With a range of middling-to-shite singles from some of the big guns, it’s down to the wee guys and girls to bring the goods this August
The Phantom Band – O (Chemikal Underground, 1 Aug)
If you’ve been hiding down a mine for the past year or so, let us quickly update you on the current situation; the economy is fucked, Colonel Gaddafi is a bad bastard once more and The Phantom band are universally ace. You could stick a pin in parent album The Wants’ track-list and still strike single-gold, yet O (****) is a cut above even their own high calibre. We only deduct a point and therefore single of the month status in order to make the playing field that little bit fairer. Game on!
Other Lives – Tamer Animals (TBD Records, 29 Aug)
The gloomy, piano-laden atmosphere that Tamer Animals (***) conjures for its first minute is promising. Less so is the heavy debt the vocals owe to The National, though repeated listens do eke out some of singer Jesse Tabish’s own character. It's beautifully produced too, although the inherent melodrama of it all may become a tad cloying after a few spins.
SULK – Wishes (Perfect Sound Forever, 15 Aug)
London quintet SULK (seriously?) make no bones about their Stone Roses fetish, something clearly evident on their first single Wishes (**). This may grant them immunity from some criticism then, but ultimately there’s little else to recommend here, other than it being a competent trip down ‘baggy’ lane if you feel that way inclined. We don’t.
The Travelling Band – Battlescars (Cooking Vinyl, 1 Aug)
Meanwhile, actual Manchester dwellers The Travelling Band remain a world away from their roots. Battlescars (***) is deceptively difficult to pigeonhole, but at a push it’s a folkish-country pop number that will likely perk the ears of those tired of similar, more polished acts hogging all the limelight.
DJ Shadow ft. Afrikan Boy – I’m Excited (Island, 1 Aug)
The aptly titled The Outsider did a pretty good job of alienating previous fans of the once-lauded DJ Shadow. I’m Excited (**), from his upcoming fourth album, seems unlikely to assuage such feelings. Built on a fairly annoying ragga vocal, it sounds pretty gimmicky with a kitchen-sink mentality to the production that leaves little wriggle room to get much of a grip on what you’re actually listening to.
FOUND – Anti Climb Paint (Chemikal Underground, 8 Aug)
One of the most surprising and effective makeovers of the year, FOUND here deliver a snapshot of everything that got us excited by third album Factorycraft back in March. With direct lyrics, delivered harmoniously, vigorously ascending guitar chords and less-is-more electro beats, Anti Climb Paint (****) proved a great introduction to the trio’s new direction and it’s no less effective here and now.
Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys (Atlantic, 8 Aug)
The lukewarm reception to its parent album is effectively captured with title track Codes and Keys (**). An uninspiring approach of ‘just add strings’ can’t detract from the lack of a decent chorus, not a criticism you could once have levied at the Seattle stalwarts. Death Cab were perhaps never ones for sonic innovation or muscular clout, but this is fairly limp stuff all the same.
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks – Tigers (Domino, 15 Aug)
Tigers (***) adds yet another effortless cut to the post-Pavement catalogue of Stephen Malkmus. It’s a breezy, and by his own admission, accessible radio tune that keeps proceedings brief and to the point, with a nice wonky end coda for a bit of edge. Unlikely to set anyone’s world on fire, perhaps, but it’s a solid effort from the slacker-rock icon.
Three Trapped Tigers – Noise Trade (Blood and Biscuits, 22 Aug)
An audio rollercoaster is probably the best description of Noise Trade (****). Ascending guitar riffs plateau into ethereal synth-scapes before descending into electro-rock workouts reminiscent of Australian trio PVT. Thankfully this chaotic, lurching fairground attraction is all held together by a strong melodic hook and some deft live drumming. Definitely worth a ride.
Battles – My Machines (Warp, 15 Aug)
Applauded by some as the highlight of divisive second album Gloss Drop, Gary Numan collaboration My Machines (***) gets a shot at standing on its own two feet here. Yet despite the promise, it feels a rather muddied, half-hearted effort [careful now! - ed]. Numan sounds lost in the mix, and there’s nothing particularly memorable to his brief turn. A decent enough cut, sure, but a bit of a wasted opportunity not helped by this elevation to single status.
Lady North/Paws – Split Single (Gerry Loves Records, 1 Aug)
The good ol’ split single has served underground bands well and here we find two local acts, who no doubt shared a plastic pint at this years’ T Break tent, shacking up for a bit of inter-city, vinyl foreplay. Sexy it is too, once it gets its thrust on, particularly Edinburgh trio Lady North’s opening math rock mini-epic It’s All About Getting That Claude Monet (****). Meanwhile, Glasgow trio Paws add garage rock bluster with the fine Lekker (***), quickly followed by Booger (great names) but it’s Lady North’s giddily fantastic Rub ‘N’ Scrub that finally brings proceedings to a satisfactory climax.
Divorce – Wet Bandit (Gravy Records, Out Now)
Brutal, relentless and uncompromising; it’s good to hear that despite a line-up change, Divorce haven’t veered from their original purpose of being right noisy bastards. In fact, Wet Bandit (****) sounds like a more dynamic beast than we’ve heard previously from these Glasgow-dwelling terrorists. Pummelling bass drives, guitars that sound like the shower scene from Psycho filtered through a malfunctioning ZX Spectrum and vocals that are boundless, playful and bloody unhinged. We have a bruised and battered winner folks.