Rock in Review: Summer’s Slept-On Alt Albums

In a summer blighted by the dogged profit war between Spotify and Apple Music, it’s important to remember that commercial success isn’t everything. The albums mentioned below won’t be breaking sales records any time soon, but they are more than worthy of your attention.

London punk two-piece Slaves have slowly gained acclaim since their emergence in 2012. 2015 saw the release of their long awaited debut album, Are You Satisfied?; a release that fully harnesses the raw energy and streetwise charm of the band’s breakout singles “Feed the Mantaray” and “Hey” (both included on the album). Opening with the quietly threatening “The Hunter,” the band furiously announces itself, while simultaneously displaying an ability to effortlessly produce a punchy blues riff . As the track list segues from “Sockets” to the anthemic “Wow!!!7AM” and finally to the gloriously titled ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’; while the lyrical menace remains ever-present, the real triumph of the album is that the sense of fun never wanes. “Cheer Up London” is perhaps the album’s standout track; a gleeful tribute the monotony of the daily grind, it’s a song that undoubtedly deserves the title of nihilistic anthem of summer 2015. Are You Satisfied? ultimately proves to be a triumphant debut for Slaves; it’s a deliriously energetic modern punk record with a lot of attitude.

Wavves and Cloud Nothings’ surprise joint album, No Life For Me, is a record that combines the summer friendly genres of garage, indie and surf rock with compelling results. Wavves contribute their own brand of grungy riffs and heavy basslines behind the distinctively self-loathing vocals of Nathan Williams, while the more polished vocal delivery of Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi offers a welcome contrast throughout. Cloud Nothings take the lead on the songs “Come Down” and “Nothing Hurts,” it’s on these tracks that the album achieves a winning minimalism, with Baldi’s crisp vocals combining with easy-going riffs and near non-existent drums to create a somewhat buoyant sound. However the album is probably at its most enjoyable in its more frenetic segments. Wavves exuberantly take the lead in “How’s It Going To Go” and “No Life For Me,” two songs that achieve a pleasing sense of balance between Wavves’ preferred heavy drums and slacker vocal delivery with Cloud Nothings’ more nuanced sound. The bands arguably complement each other best in the song “Hard To Find,” in which Baldi’s delivery works perfectly alongside typically pacey Wavves guitar work; Williams’ voice contrasts well with Baldi as he takes control during the rousing choruses. Overall the album is a novel insight into the process of two seemingly similar bands combining to create an intriguingly original sound.

Why Make Sense? is the sixth studio album by the British alternative dance outfit Hot Chip. Tinged with lyrical sense of deep emotional longing, it’s an album that reinterprets modern musical trends and frequently applies them to beautifully melancholic songs. Beginning with “Huarache Lights,” the band delicately contemplate the anxieties of growing old against the backdrop of a slow-building house beat, aptly establishing the album’s uncertain tone. Alexis Taylor’s lead vocals are consistently haunting, creating a fascinating contrast with the minimal electronic beats of songs such as “Dark Night” and “Love Is Future”. Even at its most upbeat, during the groove influenced “Easy To Get”; the lyrics remain trained on the dread filled world of unrequited attraction and failing to fit in. The highlights of the album are the deep house inspired single “Need You Now” and the quietly uplifting title track “Why Make Sense?”, both of which epitomise the band’s surprising ability to combine themes of loneliness and yearning with memorable, dancefloor-worthy backing tracks. For a modern dance album, Why Make Sense?has impressive replay value.

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