Robin Guthrie – Pearl Diving
When indie icons The Cocteau Twins split more than 20 years ago they left a void in the world of dreamy shoegazey music. However, while vocalist Liz Fraser is seldom sighted nowadays, co-founder and guitarist Robin Guthrie has released a string of solo albums – albeit instrumental, ie without Fraser’s soaring voice and unfathomable vocals.
Guthrie’s first full-length release in almost ten years has the feel of a soundtrack (whether real or imagined), although the ten tracks here are mostly around the three minute mark, and not exactly whistleable – but then, the Cocteaus were never ones for throwaway pop.
Instead, at the fore are Guthrie’s trademark heavily-treated guitars, plus synths and piano… and drums, their lazy languorous beats driving beautiful soundscapes.
Fans of his former band should therefore not expect any retreading of past glories, but instead a meditative set of tracks which should soothe any post-Cocteaus anxiety.
Boris – W
For many – in fact, for everyone apart from their shambling, shock-headed namesake – the pandemic and attendant lockdown was a frustrating time for Japanese metallers Boris.
Like some, they threw this into their music, releasing a grinding, furious album ‘No’. But a year on, it’s a time for healing perhaps, and ‘W’ acts as an antidode, the two albums coming together to form ‘Now’ (if that makes any sense).
Certainly, it’s a contrasting nine tracks – it may be noise but it’s controlled – ‘Icelina’s whispered vocal may be a reassuring lullaby, ‘Drowning By Numbers’ is almost funky, if a little sinister, and they don’t really get into the full -on metal they’re famous for until track 5, ‘The Fallen’, a swirling mess of slowcore.
Not exactly a party album then, but that’s maybe best left that to the other Boris.
Crooked Timbers – On This Ocean
If there’s one upside to the last two years, it’s some of the music produced during this period.
New partnerships have been formed, including this teaming-up of Del Amitri keyboard player Andy Alston and former Orange Juice guitarist James Kirk.
The 11 tracks here are a grab-bag of styles and influences, their own bands included. Opener ‘Smooth as Marble’ drawing heavily from Chic, while ‘Finish That Dream’ is redolent of the late night funk of 1980s Glasgow.
The pair also open up their showbiz black book, members of The Bluebells, Hipsway and Trash Can Sinatras chipping in.
Closer ‘On the Run’ is a soulful end to a collection which, like, everything else, isn’t quite sure where it’s going but is determined to have as much fun as it can getting there.
Michael Timmons – The Lightness of the Dread
Truth be told, Lanarkshire singer-songwriter Michael Timmons’ debut ‘Bone Coloured’ wasn’t the most upbeat party album – its sparse backing a perfect showcase for his melancholic voice and lyrics.
Its follow-up, four years on, is less of a one man band effort – producer Andy Miller has added more of the sheen he’s given to the likes of Mogwai and Arab Strap in the past, while The Twilight Sad’s Andy MacFarlane is employed as backseat driver. This means that where there was once pin-drop silence, the songs are fleshed out – piano resonates on opener ‘Town Hall’, strings sweeps through ‘Empty Room’, and the melodies are pacier, almost hummable.
However, Timmons freely admits to making “miserable” music at the best of times, and throughout the album he explores the grief felt at the passing of his father, so even song titles such as ’10 Days Before You Died’ will resonate with many. . And this 11 track collection captures the rawest of emotions beautifully in a collection which finds light in the darkness.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.