Oh Sees announce spring tour of UK and Ireland


Psychedelic garage rockers Oh Sees have announced a new tour of UK and Ireland for May.

They’ll continue to blast out tunes from their excellent 2019 album Face Stabber – as well as some gnarly new material, no doubt – at the following venues:

15/05 – Birmingham – The Crossing
16/05 – Manchester – Albert Hall
17/05 – Glasgow – Barrowlands
18/05 – Dublin – Button Factory
19/05 – Dublin – Button Factory
21/05 – Bristol – SWX
22/05 – London – Electric Ballroom – Late Show

23/05 – London – Electric Ballroom – Early Show

Click the links for each show for ticket details. Tickets go on sale on Friday (January 10) at 10am.

Rare and unreleased David Bowie tracks set for new EPs


To mark what would have been David Bowie’s 73rd birthday (today, January 8), two new releases have been announced featuring rare and unreleased Bowie tracks.

Is It Any Wonder? is a streaming EP of rare and unreleased material to be made available one track per week over the next six weeks. You can hear the first instalment, a stripped-down 1996 version of “The Man Who Sold The World”, below:

This version of “The Man Who Sold The World” will also appear on ChangesNowBowie, a nine-track mini-LP comprising a session that Bowie recorded in November 1996 during rehearsals for his 50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden. Gail Ann Dorsey (bass, vocals), Reeves Gabrels (guitars) and Mark Plati (keyboards and programming) accompanied David on the recording.

This mostly acoustic session was produced by Bowie himself, Reeves Gabrels and Mark Plati. It was originally broadcast by the BBC on Bowie’s 50th birthday on January 8, 1997.

ChangesNowBowie will be released in limited quantities on LP and CD for Record Store Day on April 18. The cover art for the album will feature a black and white portrait of Bowie by photographer Albert Watson, taken in New York in 1996 (see below).

Timothée Chalamet lined up to play Bob Dylan in new biopic


Timothée Chalamet has been lined up to play Bob Dylan in a new film by James Mangold, who wrote and directed the acclaimed 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line.

As Deadline reports, the film is currently titled Going Electric, and focuses on Dylan’s mid-’60s transition from folk figurehead to plugged-in rocker.

The film has rights to Elijah Wald’s 2015 book Dylan Goes Electric, as well as Dylan’s music rights. Bob Dylan himself is listed as an executive producer, while Dylan’s manager Jeff Rosen is among the film’s producers.

Chalamet, who recently starred in Little Women and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Call Me By Your Name, is reportedly taking guitar lessons to prepare himself for the role.

Simon & Garfunkel – The Ultimate Music Guide

Bridge Over Troubled Water is 50! To celebrate this, and to commemorate over 60 years of their music-making – both separately, and as a duo – we present the latest Ultimate Music Guide: Simon & Garfunkel. As ever the mag is a close harmony of insightful new writing and entertaining archive reads. Every album is reviewed in depth, and there’s the lowdown on the singles, the collaborations and the films too.

Order your copy here.

Drive-By Truckers: “Now was not the time to retreat”

The latest issue of Uncut – in shops now and available to buy online by clicking here – features an interview with Drive-By Truckers, who have returned after four years with a fiery new album, The Unraveling.

Talking to Uncut’s Stephen Deusner, the band’s co-founder Patterson Hood reveals how, in the intervening period, he was writing plenty of solo material but having trouble coming up with songs that would suit the Truckers’ rollicking ethos. “The record I wanted to make with them needed to be big and loud,” he says. “The Truckers know how to not be big and loud, but that’s not as much fun as when we’re big and loud.”

Hood’s breakthrough came in an unlikely place: the outskirts of Gillette, Wyoming, population 30,000. The Truckers had stopped there between gigs, and as the band hoofed it from their hotel to a nearby Mexican restaurant – “three stars on Yelp, everything slathered in queso, really bad for you and delicious” – Hood noticed the preponderance of big box stores and chain restaurants. He felt he could be anywhere in America, any town. At dinner he jotted down some lines on a napkin, wolfed down his tacos, and ran back to the hotel to write “21st Century USA”. It’s a quiet, loping exurban blues, but the ideas are big and loud. It’s less about all the franchises he mentions and more about how that sameness affects the people who live there. “I could hear it all in my head, and in the moment I was just elated because it felt like I had broken through.”

Part of what made songwriting so difficult for Hood – and part of what made “21st Century USA” such a eureka moment – was the state of the country in the late 2010s. “How do you write about this shit that’s going on right now in a way that you’d want to listen to as a record?” he says. “One option is not to write about it at all, but considering the stand we took on American Band and the fact that we toured behind it and called ourselves the Dance Band Of The Resistance, it seemed cowardly not to follow through. It seemed like now was not the time to retreat.”

What he wanted to avoid was a very different kind of echo chamber: one that only exposes you to people who already agree with you, who reinforce opinions no matter how misguided or misbegotten they might be. “To me,” says Hood, “one of the problems we’re having as a people is this lack of empathy to other people’s points of view. So the way we’ve written about politics is to write about personal things, whether it’s one of us or somebody we know or somebody we just made up. These two most recent records might on the surface be a little more direct than previous records, but it’s still what we’ve done all along.”

You can read much more from Drive-By Truckers in the latest issue of Uncut, out now with Nick Cave on the cover.

Hear Michael Stipe’s new single, “Drive To The Ocean”


Following last year’s debut solo effort “Your Capricious Soul”, Michael Stipe has now released a second solo single, “Drive To The Ocean”.

Listen below:

Proceeds from sales of “Drive to the Ocean”, which is available to download exclusively from Stipe’s website, go to benefit climate-focused campaign Pathway To Paris.

Stipe, who turned 60 on January 4, also released an accompanying video message which you can watch below:

Watch Nirvana reunite, with Beck and St Vincent on vocals


On Saturday night (January 4), the surviving members of NirvanaDave Grohl, Krist Noveselic and guitarist Pat Smear – reunited once more for the Heaven 2020 Charity Gala at the Hollywood Palladium, in support of the The Art Of Elysium, which funds art-based community projects.

Nirvana were joined on vocals and guitar by Beck and St Vincent. Dave Grohl’s 13-year-old daughter Violet also stepped up to take the Kurt Cobain role on “Heart-Shaped Box”. The band played:

Lithium (St. Vincent)
In Bloom (Beck)
Been A Son (Beck)
Heart-Shaped Box (Violet Grohl)
The Man Who Sold The World (Beck)

Watch the entire set below:

The gala also featured performances from L7, Marilyn Manson and Cheap Trick.

Jojo Rabbit


Playing Adolf Hitler in a comedy requires nerve. In his latest film as writer, director and actor, Taika Waititi stars as the dictator, portrayed here as the buffoonish imaginary best friend of 10-year-old Hitler Youth member Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis).

It’s not the first time filmmakers have wanted us to laugh at the Führer – from Chaplin and the Three Stooges to Mel Brooks. But Waititi’s version is breathtakingly risky, portraying Hitler and other (fictional) Nazis in the broadest possible terms. But critical to appreciating how this “anti-hate satire” works is the understanding that this is all filmed from the perspective of Jojo himself. The intentionally immature setup dominates Jojo Rabbit, though Waititi – whose previous films include Thor: Ragnarok – finds weirdly sentimental pauses along the way.

Jojo recently lost his sister to influenza and his father to the war. He lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) and is, he admits, “massively into swastikas”. Jojo, though, isn’t exactly soldier material and after suffering a serious injury he is sent home. There he encounters Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a Jewish girl hiding in his attic crawlspace. His instinct is to tell the authorities, but instead they become unlikely friends.

Like Waititi’s earlier The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Jojo Rabbit could be described as a kids’ film for adults, since it deals in naivety, in a world that’s childlike as opposed to childish. The two talented young leads are the main reason this all pays off in the end, but the film’s shrewdly cast supporting players – notably Sam Rockwell’s shabby Captain Klenzendorf – add substance and depth in the meantime. Wes Anderson is a good reference point; Waititi’s film is saturated in a similar aesthetic and tone.

Neil Innes dies aged 75


Neil Innes has died aged 75, according to BBC News.

The comedian and songwriter passed away unexpectedly on Sunday night (December 29), according to a spokesman for the family.

In a statement, his family said: “It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29th December 2019.

“We have lost a beautiful kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all.

“He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain.

“His wife Yvonne and their three sons Miles, Luke and Barney and three grandchildren Max Issy and Zac give thanks for his life, for his music and for the joy he gave us all.”

Innes was born in Danbury, Essex – although he spent his childhood in West Germany, where his father was deployed with the British Army. While a student at Goldsmiths College, he met Vivian Stanshall, with whom he wrote most of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band‘s songs, including “I’m The Urban Spaceman“, produced by Apollo C. Vermouth (Paul McCartney), and “Death Cab For Cutie“, which the band performed in The Beatles’ film, Magical Mystery Tour.

During the 1970s, Innes became closely associated with Monty Python, contributing songs and sketches to the final series in 1974, as well as appearing Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. He was one of only two non-Pythons to be credited as a writer, alongside The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams.

After Python finished, Innes joined Eric Idle‘s new series, Rutland Weekend Television. On the back of that show, Innes and Idle created The Rutles.

Innes was later given a writing credit on Oasis‘s song, “Whatever”, after it was found Noel Gallagher had borrowed portions of his song “How Sweet To Be An Idiot“.

Innes also composed the music for children’s television programmes including Puddle Lane, The Raggy Dolls, The Riddlers and Tumbledown Farm.

More recently, Innes was involved in a legal dispute after the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band name was trademarked without the consent of the surviving band members. A line-up featuring Innes alongside Roger Ruskin Spear, ‘Legs’ Larry Smith, Rodney Slater and Vernon Dudley Bowhay-Nowell were due to appear under the title ‘Still Barking’ as Bonzo Dog Banned for “one final grand HOORAH as a thank you to fans” at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on May 29.

4AD designer Vaughan Oliver has died, aged 62


Vaughan Oliver, the in-house designer for 4AD who created iconic album artwork for Pixies, Cocteau Twins, The Breeders and more, has died aged 62.

Adrian Shaughnessy, a graphic designer, writer and publisher who co-edited the 2018 collection Vaughan Oliver: Archive, broke the news on Twitter on December 29, adding that his death was a “great loss of friend and design hero.”

4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell said, “Vaughan Oliver taught me to appreciate quality. He taught me how to look at the physical world. He was a force of nature.”

Oliver began working for 4AD in the early ’80s, where he established the visual identity of 4AD as a record label.

Oliver’s design studios, 23 Envelope, consisted of Oliver and his original photographer Nigel Grierson, who together created the artwork for almost every 4AD release up to 1987. After Grierson left 23 Envelope in 1988, Oliver continued to work for the label under the studio name v23, where he collaborated with Simon Larbalestier, Marc Atkins and many others.

He also designed album sleeves for David Sylvian, Scott Walker and David Lynch.

Outside of music, Oliver also designed for commercial clients including L’Oréal and the 2012 London Olympics Games, and directed TV adverts for Microsoft, Sony and Harrods.

He was also Visiting Professor Graphic Design at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom, Surrey.

Here are some of the tributes paid to Oliver by Pixies:


Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde:

Lush’s Emma Anderson:

Ivo Watts-Russell:

Uncut’s 30 best reissues of 2019


30 REM
Monster: 25th Anniversary

Perhaps REM’s most divisive album got a full remix this year courtesy of producer Scott Litt. Once a heavy, glammy return to rock after the lighter textures of Automatic For The People, the new Monster was now a little more in keeping with its predecessors, for better and for worse. Those keen to discover more about this period could also delve into a world of demos.

Peter Laughner

This vital, 56-track retrospective assembled home and rehearsal recordings, live cuts and radio appearances by Laughner, an important American catalyst, best known for his work with Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu. The mix of covers (Dylan, Reed, Television) and originals illustrate his development and his fixations. A final disc had 13 solo recordings made on the night Laughner died in his sleep – June 22, 1977.

Guerrilla: 20th Anniversary

The sampladelic third album by Cardiff’s most forward-thinking band celebrated its 20th birthday this year, its Beach- Boys-meets-Aphex-Twin lunacy still sounding as revolutionary in 2019. Plus, a plethora of B-sides, demos and unheard tracks – including early versions of this century’s “Lazer Beam” and “Frequency” – shed light on the record’s strange (and costly) gestation.

World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time For Peace Is Now

The second album in Luaka Bop’s ‘World Spirituality Classics’ series following Alice Coltrane’s ashram excursions, The Time For Peace Is Now was a revelatory compilation of obscure 1970s gospel. And rather than the massed choirs and roaring affirmations of gospel cliché, we discovered church groups moving with the times, responding to the likes of Curtis Mayfield and Gil Scott-Heron with moody guitars, funky beats and quasi-political messages.

Grits, Beans And Greens: The Lost Fontana Studio Session 1969

Tubby Hayes was the closest thing Britain had to John Coltrane; after the unearthing last year of Coltrane’s brilliant Both Directions At Once, it was fitting that this year’s most essential jazz archive release was a lost Hayes LP, recorded in mid-1969 but shelved following the failure of his kitsch Tubby Hayes Orchestra album. This, though, was the real Tubby: rakish, fluent, eternally cool.

Secrets Of The Beehive

A host of remastered vinyl reissues from Sylvian’s post-Japan years – Brilliant Trees, Alchemy – An Index Of Possibilities, Gone To Earth and Secrets Of The Beehive – reminded us of his gifts for noir balladry, instrumental abstraction and austere atmospherics. Key was 1987’s …Beehive, whose sparse, elegant and intense qualities set the template for Sylvian’s future career.

Anne Briggs

Reissued as part of the Topic Records 80th birthday celebrations, there were, however, no extra tracks on this magnificent debut album. In keeping with the frill-free nature of the original, we got readings of traditional songs (Briggs’ “Willie O’ Winsbury” will still be staggering when all record reviewing is done by an app), and two of her original songs. Essential.

Travelin’ Thru, 1967 – 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol 15

Unlike recent, hefty instalments in the Bootleg Series, Vol 15 was a relatively modest set focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait sessions. The Cash sessions provided the heart, though – highlights included a mash-up of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “Understand Your Man” among much good-natured studio banter.

The Decca/Deram Years (An Anthology) 1970–1975

Despite the absence of their hazy debut, this CD boxset collected the greatest work by the Canterbury Scene’s warmest, silliest bunch. 1970’s pastoral If I Could Do It All Over Again was the peak here, but there were feather-soft jazz-rock gems sprinkled throughout, from the sweet’n’sour balladry of 1973’s “The Dog, The Dog, He’s It At Again” to the 19-minute “For Richard” on ’74’s Live At The Fairfield Halls.


Not a great year for the UK – high Thatcherism, high unemployment, Falklands War – but a spectacular one for The Fall, and most of it is found here. The quality of the band in this iteration (check the frozen wastes of the Hex Enduction Hour album), is self-evident. This set also includes the hinterland: live shows, radio sessions, and the Room To Live LP.


Prince’s 1982 album of liberating funk-rock jams found him entering an intense purple patch. Hence this expanded edition was rich in top-quality unreleased tracks from his legendary vault: the taut, fiery riffage of “Rearrange”, the rousing “Bold Generation” and the semi-legendary “Moonbeam Levels”. And, of course, a song called “Vagina”.

Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1976–1986

Japanese electronic music has provided a rich seam for reissuers over the last couple of years. The flipside to the genteel ambience celebrated on Kankyõ Ongaku (see below) is the kind of beachy, new wavey, occasionally kitschy stuff compiled here by Vetiver’s Andy Cabic, among others. Naturally, various members of Yellow Magic Orchestra featured prominently on this neon-hued cocktail of delightfully off-centre pop.


As one of Kraftwerk, Neu! and Harmonia, the ever-youthful Rother was a huge figure in 1970s European music – but what followed in the man’s career may be even more impressive. His solo works streamlined his long-line practice, the quartet of albums from 1977’s Flammende Herzen to 1982’s Fenwärme offering pastoral variations on his motorik themes, like ripples in a sunlit pond.

Conversation Piece

After a series of smaller, vinyl-only boxsets helped document Bowie’s formative steps during 1968/’69, Conversation Piece was the motherlode – a 5CD set of home demos, radio sessions and ephemera including 12 previously unreleased tracks and a new mix of the Space Oddity album by Tony Visconti. The album remains more than its title track: social observation, heavy inner trips and tender love songs prevail.

Strain, Crack & Break: Music From The Nurse With Wound List Volume One

Nurse With Wound’s legendary list of outsider music influences, included with their 1979 debut, has become a guide for intrepid record collectors. Now you too could experience the unsettling sound collages of Philippe Besombes, the vivid prog nightmares of Horrific Child and the glorious, full-on wibble of Etron Fou Leloublan. And that’s just the French contingent!

Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire

Fifty years on, The Kinks’ seventh LP – with its discourses on empire, migration and Englishness – seemed strangely current. Bringing the record further into focus was this deluxe boxset, its most voluminous version featuring Arthur in stereo and mono, a ‘lost’ Dave Davies solo album plus rarities, a book, a badge and four 7”s. Britain may be declining, but Arthur was rejuvenated.


Another tantalising dip into Young’s capacious archives, this time for a live show with the Stray Gators from 1973, recorded early on during the Time Fades Away tour. It’s a fan-friendly set, with faithful renditions of “Heart Of Gold”, “After The Gold Rush” and “Out On The Weekend” alongside fresher material. Rusties will note the presence of drummer Kenny Buttrey – replaced by the harder-hitting Johnny Barbata later in the tour.

No Other

Ex-Byrd, countryrocker, songwriter’s songwriter… Gene Clark was a confusing proposition by the time he pitched up on Asylum records in 1974. If the public heard about this excellent, introspective country-rock album, they certainly didn’t buy it. Now 4AD – historically a mine of singersongwriter expertise – give it the love it deserves: two additional discs of sessions, and (for the deluxe edition) a 7” and heavy booklet.

Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Stereolab’s 2019 return to duty was matched by a welcome batch of reissues. None was quite as timely as Emperor…, a work that held their experimental guitar surge, vocal harmony and elegant electronic pulses in an exquisite balance. Recorded by Tortoise’s John McEntire in Chicago, the album represented a transatlantic meeting of post-rock minds, cemented further when the band took on Slint’s David Pajo as touring bassist.

Blue World

‘Lost albums’ are the latest trend in jazz catalogue, and this – following on from last year’s Both Directions At Once – is an honourable addition to the Coltrane canon. Recorded between Crescent and A Love Supreme, in an under-thecounter fashion for Canadian filmmaker Gilles Groulx, the album contains lovely takes of familiar tunes like “Naima” and the moody title track, an original composition.

I Trawl The Megahertz

Previously issued in 2003 as a Paddy McAloon solo affair, I Trawl The Megahertz has been recast as a ‘lost’ Sprout album – although in truth, it’s unlike anything else in his catalogue. Conceived while McAloon suffered detached retinas that left him almost blind, it’s an elegant study in isolation configured around orch-pop melodies and McAloon’s dreamlike lyrics – inspired by the shortwave radio broadcasts he listened to for solace.

All The Young Droogs

Lovingly curated by (full disclosure!) Uncut’s very own Phil King, this three-CD collection made a convincing case for junkshop glam as much more than a novelty concern. The Stooges, Mott The Hoople and Woody Woodmansey’s U-Boat provided the gateway into a whole subculture of thuggish glitter-rock stomps, proto-punk transgression and dubious lyrics.

Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990

Since 2017, the Seattle label’s Japan Archival Series has been an invaluable resource for curious ears. This 3LP or 2CD anthology was the peak, collecting 25 pieces of blissfully relaxing, otherworldly tones from a host of musicians inspired by Eno’s ambient work and Erik Satie’s idea of “furniture music”.

Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75

In just three short years, Daevid Allen’s cosmic collective crafted their Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, fell apart and reinvented themselves as more serious jazzrockers. Across 12 CDs, a DVD and a substantial book, their journey was catalogued here with excellent remasters, studio outtakes and – best of all – a whole flying teapot full of previously unheard live sets.

The Essential Album Collection Vol 1

A chance to obtain for a reasonable price some of the finest LPs from the most rapturous of all the krautrock bands. Florian Fricke’s outfit are best known for the synthheavy soundtracks they cooked up for Werner Herzog’s films Aguirre and Nosferatu, but the revelation here was 1974’s Einsjäger & Siebenjäger, with Daniel Fichelscher’s questing guitar inspiring the band to rarefied heights.

Movement: The Definitive Edition

Nobody was making a case for Movement as New Order’s peak, but by rounding up all the demos and live tracks dating back to September 1980 – less than four months after Ian Curtis’s death – this boxset told a fascinating story: of a band confronted with a terrible event and finding an ingenious way forward.

Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks – Extended Edition

Many may not have required a reminder of the qualities of Apollo, Eno’s most beautiful, yearning exploration of ambient music. This reissue celebrating 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landings gave us something new, however: a fulllength thematic follow-up reuniting Eno, his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois, who showcased his lovely lap-steel skills on “Capsule”.

Dead Man’s Pop

1989’s Don’t Tell A Soul was meant to be The Replacements’ pop breakthrough; the songs were glorious, but its glossy mix divided fans. Finally, here was the album sounding closer to how it did in Paul Westerberg’s head, along with a slew of demos, outtakes and live versions – not to mention a heroically sloshed session with Tom Waits.

Abbey Road

As remixed by Giles Martin, the last Beatles album produced “in the old way” by his father preserved the perfectly sequenced original while remaining mindful of sonic innovations since. Among the additional extras were demo takes of the troublesome “Maxwell” and “the long one” – the triumphant eight-song medley that takes up Side Two.

The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings

FOR Bobcats fretting over the absence of any new material from Dylan – it’s been seven long years since Tempest – 2019 at least provided some consolation via a rich bounty of archival releases. At No 24 in this poll, you’ll have encountered Travelin’ Thru – but a deeper archeological dig came with The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings, released as a companion piece to Martin Scorsese’s mischievous Netflix documentary. While the film – playing with the real-or-unreal flavour of the tour, inserting mockumentary elements amid the period footage – ostensibly took us behind the scenes on Dylan’s revolutionary charabanc, this expansive boxset takes us deep into the tour itself.

Expanded from 2002’s Bootleg Series Vol 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue, this new set contained three discs of rehearsals, 10 discs of the five shows professionally recorded in their entirety and a final disc of rarities. There are specific highlights that will appeal to fans of Dylan’s fluid relationship with his songs. CD 3, recorded on October 29, 1975 at the Seacrest Motel in Massachusetts, is effectively the Revue’s final dress rehearsal, where several songs are still looking for arrangements, including “Hurricane”, while a version on Disc 13 of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”, for instance, has a completely rewritten lyric and a careening new arrangement. Mostly though, this set captures Dylan in motion and clearly enjoying himself.

After a successful but unhappy arena tour with The Band in 1974, the whimsical nature of the Revue’s travelling carnival vibe and the colourful cast of old friends (McGuinn, Baez, Neuwirth) encourages Dylan to engage once more with his songs. There are theatrical performances of “Just Like A Woman”, roadhouse-style versions of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and furious takes on “Isis”. The band – including Mick Ronson – are both loose and tight, adding a kind of drunken lilt to proceedings that’s entirely in keeping with the tour’s chaotic magic. For a year dominated by live archive trawls from Woodstock to the Band Of Gypsys’ Fillmore East shows, Dylan’s The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings feels like a major highlight. As much a vital snapshot of Dylan during his mid-’70s peak, as a sly meditation on quintessentially Dylanesque themes: “what’s real and what is not”.

Uncut’s best music books of 2019


10 It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track: Objects 
And Essays
Ian Penman

Incapable of dumbing down, Penman had NME readers reaching for their dictionaries in the post-punk years. He retains the 
same daunting intelligence in this essay collection, which featured a fine take on mod, a gloomy assessment of James Brown and a sublime meditation on Frank Sinatra. Challenging, but worth it.

9 Year Of The Monkey
Patti Smith

Another metaphysical ramble in the vein 
of her 2015 outing 
M Train, Year Of 
The Monkey was 
a walking tour through the proto-punk poet’s 70th year, punctuated by moody photographs, delicious breakfasts and foreboding visions. One way or another, those horses are still running wild.

8 Cruel To Be Kind: 
The Life & Music Of Nick Lowe
Will Birch

A pub-rock powerhouse in 
his own right, ex-Kursaal Flyer Birch’s portrait of ‘Basher’ is not as cheery as the Stiff records superstar’s knockabout reputation might suggest. However, his enormous respect for his subject is evident as Birch carefully plots Lowe’s path from Kippington Lodge to third-age master craftsman.

7 Face It
Debbie Harry 

Harper Collins

Blondie made amazing records, but singer Debbie Harry remembered only heroin, exhaustion and 
bad business as 
she recalled the band’s peak years in this tell-all account. Her adventures in pre-gentrification New York are at times joyful and terrifying, though her intelligence and resilience shine through. Fair but hard.

6 I Put A Spell On 
You: The Bizarre 
Life of Screamin’ 
Jay Hawkins
Steve Bergsman
Feral House

A smart sophisticate 
forced to live the
life of a carnival sideshow, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins boiled with rage as Nina Simone and Creedence Clearwater Revival made more from his most famous song than he ever did. Bergsman’s study of the schlock icon was a thrilling portrait of an arch narcissist. Spoiler alert: it ends badly.

5 Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn
Brett Anderson
Little Brown

The sequel to Coal Black Mornings that Anderson said he would never write, this exorcism of 
his Suede years tracked the band’s swift ascent to 
the NME front cover and slow 
decline into back-biting and drugs 
as their Britpop crown fell to 
“bands who waved flags and dropped their aitches”. Bitter, twisted, but very classy.

4 Defying Gravity: Jordan’s Story
Jordan with Cathi Unsworth

The madame guillotine of the punk years, Jordan surveyed the movement’s triumphs and tragedies from behind the counter of Malcolm McLaren’s Sex boutique. The best punk book since England’s Dreaming, her story offered a unique perspective on the Sex Pistols and the PVC-clad nihilism of the time.

3 Me
Elton John

The former Reg Dwight’s garish, stack-heeled autobiography detailed his musical triumphs, suicide attempts and A-list adventures with a delightfully surly twinkle. An eyewitness account of deranged times starring Rod Stewart, John Lennon, Queen, the Queen, 
and one of the worst mothers in showbiz history.

2 Fried & Justified
Mick Houghton


“The legendary 
Mick Houghton”, according to Julian Cope, was the 
go-to PR man for generations of offbeat talent in 
the indie age. His illuminating memoir was a glorious K-Tel collection of anecdotes concerning the finest leftfield 
talent of his age: The Undertones, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Felt, the KLF and many more.

1 This Searing Light, 
The Sun And Everything Else – Joy Division: The Oral History
Jon Savage

Bandmates were in stitches when hotel staff admonished Ian Curtis for urinating into an ashtray; the laughter continued after William Burroughs told Joy Division’s troubled singer to “fuck off” when Curtis tried to shake the author down for a free book. Savage’s first-person patchwork honoured the ur-Manchester band’s dour power, but also presented Joy Division as excitable, gawky kids, too unworldly to understand how dark things were getting until Curtis killed himself in 1980. “To have done something for Ian would have taken someone with responsibility,” says guitarist Bernard Sumner. Here are the young men, then – but as this superb account shows, the weight on their shoulders remains.

Uncut’s 20 best films of 2019


Director: Jacques Audiard
The first of Joaquin Phoenix’s appearances in our poll, this adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s novel placed Phoenix and John C Reilly as sibling assassins, stalking 1850s Orgeon in pursuit of their quarry. Coming so soon after the Coens’ The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, Audiard’s film suggests a welcome renaissance in picaresque, revisionist westerns.

Director: Edward Norton
A labour of love for 
the director, who also stars, this labyrinthine adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel explores corruption and murder in 1950s New York; an era of urban development, institutionalised racism and hot jazz. A strong supporting cast – Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis – add texture, while Norton, despite 
the historical setting, finds contemporary resonances.

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Based on the memoir by one-time Uncut writer Sarfraz Manzoor, Chadha’s film mixed familiar coming-of-age beats – working-class dreamer seeks escape from a small town – with a more specific story 
of a British-Pakistani teenager, trying to survive the cruelties of Thatcher’s Britain in 1987. The Springsteen-endorsed soundtrack underscored the ways in which the Boss has always served as a beacon for the disenfranchised.

Director: Dexter Fletcher

After the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman presents a similarly full-blooded account of the spectacular rise of 
Reg Dwight from Pinner as he becomes Elton John, racing through his ’70s imperial phase and, eventually, an equally spectacular crash back to earth. Taron Egerton offers a game take on Elton, while Jamie Bell, as Bernie Taupin, provides low-key counterpart.

Director: Todd Phillips

A supervillain origin story, Phillips’ take 
on the maladjusted loner Arthur Fleck (Phoenix, again) who eventually becomes Batman’s nemesis passes by on 
a cascade of Scorsese references (Taxi Driver; King Of Comedy) and 
a killer performance from the lead. The film strove to be a statement 
for our times, though was at its best when locked on to the committed intensity of Phoenix’s turn as God’s Lonely Clown.

15 US
Director: Jordan Peele

In its way, just as radical and unsettling as Get Out (Uncut’s Best Film of 2018), Peele’s follow-up pitted a family against their evil doppelgängers. What followed spliced sociopolitical satire with smart, full-blooded shudders as Peele’s protagonist Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) discovers a hidden underclass locked in a parasitic relationship with their terrestrial doubles.

Director: László Nemes

Nemes’ 2015 debut, Son Of Saul, was a bold if gruelling depiction of life in the Nazi death camps. For Sunset, the Hungarian director rewinds to an earlier era: a lavishly recreated late-imperial Budapest in 1910, as the shadow of war hangs over Europe. We follow destitute milliner Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), as she returns to her hometown from Trieste in an attempt to untangle family secrets. Cue ruthless anarchists, sinster shopgirls and an ostentatious procession of headwear.

Director: Ken Loach

At 83, Loach feels more vital than ever. His follow-up to I, Daniel Blake is yet another scathing survey of Broken Britain, this time exploring the toll of the gig economy on a hard-up Newcastle upon Tyne family. Cruelty, exploitation and economic isolation follow, while leads Kris Hitchen and Debbie Honeywood bring dignity and compassion to this heavy indictment of Britain’s gig economy.

Director: Alice Rohrwacher

Ostensibly set during the 1980s, where a rural community are tricked by an aristocrat known locally as “the Cigarette Queen” into working on her land in quasi-feudal conditions, this third film from the Italian filmmaker enjoyed an abrupt detour into magic realism and time travel. Such strange pleasures affirmed Rohrwacher as one of the most celebrated current Italian directors.

Director: Mati Diop

This debut from the French-Senegalese filmmaker tackled big contemporary issues – migrants, oppression, economic hardship – set around a construction site in Dakar. But alongside this socio-realism, Diop concocted a romance between young Senegalese lovers that morphed into a supernatural fable where drowned workers return to seek vengeance for their unpaid labour.

Director: Peter Strickland

As with his previous films, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke Of Burgundy, In Fabric once again found 
the fastidious yet delightfully subversive British director invest the language of ’60s and ’70s exploitation cinema with his own exuberant ideas. In Fabric concerned a haunted dress and its disturbing effects as it passes among wearers; imagine a giallo set in a provincial House Of Fraser.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Olivia Coleman can currently be seen playing Elizabeth II in the latest series of The Queen; here she was cast as an earlier regent, Queen Anne, in Lanthimos’ spiky period drama. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone add further class to 
the story rich with corseted intrigue and double-crossing. Uproarious certainly – but Coleman also brought great pathos as the frail, reluctant monarch.

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Set during the late 
’60s, Tarantino’s latest audacious piece of historical revisionism cast Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as marginalised movie men who 
find themselves embroiled with 
the Manson cult. Tarantino’s 
usual intensity and feverish connoisseurship of pop culture ephemera was foregrounded; but the (barely contained) subtext about the changing cultural landscape gave the film unexpected pathos.

Director: Rian Johnson

After his sojourn in a galaxy far, far away, Johnson returned to Earth with this neo-noir mystery, a welcome throwback to the skill and ingenuity of his early films – Brick and Looper. This ingeniously constructed whodunnit found Daniel Craig’s detective investigating the murder of a wealthy patriarch – cue much rug pulling, dramatic mischief and narrative sleight-of-hand that both respected and revised the genre.

Director: Jia Zhangke

Over the course of 20 years, Jia has morphed from stark, political docudrama to more lavish, though equally authentic, surveys of China’s domestic upheavals. 
This, his ninth film, is set in 2001, offers both gangster swagger and social critique, where the journey of Qiao (Tao Shao) from self-sacrificial moll to avenging criminal mirrors the country’s embrace of westernised capitalism.

Director: Ciro Guerra

Played out against the striking backdrop of 
the La Guajira region 
of northern Colombia, Guerra’s vivid, distinctive crime 
drama revisited the birth of the country’s drug trade as seen 
through the eyes of an indigenous Wayúu family. Myth, culture 
and tradition became intertwined with more corrosive influences; pitting tradition against greed.

Director: Alejando Landes

Pitched somewhere between Apocalypse Now and Lord Of The Flies, Landes’ film unfolded in the remote mountains of a Latin American country, where a band of child soldiers guarded an American hostage (Julianne Nicholson). Landes captured the confusion 
and chaos of the children’s anarchic life in this wild terrain, while Mica Levi’s eerie score accentuated the sense of foreboding as this fragile unit disintegrated.

Director: Ari Aster

Alongside Jordan Peele, Aster is making arthouse horror for the multiplexes, with both 2018’s Hereditary and Midsommar heavily indebted to ’60s and ’70s horror, yet given a gripping contemporary urgency. Midsommar channelled The Wicker Man – an American couple attend a mysterious festival in the Swedish countryside – but Aster artfully freighted his folk horror with notions of loss, grief 
and emotional neglect.

Director: Noah Baumbach

Families at war have been a recurring theme of Baumbach’s since his 2006 debut, The Squid And The Whale. This latest, for Netflix (following The Meyerowitz Stories), finds Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s storied theatrical couple discovering that breaking up is hard to do. Their desperately sad situation was enlivened by incidental humour and Baumbach’s sharp, intelligent script – and given warmth and humanity by the leads.

Director: Martin Scorsese

For Scorsese, returning to the milieu in which he made his name, The Irishman had all the hallmarks of a greatest-hits set full of guest spots for old faces – the old gang back together for one last (?) hurrah, perhaps. A mob procedural about violence, loss and guilt, The Irishman enjoyed the decade-spanning sweep and operatic swirl of Goodfellas and Casino, brought to wintry life by a powerful cast – headed by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. But it has something else, too. The bitter tang of regret, a sense of spiritual ruin that came into focus as the story unfolded of Philadelphia mob hitman Frank Sheeran and his part in the disappearance of Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa in 1975.

In the context of the year in film, The Irishman reminded us of the sheer power these big beasts could still muster. Younger filmmakers like Jordan Peele and Ari Aster jostled to assert themselves, while established names like Quentin Tarantino and Rian Johnson doubled down on their core specialisms. Beyond Hollywood, meanwhile, filmmakers including Alejandro Landes, Ciro Guerra and Mati Diop told stories that bristled with contemporary urgency, while Jia Zhangke and Alice Rohrwacher used the past as a narrative strategy to comment on the present. Yet The Irishman reminded us that the director remains a world-class player – over 50 years into his career, here reflecting the passage of time, finding 
a sad, mournful tone and a weariness in this extraordinary story.

Weyes Blood: “Bob Seger meets Enya!”


As you’ll hopefully have gathered by now, Weyes Blood‘s Titanic Rising is Uncut’s Best Album Of 2019.

Here’s a Q&A I did with Natalie Mering about her album’s spectacular victory in our end of year poll, which ran in our January 2020 issue.

UNCUT: Congratulations! But were you surprised by the initial, positive response to the record?
NATALIE MERING: I was! But when I first gave it to my label, my manager and some close friends, they were so excited that I had a sense that I was sitting on something pretty good. So that, I think, prepared me a little bit.

It’s seven months since Titanic Rising came out. Has your relationship to the album changed much?
It takes me a long while not to listen to a record critically. It’s like I’m still mixing it. All I can think about are the infinite possibilities and paths we didn’t take. It takes a year or more for me to hear it as it is, without ideas or changes or regrets… for my obsessive, perfectionist mind!

Titanic Rising felt like a development from Front Row Seat – both thematically and musically. Do you see them as connected?
Yes, I do. When I came into Titanic Rising, I had one record that I had made with other people and one record I’d made completely on my own. If you like, I had Papa Bear’s porridge, I had Mama Bear’s porridge – now it was time for the porridge that Goldilocks’ chose!

There’s a sense of anxiety on this record – is that a reflection of the times?
There’s been so many paradigm shifts in my lifetime. That’s what “A Lot’s Gonna Change” is about – how I never could have perceived the kind of drastic changes that have happened over the course of my adulthood. That’s a lot to digest. I find that making music about it and trying to ease the passing and give people hope is a great way to deal with it.

What sources fed into the album – culturally and politically?
Starting with the cover, I’ve always considered the bedroom to be a strange initiation into society for a Westernised teenager. In a lot of ways, it’s inadequate; it’s an isolated capsule where you come up with your own concepts of reality based on imagination, movies you’ve seen, records you’ve heard. It’s easy to disassociate from reality. That makes a lot of real issues like climate change hard to wrap your head around – so what can you do to help? Those are the two main themes: this strange initiation into adulthood and massive, huge impersonal problems that still have a personal effect on people.

How about the musical influences?
I love the period when jazz, classical and folk music coalesced into popular song – songs like “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael. They have all the ingredients of a modern song but come with lush arrangements and chord changes that are full of tension. I was also a fan of the deconstructionist music that came in the ’60s and later. So it was fun to think about classic styles to talk about these modern issues. We made some funny comparisons – Bob Seger meets Enya!

What were your favourite albums of this year?
Lana’s Normal Fucking Rockwell. Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors. Tyler, The Creator’s Igor and Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You.

Talking of Lana Del Rey – tell us about performing with her and Zella Day at the Hollywood Bowl.
We became friends when I was working on Titanic Rising and she was working on Norman Fucking Rockwell. She said, “My record’s kind of nautical.” I said, “My record’s nautical, too!” We developed a camaraderie. For the Hollywood Bowl, she asked me and Zella to perform. I came home from tour the night before, we met up and rehearsed it a couple of times. The night of the show, we decided to sit and that gave us all a sense of peace so we could relax. It was special and organic.

So what’s next?
Next year, I go to Australia to tour and I’ll start on my next record. I have a couple of songs, but knowing me, there’ll be different iterations before I settle on the final version. I get a lot of inspiration randomly, so there’s lots of voice memos on the phone. It takes me until I get home, and I can cut myself off, before I can piece it all together. At the moment it’s a treasure hunt on the road – noodling at a soundcheck and finding a chord sequence that

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Uncut’s 50 best new albums of 2019


Night Of The Worm Moon

Its title inspired by Sun Ra’s The Night Of The Purple Moon, the second solo LP from the La Luz singer and guitarist moulded the interstellar jazz auteur’s cosmic bent to her own fingerpicked acoustic guitar. As wonky chord sequences echoed Syd Barrett’s solo work, and pedal steel and synths provided an eerie, psychedelic air, Cleveland sang of grief, dreams and nameless terrors in the Californian darkness.

Groove Denied

While last year’s Sparkle Hard was Malkmus’s most accessible effort to date, here the songwriter explored his more outré interests with this basement electronic album. Despite a troubled gestation, Groove Denied turned out to be a laidback triumph: its laptop production was hazily vintage, reminiscent of early Cabaret Voltaire and Human League, while its inspired tracklisting gradually took the listener from machine-tooled abstraction to more traditional, guitar-based songs.

Cuz I Love You

2019 found Minneapolis-based singer/rapper Melissa Viviane Jefferson propelling her whipsmart rhymes, bodypositive message and occasional flute solos into the mainstream, with third album Cuz I Love You reaching the Billboard Top 5. A savvy, boisterous antidote to moody rap nihilism, the album placed Lizzo firmly in the lineage of Outkast and Missy Elliott, with the latter turning up to anoint her successor on the irresistible “Tempo”.


The debut album by this Domino-signed ‘supergroup’ exemplified why the new wave of British jazz has been such a breath of fresh air. Despite featuring a number of the scene’s major players – saxophonists Nubya Garcia and Cassie Kinoshi, trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, trombonist Rosie Turton and more – it never felt like anyone was queuing up for a solo, instead striving to fashion a supremely harmonious blend of ’70s astral jazz and contemporary global flavours.

This (is what I wanted to tell you)

Under Kurt Wagner’s tutelage, Lambchop are an object lesson in how a band can evolve gracefully. The work begun on 2016’s FLOTUS – exploring the possibilities of electronica – was sustained on the immersive, thought-provoking This (is what I wanted to tell you), which navigated a path through the organic and the electronically adjusted, aided by sometime Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan, Calexico trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela and Nashville veteran Charlie McCoy.

Eton Alive

“It’s getting shitter!” Sleaford Mods – a raw and uncompromising duo – remain a difficult band for horrible times. Unsubtle but penetrating observers of the UK, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn here presented a bleak, if occasionally tuneful, world informed by our toxic domestic politics, without ever actually being sucked into the mire. Check the promo clips of the singer putting the bins out and walking disdainfully around the neighbourhood of Eton College itself.


When Robert Forster announced the release of a new Go-Betweens boxset last month, he did so safe in the knowledge that his latest album stood shoulder to shoulder with the work of his celebrated former band. Inferno brought his customary wit and elegance to bear on a set of wonderfully pithy songs about ageing, family, climate change and the artist’s place in the world.

Incidental Music

James Murphy has taken a lot from Manchester’s musical heritage, but WH Lung reversed the flow with their strong debut album. With the group originally intended as a studio-only outfit, Joseph E, Tom S and Tom P paid painstaking attention to the eight songs on Incidental Music, carving their sparkling electronic rock with one eye on New Order and the other on Berlin-era Bowie.

Serf’s Up!

A remarkable turnaround for Britain’s scuzziest band, who’d previously lost their way attempting to live up to their dissolute reputation. But relocating to Sheffield, they mainlined some of that city’s synthpop sleaze, adding strings and sax to produce a compelling album of dank disco cabaret, with deliciously murky lyrics to match.

When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?

The year’s pop phenomenon, courtesy of “Bad Guy” – a record of such creepy delivery and intention it threatened to darken the skies at a radiant Glastonbury – Eilish had no problem extending her vision to a full album. Here, production by her brother Fineas O’Connell gave off a padded-cell ambience, which well suited songs falling somewhere between ’90s R&B, Dr Dre and Nine Inch Nails.

Father Of The Bride

Once, they tapped out bookish Afroindie from the confines of a Columbia University dorm room. But Vampire Weekend’s fourth album was a genuinely cosmopolitan effort. Six years in the making, it gleefully mashed up all manner of musical styles – the glorious “Harmony Hall” alone veered from ’70s folk rock to ’90s gospel house, via Gilbert & Sullivan – but at the heart of it all, singer Ezra Koenig remained charmingly vulnerable.

I Made A Place

Will Oldham has been busy over the last decade, reworking his own catalogue and paying homage to his heroes. I Made A Place, however, is something else: his first collection of new, selfpenned songs since 2011’s Wolfroy Goes To Town. A continuation of his work rather than a reinvention, this is a stately, sophisticated set of country-rock songs, the likes of “This Is Far From Over” certainly a match for those of his songwriting idols.

I Was Real

In 2016, Rick Brown and Che Chen issued a debut – Wood/ Metal/Plastic/ Pattern – which purported to come from Brooklyn, but which seemed to have emerged from a different continent altogether. Three years on, their second, larger record expands on that initial promise. Alive with Tuareg guitar electricity and longform drone, I Was Real proposes a kosmische of the earth: capable of easeful travel across great distances, while always retaining something solid underfoot.

When I Have Fears

While they match fellow Dubliners Fontaines DC for fire and fury, The Murder Capital processed their anger through a more angular post-punk sound on their debut album. Rhythms stutter à la Joy Division or early Cure, while vocalist James McGovern sounds, at times, like a young Ian McCulloch; “Don’t Cling To Life” and the lengthy “Green & Blue” are as epic and dramatic as the ‘Big Music’ of the early ’80s, helped along by Flood’s atmospheric production.


Streatham rapper David “Dave” Omoregie may have capped a triumphant year with a starring role in Top Boy 3, but his debut album Psychodrama – the recipient of this year’s coveted Mercury Prize – was no generic gangster chronicle. Sounding preternaturally wise, he tackled racial inequality, mental illness and domestic abuse over brooding strings and needling piano, although the slinky “Location” proved he could still cover the rap bases.

Sound & Fury

Simpson has never been one to stand still, creatively speaking. His first album, High Top Mountain, was a traditional country effort – but since then he has moved away from heartlandcourting endeavours. Sound & Fury presented another big shift in direction for Simpson – this time with anime visuals, strutting disco-boogie, grunge and pulsing modern blues joining the party. However nuts Sound & Fury became though, Simpson’s commitment to heartfelt songcraft remained reassuringly intact.


“My childhood was small/But I’m gonna be BIG!” The opening declaration of Fontaines DC singer Grian Chatten is alive with the irrepressible momentum of the young band going places. This debut, sure enough, surges onward through post-punk styles big and small, from The Fall to REM, to Prolapse and Idlewild. Always energetic, generally cathartic, occasionally – see “Television Screens” in particular – revelatory, they alight on moments of thundering lyricism quite their own.

Help Us Stranger

Back after an 11-year hiatus, Jack White and his co-conspirators picked up where they left off with Consolers Of The Lonely. That’s to say, anyone fearing the kind of indulgences White brought to last year’s solo album Boarding House Reach will have enjoyed the more conventional rock leanings of Help Us Stranger. The vibe was uncluttered and exuberant – including a cover of Donovan’s “Hey Guy (Dig The Slowness)” – while the attendant tour was among the year’s live highlights.

No Home Record

After the serious noise of her Body/ Head project, we were probably unprepared for the vibrancy and colour (even jokes) of No Home Record. Working with art-pop producer Justin Raisen, Gordon framed her Mark E Smithlike observations (see for details especially: “Air B&B”) within compositions which vaguely alluded to her past as the first lady of US noise, while never leaning on it to help her determine her future.


This expansive third album from the British-Ugandan singer fulfilled the early promise of his previous efforts. Full of beguiling melodies, affecting lyrics, sharp playing, rich arrangements and sympathetic production, Kiwanuka confidently delivered multiple pleasures. Strings wash, choirs purr, and the balance of analogue and electronic – overseen by Kiwanuka, Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and hip-hop multiinstrumentalist Inflo – was expertly maintained. Kiwanuka’s references – Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye – are given psychedelic goosing, as on first single “You Ain’t The Problem”.

Quiet Signs

The epithet ‘LA-based singersongwriter’ tends to conjure up notions of sun-kissed escapism, but Jessica Pratt’s enchanting third album was more Muswell Hill than Laurel Canyon. Her plucked guitar and strange, waiflike voice was gilded with occasional flute, piano and creaky synths that made it all sound like a tape reel discovered in someone’s loft, untouched since 1967 – or perhaps even 1667.


Post-punk’s not dead! After a fiveyear rest to pursue other projects – among them the very good Shopping and Bas Jan – Rachel Aggs, Gill Partington and Rachel Horwood reconvened for this fine third album. For sure the trio fluently speak the language of 1980: spare production, articulation of every note, songs called things like “Dislocate”. More impressive, though, is how Aggs’ guitar flourishes and the sparing use of sax and piano make it all more than the sum of its parts.

The Practice Of Love

Following on from her Blood Bitch album, a high-concept “investigation of blood”, from menstruation to vampire movies, the seventh album by Norwegian artist Hval turned love into a kind of visitor attraction. A work of immersive, textured synthesiser and billowing trance, The Practice Of Love was paced like a DJ set, incorporating stunning drops in tempo – see the spokenword contributions of Vivian Wang on the title track – and thoughtfully ecstatic highs.

I Am Easy To Find

Something of a surprise, coming hot on the heels of 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, the band’s eighth studio album was inspired by a collaboration with filmmaker Mike Mills. As a consequence, I Am Easy To Find saw the band expand to include a cast of female vocalists (including former Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey) guiding and redirecting the songs away from Matt Berninger. It paid off: I Am Easy To Find continued The National’s uninterrupted creative trajectory.

All Mirrors

Though this Asheville-based singer-songwriter has always reinvented her sound, moving from earthy folk to raw post-punk to lusher pastures, her fourth record proved to be her most extreme transition yet. Here, industrial synths and scything avant-garde string arrangements collided to bring a dramatic, gothic grandeur to Olsen’s ruminations on lost love and emotional isolation. Above the turbulent arrangements, her voice provided a mighty and quivering constant.


A timely reunion – marking the 50th anniversary of Young’s first record with Crazy Horse – Colorado also found Nils Lofgren, newly promoted to full-time member, adding appropriate musical lift and heft to proceedings. There were customarily heroic jams like “Milky Way” – but also a vein of melancholia, as best heard on “Olden Days”, that helped underscore the losses Young experienced during a difficult 2019, including his former wife Pegi and long-serving manager Elliot Roberts.


The band’s first new material since they reformed 10 years ago, Encore is at its best when it not only honours The Specials’ past – a mournful trombone solo or a dive into the ska vaults – but pushes in new directions, too. A cover of the Equals’ “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys”, for instance, offers imposing taut funk. Elsewhere, Terry Hall’s soul-bearing reports of his struggles with mental health add poignancy, while the socio-political barbs reinforce their role as vital cultural commentators.


Three albums in and New Zealander Hannah “Aldous” Harding remains impressively tricky to pin down. Recorded with utilitarian precision in Bristol and Wales, aided by John Parrish and Huw “H Hawkline” Evans, Designer’s brisk, catchy folk-pop initially felt like a startling contrast to the heavy drama of previous album Party – although a sense of unease seeped through into the album’s crespuscular second half.

Thanks For The Dance

You want it even darker? How about this from beyond the grave – work put together sensitively by Cohen’s son Adam? Compiled from late-doors studio recordings and then complemented by performances by the likes of Beck, Feist and Cohen’s sometime vocal partner Jennifer Warnes, the tone ranges from deep wisdom and finality (“The Goal”) to the wryly seductive (“Her nipples rose like bread,” Len whispers on “The Night Of Santiago”). A slim but essential volume.

There Is No Other

Of the projects Giddens has been involved in since 2017’s Freedom Highway, There Is No Other might just be the finest. A collaboration with Italian multiinstrumentalist Turrisi, it addressed the ‘other’ of the title through its examination of Islamic influences on Western music: thus the title track mixed banjo with Middle Eastern percussion, Giddens’ impassioned vocals meshed with lute on “Ten Thousand Voices”, and a take on Ola Belle Reed’s “Gonna Write Me A Letter” highlighted the blues’ explicit links to Africa.


This striking solo debut from the Alabama Shakes singer swapped stirring Southern soul for something more intimate and experimental. Marshalling a small group of skilled players, including jazz pianist Robert Glasper, she explored Prince-style purple funk, neo-soul and even electropop as a backdrop for moving ruminations on race and relationships.


Perrett’s sudden, miraculous reappearance back in 2017 with his first solo album proper, How The West Was Won, was one of the more surprising returns of recent times. Fortuitously, Humanworld was every bit as good as, and at points even better than, its predecessor. Made with his sons Jamie and Peter Jr joining him on guitar and bass, Humanworld foregrounded Perrett’s gifts for compressing all the drama of life’s ups and downs into simple, unpretentious pop.

On The Line

Lewis’s fourth solo album evoked the expensive sounds of prime Fleetwood Mac, and featured some of the finest players of that hallowed era, from Ringo Starr and Jim Keltner to Benmont Tench and Don Was. On The Line was resolutely not a period piece, however, its sumptuous production only serving to better highlight the bleeding edge of Lewis’s lovelorn ballads, from the wayward “Taffy” to the deliciously lugubrious “Hollywood Lawn”.

How To Live

A move from inner London to the fringes of Epping Forest encouraged Jack Cooper to abandon Velvets wannabes Ultimate Painting and focus on this inspired urban-rural hybrid, driven by tight motorik rhythms but rich with the cadences of British folk rock. Effusive sax breaks from Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias sealed the deal.

Remind Me Tomorrow

It’s been a busy time of late for the New Jersey native – motherhood, acting and a counselling degree – while further changes were in evidence on this, her fifth studio album, which found Van Etten edge away from guitar towards piano and vintage synths. The results were often gloriously catchy – the Springsteen-esque “Seventeen” – though elsewhere songs like “Jupiter 4” evoked the pulsing drones of Suicide and the dissonant hiss of “Memorial Day” shared the corrosive atmospherics of Low’s Double Negative.


His Wisconsin wood cabin long since overgrown, Justin Vernon’s fourth Bon Iver album was an experiment in musical crowdsourcing, finding starring roles for everyone from Bruce Hornsby to former Spank Rock rapper Naeem Juwan. Continuing the revelatory ‘exploded view’ songwriting approach of 2016’s 22, A Million, but with real musicians and singers taking the place of samples and effects, it found thrilling new ways to convey moments of soaring, communal joy.


For his follow-up to Peasant, Newcastle’s folk auteur turned his keen eye on 21st-century life, singing of racism, soul-sucking jobs, homelessness and mental illness: “It’s lonely up here in Middle England,” he laments on “Jogging”. To match the coarse subject matter, Dawson swapped the harps and strings of Peasant for electric guitar, drums and synths; “Black Triangle”, then, recounts the desperation of a UFO obsessive over wailing metal, while the gruelling “Fulfillment Centre” dissects damaging consumerism over Tuareg rhythms.

Face Stabber

As in life, as on record. Manic intensity is the John Dwyer way, his energies for keeping Oh Sees on an unforgiving schedule of writing, playing and recording mirrored in the brisk-tempo garage motorik that is the stuff of Face Stabber. Always different, always the same, here the band occupy some reassuringly familiar space to last year’s Smote Reverser: their thundering double drummers are the propulsion for their turbulent passage into guitar orbit.


The slacker thrills of Don’t Let The Kids Win, Jacklin’s 2016 debut, did little to suggest the depths of raw emotion that the Sydney-raised songwriter would plumb for its powerful follow-up. Jacklin’s extraordinary voice, wracked lyrics and the slow, sparse electric pulse suggested early Cat Power or Low, with “Head Alone” a demand for space, both emotionally and physically, and the closing “Comfort” a cautious resurfacing after romantic and touring troubles: “I’ll be OK/I’ll be alright…”


For her fifth solo LP, Carmarthenshire’s Cate Le Bon left behind the acidic guitars and tumbling krautrock of 2016’s Crab Day for a softer bed of pianos, marimbas, saxophones and synths. The result, mostly written in isolation in the Lake District while Le Bon was studying furniture-making, was a slow-burning triumph, a grower that took many listens to reveal its enigmatic, intoxicating centre.

Ode To Joy

Throughout their storied 25-year career, Wilco have consistently questioned themselves and their creative purpose. So Ode To Joy – their 11th studio album – found Jeff Tweedy and his co-conspirators once again recalibrating their sound and direction. Ode To Joy stripped everything back to its key components, favouring a hushed, spacious palette on which Tweedy could transmit his songs about mortality, love, the state of the world and more. Also: their Wilcovered CD for Uncut was pretty amazing, we humbly thought.


The quartet’s second album of the year, Two Hands, also picked up some appreciation from our writers, but their superb first LP of 2019 made the biggest impact. Adrianne Lenker’s songs, from the weightless “Cattails” to the ominous “Jenny”, were never less than stunning, but they were elevated by the sensitive, sinuous arrangements: one moment Big Thief could sound as folky and rootsy as a campfire singalong, the next as expansive and airy as the cosmos high above.

Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest

After Dream River’s spacious meditations on the natural world, six years later we find Bill Callahan keeping things within four walls. Bliss would be overstating it – Callahan is too nuanced a writer for that – but this is a record far more domestic than watery. Now a husband and father, here Callahan admits us further than ever before into his private world. The sound is as intimate as the sentiment, even if the record occasionally hints at strange currents beneath the tranquil surface.

Western Stars

A change of pace from the sturm und drang of the E Street Band, the longdelayed Western Stars found Springsteen at his most autumnal and meditative. The songs were bleak narratives and lingering pen-portraits of fading actors, injured stuntmen and jaded lovers ruminating on their unhappy lot. The lush orchestrations and ambitious, sophisticated arrangements felt closer to ’60s West Coast folk-pop than Springsteen’s usual beat. As a consequence, Western Stars was an unexpected and welcome stylistic detour.

Like The River Loves The Sea

The Kentucky singer and guitarist has quietly proved herself to be one of the finest songwriters of recent years, and her sublime fifth album was naturally entrancing. Recorded in Iceland with her adept collaborators Nathan Salsburg and James Elkington, with a little help from Will Oldham and a few local musicians, these 12 acoustic tracks are gossamer-fine, sometimes profound and utterly timeless.

Norman Fucking Rockwell

A thematically rich record – crazy love during end times – Norman Fucking Rockwell positioned the singer-songwriter somewhere between Eve Babitz and Carole King. Over baroque piano ballads and dazzling folk, the album’s narrators found themselves adrift in Del Rey’s deeply seductive vision of California, populated by ne’er-do-wells and fly-by-nights. References to Laurel Canyon, Dennis Wilson and CSN cast a retro haze; but Norman Fucking Rockwell is very much Del Rey’s own vision. Witness “Venice Bitch”, the nine-minute epic that crowned this elegant and complex album.

Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

Having put a rocket up the jazz scene with last year’s incendiary, politically charged Sons Of Kemet album Your Queen Is A Reptile, Shabaka Hutchings channelled that fervour into the return of his cosmic synth’n’sax outfit, The Comet Is Coming. As with the best spiritual jazz records, Trust In The Lifeforce… was equally blissful and raging, both out-there and in-here – the most intoxicating collision of beats, jazz and apocalyptic visions since DJ Shadow discovered David Axelrod.

Purple Mountains

“I spent a decade playing chicken with oblivion,” revealed David Berman in the opening number of what was tragically to prove Purple Mountains’ first and last album. “Day to day, I’m neck and neck with giving in.” We know now that oblivion won. But Berman’s generous final act was to give hope to others by excavating the darkest recesses of his psyche with such eloquence and humour, all set to his unique brand of endearingly louche country-rock.


If Skeleton Tree loosened the moorings, then Ghosteen found Cave boldly cutting the rope, severing all ties with the glowering caricature of old. Instead, this was an epic, dreamlike odyssey through grief and towards hope, accompanied by migrating spirits and galleon ships, sick babies and Jesus freaks, all engulfed in whirls of analogue synths and spectral, multi-tracked voices. As he sang, “It’s a long way to find peace of mind” – but it was a journey that enriched us all.

Titanic Rising

Last year, our Albums Of The Year poll found seasoned veterans like Low and Yo La Tengo discovering new sonic methods to convey their apprehension and sense of displacement during these complex times. Similarly, our 2019 survey shows how many of our other core artists have also grappled with ways to articulate their responses to an increasingly tumultuous world. For Wilco, Lambchop, The Specials and Brittany Howard, for example, their albums during 2019 mixed both personal and political themes with uplifting results.

The same is true, too, of Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering – whose fourth album Titanic Rising, released in April, confronted the problems facing us all head on. Her 2016 LP, A Front Row Seat To Earth, had begun to consider our planet’s fate; but the themes that recur in Titanic Rising proved to be weighty: climate emergency, the decline of natural resources and the struggle to find emotional connection in an increasingly technological world. For the front cover of Titanic Rising, Mering submerged an entire bedroom, complete with teddy bear and laptop. “Show me where it hurts,” she whispered at the end of opener “A Lot’s Gonna Change”; you could be forgiven for thinking she was addressing Earth itself.

Weyes Blood ushered in 2019 with “Andromeda” – a swooning update of early-’70s West Coast pop, filled with sci-fi wonderment, where Mering transformed her earthy quest for love into a celestial concern. The rest of Titanic Rising, meanwhile, is an exercise in baroque post-modernism, full of lavishly orchestrated and structured compositions. Titanic Rising also showcases Mering’s remarkable alto – part Judy Sill, part Nico – that lies between folk and torch singing. There is a dignity and otherness at work here: her voice sweeps robustly over swelling crescendo of “Something To Believe”, while “A Lot’s Gonna Change” finds her delivery softer and more intimate. By the end of the year, Mering was sharing the stage of the Hollywood Bowl with Lana Del Rey and Zella Day, singing three-part harmonies on a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free”. An indication, if you need one, of Mering’s breakthrough with this remarkable, transcendent album.

Grace Slick: “I enjoyed every trip I had!”


The latest issue of Uncut – in UK shops now and available to order online by clicking here – features a rare and candid interview with San Francisco’s psychedelic siren Grace Slick, taking in Jefferson Airplane’s heyday, the Starship’s downfall, Janis, Jim and plenty more besides.

Talking to Uncut’s Jaan Uhelszki, Slick ponders the fact the she’s now outlived most of her contemporaries from the underground rock scene. “Sometimes I wonder why, especially since my idea of heaven was to get really drunk and drive a car real fast,” she says. “I took lots of drugs. I’ve never eaten right. I’ve never exercised 
a day in my life. My idea of exercise was fucking. But 
I don’t do that any more, so I don’t do any exercise. I’ve got about four deadly diseases but I’m still walking around. My doctor looked at me the other day and he said, ‘God, you’re a tough broad.'”

Do you think some of those losses – Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Cass Elliot, Brian Jones – could have been avoided? “Well, nobody back then wanted to die. Back in the ’60s, you didn’t go to rehab. That was for people who broke their legs skiing. We didn’t even consider going. The trouble was, there was such a radical shift from the ’50s to the ’60s, we hadn’t figured out how to live in this new world. If you were in a rock’n’ roll band in the ’60s, the only thing you couldn’t do was kill people. Everything else was acceptable. You’re being paid to travel around the world and people admire you because you’re a rock’n’roll star. You’re young, you’re relatively healthy. Trust me, you’re not trying to kill yourself – you’re just having fun. I don’t remember anyone being miserable. Sure, Janis had issues, but nobody was suicidal. You could screw anybody and take any drugs you wanted. The only downside was we didn’t measure the drugs we took. 
A lot of us died because we weren’t good with the chemistry. When Janis died, Marty [Balin] stopped using drugs. I’m stupid, I always thought when these people died, it wasn’t going to be me. But that turned out to be true.

“Fortunately, I enjoyed every trip I had. It could’ve gone the other way, because sometimes it does. I would not take acid now… At the time I took acid I had a job, my parents were healthy, everything was fine. 
I didn’t flip out. But it can get gnarly. So it is a blessing if you’re able to take it in the right framework.”

Talking of Janis Joplin, Slick says: “People who write books really get Janis wrong. The woman I knew would cackle, she’d laugh so hard, and was fun to be with. Very vocal, very outspoken, very funny. Texas women tend to be like that. They called us fire and ice. I was the ice and she was the fire. But I think she is more of a symbol of those times than I. She had more style. My voice is OK, but she really pushed the envelope.”

You can read much from Grace Slick in the latest issue of Uncut, in shops now!

Leonard Cohen – Thanks For The Dance


Unlike most people, or so it seemed from the film’s reviews, I emerged from a cinema showing Nick Broomfield’s Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love earlier this year feeling rather less fond of Leonard Cohen than when I’d gone in. It was hard to ignore the fate of Marianne Ihlen’s son by a first husband, the novelist Axel Jensen, who had left her by the time she met Cohen on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. Axel Jr, still just a baby when their affair began, was promptly sent back to Norway to be looked after by his grandmother. Later she brought him back to the community of artists on Hydra, and then took him with her when she pursued the Canadian poet to New York even as their relationship petered out towards the end of the decade. Axel Jr has spent much of his life as collateral damage, in and out of institutions, coping with psychiatric problems. Apparently Cohen often sent Marianne money to help them keep going until she met her second husband, an oil-rig engineer. As someone in the film says about children raised on Hydra, often it did not turn out well for them.

So the unexpected arrival of a new album under the name of Cohen, who died in November 2016 aged 82, might help to dispel the fumes lingering from Broomfield’s portrait of elegant but heedless self-indulgence. It restores the memory of an artist who, throughout his long career, made music that reconciled the gratified desires of the flesh with the austerity 
of a spiritual odyssey.

Cohen’s death occurred a couple of weeks after the release of his 14th studio album, You Want It Darker, which promptly flew up the charts around the world. Produced with scrupulous intelligence and the lightest of touches by his son Adam, it offered a 
fitting last word. On the epic title track, amid the sounds of funeral rites, he seemed to be saying goodbye to the world.

Thanks For The Dance is a postscript, pieced together by Adam Cohen from poems and lyrics recorded by his father at his home in Los Angeles and left behind after their work on You Want It Darker was done. Two tracks – “The Goal” and “Listen To The Hummingbird” – are based on poems initially recorded without music; the remaining seven were taped with skeletal accompaniment.

On hardly any of the nine tracks, amounting to just under half an hour of playing time, does Cohen actually sing. Exceptions are the title track, which just about manages to suggest a woozy melody, and the chorus of “Happens To The Heart”. Practically everything else is recited in that gently ruminative baritone, the voice of a man who’s seen too much but can’t stop looking.

As it turns out, this is absolutely fine. There may be nothing here that a Judy Collins would be racing to cover, no “So Long, Marianne” or “Bird On A Wire”, never mind a potential X Factor favourite like “Hallelujah”. But it reminds us that Cohen started life as a poet, winning prizes during his time as a student at McGill University, where he graduated in 1955, and publishing his first collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, the following year. If this is also how he chose to finish, at least nobody read his poems as well as he did.

To flesh out the settings for these words, Adam Cohen called on a large company of collaborators, including some who had worked with his father, such as the virtuoso Spanish guitarist and laúd player Javier Más; the singers Jennifer Warnes and Sharon Robinson; Patrick Leonard, who created much of the music for Popular Problems, released in 2014; and Michael Chaves, who mixed and played on You Want It Darker. The tracks were worked on in Los Angeles, Montreal and Berlin, enabling members of André de Ridder’s s t a r g a z e orchestra and the Shaar Hashomayim male-voice choir to give their contributions. If this makes it seem like a large-scale project, that is not how the result sounds. Thanks For The Dance has the intimacy that characterised Songs Of Leonard Cohen and Songs From A Room half a century ago, only rarely making the listener conscious of the resources at Adam Cohen’s command.

“Happens To The Heart” is the opening track, the album’s longest and most fully realised piece, with one strong deadpan verse following another: “I was always working steady/But I never called it art/It was just some old convention/Like the horse before the cart/I had no trouble betting/On the Flood against the Ark/You see I knew about the ending/What happens to the heart.” Más weaves in and out, his nimble picking on the laúd (a lute-like instrument) making him sound like a Moorish Mark Knopfler, while Daniel Lanois selects precisely the right minimalist piano notes to underscore the song’s deliberate cadence. When the sound swells, it still seems weightless.

“It’s Torn” uses a subdued Morricone-like guitar twang for a lyric of unsettling sensuality: “You kick off your sandals and shake off your hair/It’s torn where you’re dancing, it’s torn everywhere/…It’s torn where there’s beauty, it’s torn where there’s death/It’s torn where there’s mercy but torn somewhat less/It’s torn in the highest from kingdom to crown/The messages fly but the network is down.” Even more powerful is “Puppets”, which opens with an evocation of fascism – “Germans puppets burned the Jews/Jewish puppets did not choose” – before bringing the picture closer to home and up to date: “Puppet presidents command/Puppet troops to burn the land…”

This is doggerel, but it packs a punch, particularly when counterpointed by a sombre choral arrangement and the sound of a distant tolling. “The Hills”, co-produced with Adam Cohen by Patrick Watson, is the most lavish piece, building at a stately pace to a dramatic climax, a little reminiscent of a vintage Roy Orbison 45. “The Nights Of Santiago” gets right down to business, with flamenco guitar and handclapping: “Behind a fine embroidery/Her nipples rose like bread/Then I took off my necktie/And she took off her dress/My belt and pistol set aside/We tore away the rest.” When Lennie says that nipples rise like bread, we must take his word for it.

Sometimes the ageing poet is so gloomy that you just have to laugh, in the fairly certain knowledge that he would have been chuckling along with you. “I sit in my chair, I look at the street/The neighbour returns my smile of defeat,” he says in “The Goal”, a 72-second haiku which amounts to a final reckoning but ends on a note of twisted optimism: “No-one to follow/And nothing to teach/Except that the goal/Falls short of the reach.” And the short overall playing time is immaterial: brevity can be the soul of poetry, too. There is no lack of substance here, brought to us with care by a devoted son.

Lana Del Rey announces spoken word album


Lana Del Rey has announced that, as a result of a delay to her upcoming poetry book Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, she’ll released a new spoken word album on January 4.

In an Instagram video, she describes the as-yet-untitled album as “kind of freestyle poetry… It’s not particularly polished, it’s a bit more gritty.”

The album will cost “around a dollar, because thoughts are meant to be shared and are priceless in some way.” Half of the proceeds will go to benefit Native American organisations.

“In doing my own work in connecting to my own family lineage I was encouraged to also try to connect to the country’s lineage,” says Del Rey. “This was a while ago, and it kind of informed the next album that I’d been working on. And I just really wanted to sort of pay homage to the country that I love so much by doing my own reparation, I guess I would say, my own reparative act. And so I know it’s a bit of an unusual choice and I have no reasoning for it other than it just feels right to me. And so for as long as my album, my spoken word album is distributed, half of it will be going to Native American organisations across America.”

Hear Karen Dalton’s version of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child”


A new 3xLP + 3xCD box set, The Karen Dalton Archives, will be released in March 2020 on Megaphone.

It features three hours of the folk singer’s recordings from the early 1960s, including the 1962 live album Cotton Eyed Joe and the 1963 home-recorded album Green Rocky Road for the first time on vinyl.

The package also includes a 56-page 12” book featuring the testimonies of friends and reproductions of Dalton’s own archives of music, photos and words.

Hear Karen Dalton’s version of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” below:

Beck – Hyperspace


Hyperspace is the 13th studio album by a man soon to enter his fourth decade as a recording artist and his sixth as a human being on this planet. Given those formidable numbers, Beck may understandably be a little weary of the business of being Beck. Perhaps that’s why he assigned some of the burden to Tessa Thompson in the video for “Uneventful Days”, which features the Thor and Westworld actress on the streets of LA sporting the same ensemble of leather jacket, cowboy hat and boombox that added up to Beck’s iconic look in “Devil’s Haircut” nearly a quarter-century ago.

While the genuine article does appear elsewhere in the Dev Hynes-directed clip singing plaintively in dark sunglasses, having a celebrity friend play an earlier self seems entirely on-brand for the artist who introduced the pleasures of postmodern pastiche to the largely earnest era of grunge and has since spent his career trading in one identity for the next. After hopscotching from anti-folkie to slacker MC to Prince wannabe to voyager into the slipstreams of psychedelia and Tropicália and back again, surely there comes a time to take yourself out of the picture entirely.

Yet as so often has been the case, any overt display of ironic detachment is more likely a red herring, a means of obscuring the more discomfiting feelings of pain and confusion that fill so much of Beck’s songwriting. For all of its shimmer and shine as a piece of high-gloss contemporary pop, “Uneventful Days” depicts an experience of abandonment and isolation, of “living in that dark, waiting for the light”. Amid the lamentation there are also some words for anyone who believes they know Beck’s next move: “You may know my name/You don’t know my mind”. And just as he does on all of his best albums, Beck finds fresh ways throughout Hyperspace to confound the question of who exactly he ought to be, all while making music that feels instantly familiar and sneakily unpredictable.

If there’s a new identity that takes precedence here, it’s the sad-eyed electro-soul softie. That too may surprise anyone who expected Beck’s teaming with Pharrell Williams for seven of Hyperspace’s 11 tracks – a collaboration that he’s pursued for over a decade – to yield an equally exuberant successor to 2017’s Colors. Of course, there are traces of the melodic and rhythmic sensibility of Williams’ hits for the likes of Britney Spears, Daft Punk and Rihanna, plus the big-hatted one’s still-ubiquitous “Happy”. Hyperspace’s most aggressive and Odelay-like track, “Saw Lightning”, combines some hectic slide-guitar and harmonica playing with the clipped, flat drum sound that’s been a trademark of Williams’ productions with Neptunes partner Chad Hugo since early masterstrokes like Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass”.

Yet the biggest influence Williams may have had is to curb his client’s maximalist tendencies and encourage greater clarity of purpose and feeling. So for all the unabashedly synthetic trappings of the title track and “Dark Places”, the songs boast a quality of open-hearted sincerity, something that had been previously more prevalent in straighter, more strictly singer-songwriter-oriented outings than the more experimental (and usually more interesting) regions of his back catalogue, which is where Hyperspace happily belongs.

The spacious feel of Williams coproductions such as the gauzy “Chemical” extends to Beck’s tracks with other collaborators, too. Co-produced by Cole MGN, “Die Waiting” is an effervescent statement of romantic devotion that rides a spidery guitar line and a rubbery rhythm. Made with producer Paul Epworth, “Star” is a spectral, spiky R&B track full of eerie burbles and squelches. On “Stratosphere”, the voices of Beck and guest Chris Martin float on clouds of washed-out keys and softly strummed guitar.

Matters are more anxious on “See Through” as Beck and longtime keyboardist and co-producer Greg Kurstin put their spin on Drake’s emo hip-hop while retaining the requisite expressions of hurt and confusion – “I feel so ugly when you see through me”, Beck murmurs. While any such references to emotional turmoil are suggestive of the recent end of Beck’s 14-year marriage to Marissa Ribisi, the new album is far more varied in tone and tenor than Sea Change, one of the 21st century’s more desolate break-up albums, or the similarly melancholy Morning Phase.

Maybe it’s because of all those airy, pillowy synth sounds – or the heavenly choir on “Everlasting Nothing”, the album’s gloriously if incongruously U2-scaled space-gospel closer – but there’s a warmth and lightness here that counters Hyperspace’s bleaker edge. It also ameliorates the sense of cool reserve that can sometimes make Beck seem less present in his own music than he ought to be. As layered and textured as songs like “Chemical” and “Stratosphere” may be, Hyperspace never feels over-calculated or over-dressed. Instead, it’s the work of an artist who sounds fully re-engaged. As such, it’s a useful reminder of how new partnerships can bring out one’s best self; no small thing for someone who’s got so many selves to choose from.