New Albums This Week: Steve Mason, School of Seven Bells

The best new releases hitting the shelves this week, featuring the return of Beta Band mastermind Steve Mason, a heartfelt swansong from School of Seven Bells, and the long-awaited debut from Holy Esque

Feature by Music Team | 26 Feb 2016

• Steve Mason – Meet the Humans (Double Six)

Steve Mason's third solo album under his own name finds the erstwhile Fifer embracing a folktronica style familiar from those Beta Band days. There's a move away from the man-the-barricades politics that defined 2013's Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time, but sharp social observations can be found on opening track Water Bored. The themes running throughout Meet the Humans are more personal reinvention and romantic reflection than the perils of neoliberalism. 

 Read Steve's track-by-track guide to the album.

• School of Seven Bells – SVIIB (Full Time Hobby)

When Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis started work on School of Seven Bells’ fourth album in the summer of 2012, they definitely had no thought that it would be the last record that they would write together. After Curtis developed T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma and died in late 2013 aged only 35, that was sadly what it became. If there are any fears that this will make SVIIB a massive downer, opener Ablaze dispatches them all quickly, a glorious rush of swirling synthesisers, explosive percussion and Deheza’s airy wordless harmonies.

• Holy Esque – At Hope's Ravine (Beyond The Frequency)

They’ve kept us waiting, but it's been worth it. At Hope’s Ravine is an assured jolt of broad-canvas, nouveau-post-punk pristineness: part-Twilight Sad, part-Bunnymen, and more than a shade of Simple Minds (back when they were any cop). Yes, it’s a polished, muscular record, and its detractors may point to a tendency toward the anthemic on tracks such as Doll House and Tear, but such is the intensity of Pat Hynes’ mottled, high-register vocals – eerily reminiscent of JJ72’s Mark Greaney, but somehow more desperate, more real – any complaint feels moot.

 Stream At Hope's Ravine in full.

• Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge (Paper Bag)

Sarah Neufeld’s previous outing, Never Were The Way She Was, provided a fascinating conversation between the fluid majesty of her violin and the virtuosic skronk of fellow Arcade Fire collaborator Colin Stetson’s sax; an ugly-beautiful, impressionistic symbiosis that bewitched even as it unravelled. Stetson returns here for her second solo album proper, although this time he’s firmly in the background.