September's release cornucopia continues to overflow and I review nine new albums again this week, including: New Zealand's The Beths, UK Britpop/alt-rock vets Suede and The House of Love, Vancouver post-punk collective Crack Cloud, L.A. DIY duo No Age, Engineers frontman Mark Peters, Chicago's twangy, soulful Whitney (who are playing with beats and loops on LP#4), reggae great and Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy, and baroque folk artist Marina Allen.

Andrew reviews eight album in Notable Releases this week, including Death Cab for Cutie, Young Jesus, Hippie Trim, No Devotion, The Mars Volta, and more.

Speaking of Suede, they just announced their first North American tour in 25 years (and they'll be out with Manic Street Preachers).

Other Basement-adjacent news this week: there are new albums on the way from Weyes, Blood, The Intelligence, Billy Nomates, and Bonny Doon; and I saw Spiritualized in a cave.

Meanwhile, please allow me to direct you to the Indie Basement basement of the BrooklynVegan shop for a great selection of vinyl, books, and merch all hand-picked by this guy, including stuff by Stereolab, Broadcast, Purple Mountains, Gang of Four, Pavement, Wet Leg, Beach House, OSEES, A Tribe Called Quest, Cocteau Twins, The Beths, Aldous Harding, The Cure, Can, Neu!, Mazzy Star, Talking Heads, Pixies, Sparks, and more.

The Beths - Experts In A Dying Field - cover artwork

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: The Beths - Expert in a Dying Field (Carpark)
You can't say "third time's the charm" because all three of this NZ band's albums have been great, but this is the best yet

The title of New Zealand band The Beths' third album is a reference to matters of the heart -- "Love is learned over time," frontwoman Liz Stokes sings, "‘till you’re an expert in a dying field" -- but it could also apply to the style of buzzing, expertly crafted, effortlessly hooky indie rock the band make. This sort of power pop, that's both jangly and crunchy, used to be a staple of college radio and Modern Rock charts that all but died out in mid-'00s. I'm happy to report that The Beths are winning this particular battle, as they continue to play to bigger and bigger audiences, and Expert in a Dying Field is their most satisfying record yet.

Stokes and the rest of The Beths have always had a way with a hook, a harmony and a clever turn of phrase, melding yearning melancholy with sunny melodies, and mixing "drinks and messages" (as she sings on "Your Side"), but she's really upped her game on these dozen earworms. "Silence is Golden," "Head in Clouds," "Knees Deep," and the title track are all fantastic examples of how to write a great pop song. Stokes understands -- and makes the most of -- classic conventions, including loud-quiet-loud dynamics, an expertly deployed, not-too-long guitar solo after a perfect middle-eighth, and how to take a current idiom and make it fresh ("When You Know You Know"). Plus: how to use these conventions without sounding like you are, which is the hardest feat of all. This is an album that flies by quick but sticks with you. The Beths are not the only guitar pop band carrying this particular torch but they might be the best at the moment, and as long as they're around this sound is in no danger of dying off.

Get Expert in a Dying Field on canary yellow vinyl.


suede autofiction

Suede - Autofiction (BMG)
Stylish Britpop survivors trade glam for goth on their third post-reformation album

Since their start some three decades ago, Suede have had a flair for seeing the world through glamourous glasses and finding romance in the mundane, seedy corners of the world. Twelve years since reforming and still sporting the same five-piece lineup that created their commercial peak, 1996's Coming Up, Suede are still going strong and have had one of the more satisfying comebacks of any '90s-era UK band. They are still officially "The London Suede" in North American but I don't know a single person who calls them that.

Autofiction is their third album since getting back together and ninth overall, and finds Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Simon Gilbert, Richard Oakes and Neil Codling working once again with producer Ed Buller, who has been behind the boards for most of their albums, including the ones most people love. It also has the band getting back to basics. "Autofiction is our punk record. No whistles and bells," says Anderson. "Just the five of us in a room with all the glitches and fuck-ups revealed; the band themselves exposed in all their primal mess."

While Richard Oakes' arsenal of riffs and frontman Brett Anderson's melodramatic outlook are still going strong, you do get that sense of "punk" on these generally loud and electric songs, though I might use a different descriptor: Autofiction is Suede's goth record. Osman's driving basslines, Oakes' echoey, delay-drenched minor-key lead riffs, Simon Gilbert's tom-heavy drumming, Codling's lonely piano and icy synths, as well as Anderson's impassioned wail on songs like "15 Again," "Black Ice" and the none-more-goth "Shadow Self" would've fit right in at The Batcave in 1984 alongside The Cult, Sisters of Mercy and Siouxsie & The Banshees. Suede apply their eye makeup a little more subtly, though, and while the glammy Bowie-isms remain, this time they're more in service of the Goblin King. In any case, Suede sound like they're having a blast in the dark.



Marina Allen - Centrifics (Fire)
Second album from this very talented baroque-leaning singer songwriter

Marina Allen's debut, Candlepower, was one of 2021's most understated and underrated albums, drawing from '70s folk and singer-songwriter styles while showing off her own well-honed songwriting skills. I suggested it might make a nice placeholder for those waiting patiently for the new Weyes Blood, but since then Allen has established her own presence and also lapped W.B., having released another excellent album while Natalie Mering's new one won't be out till November. It's not a competition, of course, and if you're a fan of delicate folk with baroque leanings and an earth tone palette, there should be more than enough room for all these records. Centrifics finds Marina less of a wallflower, and this new boldness suits her. "I was fed up with hiding myself and a fierceness started to enter the songs, which I leaned into,” says Marina. She's still singing in a gentle voice with pretty backing full of flutes and electric piano but it's hard to imagine a song like "Getting Better" existing on her last record, with lines like "My heart’s a blooming flower uh huh  / Shame’s a clever killer uh huh / Oh you motherfucker I’ve got my anger / Does it make it better?" Marina will always be polite, but this time she's not taking no for an answer.


Crack Cloud - Tough Baby

Crack Cloud - Tough Baby (Meat Machine)
Vancouver collective deliver another dazzling post-punk, post-modern, post-apocalyptic musical vision.

“Music is an excellent way to let your anger out, put it all on paper." That's Crack Cloud drummer/vocalist Zach Choy's father, leaving a voicemail for his son which has now been used to open the Vancouver collective's second album. Crack Cloud, who number somewhere around a dozen, have a lot of anger and like on their fantastic debut they're channelling it in positive creative ways. This is a "no rules" kind of collective, and the group's cinematic aesthetic has time for all Posts: punk, modern, apocalyptic. Mad Max Meets Meat Loaf? It's not that far off, though you get a little closer if you throw in Repo Man, The Clash's Sandinista or The Pogues' Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. (They're also maybe the more ambitious North American equivalent of Australia's Tropical Fuck Storm.) Even more than Pain Olympics, Tough Baby feels like a concept album, a rock opera, a Broadway Musical in the waiting, a tale of survival against the greatest of odds where the fate of the world may hang in the ballance. There are swaying, rousing choral singalongs (the title track), manic dance numbers ("Virtuous Industry"), and anthemic showstoppers ("Please Yourself," "Afterthought (Sukhi's Prayer)"). Tough Baby is equal parts catchy choruses, thrilling twists and inventive production that gets better on repeat listens. And if you've seen the band's amazing self-made music videos, a Major Motion Picture is not out of the question. Coming soon to a theater near you? Let's hope.


attachment-house of love A State Of Grace

The House of Love - A State of Grace (Cherry Red)
First album in nearly a decade from this veteran UK indie/alt group is a mixed bag, with a few new classics alongside less inspired material

House of Love were staples of the '80s UK indie scene -- their Creation Records era singles "Christine" and "Shine On" were a major influence on shoegaze groups like Ride and Swervedriver, and their '90s era on major label Fontana gave us alt-rock classics like "I Don't Know Why I Love You" and "The Girl With the Loneliest Eyes." The band always seemed to just miss leveling up, including breaking up in 1993 just before Britpop. (They coulda fit right in without much reinvention.) Guy Chadwick reformed the group a decade later, patching things up with wunderkind guitarist Terry Bickers and making two low-key excellent new albums, with 2005's Days Run Away being particularly great (2013's She Paints the Words in Red is not far behind). Unfortunately Bickers and the rest of that lineup didn't have much interest in touring, especially outside of the UK, and Chadwick formed a new lineup with younger, more eager players who helped him make this first House of Love album in nearly a decade.

A State of Grace definitely has more oomph than any HoL album since the '90s and there are a few tracks here that truly hearken back to their glory days. In particular: "Melody Rose" is a real burner with the group's signature soar and roar, mixing jangly psychedelics with just a little bombast and Chadwick's still powerful vocal prowess; "Hey Babe" is a classic bittersweet ballad with sublime melody, those distinctive Chadwick harmonies; and "Into the Laughter" shines on with some spectacular guitar heroics. But there are also songs like "Queen of Song" and "Light of the Morning" that dip too far into blues rock tropes, complete with by-the-numbers slide guitar and harmonica. It will be nice to finally have House of Love playing the US this fall after 30 years, and that wouldn't happen with Bickers still in the group, but his presence would've made for a much stronger record.


no age people helping people

No Age - People Helping People (Drag City)
L.A. DIY vets bring the weirdo, leave out the rippers on what feels like a transitional album for Randy Randall and Dean Spunt

For a group so ensconced in the DIY scene, it's a bit of a surprise to learn that this is L.A. duo No Age's first entirely self-produced album. It was started before the pandemic in Randy Randall and Dean Spunt's studio space of 10 years, but then finished in their new studio space in Randy's garage. People Helping People sounds transitional too, almost entirely free of their signature weirdo rippers; instead we get a baker's dozen of studio experiments that feel like a search for a new sound. Among their discoveries: cut-and-paste bloops and bleeps, midi experiments and ambient instrumentals. There are a few guitar-based songs, too, but with no fuzz boxes stomped, no neighbors disturbed. Interesting paths abound, but we're gonna have to wait until the next album to see where they really lead


mark peters Red Sunset Dreams

Mark Peters - Red Sunset Dreams (Sonic Cathedral)
Frontman of UK shoegazers The Engineers gets help from Dot Allison and pedal steel great BJ Cole on his gorgeous second solo album

Mark Peters' band Engineers have been together almost 20 years and while they haven't broken up, they also haven't made a proper album since 2014. Luckily frontman Mark Peters has continued down a similarly ethereal path with his solo career that began with 2018's Innerlands. Four years later and he's back with Red Sunset Dreams which was born in part from an arts initiative that Peters participated in where he mentored local musicians using locations in his hometown of Wigan as inspiration. One of those places was a local cinema, Canada Picture Palace, where they were showing classic westerns which proved to be inspirational to Peters. “There was a sense of freedom within those landscapes,” says Mark. “The movies’ themes of escape and lawlessness provided a brief respite from the grim monotony of people’s everyday lives, but there was also a connection with the heavens and a feeling of expansiveness out there in the desert. It’s no surprise that so many fictional characters found redemption in those settings.”

Peters works in some decidedly American sounds on Red Sunset Dreams, including a lot of banjo, but the album remains very much in his wheelhouse, using layers of guitars and synths to create sonic vistas as vibrant at the Painted Desert, with strong melodies, a rhythm section and song structures that keep things out of strictly ambient terrain. He gets a little help, too: former One Dove vocalist Dot Allison sings on tracks "Switch on the Sky" and "Sundowning" which bookend the album, and best of all, pedal steel icon BJ Cole (who played on Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line" among many other things) brings his nuanced magic to "Silver River" which needs no lyrics to captivate. How about a whole collaborative album, Mark?


attachment-horace andy - Midnight Scorchers

Horace Andy - Midnight Scorchers (On-U Sound)
A dubby Sound System version of reggae great and Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy's 'Midnight Rockers' album made with producer Adrian Sherwood that is just as good as the original

Back in April, reggae icon Horace Andy released Midnight Rockers which teamed him with producer and On-U Sound founder Adrian Sherwood. Much like he did with Lee "Scratch" Perry on the Rainford and Heavy Rain albums, Sherwood assembled a group of ace studio musicians to make a record worthy of Horace Andy's legacy, and it featured a mix of new songs, new versions of Horace Andy classics, and a cover of Massive Attack's "Safe From Harm," all featuring Sherwood's ever-forward-thinking production. Sherwood has now made a "Sound System" version of the album sessions, featuring dub and dancehall reworks of the songs, and DJs Lone Ranger and Daddy Freddy toasting over some of the tracks, some of which have gone under such radical transformations they're basically new songs. Midnight Scorchers is a little more of a party -- one that's gone well past midnight -- than Rockers was, and holds up as its own unique work.


attachment-Whitney - SPARK - cover artwork

Whitney -  SPARK (Secretly Canadian)
The Chicago duo trade their slide guitars for synthesizers while the song remains the same

Perhaps feeling like they had gone as far as they could go with Whitney's '70s-influenced blue-eyed country soul, Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek enlisted the help of indie megaproducers Brad Cook and John Congleton -- who between them have worked with just about everyone -- to help them incorporate beats, synths and new elements into their sound. Technically, SPARK is a largely successful renovation. Their style, which already owes so much to classic R&B and soul, is perfect for a modern update using warm synth pads, pitch-shifted vocals, and other loop-based tech. They also find a sweet spot where, despite the glitches, hip hop beats and all-caps titles, tracks like "REAL LOVE," "SELF" and "NOTHING REMAINS" still sound like Whitney. But in doing so, they also sound a little more generic, like some band you might see at 3 PM on the second stage at a festival near you, or hear on a "chill beats" Spotify playlist. The album is too good to write anything as trite as "SPARK is what this album lacks," but it is also too middle ground to stand out. Their songs could survive even further into the electronic realm -- someone slip them those last two Low albums.

 Grab Spark on white vinyl.


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