest Toro y Moi project was his tussle with the idea of “my position in life as a ‘famous’ person, or at least my version of whatever that is”.
The result? Focusing inward and a renewed love for the ambient music that guided his early work. Bear has always subtly danced around various genres, but his latest, Boo Boo, sees him eschewing the lo-fi indie of previous LP What For? in place of the kind of spatial, glossy, house-infused R&B that saw him turn heads at the start of the decade. To use his own words, Bear falls in love with space again.
The 12 tracks that follow are thoughtful, soulful and arguably his most complete collection of songs since those breakthrough years. While many of the stars of that DIY scene seem to have drifted somewhat, Toro Y Moi continues to prove an intriguing, lasting power.
LITTLE BARRIE — DEATH EXPRESS
Death Express is the fifth album from Nottingham trio Little Barrie. Gamers will recognise the band from track Surfer Hell, and fans of Breaking Bad will be happy to find the theme to Better Call Saul nestled at the end of this album.
Vocalist Barrie Cadogan played with Primal Scream, and the band have toured with a who’s who of the rock community. The songs stick to a great lo-fi aesthetic. The lyrics don’t explicitly refer to the current state of the world, but there is some heavy subtext on tracks such as Copter and Vulture Swarm.
The commentary never overshadows the music, though, and the tunes are enough to get the most reticent toes tapping. The drums on some tracks have a breakbeat quality to them, complemented by Lewis Wharton’s pulsing bass. Little Barrie’s guitar work is on point throughout, running the gamut from wailing solos to juddering rhythms. Recommended.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE — HUG OF THUNDER
Before Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie and The National there was Broken Social Scene (BSS) — the original indie/alt-rock supergroup.
After a seven-year absence, they return with a new album, Hug of Thunder. It sticks to their tried-and-tested formula of slightly melancholic alt-rock. It’s wistful and pensive, like we’re reliving memories both good and bad, and we’re to join in on this emotional exploration.
The vocals and subsequent harmonies BSS muster have always been a big draw to this band, but particular credit should go to the imaginative bass work on the album, adding subtle tension to an otherwise light song, or stability to more experimental work.
Standout songs include Protest Song and Skylight. It would almost be a crime for BSS’s importance in shaping both indie and alt-rock for the 21st century to be overlooked. This may not be their best work, but it’s a reminder that class is permanent.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCSATING — EVERY VALLEY
Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) have long made old public information films the foundation for their boundary-pushing, instrumental post-rock, and Every Valley is no different.
There is a certain politics to the samples this time around, however, pitting plummy Fifties tones extolling the virtues of labour against a healthy slab of Welsh miners from times past, wise to their own exploitation and the broken promises of their paymasters.
In another first for a PSB record, these stories and soundbites are countered by sung vocals — with Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell and Welsh rock legend James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers among the guests — but without letting either overwhelm the track. It is this ear for balance that makes it so enjoyable.
This kind of music can spin on a penny’s edge, smart enough to span a wealth of emotions in seconds, nimble enough to make the segues seamless and powerful enough to carry the listener.
This is experimental rock music, to be sure, but without the pretensions of prog. It’s gritty and canny, emotive, sad and angry and uplifting. Such a broad palette is all too rare.