IIt’s not my favourite batch of new releases this week – lots of solid 7.5s. Indie band Spoon release their tenth album, Spain’s Rosalía follows up her acclaimed flamenco-pop album El Mal Querer, and Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg release their debut.
Lucifer on the Sofa
Like Beach House a couple of weeks ago, Spoon are another acclaimed indie institution I haven’t yet covered on this site. On their tenth album, producer Mark Rankin brings out their earthy side. Even though it’s not Spoon’s most memorable set of songs, it’s enjoyably visceral. The instrument and Britt Daniel’s vocals are raw and bluesy, and it’s full of great playing – Jim Eno is of my favourite drummers, while there are great guitar moments like the quickfire rhythm guitar on ‘Wild’.
Years of playing together as a band are clear on tracks like ‘The Devil & Mr Jones’, building into a tight groove. There’s some nice stylistic variation toward the end too – the Fender Rhodes, acoustic guitar, and harmonies on ‘Astral Jacket’ sound like Crowded House, while ‘On the Radio’ is built around pounding piano.
Spoon have better records in their back catalogue but Lucifer is full of vigour for a band more than a quarter of a century into their recording career.
On her sophomore album El Mal Querer, Spain’s Rosalía brought flamenco music into the 21st century. She added modern beats and studio gloss to the traditional form but in a respectful way that showcased her deep immersion in flamenco. El Mal Querer was critically acclaimed, but Motomami largely abandons flamenco, instead positing Rosalía as a mainstream Latin star. This change was already signalled by a parade of non-album singles over the past few years, like ‘Aute Cuture’ and the duet with Billie Eilish on ‘Lo Vas a Olvidar’. Motomami recalls the Latin music that Rosalía danced to with her cousins as a child.
I was initially wary of the change – it felt like a promising young artist sacrificing her unique angle and authenticity for mainstream appeal. But taken separately, Motomami works on its own terms. It’s surprisingly eclectic and was once planned as four projects – separate records of flamenco, piano ballads, dark pop, and alternative reggaeton. With eighteen eclectic tracks Motomami sometimes feels like a sprawling double, but with its short run times it’s actually fast-moving. There are still traces of flamenco, notably on ‘Bulerías’, but also shots at the mainstream like the Weeknd duet ‘La Fama’ and the sassiness of ‘Chicken Terayaki’. Rosalía is an exceptional vocalist, and her vocals shine on tracks like the a capella closer ‘Sakura’ and the earthy ‘Hentai’.
Motomami is a less unique artistic statement than El Mal Querer, but it’s a successful album on its own terms.
Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg were one of the breakout stars of 2021, their innuendo-laden hit ‘Chaise Longue’ going viral. Wet Leg is the accompanying full-length record from Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, and it’s met with success, topping the album charts in the UK and Australia. Their name comes from an Isle of Wight expression denoting visitors to the island, recognisable because they’d have wet legs from getting off the boat.
I was initially prepared to write Wet Leg off as gimmicky, but later singles impressed me that there’s substance here. Their debut album mixes a few strands of music – the exuberance of Britpop, the slacker attitude of 1990s alt-rock, and the rawness of post-punk. ‘Chaise Longue’, with its string of endearing silly double entendres, is far from the only humorously provocative song. There’s also ‘Wet Dream’, with its quirky promise “I’ve got Buffalo ’66 on DVD”. They’re most convincing on the full band songs like ‘Ur Mum’ and ‘Supermarket’.
As a somewhat gimmicky duo, Wet Leg will be reliant on a strong second album to establish a lasting career, but their debut is a ton of fun.
The Weather Station
How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars
Tamara Lindeman’s sixth album was written at the same time as 2021’s Ignorance. According to Lindeman, it’s the moon to the previous album’s sun. While Ignorance presented a sophisticated veneer, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is presented simply, recorded in three days. There’s no percussion, and the songs are often brief. Lindeman’s vocals are lovely, recalling the jazzy warmth of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell.
It’s perhaps unfair to label Stars as an outtakes album, but it does feel less substantial than its predecessor. The playing and singing are so lovely that How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars works well as background music, but a couple of songs stand out – opener ‘March’ has a lovely lilt, with the minimal piano providing a lovely bed for the exploratory bass and saxophone. Ryan Driver provides duet vocals on ‘To Talk About’, and it’s a great change of pace – the lyrics are personal rather than existential angst in the face of climate change.
How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is lovely, even while the songs aren’t always remarkable.