Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile

Lotta Sea Lice

Lotta Sea Lice, the first collaborative project from indie rocker Kurt Vile and acclaimed new-comer Courtney Barnett, is a welcome addition to the long discography of the former and an important next step in the burgeoning career of the latter.

Although perhaps not the most harmonious duo in theory – Vile’s trademark lyrical style is hazy and rambling, whilst Barnett’s gift is for acute observation in anecdotal form – surprisingly the two sound made to accompany one another, brought together under the kind of wandering guitar melodies reminiscent of Neil Young.

Listening to this guitar-heavy album feels more like sitting in on a jam session between close friends reunited after time apart, the tone casual, almost conversational but without slipping into carelessness. Despite charming odes to the joys of long-distance friendship like on 'Continental Breakfast', or the emblematic covering by Barnett of Vile’s song 'Peepin’ Tomboy', here renamed 'Peepin’ Tom', the album is primarily about the act of making music itself.

Tracks like 'Over Everything' and 'Let It Go' see the two trading notes on their own approaches to writing, and most others, like 'On Script', still orbit the subject. But despite the inherent meta quality, these songs refuse to get lost in the tedious kind of hip, postmodern backslapping you might expect. Instead, in an era of pop culture which could be accused of being overly cynical, the album is refreshingly sincere without becoming clichéd.

Liam Casey

Call Super

Arpo

Three years on from his debut with Fabric offshoot Houndstooth, Call Super returns with his second LP, no mean feat given his hectic global touring schedule. Like a voyage into space, Joe Seaton explores light and dark and stumbles across some unexpected gems on his way. In an interview earlier this year with Resident Advisor, Heaton explained that he gets things done by adhering to a strict schedule, working throughout the day. That daytime brightness is evident in this album, which has the depth and intensity of techno but without its sometimes sinister darkness.

A brief, brassy introduction leaves you begging for more, but the warmth and depth of ‘Korals’ is where the exploration really begins. With harder and bassier sounds on ‘OK Werkmeister’, the challenges of the investigation really come into play as Call Super exits the atmosphere. Tracks four to six are calm and sparkly, like a relaxing star gaze. The album builds throughout with a fast-paced, youthful curiosity. Peculiarly titled, ‘I Look Like I Look In A Tinfoil Mirror’ strikes you as the pinnacle of the story, like orbiting a planet before firing up the engines and heading back through ‘Trokel’ and ‘Out To Rust’.

Houndstooth hail themselves as a label which encourages its collaborators to be part of a family, but Call Super’s work feels more like the result of his own tremendous creativity and vivid imagination. Heaton’s return to Sheffield is much anticipated and is starting to feel overdue.

Jennifer Martino

James Ewan Tait

Everything, Loads, All The Time, Forever

An enigmatic old hand on the Sheffield indie circuit, it's surprising that Everything, Loads, All The Time, Forever is James Ewan Tait's debut recording proper. Led largely by soft and bluesy electric guitar licks, Tait's unmistakable croon immediately brings to mind the late, great Jeff Buckley, and there is also a degree of musical similarity in his combination of sombre and meaningful tones with a relaxed and cheerful air shining through. Simple basslines and hints of soft organ back up Tait's deeply personal delivery and his vocal range is impressive, keeping his performance consistently interesting. Like all the best vocalists, Tait allows his voice to become strained and cracked with emotion as he reaches the highs and lows of expression.

'Portrait' provides the most dynamic variation, deploying trumpet, organ and backing vocals in soulful crescendos which show Tait's ability to elevate what could be very typical singer-songwriter style tracks. There are more than a few hints to another great, Johnny Cash, particularly on 'Peace in the Dark', a track where the vocals are given an even greater spotlight, owing to Tait stripping the track back to acoustic guitar and voice alone (and a track whose title cannot be coincidentally named after Sheffield's annual Peak District rave).

'Hippie Shakedown' is a ragged, rousing end with an unsettled undercurrent, complete with handclaps and staccato piano lines to get people moving, proving beyond doubt that Tait can master the whole spectrum of honest emotion.

Richard Spencer

Mzylkypop

When Will The Wolves Howl?

Before hearing a single note of this record my expectations were of theatrics, atmosphere and a political message. When Will The Wolves Howl?, or 'Kiedy Wilki Zawyja?' in Polish, is the brainchild of veteran local musician Michael Ward and is far from anything else you’re likely to hear this year.

Described as a vision of a dystopian, far-right England in 2030, and showing support for immigrant communities by refraining from using solely English lyrics, this was always guaranteed to be a powerful album. Add to that a diverse array of genres, along with the musical sophistication and professionalism of seasoned musicians, and you are presented with a psychedelic stroke of genius.  

While almost every track draws influence from a different style – from screeching sax and the irregular patterns of psych to more of a Tarantino soundtrack vibe – this doesn’t distract from the running narrative presented by vocalist Sylwia Drwal, who switches between English and Polish. The tone of her singing and speaking voices alters and adapts during each track, giving symmetry to the ferocity or subtlety of the vintage instruments in the background. There’s something for everybody here and it remains exciting and interesting throughout without losing its coherency.

In an era when Brexit remains up in the air, this album is perfectly pertinent, if not a little close to the bone, as summed up by the opening lyrics: “This story was born in my imagination – but it could come true.”

Tasha Franek

Spinning Coin

Permo

Glasgow's underground scene is soon to be rumbled with a new record by five-piece band Spinning Coin, comprised of Sean Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Jack Mellin (vocals, guitar), Cal Donnelly (bass), Rachel Taylor (vocals, keyboards) and Chris White (drums). Released on 10 November, the band's first album, Permo, shows just how hard they have worked to get their music out into the world.

The album is packed full of their unique sound, built up since 2014 and mixed with more experimental elements. Recorded with Edwyn Collins at AED Studios, Permo offers 14 new tracks, all of which cover new ground for the band. Exploration of the relationships between culture and society run through these tracks, making them accessible and relatable to any listener.

Opener 'Raining On Hope Street', released on 7" earlier this year, reflects frontman Armstrong's claim that he wanted to write something "slightly spooky, ambiguous and open to interpretation." A theme of self-empowerment also runs through the album, such as on 'Powerful'.

Spinning Coin's sound can be described as alternative, indie, maybe even avant-garde, but one thing is for sure, Permo represents the band’s new sound in a positive light. With their trademark close harmonies and the larger messages on this record, it's made by the people, for the people. One small step at a time, Spinning Coin are finding ways to move forward musically, socially and artistically.

Alex Burns