Gogo Penguin

Man Made Object
Blue Note Recordings

GoGo Penguin expel a beautiful and furious brand of modern jazz that wrestles the listener's ears into submission within a minute of the album's opening 'All Res'. Their technical brilliance is unquestionable. Their sound is recognisable throughout. Their Man Made Object is stern and robust.

The majority of the album feels much like it was forged in the same sessions as their previous award-magnetising venture and the trio's instrumental sound of crisp, wooden drums, deep, rich double bass and elegant, prancing piano perpetually pleases. This style is what has made them and also what currently contains them.

Instead of wandering off into unknown territory, like Herzog's penguin in Encounters at The End of the World, they stick mostly to the feeding grounds they know well. Any signs of straying from the successfully beaten track are found on 'Smarra' where Illingworth's classical key sound is part-exchanged for a rounded synth that's most welcome on its arrival. The group unexpectedly proceeds to build into a wall of distortion and imperfection seldom found elsewhere on the album. Its rawness is enticing, but it brings into question much of what surrounds it. It points inward.

The percussion is extraordinary throughout and the 10-track piece will serve as a great introduction to anyone not familiar with this pulsing northern sound. They may have played relatively safe with their major label debut, but they have played safe inexplicably well.

Joe Mills

GoGo Penguin launch the album at Band on the Wall on 20 and 21 February.

MONEY

SUICIDE SONGS
BELLA UNION

Having released their debut, The Shadow of Heaven, at the crest of a wave of hype, in some quarters they slipped into a pool of Coldplay comparisons. But the Manchester-based self-mythologians Money went away, swallowed a hearty dose of mind-altering substances and the tones of 80s and 90s loosely plucked psychedelic shoegaze, and have returned with enough personal woe to compose an album of Suicide Songs by both name and nature.

It’s hard to avoid referencing ‘Fairytale of New York’ when talking about ‘Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year’, but Shane McGowan and Kirsty McColl have such a solitary stranglehold on festive misanthropy that as Jamie Lee vanquishing his vices it naturally seems deferential. But this doesn’t make it a bad pop song. In fact, quite the opposite; it’s as catchy as they come. Moreover, instead of becoming tangled too irredeemably in the trappings of forgery, it lives up to Lee’s new billing as worldly-wise and weathered ringleader-in-chief, whose existential tragedy merely pays homage to his heroes and heroines of the cultural spotlight.

Lee’s vocal refrains are strained and sighing, graduating from choirboy soliloquies to nasal, gnarly drawls of a dirge for his own funeral, ‘You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides Of The Sky’. All the while, Charlie Cocksedge refines The Edge effects shtick in favour of the clustered yet controlled crescendos (‘Night Came’) enhanced by instrumental diversity such as the stringed dilruba (‘I Am The Lord’), synonymous with the likes of Anton Newcombe, David Bowie et al.

For Money, it’s another album preoccupied with the biggest questions in life and death, this time closer to the edge of the latter and eloquently contrasted with soul-soaring, meaning-driven music.

Ian Pennington

Money launch the new album at the Ritz on 10 February.

Algernon Cornelius

Happiness Mixtape
Self-released

This is the debut mixtape from the Manchester-based producer, Algernon Cornelius. Inspired by J Dilla’s Donuts, this instrumental album draws on influences from 90s beat masters such as Pete Rock, the RZA and DJ Premier. Cornelius has an eclectic taste, sampling as diversely as Pink Floyd, Minnie Riperton and police sirens.

For the most part, this album is a relaxed head-nodder, teaming catchy hooks with funky beats, spliced with samples. Tracks like ‘Blind’, ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’ and ‘Fake Fucks’ are more experimental, with unconventional approaches to sampling and production. ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’ deserves a mention purely on the grounds that it manages to make white noise sound groovy.

Cornelius questions the concept of happiness at the start of the album and returns to this theme at the end with the reflective, piano driven ‘RE: Happiness’, whose style continues into the last track, ‘The Last One’, which features similarly pensive keys, lightened by a skittish beat.

Happiness’s best moments arrive through the upbeat energy of ‘Basketball’, ‘Hare Dog Puppy March’ and the DJ Shadow-esque ‘Axel Grinder’, closely followed by ‘Good Times’, an uplifting riot of brass and beats with a Latin twist. Other highlights are ‘Walker’, with its soulful vocals, addictive riff and nasty bassline, and ‘Desert Sparkle’ for its delicate, twinkling chimes.

Completing the set is the lovely vinyl crackle and emotive, swirling piano of ‘Moon Dance’.

All in all, it’s very impressive for a first release. Definitely one to watch.

Anna Tuck

Arms & Hearts

Set In Stone EP
Self-released

From the very first bar of this EP, as ‘Lost’ starts up, the familiar husky tone of Steve Millar’s voice sends you to another place. Though his voice sounds harsh, it somehow facilitates an incredible feeling of homeliness, being comforted. The bright chords provide a nostalgic, painful happiness in conjunction with the lyrics, which proclaim, “I should just let it go and accept my fate”. But in contrast to previous records, everything takes a slightly more buoyant turn, as he sings, “I’m not lost. I’m just hanging around”.

Comparisons with The Gaslight Anthem have been used repeatedly when reviewing Arms & Hearts, but the reference is unfair. More so, it’s akin to Bruce Springsteen’s combinations of bright chords and a heavy heart. But I wouldn't compare Steve or his work to anything at all. Although evidently in the folk-punk genre often synonymous with the depths of New Jersey, the record in itself is something of its own breed, one I can’t wait to see developed.

This record is the leap between adolescence and adulthood, encompassing every single petrifying accolade that leap may bring. Millar comes into his own through twinges of steel strings, experiments with delay and haunting lyrics. Its downfall is only in a lack of polish at times – pitch errors, timing issues here and there – but this embellishes its raw nature.

Its final lyric particularly resonates: “For every dark day, there's a new tomorrow / Stow your fears, stow your sorrow.”

Sara Louise Tonge