The Filthy Tongues
As veterans of the indie rock scene, Martin Metcalfe, Derek Kelly and Fin Wilson enjoyed a lengthy workhorse career as Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, but despite a cult following in their native Scotland they were best known as the band that catapulted vocalist Shirley Manson into Butch Vig’s band Garbage. After hooking up with American singer Stacey Chavis for two albums as Isa & the Filthy Tongues, the trio finally unveil their dark and moody debut Jacob’s Ladder, as Isa takes a timeout. Described by Metcalfe as “pleasingly grotty and more than a bit gothic. All based around a dark neo-feudal Edinburgh”, the album certainly owes more than a tip of the hat to songwriter Nick Cave, the dark narrative influence of the punk-blues overlord, and the swagger of his Bad Seeds can certainly be heard throughout the eight brooding tracks. Like a rabid mongrel of Cave’s Henry’s Dream and Alabama 3’s theme for The Sopranos, the title track is a grand and prowling lament to the darker side of their home city, and is just but one of the albums many gritty highlights.
This is What the Truth Feels Like
Other than a brief reunion with ska-punk poppers No Doubt and a quick turn on the judgmental talent show The Voice, it’s been a pretty quiet musical decade for ageless popstar Gwen Stefani. Following last year’s messy split from Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, there’s little question that Naughty, Me Without You and Used to Love You, the lead single from her third solo album This is What the Truth Feels Like all take inspiration from the break up of her 13-year marriage. But despite its emotional content and brutally honest lyrics (“I thought I was the best thing that ever happened to you. I thought you loved me the most”... ouch!) Used to Love You is a powerful 1980s teen pop anthem and demonstrates Stefani still has the knack of penning a catchy hook. Mixing glossy electro pop with the reggae-lite swagger of No Doubt, TIWTTFL certainly focuses the heartache and showcases the singers ballsy vocals, but its overreliance on poppy love songs feels more like a grasp for mass appeal.
From his humble beginnings as a James Brown impersonator, it’s certainly been a lengthy struggle for the 67-year-old soul singer Charles Bradley, but now five years on from his debut release on revivalist label Daptone Records, his third album Changes should finally bring him his just desserts. It always felt like Bradley was taking a heartfelt look back at the R&B heyday of the 1960s, but while Changes is far from a massive leap into the unknown, it certainly sees the so-called “Screaming Eagle of Soul” now dictating his own path. The funk groove laid down by the accomplished Daptone musicians leaves ample space for Bradley’s huge dynamic voice to hog the spotlight once again, and rightly so, it’s an electrifying instrument that can switch from a spine-tingling shriek (the driving boogie of Ain’t it a Sin) to smooth seduction (Nobody But You) quite effortlessly, but this feels more like a tight group effort. Despite all the big rasping choruses, it’s the restrained title track that really shines, Bradley transforming Black Sabbath’s piano ballad into a modern soul classic.
30th Century Records
Marking the first release on Danger Mouse’s new 30th Century Records imprint, the third album from post-punk shoegazers Autolux sees the Californian trio continue on their beautifully downbeat journey towards a skewed dystopia of electronica. But it’s not just Brian Burton’s groovy swagger that influences the darker digital direction on Pussy’s Dead, their first album in six years. Produced by Boots (Run the Jewels, FKA Twigs, Beyoncé), the dark textured beats ring with a crisp freshness, taking a step away from their lo-fi Sonic Youth vibe, and allowing the dextrous tub-thumping skills of the fabulous Carla Azar to really drive the album. Jack White certainly knew what he was doing when he hand-picked Azar to join his Peacocks backing band for his Blunderbuss album and tour, and her off-kilter hip-hop rhythms (Becker, Hamster Suite) make up for the albums’ lack of sweeping melodies. The unsettling glitchy beats of Junk for Code and lead single Soft Scene bring to mind Thom Yorke’s Atoms of Peace, but Pussy’s Dead is the sound of Autolux truly finding themselves.