Top Albums 2015 Advent Calendar: Day 2
White Reaper - White Reaper Does It Again
I had passingly enjoyed the debut EP from Louisville's White Reaper, but when I heard the lead single from their debut LP, "Sheila," I knew immediately it was going to be a step up. "Sheila" positively explodes as it reaches its single-word chorus, and that added momentum is married perfectly with singer Tony Esposito's repetition of the titular heartbreaker's name, squeezing every last drop of pain out of its two syllables, stretching it to six or more. The result is undeniable, igniting mild frenzy like a shot of adrenaline.
The rest of White Reaper Does It Again follows more or less exactly the same pattern across its twelve tracks. Esposito lays out his heart-rending dilemma or his exciting party stories in the white-knuckle, fizzing verses before the band in unison jumps full-pelt into a chorus replete with guitar riffs, bright keyboard melodies, drum fills and the all important sing-along moments. In my review for The 405 I compared their ability with verse and chorus melodies to that of The Strokes, and that comparison still seems accurate today.
Song for song every single one in this dozen hits the mark and has the same enlivening effect. They're like Nespresso capsules of songs; slightly different flavours and colours, but essentially gives you the same perk you're looking for. You may not necessarily want to have 12 in a row, but you can dip into every now and again and be satisfied no matter what you pick.
Have I bought this album?: Yes, got the limited edition vinyl after seeing them and meeting them at Dalston Victoria.
DRINKS - Hermits On Holiday
Tim Presley has become one of the most prolific and reliable stalwarts of the current garage rock scene, having released three great albums as White Fence in the previous three years. 2015 was absent a White Fence album, but Presley was still active under a new moniker W-X and also in collaboration with Welsh folk singer Cate Le Bon in their new band DRINKS.
For me the comparison between DRINKS and The Velvet Underground is obvious, not just because it's the combination of an American and a Welshman, and not because Le Bon's voice sounds like Nico with John Cale's accent, but mainly for the challenging, experimental and improvisational ramshackle rock songs they've produced. Both Presley and Le Bon have similar spirits in their solo work, in that they write pop songs at their core but obscure and characterise them with interesting production choices. Working together seems to have emphasised the weird side in both of them.
The instrumentation used on the album is fairly sparse but inventive. The opening couplet emphaises their pop sensibilities; "Laying Down Rock" and "Focus On The Street" both being kraut-inflected numbers with wirey guitars that intertwine and gradually build up to frenetic finales. The title track is a brilliant light piece of folk pop, buoyed by simplistic wooden percussion and a delicate falsetto from Le Bon where she repeats nonsense lines into a dreamy haze.
Then there are the more oblique tracks on the album. "Spilt The Beans" has Le Bon in a deadpan delivery repeating "window in my house; ruined me; spilt the beans; tidal" eerily over the course of the song's six minutes as it gradually builds with tense and twisting guitars into a metallic nest of thorny post-punk. "Tim Do I Like That Dog" features Le Bon repeating the titular phrase conversationally and randomly, while the bass, drums, guitars and effects drop in and out seemingly at random, creating an impressionistic sketch of a song. DRINKS take us out with the closing "Time Between," a hypnotic organ-dirge over which a voice-modulated Le Bon sings nonsensically about moths, pig troffs, Great Gatsby, fog machines and concludes by demanding "INVENT HELP."
It's riveting, and it should have been much higher up this list, but it's absolutely rammed up there, as you'll soon see.
Have I bought this album?: Yes on vinyl at End of the Road after seeing them brilliantly confuse and entertain the crowd in equal measure.