Check it Out – January 2017

January is a strange old month, kinda slow and long, and come the end of the year it’s been pretty much forgotten. However, that doesn’t stop the music business getting off to a lively start, with 2017 already throwing up some banging releases. There is already a whole bunch of quality records flying around Spotify and filling the racks in record stores, so, with that in mind I figured it was time for something brand spanking new to fill these digital pages.

This new section of Hard Pressed, replacing the now defunct ‘What’s Hot in My House’, aims to introduce people to some of the hottest recommendations each month. It could feature anything from the obvious to the obscure, just depends what’s been grabbing my attention. So here we go with the first crop of big hitters to be jumping around my virtual stage or crooning in my own personal backroom bar.

The xx – ‘I See You’
‘I See You’, the third album from Mercury Prize winners, The xx, is the obvious big release from January and it does not disappoint. Their hushed indie pop sound has progressed into something more expansive and exploratory as they deliver an absolutely gorgeous record. They’ve retained that air of thoughtful vulnerability, while also showing greater confidence, resulting in a gratifyingly adventurous album exploring the textures of well constructed pop music. This is sure to be kicking around for a while and is well worth immersing yourself in – don’t be surprised to see it on many album of the year lists. Superb.

Loyle Carner – ‘Yesterday’s Gone’
As hip-hop albums go, this is like the anti-thesis of all the brash American rappers bragging about riches and the glamorous gangsta lifestyle. This is not an album about how amazing Loyle Carner is, it’s about life, something we can all relate to, nostalgia, reminiscing, missing the simplicity of childhood, musing on the mundane – damn it, this boy can rhyme about anything. Loyle boasts an effortless almost low-key flow as he glides smoothly through these snapshots of urban life in distinctly chilled out fashion. This is the future of British rapping – sublime.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – ‘Modern Ruin’
On their sophomore album, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have evolved into a slick blend of hard driving rock and twisted punk, with a liberal spattering of Frank’s brand of uncompromising vitriol that falls somewhere between the Arctic Monkeys and the Sex Pistols. And what a great album it is. Sure there is a full on dose of power chords and radio friendly choruses, but this is a band moving forwards and progressing into a serious proposition. Besides which, Frank’s lyrics remain as unforgiving as ever with tracks like the incredible ‘Thunder’ putting post Brexit prejudices under the microscope. Great record.

Sepultura – ‘Machine Messiah’
Although balls to the wall, scream til your ears bleed thrash metal may not be everyone’s bag, the innovative new album from Brazilian giants Sepultura is still well worth a listen. The album is essentially a conceptual affair expounding on the robotisation of society and is simply excellent in every department, from the stunning cover art down to the faultless production. Andreas Kisser and Co. have reached an enviable level of technical excellence and they use it to great effect on this creatively diverse record. Doom laden epics? Got em. Superfly shredding? Yep. Cinematic orchestration? No problem. There’s even some adventure to the rhythms and vocals. To be frank this is one of the finest albums of Sepultura’s long career and as metal goes, it’s gonna be hard to beat. Full review: http://alreadyheard.com/post/155988183668/review-sepultura-machine-messiah

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