April was a peculiar month for music. It saw the first-ever Record Store Day postponement; something totally unthinkable in January. April also witnessed a swell of artists and labels deferring their new releases till later in the year, making for a month of frantic release date jiggery-pokery. All this in the wake of you-know-what and I need not mention the name. Music was, of course, the least of anyone’s concerns throughout April. That said, music is good for the mind and soul and, mercifully, plenty of great releases still made it out the closed shop doors to offer crumbs of comfort for those of us that depend on it.
We’ve collated 10 of the best for you to cast aspersions over and tell us what we missed or got wrong. Alternatively, you might find a new record that you love. In any event, here are 10 of the Best rocking our stereo* in April.
[editor note: *Stereo? Alright, grandad!]
BC Camplight – Shortly After Takeoff
Starting with the best way to spend 20 quid during April’s lockdown, BC Camplight’s final album in the so-called 'Manchester Trilogy' examines mental illness in squeamish detail and with a welcome openness. In the hands of a lesser artist, this album might have been a car crash. In the creative talons of Brian Christinzio, Shortly After Takeoff is an anxiety-ridden masterpiece. If it all sounds a little glum for you at this point, don't despair. Christinzio has the Midas touch when turning bleak muses upside-down. His glum self-examination is wry and witty; he is, after all, an adopted Brit.
The Buttertones - Jazzhound
Our 10 of the Best modus operandi is for fans to discover a new album or artist. We aren’t just lording it with all the music we know. With this in mind, check out the Buttertones. Go ahead. Like, now. Listen to the first three tracks of new album Jazzhound and I’ll wait here till you’re done...
Well? Wasn’t it marvellous? In any event, I love the Buttertones and have done since their Gravedigging album of 2017 and if you don’t agree with me by now then I’m done helping you. Their vibrant mashup of tangy surf rock and twitchy psychobilly hasn’t scratched my itch for the ghoulish stuff since the demise of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. New album Jazzhound doesn’t alter their tried and true formula much, though does totally misguide people on what they’re getting with an album called Jazzhound alongside that sort of retro Blue Note sleeve artwork.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - Viscerals
Seasoned hard rockers will get the hump with me for saying this, but Viscerals is the best heavy rock album by a British band in a long time. Calm yourself! The world is just a fabrication, this opinion really means diddly! Significantly, Pigs x7 have now found the sweet spot. They have the driving riffs that radio DJ’s like (and all Dad’s probably) but don’t compromise their progressive psych origins. The songs still careen and straggle different rock sub-genres, and riffs are reassuringly pulverising too, but there is an undeniable approachability to Viscerals that has not been there before. Pigs x7 have had a few goes at it now and with Viscerals, they have totally nailed it.
SURE - 20 Years
There is an increasing number of great artists out there now that doff their cap to the better side of ‘80s electronica; Body of Light, Tempers, TR/ST, Riki, Black Marble, Choir Boy, the list is endless really. SURE are of a similar origin, but where some ‘80s influenced bands sound like they are trying to recreate the ‘80s, SURE are only afflicted by it. They aren’t bound by it. ‘80s cold wave electronica is their education but they are firmly a modern band and 20 Years demonstrates what an ‘80’s obsession sounds like when melded with modern post-punk and electro-pop sensibilities. Sounds gooood.
Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes - What Kinda Music
On the face of it, two very different vibes confluence on What Kinda Music: Tom Misch, known for making soul-driven pop music and Yussef Dayes, known as an important figure in UK jazz. The pair do have a connection, however, having known each other since childhood. Honestly, it isn’t an experiment that would usually pique my interest either. I can see your grimace from here. I don’t listen to much (any) pop and jazz is a lie. I was pleasantly surprised to find that What Kinda Music was seriously enjoyable. The multi-disciplines on show make for a fluid, lazily flowing record that glides through avant-garde jazz (not the messy stuff), choice hip-hop and sleek and clever pop music. A great record to enjoy in the recent sunshine we’ve been having that has gone by the time you read this.
Elephant Tree - Habits
When I heard this album's lead single ‘Birds’ for the first time, Elephant Tree were a new name to me. But not a new band as it goes. Habits is in fact the group's third album, following their debut album Theia in 2014 and eponymous 2016 album Elephant Tree. ‘Bird’ certainly sets the tone for Habits and I would urge all followers of our recommendations to check out this track if nothing else. You are busy people after all, I know. If you love it, you’ll find the album follows suit. Habits is a wonderfully euphoric progressive doom-metal record. If either of ‘progressive’ or ‘metal’, ‘doom’ even, put you off, fight the urge. Hearing is believing.
Do Nothing - Zero Dollar Bill
Do Nothing has been a much talked about indie band for some time now. They’re dossing around the likes of LIFE and Sports Team in that kind of slacker-student alt indie-punk thing that’s going on. In April, the hype came to a head with the release of the Nottingham foursome’s debut EP, Zero Dollar Bill. Honestly, I think the band have better to come, which is a really weird thing to say about a record in your top 10 feature. But it’s a compliment really. Zero Dollar Bill is a solid five-track EP and displays a group full of ideas with pocketsful of potential. But I suspect the debut album, whenever it comes, will be on a different level. Watch this space.
Why Bonnie - Voice Box
It’s another EP. What, they still count! Voice Box is a wonderfully melodious collection of songs that flew way under the radar in April. Released on Fat Possum, Voice Box brings together Americana, twee dream pop and fizzing indie rock for the band’s third EP, all spearheaded by Blair Howerton’s vivid songwriting. If you’re a fan of languid and hazy, female-fronted indie-pop with an Americana edge, think Squirrel Flower or Alvvays, Why Bonnie could be the best thing you didn’t hear in April.
The Strokes - The New Abnormal
An admission: I don’t honestly care too much for The Strokes – never have. But their sixth album The New Abnormal had to make this list by virtue of the surrounding hubbub alone. Though received mostly favourably by larger publications, they’re still ever the Marmite band on social media. The jury still looks to be out on The New Abnormal – are they playing indie-for-payday at this stage or still providing important creativity? I know what I think, but as our biggest seller in the shop this month it cannot be ignored and is probably an album you should at least give a courtesy listen.
Flat Worms - Antarctica
Sure, we didn’t rate the latest Flat Worms album especially highly recently. It was a middling rock record on the whole. However, 10 of the Best is just as much about highlighting important artists as is it about recommending top albums in isolation. In this respect, Flat Worms are a band that any garage-head should be aware of. I’m also sure that Antarctica sounds better to a newbie follower than those who anticipated the album for too long and had maybe pinned unrealistic expectations on it (I.e., me). In addition, Antarctica features the best garage rock single of 2020 in ‘Market Forces’ and is worth a dip for that alone.