I sat down to type this week's feature with a troubled mind; I had just learned that Mick Hucknall was to receive a lifetime award from The Radio Academy. If that bombshell wasn't enough, the same news article plowed in further with small artillery, informing me that over his career the singer has also earned three Brit Awards and two Ivor Novellos.
"What's the point?" I thought. "In a world of such horror and injustice, doesn't rounding up the week's best new album streams seem almost...trivial? Useless, in the face of this all-encompassing evil?" It was something I thought long and hard about, the Radio Academy chairman's opinion on Hucknall - a "true legend of British music" - sitting at the eye of this brain storm. "NO!" I shouted to my cat, "We need new music now more than ever. We must get over this national tragedy, make do, and mend." To help with the healing process, here are eight albums that appeared online this week.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND! ASCEND! (The Guardian)
No doubt you already know the drill - four tracks over fifty minutes, post-rock de rigueur, tracks made up of strings and drones and other spooky noises to accompany the opening scenes of desolation in 28 Days Later - except it's all new! And all very, very good.
The Mohawk Lodge - Damaged Goods(Exclaim!)
Damaged Goods was conceived by Mohawk Lodge frontman Ryde Havdale during a long sojourn alone in the woods; however, because he's a Canadian who does these things all the time, he returned not with a collection of introspective folk songs, but with red-blooded anthemic rock in a Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus vein, albeit from the Great White North.
Daphni - Jiaolong (Soundcloud)
Dan Snaith of Caribou provides this corrective to "the EDM barfsplosion currently gripping the corporate ravesters" (his words, not mine) in the form of Jiaolong, a straight-up, unpretentious club banger with enough horn samples, vocal offcuts, and breakbeats - and enough brains - to earn it as much acclaim from MOJO as Mixmag.
Vessel - Order of Noise (Resident Advisor)
Bristol-based Vessel, meanwhile, picks up the ball of her hometown heritage and runs with it, dragging EDM into areas stranger and scarier than even Portishead or Tricky managed. It's an album that is so focused on atmosphere and texture, at times it seems like its barely there; pay attention, though, and there are darkly dubby delights to be found.
Tall Ships - Everything Touching (The 405)
It's taken them bloody long enough, but Tall Ships have finally brought their debut LP into harbour. And it's bloody fantastic - as our own Tom Walters writes, "the crunchy, sugar-sweet hooks that these guys craft with their repetitive riffage and synchronous synths" will be permanently ingrained in your memory ('Vessles' is still their best song, mind).
Martha Wainwright - Come Home To Mama(NPR)
All to often introduced as daughter of Loudon, sister of Rufus - see, I just did it too! - Martha Wainwright's latest outing is one that could break out of that rut; with motherhood on her mind, she focuses her typically confessional lyrics on both her new-born son and the loss of her mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle, making Come To Mama a diverse album, echoed in the varied alt-roc/folk arrangements. 'Proserpina', the last song McGarrigle wrote, is heartbreaking; and one-ups Martha's song to her father, which was lovingly titled 'Bloody Motherfucking Asshole'.
Ben Gibbard (The 405)
When you've just broken up, you seek solace in the comfortably familiar: so, when the indie marriage of the decade crumbled, Zooey Deschanel took the titular manic pixie dream girl role in post-post-9/11 sitcom New Girl, and Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard has made a solo album of contemplative songs about relationships and sadness. In the process, he's also made one of his most upbeat, accessible records of his career (outside of the Postal Service), so I guess people can still surprise you.
Jason Lytle - Department of Disappearing (NPR)
The former (and once more?) Grandaddy frontman continues to pretend Grandaddy aren't a solo project in all but name, by releasing an album under his own name. Got that? Department of Disappearing has all Lytle's trademark slacker guitar sounds and robotic bleep-bloops, but as Derek Robertson points out, the now happily-married and country-living Lytle has replaced "sadness and melancholy" with "quiet optimism and satisfaction", without losing that sweet sound.
If you find any good album streams this week, Tweet me @tennis_everyone. But please don't abuse me like Rick Edwards once did.