Indie Basement: Best Songs and Albums of April 2023
Indie Basement is a weekly column on BrooklynVegan focusing on classic indie and alternative artists, "college 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 April's best music, highlighting my favorite songs and albums, plus links to relevant features and news, a monthly playlist, and more.
Spring is here and April was a bumper crop of great new music. For albums, I kept it to five but there were many runners up this month, including Holiday Ghosts, John Andrews & The Yawns, The Blue Aeroplanes, Rose City Band, and Cindy. On the song front, I wrote about my 10 favorites but also made a Spotify/TIDAL playlist featuring those, tracks from my Top 5 albums, and 52 other songs I really dug in April. Check out those below.
Other stuff from April: I interviewed Daniel Ash about Love and Rockets' upcoming reunion tour, and went to Knoxville for Big Ears Fest.
If you need a pre-April catch-up, here's the Indie Basement Best Albums of 2023 So Far list.
If you're unaware, Indie Basement has its own corner of the BV Shop that is full of great records, books and merch, including our exclusive, limited edition color vinyl variant of Alvvays' debut album, our exclusive, limited edition swirled vinyl edition of Thee Oh Sees' Live at Levitation, plus albums by The Lemonheads, Primal Scream, King Gizzard, The Raincoats, Radiohead, Grant Lee Buffalo, Belle & Sebastian, Deerhoof, Protomartyr, Mogwai,Love and Rockets, Kevin Morby, The The, Naima Bock, The Flaming Lips and lots more.
Head below for my picks for April's best stuff...
INDIE BASEMENT - BEST SONGS OF MARCH 2023
The Clientele - "Blue Over Blue"
“We’d always been interested in music other than guitar music, like for donkey’s years,” says The Clientele's Alasdair MacLean of the band's new album which incorporates sampling and other new-for-them ideas. “None of those things had been able to find their way into our sound other than in the most passing way, in the faintest imprint." How did they finally crack this nut? They bought a computer. (Welcome to 2002!) "Blue Over Blue" has all the signatures of a great Clientele song -- arpeggiated guitarwork and soaring, wistful melodies -- but when that distorted riff kicks in unexpectedly, you're caught off guard. Twenty-five years into their career, The Clientele have managed to reinvent themselves just enough to make it all new again.
bar italia - "punkt"
"Bar Italia" is an actual bar in London and also the name of a song from Pulp's Different Class, and i'd bet London trio bar italia are very familiar with both. No one would confuse them for the classic Britpop group, though, as bar italia make the kind of eerie, tilted post-punk-inspired indie rock that would've been at home on Rough Trade in 1981. Single "punkt" is a calling card of sorts, with all three members getting their time in the spotlight, each using the snakey riff to their own devices. There's no chorus, and the song just kinda ends once they've all had their verse, but I find myself drawn back to "punkt" again and again.
Das Koolies - "Best Mindfuck Yet" ft Rhys Ifans
Das Koolies, the Welsh electronic rock group featuring 4/5ths of Super Furry Animals (everyone but frontman Gruff Rhys), have been around since the '90s but only released their debut EP earlier this year. They're following that up quick with their debut album, out at the start of fall, and the first single is excellent, and really epitomizes the gleeful, mischievous spirit of the group who are clearly doing this cause it's fun. "Best Mindfuck Yet" feels like an heir to SFA's record-breaking 1996 single "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" and features original Furries frontman Rhys Ifans, the Welsh actor who you may remember as Hugh Grant's weird roommate in Notting Hill.
Daisies - "Blue Cowboy"
Olympia, WA's Daisies feel like a band displaced from time, specifically the mid-'90s when indie bands all discovered jungle and drum-and-bass and started mixing jangly acoustics with amen breaks. (I'm talking Saint Etienne, Mint Royale and Dubstar.) Daisies call their sound "electronic paisley underground" which works, too. As the soaring "Blue Cowboy" proves, it's still a potent combination.
Four Tet - "Three Drums"
Speaking of mid-'90s, Four Tet's new single has Downtempo Chillout Room written all over it. Against a loping beat -- 96 BPM, which puts it squarely into Andrew Weatherall territory -- "Three Drums" is woozy, drenched in reverb and spacious enough to drive a Mac truck into. This is an end-of-the-night closer as, across eight minutes, the majestic, airy synths crest, overtaking those drums entirely till you can't hear them anymore, leaving a slow fade of warm ambience as the sun threatens to rise.
Girl Ray - "Hold Tight"
Girl Ray's transformation from winsome, folkie indiepop into something closer to Bananarama has been a joy to behold. (I should say I've loved everything they've done so far.) Their 2019 album Girl was a bit of a stepping stone but these three seem to have it all figured out now, with an instantly charming mix of new wave and disco. They cite Haim and Atlanta hip hop as inspirations for "Hold Tight" but it's less slick than that, with just a little "Faith" and maybe even The Four Seasons in the mix for a dancelable, utterly charming and endlessly replayable earworm. The video's great too:
Grian Chatten - "The Score"
I was not expecting Fontaines D.C. frontman Grian Chatten to put out a solo single, I was not expecting it to sound like this, and I was not expecting it to be this good. If you associate him with the half-sung, half-spoken delivery he favors in Fontaines, you might be taken off guard by this harmony laden song, co-produced by Chatten and Dan Carey, that features gently plucked guitars and ticking drum machines.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - "Council Skies"
Everybody wants Oasis to reform except Noel Gallagher, who is clearly content resting on his "Wonderwall" and "Live Forever" publishing checks and making music under his High Flying Birds solo banner. The thing is Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds are really good! The title track to his upcoming album Council Skies is terrific; sweeping, string-drenched cinematic psych pop with the big choruses you associate with Gallagher at his best. Would it be better with Liam singing? Not this one.
Silver Synthetic - "The Door"
One of the most welcome surprises of 2021 was the debut album from New Orleans' Silver Synthetic, who came from garage punk roots but delivered wonderfully crafted, melodic psych rock that had just the right amount of noodling. "The Door" is our first glimpse, presumably, of their second album which is another sunny, seemingly effortless earworm, lush with chiming guitars, rich harmonies and impressive musicianship.
Snõõper - "Pod"
Nashville's Snõõper formed during, and out of, the pandemic -- a home recording project between Connor Cummins (Spodee Boy), and visual/video artist Blair Tramel that became an awesome real band. They released highly addictive hyper mutant punk recordings on bandcamp, wowed at SXSW 2022 (and again at SXSW 2023 where they were much less under the radar) and got signed by Nashville's Third Man who will release their debut album this summer. Re-recordings of previously released songs rarely better the original but "Pod," from their scrappy 2021 self-titled EP, really comes alive in this full-band studio version.
INDIE BASEMENT - BEST ALBUMS OF MARCH 2023
Everything But the Girl - FUSE (Verve / Buzzin' Fly)
FUSE is Everything But the Girl's first album in 25 years, that is pretty much everything you could want from a EBTG record in 2023. They have covered a lot of musical ground over the last 40 years, from bossa nova to Sophistipop to cutting edge electronic music, but they basically pick up where Temperamental left off. Almost entirely electronic and in line with everything they've done before, the album manages to find new paths to explore without ever falling into "How do you do, fellow kids" territory. (Full review)
Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good! (PMR / EMI)
Jessie Ware's 2020 album What's Your Pleasure? was one of the key releases in the current disco / house revival alongside records by Roisin Murphy and Beyonce. She could've easily called its joyous follow-up Pleasure Too, but managed to come up with an even better, cheekier title. That! Feels Good! is a nonstop pleasure cruise -- there's even a song that recalls The Love Boat theme -- and she giddily mixes classic '70s funk, disco and tropicalia with '80s new wave / electro, '90s house, R&B and French Touch, and just about anything else that suits her fancy. Fun is the order of the day and it's served up across 10 effortlessly playful, gorgeously produced dance tracks that are equal parts groove, sweep and melody with nods to everyone from Gloria Gaynor to Madonna (though Ware's British accent is real). If you're not having a good time listening to this wonderful record, check your pulse. (Full review)
FACS - Still Life in Decay (Trouble in Mind)
With Still Life in Decay, Chicago trio FACS have moved out of the shadows, from behind the clouds. They are still an ominous, gothic monolith; heavy like a white dwarf but now gleaming like obsidian. Brian Case's vocals, partially hidden and mutated by reverb and other effects on the group's four previous albums, emerge from the haze unobscured, presenting a confident, seething frontman. As usual, FACS are powered by the formidable rhythm section: Alianna Kalaba's steely, sky-scraping bass lines that fire like rocket boosters sending their songs ever upward, and Noah Leger's crushing, precise drumming. With Case's highly atmospheric guitarwork, Still Life in Decay is a triangulated attack of post-rock, post-hardcore, and post-punk. It's not demonstrably different than their other records, but everything is refined and noticeably lifted. (Full review)
Pynch - Howling at a Concrete Moon (Chillburn Recordings)
There's a definitely a late-'00s feel to Pynch's debut album, Howling at a Concrete Moon. The London band cited indie label Captured Tracks as an influence, and you can hear touches of Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing, and Spectrals in the album's guitar tones and melodies. But no artist on C/T then had as much to say as frontman Spencer Enock does now, who drops knowing, witty couplets throughout the record. Across 10 songs, Enoch chronicles mid-20s ennui and fears with introspection and a dash of self-aware humor, whether it's a night of "karaoke while the sky is falling," conflicting feelings of city life, or portraits of the pretentious and underemployed. (Full review.)
Y La Bamba - Lucha (Tender Loving Empire)
The title of Y La Bamba's seventh album, Lucha, has a double meaning. It is the nickname of primary member Luz Elena Mendoza Ramos, but it also means "to fight." Luz says “'Lucha' is a symbol of how hard it is for me to tackle healing, live life, and be present,” with songs about love, queerness, their Mexican American and Chicanx identity, ancestral trauma, and the social upheaval of 2020. While the album has heavy themes and is deeply personal, Lucha is effortless to listen to, sounding wonderfully sunbaked as if these songs have always existed, beautiful, mysterious and just out of reach. (Full review)
And here's the Indie Basement Best of April 2023 playlist in both Spotify and TIDAL form:
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
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