Having first come to my attention last year when they released What Happened To Us? and Take Me Back, Melbourne duo GL are at last back with new track Number One. It's a similarly retro influenced take on forward thinking R&B which draws on late-80s and early-90s pop to create a smooth groove sound full of big drum patterns and layered synths.
Following on from Bodies and June 17 earlier on in the year, Philco Fiction are back with Talk / Brag - the title track from their forthcoming second album.
This new track feels like their most accomplished yet, vocalist Alida's fragile vocals pouring out of her head like the sheer force of gravity would make keeping them in impossible. Layered electronic production creates a timeless cinematic feel - luxurious yet simply played. Simply gorgeous.
Speaking of the track, Alida shared: “'I’m a lover, lover, lover. I’m a force. I’m a mother. And I’m never, never, never gonna let you down - leave you alone.' [With] Talk/Brag, we wanna talk about our place in this world. We wanna brag about our potential as human beings. Tell everyone we are here to love. Tell everyone we want a piece of it. Did someone whisper ‘Airwolf'?
The Talk / Brag album is due out early next year via Killing Moon Records.
It has been a little while since we heard from Hugh, the dramatic pop outfit featuring Joshua Idehen whose heart-stopping I Can Be Your Light made it into my top ten songs of the year last year. The four-piece are now back with a new track taken from the forthcoming double A-side Learn To Fall / Almost Done, Almost There.
Learn To Fall is another beautiful duet between Idehen and Izzy Brooks, who both express a powerful level of vulnerability. Learn To Fall feels like a mutual declaration of dependence - when you come to terms with how much you need another person. It's another stunning entry into the band's collection of mature and ambitious pop.
Learn To Fall is available through all major platforms now. Almost Done, Almost There follows on 23 October.
Another great track from Oakland-based Aussie Hazel English, coming in the wake of the equally dreamy Never Going Home and It's Not Real earlier this year. Fix is another slice of California sun-tinged shoegaze-pop that beckons in the start of autumn. Taken from English's debut EP, out later this year.
After a number of EPs and three albums Girls Names took a typically nonconformist move to mark their return, launching 11-minute long single Zero Triptych, which got played in full on Radio 1 but doesn't feature here at all. Instead Arms Around A Vision distils the Belfast band's dreary-yet-dreamy outward looking vision into twelve tracks of sharp post-punk.
Discussing the album, frontman Cathal Cully states, "We look to Europe for inspiration. For romance. For the idea of a better life ... For me, living in Belfast just makes you focus on your own art."
Like their contemporaries The Horrors and Interpol, Girls Names wear their influences proudly. You can hear plenty of elements of Can, Neu, Joy Division, Brian Eno here, together with traces of the New Romantic movement.
The warm electronic interludes of (Obsession) and (Convalescence) divide Arms Around A Vision into three acts, acting as brief moments of reprieve between the bursts of aggression. Self-produced by the band and engineered by Dan Rejmer, they carve out a soundscape that draws from a number of Europe's modern movements - Italian futurism, Russian constructivism and German's Zero Group. There is a modernist bent to Girls Names' sound - their music at times drowning in the simultaneous riot of conventional instruments played unconventionally together with unconventional instruments. Drums and guitars combine with sax, sheet metal and deliberately broken guitars.
Whilst the style isn't new, it is delivered with significant with aplomb. Arms Around A Vision storms in with the foreboding and appropriately named Reticence, a track of two-halves that at first weaves a slowly coiled threat before unraveling to leave something far more loose and free-willed.
Recent single A Hunger Artist still feels effortlessly cool - it is the perfect snub, a coy little 'fuck you' tied up into a bow... Harsh strummed guitars aggressively drive forward as Cully sounds a little nonchalantly delivers his passive aggressive play. The screeching brass amid a wave of distortion creates a chaotic feeling that the whole song could fall over at any moment, making it all the more exciting in its slow building cacophony.
Closing with the pregnant and menacing I Was You, Arms Around A Vision crawls to a darkly cynical conclusion that also grants the album its title. Cully's vocals swoop around the nightmarish musical landscape before leaving the band to fade to black. An album that achieves much through style and attitude, even if it feels like there might not be much left underneath.
Arms Around A Vision is released on 2 October through Tough Love. Stream I Was You below and watch the video for A Hunger Artist: