New Music Reviews: Nilüfer Yanya, Beach House, and Black Country, New Road

It’s a strong batch of 2022 records this week – London’s Nilüfer Yanya drops a sophomore album that’s even more impressive than her strong debut. Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House still sound inspired on their eighth studio album. Black Country, New Road released their second album exactly 364 days after their first, and four days after their lead singer announced his departure from the band.

PAINLESS

2021, 9/10
Nilüfer Yanya’s first album was impressive and eclectic – her soulful, resonant voice coupled with her rock-oriented guitar playing. PAINLESS, her second, doesn’t cover much new ground, but refines and toughens her approach for a stronger record. PAINLESS is more introspective – with the pandemic Yanya spent more time alone, and there’s more self-examination and vulnerability. PAINLESS was recorded in two locations – a basement studio in Stoke Newington and Riverfish Music in Penzance.

As before, it’s Yanya’s knack for catchy guitar parts that’s her key attraction. There are simple but effective guitar hooks – tThe echoing notes of ‘Anotherlife’ and the arpeggios of ‘Stabilise’. Single ‘Midnight Sun’ gets heavy and cathartic, reminiscent of PJ Harvey. Yanya also embraces her Turkish heritage on ‘L – R’, using her father’s yaz, a Turkish instrument a little like a guitar or bouzouki.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d36gGaOtT-A

PAINLESS is an impressive follow-up from Yanya, launching her career with two excellent records.


Beach House

Once Twice Melody

2022, 8.5/10
Baltimore duo Beach House are one of the most acclaimed acts of the past decade or so. I often like to use the website RateYourMusic as a frame of reference, and five of the Beach House’s eight albums to date have achieved the celebrated bold status – one of the few 21st century acts to receive such recognition. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make dreamy, psychedelic pop/rock music. They’re like a more grounded Cocteau Twins, although the opening title track recalls Stereolab.

‘Masquerade’ juxtaposes Legrand’s pretty voice against tougher music – the beats are almost industrial. There’s a lovely tune on ‘Superstar’, while the melody of ‘Esp’ recalls the classical elegance of Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.

I don’t know Beach House’s back catalogue well enough to know how Once Twice Melody fits in, but it’s excellent from a duo that have been making music together for almost two decades.


Black Country, New Road

Ants from Up There

2022, 8/10
I never checked out Black Country, New Road’s 2021 debut album, despite enjoying Black Midi and Squid. All three mix the abrasion of post-punk with the complexity of prog. It’s sometimes reminiscent of early, overlooked King Crimson records like Islands, while the emotional vocals and the integration of melody instruments like violin and flute recall Arcade Fire’s Funeral. I was intrigued by how quickly their sophomore album followed 2021’s For The First Time – they were released almost exactly a year apart – and how frontman Isaac Wood quit the band before the release of Ants from Up There. For an experimental band, both of Black Country, New Road’s albums have been very successful on the charts – Ants from Up There nestled between Adele and Ed Sheeran at #3.

Ants From Up There falls into the basket of albums that I admire more than I adore – Wood’s impassioned vocals sometimes make for uncomfortable listening. But there’s plenty to enjoy – there’s lovely saxophone and piano on ‘Haldern’ and a great riff on the Warhammer-themed ‘Chaos Space Marine’. The band stretch out for longer tracks at the end of the record – ‘The Place He Inserted The Blade’ intensifies from a piano song into an impassioned epic, while ‘Snow Globes’ and ‘Basketball Shoes’ are also lengthy.

Black Country, New Road are continuing as a band with bassist Tyler Hyde on lead vocals – it will be interesting to hear where they go next.

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13 Comments

  1. Beach House is one of those bands that I love when I’m listening to them but don’t always think to listen to them. This album totally caught me by surprise at how much I loved it though. I definitely had that same early Arcade Fire though when listening to BCNR. As for Nilufer Yanya, I liked the last record but this new one didn’t grab me at first listen. I’m willing to give it another go though.

    • The new Nilufer Yanya sounds a bit tougher I think – I was playing the new Sault album and Spotify kept playing new Yanya tracks afterwards and they do fit in with each other rhythm-wise (old Sault and new Yanya – new Sault is a choral and orchestral piece….).

  2. With Black Country…I can’t tell you if I really like it or really dislike it… it’s grown on me a bit. .I’ll have to let it soak in. I do like what’s going on in the music.
    The video is one of a kind.

    • I hadn’t seen the video but it’s certainly interesting. ‘Concorde’ isn’t one of my favourite songs from the record, just the one that had a music video.

  3. I was not familiar with Nilüfer Yanya, but really like the second track “the dealer” that you shared. I haven’t explored much of Beach House’s music catalogue either, but am impressed by their latest album, which is very beautiful. Also not familiar with Black Country, New Road, but their sound is fascinating.

    • Thanks for listening. I really like both of Nilufer Yanya’s records to date – she has a pretty distinctive sound already, with her deep voice and knack for catchy guitar riffs. Beach House are super pretty – I don’t know their back catalogue very well but they’re great at pretty songs.

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