A review of the best indie albums released in June 2021. Featuring Wolf Alice, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, beabadoobee, Quivers and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.
The music has come thick and fast this month with a host of big indie releases to digest. Afraid you've missed anything? Here's a look at the best indie releases from the past month and something a bit different if you're looking for a change.
Butterfly 3000 by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Melbourne band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard may have one of the strangest names around, but don't let that put you off. Averaging two studio albums every year since their 2012 debut 12 Bar Bruise, they've just released their 18th studio album and it's a fantastic listen.
Butterfly 3000 was recorded at the band's homes during the pandemic and is an infectiously colourful record that combines dream-pop, psych-rock and synth-pop to excellent effect.
It opens with 'Yours', a funky slice of electronic psychedelic pop, before effortlessly flowing into the Oriental-inspired 'Shanghai'. The sweet and melodic 'Dreams' is another highlight, with vocalist Stu Mackenzie's mysterious repeated refrain of "I only wanna wake up in my dream, I only feel awake in the night, I only wanna wake up in my dream, I only feel tired in the day" giving us the most singalong moment of the record.
Alt-country meets psych-rock on 'interior People'. It's another sprawling and colourful number, the honesty of the lyrics contrasting to the sound on offer ("just on the down low, I'm feeling pretty low, some days, I feel fine").
'Catching Smoke' immediately sprung out as an early favourite, the most feel-good and dance-floor friendly on the album. It's an absolutely delightful bit of psychedelic pop that'll have your head moving in no time.
If you were ever into Tame Impala, MGMT or Animal Collective, you'll absolutely love this record. Its carefree melodies will brighten up your day tenfold!
Rating - 9/10
Best three tracks: Catching Smoke, Dreams, Yours
Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice
Less than four years after their last album Visions of Life, Wolf Alice are back with Blue Weekend. Recorded in Brussels between February and March 2020, the new album is a masterpiece that furthers their claim as the best British band around.
Almost four years out and expectation levels were through the roof for what was to come next. Thankfully, Wolf Alice have delivered on these expectations to give us one of the most beautiful and dynamic albums of 2021. The range of the band's performances across Blue Weekend is seriously impressive.
You have the punk of 'Play the Greatest Hits' sitting effortlessly alongside the acoustic folk of 'Sale From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)', the psychedelia of 'Feeling Myself' and eerie-dreaminess of tracks like 'Lipstick on the Glass'. It all comes to a close with the ethereal, shoegaze of 'The Beach II'; a perfect end to a near-perfect album.
When Wolf Alice released 'The Last Man on Earth' in February, I described it as "a beautiful track which is a gigantic departure from them!". From initially feeling underwhelmed, I kept an open mind, listened on and the track quickly became one of my favourites of the year.
It proved the progression of the band and took everyone by surprise, even featuring a Beatles-inspired 60s jam (because...why not?). You leave the track with the hairs on your neck firmly raised, completely encapsulated by Ellie's vocals.
On 'Smile', which has a passing resemblance to Vision of Life's lead single 'Yuk Foo', we're back to vitriolic, hard-hitting alternative rock. The sentimentality is gone, the gears have changed and Ellie's at her unapologetic, snarling best: "I wear my feelings on my sleeve, I suggested it / it serves me better than to swallow in a sedative / I am what I am and I'm good at it / and you don't like me well that isn't f****** relevant".
In the run-up to the album's release, Ellie spoke about being bolder and more open in her lyricism and that certainly holds true through the vulnerability on offer. Similarly, it's her stunning vocal performances across the 40 minutes that leave a lasting impression, able to move from snarling to heavenly at the drop of a hat. She's backed up perfectly by the rest of the band (Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis and Joel Amey) who perfectly accompany her mood with punchy and emotionally textured performances.
The quality of the music, vocals and mood ensure there isn't a dull moment to be had. It's 11 tracks of masterful indie rock from a band that continue to progress album after album following their big breakthrough in the mid-2010s.
The London band are in their prime and we need to embrace them while they're in it.
For more thoughts on the new album read my Wolf Alice's Blue Weekend is a modern-day indie masterpiece feature.
Best three tracks - No Hard Feelings, Delicious Things, Smile
Golden Doubt by Quivers
Quivers make lyric-driven guitar pop, combining four unique male and female voices to create a distinctive indie-pop sound. The second record by the Melbourne jangle-pop band certainly was a treat that I stumbled upon earlier in June.
'Gutters of Love' kicks off the record, a heartfelt mid-tempo indie-rock number featuring delightful vocal harmonies. 'When It Breaks' ups the tempo for a summery jangle pop track in a similar vein to fellow Melbourne band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
The highlight of the album is easily the stunningly romantic 'You're Not Always on My Mind'. Whilst some of the tracks may miss the mark, they more than make up for it here and, by the end, you're not sure whether to smile or cry. The harmonies create a beautiful atmosphere to compliment the nostalgic melodies. It's up there with my favourite songs of 2021!
Meanwhile, the dreamy 'Videostores' is an almost perfect follow on, another song packed with emotional punch. By no means the perfect record, the highs leave a lasting impression which mask the repetitive downfalls seen elsewhere.
Rating - 7.5/10
Best three tracks: You're Not Always on My Mind, Videostores, When It Breaks
Our Extended Play by beabadoobee
Our Extended Play is the new EP from English bedroom pop star Beabadoobee. It follows 2020's debut album Fake It Flowers which was a promising indie-pop record but not one without its flaws.
This four-track effort sees Bea team up with The 1975 singer Matt Healy and drummer George David for an enjoyable 13 minute listen. A heavy The 1975 inspiration shines through (of course).
That the two camps should work together is no surprise. Beabadoobee signed to the band's Dirty Hit label in 2017 and supported them last year on their most recent tour.
Opening track 'Last Day on Earth' is a sugary indie-pop delight, definitely one of the most infectious songs I've heard this year! Before knowing about the collaboration, The 1975 influence was the first thing that sprung to mind, though as someone lukewarm to the Manchester band, Bea's vocals do it more justice than Matt ever could (ohhh, controversial!). It's super fun and even the chorus provides a carefree "shoop-doo, shoop-doobie-doobie-doo", before she confesses to forgetting what the message of the song actually is.
'Cologne' follows a more conventional 00s noughties indie sound, whilst 'Animal Noises' brings together strings and alt-country for a tale of romantic longing. The chorus "I missing the mornings I spent making animals noises with you" might touch on the cringe side, but it's let off the hook by the grand production. There are definite echoes of The 1975's 'Playing On My Mind' and 'Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America' from their eclectic 2020 album Notes On A Conditional Form.
It finishes on the dreamy jangle pop of 'He Gets Me So High' and you're left feeling like you're living through a 90s teenage romcom. A perfect end to a brilliant effort from the Filipino-British singer-songwriter who is establishing herself as one of the brightest names in the British music scene.
Rating - 8/10
Best three tracks - Last Day on Earth, He Gets Me So High, Animal Noises
Back the Way We Came: Vol. 1 (2011–2021) by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
With all the constant natterings of Oasis reunions and sibling squabbles, it can be easy to forget that Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds have been around for over a decade (feel old yet?).
To mark this, the Oasis songwriter decided to release a compilation of songs from his 'new' band's first three albums; Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (2011), Chasing Yesterday (2015) and Who Built the Moon? (2017), and three EPs Black Star Dancing (2019), This Is the Place (2019) and Blue Moon Rising (2020).
As a passive fan who enjoyed the odd song without investing too heavily, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed this greatest hits collection. The first half flows through your conventional Noel songs such as 'If I Had a Gun', 'The Death of You and Me' and 'Ballad of the Might I'. To your average Oasis legacy fan, these are solid tracks that prove Noel still had the gift to produce solid tunes without relying on Liam's belting vocals. To those who weren't fans before, it's incredibly safe and relatively uninspiring (for what it's worth, I fall somewhere in between).
Then onto the second half and we see a more confident, more innovative Noel. On tracks like 'Holy Mountain', 'This is the Place' and 'Black Star Dancing', there's groove, soul and a freshness that was lacking before on the first few years of the band's career.
'It's a Beautiful World' is both eerie and beautiful. It's easily the best song he's written in the past decade and proof that Noel was right to split Oasis all those years ago (there I said it!)
In a recent Sky Arts documentary to promote the new album, Noel admitted that latter-day Oasis had become a parody of the original band, people only coming along to the live shows for the 'hits'. Noel, in turn, was writing stadium rock anthems to fit the profile and there was little creativity to match.
The second half of this compilation reveals a side to Noel that we knew was always there, but had certainly been stifled in the years before. With a more confident Noel willing to move out of his comfort zone, the future looks bright for the former Oasis founder's band.
Rating - 8/10
Best three tracks - Holy Mountain, It's a Beautiful World, AKA What a Life...
Any easy one this month. I described Wolf Alice's third album as a "modern-day indie masterpiece" in an earlier feature so it would be a crime of me not to select it!
Did you agree or disagree with any of the above? Feel free to agree or berate me @BFloodlights.
Want to be kept in the loop with new, regularly updated indie tunes? Check out the 2021 Blinded by the Floodlights indie recommendations playlist.