By now, you’ll have hopefully scrutinised our extensive preview of 2022’s essential records in the current issue of Uncut. Well, the good news for all of us is that there’s even more key records coming – in this online exclusive, learn more about upcoming releases from Animal Collective, Midlake, Aoife Nessa Frances, Azar Lawrence and more…
TITLE: Time Skiffs
RELEASE DATE: February 2022
First in six years from celebrated avant-pop mavens
NOAH LENNOX: As a band, I don’t think we were tired of each other. It’s more like the longer you go, the more difficult it becomes to find something really new together. Every new batch of songs kind of feels like that: ‘What can we do that’s new? How can we approach an instrument in a different way? What’s an exciting thing?’ That’s really the target for us.
We sent demos to each other in early 2018. Then at the end of that summer we got together in a house outside of Nashville and spent three weeks just sort of hashing things out, seeing what worked and what didn’t and trying to come up with arrangements. After that, we did a short tour in the U.S. and were planning to record in early 2019, but then the pandemic changed everything.
We had a basic idea of what was going to happen, but there were certain songs that relied more on the performative aspects of them, and we just felt like we couldn’t do those remotely. So that cut things down quite a bit.
I went into Namouche, a studio I know pretty well here in Lisbon, and spent two days doing all the drum tracks. For me, it was a case of trying to play the drums in a different way, learning techniques that I didn’t really know how to do, just going for a musical sound and less hammering away. Trying to do something a little more subtle and varied in terms of the textures and tone. But everything else was done in our respective home studio spaces. Doing our own recording is something we’ve done since we were pretty young, in our early teens, so it’s not a totally foreign thing to us. The mixing process was kind of intense though, because the mixes would be going back and forth between us all. So that took a really long time.
I think I brought maybe 30-odd songs, in different points of completion, then just let the guys choose the ones that resonated with them. A song like “Prester John” is a composite of ideas. The first half is mine, then the others did a version of the latter half at a show in New Orleans, maybe three years ago, when I was doing Panda Bear stuff on my own. It wasn’t until pretty late in the game of this batch of songs that I think Dave [Portner, aka Avey Tare] suggested the two could be fused. It made sense thematically and harmonically.
“Walker” is one of mine. It’s an ode to Scott Walker, who’d just passed away. I was such a massive fan of his and wanted to do a song for him, shout him out. But it’s also kind of a song about depression, I should say. Sorry Scott. “Car Keys” is a song that I’ve been hovering around for a long time, since Tomboy [Panda Bear, 2011]. Around 2010 or so, I just started obsessing about what drives us, especially the uglier sides of human beings and where that comes from and why that happens. The first line is about wanting to take ownership of your instincts and the metaphor for me was I wanted to be driving the car, not something else. So car keys became this sort of symbol of self-control.
The album title, Time Skiffs, came from Dave, I believe. To me, the songs become these sort of transportive moments, almost like a time machine thing, so the songs themselves are the skiffs, the little boats that take you to another place. That’s the idea.
TITLE: Themes From
RELEASE DATE: Spring 2022
Aidan Moffat revives his instrumental side project to follow up to 2020’s Au Pieds de la Nuit
AIDAN MOFFAT: This is actually the third Nyx Nótt album I’ve made. I started recording a second one in lockdown, but decided to scrap it. It was just really quiet and maybe a bit too personal. I kind of made it as an escape, I suppose. So I then went in completely the opposite direction and made something you can maybe dance to. There’s a lot more going on this time around. There’s still a lot of jazzy bits on there, but there’s more electronic stuff. And it’s a bit faster and bolder. There are some big, sweeping orchestras, things like that.
The original idea was to do maybe 20 two-minute tracks and call it Themes From, trying to make a record for the Netflix age. But I got tired of that idea pretty quickly and realised that it’s really unsatisfying to have lots of short songs. So I decided to expand them and ended up just doing eight pretty long tracks. It quite often starts with drums, or just a sample somewhere, then builds up from there. I loved Michael Nyman when I was younger and realised that I’d been listening to him a lot during lockdown. The new songs don’t sound anything like his records, of course, but they’re structured in a similar way, layering and layering things until you don’t even know what’s making the note anymore. They just keep building and building until there’s this big, huge sound.
The songs are named after different types of shows. The first one is “Docudrama”, which is sort of serious and string-based, but it’s got quite a beat to it as well. Then there’s “Porno” – which is jazzy and sleazy – and “Thriller”. And “Hardboiled”, “Action”, “Tearjerker” and I’m sure there’s a “Rom Com” too. And one called “Caper”, which is a chaotic, full-on jazz thing. So I think they all fit together.
Will there be another Arab Strap album? We think so. Neither of us are particularly fond of just releasing a single for streaming, so we’re trying to think of what to do next. But there will be an EP at some point during the year. People seemed to really like the last album, which means we’ve set ourselves standards to live up to. So if it’s nothing short of spectacular then there’s no point.
TITLE: Fleeting Adventure
LABEL: Basin Rock
RELEASE DATE: July 2022
Experimental Australian guitarist/banjo player makes good on 2020’sAlexandra
ANDREW TUTTLE: I started recording in September last year . I know a lot of albums at the moment are ‘the lockdown album’, but this consciously (i)wasn’t(i) that. Where I live in Brisbane, we’ve really been quite fortunate, because there haven’t been too many cases. So the album is all about this sense of fleeting adventure and excitement, putting things into a new perspective. It’s me opening up to the world again, hearing stories about friends doing things and being able to go to a gig for the first time in a year, or go to the park, or get on a plane.
I’ve had guests on albums before, but working on A Cassowary Apart earlier this year, with Padang Food Tigers [Spencer Grady and Stephen Lewis], was a great eye-opener. It really got me thinking about working further with collaborations. So it’s a combination of new friends, old friends and everything in between. You have some of the Brisbane crew, like Joe Saxby [saxophone], who I’ve known for years, people who I’ve toured with, like Steve Gunn, and people I’ve met in residencies. And then there are a few people who I met online last year – like Luke Schneider and Michael Muller from Balmorhea. It’s like we became playlist friends.
I gave everyone a really free brief. If it was a guitar-led track, I’d say, “Do what you want, then send it back. I’ll keep some of it and we’ll go from there.” That made it really interesting for me, because I wasn’t sure what I was getting back. I didn’t know what instrumentation they’d provide or what song they would play on. And I got to play around with things, which I think really helped with getting that spatial element in the music.
There are two tracks that are really guest heavy: “Overnight’s A Weekend” and “Filtering”. And three tracks are just banjo, acoustic guitar and pedal steel, but it’s not the same people on each one. One track [“Correlation”] has Josh Kimbrough and Chuck Johnson and the other two have Luke Schneider and Darren Cross [“Next Week, Pending” and “New Breakfast Habit”], so it’s funny that there’s almost an accidental trio in there.
For the first part of the album I was listening to a lot of those things on the Sahel Sounds album, so Les Filles de Illighadad [Tuareg band] and North African guitar sounds. Things that were really ongoing, structurally, and you weren’t sure when each track was going to finish. I hadn’t really spent much time with Fela Kuti before, but it’s stuff I’ve been listening to a lot. And a lot of peers as well. Ryley Walker’s latest album [Course In Fable] was just gorgeous and really kicked my butt into gear. So a lot of different things were inspiring me as I went along.
AOIFE NESSA FRANCES
RELEASE DATE: Autumn 2022
Irish singer-songwriter heads for the country in the wake of 2020’s ethereal psych-folk debut, Land Of No Junction
AOIFE NESSA FRANCES: My first album had just come out, then the pandemic kicked off and I ended up moving to the west of Ireland, basically for the entire year. I didn’t mean to stay there, but I kind of fell in love with it. County Clare is so beautiful. There was nothing happening and I hadn’t actually gotten to tour properly with my record or anything, so I just started writing songs. I planned to do some demos in a little cabin I’d found in County Kerry. I went down with some friends and we just started recording very casually. But it turned out so well that I was like, ‘Wow, this is definitely an album!’
I was listening to a lot of Jim Sullivan and Alice Coltrane and a lot of ambient music, like Joanna Brouk and then Brazilian music, like Caetano Valoso. I don’t know if any of these sounds are reflected in what I’ve made, but I was listening to different things while I was writing this album.
As far as lyrical themes go, I guess it was unintentional, but maybe when it eventually found some kind of shape there was heartbreak, self-discovery, love and friendship. And autobiography too. Things always come through.
I started out just with the three-piece band and we began recording just over a year ago, in September 2020, and finished it this October. Conor O’Brien of Villagers did horns and Maebh McKenna, my friend, is an amazing harpist. None of these musicians were hearing what they were doing, so everything was quite bare when they were recording. Then we added things afterwards and kind of had to sculpt a lot. Brendan Jenkinson is the producer and he also played different instruments.
We recorded six songs in the cabin, which was just someone’s house, and then we went to a studio in Dublin and I recorded a few at home, where I have my own little set-up. So it was quite spread out, but the bulk of it was recorded in Kerry, in a place called Anascaul. I really enjoy strange, remote recordings, where you’re not necessarily in a studio environment and it feels quite informal. For example, when we were recording I ended up actually standing outside for a lot of it, just for sound separation. There’s no reflection when you’re in the outdoors, you’re not dealing with walls. I was looking out onto the ocean and looking at mountains while I was performing these songs that we were flushing out. And I found that very magical.
TITLE: New Sky
RELEASE DATE: February 2022
Legendary jazz saxophonist, ex-sideman to McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis, readies both a solo effort and a Pharoah Sanders collaboration
AZAR LAWRENCE: People were in a state of confusion and there was a lot of emotional pain going on during the pandemic. As a musician, and also as a person who tries to be receptive to people as a whole in my community, I was trying to translate that feeling into music of the times. So I wrote the song “New Sky” with Tiffany Austin, who’s a vocalist up in Berkeley, California. She came back with the lyrics, which were very inspiring. And I named it “New Sky” because it seemed as though, after all the turmoil, there was an opening of new possibilities in front of us.
There’s a concept in the spiritual doctrines that relates to harmony through conflict. After what we’ve been going through, with the whole political scene and environmental issues, people are starting to face these things. So there’s a heightened sense of awareness at the moment, which was the foundational point for New Sky. Each song has a harmonious kind of love theme to it. I originally recorded “From The Point Of Love” on my second album for Fantasy Records, Summer Solstice . And “Revelation” was first done on Speak The Word . I felt like those two tracks had never really gotten a chance to fully be explored, so I re-recorded them for New Sky with a new fresh concept.
I’m also on the live album of Pharoah Sanders’ 80th birthday concert [Los Angeles, 2020], which is due out next year. Pharoah and I have been close for years. He used to invite me over for Thanksgiving when we lived in New Jersey and then we both ended up here in Los Angeles. So we started hanging out during the pandemic. He and I made a video together and we were going to continue on with writing some more songs. Pharoah already had two that we were going to use, but the pandemic made it difficult for him to move around, because he had some health issues that he was being very careful of. So we decided we’d revisit that concept, as far as us doing a record together, a little further down the line. There’s mutual respect there and we have a deep connection whenever we play. It’s the same kind of connection and form of communication that I used to have with McCoy Tyner.
THE BOO RADLEYS
TITLE: Keep On With Falling
RELEASE DATE: March 2022
After this summer’s surprise comeback EP, “A Full Syringe And Memories Of You”, Britpop-era favourites – now slimmed to a trio – return in style
SIMON ‘SICE’ ROWBOTTOM: For a long time we haven’t been in the right place in our lives to do this. We’ve had families, we’ve had different careers. It was really sparked by a chance meeting between me and Tim [Brown, bassist] at my birthday party, where we got chatting about working together again. I don’t think there was any intention of making it a Boo Radleys thing, it was just, “Let’s do some songs.” Then Rob [Cieka, drummer] got involved and it all happened so quickly. We had a ton of songs, so the question then raised itself: ‘What are we going to do with them?’ Right up until six months ago we were still thinking it might be a solo thing for me, then finally we made that decision to do it as The Boo Radleys.
It’s very different to the set-up and dynamic that we had with Martin [Carr], and not just because he was the main songwriter. This was also different because of the way we made it, with a lot more chucking files backwards and forwards, changing and adding bits, working on harmonies. So it’s much more collaborative in that sense, a completely different dynamic. This is still The Boo Radleys, but with a different set of songwriters.
Once we had a huge load of collected recorded things, we tried to make the album something that we think is more now and that represents the eclecticism of what we write. One of my favourite albums is Revolver, which goes from “Eleanor Rigby” to “Tomorrow Never Knows”, that brilliant range of songs. So that’s what we’ve tried to do, something with a wide palette.
The lyrics are all pretty personal. A lot of it is very relevant to our individual lives. The main ones that I wrote are about the things I’ve learned and have to remind myself of – adages to live by, those kinds of things. And the ageing process plays into what we do as well. One thing it’s made me realise is that when we were doing this in our 20s we were always looking for the next thing. You’re always looking at playing bigger venues, selling more records, wanting to do this and that. But now it’s all about being in the moment. Living day to day is far more important.
As for the album title, it’s about that thing of taking risks and never being satisfied. It’s a message to me to keep on trying stuff and not to be afraid to fail. Failing and making mistakes is the most important thing. Otherwise, how do you learn?
TITLE: Evolution Here We Come
LABEL: No Quarter
RELEASE DATE: Summer 2022
Free-roaming Philadelphia guitarist rings the changes
CHRIS FORSYTH: I really wanted to change the way I’ve been working. Since I started doing the post-Solar Motel stuff in the early to mid ‘teens, I was making the records with all the same people. But after the last one [2019’s All Time Present] I just felt like we’d wrung it dry. So for this one Ryan [Jewell] returns on drums, but everybody else is different. The bass player is Douglas McCombs from Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day and the second guitarist is Tom Malach from Garcia Peoples.
It’s more concise than the records I’ve made over the past few years, which have been sprawling double albums with 15- or 20-minute tracks. I wanted to make each of the tracks more of a considered sonic world. There’s a number of songs that can blow up into much longer pieces in live performance, but most of the tracks are around four minutes long, with one or two stretching to eight or nine minutes. So it’s a lot tighter and more focused.
Two songs have vocals. I sing lead on the title track, “Evolution Here We Come”, and then Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon – Steve’s from The Dream Syndicate, of course, and they both play in The Baseball Project – did backing vocals on a cover of Richard Thompson’s “You’re Going To Need Somebody” [from 1979’s Sunnyvista]. I’d been playing that song live and just felt a real connection to the lyrics.
Marshall Allen from the Sun Ra Orchestra is playing on one track, “Experimental And Professional”, which was such a thrill. It was so exciting to watch the master at work, because he’s on a complete other level. Bill Nace is on that track too, playing a taishōgoto, which is like a keyed Japanese harp, through a whole bunch of effects pedals. It’s a stringed instrument, but you tap keys on it. So there’s a lot more variety and detail in this record.
TITLE: For The Sake Of Bethel Woods
LABEL: Bella Union
RELEASE DATE: March 2022
Loss, hope, isolation and communion form the basis of the Texan outfit’s first in nearly a decade
ERIC PULIDO: After Antiphon , we definitely made a conscious decision to put the ship in the dock and move on with our lives in other ways and do other things. But there was some ambiguity, because we didn’t say we were done. It was always open-ended.
Everybody had their respective experiences throughout that time that led any individual to being moved to reconvene. But the passing of Jesse’s dad [in 2018] who then appeared to him in a dream [a photo of keyboardist/flautist Jesse Chandler’s father, taken at the Woodstock Festival, appears on the album sleeve] was a poetic catalyst for us to finally take that decision to make a record. It was just such a beautiful depiction and put things in perspective much more, as friends and musicians.
We all have set-ups in our houses, so we would bounce around ideas in smaller groups together – two or three of us – for the better part of a year. Then we didn’t fully get together until close to the end of the demo’ing stage. It probably helped that some of these side projects that happened between Midlake stopping and then picking things back up involved playing music together, whether it was solo things or collaborations. So we were still very active, whether together or apart. And I think that just doing music in other forms or genres broadened the dynamic of the band when we did return. This album, more than any we’ve done, felt like it didn’t have as much pretence. Something like “Exile”, for instance, is us just trying to embrace the gift of each other and not having any baggage. That was another big part of our reconvening.
This album does have a lot to do with loss, but it’s finding a purpose and redemption in that as well. Even though there’s a duality there, there’s some redemption that gives hope to that initial sentiment. “Meanwhile” basically refers to that time between 2014 and then deciding to pick things back up, and how what transpires in that time can be quite powerful. It’s a quick snapshot of leading up to that time when we put things down and reconvened. It’s kind of like, ‘Meanwhile, in Texas…’
Other songs feel very relationship-based. And there are themes that are particular to the band. As much as I want anyone to relate to a song, I’d be lying if I said there’s not a personal aspect to something like “Gone”. In terms of the band, it’s kind of recognising that an element that was there is not present anymore. “Noble” is very directly personal to McKenzie Smith [drummer], because it’s about his infant son, who was born with a rare brain disorder. It used to be kind of a Midlake theme, where you’d have this very metaphoric type of lyric, so that you wouldn’t know what a song was about. But if I want to write a song about my best friend’s son and make it very literal, then we should that freedom to be able to do that. And hopefully that would translate and still be true to the band. That was, and still is, a very heavy subject and I just felt moved to write a song that was kind of from his perspective and us recognising that this sweet boy has no idea of the condition that he has. He just smiles and loves life and those around him. It’s kind of championing that.
I think artists can sometimes take themselves too seriously and think that whatever they create or say matters more than it does. I hope that what we create together matters. But if it’s to matter, I want it to be authentic and honest. This album is definitely that.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
RELEASE DATE: 2022
“Cheesy” drivetime vibes from New Zealand’s leading psychedelicists
RUBAN NIELSON: Writing started in the summer of 2019. I got a place in Palm Springs, California, before Covid and it eventually became a kind of fancy studio prison with a swimming pool during one of the weirdest times in history. I’ve just recently been able to work with my bandmates, after being forced to play everything myself on about half the record because of Covid. Working alone got boring. It’s nice to remind myself I can still do this all by myself, but I prefer hanging out with the boys and getting a win for the team these days. Having unilateral control is too safe or something. I think technically, as well, recording live is a different beast and we all want new challenges at work. So we were staying in the house, jamming, hanging out like this nightmare never happened – a brief oasis of normal.
Song-wise, I’ve been thinking of all the great offbeat rock radio classics. Sometimes it’s hard to even know what they’re about but they make you feel good. Like the song “Eye Of The Tiger”. What the hell is that about? There’s a list in my head of a certain kind of rock song and I wanted to apply myself to continuing that vein of rock that feels great in your car on the way home from work on a Friday, but the UMO version. The texture is cigarettes, but smooth cigarettes.
Thematically, I wrote a bit about my chaotic love life over the past few years, and looked at the air-conditioned nightmare of everything. Also, for the first time in my lyrics, I tried to make them purposefully cheesy and make a sort of nonsensical sense, like “Eye Of The Tiger”. I think the two singles that came out this year [“Weekend Run” and “That Life”] are indicative. The album will probably end up as a Rolex watch, Porsche 911 of Dad Rock. It sounds like a Ferrari Dino. I didn’t plan it to be like this, it’s just coming out that way.