Waxahatchee makes her voice heard on Out in the Storm

There’s a pivotal scene that closes out the first season of Spaced, the cult TV debut of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright, in which Tim has an epiphany waiting for his ex-girlfriend to arrive at the bar. “It’s like walking in on yourself, you know? Like, ‘What are you doing?’ That’s how I felt tonight feeling my heart miss a beat every time the door opened. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’” On her fourth album as WaxahatcheeOut in the Storm, Katie Crutchfield’s natural introspection transcends navel-gazing to place distance between herself and a toxic relationship, and the effect is both vituperative and life-affirming: in its most brutally honest scenes, we catch the Alabama native walking in on herself.

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Interview: Escaping together with Nite Jewel

 

At the height of last summer – that woozy July that ushered in May’s tenure, heat that withered the pound like grapes on a vine – the Guardian published a thinkpiece by the writer Frank Cottrell Boyce. Still basking in the glow of co-writing the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony with Danny Boyle, his article took aim at various contemporary malaises: Brexit, cuts to library and arts funding, East London. But what grabbed me above all was this:

“Innovation comes from those who are happy to embark on a course of action without quite knowing where it will lead, without doing a feasibility study, without fear of failure or too much hope of reward. The engine of innovation is reckless generosity.”

Unscheduled, the sentiment returned to me talking to Ramona Gonzalez, AKA Nite Jewel. It seemed a perfect fit for her attitude, her ideas, the spirit of autonomous creativity that burns through her like ethanol.

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Perfume Genius and the redemptive spirit of No Shape

In the music video for “Slip Away”, the first single taken from the new Perfume Genius album, Mike Hadreas runs through a slideshow of soft-focus fantasies, away from a cast of hapless villains, towards an implied happy ending. Like a dream, the detail is somehow both blurred and crudely exaggerated; the antagonists’ faces are painted in caricature, and overcome by Hadreas dashing through the exploding set, hand in hand with his fairytale bride. Most of all, for an artist who dealt nothing but shade on 2014’s comeback “Queen” – all vicious contours and slicked-back hair, lips frozen in a permanent sneer at American heteronormativity – “Slip Away” presents a palette that is warm, dynamic, and deliriously playful. It’s the story of No Shape.

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Diet Cig bottle power pop lightning on Swear I’m Good At This

Did it occur to you to stop for a moment and think about what all this might be doing to the kids? Do you even know where you left them? Like a beleaguered prime minister, we’ve abandoned them in the pub, forced to make their own way between the fruit machines and the soothing baritone of Jeff Stelling. And guess what? They know all about Article 50, and the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and now they’re drinking, smoking, reading Dick Hebdige, and having sex in the back of trucks with boys who share their first name. On Swear I’m Good At This, upstate New York duo Diet Cig have effortlessly captured the zeitgeist in half an hour of adrenaline-fuelled power pop, bottling a lightning I’d forgotten could still strike.

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Pure Comedy and the infuriating charm of Father John Misty

You don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll say it anyway: Father John Misty is kind of a dick. He fancies himself a loveable provocateur on Pure Comedy, singing about having sex with Taylor Swift on live TV and then recoiling in horror at the suggestion that it might have been, you know, a little provocative. He was supposedly tripping on acid during that performance, as he was for his car-crash interview with Radcliffe & Maconie, and he’s keen for you to know it. What a rock star! What a modern day Tim Leary! And of course, he hates “the intersectional-virtue-warrior style of music writing” that us modern scribes peddle, ruining whatever politically incorrect lark he imagines himself to be peddling instead.

How tempting it would be, then, to dismantle his 80-minute treatise on the globalised world with the kind of withering gallows humour he evidently deems himself to have mastered. To tear it apart, to denounce the whole thing as a pretentious, self-serving footnote in the annals of rock history. But I can’t do it. Some writers have compared him to David Foster Wallace’s portrayal in The End of the Tour, but my mind wanders instead to John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, finally listening to the demo tape handed to him by the obnoxious little punks on the street. Because, hand on furrowed brow, we must face the unwanted truth: Pure Comedy is a hot, brash, unbridled success.

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British Sea Power return to glory with Let the Dancers Inherit the Party

Say what you like about British Sea Power, you can’t fault their industry. Since their last studio album, 2013’s lukewarm Machineries of Joy, the band have kept busy with various suitably charming projects: soundtracking a 2014 documentary film about the globalisation of Bhutan; refashioning their back catalogue for perhaps the third time on Sea of Brass; touring an exhaustive box set edition of their near-perfect debut. None of this is surprising for a band who have lived in thrall to antiquity, though such revisions inevitably invite the listener to compare the glory days to the modern era, a period that might uncharitably be called Austerity British Sea Power. Now back with a decadently-titled new record, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party, it may be time to loosen our belts a little.

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Lydia Ainsworth’s eclectic vision narrows on Darling of the Afterglow

Shooting night scenes like a police photographer, Lydia Ainsworth works in the palette that she knows best: pitch black, pallor white, autopsy violet. It was scoring her friend Matthew Lessner’s 2011 film The Woods, nominally about “hipsters who move to the woods to start a utopian society,” that the NYU and McGill University student was asked to sing over her dark creations; following years immersed in atonal classical experiments, the possibility that she could be one of the pop stars she adored as a child held an appealing possibility. Better yet, as a classically trained cellist who once composed a Philip Glass-inspired score for a 50-piece orchestra, she was uniquely placed to merge both worlds. On Darling of the Afterglow, Ainsworth’s second album, one of those worlds has begun to fade from her work.

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Tall Ships come to a crossroads with Impressions

For the great pessimist Schopenhauer, the will to life was an aberration, a balled fist from humanity’s lowest reach that existed to be overcome. Society was a futile project, he argued, because our baser instincts would always win. “Will to Life”, the second track from Tall Ships’ long-awaited second album Impressions, does not endorse this view, though frontman Ric Phethean does namecheck the German philosopher in the press release. “It’s about battling the darkness and sadness we feel throughout our lives through companionship,” he explains, and the extent to which you consider this statement profound insight or bland pontification will likely inform your enjoyment of the record.

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Semper Femina finds Laura Marling at her sensual best

On “How Can I”, from Laura Marling’s 2015 paean to life as a Los Angeles transplant Short Movie, the singer-songwriter issued a battle cry of sorts. “I put up my fists now,” she sang, “until I get what’s mine.” Still a somewhat timid presence on stage, the 27-year-old now commands the respect she deserves, and that record felt fuller, harder and bolder under her direction. Now on album number six, Semper Femina feels like a deliberate softening.

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