Alternative Album Chart: The best new indie and alternative albums this week
(Credits: Far Out Magazine)
2024 has kicked off with a bang. Although the brilliance of last year’s mass of new music will take some beating, this latest lap around the sun is starting as it means to go on. Last week was a treat with established acts reasserting why they are so adored and newer ones bringing something fresh to the platter. Furthermore, there’s even a reissue from J. Spaceman’s influential project Spiritualized.
Now that the Christmas blues have been thoroughly shaken and we turn our attention to making 2024 one to remember, things on the musical front are hotting up. As another abundance of acts prepares to release hotly anticipated offerings, the brave vanguard has taken their turn and gone early, with more arriving last week than in most others.
From punk legends Sleater-Kinney and Green Day surprising everyone with full-bodied records to Daudi Matsiko providing an early album of the year contender, there’s a lot to choose from, and we’re here for it. With a customarily broad range of sonics and textural palettes on offer in light of our distinctly postmodern tastes, there’s much to keep us going into this week as we inch ever closer to the long-awaited end of Winter.
So, without me wasting any more of your time, find this week’s eclectic Alternative Album Chart below.
The best new indie and alternative albums this week:
Little Rope – Sleater-Kinney – 4.5
In case there was any doubt that Sleater-Kinney has in no way lost that roaring, chaotic energy that made them 1990s punk sensations: hit play on Little Rope. But be warned, headphone users, this one is deafening. The amps are turned to ten, the vocals are screaming, and the climaxes are set to hit your eardrums like a brass-knuckled punch. Within seconds of the opening number, the band unleashed the energy they’d always held. Perhaps even more than ever before as this collection of songs seems to defy any level of ear care or volume safety to demand it’s listened to loud.
Musically, Little Rope isn’t exactly innovative, but I say that as a compliment. It doesn’t feel like an album that has been overthought or overworked, existing without the sense that the members spent time spiralling around concepts or sounds. As a record made in the wake of tragedy as a way to navigate intense grief, it would feel wrong even to consider its technicality or future thinking. Instead, it exists as a roar of rage, sadness, life and defiance. [Words: Lucy Harbron]
The King of Misery – Daudi Matsiko – 4.5
There is a lot of music where the theme of the lyrics doesn’t match up with the instrumentation. Granted, sometimes that can be intentional, but usually, it is just a poor decision from the songwriter. Thankfully, that isn’t an issue on the new Daudi Matsiko album, The King of Misery, as he manages to convey feelings of loneliness and heartbreak in music and lyrics in a way that would shine through just as prominently if there were no words at all.
The King of Misery is full of songs that sound like they have been found rather than written. Despite being minimal, the various elements blend together so effortlessly that it sounds like they have never been apart. Themes of the album, such as sorrow, jealousy and sadness, are buried so deep within every second of it that it sounds as though they have formed around each emotion.
Daudi Matsiko is triumphant with this minimalistic and beautiful piece of work. His voice is the shining star throughout, but how he uses music to mimic the emotions he sings about rather than undercut them is a masterstroke. [Words: Dale Maplethorpe]
Melt the Honey – PACKS – 4
There are few things more satisfying than an album name that entirely encapsulates the music it accompanies. It’s a rare feat, but PACKS seem to have mastered the art of titling with their latest offering. A whimsical collection of tracks charting Madeline Link’s love for gloopy sweeteners, dubious tree-climbing, and fever dreams, Melt the Honey is a record as sonically smooth and sweet as its namesake.
While Melt the Honey may go down just as easily as the substance it borrows its name from, there’s an undeniable edge to it too, one that might resemble the likes of indie favourites Alex G or Wednesday. In reality, PACKS have honed a sound that is so unique it defies comparison. The record is a world of its own, one that glitches as much as it glistens and wavers as much as it warms. [Words: Elle Palmer]
Saviors – Green Day – 4
Green Day are advancing, poised to project modern shadows in the candle-lit realm of post-punk. As you survey the landscape, you might encounter the remnants of outdated prejudices and tumble into the relentless grasp of early 2000s nostalgia. It’s a realm teeming with opinions, opinions on opinions, a space where bigotry intersects with progressive thinking.
Billie Joe Armstrong illuminated the path to enlightenment with the release of American Idiot, an intricately layered concept album delving into the rise and fall of American ideology. Now, Saviors takes a bold step forward, reaching for the very fingertips of revolution in a way that many would shy away from.
What sets this album apart is that you’re not anticipating any specific “bangers”; instead, the slower compositions subtly emerge from the corners of the room, evoking forgotten feelings or memories. While the previous 2020 album, Father Of All Motherfuckers, unleashed a vibrant burst of youthful pop-punk, steering clear of political commentary and explicit Donald Trump criticism, Saviors marks a return to the scorched origins of punk’s rebellious essence, complemented by a dose of introspective reflections. [Words: Kelly Scanlon]
Charlie – Swimming Bell – 4
Art is the only facet of our society where the term “easy” is dolled out as a descriptor and met with wholesale disdain. The idea that all art must be uncomfortable for the audience is likely a notion perpetuated by gatekeeping students in a desperate attempt to ratify their tuition fees. But, in every other aspect of our world, to describe something as easy is to acknowledge the frictionless pleasure it can afford your life. Swimming Bell, the project of Katie Schottland, and her release Charlie is undeniably easy.
Charlie may not be avant-garde and lacks the glinting edge that most musos require to sharpen their tongues, but there is authentic storytelling, lilting tunes and the kind of creamy production that is luscious enough to forget how difficult it can be to construct. Intricate melodies and songs that discuss love, grief, and everything in between aren’t exactly what you’d call easy listening. But Schottland’s work is certainly easier than most. It is easy to put on as you make yourself a cup of coffee, easy to recommend to a friend without fear of judgment, easy to listen to without much thought, and just as easy to lose yourself in. [Words: Jack Whatley]
Ilion – Slift – 3.5
Ever since Slift first asserted their power with an acclaimed KEXP performance in 2020, which spread the message of their metallic but cinematic take on space rock, they’ve been one of the most closely followed bands in Europe. Now, after a pandemic and what feels like an age, they’ve arrived with their third album, Ilion.
The constant friction between frontman Jean Fossat’s blazing vocals and guitar lines, his brother Rémi’s exceptional basslines and drummer Canek Flores’ rhythms – even in the lighter moments – is an artistic achievement. No member ever feels drowned out; all have their part to play in propping up the Ilion leviathan. Even if, despite the constant locomotion, the general vibe feels lacking in variety at points, as a whole, Ilion is another welcome chapter in the story of Slift. It opens them up to a different setting from their earlier years’ more straightforward, muscular psychedelia.
The Joy of Sects – Chemtrails – 3
Punk has famously been dominated by majority male musicians, but Chemtrails are challenging that notion with their fun, pop-infused approach to the genre. Pulling sounds from an array of influences, with The Joy of Sects, the Manchester-based band have crafted a largely enjoyable listening experience that demands us to dance.
There is rarely a dull moment on the album, although you can’t help but feel like some of Chemtrail’s influences shine through a little too strongly. Still, helped by the recognisable vocals of Mia Lust and Laura Orlova, for the most part, the band retain a distinctive sense of identity. [Words: Aimee Ferrier]
Without Motion – Feral Family – 1.5
Amid the optimistic surroundings of a small seaside town, Feral Family lament the banality and frustration of everyday life on their debut album, Without Motion. Hailing from Bridlington, the group have been making waves as an impressive live act, supporting the likes of The View and The Lilacs. On their first album, they attempt to establish themselves as a notable live band and a profound voice in modern rock.
Feral Family don’t seem to take much care in creating an exciting album experience, with even the clip-art-looking album cover giving the impression of something that was thrown together without much thought. The young quartet define themselves as a post-punk group, but the sounds conveyed on Without Motion feel more akin to late-2000s alternative rock, even harking back to stadium rock at some points.
A pessimist might suggest that the band have branded themselves as ‘post-punk’ in order to appear to be trendier. Granted, definitions of the genre are famously vague, but the self-identifying post-punk of Without Motion ultimately gives the impression of a band trying too hard to fit in. [Words: Ben Forrest]
Reissue – Spiritualized – Amazing Grace – 4
Throughout the 1990s, Spiritualized found a crucial foothold in the decade’s underground rock scene, providing an eclectic, often sombre alternative to the garish Britpop wave. Pierce struck a career-high in 1997 with Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, leaving his devout cult aching for more.
After spending four years on a follow-up, Pierce maintained a symphonic approach in the comparatively underwhelming Let It Come Down. From the gnashing teeth of stagnation, Pierce sensed it was perhaps time to mix things up in the studio heading into the fifth Spiritualized record. Amazing Grace would shed Pierce’s symphonic skin, instead presenting a platter of calamitous garage tunes relieved by strains of jazz and gospel – hence the name.
From Ladies and Gentlemen’s parental platter, Amazing Grace took most of its genes from ‘Electricity’ and ‘Cool Water’. The former’s cacophonous jazz and heavy guitar presence is echoed in tracks like ‘This Little Life of Mine’ and ‘Never Goin’ Back Again’, while the latter rests the eardrums in ‘Lord Let it Rain On Me’ and ‘Lay It Down Slow’.
Despite moments of tranquillity and divine grace, Amazing Grace isn’t for the faint-hearted. Of Spiritualized’s nine studio albums to date, this is about as heavy as it gets. Still, esoteric as it may be, balancing moments of intimacy reflect Pierce’s sensitive side and provide a crucial piece to the colourful puzzle that is Spiritualized.
In September 2023, Amazing Grace turned 20 years old. To celebrate, Spiritualized announced a reissue in association with Fat Possum Records. Remastered by Matt Colton, the modern relic is encased in a gatefold sleeve on either black or limited edition dove grey 180g vinyl. The reissue arrives on Friday, January 19th. See pre-order and purchase options here.
Far Out Magazine may earn from qualifying purchases. [Words: Jordan Potter]