The Guardian Indie

Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice
  1. (Polydor)

    Elbow’s eighth album comes wreathed in a ghostly pallor. Recorded over two years in which too many of the band’s friends and family passed away, the easy sentimentality of their biggest songs has been abandoned for something grittier, angrier and greyer. Giants of All Sizes is not an album to be filleted and squashed into playlists; it’s the sort of deeply serious and carefully crafted work that would sprout a beard and a cable-knit jumper if you turned your back on it for a second.

    Several of these anti-anthems have intriguing codas and impressive ambition. Dexter & Sinister sets muscular guitar against delicate piano for several minutes, then collapses into operatic falsetto; the lovely On Deronda Road effortlessly swirls acoustic and electronic moods. Sometimes frontman Guy Garvey overwrites, overwrought: “Unstuck and the whole archipelago is rocking like a suicide pedalo at a high tide” is a particularly unlovely line. Solipsistic Grenfell lament White Noise White Heat muses blandly on the artist’s impotence in the wake of tragedy. But what survives is the gentle acceptance of Weightless, about losing his dad – simpler, and far more moving for it.

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  2. (4AD)
    This ‘earth twin’ album to their ‘celestial twin’ UFOF, released in May, foregrounds Adrianne Lenker’s arresting voice and tender/brutal lyrics

    ‘We found his body / Naked and bare” is the visceral couplet that drags the listener, two-handed, into the new album from Big Thief. Songwriter Adrianne Lenker is known for her tender and brutal images, and this record contains some of her finest work yet.

    Grunge-folk New Yorkers Big Thief are on a rapid ascent – this is already their second album of the year – and they only seem to get better with each release. They call UFOF, the album released in May, the “celestial twin”, with its spaced-out distortion and otherworldly imagery. On Two Hands, “the earth twin”, they run their fingers through the dirt. These songs were recorded in the desert, and have a sparse, guttural urgency that clings like uncomfortable 100F heat.

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  3. (Domino)
    Dawson adds pop-facing elements to folk on this brilliant album, full of stories of a benighted Britain

    Next month, Ken Loach releases his new film, Sorry We Missed You, about a Newcastle father with a zero-hours delivery job that turns him into a kind of automaton. It has the ideal companion piece in Fulfilment Centre, a relentless song from Newcastle singer-songwriter Richard Dawson, told from the perspective of a – distinctly Amazonian – warehouse worker slogging themselves to death as they pick out dash-cams and shaving foam. In fact, each of the songs here are Palme d’Or-worthy Loachian masterpieces, full of quiet tenacity on an island slowly turning sour.

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  4. In the week that Polly Harvey turns 50, what better time to look back over 50 gems from her back catalogue – and sort them in order of greatness

    A rare moment of levity in the Harvey oeuvre: all the mad-eyed, vengeful, shrieking fury of Rid of Me brought to bear upon a hairdresser who has made the mistake of messing up the singer’s cut and blow dry: “Get your comb out of there! You can’t straighten my curls! Fuck you! Fuck you!”

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  5. O2 Academy, Glasgow
    Their indie disco shtick may be thoroughly out of fashion, but the Northern Irish band can still work a crowd into a frenzy

    Weedy-thin gambolling guitar lines pitched against hi-hat-spanking splashy disco beats – few movements in music were built on narrower tropes than late-noughties British indie. To hear Two Door Cinema Club launch into Undercover Martyn, one of their stock-in-trade breakout singles, and watch a sold-out crowd in a sizeable venue go bananas for it, is to appreciate how thoroughly music has changed in the last decade, yet how little many seem to care.

    The Northern Irishmen aren’t the only band of their era to survive but, as a live concern at least, still thrive in a way that confounds critical expectation (see too the Wombats, White Lies and others). Maybe it’s a reaction against how outmoded such uncomplicated bands have become in the age of mumble rap and other more vogueish pop. More likely it’s thanks to the work Two Door Cinema Club have put into building a following through relentless touring – a schedule that caused frontman Alex Trimble to have a physical and mental breakdown in 2014. Judging by the still very youthful look of their fanbase, they seem to have left a mark on sticky indie disco dancefloors that won’t be scrubbed away any time soon.

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