Akron/Family - Sub Verses (****)
On seventh album Sub Verses, Akron/Family again manage to sound both formidably outré yet instinctively graspable. No Room is a brooding beast of an opener; a groove-based colossus that stretches itself over the best part of seven minutes, all rippling tom rolls and ever-thickening walls of noise. Way Up follows, its multi-part vocals dancing atop brutish thuds of distortion to create one of the record’s most striking couplings.
Its hard-edged beauty then gracefully collapses into Until the Morning’s soulful psych-folk concoction, which in turn segues to the hectic bustle of Sand Talk – and so on, through still ambience (Sometimes 1), discordant squalls (Holy Boredom) and played-straight doo-wop (When I Was Young). This restlessly contrastive aesthetic delivers bulk brilliance, imaginatively weaving through disparate realms; never so sharply as to shake off those clinging on by fingernails and good faith alone, but vigorously enough to ensure it’s a stimulating journey throughout.
Collar Up - Ghosts (***)
Initially, Edinburgh trio Collar Up’s second album seems impeded by its unwavering melancholia, the overall impression one of over-earnestness and hand-me-down dream-pop sounds. Then – gradually, entirely – it clicks, Ghosts proving itself far more than just pretty piano playing and oodles of reverb.
The quiet grandeur of tracks like Tonight demonstrate an un-showy expertise, while the lyrical bite of Jam Jar Full of Wasps hints at a heated undercurrent easy to miss on first pass. Vocally, band-leader Stephen McLaren sets targets his larynx is only barely up to hitting, but his soft tones are affectingly expressive, matched to an atmospheric wash of dolorous piano and guitar melodies. And what’s more, it’s not as po-faced as first feared either, as evidenced by the existential musings of Every Man for Himself – a song in which the narrator meets his 8-year-old self playing footie, ponders the passing of time, and then promptly gets nutmegged by the jumped-up doppelganger.
Out 13th May
eagleowl - this silent year (****)
The family of birds known as eagle owls (easily identifiable by their ear tufts) are notoriously elusive, spending most of their time roosting out of sight. The group of Edinburgh-based musicians known as eagleowl (easily identifiable by their penchant for slow, sad sounds in the Low/Smog mould) also have a habit of keeping quiet, with this silent year unhurriedly arriving eight years after the band’s formation.
Not that the interceding years have been entirely silent, of course, with EPs confidently marking their territory and ensuring their debut long-player is backed by the full weight of their maturing talents – a long-game strategy that’s borne exceptional results.
From the imposing expanse of Too Late in the Day to the stately Eagleowl Versus Woodpigeon (a messy match in the bird world but an unspeakably beautiful pairing in the musical one), the band have assembled something enduring and elegant – not so much a birdie as a hole in one.
Out 13th May