Staff picks from our extensive CD collection

Our music enthusiast John has selected his recent favourites from our extensive CD collection. More coming soon, so keep checking!

John’s picks

Thurston Moore – Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness
Sonic Youth fans are in for a treat here as that legendary NY band’s guitarist, Thurston Moore, explores five lengthy, textural, guitar centred songs that are reminiscent of his playing on the groundbreaking Sonic Youth album, ‘Daydream Nation”. Accompanied by long time fellow traveller, drummer Steve Shelley, this is like a lost Sonic Youth album with My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Goodge on bass instead of Kim Gordon and James Sedwards on guitar instead of Lee Renaldo. The only difference being that Moore indulges in lengthy solos – which, as it turns out, is a very good thing indeed.

Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley
The London based duo have moved on from their potentially novelty roots, featuring archival plummy British spoken word samples, to become something akin to musical documentarians. Their debut focused on WWII, their follow up on the 1960’s space race, and now for their third album, they focus on the rise and fall of the Welsh coal-mining industry. They manage to turn that potentially dry subject into a vital and relevant commentary on progress and social awareness and have made an excellent socially conscious pop record that sounds like a good idea turning into a great one.

David Long, Richard Nunns & Natalia Mann – Utterance
Rattle Records describe this beautifully packaged release as a tribute to Richard Nunns, who’s ongoing health issues, very sadly, see this collection of 11 improvisations as his final recording. A key figure behind the revival of interest in ancient Maori instrumentation, here he uses his formidable kete of instruments to create mesmerizing atmospheres alongside David Long’s plucked and looped banjo and Natalia Mann’s haunting harp and zither.

Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology
UK artist Jane Weaver wrote, produced , sings and played synths, keys, guitars, bass and drum machines on this impressive release that combines the hypnotic pulse of krautrock with an unearthly cosmic pop. The follow up to her 2014 release, ‘The Silver Globe’, which found her recognition after seven albums and 22 years as an idiosyncratic solo artist whose work included acoustic folk balladry, avant garde electronics and improvisation. Here she manages to meld all of her arcane source material into a rich, melodic and engaging contemporary psychedelic pop, her crisp vocals floating over gorgeous musical backdrops that include early 80s synth pop, eerie folk, library music and experimental vintage electronics.

Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
Broken Social Scene are a Canadian musical collective with 15 members, two of whom have been pushing it all along since 2001. This is their fifth album, their first in seven years, and finds them refining their sprawling ramshackle sound into a great collection of distinctive and vibrant indie pop. Anthemic without being cheesy, the collective nature of this band comes across in the music which is relentlessly positive while maintaining a political awareness.

Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet
The second solo record from Michelle Zauner, the former singer for US EMO band Little Big League, is a nice blend of experimental pop, incorporating elements of shoegaze, electropop, soft rock, ambient and indie, all wrapped around her soft yearning vocals. It is a confident and engaging record that runs the risk, however, of being too pop for those who like experimental sounds and too experimental for those who like pop, but those with open ears will be well rewarded.

Dauwd – Theory of Colours
Electronic producers often find it difficult to maintain an entire album and it is nice to be able to report that UK artist Dauwd, bucks that trend. This album, on Ninja Tune offshoot Technicolour, presents a distinctive take on electronic music that manages to communicate emotional content, yet remain danceable. Most of the seven tracks maintain a lovely rolling chilled rhythm with deep bass lines and skittering hi-hats pushing it all along, while warm analog synth flourishes and electronic samples dance around over the top.

The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile started The War On Drugs in 2008, with Kurt Vile leaving after their debut album. Since then, each of them have been rewriting Americana for the new millennium with Kurt Vile’s Violaters picking up the jam band mantle from precursors like the Grateful Dead while Adam Granduciel’s War On Drugs reinvents the wide open, heart-felt grandeur of artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and even Bob Dylan. Their last album, ‘Lost In the Dream’, topped numerous end-of-year best album lists and this follow up looks to repeat that success.

The National – Sleep Well Beast
It’s good to see that by their seventh album US band The National haven’t slipped into a formula. While ‘Sleep Well Beast’ maintains the band’s well recognised brooding sound fronted by Matt Berninger’s distinctive baritone vocals, this time around they move deeper into a beautiful chamber pop incorporating extensive use of piano, string arrangements and, surprisingly, electronics and samples provided courtesy of collaborators, Cologne electronic artists, Mouse On Mars.

LCD Sound System – American Dream
The story goes that David Bowie told James Murphy to restart LCD Sound System after he had ended the project in 2010, so he took Bowie’s advice and here, seven years on, we get the fourth LCD album and it’s as good as anything they have done. The album starts with a characteristic musical tribute, this time to recently deceased electronic pioneer Alan Vega, and from then on it’s the expected grab bag of influences with Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and David Bowie name checked within a simmering survey of modern America. Anything but a cynical cash-in this album confirms James Murphy as a major artist.

Kraftwerk – 3D: The Catalogue
German electronica pioneers, Kraftwerk, released six extremely influential albums between 1974 and 1986, and they still tour regularly. Ralf Hutter, the only original member, has decided to release the entire catalogue of eight discs once again. If you are a fan you will know all of these tunes inside out, but the difference is that these are all recently recorded live versions, capturing the band using modern state of the art equipment with pristine clarity. The packaging is great – minimal, and a bit like an essential contemporary lifestyle accessory – and the tunes sound as cool as ever.

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
The fifth album in 14 years and the first since 2012’s ‘Shields’ from the darlings of the 2000’s NY hipster scene was highly anticipated and doesn’t disappoint. The sound carries all of the band’s distinctive touches – excellent musicianship, great arrangements, gorgeous melodies and inscrutable lyrics (however, you can go here to find an interview with the band talking about what each song is about).

Grayson Gilmour – Otherness
Wellington based multi-instrumentalist Grayson Gilmour’s third solo record on Flying Nun, is a confident exploration of elegant songcraft that sits somewhere between EDM, indie electronica, and classic singer/songwriter pop. Lush and unabashedly romantic, the songs are delivered via Grayson’s soft, gentle vocals, accompanied by synth backdrops, swirling string arrangements, reverb-laden guitars and keyboard washes. Grayson plays everything but the drums and strings on this sophisticated, beautifully composed album that brims with heart while avoiding sentimentality.

Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun
Scottish instrumental post-rockers, Mogwai, show no sign of flagging as they enter their third decade together with the follow up to 2014’s ‘Rave Tapes’ and their first without recently departed founding guitarist John Cummings. The tunes flow from hymnal and graceful to sonic nuclear meltdown, touching on euphoric pop, fizzy alt-rock and moody, simmering atmospheric ambient along the way.

Peaking Lights – The Fifth State of Consciousness
US husband and wife duo, Peaking Lights, gain more confidence with each release and with this, their fifth album, they effortlessly explore their relatively unique world of ‘80’s influenced cosmic dub/synth pop. The songs are gently hypnotic, propelled by relaxed dub bass rhythms, which glide along under Indra Dunis’s lovely whispered echo drenched vocals and dubbed out electronics to create a comforting sound for a record that is like a big warm hug for their fans.

Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives
British duo Mount Kimbie release their third album on Warp and move still further away from their dubstep slanted electronic origins into a fine example of 21st Century post-genreism. These11 tracks feature the snap and crackle of electronica, the sensibilities and warm basslines of ‘80’s indie and four guest vocalists (including James Blake) all presented under the guise of a nicely fractured alt-pop. It’s a lovely sound and a thoroughly original digital analogue blend that creates a sound raw but warm and very inviting.

Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Ernest Greene’s first album was part of the early 2010’s Chill Wave sub-genre and his sound has expanded significantly from its bedroom production origins to find his third record released by US label Stone’s Throw. It’s an intoxicating blend of downbeat, free jazz, hip hop and lounge with spoken word samples thrown in to keep things interesting. The production is impeccable; with nice phat bass lines driving what is a lovely sonic collage of songs and instruments that took Greene two years to create. It’s only 30 mins long but seems longer and when its finished you can do it all over again with the accompanying DVD which features handmade animations for each track.