Rock, September 2019

hfnalbum.pngThe National
I Am Easy To Find
4AD 4AD0154

Eight albums into their careers, most artists are slowing down, running out of ideas, playing safe. Apparently nobody told this to The National. I Am Easy To Find is easily their most adventurous outing yet, but it is as accessible as it is imaginative. The band, led by singer and songwriter Matt Berninger, has boldly stepped away from their usual indie rock modus operandi to embrace the potential of sombre string orchestrations plus prominent vocal contributions from enormously gifted female singers Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Mina Tindle, Kate Stables and Gail Ann Dorsey. These women don't merely supply sweet harmonies or backups, they take over the songs they sing. An unalloyed delight from start to finish. JBk


The Hold Steady
Thrashing Thru The Passion
French Kiss Records FKR103

It's been over five years since Brooklyn's Hold Steady last treated us to an entire album's worth of their rocky goodness but their seventh is finally here and the layoff has done them a power of good. Craig Finn remains an arrestingly powerful singer and an always captivating lyricist – drole, sardonic and witty – sounding very much at home in the expanded lineup which benefits enormously from the return of multi-instrumentalist keyboard wiz Franz Nicolay. They lost some traction in the early 2010s, but cuts like 'You Did Good Kid', 'Entitlement Crew' and 'T-Shirt Tux' are the equal of any of their early classics, and this is an album longtime fans will cherish. JBk


Deep Dark Creep Love
Club AC30 AC3016032

Despite being unashamedly lo-fi, messy and indistinct, there's something enormously appealing about Taffy. Vocalist Iris (they all go by mononyms) floats her pure gossamer-delicate voice through a jangly, mesmeric web of distorted howling feedback guitars, underpinned by trip-hoppy drums and cyclical bass lines, but somehow the overall effect is curiously soothing. They're based in Tokyo, and much of what they do is clearly inspired by the shoegaze faction of Britpop (Ride, Lush and Slowdive) but, filtered through their Japanese perspectives, it becomes something entirely their own, blending furious energy with transcendent melodic beauty. JBk


Mungo's Hi Fi x Eva Lazarus
More Fyah
Scotch Bonnet Records SCOB070

This is a splendid little something for long hot summer days. Mungo's Hi Fi is a Glasgow-based sound system and production triumvirate founded in the early years of the new millennium by the DJs Craig MacLeod, Tom Tattersall and Doug Paine. They've been pretty prolific ever since, producing collaborative albums with the likes of Prince Fatty, Kenny Knots and Charlie P, but this time they're fronted by Eva Lazarus whose versatile voice has been heard soaring through tracks by Swindle, Jus Now and Gentlemans Dub Club, and the combination is very sweet indeed. When you need to chill to a seismic bass-heavy dancehall groove, this'll fit the bill. JBk