Albums of the week: From Awolnation to Rae Morris
Alternative US rockers Awolnation unleash their third release, Here Come The Runts, while British singer-songwriter Rae Morris finally drops her long-awaited second record, Someone Out There.
AWOLNATION — HERE COME THE RUNTS
Years after Awolnation dropped their sleeper hit Sail in 2011, it’s fair to say the US alternative rockers are more than worthy of attention. Contrary to what its name might suggest, their third album, Here Come The Runts, is a top-drawer smack in the face of unadulterated, melodic, anthemic, rock ‘n’ roll tinged with pop — all killer, no filler.
From opener Here Come The Runts — an electro-rock track with a tantalising medley of tempos that never lets you get too comfortable — through Killers-esque romp Miracle Man and final track Stop That Train, which tickles — then smashes —your senses with chunky guitars and a haunting layer of sounds, Awolnation have delivered possibly their best record yet.
RAE MORRIS — SOMEONE OUT THERE
Three years in the waiting, Rae Morris’s second album has finally arrived.
We have been teased since the middle of last year with singles Reborn, Do It and Atletico (The Only One), all displaying different moods.
Reborn was an appropriate introduction to a more electronic sound for Morris, while Do It is heart-achingly lovely in its positivity as a relationship tentatively goes to the next level.
The newer tracks in the second half of the album take a few listens to embed themselves into your consciousness, but it will be rewarding.
THOMAS TRUAX — ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS
Heath Robinson-esque troubadour Thomas Truax is a teller of wry, noirish stories whose live shows feature self-invented, noise-making contraptions that have fixed him in the imaginations of a cult following. Even when you can’t see the cogs whirring, on record he packs in melodies indebted to Tom Waits’s whiskey-spiked wells and Brill Building aerodynamism. While keeping it surreal, International Homeland Security also allies musings on migration to the album’s most propulsive beat; opener Swimming Back to Wowtown is a guitar, accordion, and slapback-laced grower, warning “Correctional facility: do not stop for hitchhikers”; and Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra are evoked on Save Me, a duet with Gemma Ray which becomes increasingly affecting on its reprise.
Eerie glockenspiels and couplets about horse weddings may not be to all tastes, but so many of these ideas hit the mark, and rough edges in this recording bring some humanity to Truax’s dreamworld.
POPPY ACKROYD — RESOLVE
Poppy Ackroyd is a ‘post-classical’ musician and Resolve an album of avant-garde instrumentals, mostly favouring repeating piano phrases, or variations on such, that feature unusual percussive techniques involving paper or wine glasses.
As is to be expected from a work closer to art than pop, the tracks come with their own explanations — Trains, for example, is supposedly the musical imagining of the changing scenery during a train journey.
Like a lot of ambient music, Resolve employs repetitive motifs that might be interpreted as mesmerising or monotonous depending on the listener’s taste or mood, but it is nevertheless an intriguing piece of work.
HOOKWORMS — MICROSHIFT
It’s been a long wait for fans of Leeds-based psychedelic/noise rockers Hookworms, who are finally dropping their long-awaited third album after three years.
Microshift is admittedly laced with tragedy, the record borne out of the past few years that included a last-minute cancellation of a US tour and the destruction of band member MJ’s Suburban Home Studio due to a flood in Leeds in 2015.
MJ said: “All our records are to an extent about mental health. Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy.”
However, there’s an edge of the more upbeat throughout their latest offering, thanks to the perkier, synth-stuffed music offsetting the harsh back stories. Album opener Negative Space is exciting, a long and meandering track that bursts with a grown-up electronic rock sound. Ullswater smacks of 1980s video game music and is arguably the standout track, while Boxing Day is dark and brooding and substantial. Fans will be delighted with this more nuanced and passionate offering.