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Indie review May 2024: The best songs and albums

Our nine favourite indie albums and seven favourite indie songs released in May 2024 - featuring Kings Of Leon, DIIV, Dua Lipa 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.


May 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 a review of the best albums and songs from May 2024.


 

Albums


Kings Of Leon - Can We Please Have Fun



First up is an old favourite who have lost their way over the past decade or so. Their preacher family backstory and Southern-fried take on The Strokes’ garage rock revival sound made Kings of Leon an intriguing phenomenon in the ‘00s. In particular, their raw and energetic first couple of records were lapped up in the UK, while the heavy polish of the next two saw their success grow on a huge global scale, catapulted by the success of 2008 single ‘Sex on Fire’.


Several patchy records later, they’ve returned with album number nine, promising to bring loose, unencumbered energy back into the fold. Recorded at Nashville’s Dark Horse studio with producer Kid Harpoon, whose credits include Harry Styles and Florence + the Machine, Can We Please Have Fun can only get the job half done


Technically, the music is accomplished — the driving basslines of Jared Followill, in particular, shine through. 'Mustang' is arguably their best song since the '00s. Caleb’s voice is rich and flawless. It’s just that Can We Please Have Fun, much like Kings of Leon’s other post- Only By The Night albums, struggles to maintain a sense of excitement from start to finish.


Are we still having fun?” Caleb asks on 'Nowhere To Run' but it’s a question best considered after the record’s finished spinning. The answer is yes, just about, but we could have had a lot more. Kings of Leon can still thrill us even if, frustratingly, they can’t quite commit to the title’s spirit. (Words by Matthew McLister)


Check out my review of Kings of Leon's new album on the Stereoboard website.


 

The Lemon Twigs - A Dream Is All We Know



The Lemon Twigs have long walked a thin line between acknowledging classic ‘60s songwriters and being a pastiche of that period. After the success of 2023’s Everything Harmony, the New York-based brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario have wasted little time in delivering their fifth album A Dream Is All We Know, with the strength of their joyful melodies and meticulously-crafted indie-pop songs keeping them on the right side of things.


This is the duo’s best and most concise effort yet, leaning heavily on upbeat Beach Boys harmonies and swatches taken The Beatles in their early experimental era (some are calling the combination of the two sounds “Merseybeach”) alongside the reflective Simon & Garfunkelisms of their previous LP.


In fact, this record contains a connection to The Beatles in its own right. 'In The Eyes Of The Girl' was co-produced by John Lennon’s son, Sean Ono, but fittingly it continues the tonal mashup, pulling in Brian Wilson-esque vocals and sublime barbershop quartet melodies.


And the quality is maintained to the bitter end. Penultimate track 'I Should’ve Known Right From The Start' is a nostalgic slice of high-pitched folk, wonderfully contrasting with closer 'Rock On (Over and Over)' and its nod to the ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll of Chuck Berry. A Dream Is All We Know is a layered, nostalgic pop record with immaculate summer vibes. A blissful ode to the past from two extremely talented brothers. (Words by Matthew McLister)


You can read my full review of A Dream Is All We Know on the Stereoboard website.


 

Rachel Chinouriri - What A Devastating Turn Of Events



Britpop isn’t as managed as they make you believe it to be. Like many cultural phenomenons, there’s aspects that haven’t aged well through time and hindsight.


I’ll always fight its corner on many fronts, except for one of the most blatant flaws. It was very one-dimensional. White men with guitars. Women were limited to being objectified. Which is a shame. And that’s why it’s good we’ve got Rachel Chinouriri doing what she’s doing.


Her debut album, made up of older songs and some fresh material, harks back to when indie was at its peak but does so with a voice that’s refreshing. ‘Robbed’ is a beautiful heartbreaking ode to being heartbroken. ‘Cold Call’ wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the mid-nineties.


‘Never Need Me’ matches the star power of Florence Pugh who appears in the video while ‘The Hills’ has her sing about feeling alienated. She should be. It’s not just Hollywood A-List actresses who want to be her pal. Just ask her loyal following who interact freely with her on the socials.


Chinouriri has worked hard to get here. Watch her go. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

DIIV - Frog In Boiling Water



DIIV's last record radically shifted towards a heavier shoegaze vibe and five years on they have offered a natural follow-up, doubling down on the darkened sonics with Frog In Boiling Water. And dare we say, their fourth is even gloomier, even moodier and even more beautiful than their last.


Opener ‘In Amber’ immediately cuts to the chase - heavy riffs and distortion push Smith’s cynical lyrics deep within the mix (“I can’t look away / in anger / I want to disappear” he both opens and closes the song). The mood is further intensified on the sludgy ‘Brown Paper Bag’; a detached track that merges elements of dream pop and post rock to create a stunning trance-like state.


On ‘Raining On Your Pillow’, DIIV lower the temperature, replacing disconnection with intimacy. The third song is carried by jangly, Cure-esque riffs and an evocative quality allowing Smith’s bleak lyricism to shine through: “There’s a river out there somewhere I’m the only owner of / Look how far away we are from here” he sings during the song’s muted chorus.


DIIV may be far removed from their sun-kissed early sound, but the despair and despondence offered on Frog In Boiling Water makes for a fascinating listen. Still immediate, albeit in a different way entirely. Mood music carrying the weight of the world on its shoulders, progressing the band even further into dark and haunted terrain. DIIV have refined their brooding vibe and produced as gorgeous a record as you’ll hear this year. (Words by Matthew McLister)



 

Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism



The Glastonbury announcement was one of the most divisive in years, especially when it came to the headliners. Coldplay are steady and predictable, SZA took many by surprise and then there’s Dua Lipa.


You could argue she’s one of the biggest music stars in the world just now. Last album Future Nostalgia was released right at the start of the first Covid lockdown and spawned massive hits. It felt that you weren’t far away from a TikTok featuring one of her hits.


The follow-up was hotly anticipated, especially with the news that Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker was involved. It’s not the psych-pop classic we all wanted or anticipated but there’s some highlights.


‘Houdini,’ the first single released from the album hinted at inspired greatness and ‘Training Season’ is another disco banger. The rest of the album doesn’t hit those heights which is a shame. It’s a tad too formulaic and doesn’t stray far from the same routine.


The pop scene is a crowded one just now. Dua Lipa has done enough to earn her place near the top of the pile and deserves a shot at Glastonbury. Maybe its the high expectations that get in the way. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

Billie Eilish - Hit Me Hard And Soft



The third album from Billie Eilish caught everyone by surprise. After a mammoth tour a couple of years ago promoting Happier Than Ever and the success of ‘What Was I Made For’ from the Barbie soundtrack, you wouldn’t have forgiven Eilish for putting her feet up for a couple of years to catch her breath and take stock.


Instead, she’s released an absolute cracking album. The ten tracks could almost be divided into two parts. There’s the reflective, considerate style of the likes of ‘SKINNY’ and ‘WILDFLOWER’ where she gets her message home in a thoughtful delivery.


Then there’s the livelier tracks that won’t sound out of place on a dance floor. ‘LUNCH’ has her as far removed from any innocent perception we have of her while ‘THE DINNER’ finds her in a jovial mood.


‘THE GREATEST’ is reminiscent of the song ‘Happier Than Ever’ before ‘L’AMOUR DE MA VIE’ has the nerve to start off gentle before getting very dance ordinated. No hype. No singles released on the lead up to the albums release. No drama.


No doubt that she’s one of the most important acts in music today. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

Arab Strap - I’m totally fine with it don’t give a f***



I’ve been a long-time admirer of Scottish indie duo Arab Strap since around 2010. It was a late November evening and I’d just finished a shattering game of seven-aside football on a crisp winter evening in Edinburgh. Being in a mood for something more downbeat, I turned on the radio and then Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe was playing their 1996 single ‘First Big Weekend Of the Summer’ as one his favourite Scottish songs of all time. And wow, I was blown away immediately.


Over the years, it was a track I’d constantly return to for its subdued euphoria, while lockdown reunion album As Days Get Dark renewed my interest back in 2021. Again, their latest album was one I went in with keen interest.


Typically, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton’s eighth album under the Arab Strap name is another gritty marmite-y record. On first listen, the tales of woe aspect became a little grating, but on subsequent listens the quality began to shine through as Moffat’s spoken word brogue shifted gradually on the right side of poetic over abrasive.


I’m totally fine… definitely carries a sense of intriguing menace, and the gritty vocals are perfectly matched by industrial instrumentalism and a cynical outlook on modern technology. All in all, an excellent return from two masters of their craft. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 


Brogeal - Brogeal



There’s a reason why I’ve been going on about Brogeal for a bit now. And this EP is the perfect encapsulation of what’s making them one of THE bands to watch just now.


They’ve built up a reputation on their live performances that have taken them up and down the country. If you’ve been lucky enough to see them you’ll be familiar with ‘Roving Falkirk Bairn’ the opening track on the EP.


‘Girl From NYC’ is about being hopelessly in love and yearning for a better life. ‘Hill Is High’ takes things down a gentler notch or two but still manages to pack a punch.


The highlight is ‘Fly Away’ one of the best songs that’s been released this year. It sees them move from the folk punk crowd to more of a big indie anthem that’ll blow you away. The whole thing had youthful exuberance mixed with a professional maturity beyond their years.


They’ve got their own superstar fan club in the shape of Line of Duty actor Martin Compston. Listen to this EP and see them at one of their gigs and you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about. (Words by Neil Renton)

 

 

La Luz - News Of The Universe



La Luz’s sound is one often epitomised with their Californian homeland – sun-kissed guitars, hazy atmospheres and effortlessly cool vocals.


The fourpiece band’s fifth record News of the Universe perhaps lacks the immediacy of their early work, instead opting to explore darker themes of cancer, death and motherhood.


While this isn’t exactly selling the album, the 35 minute run time still flies through and you can’t fail but appreciate the warmth, confidence and quality of the 12 tracks on offer. One of the most captivating listens of May 2024. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Songs

 

Wunderhorse – Midas





Ok, so technically this song was released in April but only really came to my attention so that still counts, right? Wunderhorse’s debut album Cub was one of 2022’s album highlights; a hazy rock ‘n’ roll record with many a catchy anthem. ‘Midas’ follows in similar vein - another heavy rock anthem, described by frontman Jacob Slater as follows: “The song was written in a bathtub in Paris, and forgotten about until it resurfaced in Minnesota. Midas is the guy who makes you feel like a pencil stub, all used up and nothing to show for it, but it’s always just business as far as he’s concerned.” (Words by Matthew McLister)

 

Alfie Templeman - 'Beckham'



There’s not been many songs I can remember about moving house but that hasn’t stopped Alfie Templeman giving us one.


‘Beckham’ finds him trawling parts of London whilst flat hunting and dealing with the anxiety of maturity as he does so. And it’s all done in a style that’ll sound great in a beer garden. Not quite a Beckham goal scored from the halfway line.  But The Beatles-influenced number promises a lot for his up and coming album. (Words by Neil Renton)

 

The Lemon Twigs – How Can I Love Her More



As we’ve described above, The Lemon Twigs returned this month with their best and most concise effort yet. Eighth track ‘How Can I Love Her More’ is by far the album’s catchiest bop, containing jagged keys and soppy lyrics straight out of Pets Sounds template. Absolutely delightful stuff from one of May 2024’s best albums. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Amyl & the Sniffers – U Should Not Be Doing That



Aussie punks Amyl & the Sniffers have long been favourites of mine since the release of their punchy self-titled debut album in 2019. New song ‘U Should Not Be Doing That’ – their first single in three years - has just dropped and is full of the same energetic bravado we’ve become accustomed to. A swaggering bassline meets Amy Taylor’s defiant vocals for a song poking fun at the “the bitchy high school way that the music community still is”. Anything these renegades do is well worth paying attention to, so listen up! (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

SOFT PLAY – Act Violently



SOFT PLAY’s last two singles walked straight into our indie review blog, providing a middle-finger towards us in the process of doing so. ‘Act Violently’ goes even harder and stronger than before for as abrasive a song as we’ve heard from this punk duo. It combines elements of nu-metal and punk for a third taste of their upcoming new album Heavy Jelly (19 July 2024). If the rest of the album is as half as good as the three preview singles, then we’re in for an absolute treat. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Dictator – Almost Famous



West Lothian fourpiece Dictator are a band I’ve been following since lockdown and have seemingly built up a strong cult fanbase over the years for their intensely beautiful yet catchy electronic sound. New single ‘Almost Famous’ - their second of 2024 - is another infectious bop that acts as a reminder to keep on moving forward. Frontman Michael Campbell describes the track as “a self-deprecating look at what being a rock star is supposedly all about and a challenge to do it, a reminder of how things could have panned out if we weren’t so lucky to have been miserable failures in our endeavours to be the best”. (Words by Matthew McLister)


 

Romy - Always Forever



The news is mainly doom and gloom just now. And the weather isn’t any better. What we need is a proper banger to come along and cheer us up. What we need is Romy.


One-third of the XX and an established solo artist in their own right has only gone and saved us. Backed by Fred Again… and sampling the Donna Lewis pop classic. It’s optimistic. It’s frantically dancing. It’s salvaged the summer. (Words by Neil Renton)


 

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



 

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