Indie Basement (4/1): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Happy April! No jokes today, just some good records: Sondre Lerche's sprawling, ambitious Avatars of Love; Papercuts' charmingly glum seventh album; Jon Spencer releases his second album with The HITmakers; Warmduscher meet At the Hotspot; and Bath, UK band Rueben's Daughters release their sun-dappled debut.
It's a quiet week for Andrew in Notable Releases but does give the surprised-released Duster, as well as Alabaster DePlume, PUP and more a spin. If you need more Basement-related content: Roxy Music are reuniting for a 50th anniversary tour (no Eno, of course); Sparks are reissuing their five '00s albums; Stereolab's Duophonic label is getting back into releasing non-Stereolab albums; Electrelane's Verity Susman & Wire's Matthew Simms have a new two-track collab single; and I talked to the great Kelley Stoltz about his upcoming 17th album.
Oh, and Carlos D is releasing a new age album. Again, no foolin'.
The Indie Basement section of the BV Shop is stocked with some new items, including preorders of those Sparks reissues, Horsegirl's debut album, and Fontaines DC's Skinty Fia (which we have on exclusive translucent red vinyl), plus records by Bryan Ferry, Pavement, Stereolab, Can, Franz Ferdinand, Kevin Morby, Devo, Destroyer and more. Oh and the Wet Leg album which is finally out next week (spoiler alert: it's good).
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Sondre Lerche - Avatars Of Love (PLZ / InGrooves)
The Norwegian singer songwriter's sprawling new album is also one of his best. Maybe the best.
Right before Sondre Lerche was supposed to start his Patience tour in March 2020, the world shut down with Covid and, feeling safer close to home, he took one of the last flights back to Bergen, Norway. Patience had been a difficult and long process of writing and recording but, stuck in Norway for the the foreseeable future, Sondre found himself in one of the most creative, prolific streaks of his career. He was writing expansive songs, too, that didn't follow standard verse-chorus-verse structure or other pop guidelines. "It sometimes felt like I was writing little movies, set to music," Sondre said. "Never had I had the feeling of writing with such intensity and clarity."
The result of that is Avatars of Love, a sprawling, wildly ambitious and often brilliant 14-song, 85 minute double album. “This is without a doubt the biggest, boldest, most complex thing I’ve ever done,” Lerche says. “At the same time, it was also the easiest, most natural, and most liberating. As an artist, it’s the kind of project you always dream about.”
Avatars of Love is unlike anything he has made to date but is also very clearly a Sondre Lerche album. He still favors jazzy chords and warm, swelling melodies but these songs stretch out in unexpected directions. He swings for the fences with every song and connects more often than not, with the kind of grand, orchestral gestures that Father John Misty wishes he could pull off with such elan. The album also features a number of collaborators -- CHAI, Mary Lattimore -- and lovely duets with Felicia Douglass, and AURORA.
The strings on this album, which were arranged by The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan, could melt glaciers and Sondre is not afraid to enter Gershwin / Porter territory, but you can also feel the influence of Hiroshi Yoshimura and Haruomi Hosono in the the album's more minimal, electronic numbers. (As usual, there's a lot of Prefab Sprout here too.) The best song is the playful, unabashedly romantic 10-minute title track that pulls out all the stops, with Sondre letting loose a tapestry of romantic imagery, including some of his favorite movies and records, against gorgeous orchestration. "Play ‘Signs’ by Drake or ‘Signs’ by Snoop," he sings before rhyming it with "Play every single damn Disintegration Loop." It's funny, it's charming, it's sincere and isn't afraid to sprinkle a little treacle on things. If he hadn't already called an album Pleasure, that would've also been a good name for this one.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Papercuts - Past Life Regression (Slumberland)
Jason Quever's seventh album mixes sunny melodies with baroque melancholia
Papercuts albums are like spring rain; there are grey clouds hanging overhead, the downpours are keeping you indoors (or wet) but you don't seem to mind as the trees are budding and plants are sprouting up through the earth. Jason Quever lives in a sonic world that is charmingly bummed-out, always sounding a little dejected and favoring minor chords, but surrounding himself with warm, if hazy, production. The lyrics mix the two as well -- "Sinister smile, sun in your eyes" -- and even the "lah lah lahs" sound sad. Past Life Regression is Quever's seventh Papercuts album and is resplendent in the kind of baroque melodies and arrangements -- we're talking harpsichord, wobbly mellotron strings / flutes -- that wouldn't sound out of place on a Wes Anderson soundtrack. They also make a perfect accompaniment to looking wistfully out the window on a rainy Sunday afternoon in April or May.
Jon Spencer & The Hitmakers - Spencer Gets It Lit (In the Red)
Jon Spencer continues to make joint-jumping explosive garage rock, now with The HITmakers that include Quasi's Sam Coomes
The Blues Explosion are are no more but don't worry, Jon Spencer is still exploding stuff on his second album with his current group The HITmakers. Some of his compatriots have chilled out, but Spencer is still ripping it up, spitting out guttural grunts, and shouting "Sock it to me!" like he means it. Spencer's is also one of those cats who can make the phone book sound like innuendo; everything's a come-on. The HITmakers also gives him a new bank of sounds to bounce off of, including swirling organ and synthesizer via Quasi's Sam Coomes and clanking percussion courtesy drummer M Sord. (Coomes also sings some too, which mixes this cocktail even more.) It's still snarling garage rock, but this record feels modern without having to throw in trap beats or bass drops or what have you. That said, with Spencer Gets it Lit! they've entered the world of Ableton Live loop-based recording. It all bends to Spencer's sweat-inducing whims, though; as always, he does what he does, and does it like almost nobody else can and it feels like he's having a blast. As the cover art helpfully states: "All Your Favorite Far-Out Hits in One Convenient Party Package."
Warmduscher - At The Hot Spot (Bella Union)
Warmduscher continue to dance in the gutter, but bring free wifi -- and Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and Al Doye -- to the party for their fourth album
London's Warmduscher sing songs about the underbelly of modern society, the dark, smoky corners where things still go bump in the night and the bars never close. They are not the kind of band you'd expect to put out a record on Bella Union, a label whose roster is mostly made up of widescreen folk, and artists who sound like they might be from Iceland (or might be the Cocteau Twins). But here we are, At the Hotspot, which is Warmduscher's fourth album and first since 2019's fun, sleazy Tainted Lunch. Clams Baker and his cohorts don't seem to have cleaned up their act any for their new bosses, which is as it should be.
For this one, Warmduscher teamed with the very busy production duo of Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and Al Doyle -- Dan Carey, who produced the three previous albums, got Covid just as they were about to enter the studio -- and they add a little electronic pop to the party but it's still a Warmduscher record, a mop bucket of sloppy punk, gritty whiteboy funk and bargain basement club music.
At the Hotspot is a concept record, not about the coolest club in town, but the scene around a city hotspot obelisk, the kind that lets people make free calls and also charge their phones. Actually, it's a little of both. Warmduscher imagine this Hotspot as the place to be for a wide assortment of losers, ne'er-do-wells, street-hustlers and other eccentrics. "I'm going straight to the hotspot!" says the protagonist in "Wild Dream," who sees it as an escape from his many troubles as '70s-style disco thumps underneath. All trash is treasure to Warmduscher and they are the house band.
Reuben's Daughters - Mami Wata (Microcultures)
Lovely sunset guitar pop lights this Bath, UK band's debut album in a Magic Hour glow
Reuben's Daughters is not a band but one man, Reuben Myles Tyghe, who hails from Bath, UK and makes sun-dappled guitar pop with help from a rotating cast of musicians when he isn't working as a booking agent for Kelley Stoltz, Once & Future Band, Vapours of Morphine and others acts. Though Mami Wata is his first album as Reuben's Daughters, it feels like the work of a seasoned songwriter and musician which he is -- Tyghe led indie band Port Erin for most of the 2010s. Songs like "Bundle of Love," "Underwater Garden" and "Those Eyes Can't Lie to Me" exude a mellow warmth, with slide guitar slipping around Reuben's nicely weary vocal style. Mami Wata is a sunset-at-the-beach kind of record where, near the end of your holiday, you ask yourself "How do I stay here forever?"
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