Superheaven – Ours is Chrome

Watch the video to I’ve Been Bored below. Ours is Chrome is out now. Play the bands’ own version of Space Invaders at this link too. Go on, you know you want to,

A couple of years ago (it might be longer, my memory isn’t what it used to be), I picked up a Soundsupply Drop which either contained, or led me via Basement, another fantastic modern rock band, to the music of Daylight. (NB, this isn’t the way to start a review-it’s been a long week). Daylight’s album, Jar, was a fine piece of work. Straight-ahead and uncompromising, it was a big sounding rock song, full of anthemic songs, churning guitars and a confidence which suggested that they were a band destined for the top. I really grew to enjoy Jar. It became something of a go-to album for me on days when only loud guitars would do the trick.

And then, as so often happens, time moved on, many more albums crossed my path, and nothing more was heard of Daylight.

A couple of weeks ago, Side One Dummy sent me the info for the new album from Superheaven, a band the press-release likened to Smashing Pumpkins. This squarely hits the spot for me. I was in. And then, I discover that Superheaven is actually Daylight. You didn’t see that coming right from the first paragraph at all did you.

So, Superheaven aren’t a new band, they’re an established act with a new name. “Ours is Chrome” pretty much picks up exactly where Jar left off. ‘Next to Nothing’ is a riff-driven, chiming rock song. It follows a similar formula to it’s predecessor, album opener ‘I’ve Been Bored’. Guitars alternately rage and ring, bass riffs rumble, hi-hats are forward in the mix, snare drums accentuate militarily, toms are full and rounded. ‘Room’ keeps the feeling low, before ‘All the Pain’, if it’s possible, ups the angst quotient even further, slowing the tempo and adding tonally competitive guitar flourishes to the mix.

This is an intense listen, but has been mixed and mastered in what feels like a bright direction. All the record’s tones are clear and precise which, conversely, doesn’t actually help. Where ‘Leach’ or ‘Gushin’ Blood’ could be punishing exercises in suffering, they come off as somewhat bouncy, radio rock songs. It’s intriguing that such a heavy album could be so easy to listen to. If this is what Superheaven were seeking, then they should have no fear. I can well imagine that any of the songs on this album could make its home on radio in the months to come.

Hop Along – Painted Shut

This, the second album from Hop Along, is an enigmatic mixture. Equal parts 90s alt rock, college rock, jangling indie and intensely melodic, the elements which could make “Painted Shut” something of a standard-issue indie rock album are not just offset, but thoroughly obliterated by the abrasive vocals of Frances Quinlan. She rasps, she rages, she hooks you in and draws you in to a world where injustice, mental instability, self-inflicted suffering and shame seethe competitively to dominate and demand attention. The sheer force of Quinlan’s delivery on tracks such as ‘The Knock’ and previous single ‘The Waitress’ can, as it were, knock you backwards.

There’s much more to this album, though. Throughout the guitar tones are just right, sometimes fuzzed-out and urgent, at others almost playful, in line with the relaxed and focused work of the rhythm section. This has the effect of building a wide palette from which Quinlan can emerge. It’s an unusual combination, a combination, in fact, that probably shouldn’t work, and wouldn’t, were it not for the qualities of musicality on show. These are strong songs, well crafted and delivered expertly. The production is unfussy but sympathetic and, through it all, the sense that Frances Quinlan is a coming songwriter is never far from the surface.

See the video for Powerful Man below. Painted Shut is out now

Jupiter – Bandana Republic

Bandana Republic is out now. Watch the video for Do It Below

Anyone for a bit of disco? “Bandana Republic” is the second album from Parisian trio Jupiter. Where the other albums I’m writing about today are all on the serious and important side, “Bandana Republic” is a joyful, gloriously fun ten track romp to pull you right into the heart of the Parisian summer.

Right from the scene-setting ‘AV’, you know you’re in for a fun ride. Of particular note, to my ears at least, is the ever-inventive bass work, which draws the ears and the mind into a groove and then places them in to an album-lasting headlock. This, allied to playful synths, choppy funk guitars, and consistently pretty vocals, largely from Amelie mean that Jupiter are able to carry you away into a world that is all of their own making.

Single, ‘Do It’ is one the album’s strongest moments. That’s probably why they released it as a single. All the elements described above are firmly in place, and it features the kind of chorus that several grasping female pop stars who have gone down this route in the last few years would kill for. Go on, watch the video above. You’ll love it. If you like that, you’ll love this album.

Taffy – Darkle EP

Darkle is out now. Watch the video to the first single from this EP, Suicidal Bunny below

Coming on like a cross between Blur, Stone Roses and Elastica, Taffy are one of the few bands from the exciting Japanese rock scene to have made a concerted and successful effort to gain attention in the UK. After two full-lengths and a stunningly consistent B-Sides and rarities album, the band continue their partnership with the, again astonishingly consistent Club AC30 label (Fever Dream, Flying Colours, Gavin Clark, Pinkshinyultrablast, Exit Calm) with the “Darkle” EP.

If you’ve been an aficionado of Taffy in the past, you’ll know what you’re getting here. A driving, punchy band, guitars which squeal and squall in a fashion Graham Coxon seems sadly to have forgotten, and vocals which at first sound sugary sweet, almost twee, but have a habit of burrowing deep inside your cranium and steadfastly refusing to leave. It’s a formula that works startlingly well. ‘Redamancy’ starts moodily, opens out in to a pre-chorus which is almost sweet, before it’s chorus of “I miss you today, I miss you more” is delivered atop groaning guitars which take us back to Radiohead circa 1994-95.

‘Young Times’ swirls and swoons. ‘Remember to Remember’ is chordally and melodically gorgeous, which takes its time, before building in to a stratospheric chorus which hits at just the right moment. ‘Dr. K’ takes things in a punkier and punchier direction, all energetic drive and spiky guitars. ‘HBD’ closes the EP proper with what sounds like a live demo take of ‘Happy Birthday’. I kid you not. The band even manage to take this three chord wonder into a swirling new direction. It very much makes me want to go and see them on my birthday. To actually close the record, ‘Young Tines’ is remixed by psych rock doyen Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre). His take on the track adds a little space and emphasises the prettiness of the melodies at play. It is a welcome addition.

Taffy are, without question, an exiting and essential band in the continuing shoegaze/psych revival. Now if only more of their compatriots would see their way to releasing in the UK.