Frankie Rose

Cage Tropical

It would be easy to describe Cage Tropical, the newest album by Frankie Rose, as another slice of the eternal roast that is the 80s revival. That would oversimplify an album that takes a minimum of elements from that decade’s music. A better approach would be to admit that as time and tide erode us all, small gems created from the pressures of growing up come to light.

Keeping in line with a seaside analogy, Cage Tropical would be akin to a North Californian beach. Let’s say Morro Bay: early morning, misty atmosphere, slightly comforting. In the cyclical hiss of the surf breaking, you find a rhythm. That’s what ‘Trouble’, the lead single, feels like. A dash of Kraut droning, joyful synths and sweeping atmospheres make for a succinct declaration, a meeting of the past and future in just under five minutes.

The tides will wash up tracks that warm up the foggy morning. ‘Dancing Down The Hall’ is a cold, calculating arrow to the heart, while ‘Cage Tropical’ conveys a fluffier version of The Cure. The introspective ‘Red Museum’ fills the soul with an overwhelming sensation of catharsis. The little instrumental that follows it, ‘Epic Slack’, is like the exhaustion you feel after a fit of anger.

Frankie Rose’s music receives another patina with each release. These accumulated layers yield a hue of washed-out colours, a vintage style that only the wisdom of years can bring. Let the waves continue to erode this lonely beachside.

Sam J. Valdés López

Robbie Thompson

Between the Industry and the Green

As member of much-travelled collective The Buffalo Skinners, Robbie Thompson is one part of a whole who spend their time traversing folk, rock, blues and country with a Yorkshire grounding. In his solo work, however, he takes several steps back from the Skinners’ full-bodied, rumbling storytelling and instead uses songs to pick out moments, giving them room to breathe.

Recorded with Colin Elliot at Yellow Arch, Between the Industry and the Green is a document of songs he's written to date outside the band, rather than a purpose-written and self-contained collection. There's no beginning, middle and end narrative, but rather singular confessional snapshots of a wider picture. It's stripped back to bare bones, with just voice, guitar and the occasional drifting violin.

Thompson's vocals are striking, a very old voice bristling with fresh emotion. It comes to life on 'I Wonder Now More Than Ever’, an introspective track that plays and replays self-doubt. The swelling lyrical repetition is part of the sentiment, endless wondering about inevitability and contradictions. "As it throws right to left, is it better just to let it?" he asks, of going against the natural tides of things.

'That's How You Look to Me' is a poetic song about the resilience of feeling in hostile environments. Similarly, 'Grand Shoreham Hotel' is simply melodic with the creeping warmth of a folk song. It's about a fondness for meeting places and how things never stay the same for long. Like the whole album, it's truly open ended, expressing nearly every feeling at once.

It makes sense that an album of this nature – the collected work of years – should be so textured, exploratory and magnetically inconclusive.

Lucy Holt

Christopher Hawkins

Silent Conversations

Christopher Hawkins released Silent Conversations after what is now a legendary performance in his home city of Sheffield at the much acclaimed Yellow Arch Studios. Using classical instruments, this two-year culmination of enchanting melody and experimental chemistry has ended with a splendid work of art which not only makes a lasting impression, but is also fresh and enjoyably different to other forms of music.

Taking us back to traditional sounds requires a love for the pure and distilled ingredients of music. As the album is paying homage to the roots of modern sounds, with renditions and variations of centuries-old echoing chants, a justice has been done when it comes to representing the sense of awe and mystery in sacred music. This choirboy from Ecclesall has grown up to be a proficiently inventive musician and composer.

The album was initially written for piano, but soon evolved into arrangements that made ample room for the colour of flutes, violins and classical guitar. But this is no full-on flurry of notated synchronicity. It's more of a gentle rise and fall in a tidal estuary.

The 22-track album moves gently, capturing an enigmatic sensation of floating slowly through Dali-esque landscapes. Track titles like ‘In The Hills’ and ‘The Embrace’ provide gravity in their prompts. This album comprises moments of musical clarity, poised remarkably in neatly arranged snippets of time, the space taken up by sound.

Rowan Blair Colver

Esther Joy

Psychic Tears

From the very beginning of Psychic Tears, singer, songwriter and producer Esther Joy provides multiple layers of sound to get lost in.

Opening with a highly textural intro track, with vibes not dissimilar to those of Swedish ambient duo Carbon Based Lifeforms, the ebb and flow of this wholly electronic EP is immediately given warmth and life which demands attention and bodily movement. 'Franke' kicks things straight into gear, a dynamically and rhythmically varied track which showcases Joy's skill in mixing atmosphere with movement, melancholy with excitement. It's a gothic dance track, made to get black-clad bodies moving.

Esther's voice throughout Psychic Tears is simple but engaging, aided by a great knack for melodies that match similar strengths in the synthetic aural backdrop. There are clear cues taken from the despondent edge of 80s synthpop throughout this release, the downbeat side of modern rave maniacs Crystal Castles also coming through strongly, especially on the pitch-shifted double vocals of the excellent 'Samgel'. Dense bass throbs permeate throughout Psychic Tears, made to wobble through big, bassy sound systems and vibrate into the dark souls of their audience.

'Wealth' and 'Friendless Necessity' are more understated than their predecessors, the former returning to the ambient techno influences hinted at in the opening track and the latter a twisted lament, warped into the shape of a subversive club anthem. Neither stand out as much as the earlier tracks, but round things out nicely.

There is not much here in terms of quantity, meaning that in some ways the EP feels like it's over before it's really begun. However, this is a blueprint that points to exciting possibilities for expansion in the future. Esther Joy lures you in with strong hooks which reveal beyond them a rich tapestry of reverberating pop sounds, hewn from what is really quite a small and conventional palette of tones. The overall effect is that of an accessible, tuneful release with a sobering, darker undercurrent. It's a winning formula.

Richard Spencer

Gogol Bordello

Seekers and Finders

Gogol Bordello have carved out their place as a unique musical experience for almost 20 years through non-stop touring and a constant stream of new material.

Most bands would have burned out years ago, relying on the quirky genre to get them by. Thankfully, Gogol are not most bands. Seekers and Finders sees new elements in their writing create a diverse collection of songs and a well-balanced album. The opening track, ‘Did It All’, wastes no time introducing the eclectic instrumentation of their seventh record. From female backing melodies to reggae elements and Romanian string arrangements, the classic Gogol sound is refreshed and reintroduced.

From here you are propelled into a mad wonderland, taken through genre-defying soundscapes, erratic storytelling and multilingual vocal melodies. Each song represents an element of life in the Gogol clan and the album’s diversity could be due to the fact it was written everywhere from Latin America to Eastern Europe.

New single, ‘Walking on the Burning Coal’, sees a darker, heavier side of Gogol bring the punk element back to the gypsy sound. The title track sees a female lead vocal introduce the dramatic and enticing number, until opening up into a duet with frontman Eugene Hütz. ‘Familia Bonfireball’ sees more of the high-energy sound we expect, but breaks into something fit for a shootout scene in a western, while ‘Love Gangsters’ sounds like the weirdest Bond theme ever.

Gogol aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but they play to their strengths perfectly and provide new elements of progression. They prove they’re masters of the craft, able to grow while refusing to be constricted by their recognisable sound. This is a band that makes records full of songs to connect to at live shows and this is the perfect soundtrack. Seven albums deep, the merry band of gypsy punks deliver diverse and playful snapshots of transcontinental life.

Lewis Budden

The Sherlocks

Live For The Moment

Dust off your Converse, the noughties are back in the shape of The Sherlocks.

Their debut album, Live For The Moment, is a doff of the cap to the likes of The Courteeners. It's energetic and dancy, yet entirely predictable. The album is littered with cliches about the pursuit of girls on dancefloors and taking on the world. That's fine though. I don't think The Sherlocks are gunning for the Noble Prize in Literature. They just want to get the mosh pit started like at Leeds 2009.

Kiaran Crook's vocals are drenched in distortion for the catchy 'Escapade', a powerful tale of the working class spending their wages on a not-so-classy night out in Barnsley. The title track is upbeat and bass-driven, with a pounding chorus backed by ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. The guitar riffs jag and cut, filling each and every vocal gap to great effect. This is especially evident on 'Nobody Knows'. In fact, much of the album is at the same booming tempo and level, with the exceptions of the more sombre 'Motions' and 'Turn The Clock', which show the band taking their foot off the gas.

The Sherlocks are doing something right – touring the UK relentlessly, playing at Glastonbury and getting recognition from Steve Lamacq. In essence though, this is 'music by numbers' in much the same way that Catfish & The Bottlemen were before them, but unfortunately it's lacking the same cheeky likeability.

In an NME interview earlier this year, The Sherlocks declared that they could become “the pioneers of guitar music”. It's fair to say that they were wrong. Very wrong.

Will Hitchmough