2020 just keeps delivering, mostly lows but a few highs. I'm exhausted, but it's still a full plate this Friday the 13th: New Zealand legends The Bats release their 10th album; Belarusian darkwavers Molchat Doma are back with more songs ready for TikTok memes; Chilly Gonzales taps Feist and Jarvis Cocker for a Christmas album you won't mind listening to; Tricky reworks a track from this year's great Fall to Pieces, taking it in three new, unique directions; the return of Le Volume Courbe (with help from Terry Hall); the return of downtempo disco duo Bent; Ghost Funk Orchestra pen An Ode to Escapism; and the low-fi grandeur of Whitney K.
If you need more reviews of new album, Andrew tackles a whopping 13 records this week in Notable Releases, including Jesu, Aesop Rock and more. Some things I didn't write about this week but I like include records by David Nance, Jesse Kivel, and the covers albums by Lambchop and Marika Hackman. Also out this week is excellent new compilation Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983 - 1987. If you need more Basement-approved things from this week: Teenage Fanclub just announced a new record, as did Django Django. Or maybe you'd like to listen to The Brian Jonestown Massacre's ever-growing YouTube playlist of work-in-progress songs.
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: The Bats - Foothills (Flying Nun)
This New Zealand quartet has maintained the same lineup -- and the same sound -- for nearly 40 years. 'Foothills' is their 10th album.
New Zealand greats The Bats have been together for nearly 40 years, maintaining the same four-person lineup the whole time. They never broke up, though they did take time off for life, making a conscious decision to not tour internationally while raising their families, and exploring other creative interests. It's not a formula for megastardom, but it seems like a healthy approach in the music biz if you can do it. (See also: Yo La Tengo, who The Bats resemble in many ways.) Foothills is The Bats' 10th album and their sound is as stable as their membership. Robert Scott strums and sings lead, Key Woodward provides harmony vocals and snakey leads, Paul Kean brings memorable, melodic basslines, and drummer Malcolm Grant provides an unfussy backbone. It's like putting on your oldest, most comfortable sweater -- warm and familiar, and the fraying around the edges only adds to its charm.
The easy relationship between these four longtime friends and musicians comes through in songs like "Scrolling," "Field of Vision," and "Another Door" where melodies and harmonies seem to pour out from muscle memory alone. Scott favors minor chords, which have always given The Bats' songs a tinge of melancholy. "Sometimes the path is not known, maybe the journey we've outgrown," he sings on "Gone to the Ground," one of the album's best songs, that feels a bit like staring at the sea on a rainy day. "And the rose no thorns for you, no pricks to worry about / We suppose it's a guessing game, no one really knows." Lyrics are kept simple, though, and The Bats often opt for a chorus of "bah bah bahs" that, in their hands, says as much as any poured-over lyric could.