Welcome back to Put Your Records On!, where only the best of the best make the turntable. In this mid-July release lull we’ve got a mixtape from Husky Loops and albums from BODEGA and Years & Years fresh off the press, as well as some recommended listening from earlier in June courtesy of Leon Vynehall and Sweaty Palms.
BODEGA – Endless Scroll
BODEGA are an anomaly – a post-post-punk band who sit comfortably between the drawled, spoken-word hymns of resistance that the British indie scene has latched onto, and the skronking no-nonsense noise of their fellow New Yorkers Parquet Courts. Safe in the secure hands of producer Austin Brown (co-vocalist and guitarist of the latter band), Endless Scroll is a wry, incisive take on modern life – as New York no-wave often is – that sees BODEGA position themselves to overthrow the underground art-punk scene on both sides of the pond. “All day, stare at screen,” yelp vocalists Nikki Belfiglio and Ben Hozie, as a thumping, droning bassline resounds in the background. “This is documentary!” The world that BODEGA live in is a world in which men die and meet God after a Pokemon-induced seizure only to continue staring at a computer; a world in which the secret to success is constant gyration and a half-price sale at Barnes & Noble is more interesting than a heated protest. And as sad as it is, this is the world we live in, too.
The whole of Endless Scroll is indeed an endless, scathing indictment of our times; our addiction to overpriced smoothies and Buzzfeed clickbait. But it’s not all bleak – if you tune out Belfiglio and Hozie’s smartly teasing lyrics, you’d be hard-pressed not to get up and dance. BODEGA’s off-kilter brand of art-punk is infinitely funky, with killer basslines borrowing from punk and pop alike. Singles ‘Jack in Titanic’ and ‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’ are slightly discordant yet toe-tappingly addictive earworms, while the middle of the album sees Belfiglio take on lead vocalist duty for the fizzing, energy-filled dance-punk number ‘Gyrate’. By the time Endless Scroll’s fourteen tracks are over – with final track ‘Truth Is Not Punishment’ serving as a clear homage and thank you to Parquet Courts, even down to the quirky title – you’ll be feeling strangely optimistic about the modern age. Yeah, it’s a fucked-up world we live in, but if this is the kind of art it’s inspiring, it can’t be that bad, can it?
Put these on your playlist: ‘How Did This Happen?!’, ‘Gyrate’, ‘Bookmarks’
Years & Years – Palo Santo
Olly Alexander and co. have come a long way since Years & Years barrelled onto the pop scene three years ago – evolving from teeny-bopper chart music to required listening for fans of queer pop and fledgeling icons in the LGBT community. As frontman and all round face of the band, Alexander clearly took the reins on this album, resulting in a record that manages to both mature past the tinkling yet ineffectual tropical pop on their debut, and serve as a multi-faceted confessional for Alexander’s experiences as an openly gay man. “Enemies are tryna catch up,” he sings on bubbly electropop number ‘Karma’, “but no one’s gonna fuck with my love.” This might as well be a summary of the record’s intentions – Alexander is now out, proud, and here to stay in the pop scene. Switching steadily between upbeat, radio-friendly pop numbers and slower, sparsely-instrumented songs, Years & Years are gearing up to take flight as a force to be reckoned with in pop music – and are all ready to soar.
Palo Santo does not shy away from sexuality unlike its predecessor – the title itself even translates to “holy wood”, a tongue-in-cheek phallic reference – and it is on the strength of Alexander’s clear passion and connection to his music and lyrics that the record succeeds. Unlike the vague, enigmatic lyrics on 2015’s Communion, which often made no sense and hid Alexander’s real intentions from the world, Palo Santo invites listeners to get to know him instead; to feel the euphoric love and searing sadness that courses through both the music and the man. Alexander speaks of jealousy and vulnerability on songs like stripped-back ballad ‘Lucky Escape’ and the darkly atmospheric title track – “Do I look good in this position just like him?” he asks unashamedly on ‘Palo Santo’ – and, on the other side of the coin, of romantic infatuation on ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Hypnotised’. Pop hasn’t felt this authentic in so long. Let’s hope Years & Years set an example for all who follow.
Put these on your playlist: ‘All For You’, ‘Lucky Escape’, ‘Rendezvous’
Husky Loops – Good As Gold
This 20-minute mixtape from one of London’s strongest contenders on the alternative scene isn’t exactly an album, but certainly feels like a proof of concept for incredibly ambitious future projects. The Italian-born, London-based three-piece have been making the rounds in the underground circuit touting their uniquely abrasive brand of art rock, but Good As Gold sees them turn their focus to hip hop and RnB instead. Jam-packed with collaborations across genres, from summer jam ‘All Love Goes’ featuring avant-garde pop wizard Count Counsellor, to the brutally distorted backbeats on ‘Machine Demon’, Good As Gold is a melting pot overflowing with talent, and older fans would, I imagine, be very much inclined to forgive their unexpected change in musical direction.
The only track on the mixtape that remotely resembles their older output is lead single ‘Daft’, a pulsating, bitter exploration of selfishness and its role in the power dynamics of a relationship. “I want your love back to make it mine,” croons frontman Pier Danio Forni, disarmingly backed by a twisted choral echo, before the project’s standout track ‘Get Your Back Leanin’’ kicks in. Aided by the insane flow of emerging American rapper Mother MaryGold, the track serves as proof that Husky Loops are not playing with fire by foraying into hip hop – if anything, they feel right at home. Showcasing both Forni’s skills as a producer and the trio’s collective musical versatility, you could say that the mixtape has earned its title. It is, most definitely, good as gold.
Put these on your playlist: ‘Get Your Back Leanin’’, ‘Good As Gold’, ‘All Love Goes’
Leon Vynehall – Nothing Is Still
If I had to describe this record in one word, it would be: “tremulous”. Leon Vynehall’s debut record is a concept album whose music never stops moving, whether it’s making waves with sweeping oeuvres full of classical violins and pianos, or whether it simmers down to nothing but a wave of gently thrumming electronic frequencies. Based on the story of his grandparents’ seven-day transatlantic odyssey from Southampton to Brooklyn, which was only revealed to their family after Vynehall’s grandfather passed, the record’s sonic landscapes moves and shifts much like the ocean itself. At times it is calm and majestic, while during others it is choppy and angry; tossed up by seemingly uncontrollable tides. Songs in the latter category are often restless and skittish – the primal, raging rhythms of ‘English Oak (Chapter VII)’ are intermittently calmed by the trembling vibrato of a violin, while ‘Drinking It In Again (Chapter IV)’ is a chaotic mishmash of distant, gurgling jazz saxophones, ominous static, and what sounds like a sample of someone breathing through a diving mouthpiece. Nothing Is Still takes place in a world where everything feels the same, yet some small thing is always out of place; moving or breathing or simply being where it shouldn’t.
The album’s finest moments often appear as examples of the former. Lead single ‘Envelopes (Chapter VI)’ is a gracefully heart-rending composition reminiscent of old RnB tunes, but augmented by Vynehall’s hallmarks of nervous synths and sweeping chordal instrumentation. And at the apex, album opener ‘From The Sea/It Looms (Chapters I & II)’ is a megalith in both name and noise – its processed electronic tones beep and signal endlessly, evoking images of a lighthouse on the rocks, or perhaps sonar pulses picking up underwater objects. As the track swells to a crescendo, even though the record is only just getting started, Vynehall’s genius is apparent. The producer has made what is a thoroughly visual album, seen entirely through the imagination and consolidated through the record’s accompanying short films, through sound and sampling alone. This entirely wordless feat of experimental electronica is more personal than any poem or letter – on this record, his grandparents’ impressive journey is your journey; their story is now open to you. Make sure you experience it to the fullest.
Put these on your playlist: ‘English Oak (Chapter VII)’, ‘From The Sea/It Looms (Chapters I & II)’, ‘Trouble – Parts I, II, and III (Chapter V)’
Sweaty Palms – Quit Now
Do you like your music raw, energetic, and often sounding like the sonic manifestation of an anxiety attack? Boy, have I got a band for you – Glasgow’s Sweaty Palms have released the album that will fix you right up. Quit Now, their portentously-named debut outing, is a blistering mile-a-minute record that makes no promises and takes no prisoners. Sure, the record’s cover is only adorned with a single mulch-coloured square; the production so DIY that some tracks sound like they were recorded in the back of a cardboard box. None of that matters. The music scene, to them, is nothing but a fallacy. Quit Now even opens on 54 seconds of pure, unadulterated, screeching noise, described by the band as “the human racket”. It’s a statement, alright – from the first burst of noise, it becomes very clear that the Scottish quartet does not give a single fuck about “making it” on anyone else’s terms.
The remaining ten tracks on the record saunter between furious guitars and vocalist Robbie Houston’s politically-charged yowls, and alternately slow and sleazy licks accompanied by a cacophonous chorus of discordant talking, screaming, or actual singing from the Govanhill Children’s Choir. Despite the washed-out vocals, done to great effect, each song does carry its own separate narrative so distinct that Sweaty Palms might as well have called the record a collection of short stories instead. Third single ‘Transit Paul’ reads like a Damon Albarn creation circa The Great Escape on a bad acid trip, while ‘Kellyanne’ tells the surreal story of a young sex-worker-turned-serial-killer who eventually rises to become the symbol of a proletariat revolution. As for the real world, well, Houston’s got his pen at the ready for us too. ‘Queer Fatwa’ tackles “the slip’n’slide ride down the log flume of extremism” with all the ferocity of a rant by Alex Jones (and the same amount of yelling to boot), while the jangling sneer of ‘Feed Me More’ both documents and demolishes the tides of middle-class vitriol that threatened to overwhelm Glasgow City Council after it was announced that a Lidl would be built in a gentrified part of town. By the time the last despondent drumbeats of ‘Community Crass’ fade away, you’ll be left gasping for air. Sweaty Palms are a wholly unpretentious band – their songs are the opposite of pomp and circumstance; a much-needed return to the basics that feels like a strangely refreshing left hook to the jaw.
Put these on your playlist: ‘Captain of the Rugby Team’, ‘The Illusionist’, ‘Grey Existence’