SALES Share Single ‘Ivy’, Ahead of Debut LP on April 20th

Over the past 18 months or so Florida duo SALES, have repeatedly proven themselves to be a reliable and plentiful source of catchy, melodic and pleasantly chill dream-pop.

Now, with their long-awaited debut LP almost upon us, Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih have shared new single ‘Ivy’. It is a pensive, slinky, free-flowing meander with a mildly distorted drumbeat and repeated guitar riff, undulating around Morgan’s gentle, gauzy and alluring vocals. It all softly splashes, swirls together, working perfectly with their pre-existing penchant for mellow guitar, bedroom pop. The pair couldn’t have created a more endearing tracking, it is simply wonderful. Not only that but it showcases everything that makes SALES such a wonderful band and exciting proposition, and why if you’re not already looking forward to the release of their debut album on April 20th, you probably should be.

SALES’ self-titled debut is out on April 20th but till then, you can check out the marvelous ‘Ivy’ below:

SALES’ have a whole host of live dates lined-up across North America, you can check the full list here.

 

Tuff Love – ‘Resort’

 

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Glaswegian scuzz-pop aficionados Tuff Love, have already graced us with a terrific trilogy of EPs in recent times. Those EPs – 2014’s ‘Junk’, and last year’s ‘Dross’ and ‘Dregs’ – marked them as one of the most exciting new bands around, all dazzling, fuzzy indie pop with sugar-sweet melodies and crunching choruses and shoegazey guitars galore.

This promise has been condensed into a single release, Resort. Ordered chronologically and marking the culmination of their hard work, it tells the Tuff Love story so far. Perhaps surprisingly, Resort sits together decidedly well as a ‘record’ in itself, especially considering the fragmented time in which they were recorded and originally released. Tuff Love strike a perfect balance between these contrasting ingredients of their sound. In all of three-and-a-half minutes, opener ‘Sweet Discontent’ outlines exactly what Tuff Love are all about. A racing melody is underpinned by a tattered grunge-echoing riff and a coarse, churning rhythm, and Julie Eisenstein’s dreamy, almost listlessness vocals, which exudes a sense of rage, sorrow and unhappiness. Raw yet dainty, blissfully rambunctious guitar-pop anthems, channeled through a haze of lo-fi recordings, is what they excel at. Of which any number of tracks from Resort will testify too; ‘Crocodile’, ‘Slammer’ or ‘Flamingo’, take your pick!

It’s not clear how far along Eisenstein and Bear are with a debut album proper, but Resort sits together rather nicely indeed. Not only does it allow us to draw a line under these excellent early EPs, it reminds us how good Tuff Love and you get the feeling they are destined for big things.

Resort is out now through Lost Map Records (buy or stream now).

BarryGruff Albums of the Year (2015)

BGs Albums of the year 2015So it is that time of year again, lists, lists and more lists. Well, not be out done, here are my 41 (yes 41, and yes it’s a weird number) albums of 2015.

It has been such a good year for new albums, probably the best since I started the blog back in 2010. So much so that there is very little difference between the top 5, top 10, top 15 and so on. So without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2015:

There is also a Spotify playlist of the Top 20 albums, to save you time and hassle (it’s here).

41. Only Real – Jerk At The End of the Line’

40. Rozi Plain – ‘Friend’

39. Wildling – ‘Molecules To Moon’

38. The School – ‘Wasting Away And Wondering’

37. Sweet Baboo – ‘Boombox Ballads’

36. The Stammer – ‘Days In Between’

35. SexWitch – Sex Witch’

34. Faith Healer – ‘Cosmic Troubles’

33. Girl Band – ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’

32. Joanna Gruesome – ‘Peanut Butter’

31. Fort Romeau – ‘Insides

30. Soft Serve – ‘S/t’

29. Applescal – ‘For’

28. Zefur Wolves – ‘Zefur Wolves’

27. Hot Chip – ‘Why Make Sense?’

26. Drenge – ‘Undertow’

25. The Charlatans – ‘Modern Nature’

24. Gaz Coombes – ‘Matador’

23. Bill Ryder-Jones – ‘West Kirby County Primary’

22. Drinks – ‘Hermits on Holiday’

21. The Expert – Dynamic Drift

20. Boxed In – ‘Boxed In’

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Guest Post: Justin Beats Talks ‘Jamie XX – In Colour’

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Every now and then I like to share my soapbox with other voices aside from my own, I’m nice like that. On this occasion it’s the turn of my good mate and fellow emigrant to Vancouver, Justin Beats, take a turn at the helm.

A craft beer, pastie and fast-food safari enthusiast, Beats also knows what’s what when it comes to music – sure it’s in his name (I’m here all week!). Well, that’s my cue to leave if there ever was one but before that, I’d like to thank Justin for taking the time to write this up. Now then, I’ll leave you in his capable hands as he talks up Jamie XX’s new record, In Colour. 

Jamie XX – In Colour

London’s Jamie Smith of XX fame, known for his solo work as ‘Jamie XX’, has deservedly carved out a name for himself. Back in 2011 his remix of Gil Scott Heron’s; ‘I’m New Here’ gained him plaudits and he has produced tracks for the likes of Alicia Keys and remixed for Radiohead and Florence & The Machine amongst others. His fan base eagerly awaited new output.

In Colour, released last month, marks his first LP offering. Essentially a house record, it is a beat driven collection of tracks with stylish future garage and deep house undertones. From the initial track ‘Gosh’, Smith establishes a penetrating baseline cut alongside choppy synth that wouldn’t seem out of place at a basement club in Croydon. Smith instead graduates his sound, as he does so effectively time again here, steadily drawing out layers of melody and well placed samples. Elements of his XX stylings are not lost; guitar loops echo throughout the steel-drum driven track ‘Obvs’, one that reminded me to revisit Skream’s first record. Stand out track ‘Loud Places’, has band mate Romy providing vocals; expect this synth drenched, 5am hand raiser to garner radio play. ‘Stranger In A Room’ however, feels so XX it could belong on their last LP, an overstatement of a track.

This record really excels in the tracks where Smith layers his brand of house and sampling to climactic ends. ‘Hold Tight’s fuzzy electronica sonically wavers so generously you may feel nauseas, in a good way! ‘The Rest is Noise’ builds around an irresistible thumping beat but is set against a tapestry of synth, and pauses for piano tinkering which evokes warm memories of mid nineties Robert Miles.

As a first full length release, Smith triumphs here. Consider this a soundtrack to your hazy 2015 summer evenings.

Listen on Spotify.

Guest Post: Johnny Feeney Picks 3 Albums (Father John Misty, Menace Beach & Viet Cong)

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The eminently knowledgeable musical savvy Johnny Feeney, returns to share with us, some albums which have caught his eye, or ear to be more precise. Always insightful and interesting, his posts definitely add an extra flavour the blog and I for one look forward to reading them – of which I’m surely not alone? Without further a due, here are three albums that have been taking his fancy of late. Thanks as ever to Johnny for taking the time to share his thoughts and with that, I’ll leave you in his very capable hands.

Father John Misty – ‘I Love You, Honeybear’

The second album from former Fleet Foxes drummer J Tillman is a dazzling roller-coaster ride of emotions. This is wonderfully produced and musically uplifting folk/Americana, while Tillman’s cutting lyrics have the ability to consistently knock you to the floor. The gorgeous opening title track is a case in point – swooning layers of acoustic guitars, luscious strings and pianos are accompanied by declarations of love and visions of impending doom (“Everything is doomed, and nothing will be spared, but I love you, honeybear”).

Tillman effortlessly switches moods throughout. There are some genuine moments of humour on here such as on ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Thirsty Crow’ (“my baby … blackens pages like a Russian romantic, gets down more often than a blow-up doll”). The standout moments come towards the end of the album. ‘Bored in the USA’s withering commentary on modern America is played out over a beautifully delicate piano and, midway through, ironic canned laughter. The spellbinding ‘Holy Shit’ tackles organised religion amongst other things before its last verse closes euphorically on a wave of glorious strings. Stunning.

Menace Beach – ‘Ratworld’

Leeds indie-rockers Menace Beach certainly wear their influences on their sleeves on their debut album. Opener ‘Come On Give Up’ and ‘Elastic’ channel ’90s grunge in a revivalist manner similar to Yuck a few years back. Elsewhere ‘Blue Eye’ evokes the shoegaze of The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Fuzzy guitars and occasional earbleeding squalls of feedback abound as Ryan Needham and Liza Violet switch vocal duties throughout. Violet’s breathy, dreamy vocals, especially, rescue some of the tunes out of their murk.

The band have a clear ear for melody and album highlights include ‘Tennis Court’ which starts out as dream-pop before exploding into a filthier sound. The standout ‘Tastes Like Medicine’ is a more straight-up indie-rock affair with the extremely infectious chorus having a tendency to lodge in your head for days. With 12 tracks coming in at just over half an hour there’s no hanging around and the album’s the better for it. Although there’s nothing startlingly original on here, this is a highly promising debut nonetheless.

Viet Cong – ‘Viet Cong’

The self-titled debut album from Canadian post-punk four-piece Viet Cong, is certainly not one for the faint of heart. If Fuck Buttons were to make a guitar album it’d probably sound like this. The music is hypnotic, repetitive and bleak but absolutely compelling. Stuttering, industrial beats and mazing guitars come to the fore with lead singer Matt Flegel’s vocals way down and difficult to decipher. The unsettling, captivating ‘March of Progress’ opens with clangouring beats in a constant loop before it slowly moves into psychedelic territory with sinister Eastern strings.

The album’s most accessible songs, the brooding ‘Continental Shelf’ and the energetic ‘Silhouettes’, provide an almost welcome relief. This is brief respite before the aptly-named album closer ‘Death’ launches into its epic 11 minute journey – a relentless, bruising and punishing ride that will leave the listener exhausted and battered into submission. One could imagine going catatonic at their live shows. This definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Turn it up loud.

BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2014

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So, it’s that time of year again, yeah, it’s favourite albums of the year time. Loads of great music this year, some old faces and plenty of new ones too but for those of you who care, here are my 25 albums of 2014. Enjoy!

25. Second Storey – ‘Double Divide’

24. Beach Day – ‘Native Echoes’

23. Globelamp – ‘Star Dust’

22. Sex Hands – ‘Pleh’

21. The #1s – ‘The #1s’

20. Attaque – ‘ON LY YOU’

19. Shit Robot – ‘We Got Love’

18. Mowbird – ‘Islander’

17. Oh Boland/Me & My Dog – ‘Delphi’

16. Jamie T – ‘Carry on the Grudge’

15. Pharoahe Monch – ‘PTSD’

Following on from his 2011’s W.A.R, comes fourth solo LP, PTSD (aka Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a loose-concept album which sees Pharoahe Monch speaking as a weary independent warrior against the industry machine and dealing with the struggle of the black male experience in America. It’s dense, raw and sometimes painfully raw, as he relives harrowing memories of his struggle with addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s all draped with his familiar top-notch storytelling, cavernous vocabulary, thought-provoking rhymes, precise delivery and thought-provoking metaphors, placing him right up top of the current hip-hop pile.

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Best of 2014: Johnny Feeney’s Albums of the Year

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The ever insightful Johnny Feeney pops up every now and then to share his musical musings with us, always adding an extra flavour to the blog and always a welcome one at that.

Ahead of my own albums of the year list, Johnny has kindly compiled his top ten albums from 2014 but before I leave you in Johnny’s very capable hands, I’d like to thank him for this, and all the other posts during the year, and of course the site’s renovation too.  So, without further ado, here are Johnny’s top ten albums of the year.

10. Sleaford Mods – ‘Divide and Exit’

2014 was certainly the year that Nottingham’s Sleaford Mods shot to prominence after years in the underground. Primitive programmed beats and Andrew Fearn’s menacing basslines provide the platform from which vocalist Jason Williamson volleys tirade upon aggressive tirade. Foul-mouthed, venom-spitting Williamson is the star turn here – a poet of the disenchanted lower classes in the UK. Powerful.

09. Miss Kenichi – ‘The Trail’

The third album from Berlin-based Miss Kenichi is a haunting, gloomy slow-paced affair reminiscent in parts to White Chalk-era PJ Harvey. Although sparse and dark on first listen, this album slowly reveals itself on repeat listens and is stunningly beautiful in places.

08. Benjamin Booker – ‘Benjamin Booker’

New Orleans-based Booker’s self-titled debut album is a treat of stomping, soulful blues rock. Sounding older than his 25 years, Booker’s voice is a magnetic presence throughout this record. The rollicking, rousing tunes are such good fun but Booker is equally as effective when he slows things down on tracks such as ‘Slow Coming’. Big things lie ahead for Booker, one imagines.

07. Brody Dalle – ‘Diploid Love’

Well-connected former Distillers frontwoman Dalle’s first solo album features guest appearances from the likes of the Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Garbage’s Shirley Manson but never for a moment is the spiky Dalle outshone on this fine rock record full of snarling vocals and thundering hooks.

06. Ultimate Painting – ‘Ultimate Painting’

Ultimate Painting are the very interesting side project from Jack Cooper of Mazes and James Hoare of Veronica Falls. Packed full of breezy, dreamy indie rock, lovely harmonies and incredibly infectious tunes are prevalent throughout. The easiest of easy listening.

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Albums Roundup: By The Sea, Second Storey & The #1s

 

By The Sea Endless days crystal sky

Back again with a few more albums that have been keeping me occupied over the past while.

Second Storey – ‘Double Divide’

Formerly going by the name Al Tourettes, London-based Alec Storey began life as Second Storey in 2013 with his Margosa Heights EP. Released but a few weeks ago, his debut LP, Double Divide, is a revelation. Both rich and complex in equal measure, it is steeped in electronic experimentation. Double Divide is a hybrid of styles and influences, shifting from a dreamy ambient side, while others clearly leaning towards the dancefloor, and back again. It success lies in finding a balance, a sweet one at that, between atmospheric soundscapes and ones more at home at a hedonistic club. An album of contrasts, it’s in its infectious, often unusual rhythms too, that binds the entire LP together. A finely crafted debut and an absolutely thrilling listening experience from start to finish.

By The Sea – ‘Endless Days, Crystal Sky’

With their second LP, we find By The Sea sounding bigger and fuller than ever before, as they expanded and refined their wistful yet driven psych-pop undulations. ‘Endless Days, Crystal Sky’ is a magnificent collection of melodic guitar pop songs, illuminated by drifting, dreamlike atmospherics, jangling guitars and bubbly bass. This is an album which should sit proudly with many of the greatest records to emerge from the banks of the Mersey. While the influences are worm well, the understated and shimmering synth work adds a more modern veneer to this retro fitted piece of dreamy indie-pop. This scintillating dreamy indie-pop is sometimes propulsive while punctuated by world-weary vocals, imbued with an aching sense of melancholy, creating a great sense of both depth and warmth. While unquestionably excellent, By The Sea’s debut managed a cult success, released back in August, the Wirral 5-piece’s follow-up deserves far greater acclaim and attention.

The #1s – The #1s

This foursome have been knocking around Dublin for a couple of years now, as The #1s and their various other groups like Cheap Freaks, the Pacifics, and Cian Nugent & the Cosmos. Their seasoned status shines through spectacularly on their self-titled debut, a short and snappy blend of racy punk, power-pop and lo-fi that owes a certain debt to Northern punk bands of the mid-to-late ’70s, like Rudi, The Outcasts and The Undertones. The #1s wear their influences well and openers, ‘I Wish I Was Lonely’, ‘Sixteen’ and ‘Heartsmash’, leave you in no doubt that were headed to a bouncy punk scene from 35 years ago. Frantic and fast paced, it’s all over before you know it, in under 20 minutes in fact but no sooner has it finished and you’ll be hitting play once again. Combing all the finest ingredients, it’s bratty and fun, raw yet tender and simultaneously sugary sweet and sour, they’ve come up trumps with a master class in power-pop punk, and a thrilling debut.

 

 

Albums Roundup : Teleman, Hyde & Beast and Gulp

Gulp Season Sun 2014

Notoriously shite at keeping on top of albums, or moreover, reviewing them – here are three albums that have been entertaining my ears over the past while.

Teleman – ‘Breakfast’

Teleman‘s debut album, Breakfast, is a charming yet bittersweet bundle of a indie-pop songs with a instantly loveable quality, which like all Saunders’ work (Tap Tap & Pete & The Pirates), has substance to match the immediacy. A master class in guitar pop, they eke out a sweet spot between pop and indie, in a not too dissimilar in class to Blur at their very best. From ‘Lady Low’, a limpid, loungey and airy number sporting a full on devilish saxophone solo, to the sparse and paranoid fuelled ’23 Floors Up’, with light, gentle almost floating melodies, accompanied by minimalist synth tones, this sublime standard never falters. Nor with ‘Steam Train Girl’, ushered in by pulsating guitars before the rest of band gradually filters in, layering psychedelic-tinged synths over rhythmic drums or ‘Mainline’, where colourful synths dance with ragged guitar riffs to stunning effect. Amid the beautiful sweeping guitar-pop, psych textures and Teleman’s splendid crystalline pop sensibilities, Sanders vocals are strikingly fantastic as ever. As is his dazzling knack for descriptive lyrics that effortlessly conjure of vivid scenes. It may be still too early to tell but perhaps Breakfast will help shine a brighter light on Saunders’ talent and provide him with the credit his talent deserves – third time lucky and all that jazz.

Hyde & Beast – ‘Keep Moving’

For their second album together Hyde & Beast, drummers Dave Hyde and Neil Bassett (of Futureheads and Golden Virgins respectively) have strutted back into view with a set of rootsy late-’60s/early-’70s inspired jams. Heavy on a retro vibe, it bears comparison with stellar names from those eras – The Faces, T-Rex, Wings & The Kinks to name but a few. Given that the pair have apparently endured a pretty rough time of late, you’d be forgiven for expecting album number two to be a maudlin affair on the back of bereavement and breakups. Yes the lyrical content is overwhelmingly tinged with sadness but it is strangely uplifting. At times heart swelling, blissful and almost psychedelic, ‘Like I’m Grass’, ‘Forever Your Own’ & ‘BA BA BA’ and at others harsh, gritty and rumbling, ‘Keep Moving’ & ‘Blue’, with bouts of gentle, classic pop ‘Open Your Heart’, ‘Blown Away’ & ‘A Dark Mistake’. The confidence and ambition of both the arrangements and songs, mean that Keep Moving a overwhelmingly joyous listen as they borrow from all the aforementioned bits and pieces, blend them together to create a stunningly diverse collection which vastly surpasses it’s predecessor. It should also go some way to dispelling all those drummer jokes.

Gulp – ‘Season Sun’

One of the upsides to Super Furry Animals’ hiatus has been the impecable side-projects it has spawned; Gruff Rhys has been in sparkling form as has Cian Ciaran. Not to be out done, SFA bassist Guto Pryce having teamed up with Lindsay Leven for side-project Gulp, has delivered a bewitching debut in Season Sun. A wonderfully charming mix of interesting sounds and textures, the pair distil flashes of psychedelic sunshine, shimmering pastoral pop and breezy psych-folk. In doing so they create a rather unique sound that, while quite summery in essence, you couldn’t quite say it’s ‘happy’ such is unease in the fabric of the music. Leven’s sultry vocals take centre stage, floating over analogue synths, woozy guitars and fuzzed up bass guitars through the waltzing ‘Game of Love’ and ‘Grey Area’, and spaced-out dreamer ‘Hot Water’. And steering the LP away from a potential course toward the sickly sweet, are the hypnotic ‘Clean and Serene’ and the rumbling, rambling bassline, hypnotic rhythm and Django Django-eque stomp of ‘Vast Space’. Two inspired moments of sheer brilliance that like the rest of the LP will grow and seep into your senses, and leave you better for it.

Half Time Reflections: Albums Of The Year So Far (2014)

Jimmy Glass Carlisle Albums 2014

With over half the year already passed, it is ripe time for some half-time reflection on the many albums that have preoccupying my attention so far in 2014. As it is well overdue there is no need to waste and more time, here they are, in all their glory!

Sleaford Mods – ‘Divide & Exit’

Lo-fi English punk duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn are Sleaford Mods, who’ve been grunting through gritted teeth since ’08. With their new album, Divide & Exit, they deliver a clever, often funny, foul mouthed and angry record, overloaded with attitude as their gripes and grievances with modern Britain (and beyond) are vehemently aired. Chief rabble-rouser, Williamson is both scathing and sardonic, who airs his many gripes and grievances, with a combination of vitriolic anger and acerbic wit. An extremely clever wordsmith, his righteous and infectious rantings are as quotable as Half Man Half Biscuit. You could argue forever as to what line in the gold-standard song is the greatest. This extremely clever wordplay is strewn among grimey beats and wiry post-punk guitars from Fearn. While owing as much to hip-hop and grime as to post-punk, and could be seen to be the the modern inheritors of the brilliance of Mark E Smith, The Streets, Shaun Ryder and HMHB. While there are traces of those artists here, there is, and never has been anything quite like Sleaford Mods. Top fucking class.

The Horrors – ‘Luminous’

On their fourth LP, The Horrors continue to refine sophisticated and colourful sound. The synthesisers are more to the fore, and a noticeably greater influence from electronic and dance music but without ever quite adapting dance-music tempos. The darkness which marks much of their previous work seems to have abated, except for Faris Badwan recoginzable brooding croon, replaced by a late ’80s tingle of euphoria, mellow synth sounds and a bouncy back-beats to create pulsating, danceable psychedelia. The Horrors are light years ahead of anyone else of the ‘indie guitar music’ canon. Tune in, drift away in this bliss of colourful groove.

Gruff Rhys – ‘American Interior’

After concept albums about a wealthy Italian Trotskyite, an eccentric car designer, and a movie in search of lost Welsh tribes in Argentina, nothing should surprise us when it comes to Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys. His fourth solo album is inspired by a recent discovery that he’s a descendent of John Evans, an 18th-century explorer, who mapped the Missouri river in a vain search for a mythical, Welsh-speaking American tribe. Concept aside, this record shares certain similarities with his previous work, cooking up lush pop songs with more immersive and introspective fare, beautiful orchestral moments and even a couple of more surreal, out-there moments. From the title track, the mournfully mesmerising ‘American Interior’ and it’s expansive, slightly melancholic rock with an infectious melody at its heart, to the rumbling rockabilly of ‘100 Unread Messages’ on synth-splashed carnival tune ‘The Whether (Or Not)’ we’re treated to exemplary spectrum of his talents. American Interior reminds us how captivating a storyteller Rhys is, who wistfully spins wonderful narratives of being carried through new worlds and visions, and only adds to the particular idiosyncratic charm that this Welshman personifies.

Malachai – ‘Beyond Ugly’

Malachai‘s latest effort, Beyond Ugly serves as a closing chapter to the Bristol duo’s ‘Ugly’ triptych, an unplanned trilogy of albums and pre-dated by the excellent Ugly Side of Love (2010) and Return to the Ugly Side (2011). Beyond Ugly is enjoyable as a standalone record if you’re unfamiliar with the previous two. It’s an imaginative journey through controlled chaos which seamlessly flits between trip-hop, hip-hop, acoustic folk, ’60s psychedelia, dance-funk and XTRMNTR era Primal Scream doses of aggressive political anger within the same breath. Expect to witness lavish sonic mayhem and delicate, thought-provoking moments on love, loss, life, politics and society. Vacuous it isn’t, there’s quite a bit of substance behind the aural salvo. A fitting conclusion to this unlikely of trilogies, saying that, hopefully it isn’t the last we’ve heard from Malachai.

Coves – ‘Soft Friday’

There are plenty of bands of Coves‘ ilk about at the moment – boy-girl duo, spectral vocals, ’60s psychedelic influences, dreamy synths – but they are in a class of their own and their debut, Soft Friday, casts a chilling spell. Swirling psychedelia is met with sweeping grandeur, as Wood’s mellifluous cooing floats above as driving riffs mingle with propulsive electro beats, drones and flickers of electronics, in a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic and glacial atmospherics. Soft Friday is a fine debut. Atmospheric, distinctive and very enjoyable, and a worthy inclusion in any record collection.

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