Delays singer Greg Gilbert has died, it has been confirmed.

The vocalist formed the indie band alongside his brother, Aaron Gilbert, with Delays enjoying early success with such singles as ‘Nearer Than Heaven’.

A wonderful singer blessed with incredible range, he powered Delays’ excellent debut album ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’.

In all, the band released four albums, before the group went on hiatus in 2010.

Greg Gilbert was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2016, undergoing extensive treatment.

Remaining on social media, his positive outlook was a genuine inspiration to fans, maintaining a connection throughout his treatment.

Taking off cancer treatment earlier this year, news of Greg Gilbert’s passing was confirmed a few moments ago.

In a statement on social media, brother Aaron Gilbert said Greg died “surrounded in the endless love that us and all of you have given him on this journey…”

“He was my brother, and my best friend,” he writes, “and it was the greatest honour to be with him as he took one last gentle breath before leaving us.”

‘Busy Busy People’ is the second album from CHILDCARE, following their 2019 debut ‘Wabi Sabi’. Whereas ‘Wabi Sabi’ was deeply focused on wellbeing and introspection, ‘Busy Busy People’ is its infectious and dizzingly energetic counterpart – as the title suggests. (CHILDCARE are Ian Cares, Rich LeGate, Emma Topolski and David Dyson).

We spoke to CHILDCARE’s frontman about how the quartet pushed themselves further on this record, where their unusual lyrics come from and how they go about working together on song lyrics.

For guitarist Rich’s birthday, Ian got them some tickets to an all night Gong Bath meditation session in West London, which took place at a church. The night inspired the first single (‘Karaoke Mantra’) to be taken from their new album, ‘Busy Busy People’ (“So I tried something weird at the weekend / A kind of pyjama bath”). “It’s just about my experience there really. We had a funny time.”

‘Busy Busy People’ was recorded over a year ago so the band are ecstatic to be sharing their new material with fans. “Yeah, it’s great,” Ian says. “It’s been a long process to get here. Even working out what the album’s about and what the artwork should be… that took quite a few months. It’s felt like a long process, so I’m really pleased that people can hear it.”

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Recording their second offering at a recording studio in Somerset was “fun” but definitely not relaxing, because they were working so hard. “We worked with a producer called Dom Monks, who we hadn’t worked with before. He really wanted to capture us live. He’d seen some of our Maida Vale sessions that we’d done… He saw that we could play and wanted to – in his words – he didn’t just want to make a ‘Pro Tools record’, metronomic tracks… [lay the] drums then, you do the bass and the guitar…you wanted to get the feel of a band in the room at the same time. So for a lot of the tracks, we were all in the room and I sang my vocals at the same time you know, we do a few takes, then we do a few more takes. It was a slightly more old fashioned way of doing things, but meant that you get a lot of life recording that way – a bit more energy,” Ian explains.

The end result was more raw sounding than usual. “You have to also be more OK with, and accepting, of your own mistakes, because they have to be allowed to be in. You can’t get too sucked into really finely editing everything. And so that was quite good, quite a learning process for us. It was great. It was enjoyable… and we learned a lot.”

Their quirkiness is what appeals but, although the tracks are pretty much always fun, there are darker themes lurking in the lyrics. “What we do…what I do, lyrically, is I try to talk about, and hint at, the anxieties, the uncertainties, the surrealness of life that’s bubbling under but I do that using everyday objects. Food comes up a lot in the album.” We can confirm that this is true as there are references to rhubarbs, jelly, orange juice and more scattered throughout the album.

There’s no doubt that CHILDCARE lyrics are relatable. He continues, “I use commonplace things as a way for people to latch on to and get in. And then, because you’re not used to hearing those everyday things – or those everyday references – to foods… I guess that catches your ear. Once you listen, you start to realise how the lyrical objects are positioned in relation to one another. It can give a certain sense of unease and confusion and surreality, which you’re kind of feeling in some way or another.”

‘Busy Busy People’ was never intended to be a continuation of ‘Wabi Sabi’ in the sense that it is a separate entity in its own right, so it’s almost impossible to compare the two. However, one thing Ian has noticed is that his songwriting is coming into its own more on this second album. “I feel like I’m starting to get my lyrical signature a little bit more on this album that maybe I hadn’t developed as fully on ‘Wabi Sabi’.”

Meanwhile, Emma’s vocals feature more heavily on this record, which isn’t something the band had planned to do. It just, sort of, happened organically. “We used everyone’s voices. And we used our voices in a range of styles and more talking stuff on this album, so I suppose we were generally pushing the boundaries of what we could offer in terms of using our voices. I suppose one of the natural outcomes of that will be Emma’s voice features more than before. I mean, she’s obviously a great singer so we want to use that, ” Ian explains.

We can’t help but ask… why exactly is there a song about Gok Wan on the album? “There just is,” Ian quips. It’s the only one we know of. “I would hope so,” Ian replies. “He must have popped up somewhere and he must have been on my mind. is true. I think he’s a good guy. I like him.” When it comes to songwriting, the band work together and give Ian feedback on the lyrics he writes. “Everyone offers their feedback on what I’ve written and what they like and don’t like about it. I write something, take it to the band, and we work out but there’s all these little strands of collaboration that are going on throughout.”

CHILDCARE will be on tour in January 2022 and they are remaining tight-lipped on the surprises they have in store for us. Their last show, in 2019, was at London’s Scala and saw them perform choreographed dances to ‘Sugarcane’. “We’re working out a few things that are going to make it interesting as we have done in the past. I don’t want to give too much away. But it will be good. It’ll be a good show.”

But, first,they must prepare for these live shows as it has been a little while since they have been on stage together. As Ian says, “Remembering how to play our instruments. I guess that’s what’s next.”

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CHILDCARE’s new album ‘Busy Busy People’ is out now.

Words: Narzra Ahmed

Photo Credit: Tom Ham

Wrabel has always been obsessed with songwriting, with the subtle machinery that lies under some classic works.

It’s the movement from chord to chord that draws him in, the way a melody will glide in-between those notes, to express something inexpressible.

Debut album ‘these words are all for you’ is the pinnacle of his journey so far, a journey that incorporates high-profile collaborations – he’s written for Celeste, amongst others – and his deepest feelings.

Album highlight ‘pale blue dot’ is about learning to put things into perspective, a song about fragility, and learning to move past it.

With a string of UK shows lined up, we’re able to share a neat performance clip, featuring Wrabel seated at the piano.

A tender, touching rendition, it seems to tap into the song’s inherent frailties – tune in now.

Catch Wrabel at the following shows:

February

14 Glasgow King Tuts

15 Manchester Deaf Institute

17 London Colours Hoxton

The Snuts were on an upward trajectory when the pandemic broke out last year. Having just released their ‘Mixtape’ EP to critical acclaim, they were also about to embark on a UK tour, and complete work on their debut album, when everything stopped.

But the resourceful West Lothian alternative band showed how to turn a bad situation into a positive, and they have come out strong. The release of their debut record ‘W.L.’ this year marks a milestone for the group, who just delivered three sold out shows at Glasgow Barrowland following well-received main stage festival slots at Reading and Leeds, TRNSMT and Boardmasters.

Susan Hansen caught the band immediately after their electrifying set at Reading Festival.

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How does it feel to play festivals and live shows again?

Callum: Coming back to live shows is great. The record has been out for five months, it gives fans a chance to digest and get on a level with it. Coming out to gigs, you're feeling that connection again, they've loved and believed in the songs. It gives the record a new lease of life, it’s a good place and creates a nice connection.

Jack: Seeing people jumping again, moshing is fantastic. It's like starting again when you see these crowds. We were used to them before, and now we're seeing them for the first time again, to have people jump around to your music again is an amazing feeling.

Speaking of the record, ‘W.L.’ is doing well. Despite everything that’s happened, you’re having a great year.

Jack: It’s been a blessing in disguise for us because we managed to finish our record, we used other ways to connect with people. We did well with the campaign, there was a togetherness, and people enjoyed getting music during the pandemic.

The song 'No Place I'd Rather Go' is about being together, the feeling in a community, togetherness and being able to play it out for the first time at these shows is humbling for us.

You take inspiration from various genres and influences. How did you achieve such a degree of diversity?

Jack: When we set out to make the record, we thought we were going to be playing jingle jangle guitar music. Once we got into the sessions, we realised there were no rules for this record, we wanted to be open and just see what came out. It was important for our record to put the egos aside, it’s one of the hardest things to do in music, but when you get to the studio you should leave your ego at the door. That's why our record has these different sounds and genres, because we were aware of that.

Callum: Sometimes it was a full band in a room. Sometimes Jack would come and write on his own, and sometimes you were working with Inflo, one of the producers. We had a more than one producer, so every track has a different texture, they added that to the record, it became a melting pot of creative ideas.

Jack: We had no plan for the record, it was about how we were feeling. It was what ended up coming out, especially for a debut, you don't want anything super-conceptual, just passion and music coming together.

Do you feel that guitar music requires a fresh injection of energy?

Jack: Coming to this festival you see kids going crazy for guitar music. It's about trying to work out why that's not translating on the recording side. That's something bands struggle to understand, we were trying to identify what works, what people wanna hear, is there a balance to be reached? It’s popular at festivals, but it isn't reflected in the charts.

Callum: Everybody knows what two guitars, bass, and drum kit sound like, it needs that contemporary spin to bring it into the world that kids are in. Especially, now with streaming services, many other genres flying through the roof, people are into buying records, but it doesn't always translate into streaming. Streaming services need to act responsibly, it’s the way people consume music, but you can't only put one genre at the forefront.

Jack: With our album campaign we were trying to prove our point, it was about putting guitar music back where people can access it. Since we've had a Number 1 Inhaler got a debut Number 1 too, we're going to see more debut albums from guitar bands reaching the top. This year we've had four or five young guitar bands getting a debut number one, it’s important for the scene.

It seems that many rising artists get overlooked..

Jack: it’s got to be looked at in terms of helping new artists, when it comes to being up against giants, you don't have a chance against, and streaming’s heavily connected to that stage, where young bands aren't favoured in their progression. Young musicians could do with more support.

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You got a Number 1 beating Demi Lovato! Describe the mechanics of a battle at the top.

Jack: It was exciting to be part of it. We're too young to know much about Oasis and Blur and their battle. It’s also nice to have something shiny to show for it.

Callum: You don’t realise how mad the internet is until you’ve tried it. Our managers were getting their accounts hacked, these fans are wild. Going up against them becomes personal, it's not just about artists releasing on the same day, you’re standing against their idol.

I was in my bed thinking it's done and woke up as my manager phoned telling me not to open the package that came to my house. It was the number one trophy, because it was so close, we both had a trophy. It meant so much to us, but doubt it meant as much to Demi Lovato. It was our UK Number 1, her fans hated us because we were stopping her. It’s great for Scotland’s contribution to music, nationally and internationally..

Jack: Glasgow has a bustling scene, and Scottish people are super-inspired when they see others do well, seeing Lewis Capaldi achieve success was super-encouraging. When you start creating that encouragement, more people are going to take that leap, and start making music. There are wasted artists in the world, because no one's telling them, they can do it.

Callum: Especially where we're from at school, they don’t teach you that you could actually go into this. They teach you to go into trade, you might work in a warehouse all your life, that’s the reality for many people from where we’re from, so to be able to break out of that – and be a beacon of light and hope for people – is great.

You take inspiration from the Libertines, what was it like to meet them in person?

Callum: For us they’re the greatest ever dudes. People say never meet your heroes, but luckily we played with them, they were the nicest guys. It's been 20 years, and they are still doing great things. They wear their heart on their sleeves, and that’s different to where we’re from.

Jack: They could headline the main stage at this festival, and people would go mad. They're genuine, and their music's genuine.

You played a socially distanced show with them last year, did that feel special?

Jack: It was nice to have done. It was at the beginning of the pandemic, and information was sparse. People just wanted to hear music, we had been without live music for six months at that time. Peter Doherty’s nice.

Callum: Everybody was confused. Everybody thought they were gonna come to a real gig, it was an odd experience, it was unique though. You’re playing, rocking out, you come down, and sit in a booth with Pete Doherty.

Growing up fast, you’re rising to the occasion, what have you learnt so far?

Jack: You should always be writing and commenting, and it should be things that’re happening right around you. You have to be skilled in the guitar world to release music, that's our responsibility as artists, we need to make sure we're making good music.

Whenever we play gigs, they’re super-inclusive, and for everybody. We try to make music that people from any age, background, and area will enjoy. That's what is on our minds.

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'W.L.' is out now.

Photo Credit: Gaz Williamson
Words: Susan Hansen

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Little Boots was part of a wave of electro talent, who looked to pop plasticity and club flexibility as a means to overhaul turgid, monochrome indie.

Arriving in a barrage of hype, Little Boots has managed to navigate the perils of the industry, constructing a devoutly independent decade-long career.

Currently working on her fourth studio album, she recently returned with frisky new single 'Silver Balloons'.

Tapping back into her electro roots, it's a delicious new offering, blessed with a finely contoured chorus.

It's an absolute delight, an upbeat mover that reminds us just why dancefloors have always been so intoxicating.

We're able to share the full video for 'Silver Balloons' and it takes Little Boots back to her home city of Blackpool.

She lives it up in the Northern hub, grabbing some ice cream and strutting her stuff at the pier, while the music – and lights – whirl around her.

Little Boots explains…

"With this record being somewhat of a return to my roots, and with a good part of it being written in my hometown of Blackpool, it felt only natural that we should shoot the video on location there. I wanted to capture that northern chic, seaside glamour feel, of dressing up to go out out out when I was young, while mixing glitz with fish and chips, where the pier boardwalk becomes a catwalk."

"I’ve been wanting to shoot something creative in Blackpool for a long time as I have a special relationship with the town; I wanted to show it from the eyes of someone who has grown up there. We were inspired by Martin Parr’s photography of British seaside towns and wanted to keep it feeling very real, while taking viewers on a magical journey around town, following the silver balloons until they are released into the sky."

Directed by Victoria Hesketh and Luke Glover you can check out 'Silver Balloons' below.

Catch Little Boots at Manchester's Deaf Institute on October 26th, and London's Bethnal Green Working Men's Club on October 28th.

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Parris will release his debut album 'Soaked In Indigo Moonlight'.

The electronic artist grew up in Tottenham and Hackney, two parts of North and East London marked by multi-cultural identities.

Growing up knowing the value of community, Parris' approach to club culture has always sought to foster collaboration.

The producer takes the limelight on this new project, however, with his debut album set to be released on November 19th.

As Parris puts it…

“The only constant truth is change. This is a record about understanding yourself. This is a record about finding the support you trust so you can have the confidence to start building. It is a record about friendship. About hanging out, about skating. This is an album built on Pop, then torn into my thing. Charli XCX, Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean, Kewngface, Digga D, SL, Unknown T, Vince Staples, Lil Peep, Denzel Curry and Emmy the Great: if you’ve known me then you’ve known these are the reverberations in my head. I write music in blue, this album is my indigo. They say only moonlight shows your true reflection, that is the light of this record.”

Excellent new single 'Skater's World' is online now, matching dazzling production finesse against the vocals of Eden Samara.

Tune in now.

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Regular readers will no doubt be comforted by how many publications have recently picked up on issues around vinyl manufacturing, both in terms of timeframe and quality control. It seems that such concerns are becoming rather less niche as delays mount and labels are routinely having to adopt a digital first, physical later strategy.

Don’t be surprised to see increasing numbers of limited cassettes and deluxe CD editions in the tricky months ahead. The excessive demand for the already-at-capacity plants continues to make vinyl purchasing a bit of a minefield right now, so sit back and let Just Played sift through plenty of the current crop for you.

Freshly Pressed:

Saint Etienne’s latest, ‘I’ve Been Trying To Tell You’ is something of a departure from their more recent releases, opting to fully submerge themselves in the bleary pop landscape of several decades ago. Using samples that populated daytime radio during the New Labour era, they paint watercolour washes of times gone by. A woozy, lulling capacity to both ensnare and slightly unsettle the listener makes for a unique record that gradually reveals its charms. The initial uncertainty needs to be ridden out, a process eased by watching the accompanying film of the same name which offers a nostalgic travelogue that glories in homespun beauty.

The murky sample of Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Beauty On The Fire’ which loops through ‘Pond House’ appears to be emitted from a submerged radio – fitting considering the source material’s original video – while elements of the Lighthouse Family and Tasmin Archer may not be quite so obvious to all. From the striking artwork on in, PVC sleeve aside, this is an aesthetic delight. Demand coupled with the current pressing limitations met that, incredibly, different cuts were made via GZ, Optimal and Vinyl Factory. Having sampled the latter’s clear vinyl and Optimal’s black, this column would urge readers towards the second of those. The soundstage felt a little more controlled on that pressing and the clear version had a little bit more surface noise. Most striking, however, was the different space on each side used up, with Optimal favouring much more dead wax than The Vinyl Factory. Whichever variant attracts your cash, and there are a few, this record has true staying power. 

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After the wonderful songwriting of last year’s ‘Unfollow The Rules’, Rufus Wainwright has opted to release a live recording from a concert broadcast during the initial lockdown. Appending ‘The Paramour Sessions’ to its parent album’s title, it draws on those new songs along with several previously unreleased pieces – ‘Treat A Lady’ and ‘Happy Easter’ – and a stately but sparse take on ‘Going To A Town’.

It’s a captivating listen for Wainwright fans, offering some alternative angles from which to view these tracks. Strings are foregrounded with no drummer in sight. ‘Peaceful Afternoon’ is a good starting point if looking to compare these performances with the originals. A clear vinyl disc done through Precision Record Pressing in Canada – an outreach of GZ – it is largely quiet, if a little sibilant closer to the centre. An endearing distraction.

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While her brother opts for a pared down live performance, Martha Wainwright returns with her first studio album in five years, ‘Love Will be Reborn’. Her magnificent voice, rich but raspy, evokes PJ Harvey on ‘Getting Older’ and is offered only hushed support for the raw narrative of ‘Report Card’. With songs reflecting on grief and separation, these are lyrics that simply can’t pass you by. The vinyl cut is fairly dynamic and opens up the instrumentation pleasingly. It’s not the quietest, however, suffering from light surface noise at times. The sleeve states that it was made in the UK, but it’s not entirely clear where. Our best guess would be Diamond Black, but this will have to go down as one of those rare ones that got away.

2018’s ‘Golden Hour’ took Kacey Musgraves to new heights, delivering a true pop breakthrough for the already established country artist. Its follow up, ‘Star-Crossed’, has been highly anticipated as a result and its recent arrival prompted much excitement and the inevitable split of opinions. As another of this month’s featured artists found, the cycle of expectation and disappointment is as strong in music reviewing as it ever was. Already tagged as a divorce album, lyrically exploring the good days and subsequent more problematic ones of a marriage, Musgraves’ latest is largely excellent. Early teaser track ‘Justified’ set a very high bar though.

From the muted intimacy of ‘Camera Roll’ to the auto-tuned reminiscences of ‘Good Wife’, the variety of textures that made its predecessor so appealing is still present and the white Pallas pressing this column sampled sounds wonderful. It’s heartening to see an undeniably mainstream release getting careful approach for this format and the fold out sleeve is an aesthetically pleasing decision. Purchase with confidence.

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As a long-standing Elvis Costello fan, I have come to expect all sorts of curious diversions, live projects and extended reissues. What few will have seen coming, however, is a full re-working of 1978’s storming ‘This Year’s Model’ sung in Spanish by a vast array of current performers atop the remixed and slightly reworked original instrumental masters. By ignoring the not inconsiderable ‘why?’ that hovers over this decision, listeners can enjoy a glorious burst of music that is somehow comfortingly unfamiliar.

Like one of those news stories where someone has a head injury and wakes up speaking a different language, these incredibly well known songs can play on many people’s internal jukeboxes without much effort and the mixing of old and new is a sensory spectacular. ‘(Yo No Quiero Ir A) Chelsea’ and ‘Detonantes’ are particular highlights, but I’ve been genuinely surprised how often I’ve returned to this disc. Manufactured by the still sharp folk at Record Industry, it’s a quiet pressing which sounds excellent. An accompanying remaster of the original ‘This Year’s Model’ has had the same treatment and is also highly recommended. Great fun all round.

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If the instrumental washes in the backdrop of the sublime King Creosote & Jon Hopkins records were to your liking, then a whole album of similarly pastoral ambience awaits with ‘Offworld’ by Cahill//Costello. Guitarist Kevin Daniel Cahill and drummer Graham Costello recorded this immersive, meditative music during a week in the Scottish Highlands last summer. The sounds of nature are evoked with eloquent percussion, while tape loops achieve a hypnotic intensity at times. Mastered and cut by Caspar Sutton-Jones from the peerless Gearbox Records, this Optimal press is as impressively quiet as this music demands.

As your correspondent’s recent review for Clash attested, the latest Manic Street Preachers album is a piano-driven triumph, dabbling in textures of the past and melancholy of the present. Featuring some of their finest songs in many a year, from deceptively buoyant recent single ‘The Secret He Had Missed’ to the gruff ache of ‘Blank Diary Entry’, featuring Mark Lanegan, it is a coherent and beguiling listen. There are a number of vinyl editions out, each playing their part in delivering the band’s first number one album in twenty-three years.

For those who can’t deal with the artwork in a square format, the picture disc edition lops of the corners, while those who find it all too colourful can go for a monochromatic alternative that is exclusive to HMV. A certain substantial online retailer has a yellow version while the far more endearing indies have an edition which contains a bonus 7” of initial teaser track ‘Orwellian’ and its remix by Gwenno. All are cut by Matt Colton at Metropolis and pressed at GZ. The very good news is that this is a much more open and pleasing master than was delivered for last year’s horrific reissue of ‘Gold Against The Soul’ and the music really breathes in this vinyl rendering. It’s the best the band have sounded on wax in an absolute age. The less splendid news is the hit and miss quality control. This column did manage to get an indies edition that cleaned up well and played mostly quietly, but a copy of the HMV edition proved to be scratched and noisy. Purchasers are having mixed experiences, so you may have to be patient to get a good one. Definitely worth the effort, though.

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High Llama Pete Aves has worked with the great and the good down the years, including Lee Hazlewood, Nina Persson and Shirley Collins. Five years on from his last solo effort, ‘Sweet Are The Uses’ features a tribute to a recent collaborator, the late Neil Innes. ‘Muck & Bullets’, the record’s closing track, was one of Innes’ preferred phrases and Aves’ tender vocal affirms his fondness for the legendary Rutle.

Elsewhere on this largely quiet GZ cut, there are strong echoes of Bill Fay’s excellent pair of Deram albums from the early Seventies, take ‘Plenty More Fish In C’ as a particular example. ‘One Hit Wonder Why’ has a belting chorus and winningly wry lyrics, flitting between swaggering riff-rock and aggressively double-tracked spoken word verses. While that is an immediate treat, the album as a whole is a real grower. Free CD with the vinyl too – bargain.

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While a new album from Toyah may not be headline news these days, the good folk at Demon Records have confidently delivered a ‘Space-Grey’ vinyl edition of her latest set, ‘Posh Pop’, and there’s much to enjoy here. The influence of David Bowie abounds, evoking the sounds of ‘Scary Monsters’, ‘The Next Day’ and ‘Blackstar’ at various points. The songs are strong and hooky, Toyah’s voice in fine form as she continues the crowd-pleasing run of form that was so loved during her lockdown videos with husband Robert Fripp. A GZ pressing, it is largely quiet with clearly defined bass and mids. It’s a little lacking in the top end but tracks like ‘Space Dance’ and ‘Barefoot On Mars’ can still impress.

Bristolian funk-soul hip-hop duo The Allergies have developed a loyal following over the past decade, including plenty of 6Music support and rapturous responses to feel-good festival sets. Their latest album ‘Promised Land’ feels slightly ill-served by an October release, so perfectly suited to a sunny day is its ethos. Pressed on translucent pink vinyl via Optimal, this cut has a magnificently precise bass sound and an open, spritely percussive soundstage.

Enhanced by a stash of deftly deployed samples and assisted by live regulars Andy Cooper and Marietta Smith, the core pair of DJ Moneyshot and Rackabeat really know how to build a mood. By the time ‘Move On Baby’ kicks in towards the end of side one, the urge to dance is irresistible. A largely quiet offering which presents a range of sources and layers with clarity and cohesion, this is a little gem to light up the autumn gloom.

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No serious record collection is without at least a few remarkable Mr Bongo reissues. Long established as one of the finest labels for dusting off classic funk, soul and jazz, they also put out new projects and two such titles have just made it into the racks this month. The first, ‘The Globeflower Masters Vol 1’ by Glenn Fallows and Mark Treffel wouldn’t sound out of place alongside some of those vintage triumphs. Taking its cues from Axelrod, Gainsbourg and Morricone amongst others, it has a lavish instrumental library music feel that is pretty immediately inviting. The keys on the record defy gravity, melting in the air before you. If those influences appeal, be sure to give it a listen; ‘Scene In Roma’ is as good a place as any to dip in. Mastered at Finyl Tweek and pressed at Optimal, the vinyl sounds excellent despite the copy we played being very marginally off-centre.

The second new Mr Bongo title is technically a reissue, giving a wider audience to a 2020 College Of Knowledge release by The Pro-Teens’, ‘I Flip My Life Every Time I Fly’. Hailing from Melbourne, this mysterious group features numerous local musicians under slightly grating pseudonyms. Get past the wilfully unrepresentative sleeve and playful nomenclature and you’re left with an infectious, soulful hip-hop record. From Mildlife to Curtis Mayfield, these tracks tap into a rich continuum of trippy funk. ‘Ya Gotta Love This City’ feels like the soundtrack to a lopsided car chase, while ‘Greta Thunberg’ languidly builds upon a stuttering rhythm with some woozy synths. As with Fallows & Treffel, this is a great sounding Optimal pressing and well worth seeking out now that Mr Bongo have given it a wider outing.

While the arrival of the new Lorde record was met with the entirely predictable wave of thinkpieces about how she hadn’t made the album that many felt they deserved, most people missed the marketing initiative that, with a little work, could be the key to solving the vinyl production. The ‘discless format’ of ‘Solar Power’ was some printed matter and a high-resolution download of the music packaged in a cardboard box rather than, apparently, adding to the CD landfill of the future. Well, a similar logic applied to a 12×12 sleeve could spare some pressing plants their current blushes. Like a picture disc without the bits of plastic either side of the paper middle, perhaps. Anyway, we probably shouldn’t give them any ideas.

Despite it also being fairly harmful for the environment, Lorde pressed ahead with several vinyl editions of the album. Orange, grey and blue marble are all out there, but your correspondent opted for the standard black. Pressed at Optimal, the cut allows the vocals to really breathe while the acoustic layers that dominate are resonant and, vinyl cliché alert, warm. Sorry. The textures of ‘California’ are superbly rendered across the soundstage and those still hoping to connect with the record after unsatisfying streaming experiences are advised to let their cartridge lose on this format.

Snap, Crackle & Pop:

As this column has developed, more and more readers have reached out to share their experiences and to ask about specific titles. More than any other before it, the new vinyl edition of Supergrass’ ‘In It For The Money’ has really got people talking. Sadly, I can only confirm what so many have been saying about this LP + 12” set. With many fans having waited years for this high point in the band’s history to finally be back on wax, it is such a shame to drop the stylus on this effort.

The surface noise is fairly constant on the copy Just Played received. It’s a Takt cut which, even after a thorough clean, suffers from frequent crackling, sometimes proving very distracting from the music. And that’s the other issue. Whatever has happened with this latest remaster, there is bass bloat and a lack of dynamic range which makes for a very boomy and fatiguing listen.

The original is no slouch and certainly fast out of the speakers, but it stays nimble and distinct. While some instruments, mainly at the high end, remain precise in this cut, much of the middle range sounds like it’s coming through the wall. It’s an odd listen, with some tracks faring better than others. ‘You Can See Me’ still keeps some punch but ‘Richard III’ is a blunt, ugly noise. The bonus 12” is entirely inessential but the attempt to recreate the textured sleeve is reasonably successful. The 3CD mastering is also quite harsh, meaning that this hugely anticipated reissue is best avoided. So frustrating.

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Going Round Again:

The ongoing programme of Super Furry Animals remasters is one of life’s great delights. Meticulous work on the tapes from Kliph Scurlock has previously delivered glorious soundstages for their first four studio albums and it is now the turn of 2001’s ‘Rings Around The World’, one of their most in demand titles on vinyl. Arguably, the best way to consume this series is via the beautiful CD editions, however, which are well mastered and stuffed with previously unheard bonus material.

The vinyl versions use the new masters but haven’t always been the best pressings. After a diversion to Takt for ‘Guerrilla’, BMG return to GZ for this one. Frustratingly, the discs are housed in the glossy printed paper sleeves which have a habit of leaving paper and glue residue on the discs. After a good clean up, the copy Just Played received sounded fairly quiet and allowed Scurlock’s work to shine, the near title track a particular highlight, but we’re aware of people having issues with noise and edge-warping. – As ever with this type of GZ pressing, you might need to mix and match a couple of copies to get a good set. There’s no bonus 7” like the original, largely superfluous as it was, and side C no longer plays from the inside out. Ultimately, the sound is what matters and, provided you can navigate around the pressing flaws, it’s great.

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The stellar work of the Needle Mythology label has featured in this column before thanks to a combination of exquisite taste and meticulous attention to detail. Such is the case with the reissue of 1995’s ‘Heartworm’ by Whipping Boy. The second of three albums by the Irish rock band, it is widely regarded as their peak. While plenty of the riffs could only have originated in the Nineties, some of the orchestral touches and bombastic layers elevate these songs beyond any particular scene. Start with ‘When We Were Young’ and you’ll surely be back for more, even though the music-buying public weren’t entirely convinced upon its original release, landing once everything was over-saturated and lacking subtlety.

The textures here are nuanced and often dark. It’s an affecting record that will likely find legions of new admirers through this labour of love. The new edition, having licensed everything from Sony, has been remastered by Sean Magee at Abbey Road and features ten additional tracks, comprising demos and b-sides. It sounds predictably fantastic but, such was the excitement from the hardcore at this long-anticipated moment in the spotlight, the vinyl sold out pretty much instantly. However, a repress is on the way. Thanks to current circumstances, it should with you by mid-December. Don’t miss it again.

Long-time readers will be aware of the Travis reissue programme and its latest instalment is possibly the finest to date. Once again cut at Metropolis and pressed via GZ, Craft’s new edition of ‘12 Memories’ sounds fantastic. The bottom end is vivid and defined, letting tracks like ‘The Beautiful Occupation’ and ‘Walking Down The Hill’ breathe in a way that anyone only previously familiar with the digital release will find pretty transformative.

Artwork holds up well against its initial incarnation, although there’s a switch from matt to gloss effect. Although there is a white pressing, this column played the regular black vinyl and it was fairly quiet throughout. Still potent first single ‘Re-Offender’ is a taut and involving listen here, with none of that rather smeary bass it has suffered with in the past. Sonically, this edition holds up well alongside its 2003 release, possibly even surpassing it at points. Still not sure about calling a song ‘Peace The Fuck Out’, mind.

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Listening to Miles Showell’s remarkable half-speed cut of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, it makes perfect sense that Matt Berry was a huge fan of this record growing up. Its Seventies folk-rock bombast, mixed with show-tune primary colours, certainly formed part of the palette from which he has painted his wonderful solo career. His love for this rock opera which, of course, spawned the musical, has helped to ensure a deluxe box set and a vinyl reissue to mark its fiftieth-ish anniversary.

With the involvement of writers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, a full-bodied remaster has managed to maintain the bottom end sound of records from this era and the Abbey Road kit has ensured a sonic marvel. While it may not be an obvious choice, nor an obvious turntable resident for most, it’s a hugely enjoyable listen. There is an online label store exclusive replica edition of the 2LP set which impressively recreates the original fold out sleeve in all of its glorious detail. A mostly very quiet Optimal pressing, it could be a leftfield highlight of your vinyl purchasing year.

The mid-Noughties were awash with ‘The’ bands, all following the definite article with a plural noun when seeking a name. Some of them have aged better than others. Curiously, if you had asked me my thoughts before playing the fifteenth anniversary edition of The Kooks’ ‘Inside In / Inside Out’, I would have recalled it as buoyant, serviceable and occasionally joyous indie pop. From a distance, though, it all feels quite tame now. It’s hard to put your finger on quite why it seems a little thin, but some pretty splendid choruses remain.

This double LP edition is pressed at Optimal and is available in standard black or limited edition red, depending on your persuasion. Playback is largely quiet and the mastering definitely feels more open than on a 2016 cut, although it still feels lacking in bottom end. This is presumably just a case of reflecting the original recording and fans wanting a decent playing copy will be pleased. Things get a little boxed in towards the end of each side and the bonus disc is a curiously sequenced mix of demos, alternative takes and b-sides. Not revelatory, but a marked improvement on the last round of reissues.

At The Front Of The Racks:

With all of the current quality control issues surrounding this beloved format, it is an increasingly common fear that a cherished album won’t receive the vinyl treatment you feel it deserves. Thankfully, every so often, the stars align and something really special lands on your turntable. Such is the case with Domino’s Optimal pressing of the new Villagers album, ‘Fever Dreams’. A sonic tour de force with a keen awareness of the importance of dynamics, it finds Conor O’Brien at his most soulful and it was always going to be quite a demanding album to transfer to vinyl.

The challenge has been met on this glorious pressing, cut at Metropolis. Just Played received the Dinked edition on blue vinyl and with an accompanying flexi-disc, but there are also yellow, red, green and mint variants available alongside a standard black. Whatever colour takes your fancy, it’s the sound that will blow you away. The gradual build of ‘The First Day’ is spellbinding in this format, making it clear early on that this is music which makes the speakers disappear and takes up its own distinct 3D shape in the room before you. The soulful connection of ‘So Simptico’ is rather moving and ‘Fever Dreams’ is as good an argument for why digital recordings cut to vinyl can still be a true delight as anything you’ll find. This is demo standard stuff and a quite sincerely essential purchase.

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All of the titles reviewed above were cleaned before playback using the ultrasonic record cleaning machine, Degritter. A full review of its capabilities can be found in a previous column.

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Words: Gareth James (For more vinyl reviews and turntable shots, follow @JustPlayed on Twitter)

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Arguably one of the most highly anticipated and impactful returns of last year was Potter Payper’s reappearance. Amidst what was a chaotic year, one of British rap’s most respected emcees returned to collect his crown. In a time where “microwave music” has been governing the musical landscape, it’s safe to say we were missing a sense of authenticity, grit, and thought-provoking rap that grips your core. Rejuvenating real rap to a greater place and bringing it back in style, it’s Potter’s hunger and drive that instantly captivates his listener.

Following the release of the ‘Training Day 3’ sequel in 2020, the London native has been reasserting his position in the game over the last 12 months and has gifted supporters with the release of his hotly tipped mixtape entitled, ‘Thanks For Waiting’. Dedicated to his day ones that have been waiting in anticipation since his 2017 hiatus, the artwork pays homage to the long-lasting groundwork they’ve put in with a heart-felt response from Payper: “I never did this for no charts, no radio, none of that means nothing compared to the genuine love and support you all showed me and continue to show me day in, day out”.

Spread across 18 tracks with guest appearances from Unknown T, KO, Rimzee, Digga D, Suspect, Billy Billions, Im CP, M Huncho, NSG, Smurke, Haile, and Tiggs Da Author – this star-studded project is a quality body of work that represents hard work and authenticity, but still houses a fresh and modern flare to what’s considered to be popular music. Featuring pre-released singles 'Catch Up' alongside UK hit-maker M Huncho, and 'Nothing’s Free' with Suspect, we begin to unravel a deeper narrative into Potter Payper’s journey thus far.

Boasting a variety of different beats throughout, it’s clear that this project marks the start of a new chapter for Potter. Continuing to prove his versatility whilst remaining true to his original grit, it’s tracks like 'Eastender' with Unknown T, 'CEO Flow' alongside Rimzee, and 'Take That' with UK hit- maker Digga D that remain true to his style. Offering a slice of feel-good energy in 'Plain Clothes' assisted by NSG, and 'Never' with the prince of hooks AKA Haile, the growth of Potter becomes more prevalent as we get further into the project. Enriched with raw street poetics and refined bars from start to finish, ‘Thanks For Waiting’ is nothing short of lyrical punches.

8/10

Words: Elle Evans

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Historically speaking, Roger Taylor’s voice hasn’t really been heard in isolation. Instead, Taylor’s vocals are most synonymous with the operatic, triumphantly strong backup singing of Queen, the likes of which propelled the band’s arrangements to sonically legendary heights. In fact, most casual fans of Queen’s work wouldn’t be able to discern Taylor’s voice from his bandmates, John Deacon and Brian May, who sang alongside him in an accompanying role. But, outside of Queen, Taylor has established a niche solo career that has enhanced his recognizability in non-Queen settings. On 'Outsider', he continues that tradition in an unobtrusive way, combining common rock and meditatively philosophical ambience to create a decently attractive 12-song collection.

On the 'Gangsters Are Running This World', Taylor not-so-discreetly rebukes the authoritarian leadership of Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, while acknowledging the ever-present COVID-era isolation on the chorus of 'Isolation', during which the line “strange times indeed” is repeated several times.

Elsewhere, Taylor wades through a delightfully introspective arrangement on 'Tides' and slips back into familiar rock structures during the gyrating, rhythmic passages of 'More Kicks (Long Day’s Journey Into Night… Life)'. He also alludes to the process of languishing on 'We’re All Just Trying to Get By' and adds horns to the mix on 'The Clapping Song'.

While well voiced, Taylor’s lyrics can often miss in terms of their salience and poignancy. Oftentimes, Taylor takes straightforward sentiments and expresses them in a manner that is far too casual and conversational. The second verse of 'Outsider', for instance (“There’s a kid that’s twice your size / Always bugging you in class / You’re walking home from school / And he’s hiding in the grass”), isn’t off-putting or disagreeable, but sounds more like an educational limerick than a hard-hitting anecdote in a rock song.

Taylor’s messages are worthwhile ones for sure, but they are, in some cases, put too bluntly to be appealing within their associated musical contexts. This manner of platitudinal dialogue is a staple on the record’s less epic tracks, making them more ephemeral afterthoughts than distinct, powerful appeals to deeply felt emotions.

Overall, Taylor’s offerings on 'Outsider' are familiarly accessible and very direct. It hardly moves mountains as a standalone effort, but is moderately impactful and somewhat befitting of its lofty pandemic-era presentation. There’s no reason 'Outsider' won’t be embraced by Queen fans (and, more broadly, fans of the brand of rock he’s famous for helping to craft), but it isn’t likely to be considered one of the COVID era’s most triumphant or profound releases.

6/10

Words: Hayden Godfrey

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I’m not sure what happened to Andy Bell but recently he has been on a creative roll. In 2014 he reformed Ride, and in 2017 releasing they’re not only their first new material since 1996, but more importantly their most enjoyable album since, well, ‘Nowhere’. Then last year he put out his debut solo album under his own name. If that wasn’t enough, in between this he started releasing music under the GLOK moniker. These recordings were more electronic in nature. As with Ride, Bell took the conventions of a genre and skewed it into something far more interesting. On the surface GLOK feels like a clubby, narcotic project. He utilises the same wall-of-sound mindset that made Ride’s music the force or nature it way, but with synths and drum machines instead of guitars.

The first GLOK album, 2019’s ‘Dissident’, was less of an album and more of a collection of songs Bell had that he wanted to put out. It was Day-Glo kaleidoscopic affair. One foot in the main room, and the other in the back room. The opening track of ‘Pattern Recognition’ definitely feels like this.

Listening to ‘Dirty Hugs’ reminds me of a club I went to on a stag do in Prague. As we were waiting to pay our money and go in, we could faintly hear the beats, and feel the basslines. The nearer we got the clearer the music appears. As we walked about, finding our bearings sounds seeped from the clubs many rooms, creating a discombobulating atmosphere. As we became accustomed to the layout of the venue everything started to make more sense and we started to really enjoy and feel relaxed with the settings. A hulking beat and phasing bassline do a lot of the heavy lifting on ‘Dirty Hugs,’ but this gives Bell a solid foundation to allow melodies to appear, disappear, and reappear throughout. It sets up the album perfectly. Somehow Andy Bell lays his cards on the table, without actually giving anything away. Which in itself is remarkable.

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After listening to ‘Pattern Recognition’ two things immediately jump out at you. Firstly, Bell has brought some friend into the fold. Vocalists Shiarra, Shamon Cassette, Sinead O’Brien and C.A.R. all appear, giving the album some extra textures ‘Dissident’ was missing. Secondly, there appears to be more guitar this time, but it isn’t always obvious. The final third of ‘Dirty Hugs’ is drenched in them. The combination of static electronic sounds and warming guitar tones works incredibly well and brings to mind Hurricane #1’s underrate monster ‘Rising Sign’.

The standout tracks are ‘Maintaining the Machine’ with Sinead O’Brien and ‘Day Three.’ On ‘Maintaining the Machine’ The music is understated, and slow moving, which allows O’Brien to ask philosophical questions, hinting at answers, but lets you come to your own conclusions. The pairing works so well it leaves more questions; namely will Bell appear on O’Brien’s debut album? Given the strength of this, lets hope so. ‘Day Three’ is the most sombre track on the album. Beatless, and slightly psychedelic, here Bell gracefully meanders around, and through, some melodies. Showing that he can create thought provoking music as well as bangers.

The main problem with ‘Pattern Recognition’ is that its too long. Individually the songs work well. Bell orchestrates his thoughts well, but combined they add up to an 80-minute album. At times they drag. Drag might be a harsh word, but my attention starts to wain at times. Take the album’s closer ‘Invocation’ for example. From the start Bell takes his time, building momentum up slowly. Glacial synths, low tempo beats all mix together well, but it’s just not that exciting. When he gets locked into the groove, about five minutes, I look at the time remaining and there is still 10-minutes left. At 15-minutes it is the second longest track on the album. I like how it acts as a bookend to ‘Dirty Hugs.’ Both set the scene well, but ‘Invocation’ doesn’t really add much to the listening experience. The album might have benefitted from ending with the cinematic ‘Day Three.’

Despite its length ‘Patter Recognition’ is a solid album that exhibits how Bell’s song writing has evolved in the past few years. His ability to write for, and work with, different voices feel like something he’s always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity to try. The melodies on ‘Pattern Recognition’ are some of the best he’s ever crafted, and it feels like his strongest album to date, regardless of the project. The album works best when you are in a mindset where you can lose yourself in the hypnotic motifs Bell creates and recognise, and appreciate, the patterns he has created.

8/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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