Those of you who keep a close eye on all things Joyzine will doubtless have noticed that there was a distinct lack of activity in the first half of the year. I shan’t bore you with the details as to why this was but it did mean that a number of excellent albums, well worthy of your attention, slipped through without mention. Now that we’re back up and running it’s time to redress this oversight and bring you a round-up of some of our favourite releases of 2017 so far that have yet to feature within these pages.
Kicking off the year was the debut album by Stephen Evens, Bonjour Poulet, released through Onomatopoeia Records. A regular at Joyzine gigs over the past couple of years, and previously with his bands Stuffy & The Fuses and Local Girls, as well as serving stints behind the drumkit for the likes of Graham Coxon and Art Brut, there’s plenty of pedigree behind this record. It takes its own idiosyncratic path of swirling psychedelic guitar pop, topped off with cranky keys and bluesy guitars. Mr Evens himself has described his work as beautiful music with horrible words, and there are plenty of times when the deeply personal lyrical content cuts close to the bone, particularly on the stark ‘This Year’s Gones’, but far from wallowing in grief or closing itself off with misanthropic rants, the album is shot through with dark, self-depricating humour and suffused with a charm that brings the listener in rather than pushing them away.
Glaswegian trio Breakfast Muff were a new name to us when their splendidly titled third album Eurgh! appeared in our inbox, but we were instantly sold on their chaotic lo-fi DIY sound. Draped in fuzzy distortion and packed with rambunctious shouty choruses, the album was recorded in four days and the sense of spontaneity and the prospect that the tracks could collapse into an incoherent mess at any moment keep the listener on the edge of their seat throughout. Exuberant and confrontational in equal measure, singles ‘R U A Feminist?’ and ‘Feast’ are amongst our favourite tracks of the year so far.
Roadkill Records have been putting out consistently excellent releases since their inception last year, with a string of psych-infused compilations and singles. Their maiden LP release, a self-titled debut album from The Sly Persuaders, didn’t disappoint. A garage rock stomper, fuelled by hand claps, overdriven riffs and the kind of slicked back cool that you can’t get by practicing in front of the mirror, it perfectly captures the Slys’ frenetic live shows in a way that studio recordings rarely manage.
Idles have been rightly drawing plaudits from far and wide since the release of the debut album Brutalism, a ferocious record that rails against the current political climate through a combination of savage, foul-mouthed humour and a red raw guitar barrage. This is one of those rare occasions where we encourage you to believe the hype.
Another band growing in reputation of late, Desperate Journalist released their second album Grow Up through Fierce Panda in the spring, and it was every bit the shimmering, expansive delight that we had hoped it would be. Drawing on the golden age of indie music without ever sounding like a retread, Grow Up is packed with glorious alt-pop gems.
Ian Svenonius, formerly of The Make Up & Nation of Ulysses, has always had a reputation for ripping up the past and reshaping it to his own ends, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the latest album from his current band, Chain & The Gang, should be a collection of the band’s best material from previous releases re-recorded with a new line-up. Packed to bursting with simple but brutally effective garage rock gems and odd-pop curiosities this is a minimalist rock and roll call to arms.
We were saddened to hear that after 20 years Chris T-T has decided to call time on his musical career. Chris featured in the very first edition of Joyzine back in 2003 and has been a regular fixture throughout both on the site and as a guest on our radio show. Double album Best of Chris T-T, released through Xtra Mile Records, demonstrates exactly why we’ve followed him so keenly over the years – packed with songs that veer from hilariously silly to poignant and heart-wrenching, via the furiously political. As always when trying to condense a lengthy recording career into 20 tracks, there are some songs we’d have loved to see on here missing, so make sure that you check out the rest of his back catalogue too.
In very much the opposite direction, we got a rather more pleasant surprise at the announcement that cult Nottingham noise-wranglers Six By Seven were to reform for a short series of gigs marking the re-release of their classic second album The Closer You Get, which was accompanied by a Greatest Hits compilation and a collection of their BBC radio sessions. Fusing post-rock, indie and trip hop into twisted shapes of their own, Six by Seven were one of the finest proponents of turn of the millennium razor’s edge, from the heart experimentalism, and these releases are the perfect place to get acquainted.
Another established favourite round these parts, Co-Pilgrim are still very much a going concern, with latest LP Moon Lagoon their fourth album in the past four years. And in our humble opinion it’s the best of the bunch, adding an extra layer of warmth and optimism to the lush Americana and sumptuous harmonies that have provided the backbone to much of frontman Mike Gale’s work since the turn of the century.
All in all a pretty good start then, and with new LPs on the way from the likes of Arrows of Love, Paul Draper, Deerhoof and The Burning Hell, it’s going to get even better.
Review by Paul Maps