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Indie review April 2024: The best songs and albums

Our 11 favourite indie albums and seven favourite indie songs released in April 2024 - featuring Vampire Weekend, English Teacher, Fontaines D.C. and more!



Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly indie review blog. In this edition we review the best new indie music released from the month that’s just been.


April itself was an absolute bumper month for new music giving us plenty to mull over! With contributions from Matthew McLister and Neil Renton, here's the best of the albums and songs from April 2024.


 

Albums


Vampire Weekend - Only God Above Us



First up is the fifth album from one of our old favourites, Vampire Weekend. After their patchy last album Father of the Bride (2019), Only God Above Us gets things back on track for the New York baroque-pop band. Although its immediacy felt a little lacking on the first couple of listens.

 

The album is probably best defined as a record of two halves. The first half, in particular, is full of abrasive growers that offer sonic detours from song by song while maintaining the band’s elegant style. “F*** the world, you said it quiet” declares singer Ezra Koenig on cynical opener ‘Ice Cream Piano, later exploding into action with a crescendo of orchestrations and screeching guitars, while subdued ballad ‘Capricorn’ is a melodic treat up there with the best songs they’ve written.

 

Vampire Weekend’s winnable knack for infectious melody later shines through on the second half. The scuzzy guitars on the punky ‘Gen-X Cops’ echo the band’s earworm yesteryears, Koenig’s voice shines through on ‘Mary Boone’ and is aided beautifully by choirs and hip hop beats, while the epic ‘Hope’ is a beautifully poignant closer about letting go.

 

Only God Above Us is not as attention-grabbing an album as their first three records so will probably be as scorned as it will be loved by earlier fans. But their fifth wonderfully merges their old sound with a progressive new, sounding both chaotic and soothing. A fantastic return from them. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

The Black Keys - Ohio Players



In the short period between 2010’s Brothers and 2011’s El Camino, The Black Keys went from the hippest underground band to an uncool stadium act in record speed. Of course, ‘Lonely Boy’ still slaps 12 years on, but focusing their sound towards arena venues and mainstream radio did lose them some hipster cred in the process. Then again, millions of dollars in the bank as a result; I doubt they really care.


In fairness, they’ve surprised me on more than one occasion since – “Let’s Rock” (2019) and Dropout Boogie (2022) are solid mainstream rock records with their fair share of enjoyable moments, and covers album Delta Kream (2021) was a joyful ode to blues greats. And, to be honest, latest release Ohio Players is another excellent effort from Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.


The cast list is pretty impressive too. Noel Gallagher co-wrote three songs, though only the chest-thumping ‘On The Game’ stands out as one to behold. Beck features on the pulsating ‘Paper Crown‘, later taking a wonderful hip hop turn with the appearance of rapper Juicy J. ‘Candy and Her Friends’ is an ominous earworm featuring the record’s catchiest chorus ("Candy and her friends / Rollin’ down eighth avenue / Red Mercedes-Benz") and, again, takes a sudden hip hop change up – this time in the form of a Lil Noid feature – to maintain the intrigue.


‘This Is Nowhere’ and ‘Beautiful People (Stay High)’ are perfect Radio X fodder (whether that's praise or criticism depends on your perspective...), while the surf-rock inspired ‘Read Em and Weep’ sounds like it was written for next Tarantino film. Later, ‘Fever Tree’ isn’t exactly the most complex of tracks, but those "Nah-nah-nah-nah’s" are just too easy to sing along to.


The Black Keys could’ve cut down some of those 14 tracks for a more concise record, though that seems true of much of their recent output. So much to enjoy regardless. Another pleasantly surprising effort from Dan and Patrick.   (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

English Teacher - This Could Be Texas



English Teacher have long been tipped as one of Britain’s hottest new bands. On their debut This Could Be Texas, they go a long to proving the praise is necessary: an impressive collection of songs meandering between big post punk statements and gentle ballads, split between quirky and emotive tones. 


To be perfectly honest, there were quite a few moments across this album that didn't really do it for me. The slogs towards the mid-section are frustrating ('Broken Biscuits' is one I grew to despise...) and the last few tracks are far too subdued for a band that have been universally hyped up as this year's most exciting indie band. Thankfully there's a heap of infectious charm in songs like 'Nearly Daffodils', ‘The Worlds Biggest Slaving Slav’ and 'R&B' to win us back round (well, just about).


All things considered, This Could Be Texas is an impressive opening statement from English Teacher. The dynamism on offer is admirable, singer Lily Fontaine keeping us engaged by exploring a range of themes from existential indecisiveness (‘Mastermind Specialism’) to failed relationship helplessness (‘You Blister My Pain’). You’ll just need to overlook the occasional lull by focusing on the album’s many infectious highlights. (Words by Matthew McLister)


Check out my review of English Teacher's debut album This Could Be Texas on the Clash website.

 

Fred Again… - USB



On the week this collection of singles was released as an EP it went into the album charts at number ninety. It’s hardly the type of sales figures that’ll have the likes of Beyonce shaking in her cowboy boots.


Is it an indication that perhaps Fred Again…isn’t at the level of Calvin Harris superstardom he deserves despite having the ability to headline music festivals?


In cases like this, sales figures don’t matter. What does is the quality of material the producer has been putting out in recent years with this the crop of recent singles.


And for me, there’s not many people around who can match him when he’s on fire. Take for instance ‘leavenealone’ or the peerless ‘Lights Out’ featuring Romy.


Fred Again…has yet again soundtracked the sound of a weekend. From the befores to the afters. From the 11pms in the club to the 4ams on the sofa.


So is it a proper album, an EP or a collection of songs? Who cares. All that matters is if it only went into the charts at number ninety then the other eighty nine releases ahead of it must have been outstanding. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

The Libertines - All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade



That The Libertines are still producing music 20 years after their initial break up is nothing short of a miracle. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s relationship deteriorated so much during the process of making their second album that the band’s future appeared permanently dashed.


Fast forward twenty years and things are finally back on track. All Quiet The Eastern Esplanade is a gratifying fourth album that is sonically exploratory while remaining true to the group’s swashbuckling indie heart.


Back in the day, The Libertines romanticised a forgotten version of Blighty but two decades on they’ve refreshed their palette with some contemporary social issues. On the eerie album highlight ‘Shiver’ their emotions are confused in the aftermath of the Queen’s death, while The Doors-esque ‘Merry Old England’ provides a welcome to modern day immigrants. And ‘Mustangs’ has Barat sing about an alcoholic mother called Traci who’s decked out in a “Juicy Couture tracksuit”.


That’s not to say their chaotic style has been completely abandoned, though. ‘Run Run Run’ is an infectious and charming intro, while ‘Oh Shit’ and ‘I Have A Friend’ find us on the same sweaty dancefloor as ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’.


All Quiet The Eastern Esplanade won’t rival their early legend, but by mixing mature sounds with familiar playfulness, The Libertines prove there’s life in the old dog yet.  (Words by Matthew McLister)


Check out my full review of The Libertines latest on the Stereoboard website.


 

Pearl Jam - Dark Matter



A lot has been made about the latest release from the Seattle giants being one of a political tone. With it being the year of the US Elections and Donald Trump in a court in New York it’s going to be difficult for America artists not to vent their views and opinions.


Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those boring party broadcast you get after the news. Instead it’s soaring, anthemic and important. It might not be as punk propelled as singles ‘Running’ and ‘Dark Matter’ led us to believe but there’s still plenty for listeners old and new to get into.


Eddie Vedder’s vocals are pushed to the limit, backed by a band firing on all cylinders. Highlights include the sprawling epics of ‘Waiting For Stevie’ and ‘Upper Hand,’ both hitting the heady heights of stadium rock with ease.


There’s even brushes with Britpop. ‘Something Special’ has the melodic beauty of Oasis in their prime, a track Noel Gallagher would be proud to call his own.


Can you feel?” Asks Vedder on ‘Won’t Tell.’ What we can feel is a band with buckets of talent and values in equal measures. And that’ll earn my vote. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

Gossip - Real Power



To some, Gossip have long been defined by one song. It’s been almost 20 years since ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ cut through the indie sleaze scene with groove and dancefloor ambition, making Beth Ditto into an LGBTQ+ icon and setting up a breakthrough album at the third time of asking.


Into this long shadow steps Real Power, the Arkansas trio’s first LP in 12 years. A lot has happened to the band since they last recorded together — they turned 40, they lost people, they got divorced — and these experiences underpin a collection of slick, disco-infused tunes that are fun and heartfelt while lacking the pizzazz to stand out next to past glories.


There’s a fair bit to like, though. ‘Crazy Again’ tugs on the heartstrings for a tender-riffing gut punch while the pensive ‘Turn the Card Slowly’ features lovely Foals-esque sun-kissed guitars. They continue the dreamy vibe on the surf-rock-inspired 'Tough', beautifully complimented by Ditto’s melancholic vocal delivery. 


As a whole, then, Real Power is solid enough, sounding both clean and accomplished. But that’s also part of the problem. There is a lack of edge and grit here, meaning that Gossip don’t quite land a telling blow to rival their breakthrough record.  (Words by Matthew McLister)


Read my review of Gossip's new album on the Stereoboard website.

 

 

James - Yummy



One of my mates had a bit of a public spat with James. They’d played a festival he attended but didn’t play a lot of their hits. It was mostly material from their latest release at the time. 


I could see my pals point. There’s nothing worse than going to see an act and they perform loads of stuff you’re unfamiliar with. Where’s the regard?


Then there’s an argument where’s the regard for James. There’s more to them than the like of ‘Sit Down’ which hit a mental health nerve before half of us knew what it was. There more to them than ‘Laid’ which is far more clever than we gave them credit for.


They’re on tour again this year. If they play songs from Yummy don’t go to the bar. Stick it out. You’ll hear the truly wonderful ‘Shadow Of A Giant’ and your hear will burst. ‘Way Over Your Head’ will have your hands held aloft. ‘Better With You’ will have you failing in love. 


Not just with life. But with James themselves. On this kind of form, it’s the very least they deserve. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

Girl In Red - I'm Doing It Again Baby!



It has been a whirlwind time in the life of Norwegian bedroom pop artist Marie Ulven Ringheim (aka Girl in Red), who went from internet sensation to superstardom after the release of her 2021 debut album If I Could Make It Go Quiet.


Perhaps as a result of this headrush, I’m Doing It Again Baby! is more outward-looking and less introspective. Its melodies are brighter and poppier than before, albeit with a more tempered second half.


I'm back, I feel like myself / I was gone for a minute 'cause I went to get help,” she opens on 'I’m Back’, offering a reflective start that spells out fresh optimism to wash away what she has described as a “tendency (for) melancholic tragedy”.


The energetic ‘Doing It Again Baby’ has the singer feeling indestructible and it’s a chaotic highlight that departs on the back of a frenetic banjo solo. Its catchiness is carried over into ‘Too Much’ as she directs her ire at those killing her happy vibe.


It’s all a bit of fun but I’m Doing It Again Baby! Is let down by a lacklustre second half. Perhaps if she’d committed further to the energetic promise heard in the first half of the LP it could’ve been a different story.  (Words by Matthew McLister)


Check out my full take on Girl In Red's new album on the Stereoboard website.


 

Khruangbin - A La Sala



Texas trio Khruangbin released their fourth studio album A La Sala earlier in the month and it was another stunning and consistent effort that merged psychedelic rock with funk and R&B for a uniquely blissful and sun-kissed experience.


That they have 8 million monthly listeners on Spotify and a UK arena tour lined up for later on the year may surprise many, but these guys are amongst the best guitar acts around at the moment. A La Sala is such a vibe.  (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Porij - Teething



I was kicking myself last December for missing Friendly Fires' support act at their SWG3 show and discovering it had been Manchester dance fourpiece Porij. Their debut album Teething again proves why I was right to be annoyed at missing out: a collection of slick dance songs that merges drum 'n' bass with rave and ethereal atmospheres.


And they do so while maintaining an indie edge (which, in turn, has made them darlings of BBC 6 Music). Something tells me I'll be revisiting this one a lot over the coming summer months. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Songs

 

Fat Dog - Running



One of the most intriguing bands I’ve heard in a long time is experimental London indie-dance band Fat Dog. In April they announced their debut album WOOF was due to arrive on 6 September via Domino.


In doing so, they also shared another chaotic song in the form of ‘Running’ – an energetic five minutes of intensity and ridiculousness that’ll have you on the edge of your seat in awe. These lads’ three song releases to date – ‘King of the Slugs’, ‘All the Same’ and now ‘Running’ – have been well on the money so far!  (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Kasabian - Coming back to me good



It’s now twenty years since Kasabian released their self-titled debut and one of things that has kept them going is their knack for changing things up when required. After the departure of singer Tom Meighan, guitarist Serge Pizzaro jumped at the chance to take the limelight and has reinvented the band in a more dance-focused direction.


New single ‘Coming Back To Me Good’ is a summary dancefloor-filler that echoes the sound of early MGMT and Empire Of The Sun. Another excellent festival anthem to get the hips moving. (words by Matthew McLister)


 

Yannis and the Yaw - Walk Through Fire



Earlier in April, Foals‘ frontman Yannis Philippakis shared a taster of a new musical project with late Afrobeat legend Tony Allen called The Yaw.


Funky new track ‘Walk Through Fire’ is the first release from the project’s upcoming EP Lagos Paris London (set for release in August) and isn’t exactly a million miles away from the direction Foals were headed on Life Is Yours (2022). A perfect combination of percussive excellence, funk-driven guitars and Yannis’ impassioned vocal style.  (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Fontaines D.C. - Starbuster



Fontaines D.C. returned with a comeback that caught everyone unaware. Except us. We called it. The last song on singer Grian Chatten solo album decided into a bit of a hip hop chaos.


Maybe this is the direction his band would go next. And we were right. The strings make it sound like the theme from Succession before the Kneecap influenced lyrical delivery kicks in and kicks out.  This was inspired by a panic attack Chatten had in London and you feel it. Where will this fit into their electric live sets? There’s only one way to find out. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

Lambrini Girls – Body of Mine



Brighton punk duo Lambrini Girls have just dropped their new single ‘Body Of Mine’. Their latest is a punchy punk anthem about gender identify, carried by explosive guitars, a pounding bassline and singer Phoebe Lunny’s uncompromising vocals.


Being a fan of Aussie punks Amyl & the Sniffers, this one was right up my lane! Speaking about the new track, Lunny revealed: “This song is about trying to connect to your gender identity, feeling like you’re not fully yourself, and struggling to figure out how to truly become it.”  (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

La Luz - Poppies



Taking the tone down is the new one by Seattle indie fourpiece La Luz, ‘Poppies’. A soothing and poignant piece of sun-kissed psychedelic-pop and second taste of their fifth studio album News of the Universe (set for release on 24 May via Sub Pop).


Bandleader Shana Cleveland revealed the true meaning of the song in a press release: “‘Poppies’ is about the surreal feeling of going through the horror and isolation of a cancer diagnosis and treatment and then suddenly being out in the bright world again, trying to make sense of it all, feeling like I’m walking through a waking dream, seeing the first wildflowers come out and feeling a similar sense of rebirth.”  (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Justice ft. Tame Impala - Neverender



French dance duo Justice have just delivered their first album in eight years with Hyperdrama and many critics are calling it the act’s best since their self-titled 2007 debut. A spectacle-filled, blockbuster dance record, complimented by a variety of collaborations. No less than two of these feature Tame Impala. Album opener ‘Neverender’ eases us into Hyperdrama, Kevin Parker’s smooth vocals and pulsating dance beats make for an earworm start and a fantastic opening statement of intent.


 

For the best tunes of each month, listen to our Best indie songs of the month 2024 playlist below.



 

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