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Joint Albums of the Week: Beak>, Frontperson, and Richard Reed Parry

We Had to Give It to All Three to Stop a Fight

Sep 21, 2018 Christine and the Queens
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We were in a quandary about this week’s Album of the Week. There were a multitude of solid choices and we were racked with indecision. We narrowed it down to six choices: the new albums by Beak>, Christine and the Queens, Frontperson, Richard Reed Parry, Suede, and Villagers. All are worthy choices and albums we’ve been writing about for months. We decided to take the democratic route and posted to Facebook and Twitter to see if our readers could help us decide. That’s when things got ugly. On Twitter Beak>, Frontperson, and Richard Reed Parry started challenging each other to an actual fight to see who should get the honor. And while we have it on good authority that Frontperson’s Kathryn Calder could easily take Parry and the guys in Beak>, we couldn’t have it come to that. So we’ve decided on a three way tie between Beak>, Frontperson, and Richard Reed Parry. Sorry Christine and the Queens, Suede, and Villagers, maybe if you’d gotten in on the fight we would’ve added you too!

In all seriousness, all six albums are worth your time and below is info on each. But first is our tweet that caused all the fuss.

Beak>: >>> (Invada/Temporary Residence Ltd.)

Beak>, the trio led by Portishead‘s Geoff Barrow (along with Billy Fuller and Will Young), released a new album, >>>, today via Invada Records/Temporary Residence Ltd.

Previously they shared its first single, “Brean Down,” as well as a video of the band performing the album’s “Allé Sauvage” live at Invada Studios.

Redg Weeks, Invada’s Label Manager, had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “>>> definitely sounds like a step forward. The production and feel of the first two albums was like listening through frosted glass; a band playing behind a curtain. Now we are hearing Beak> in sharp focus, but without forfeiting what the band see as its ‘wrongness.’ This could be the result of having played bigger stages and festivals - something that was never part of the plan - or perhaps it is just a reaction to the infinite cut & paste fuzz pedal kraut bands on the planet.”

Frontperson: Frontrunner (Oscar St.)

Frontperson is a new duo that features Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers (and also a solo artist and formerly of Immaculate Machine) and Mark Andrew Hamilton (who has released six albums as Woodpigeon). Today they released their debut album, Frontrunner, via Calder’s own label, Oscar St.

Previously they shared a video for its first single, “Tick - Tock (Frontrunner)” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), which was followed by a video for “Young Love” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared another song from the album, “Long Night,” via a video for it. The band’s Hamilton co-directed the video with Maëlle Ramsay and it stars Tranna Wintour, a Canadian comedian who sings along to the song in the video.

Rob Leickner and Ryan Sudds directed the previous “Tick - Tock (Frontrunner)” video, which featured various track & field events, sometimes running backwards, and was filmed at the 2018 Langley Pacific Invitational and the 2018 BC Masters Track & Field Championships. The album cover also features a track & field event and is a photograph that actually inspired the album title. Hamilton explained in a previous press release: “About 20 years ago, a photographer friend of mine named Ambrose Fan gave me this incredible picture of a young girl with her fists clenched, getting ready to run a race at a track meet. I’ve lived in a lot of places since then, and this photo has always come with me. When we started recording at the National Music Centre - basically one of the world’s best keyboard museums where we had pretty much free reign over their incredible collections of synths and such - I put the photo on the recording console, and it stayed there for two weeks guiding the making of our record. Whenever someone would ask what sound we were going for, I’d just point at that picture.”

Calder added: “The photograph is now our record cover, it was the inspiration for our album name, and it’s still guiding this record, because we decided to use it as inspiration for the video for our first song, ‘Tick-Tock (Frontrunner).’”

Richard Reed Parry: Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1 (ANTI-)

Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry released a new solo album, Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1, today via ANTI-, his first for the label.

As the title suggests, it’s the first part of a two volume series, with part two due out next spring. Previously he shared a combined animated video for two of its songs, “Sai No Kawara (River of Death)” and “On the Ground” (they both made our Songs of the Week list). Then he shared the six-and-a-half-minute long “Song of Wood” (which was our #1 Song of the Week). Then we premiered a video where he performed “I Was In The World (Was The World In Me)” live.

The seeds of the album were first planted a decade ago during Arcade Fire’s first tour of Japan. Parry hung around Japan for several weeks after the tour ended, finding himself in a monastery, an experience he describes in a press release as “the biggest silence you’ve ever heard.”

Parry elaborated in a previous press release: “The song ‘On the Ground’ was inspired by an encounter with ghost voices in a Japanese forest near a temple on the mountain Koya-Sān. I told director Caleb Wood the story - of being alone in this magical environment of giant cedar trees and hearing a loud chorus of powerful harmony singing that sounded inexplicably identical to my late father’s folk band the Friends of Fiddler’s Green, who were the soundtrack to my entire childhood and upbringing.”

Parry also had this to say about the album in the press release: “I’m lousy at sitting still and being nothing. But being out in the natural world or being immersed in music is the meditation for me. That’s the heart of this record: the experience of transcending the place that you’re in, getting lost in the feeling of where you end and where the world begins, in a dreamlike world of music and thought.”

Read our review of Quiet River of Dust Vol. 1.

Read our 2014 Versus interview where Richard Reed Parry and Peter Gabriel interviewed each other.

Album of the Week Runner-ups (Also Released This Week):

Christine and the Queens: Chris (Because Music)

Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) released her sophomore album, Chris, today via Because Music.

Pick up our current print issue (Issue 65) to read our exclusive interview with Christine and the Queens on Chris (and to check out our photo shoot with her).

There are both English language and French language versions of the album, with the French one having an extra track. Back in May Christine and the Queens shared a new song, “Girlfriend” (which features Dâm-Funk), as well as a French version of the song, titled “Damn, dis-moi.” She got a lot of mileage out of that song. It was one of our Songs of the Week, there was also a video for the song, she performed the song on Later... with Jools Holland, and also performed it on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (with The Roots and Dâm-Funk). Then she shared a video for a new song, “Doesn’t Matter,” as well as a video for a French version of the song, “Doesn’t Matter (voleur de soleil).” Then she shared a video for “5 Dollars” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then she shared another new song from the album, “La Marcheuse,” via a video for the song. “La Marcheuse” is from the French version of the album (the English version of the song is “The Walker,” but there’s no video for that version). Colin Solal Cardo directed the video, which features Letissier in a rural setting with a bull.

She also stopped by the BBC Live Lounge to do a session where she covered Maroon 5’s “What Lovers Do,” as well as performing “Girlfriend.” In July she shared a remix EP for “Girlfriend” (the funky seven-and-a-half-minute remix of the song by Dâm-Funk was one of our Songs of the Week).

Christine and the Queens made waves in her native France with her 2014 debut album, Chaleur Humaine. A more English language version of the album, simply titled Christine and the Queens, was released in America (and other English speaking countries) in 2015 via Because Music.

In a previous press release Letissier compared her first and second albums: “Chaleur Humaine was about teenage years, most of it. Loneliness, really true feelings, and there is a softness in the way I wrote as well, because I was properly introducing myself.” With Chris, she says “it gets to be a bit more exhilarating, because I get to say, ‘Okay, I’ve been introduced now.’ I get to be more confident, and it matches what happened in my life as a woman.”

Letissier added: “The second album could have been me finding a fancy producer in LA and doing the pop shit, but actually, no. I wanted to make it even more personal, if it’s possible.”

Suede: The Blue Hour (Rhino)

Britpop originators and survivors Suede released a new album, The Blue Hour, today via Rhino.

Read our review of The Blue Hour from earlier this week.

Read our new interview with Suede’s Brett Anderson on the album.

Previously Suede shared a trailer for the album, a video for a dramatic new song, “The Invisibles” (which was our #2 Song of the Week), and the second single from the album, “Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared a third single from the album, “Life Is Golden,” via a video for the song (which also made our Songs of the Week list). Mike Christie directed the video, which features aerial footage of Pripyat, Ukraine, a town that was quickly abandoned in 1986 when the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had a catastrophic accident. Alan Moulder produced The Blue Hour.

Suede reformed in 2010 and made a fantastic comeback in 2013 with the release of the excellent Bloodsports, which was their first new album in over a decade and was very well-received by critics. They released their last album, Night Thoughts, back in 2016. The Blue Hour is the band’s third album since reforming. Earlier this year the band also put out a 25th anniversary reissue of 1993’s self-titled debut album and frontman Brett Anderson also released his first book, the memoir Coal Black Mornings, via Little, Brown.

Suede made an immediate mark when they came on the scene in their native U.K., with them declared “The Best New Band in Britain” by the music publication Melody Maker in 1992 before their debut album was even released. That self-titled debut arrived on March 29, 1993 to critical acclaim and fantastic sales (it hit #1 on the U.K. album charts and at the time was the fastest selling debut album in over a decade). 1994’s sophomore album, Dog Man Star, is considered a classic of the era. 1996’s third album, Coming Up, continued the band’s success, also debuting at #1 on the U.K. album charts. The Blue Hour is the band’s eighth album.

Villagers: The Art of Pretending to Swim (Domino)

Villagers (aka Irish musician Conor O’Brien) released his new album, The Art of Pretending to Swim, via Domino. He previously shared videos for the album’s “A Trick of the Light” and “Fool” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as the audio for “Again” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

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