The New Cue #66 September 17: Saint Etienne, Richard Fearless, Courtney Barnett, Lone, The Lathums, Maxïmo Park, Khruangbin, CASisDEAD, Lindsey Buckingham
17 September, 2021
Oi oi, who’s this in your inbox on a Friday morning? It’s the Recommender edition of The New Cue isn’t it, because you signed up to us so please bin that letter you’ve started writing to the Data Protection Agency. We are your friends.
Today we’ve got two mindblower selections, an introducing piece with Hamish Hawk and a raft - a bloody raft! - of new music picks for you to check out. You might have checked them out already, we know you’re cool. Here’s a playlist to listen whilst you read:
Before we crack on, a reminder: this is the last free Friday edition. From next week, only paying subscribers will receive our Recommender newsletters. If you’ve been into it over the past six months and not yet subscribed, it costs £5 a month and you can do it with a little clicking action on the button below. Mull it over. Subscribers will get two New Cues every week all to themselves and that could be you, too. On Monday, we’re back with the first of a two-part Kevin Rowland interview all about Dexys’ unexpected return next year, their plans for a rebooted Too Rye Ay and some surprise bonus news, too…
Enjoy the edition,
Ted, Niall, Chris
An Album To Blow Your Mind #1
As selected by Khruangbin’s Laura Lee: frenetic Bulgarian folk and gypsy jazz.
Ivo Papasov & His Bulgarian Wedding Band
Orpheus Ascending (1989)
“I went on a digital music fast over COVID so I was listening to at least one different vinyl record a day, like a record that I wouldn't normally listen to. My landlord's dad was a world music DJ in LA and he had like 8000 records that were sitting in a barn near where I live so I got to go get a box a week from there. It was really awesome. This is actually not that obscure if you know this music, but it’s a record people should be turned on to and it’s Ivo Papasov & His Bulgarian Wedding Band, Orpheus Ascending. I love that record. It’s shreddy, but it feels really joyous to me. I was stuck at home, like everyone, and it was a record that really took me somewhere I hadn't been in a long time. I haven’t made my way through the rest of the records in the barn yet, not even close, but I have the coolest landlords ever to bring me those.”
I’m currently averaging three to four listens a day on the new Saint Etienne album that was released last Friday. I’ve always been a sucker for the band’s loving fetishisation of pop’s past, from their Saint Etienne Presents… series of compilations to Bob Stanley’s masterful history of popular music Yeah Yeah Yeah. On I’ve Been Trying To Tell You though, they’ve delved into an era I didn’t much care for at the time and have had little interest in revisiting since - late ‘90s UK chart pop. Well, more fool me. Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs have managed to turn samples from the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, Samantha Mumba, The Lighthouse Family and Honeyz (remember them?) into a beatific drift of slow mo, liquid loveliness and I cannot get enough of it.
There’s an accompanying film, too, which at the time of writing I’ve yet to see, but given the band’s high strike rate on making films too (check out A London Trilogy, which collects their collaborations with director Paul Kelly if you can) looks very promising indeed..
As one half of Death In Vegas, Richard Fearless made some of the most deliciously malevolent electro music of the past 25 years. Fittingly then, Fearless’ latest solo release isn’t so much of a pool of blissful nostalgia as it is a tsunami of pulsating dread. Our Acid House is 15 minutes long, doesn’t really get going until the seven minute mark and then pulls you under into a suffocating murk of unease. It’s brilliant. Fearless has a new album inspired by the “Ballardian landscape” and fucked up psycho-geography surrounding his studio in London’s docklands out in November. Bring on the bad trip vibes and heavy techno noise.
Producer/DJ Lone’s last release this year, Mouth Of God, swam in similarly dark waters to Our Acid House. Out this week via Greco-Roman, Realise finds Matt Cutler back on the more loved-up ground he used to occupy. It’s a twinkling, soothing balm of a listen - all balearic good times and waves of watching the sunset contentment. Just the tonic when you’ve been sat in your flat for what feels like a decade.
Since she first emerged in 2012, Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett has consistently been one of my favourite songwriters. Her knack for alchemising the mundane into the heart-wrenching is second to none for me. Depreston from her 2015 debut Sometime I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit is one of my all time favourite songs - a masterclass in minutiae and empathy that over countless listens has never failed to knock me for six.
It’s no surprise, then, that I was very happy to hear that Barnett will be back with a new album in November. Taken from it, Before You Gotta Go is a prime example of what I love about Barnett as a writer. The lyrics take the form of a voicemail left to her partner after an argument and while it’s outwardly everyday stuff (“you don’t have to slam the door”) is saturated with a gentle kindness and affection that can squish the stoniest of hearts. Plus the video is great too. Stick with it, it get’s progressively more surreal…
Very much into Stand Firm, the first excerpt from Figure Of Speech’s self-titled debut album. Figure Of Speech is a Bristol-based rapper of Mancunian extraction and, as he sets forth early on, his record is an ‘anti-racist album’, the idea of which first came to him in 2020 after performing one of his poems in reaction to George Floyd’s murder. Inspired by the theme, he hooked up with local DJ and producer Boca 45 to further explore the racism he witnesses in contemporary Britain across a set of short bursts of verse, the best example of which is Stand Firm. It combines old-school, Native Tongues-styled hip hop with Speech’s poetic fury. The single is out now, the album is due in October.
Park Assist is the first new single in three years from the mysterious, masked North London rapper CASisDEAD and it’s another brilliant blast of future-is-now hip hop that picks up where his previous Pat Earrings left off in 2018, all spookily smooth, space-age synths and CASisDEAD’s imposing rhymes of menace and self-knowledge layered over the top. La Roux provides a soulful cameo at the song’s end, although she appears to be murdered in the video’s closing moments. Very excited about the long promised full CASisDEAD album which is due…soon, apparently. For more clues, head to the best artist website in music.
Park Assist can be viewed here:
Lindsey Buckingham’s eponymous first solo album in a decade is also his first music since his much-disputed did-he-jump-or-was-he-pushed exit from Fleetwood Mac in 2018. Buckingham will be 72 in a few weeks, but when you have this much supressed indignant fury up your sleeve you too could sound like an artist half your age who has a very urgent message to convey. Shorn of his vocal foils and sometime lightning rods Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, Buckingham’s multi-layered, cascading guitars fall like sharpened blades all around his tales of wronged longing here. It’s a lovely record filled with a real sense of despair. As a freelancer working from my kitchen table who has just finished a decent commission but with nothing on the horizon other than a looming sense of dread about whether my last work will pass muster, I can totally sympathise. It’s got that vibe. My vibe. Enjoy your weekend with it.
As much as I miss being a man about town, sniffing the breeze, pretending the trains are running late so I can fit in a quick pint, working from home does have its benefits. 1/ I can have a bacon sandwich every day for lunch, sometimes bacon and egg, except when my wife was off work and she forced me to have something different every day. 2/ Shorts every day from May-October, those aren’t my rules, they’re just the rules that I made up. 3/ soaking up sounds that wouldn’t have previously made it into my listening schedule. Take the new single from New York trio Wet: Clementine is the sort of delightfully drifting electronic pop that probably wouldn’t have fit into my listening schedule when commuting (I was listening to neo-classical on the train darling, or old Smashing Pumpkins B-sides) and probably would have passed me by if we’d put it on the office stereo. But sitting here at home, asking the cat if it’s too early to have lunch, it’s perfect. So that’s something. It’s taken from their new record Letter Blue, out on AWAL at the end of October.
The Lathums look set to join that cluster of band of the people-type groups, like Courteeners and Blossoms and Gerry Cinnamon, artists that people in London turn their noses up at because they weren’t on the bill at a festival in a pub in Hackney Wick whilst up north they’re playing mega-gigs to crowds of adoring thousands. The quartet are young but sound old beyond their years in the sweetest of ways. This new single I’ll Get By, taken from a debut album that’s out later this month, has the pleasing acoustic shuffle of Paul Heaton in breezy mode. It’s been produced by The Coral’s James Skelly, too.
Tricky is marking the relaunch of his label False Idols with a new record next month. He’s not doing it under his own name, though. Instead, the self-titled record is coming out under the Lonely Guest handle. That’s because the album, put together during lockdown, is basically Tricky & Friends but he’s probably saving that title for the pantomime that he should definitely do one day. It’s an excellent record, featuring contributions from Murkage Dave, Marta, Paul Smith, the late Lee “Scratch” Perry and more. This is one of its lead singles, a creeping, restrained electronic rock number with IDLES’ Joe Talbot teaming up with Tricky and Marta on vocal duties.
I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far from shoegazing disciples Bleach Lab. The London quartet’s new single Talk It Out is the sort of dreamy indie-pop where on first listen you don’t really think anything happens and then that little voice in your head, let’s just pretend it’s Huw Edwards’ voice to help you visualise it, starts saying, “that was good, let’s listen to it again Niall” so you do, four times in a row, each listen better than the last. Shall I stop talking now?
Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself
Say hello to your new favourite artist
Name: Hamish Hawk
A Brief History: Edinburgh singer-songwriter Hawk started writing songs in his teens and got his breakthrough after handing a CD-R of his music to King Creosote after putting a show by the Fife artist whilst at university in St. Andrews. Creosote, aka Fence Collective ringleader Kenny Anderson, encouraged him to beef up his sparse sound with a backing band and the more elaborate sonics allow Hawk’s way with a tale to flourish. His new album, Heavy Elevator, was produced by his co-manager, Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones.
He Says: “Heavy Elevator reads like my diary. The songs are a record of a particular period in my life in which I felt like I was trying harder than ever to move up, or forge ahead in some way or other, and yet felt simultaneously like I was regressing. When I listen to the record, I can hear the numerous discontents that were eating away at me, some of which I’ve abandoned, others not quite so successfully. I don’t set out to write songs on a particular topic, I let the inspiration take me wherever it wants me to go.”
We Say: This is arch, playful indie-pop with one eyebrow raised and the other one winking. Pretty impressive skill when you think about it. Hawk’s captivating croon is at the centre of these songs, lending just the right amount of theatrics to his lyrical wit, the shrill guitar licks and pulsing rhythms keeping the tracks in check whilst the singer hogs the limelight.
For Fans Of: Richard Hawley, The Divine Comedy, Orange Juice
An Album To Blow Your Mind #2
As chosen by Maxïmo Park frontman Paul Smith, the only record from cult Scottish indie-rockers.
Life Without Buildings
Any Other City (2001)
”I’ve heaped effusive praise upon Any Other City by Life Without Buildings before, and I see no good reason not to do so again. Thanks to a bizarre TikTok trend that I can’t explain because I’m too old, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the band, and yet, their one and only album remains below the radar. Perhaps that’s to be expected, since Sue Tompkins’ unique vocals are genuinely unusual and the songs contain many subtleties that bear repeat listens before revealing themselves. And yet… this romantic record is truly joyful, brimming with the essence of life; ultra-melodic, and in thrall to the mysteries of pop music. The band are tight and economical, allowing Tompkins’ freeform approach to ebb and flow, somehow in complete unison with the music while remaining discordant and spontaneous. There’s a genuine wonder in her voice, beguiled by the world we live in, processing it through her own interests and experiences. Who is Juno? Where is the red villa? Did she really just namecheck ‘Days’ by Television? What is it like “to be a lover in the winter”?
I must confess I was confused the first time I heard it, in my friend Sarah’s student bedroom. I asked myself, ’Is this even singing?!’ On reflection, any music that forces you to question what it is, while also being completely thrilling, is worth persevering with, like Beefheart, or MBV (also namechecked on the album); Meredith Monk or Minutemen - everyone will have their own epiphanies. Time has not dulled its appeal. The memory of witnessing their live show, at Northumbria University, supporting Hefner, has now faded, apart from the image of Sue Tompkins surrounded by discarded sheets of paper displaying her typed lyrics. But the simple, clean production (a band of Glasgow art students in a room in Hamilton) has left this album untainted by fashions and fads - a gleaming jewel buried in the musical landscape. Go and unearth it!”
Bob Mortimer on the time he acted as Jarvis Cocker’s solicitor after the Pulp man invaded the stage and wiggled his bum during Michael Jackson’s performance at the Brits.
“Michael Jackson’s entourage locked Jarvis in… it was like a Portakabin. His mate said that they’ve arrested Jarvis Cocker, so I went over. It wasn’t British policemen, it was Jackson’s henchmen. So I got a copper and said “I’m a solicitor acting on behalf of Jarvis Cocker and I’d like to see my client”. I went in and said, “What the fuck’s happened here?” and I remember him looking up at me and saying, “Bob, I showed me bottom to Michael Jackson”. The police were very nice, they said “Look Mr Mortimer, is it all right if we arrest him and then just release him just to put an end to this?””