A recap of some of my favourite songs added to the Back Before Dark: New Music playlist in the last week or so as well as other recommendations from the week gone by. You’re spoiled for choice this week: six great tracks and four excellent albums. It’s tough to narrow it down but I make an effort to include lesser-known artists to keep things fresh. Pictured: Slowdive
DJ Format & Abdominal – No Time
The duo’s latest album Still Hungry is a highly enjoyable experience because it’s so everyday and down-to-earth. On ‘No Time’, Abdominal spends the whole day struggling to find time to write rhymes. It sounds like a laughable idea but the flow is awesome and the production is stellar. It goes to show it doesn’t matter what a song is about when the execution is this good.
Delia Gonzalez – Hidden Song
Delia Gonzalez is possibly best known for her work with Gavin Russom over the years as well as her work as a sculptor. Although she’s been focusing on her art for the last few years, she has just returned to DFA with a new EP called Horse Follows Darkness which largely consists of ambient experimental electronica. ‘Hidden Song’ also borrows elements of kraut-rock and a deep focus on analogue synthesis, making it my highlight of the EP.
Animal Collective – Man of Oil
‘Man of Oil’ is taken from Meeting of the Waters, an EP recorded by Animal Collective especially for Record Store Day. The EP was recorded live along the Amazon by band members Geologist and Avey Tare because Animal Collective never do anything conventionally. While I wouldn’t recommend the entire EP unless you’re a die-hard Collective fan, this tracks is a fantastic throwback to the simplistic, improvised early days of the band.
Arum Rae – Should I
A beautiful and delicate ballad from the New York singer-songwriter. Heavily-reverbed on this song, her distinctive voice is truly spellbinding – so much so that the backing track can be kept to an absolute minimum. It’s an exceptionally vulnerable and delicate song. Her album Sub Rosa will be out next Friday (May 19th).
Slowdive – Everyone Knows
Keep on scrolling to the albums section if you want to know how I feel about Slowdive‘s self-titled comeback album! ‘Everyone Knows’ is, for me, the most breath-taking part of the album. It’s a perfect example of that thing Slowdive do where they put every single emotion into one song and it just leaves you completely shell-shocked.
Elliott Smith – Pretty (Ugly Before) (Live at Largo)
Released as part of the 7 Inches for Planned Parenthood series, this early performance of ‘Pretty (Ugly Before)’ is absolutely spellbinding. It was recorded in Largo in Los Angeles in 1999 by the owner Mark Flanegan and is believed to be the first live rendition of the song which eventually appeared on the posthumous release From a Basement on the Hill.
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
The hazy synths and stoner vibes have largely disappeared on Mac‘s newest album but that doesn’t mean he’s any less charming. So what do you find when you strip back Mac DeMarco’s tracks? You find that, more so than ever, he’s a damn good songwriter. This Old Dog sees him grow up a bit and reflect on his relationship with his dad, past lovers and lots more. Call it kitschy if you want but the sentimental balladeer style suits him really well. It’s a step in a new direction for Mac but a very strong one.
Essential Tracks: ‘Baby You’re Out’, ‘One Another’ and ‘Watching Him Fade Away’
Slowdive – Slowdive
After 22 years away, Slowdive made their return this week in the most spectacular way possible. Their self-titled fourth album is everything you could have hoped it would be and the band are as fresh as ever. Their trademark medley of light and dark in the form of an impenetrable wall of sound has never sounded so good. Shoegaze landmark albums are few and far between these days but Slowdive have produced another masterpiece to remind us what we’ve been missing for the last two decades. Seriously one of the best albums of the year.
Essential Tracks: ‘Slomo’, ‘Everyone Knows’ and ‘Falling Ashes’
Pond – The Weather
The Weather is an intriguing album which plays like an insight into the city of Perth. Throughout the album, you will hear local news bulletins, radio programmes and innumerable references to Pond‘s home city. Frontman Nicholas Allbrook said that they wanted to expose “all the dark things underneath the shimmering exterior of cranes, development, money and white privilege.” ‘Colder Than Ice’, for instance deals with amphetamine problems in the city. It’s a big departure for the band but they do a tremendous job.
With Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker on production duties, The Weather produces some of the most gorgeous psychedelic rock in recent memory. This time around, Pond have taken a jump into the unknown and found themselves soaring high.
Essential Tracks: ‘The Edge of the World, Pt. 2’, ‘Paint Me Silver’, ‘Colder Than Ice’
Album of the Week
Fans of bands like Whitney, Real Estate or even Rocket Ship TV (Album of the Week two weeks ago) will absolutely love the latest album from Indiana’s Hoops. The band appeared seemingly out of nowhere towards the end of 2015 when their EP Tape #2 garnered acclaim across the internet. It eventually emerged that Hoops had begun in 2011 as a solo project before developing into a band in 2014. A couple more EPs followed Tape #2 until the band signed to Fat Possum in 2016 to release a debut album. Now that it’s finally here, Routines seems like a realisation of everything they’ve been threatening to do for the last few years.
Shimmering lo-fi dream pop is the order of the day on Routines and it is executed perfectly. Obviously, there are hundreds of shimmering lo-fi dream pop bands in the world but Hoops set themselves apart with incredibly tight musicianship and elegant production techniques.
The best evidence of the former can be found on ‘Benjals’, an instrumental track which showcases the exquisite way the band can play off eachother. It’s an ageless track which wears its heavy psychedelic lineage for all to see. Right across the album, the lead guitar work is sublime and atmospheric. The melodies and progressions feel as if they could be improvised and fill in every break with a new, original idea.
In terms of the production, Hoops have thrown a bucketload of effects onto the tracks to turn them into dreamy anthems. The drums are heavily-compressed, the bass is dulled and the vocals are drenched in reverb. The end result is a low-end wall of sound which doesn’t put any one aspect of the song in the spotlight. The vocals and lead guitar mingle playfully without competing for dominance.
The vocals themselves tell tales of suburban love, break-ups and the ensuing heartache. Lead singer Drew Auscherman lends an effortless melancholy to the slower tracks and a playful energy to the faster ones. He affirms the music’s youthful feeling and charm, bringing the whole thing together for an easy-going and captivating final product.
Routines clocks in at just over half an hour in length, making it an easy listen but a thoroughly enjoyable one. It can be tough to make dream indie-pop like this sound genuine and uncontrived but Hoops have nailed it in one go.
Essential Tracks: ‘Management’, ‘On Letting Go’ and ‘Burden’