Album reviews: Mother Tongue a candid, unflinching record of birth and motherly love
THERE are strong echoes of Bowie's Blackstar in Mother Tongue's pivotal track Your Name. Yet where Bowie's coded message was of departure, Rebekka Karijord is documenting an arrival, that of a child, in the most candid fashion. "This is a riot of blood and steel," she sings, "bending me open, violently". Unflinchingly this record chronicles childbirth and the early months of motherhood, but here is the crux: Karijord's daughter is three months premature. She is "light as a feather", a mesmerised but afraid Karijord observes. Karijord, who was born in Norway, but lives in Sweden, has the emotional heft and directness behind her delivery that makes the narrative of helplessness and maternal love within these songs strike the listener hard. A bold, brilliant record, cinematic, in keeping with Karijord's career as a writer of music for films, the story has a happy ending too.
LONDON-born ambient music-maker Toph Taylor swaps his adopted Vienna home for California to bring a beautiful, but punchy sophomore effort with a softening, soulful edge. Rennen (German for "run") is the follow-up to 2014's Tremors and sees the former Lana Del Rey producer hanging out with film stars – Resident Evil's Milla Jovovich directs and stars in the video for single Conrad. A strong West Coast vibe punctuates much of this eclectic feast of electronica, which is infused with Taylor's harmonious, yet raw, vocals. Some, like Signal, are sundrenched like a chilled-out LA sunset on the beach. Others, like Conrad and album opener Hard Liquor, are the soundtrack to an early-hours car cruise through Hollywood's dark soul. Either way, it shatters the drabness of January with emotion and pulsing energy.
America's Velvet Glory
A BIT grungy, but with sunny riffs and cranked, hasty chords that anxiously rock, roll and tumble towards squeaky crescendos, America's Velvet Glory is fine indie with a 60s and 70s gloss to it. However, after a while, The Molochs – singer-songwriter Lucas Fitzsimons and guitarist and organist Ryan Foster – can come across as slightly whiny, particularly on the protracted, grumbling That's The Trouble With You. However, things pick up on the nostalgic, carefree The One I Love – it feels like you ought to be listening to it on a jukebox while drinking milkshakes and eating fries, ultimate-American-teen style. No Control has a country twang, while New York swaggers funkily, with more than a few hints of Courtney Barnett's blunt delivery. These boys are worth keeping an eye on.
THE latest offering from indie rock outfit Menace Beach falters into life, but once going, it never looks like stopping. "Why do you only sing about death?" singer Ryan Needham asks, but far from being an album that leaves you feeling introspective, this gets the blood pumping. Sentimental is two and a half minutes of snare driven grunge that will be a favourite with live audiences, while Can't Get A Haircut, a song that notes, "You can't get a haircut if you ain't got no hair", brings to mind indie rockers Pavement. Lemon Memory is the sound of a band that has found its space, and exploits it well.
James McArthur And The Head Gardeners
NOT to be confused with X Factor winner James Arthur, or the Scottish footballer of the same name, Welsh-born folk musician James McArthur is back with another collection of mellow tunes. Burnt Moth is the follow-up to Strange Readings From The Weather Station, and is layered with whimsy and laid-back strumming. The strings on What The Day Holds are beautiful, while To Do has an olde-worlde charm to it, and Lonely Oak has easy, relaxed vibe. It won't set you alight, but it's rather lovely at times all the same.