Indie Basement (10/21): the week in classic indie, college rock, and moreThe 20 Best Britpop Albums of 1995

Oh my god it's another insanely massive week for new releases! Will it ever stop? It's hard to really complain with a stacked week like this, so many big bands and albums, apart from where to start listening. I review 11 new albums including Arctic Monkeys, Archers of Loaf's first since 1998, Dry Cleaning, Sloan, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (third album this month), Robyn Hitchcock (ft Johnny Marr, his former Soft Boys bandmates and more), The Soft Pink Truth (Matmos' Drew Daniel), Swedish psych-funk groovers Goat, electronic artist Hagop Tchaparian, '90s survivors Too Much Joy, and Alice Boman. At least half of these deserve Album of the Week status. So can we just declare this week to be Week of the Year?

Over in Notable Releases, Andrew reviews another 11, including Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn, Pinkshift, Wiki, Brutus, and more.

Need more? Lawrence of Felt / Denim fame is back as Mozart Estate, and Orbital and Sleaford Mods have teamed up for a fantastic new single. Plus: John Cale & Weyes Blood together at last, and The Go-Betweens' Robert Forster has a new album on the way.

Be sure to visit the Indie Basement section of the BV shop, that's stocked with vinyl and merch from Pavement, Wet Leg, Parquet Courts, Beach House, Broadcast, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, Talking Heads, Spoon, Lilys, Cocteau Twins, Can, Dinosaur Jr and lots, lots more.

Head below for this week's review overload.


Archers of Loaf album reason in decline

Archers of Loaf - Reason in Decline (Merge)
Older, gentler but no less pissed off, Archers of Loaf are in fine form on their first album since the '90s

Chapel Hill indie rock greats Archers of Loaf have been back together for a decade but it's taken a while to decide they a) wanted to make a new record and to then b) actually do it. Eric Bachmann, Eric Johnson and non-Erics Matt Gentling and Mark Price clearly spent a lot of time thinking about what the first Loaf album in nearly 25 would sound like, and what it wouldn't. “What I really think about going back to the Archers and doing a new record is that the three other members of this band are awesome," says Bachmann. "It’s not about responding to the past or whatever our bullshit legacy is. I just wanted to work with these guys because I knew the chemistry we had and that we still have. I knew that was rare.”

For fans expecting the band who gave us raw-throated rippers Icky Mettle and Vee Vee, the group have somewhat moved away from that sound. Bachman had to get nodes on his vocal chords lasered off in 1999 which, doctor's orders, mandated a gentler singing style, and drummer Mark Price was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome around the same time, both of which added to the band's breakup. It's also made for a gentler new Archers of Loaf album, though that may have happened anyway. People mellow out, it happens! But you can feel that chemistry in Reason in Decline, an album that's just as anthemic and angry as their '90s work, just a little more considered and maybe a little less loud. This is an album born of the last 10 years, the last six in particular, and Bachmann's disgust and disbelief is front and center in indie rock power anthems like "In the Surface Noise," "Misinformation Age," and "Mama Was a War Profiteer." This is a tight, satisfying record -- 10 songs, 35 minutes, no filler and few solos -- and they do deliver at least one classic '90s-style rager with the strident "Screaming Undercover" that gives the album its title. Reason may be in decline but Archers of Loaf are definitely not.

Grab 'Reason in Decline' and other Loaf albums on vinyl


Stumpwork by Dry Cleaning Album Cover 2022

Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork (4AD)
This UK band remain wonderfully weird and hilariously awkward while avoiding the sophomore slump. Also: album cover of the year?

"Should I propose friendship?" Florence Shaw remains wonderfully awkward, documenting terrifyingly mundane personal encounters, on Dry Cleaning's second album. It's a unique style, even within the current world of sprechgesang talk-singers (Yard Act, Protomartyr, etc), that really puts the Dry in Dry Cleaning and made their 2021 debut so special. It also makes follow-ups tricky, but the UK band have avoided Sophomore Slump Syndrome with Stumpwork. While her delivery is mostly the same -- you wouldn't want it to change -- she does let a little more melody enter her vocabulary this time with the occasional "la la" or, on "Don't Press Me," an actual sung chorus, that give listeners a little something more to hang on to. What makes this one work, really, the band have changed things up considerably, music-wise, this time, adding in more keyboards and jangly guitars to their repertoire of angular riffs and motorik komische grooves. It's more strum strum than klang klang. Mostly though, it's still all about Shaw who is still an amazingly keen observer and low-key joke machine, whether examining lust, loss, a trip to the countryside, otters (or the lack of), '90s Big Beat, or the family turtle. "I’ve seen your arse but not your mouth," Shaw notes on "No Shoes For Rain," adding, "That's normal now." Thankfully, nothing is normal in the world of Dry Cleaning.

Get 'Stumpwork' on vinyl


king gizzard changes artwork

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Changes (KGLW)
King Gizzard do a lot two chords across the seven songs on their third album of October

If you haven't been keeping score, Changes is Australian psych overachievers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's fifth studio album of 2023 and third to be released in October. This one has been kicking around for a while, originally planned as the fifth album in their 2017 onslaught, but they weren't happy with it and put it aside. Like with most of their albums, the band implemented a few rules for its creation, namely all the songs use the same chord progression (D major and F# major). "Every track is like a variation on a theme," says KG frontman Stu Mackenzie. "But when the sessions were over, it just never felt done. It was like this idea that was in our heads, but we just couldn’t reach. We just didn’t know yet how to do what we wanted to do.” Five years and a dozen or so albums later they finished it and it's easily the most accessible, fun, and groovy -- funky drumming, lots of flute --  of the three October albums, and if you didn't know the story behind it you might not even realize every song is based around the same two chords. "It’s not necessarily our most complex record," Mackenzie adds, "but every little piece and each sound you hear has been thought about a lot.” Complex is great (see their first LP of October) but there's a lot to be said for simple pleasures, too.

Changes is out 10/28. Pick it up and other King Gizzard albums on vinyl


attachment-Robyn Hitchcock - Shufflemania!

Robyn Hitchcock - Shufflemania! (Tiny Ghost)
With help from Johnny Marr, some former Soft Boys bandmates and more, Robyn has made one of his best albums in ages

I would argue that Robyn Hitchcock has never made a bad record, but Shufflemania!, his 22nd studio album and first in five years, is particularly inspired. Fans may note the title seems to be a nod towards his 1985 album Fegmania! and this album recaptures some of the madcap energy of those Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians albums of the '80s. Made during the pandemic, Robyn recorded the basic tracks on a portastudio and them sent them off to friends to help finish them. Those friends include his former Soft Boys bandmates Kimberley Rew and Morris Windsor, as well as Johnny Marr, The Raconteurs' Brendan Benson, Sean Ono Lennon, Kelley Stoltz, Dr Dog's Eric Slick, and more.

"What is SHUFFLEMANIA!?" Robyn asks for us. "It’s surfing fate, trusting your intuition, and bullfighting with destiny. It’s embracing the random and dancing with it, even when it needs to clean its teeth. It’s probably the most consistent album I’ve made. It’s a party record, with a few solemn moments, as parties are wont to supply."

I don't know if I agree with Robyn that it's his most consistent album but it's remarkably consistent given the way it was made, and not doubt its his best in a long time, a nice mix of his specialties: rave-up rockers, eccentric psych and flat-out gorgeous Beatlesque creations. Robyn is right about it being a party record, though -- Shufflemania! is fun, in addition to being chock-full of memorable songs with great playing and arrangements. As Robyn is fond of saying, groove on, groovers!



Sloan - Steady (Yep Roc)
Thirty years since their debut, Sloan's 13th album finds the band's unique four-songwriter formula still winning the race

So many Sloan album titles are metacommentary on the band, from One Chord to Another to Pretty Together to Parallel Play. And so it is with Steady, their 13th album in 30 years, a nod to their work ethic -- a record every two years or so -- and remarkable consistency. At this point Sloan fans know what they're going to get on a new album from the group's four singer-songwriters -- riff-rockers from Patrick Pentland, clever wordplay and '66-Beatles love via Chris Murphy, sparkling powerpop from Jay Ferguson, and thoughtful world-weary, Dylan-meets-The-Who rambles from Andrew Scott -- but Steady is an especially good batch of tunes with a few surprises, too. Pentland delivers some of his best songs in years with "Scratch the Surface" and the moving "Simply Leaving," and Scott gets into Brian Wilson territory on the lockdown portrait "Close Encounters." Ferguson wins Best in Show, though, with his three contributions, especially the glammy "Dream it All Over Again," but Murphy is not far behind closing the album with another metatextual moment about their career - "Nice Work If You Can Get it."


Arctic Monkeys The Car

Arctic Monkeys - The Car (Domino)
In the words of bassist Nick O'Malley: “It’s definitely not just four people playing indie music any more"

Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys continue to evolve in wonderful surprising ways on their string-laden seventh album, The Car. I reviewed the album elsewhere on the site, and here's a bit of that:

The Car is even more luxuriously loungey than Tranquility Base, trading in synthesizers for an actual string section that surrounds them on nearly all 10 of the album's songs. “Rather than strings on top of rock,” Turner told The Guardian, “I was interested in switching the ‘rock band’ bit on and off.” There are swooping discotheque strings and soulful orchestra hits, but most of The Car is dripping with autumnal violins and cello that ache of regret, heartbreak and melancholy.

Read the whole review here.

Get 'The Car' and other Arctic Monkeys albums on vinyl


soft-pink-truth-Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This album

The Soft Pink Truth - Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? (Thrill Jockey)
Matmos' Drew Daniel attempts to answer the title's question across a sprawling double album of gorgeous, psychedelic disco

“Years ago a friend was DJing in a club and a woman came into the DJ booth and asked ‘is it going to get any deeper than this?,'" says Matmos' Drew Daniel of both the title and inspiration behind his new album as The Soft Pink Truth. "The phrase became a kind of mantra for us. What did she really want? This album was created as an attempt to imagine possible musical responses to her question.”

Working with a host of collaborators -- including Daniel's partner in life and Matmos, MC Schmidt, as well as Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes), Mark Lightcap (Acetone), Jason Willett (Half Japanese), Nate Wooley, Brooks Kossover (Drugdealer), John Berndt and Andrew Bernstein (Horse Lords), and more -- Drew has taken the title phrase every way you possibly could, from philosophical to sexual and everything in between, while also tipping a hat to Arthur Russell and Paradise Garage disco and house. Where Matmos are cerebral, this is music to touch your heart and body; emotional dance grooves, full of killer basslines, four-on-the-floor beats, funky percussion, lush strings and woodwinds, twinkling piano and soulful vocals, plus the kind of touches you learn from being one half of an arty, sample-based duo.

The album's most sublime moment is "La Joie Devant La Mort" which mixes French philosophy with an absolutely killer disco backing -- shades of Roxy Music -- and appropriately grandiose vocals from Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart. Daniel also leans toward psychedelic textures across the board and heads into Tangerine Dream soundbath territory too at times. Whether you're seeking answers or just a good time, this will move you. Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? The answer is yes.


Hagop Tchaparian - Bolts

Hagop Tchaparian - Bolts (Text Records)
Having learned from Four Tet, Hot Chip, Caribou and others, Hagop Tchaparian strikes out on his own with his compelling debut

Hagop Tchaparian used to play in '90s UK punk-pop band Symposium but in the early '00s became obsessed with electronic music. He was soon a regular at London club Fabric and through friends ended up tour managing and doing live sound for Hot Chip in their early days (they named a song on The Warning after him). Around the same time, he also tour managed Four Tet who became an even bigger influence, mentoring him as he began to make his own electronic music. He amassed snippets and beats but kept looking for emotional resonance that would tie them together, which ended up being found sound and field recordings. “I love synthesizers and music gear but there are some sounds that I hear around me as I go about my life that make me sit up and really pay attention," Tchaparian says. "I try to capture as much of them as I can and have used them as the main building blocks of the album. I need music to mean something to me otherwise I'm not as interested. It's a bit like younger days where I would just gravitate to certain inspiration like oxygen - I just really need it.” Bolts is Hagop's debut album, a decade in the making, that's out on Four Tet's Text Records and presents his unique, heady mix of dance music styles -- techno, drum and bass, footwork -- and those ambient field recordings. It's at times dizzying ("Right to Riot"), at times beautiful ("Iceberg"), sometimes both ("Round") but never less than compelling.



Goat - Oh Death (Rocket Recordings)
Sweden's premiere masked Afrobeat-inspired psych-funk group are back with their first album in six years.

In just about every way, Goat's 2016 album, Requiem, felt like the final chapter of the masked Swedish purveyors of skronky psych-funk, and their 2021 rarities comp seemed like the final nail in the coffin. Maybe it was the pandemic or just the inherent boredom of their hometown of Korpilombolo (population 590), but Goat have returned with an all-new album that finds them back from the dead and ready to party. There's no upsetting the apple cart, no New and Improved, just more of what Goat do so well: acid-fried funk set to Afrobeat-inspired grooves, with a healthy dose of Sun Ra and Chic. Oh Death finds Goat back with a vengeance and there are a number of great jams here, like "Do the Dance" which sounds like a lost Bow Wow Wow / Adam & The Ants song from 1981, and flute-and-organ workout "Goatmilk." Rumors of these Swedes demise has been greatly exaggerated but they're happy to dance on their own graves.


too much joy all these fucking feelings

Too Much Joy - All These Fucking Feelings (Propeller Sound Recordings)
Growing old, inelegantly, is right in Too Much Joy's wheelhouse. Their second post-reformation album is a treat.

Too Much Joy were complaining about being old even when they were young in the late '80s. "The Playboy centerfold is younger than me," they noted on a CD bonus track on their breakthrough second album, Son of Sam I Am. Thirty-two years later, now in their '50s, they're still singing about time's unending march and the mess and joy that is their lives. This is the group's second album since reforming in the summer of 2020 and if Mistakes Were Made was the sound of five guys trying to remember how to do this band thing again, All These Fucking Feelings is Too Much Joy back in force, older, maybe wiser, but sounding like themselves. They still know how to write big, anthemic, hooky songs and in addition to the usual punk and power-pop influences, there's a decided Pogues and early-'90s REM vibe going on, though maybe that's just the mandolin that elbows for room amongst the guitars. Too Much Joy are still wiseasses, too, but much of the humor is pointed at themselves this time, and its shot through with a lot of heart, making tracks like "Normal Never Was," "Old Friends Make Me Sad," "I Met a Ghost," and "What Pricks We Were" relatable and replayable.


Alice Boman - The Space Between

Alice Boman - The Space Between (PIAS)
Not your average Scandinavian hushed piano singer-song album -- this will take you into the Cosmos and back

At first blush, Swedish artist Alice Boman's new album sounds like just another hushed folk record. But there is an electronic undercurrent that lifts this out of the church and into the heavens, even before you realize how much Space actually figures into it. Bellowing synths and subtle, glitchy production touches gives ballads like "Honey" an otherworldly quality, while "What Happens to the Heart" and Perfume Genius duet "Feels Like a Dream" are celestial enough, with warm synth pads and twinkling chimes, to be used in Carl Sagan's '70/'80s PBS series Cosmos. But it's the songs that edge toward dance music, or at least have more of a beat, that really achieve liftoff. "Soon" is melancholic but rides on a lightly funky beat, while "Where to Put the Pain" is the real standout with an elliptical piano figure and snappy rhythm that recalls Sebastien Tellier's "La Ritournelle" while exploring entirely different emotions. The album closes with another understated stunner, the title track, that floats on layers of etherial guitar, keyboards and Alice's harmonies and, by the end, has softly placed you back on earth.


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The 20 Best Britpop Albums of 1995