#41 Temples – “Volcano” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

England’s newest hit makers, Temples have followed up their exquisite 2014 debut album with this self produced collection of 12 dreamy psych pop tracks recorded at their home studio in Kettering, Northamptonshire 80 miles north of London. Originally a home studio recording project formed in 2012 around the nucleus of singer/guitarist James Bagshaw and bassist Tom Walmsley, Temples later added fellow Kettering resident drummer Samuel Lloyd Toms along with keyboard player Adam Smith in order to play their songs live. Volcano, their second album of psych tinged pop, will most certainly catch the ire of some haters who are likely to complain they have betrayed their strong psych base from the first album.  Bagshaw himself has commented on the progression from the first album describing the latest record as  “a result of implementing a load of things that we didn’t know about the first time around”. On Volcano Temples have boldly decided to not lock themselves into a formula opening themselves up to a world of limitless possibilities beyond the narrow margins and confines of modern psychedelia. Rating: 8/10

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#42 Spoon – “Hot Thoughts” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

Austin, Texas indie darlings Spoon have been making their own brand of arty experimental indie pop for close to 25 years now. Centred around  longtime band-members Britt Daniel on lead vocals and guitar along with drummer Jim Eno, their 9th album in 21 years, Hot Thoughts demonstrates a sharp shift away from the arty and more directly towards the pop. Side 1 and Side 2 are divided equally into 5 parts, one fifth art four fifths pop with each side concluding with the longer artier pieces. By far the two most interesting tracks on the album are the closers, side one’s “Pink Up” along with side two’s sax heavy five minute instrumental  “Us” which would not have sounded out of place on either one of Bowie’s triumphant Berlin period albums Low and Heroes. What Hot Thoughts suffers most from is a complete and utter identity crisis. The band went so far as to bring in indie rock god Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney,  Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Go-Betweens, Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst, The Shins) as the albums officially credited  “sequence adviser” to help make sense of these disparate tracks in search of a home. Perhaps the simplest solution would have been to flesh out the musical topography over two different albums instead of trying to jam it all into one neat little Hot Thoughts box because, contrary to what that old bearded hippie philosopher once said, the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts. Roll over Aristotle and tell Spoon the news.

Rating: 6.5/10

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#43 The Shins – “Heartworms” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

Indie guitar rock gods The Shins are no more. It’s been 10 years since group founder James Mercer rid himself of longtime bandmates Dave Hernandez, Marty Crandall and Jesse Sandoval for “aesthetic” reasons (according to Sandoval he was “unequivocally fired”). Only the second Shins album since taking this singular approach to making music as a group of one (Mercer once famously explained “I always loved these auteurs who presented themselves as bands”) Heartworms finds Mercer travelling back to the ’80’s for an album of keyboard heavy synth-pop Howard Jones and She Blinded Me With Science Thomas Dolby would be proud of. After a strong opening the record falters ever so slightly only to find redemption on the second side where Mercer goes lighter on the layers of synth and heavier on the guitar based Shins of old. Shaky and uneven in spots Mercer’s firm grasp of classic pop, solid hooks and melodic structure help make Heartworms an adequate stopover between Mercer’s day job as The Shins and his more satisfying collaborations with Danger Mouse Brian Burton. Which begs the question, when is the new Broken Bells album out James?

Rating: 6.5/10

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#44 The Feelies – “In Between” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

Two full years before the release of their 1980 debut album the Village Voice dubbed the then-unsigned Feelies “The Best Underground Band in New York”. Fast forward to 2017 and The Feelies, cited by R.E.M. as a major influence, have a new record on the shelves. 40 years in the making, In Between marks just the 6th occasion since their formation in 1976 that New Jersey natives Glenn Mercer, Bill Million & Dave Weckerman have got together under The Feelies moniker to make a record. Their 2nd album after a self imposed 20 year hiatus, In Between finds the boys in a predominately acoustic setting making mostly mellow, pleasant and nice. Savour the slow burn, could be another 20 years before you get the chance again.

Rating: 7.5/10

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