Indie Basement: Best Albums & Songs of May 2022
Indie Basement is a weekly column on BrooklynVegan focusing on classic indie and alternative artists, "collage rock," and new and current acts who follow a similar path. There are reviews of new albums, reissues, box sets, books and sometimes movies and television shows. I've rounded up May's best music, highlighting my favorite albums and tracks, plus links to relevant features and news, a monthly playlist, and more.
May wasn't quite as stuffed with great albums as April was but there was still plenty to recommend. Check out my five favorite albums below, and as for runners-up, I recommend Stars' From Capelton Hill, Dehd's Blue Skies, Cola's Deep in View, Kikagaku Moyo's Kumoyo Island, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's Endless Rooms, !!!'s Let It Be Blue, and The Smile's A Light for Attracting Attention.
It was a very good month for songs, though. I picked 11 this month to write about and included another 56 as part of my Best of May 2022 playlist. Check that out below as well.
The Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop is well stocked with hand-picked vinyl, books and merch, including new albums by Kevin Morby, Belle & Sebastian, Porridge Radio,Spiritualized, Wet Leg, YARD ACT, Aldous Harding, and King Hannah, not to mention classics from Sparks, Spoon, Goldfrapp, Slowdive, Roxy Music, and more.
Head below for the Indie Basement May wrap-up.
INDIE BASEMENT - TOP 11 SONGS OF MAY 2022
Acid Klaus - "Party Sized Away Day" ft Maria Uzor
Adrian Flanagan has been behind some of my favorite electronic music of the last 10 years, including Moonlandingz, Eccentronic Research Council and International Teachers of Pop. Acid Klaus is his latest project which you could call "solo" except he plans to collaborate with a different artist on every track he releases under the moniker. "Party Sized Away Day" is Acid Klaus' debut single and features vocals from Maria Uzor of Sink Ya Teeth. It's apparent from the start that the project name is no mere joke, with acid house 303's rolling throughout. "I truly envision this track to be soundtracking all the best garden parties this summer," says Adrian, "just not the ones at Downing Street!"
Arp - "New Pleasures"
Alexis Georgopoulos has always had a fondness for lush '80s sounds but where Arp's 2018 album Zebra luxuriated in rainforest sounds, his upcoming album New Pleasures is set firmly in the city. The album's terrific title track takes early hip hop / electro beats and Miami Vice production and mixes them with proggy synths. You could imagine this being used for a music montage from a '80s movie set in New York City-- which is kind of what you get with the song's music video.
bdrmm - "three"
UK band bdrmm have been expanding beyond their shoegaze beginnings pretty much since their debut album dropped. Inspired by the sonic exploration of Low's last two albums, this excellent new single takes them even further out -- "Three" is still dreamy but this is expansive new territory for them. Gorgeous stuff.
Crack Cloud - "Please Yourself"
Vancouver collective Crack Cloud set the bar high with their 2020 debut album Pain Olympics but they are staying ambitious with the first single from its follow-up, Tough Baby. "Please Yourself" is a widescreen post-punk anthem about apathy, social media and pop culture idolization: "I don’t think you really want change / If faking’s enough to feel okay." The video, which the group directed, is just as ambitious as the song.
Daphni - "Cherry"
Caribou's Dan Snaith is back with his first single as Daphni in three years. While the line between the two projects has become much more blurred in recent years -- 2021 Caribou single "You Can Do It" could've been a Daphni song -- Daphni tracks tend to be more go-hard, four-or-the-floor bangers and "Cherry" is no different. Snaith builds up intensity from a basic loop, and when the high hats and electro handclaps kick in it's near impossible to stay still.
Ganser - "People Watching"
Chicago's Ganser worked with Electrelane's Mia Clarke on their excellent 2020 debut, Just Look at That Sky, and for their new EP they enlisted another very cool person to produce -- Liar's Angus Andrew. Powered by a snarling guitar riff and a propulsive rhythm section, the killer "People Watching" simmers with white hot intensity. The song's very cool video was co-directed by the band's Alicia Gaines and Nadia Garofalo, and uses the same LED digital background technology pioneered on Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
Gwenno - "Tresor"
At this point it's hard to imagine that the Gwenno Saunders, whose solo career has gotten more unusual and esoteric with every album, was ever in kitschy, mid-'00s girl group The Pipettes. The title track to her soon-to-be-released third album, Tresor, is one of her most beguiling creations to date, resplendent in strings, vibraphone, detuned piano, haunting horns, and lyrics sung in English and Cornish via Gwenno's breathy vocals. "'Tresor' is an homage to an older, analog world," says Gwenno, "the soundtracks to European cinema, and a final fair farewell to the 20th Century.”
The WAEVE - "Something Pretty"
Speaking of former Pipettes: The WAEVE, the new duo of Blur's Graham Coxon and Gwenno's onetime bandmate Rose Elinor Dougall, have made quite the appealing opening salvo. "Something Pretty" is nervy mutant pop, powered by a twitchy motorik disco beat with Graham and Rose Elinor sharing lead vocals. It's a claustrophobic joybomb with a big chorus and a few surprises that will have you wanting to hear more.
Oneida - "I Wanna Hold Your Electric Hand"
Long-running Brooklyn band Oneida have always had one foot in the experimental / improvisational world, but on new album Success they want to remind people that they can rock as well as be weird. “We honestly did not try to make something more straight ahead but it came out that way," says drummer Kid Millions. You may have forgotten they can do "straight ahead," too but, this is a droney, fist-pumping reminder.
Beth Orton - "Weather Alive"
A longtime master of downtempo, electronic-tinged folk, Beth Orton is exploring new territory on her upcoming album Weather Alive that she produced herself and has her collaborating with Shahzad Ismaily, Alabaster dePlume, Tom Skinner (The Smile, Sons of Kemet), and Tom Herbert (The Invisible). She's never done anything quite like the album's achingly beautiful, magic hour title track that reveals new, wonderful layers every time you listen. When she sings "Almost makes me want to cry, the weather's so beautiful outside" you may well up too.
Suede - "She Still Leads Me On"
Suede have had one of the most impressive second acts of all the Britpop era bands, reforming in 2010 to make three terrific new albums. It's looking like it will soon be four albums. "Autofiction is our punk record. No whistles and bells," says frontman Brett 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." I'm not sure if "punk" is a word I'll ever associate with Suede but "She Still Leads Me On" does have an immediate, raw quality that works well with their signature widescreen rock style. Anderson can still hit the high notes, too.
INDIE BASEMENT - TOP FIVE ALBUMS OF MAY 2022
Kevin Morby: This Is a Photograph (Dead Oceans)
Kevin Morby has yet to make a bad record but this is one of his best. From my review:
Kevin Morby has never lacked empathy, sincerity, or ambition but he has rarely sounded as inspired and dialed-in as with these 10 songs. This is a Photograph is warm and wistful, melancholic but witty too, as he ruminates on mortality, memory and those whose time came early. As to the latter, at the center of the album are two tributes to Jeff Buckley who died in 1997 in Memphis, drowning in the Mississippi River: the mournful "Disappearing" and the dreamlike, harp-laden "A Coat of Butterflies," which weaves in other artists who met an untimely end. He also looks at doomed romance through Jack Nicholson's character in Five Easy Pieces, asking "How do you make a bad time last?" "Five Easy Pieces" is one of the best songs on an album with no bad ones, alongside "It's Over," which features Cassandra Jenkins and wonderful string arrangements, and "Bittersweet, TN," a duet with Erin Rae whose voices sounds so good with Morby's you'd think they were kin.
Snag This is a Photograph on Gold Nugget vinyl.
Just Mustard - Heart Under (Partisan)
The trip hop renaissance continues with Irish band Just Mustard's excellent second album. From the Indie Basement review:
Heart Under, the second album from Irish band Just Mustard, isn't an album about big hooks and melodies (though it's got some), its focus is creeping dread and ratcheting tension slowly, steadily over the course of 45 minutes. They are very good at it. Even more than on their 2018 debut, Heart Under is the sound of a band that knows exactly what they want. As blunt a force as it can be, it's also a delicately layered record, forming an undulating, menacing beast where guitars, loops, synths and voices melt together.
Porridge Radio - Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky (Secretly Canadian)
Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky represents the three prominent emotions on the album and Margolin's life: joy (waterslide), fear (diving board) and "endlessness" (ladder). All three are present on the album's towering penultimate track, "The Rip," that has Margolin, secondary vocalist Georgie Stott and bassist Maddie Ryall chanting "And now my heart aches" repeatedly over some of the most overtly joyous, anthemic music Porridge Radio have ever made. This not only exemplifies the theme of the album but also feels like a mission statement for the band, where these intense feelings coexist and blur -- they urge you to take it all in.
Belle and Sebastian - A Bit of Previous (Matador)
Glasgow indie icons record on their home turf for the first time in two decades for their best record in a long time. From the Indie Basement review:
The comfortable environs of working from their home turf seems to have done them well as A Bit of Previous is their most enjoyable, relaxed album in over a decade. (Mind you it's also their first proper studio album in seven years.) There's a sleek, poppy vibe to much of the record that's very reminiscent of 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, mixing new wave with horn-and-harmony-powered blue-eyed soul and breezy soft rock. This is all fertile soil for Stuart Murdoch who long ago shed his bookish wallflower persona for that of a consummate showman. As charming as the big-and-brassy "Come on Home," the rocking (from them) "Unnecessary Drama" and the discofied "Prophets On Hold" are, Murdoch is still at his most affecting on delicate songs like "Do It For Your Country" that evoke Belle & Sebastian's baroque, folky beginnings.
Grab A Bit of Previous on vinyl.
Weird Nightmare - Weird Nightmare (Sub Pop)
METZ's Alex Edkins goes solo on his pop-forward but still noisy debut. Here's an excerpt from the Indie Basement review:
What's the difference between Alex's solo and METZ songs? "It's about embracing the hook," Alex told Kreative Kontrol's Vish Khanna. Where METZ songs have a pop nugget buried deep within a snowball of feedback and angst, Weird Nightmare is all about hooks and melody. Still delivered with levels in the red, but these are ultracatchy powerpop songs first and foremost, and really good ones at that. This is an album that would've fit right in with the '90s Halifax Pop Explosion that gave us Sloan, The Inbreds and Thrush Hermit.
Here's a 67-song, four-and-a-half-hour playlist featuring all my favorite songs from May, in both Spotify and Tidal form:
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
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