Senses Fail "Hell is in Your Head"
Senses Fail have announced their highly anticipated eighth album “Hell Is In Your Head”. The album is set for release 15th July 2022 via Pure Noise Records. Co-produced by Saosin’s Beau Burchell, ‘Hell Is In Your Head’ marks the band’s first studio album since 2018’s “If There Is Light, It Will Find You”.
Having a kid changes you. Ask most new parents and they’ll say that when you bring a child into the world it instils in you a previously unimagined perspective on existence. Some even go so far as to say that it makes life make sense, that it gives it a purpose. For Buddy Nielsen, the sole remaining founding member of Senses Fail, it’s also made him think about his own mortality more than ever before. That started during his wife’s pregnancy, but it’s persisted ever since. As such, he’s found himself staring directly into the black abyss of his mortality a lot recently. It’s that heightened sense of his own impending doom that’s at the centre of “Hell Is In Your Head”, the band’s eighth studio album.
“My wife had a pretty serious childbirth”, he says. “I don’t want to say she almost died but it was pretty scary for a minute. And the relationship you have to have with your child is just a constant letting go of yourself in ways that you didn’t necessarily perceive you needed to. I’ve had to start to come to terms with my own death because my daughter, who’s now four, keeps asking about it. So this felt like an opportunity to maybe address grief and how we process being – how do you have a kid, how do you be alive, how do you continue to live a meaningful life while also knowing that you’re going to die?”.
It’s those questions and more that “Hell Is In Your Head” explores and attempts to answer across its 11 dark, brooding songs. It does so in two very distinct halves. Five of the first six tracks take their titles from the five parts of TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land”. They aren’t based on the 1922 poem per se, but they’re set in its world, and use that setting as a foundation to explore those topics in a more philosophical, abstract and timeless sense. Nielsen, in fact, says he views these songs: “more like a play”. That’s why the portentous, gloomy, atmospheric opener has “references to exiting and entering the wings of a stage”.
“What’s the answer to the inevitable trap of the fact that you’re going to die?”, asks Nielsen. “This record attempts to go to the dark place of ‘What is it that we’re so afraid of death?’ We’re afraid of death because of grief. Are we truly afraid of death because of death? Through my own therapy, I’ve learned you don’t even really have a clear understanding of death because it’s unknowable. And since you literally can’t die and come back, I tried to place the record in a much darker fictional place to help talk about those unanswerable questions”.
The second half of the record takes place more in the setting of the real world. Rather than pondering the philosophical nature of death, its songs are more of a real-time observation of it; tackling both the impending extinction-level threat of climate change and the contemporary political dystopia in the USA.
Needless to say, the album covers a lot of ground, and does so equally as emotionally as it does so cerebrally. Throughout, it weaves both Nielsen’s natural emotions and existential neuroses, and his philosophies as a practicing Buddhist into the very fabric of these songs. Not only are its two halves separated thematically – yet also still bound by the concept of death – Nielsen ensured that they’re also split musically. The “Waste Land” section is minor key, the second in major. The result is a musical journey that embraces the darkness of its subject matter, but then learns to let go, that indulges in plenty of existential self-reflection, but which also zooms out to paint a more widescreen picture.
Mush "Down Tools (Rough Trade Publishing)"
Leeds, UK band Mush have announced their third album, Down Tools, which will be out July 8 via Memphis Industries. (Their previous record, Lines Redacted, came out in February 2021.) This is the first album they’ve made since the death of guitarist Steve Tyson in 2020, and they once again worked with producers Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart (Yard Act, The Cribs). “They let us do whatever we want within reason, we have fun and you kind of forget they are actually both amazing at what they do,” says singer/guitarist Dan Hyndman. “So much of the guitar had to be improvised in the studio which was stressful but also intrinsic to creating the non-linear vibe of some of the stranger tracks.”
The first single off the album is “Get On Yer Soapbox,” which is powered by an off-kilter earworm riff and Hyndman describes as “a righteous wig-out number, like ‘Alternative Facts’ but with more cowbell.” He adds, “All the solos are improvised and I very much doubt I will ever be able to recreate them live, you can hear the track going off the rails which is something I’ve found exciting on records. Lyrically again it’s a kind of re-purposing of an old idiom which I like to do. Generally being ‘on your soapbox’ is considered to be a bit of a slur but I think a bit of self-righteousness is warranted from time to time, especially with the shower of shite we’re dealing with.”
Mice Parade "lapapọ (Rough Trade Publishing)"
Mice Parade returns from a decade of silence to release lapapọ, an album that spans the many styles of their storied career, and features guest singer appearances by Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors) and Arone Dyer (Buke & Gase). The rock is louder; the West-African-inspired highlife breaks are chubbier; the dueling drumkits are more complex, the instrumental passages more serene. What started as a home recording project in the late 90s soon morphed into a formidable and completely unique live band of incredible musicians from around the globe, all live-mixed and effected by legendary UK engineer Brandon Knights (aka Dub Warrior), the longtime sound engineer for Lee Scratch Perry, Soul II Soul, Gladiators and others.
After 9 albums and nearly 15 years years of worldwide touring, including festivals across the UK, Iceland, mainland Europe, Turkey and Japan, and supporting Stereolab across the US, Mice Parade fans can finally hear some new music, and the live band hopes to safely reunite later this year.
Throughout it all, Adam has mostly recorded with same ethos: allowing only one take for each track, forcing him to either leave in mistakes or address them with mutes or distractions, and embracing the Bob Ross concept of ‘happy accidents.’
This was a strict rule for the first several albums, and while he eventually became less strict about it, it’s still a goal that is achieved more often than not. Perfection is not the goal – indeed, there should be no such thing in music. Most songs are not even written before pressing the record button, but instead are built piece by piece in improvised fashion.
lapapọ is a Yoruba word meaning something akin to “totally” or “altogether.” A worldwide tour was in place around the album’s intended release, only to be cancelled upon the initial Covid lockdowns. Now it will finally see a release. it’s a record that’s worth the wait.
Hollie Cook "Happy Hour"
The beating heart of Steve McQueen’s mighty historical film series Small Axe was the music of Black England during the mid-to-late 20th century, and its best episode was Lovers Rock. A celebration of the titular reggae subgenre, the hour-long film pivoted on a London house party dancefloor scene gloriously soundtracked by Janet Kay’s 1979 courtship referendum “Silly Games.” For some it was a reminder, for others a revelation, of a style that, in its heyday, got little traction beyond the UK and Jamaica—a Philly soul sibling less concerned with politics or Rasta theology than with battlefields of the heart. While men certainly distinguished themselves in lovers rock, it was a less male-dominated space than roots reggae, especially in the UK, where lovers rock fully bloomed and where women shone brightly, even if they were often denied agency. English artists beyond the genre felt its sweet and sultry pull: Sade reflected its influence on an album named after it, as did the Clash on a highlight of London Calling.
Hollie Cook, a London-raised singer in her mid-30s, missed the music’s golden era, but over the past decade she’s become its most notable booster, expanding its possibilities the way Sharon Jones revitalized 1970s soul. Her fourth LP (fifth if you count the Prince Fatty-remixed Hollie Cook in Dub), Happy Hour refines her muscular sound, which echoes tough British roots acts like Aswad as much as the silk sheet approach of Janet Kay and Caroll Thompson. The daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and Culture Club backing vocalist Jeni Cook (Boy George is Hollie’s godfather) started her career as a latter-day member of the Slits—all of which might explain her taste for rough edges. The tension between soft and hard animates her sound. Happy Hour’s title track bolts on Ben Mckone’s hot-stepping drums and cymbals, which bushwhack through clouds of reverb, conjuring the wooziness of being two or three drinks in, as the singer laments how margaritas can’t cure her jilted ache. In “Moving On,” she pledges to ditch a toxic mate while a tart string quartet telegraphs a queasy, echoing uncertainty.
Weed paeans are reggae tradition, like whiskey ballads in country, and “Kush Kween” advocates the psychic benefits of home gardening, as well as consuming the harvest, with a guest appearance from Jamaican singer Jah9. But the best moments veer from tradition. On “Gold Girl,” Cook side-eyes a femme fatale with old-school vocal drama, unfurled over strings and mixing-desk antics like a triangulation of British touchstones Shirley Bassey, the Slits, and Soul II Soul. “Move My Way” updates the mix with a touch of ’90s UK garage, suggesting a new direction Cook’s sound could take, situating lovers rock in a continuum of Black British musical invention like the outstanding recent Soul Jazz compilation Life Between Islands.
Cook co-produced Happy Hour with Mckone and keyboardist Luke Allwood, taking the reins from Youth, the bassist and post-punk dub master who produced Cook’s 2018 Vessel of Love, though he returns to help out on the mix here. But the most notable guest spot is the most subtle. Dennis “Blackbeard” Bovell, known for his landmark work with Linton Kwesi Johnson, is an architect of UK dub and lovers rock who wrote “Silly Games” and even had a cameo in McQueen’s film. On “Praying,” the legendary producer joins Cook’s backing vocalists to express collective resilience in the face of heartbreak, wondering “what now?” and ruing “the mistaken hope that we were blessed.” With Cook insisting that “somehow we’ll make it through,” the song hints at the stealth cultural politics of lovers rock, while nodding to a creative forbear. But here, it’s Cook calling the shots, and carrying the torch with style.