The Guardian Indie

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice
  1. (Memphis Industries)

    Minneapolis’s Poliça set out their stall on their excellent 2012 debut, Give You the Ghost. With Ryan Olson’s ahead-of-its-time blend of indie, alt-R&B and electronica the perfect foil for Channy Leaneagh’s effects-smothered vocals, the overall feel was like a pitchshifted Cat Power fronting Portishead. But as the years have passed, rather than taking that experimental streak anywhere, they’ve continued to mine the same seam of elegant dinner-party music.

    Given that it was written either side of a 2018 fall from a roof that left Leaneagh with a damaged spine and in a back brace, their fourth album could have been a chance to explore new horizons. There’s a less abstract approach to the lyrics, with Leaneagh referencing the dynamics of her family (Steady) and a failing relationship (Forget Me Now). But even when she sings about intensely personal issues, such as on the standout Be Again, about her recovery from her fall and how she had to learn how to sing again, her voice is so heavily treated that the lyrics are hard to decipher, giving an air of detachment that’s at odds with the tone of the lyrics. With none of the material really cutting through the production wizardry, this is another triumph for texture over songwriting.

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  2. Yes, Manchester
    Cerebral, eclectic and occasionally wordy, the gnarly rock of Black Country, New Road is a richly Generation Z experience

    There are, apparently, seven people on stage, making what sounds like eastern Mediterranean rave music. The lighting (of which there is little) and the dry ice (more copious) help to wrap Black Country, New Road in a haze of unreality.

    Through the fog, the outline of a violin and the shape of a saxophone are visible; some silhouetted figures stand, some crouch. Eventually, one of the guitarists in BCNR begins intoning something. He builds to a holler and the band plunge into a lacerating workout, drawn mostly from early 90s post-hardcore punk. Beer flies past. Out of the anguish and feedback there eventually emerges the sweetest of melodies, on which violin and sax double up and keyboards provide icy atmospherics.

    Isaac Wood's lyrics are studded with trashy pop culture references and curdled tales of bad sex

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  3. Billie Eilish and Lizzo are competing for a string of the top prizes, but could Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey and Rosalía cause upsets?

    Noise threatens to drown out the music at the 2020 Grammy awards. A line had been drawn under the tone-deaf leadership of Neil Portnow, who had presided over the ceremony since 2002 – between 2013 and 2018, Grammy winners were 91% male, but, after a 2018 ceremony where men swept the board again, Portnow said it was on women to “step up” and create opportunities for themselves.

    A woman, Deborah Dugan, replaced him; a taskforce was appointed, and in December they published their report, calling for greater diversity in the Academy voters. Any hopes that they had moved on, though, were scotched last week by Dugan being suspended for alleged misconduct; Dugan countered by saying she had been sexually harassed, that the Academy had covered up an alleged rape by Portnow, and that the voting was corrupt.

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  4. (Jagjaguwar)
    Kaya Wilkins’ second album ranges from confessional blood-letting to 50s ballads and disco-pop – in her own inimitable style

    On this beguiling second album by New York singer Kaya Wilkins, it’s as if heartbreak has been translated into her native Norwegian and back again via some dodgy machine learning: there’s something wonderfully off about her tales of thwarted lust. An excruciating date is sketched out on Zero Interaction Ramen Bar as “my parasite and I are blushing: a cold one and a sentient dumpling”. At another point she disarmingly admits: “I know sex with me is mediocre / but I can give you asexual wellbeing.” Perhaps the sense of wonkiness is pharmacological in nature. “What if the pills I take will stop me getting wet?” she frets on one of the best tracks, opener Baby Little Tween, and Psych Ward has her dutifully necking more pills as chaos reigns: “Crisis management on the intercom in the psych ward,” she notes with dry detachment, a really funny moment.

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  5. (Mmm... Records)
    BBC’s fifth album is a disappointment: crowded, ill-written and lacking conviction, it sounds like what it will swiftly become: an ad soundtrack

    Even when reunions are no longer surprising but inevitable, Bombay Bicycle Club’s return is striking: just four years after they split, here is a fifth album, made after they met to discuss playing 10th anniversary shows for their 2009 debut and realised they missed making music together. It’s curious that Everything Else Has Gone Wrong started from a nostalgic impulse. For all that BBC put a cosy spin on 2010s jittery indie, they pushed and evolved beyond their twiddly peers: their bright final album, 2014’s So Long See You Tomorrow, dabbled in the global music influences that frontman Jack Steadman later explored as Mr Jukes.

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