Welcome to the final batch of 2021 music reviews – I’ve reviewed 72 new releases this year, about as many as I can manage in this one-man operation. There are two guitar bands this week – the retro jangle-pop of Ducks Ltd and the poppy math-rock leanings of Japanese Tricot. There’s also the psychedelic R&B of L’Rain.
Japanese four-piece Tricot are on a roll – they’re back with their third album of this still-young decade. Like always, they hit their perfect balance between pop accessibility and arty weirdness – cramming their instrumental prowess into three and four-minute songs. Jodeki shows some advances – it’s more textural and eclectic than anything else they’ve released to date – but it’s another very strong record. Jodeki was released as a two-disc set – a bonus disc of instrumentals was released in advance of the 12-song album.
Lead single ‘Inai’ was written for the Japanese TV series ‘The Curse of Spring’, and its frenetic nature recalls Tricot’s older work. ‘Night Monster’ is Tricot’s idiosyncratic take on a power ballad, with a relaxed beginning building into a rousing climax and Ikkyu hitting some incredibly high notes. The funky guitar on ‘Walking’ and the title track aren’t far away from Red Hot Chili Peppers, while they’re enjoyably silly on ‘Dogs and Ducks’.
Japanese is a barrier to some listeners but Tricot are the best band in the world right now, churning out three very strong albums in less than two years
The duo of Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis met on the Toronto scene, bonding over their shared love of vintage indie jangle-pop. They now split their time between Toronto and Geelong, Australia – it makes sense because their jangling recalls Antipodean acts like The Chills, The Go-Betweens, The Bats, and Look Blue Go Purple. Contemporary New Zealand indie band The Beths provide backing vocals on several tracks. Ducks Ltd. recorded their debut album during COVID lockdown, working with a drum machine.
“We had this time where neither of us had anything really pressing to do. So from April last year, to the middle of February this year, we were getting together twice a week, demoing, writing, recording, for at least three hours each time. We took it really seriously, wrote 22 songs in five months, because we had the time to devote to the process. In terms of being a band, there were probably a lot of cool experiences we didn’t have, but we did have an opportunity to make something we were proud of, which we might not have had otherwise.”https://hardofhearingmusic.com/2021/09/28/ahead-of-the-release-of-ducks-ltd-s-debut-lp-we-found-out-how-the-pandemic-shaped-their-musical-journey/
Modern Fiction is strong musically, filled with creative guitar licks and hummable tunes. At the same time, it lacks in personality – there’s the core of a great band here that needs filling out with a drummer and a lead singer. But there’s plenty to admire in the songcraft – the album starts beautifully with the busy rhythm guitar of ‘How Lonely Are You’. The busy bass drives strong tunes like ’18 Cigarettes’, while they sound lovely when they go acoustic like the instrumental ‘Patience Wearing Thin’ and the closing ‘Grand Final Day’.
Modern Fiction is an enjoyable throwback to 1980s jangle-pop with some excellent songwriting.
Fatigue is the second album from Taja Cheek, following 2017’s self-titled debut. She comes from a family entwined in the music business – her grandfather ran a jazz club and her father worked in record label marketing. L’Rain describes her music as “approaching songness” – an appropriate description for her songs, which dabble in R&B, jazz, psychedelia, and avant-garde. 14 tracks race past in half-an-hour, often more like unrealised snippets than fully-fledged songs,
Fatigue is deliberately discombobulating – the opening track is an immediate head-trip with its sudden pockets of silence. But there are stunning tracks dotted among the experimental – ‘Two Face’ rides an accessible beat and a tinkling piano riff, while ‘Find It’ features some typically gorgeous vocals. The interludes often upset the album’s momentum – of course, a purposeful tactic – but the production from L’Rain and Andrew Lappin is gorgeous.
Fatigue certainly isn’t predictable listening, but there are awe-inspiring moments of grace and beauty along its winding routes.
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