New Releases: 13 March
This week, we’re looking at four new albums from the world of contemporary pop…
Ben Watt – Storm Damage
After two memoirs, one recounting his battle with a rare disease and the other chronicling his parents’ lives, Ben Watt’s comfortable with nostalgia. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Storm Damage revisits the past beneath the shadow of mortality. Retreat To Find is a modern day Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard, Watt waltzing to “outface Death”, his strummed acoustic accompanied by smoky upright bass and drums, while torch song Hand asks “Who will carry my bags/ When I’m weary and frail?”
Like 2016’s masterful Fever Dream, which also drew on his folk-jazz roots, Watt’s fourth solo album is characterised by an honest humility – Festival Son finds him “Poncing my first fag in 10 years” – and a midlife awakening which affirms the fundamentals of a life well lived. “One more day to live through,” he sings joyfully on Figures In The Landscape, his most upbeat tune, “Clap your hands”. Elsewhere, his songs are suffused in melancholy, but it’s always bittersweet. You’ve Changed, I’ve Changed acknowledges how “Love is one long bridge” and Sunlight Follows The Night painfully realises that “When you find it, how you need it/ And when you lose it, how you feel it.” By this heartfelt account, though, most turbulence can be overcome.
Humanist – Humanist
Sharp-eyed readers may know of Rob Marshall’s debut because Dave Gahan guests on Shock Collar, which is powered by the shoegazing engineering of acts like Curve. One wishes, nonetheless, he’d been granted Kingdom, though Mark Lanegan lends it and doomy closer Gospel a grim menace. The Membranes’ John Robb is similarly intense amid English Ghosts’ swelling krautrock, and Mark Gardener offers When The Light Goes Out a Ride. But when backing vocalist Ilse Maria steps upfront, she gives Truly Too Late a truly sparkling Cocteaus lustre.
Wilsen – Ruiner
Like their nondescript name, Wilsen at first don’t seem out of the ordinary, but that ‘e’ is the clue: they’re a little unconventional. Tamsin Wilson’s voice feels almost distracted, but provokes pleasant shivers with its hushed quality, whether tangled in chiming guitars on the title track, or on Wearing, where producer Andrew Sarlo pans ghostly echoes behind its Dory Previn-esque fragility. Birds, meanwhile, drifts into a dreamy world between Slowdive and The Breeders, and Fuse’s jangling guitars wield an unexpectedly sharp blade.
Blossoms – Foolish Loving Spaces
Other bands must really hate Blossoms. They always seem to be on tour, yet, every 18 months, another round of top-level pop arrives, presumably written and recorded in their lunch break. The lads’ release schedule and making it all look so simple means it’s easy to take them for granted. Don’t. They’re one of the few bands to attempt a podcast. Recorded at the Stockport pub the five-piece are named after, Blossoms Pubcast shows their secret is simple: stay mates, don’t take any of this seriously, be a band with distinct personalities pulling together.
There are so many summer bangers on their third album – The Keeper, If You Think This Is Real Life, Romance, Eh? – they might have sat on Foolish Loving Spaces for a few months before cashing in for some sunshine airplay. But waiting around means Blossoms wouldn’t get to be stupidly entertaining in concert, and nobody wants that. You can get deep on singer Tom Ogden’s wistful lyrics, but it’s more rewarding to bathe in an album that’s stuffed with earworms instead.
Maybe one day Blossoms will delay a new album as long as Guns N’ Roses. Until then, here are 10 reliable riots. There’ll probably be more next year, but why miss out?
Wyndham Wallace & John Earls